Title Sworn to Forget
Author Maria Imbalzano
Genre Contemporary Romance
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
By all appearances, Nicki Reading is a star. PR director at a major music label, Nicki is sharp, successful, independent and confidently calls the shots. She dates whom she wants, when she wants, with no strings attached. But beneath that shine, loneliness flickers. Events from her past prove love leads only to pain. Commitment is not an option.
Until Dex Hanover, a classy, principled, and prosperous CPA, enters the picture. Undeterred by his unhappy childhood, he has an amazing capacity to be both caring and generous; giving his free time as a mentor for a child from the projects. Dex wears his paternal yearnings on his sleeve and he is at a point in his life where commitment is the only option.
Despite their opposing views, Nicki and Dex ignite each other. But will events from their pasts ruin their challenging relationship and prevent them from experiencing everlasting love?
Nicki gave her purple chiffon frock a little swish. When she dressed for the evening, her plan had been to hit the dance floor at Venus, the penthouse nightclub.
“It’s nearly midnight,” she advised Jonathan. “Let’s go dancing.”
“I’m on a roll now, Nick. We’ll go later.”
Disappointment punctured her balloon, and for the first time tonight, her feet throbbed in her crystal-embellished strappy heels. She slipped one foot out of her shoe as she perused the crowd standing around the table.
A stranger’s intense gaze from across the heated table action halted her review mid-scan. He stood behind a striking woman with long, dark hair and a red, clingy dress. The brash sounds around her muffled as Nicki zeroed in on him, dressed in a designer suit. Elegant, confident. Hot. A gorgeous man making up one-half of a gorgeous couple.
Nicki pulled her attention from the too-handsome guest and continued her sight path around the table. No one else held her interest. Not like him.
Instinct demanded she avoid the area, but her eyes disobeyed, and she caught a crooked smile and a head nod. She couldn’t help it. She smiled in return.
He signaled with his thumb toward the bar, then arched a brow. There could be no mistake. An invitation.
She’d been standing at this damn table for over an hour, and the only time Jonathan noticed her presence was when he had the dice and pretended to include her in his ritual before releasing the cubes. He wouldn’t care if she went to get a drink. Besides, her feet were screaming, and a bar stool and an icy Margarita beckoned. As well as a very handsome stranger.
“I’m going to sit down for a bit. I’ll be at the bar.” Nicki’s heartbeat quickened. Ridiculous.
“Sure, babe. I’ll catch up with you soon.” Jonathan’s attention never wavered from the gaming table.
How could she not have known her semi-boyfriend of three months had a gambling problem? Because she only saw him on weekends when the spirit moved her.
Nicki searched the bar for two empty stools, hoping she hadn’t misunderstood the signal. It wouldn’t fare well for her ego to be rejected twice in the same ten minutes.
“What’ll it be?” asked the bartender as he cleared the space in front of her.
“Margarita, rocks, no salt.”
“I’ll have a vodka martini. Straight up.” His deep voice curled around her. “Is this seat taken?” Without waiting for her response, he sat, his knee brushing against her thigh in a sizzling flash.
Whoa. She inched away, the burn searing straight to her toes. This guy was on fire.
She held out her hand. “I’m Nicki Reading.”
He took it and brought her fingers to his lips. “Dex Hanover.” Green eyes with a hint of gray hooked hers, the intensity a bit overwhelming.
She withdrew her hand, needing some space, some air. And a cold shower. Raising her glass to him, she used her silkiest voice. “Nice to meet you, Dex Hanover.”
He clinked her glass with his, and his crooked smile turned into a full-blown attraction. “Nicki.”
His inflection did funny things to her insides. She sipped her drink, trusting the cool liquid would douse the small fire within before it got out of control.
“Is he your husband, boyfriend, brother?” The spark in his eyes told Nicki he hoped for the latter.
“Some would call him my boyfriend. I’m still on the fence. And after this week, I’m leaning toward friend.”
“You’re not having a good time?”
She inhaled, not wanting to throw Jonathan under the bus to this unknown, albeit captivating creature. Until this trip, Jonathan straddled the line between a temporary possibility and a washout. Moderately handsome, with touchable brown hair, milk-chocolate eyes, and a killer job as an entertainment lawyer, he gave Nicki the space she needed. As an added bonus, he was uninterested in procreating to advance his gene pool. Yet something key was off.
So why not leave a door open for further conversation with her intriguing bar mate? “Gambling is not my thing. Apparently, it’s Jonathan’s.” She lifted a shoulder. “Who knew?”
Dex nodded. “The high of winning is on par with sex.”
Nicki raised her brow. “I only offered dancing. Maybe I should have been more carnal.”
“I’m glad you weren’t because I would have missed this opportunity to meet you.”
Her attention zeroed in on kissable lips. “Aren’t you with the woman in red?”
“We are here together, Lisa and I. But we’re not dating.”
Good answer. Surely, there was much more to the story.
Dex continued. “Where are you from, Ms. Nicki Reading?”
“Philadelphia. What about you?”
“Me too. What a nice coincidence.” His aura held her in a cocoon of privacy, blocking out the din of the other patrons hovering nearby.
“Here you are.” Jonathan’s voice broke through her haze, shaking her out of the magical dream she’d just experienced. He placed his arm around Nicki’s shoulders, a transparent sign to Dex she was off limits.
“What made you leave the table?” Nicki blinked to return to reality, attempting to hold back a smirk, knowing full well her dog came to mark his territory.
“The dice were getting cold. Do you want to hit Venus or go back to our room?” His suggestion couldn’t be camouflaged as anything other than what it was. Jonathan’s attempt to make Dex jealous.
“This is Dex Hanover. He works in Philly too.”
“Jonathan Walsh.” He stuck out his hand, but there was no friendly smile or genuine interest. “Let’s go.” Jonathan tugged on her upper arm, clearly not wanting to stay and make small talk.
“It was nice meeting you, Dex.” More than nice, although the heat index plummeted when Jonathan came to claim her. Nicki focused in on his eyes, loathe to break the connection. “I’m sure we’ll run into you and Lisa over the next few days.”
She smiled, promising something—although what, she didn’t know.
Barnes and Noble Nook
The Wild Rose Press
Maria Imbalzano is an award-winning contemporary romance author who writes about strong, independent women and the men who fall in love with them.
A member of Romance Writers of America and New Jersey Romance Writers, Maria has received many honors for her work including the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award and the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers Award. She also finaled in the New England Readers’ Choice Contest and NJ Romance Writers Golden Leaf Contest.
Maria graduated from Fordham University School of Law and practiced as a matrimonial attorney for over thirty years before retiring to focus full-time on her writing and speaking career.
Born in Trenton, NJ, Maria grew up in Hamilton and now lives in Lawrenceville with her husband. She is thrilled that her two adult daughters have become strong, independent women like the heroines in her books.
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