"Eden Butler ripped me apart with this one, but it was glorious. If you’re not reading her work you are truly missing out on a magnificent, captivating, and addictive reading experience." Jessica Alcazar, Goodreads
Published: October 15th, 2019
Gia Jilani had rules.
They kept her safe and her head in the game.
As the NFL’s first female general manager, there were risks to be weighed and taken.
Like Kai Pukui, the linebacker helping her team dominate on the field.
The same quiet, beautiful man who stares too long at her and reminds her of how decadent, and risky living life can be.
But when Gia discovers why Kai seems so familiar and why she feels so drawn to him, things like risks and love become secondary to loss and pain.
Gia will have to decide what’s more important – a life worth risking or a love worth losing.
Kai held her leg still at his knee or how relaxed they were reclining against the wicker loungers on his balcony, watching the rain crash against the city around them. Damn that spark. It was back and seemed to have no intention of leaving. It was black everywhere now, the electricity shutting off an hour before. Now there was only Kai’s company and the crashing of thunder and the sound of the rain against the metal balcony roof to break apart the quiet of the night.
“When did you have oke?” he asked, pulling her attention from the darkness around her.
“God. I must have been…twenty-three? Couldn’t have been any older than that. I went to O’ahu with my friend Claire. It was her present to herself for passing the bar.”
Kai rubbed her bare leg as she spoke, a lazy, absent-minded gesture Gia wasn’t sure he knew he did. She felt serene, calm even if she wore loose boxers rolled up and knotted at the waist and one of his black Steamers tees that fell off her shoulder every time she moved her hand.
“And what did you do in O’ahu?”
She smiled not sure how honest she should be. But there had been nothing between them save some mild flirtation. Besides, Gia had a past before him. She was sure to have one after he’d stepped out of her life.
“A fire dancer from Waipahu.”
The stroking on her leg stopped, then the lounger next to her shook and Gia looked at Kai, joining in his laughter. “And did the fire dancer do us proud?”
Kai shook his head, and the rubbing continued. “There are always people who like to give the tourists the whole Hawaiian experience.”
“Did you ever offer anyone the whole Hawaiian experience?”
“Never a tourist.” He looked at Gia then, pressing his lips together. “But I’m keeping my options open.”
She wasn’t drunk enough for this. Not for the glint in his eyes and what it told her. Not for the smooth, slow stroke of his finger against her thigh and how it made her feel. Not for the slowness of Kai’s movements when he set her leg on the lounger, making sure that her ankle was out of the way before he came on his side to face her.
“Gia,” he said, taking the glass out of her hand. There was nothing he needed to say to her. No convincing that would make her change her mind about anything happening between them.
None of it was needed.
“My God,” she started, her tone sounding awed even to her own ears, “how you look at me.” She wanted the words back inside her mouth seconds after they left.
It was too late.
Kai was already moving.
His palm to her face, fingertips moving her chin up and Kai held his mouth inches from Gia’s, ready, waiting, breath warming her lips. “This is a profoundly bad idea,” she said, just as she smoothed her fingers over his wide arm and up his shoulders, running them along his neck to rest against his cheek.
“Then tell me to stop.”
She didn’t. Of course she didn’t.
“Can’t,” Gia said, meeting Kai’s kiss when it came for her.
Then Gia knew what every look Kai had given her meant. He was fierce with every sweeping brush of his lips against hers, with the flat of his tongue inside her mouth, tasting, touching like he couldn’t get enough of her. Every touch meant something, and Gia felt each one with how deeply he kissed her, with how he moved over her, shifting their bodies against the cushions at their backs.
This was nothing like she remembered of him. There was no absinthe or bourbon to dull her senses. There was only the rain and darkness and Kai pressed against her, showing her with the shape of his mouth and the weight of his body how much he wanted her.
“Kai…” She said the name like a wish, trying it out in a breathy whisper that was half moan, half hopeful need and Gia wasn’t sure which she meant more. She only knew that if he stopped touching her, stopped the trail of his lips against her neck, his teeth against her skin and the steely hold of his fingers in her hair, she might just die.
“Kai…” she said again, surprised when he looked up at her, kissing her mouth, adjusting them so that his hips moved against hers and she felt the full size and shape of what he had for her.
“What do you need, nani?” He moved against her and she dropped her head back, fighting the ache that rose up between her legs. “Tell me what you need me to give you and it’s yours.”
Did she know? Gia wasn’t sure. In the dark, the answers came easily. There was nothing here but sensation and movement. There was quiet and the secrets only they could keep. But the morning always came. There would be no stopping it. That was the hardest truth Gia ever had to learn. You can never hide from the sun. It will always rise to meet you.
“Tell me,” he said, pulling on her leg to move them closer still together, groaning when she instinctively reacted with the brush of her hips against him.
When Kai moved his hand under the tee she wore, when he leaned back over her to move in for the kiss, Gia almost let him touch her. She almost relinquished all her control and let that lineman take whatever he wanted from her.
“Gia… please…” He grunted, pulling his hand from her bare skin but didn’t move away from her completely. She could make out the frustration in the hard lines of his features and the hard set of his mouth. When she touched his lips, smoothing her fingers over that soft skin, some of the tension left him. “You’re killing me.”
“I’m…sorry. I’m just…” She didn’t know how to explain herself. She couldn’t when she didn’t understand it herself. Gia only knew the path Kai wanted her on led to heartache and she’d had enough of that to last a lifetime. She wanted him, but not enough to risk what remained of the thing she’d once called a heart again.
Kai opened his mouth, making to speak against her fingers, but stopped, glancing into his apartment when the lights flickered on and a knock sounded at the front door.
“The super,” Gia supplied, moving her hand from his face.
“The super,” he agreed, slipping from the lounger before he pulled Gia to her unsteady feet. “I’ll help you to your apartment.”
“No,” she said, finding her ankle felt less tender and she could manage with a bit more weight on it than she’d been able to bear a few hours before. “I’ve got it.”
She was halfway to the door when Kai stopped her, calling her name over the sound of a second knock.
“If you…figure things out…”
She nodded, managing a smile. “I know where you live, junior.”
“Good. Then you won’t get lost on your way back here.”
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Last Love of Luka Hale
Roughing the Kicker
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About the author:
Eden Butler is a writer of contemporary, fantasy and romantic suspense novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum.
When she's not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden patiently waits for her Hogwarts letter, reads, and spends too much time in her garden perfecting her green thumb while waiting for the next New Orleans Saints Superbowl win.
She is currently living under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.
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Nice cover. Best wishes on your new release.
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