(Burned, Inc., #1)
Publication date: July 5th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
From USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone comes Heated, a sizzling novel about a breakup professional who embarks on a fake relationship with a client’s ex—the one person she wasn’t supposed to fall for.
I’m Denver’s unmatchmaker. Every city needs one.
Why? Because people break up—and sometimes they should. But when I learn that entertainment attorney Cyrus Hart is someone else’s mistake, I can’t believe it. He’s smart, successful, and sexy as hell.
When a chance encounter with Cyrus turns into something more, I can’t help but fall for him. Our chemistry is undeniable. But his ex used my company to send him that letter—and that’s a problem. Especially since he doesn’t know I own the company.
How can this possibly work? I know from experience that the riskiest ventures are the worthiest ones…but falling for Cyrus Hart may be my biggest gamble yet.
I’m a man with a plan—college, law school, a great career. So far, so good.
Until a stranger shows up on my doorstep and reads me a breakup letter from my girlfriend. My carefully laid plans unravel.
But then I meet someone new. It’s spontaneous. It’s electric. And it’s not according to plan.
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Why are we here?”
“I haven’t quite figured that out yet,” I admit.
It’s not a lie. My hastily thought-of plan drove me here. But part of me hasn’t decided if it also wasn’t simply the desire to see her again. Or an exercise in self-control. Dangling what I shouldn’t take in front of me to see if I possess enough discipline to keep my hands to myself, to walk away. Or tempt myself with this sensual form of edging by embracing what I shouldn’t.
The ambiguous answer seems to be the correct one, though. The tension slowly ebbs out of her body, and she props an elbow on the chair’s arm.
“That makes the two of us, then, because I haven’t figured out yet why I came here.” She huffs out a soft breath. “I’m certain of one thing, though. This isn’t right or smart.”
“Why? Because you’re Val’s friend?” I slice a hand between us. “She’s already seeing someone new. Probably was before she sent you to do her hatchet job. So I don’t care about that.”
“Is that what this is, then?” she murmurs. “Revenge? Payback? You plan to throw”—she twirls a hand in the air—“whatever we’re doing here back in her face one day for breaking up with you and moving on too quickly?”
I almost laugh long and loud at that bullshit.
“There aren’t many things that are a one hundred percent certainty. Weather, election outcomes, the price of gas, Hollywood marriages. But this I can state without a shadow of a doubt. Not happening.”
She studies me, and I can practically read all the questions in those brown eyes. How can you? Why? What happened?
But she lifts her cup and drinks, and instead of asking what she so clearly wants to know, she says, “Not my business.”
“Isn’t it? When you chose to put yourself in the middle of our relationship, it became your business.” The moment comprehension dawns, her eyes widen, then narrow. But I lean forward, a smile curving my mouth. And that smile? It’s possible it isn’t nice. Because nice doesn’t accurately describe this uncomfortable and unwanted gnawing inside of me. I’m feeling hungry. “You owe me.”
I both hear and see the hitch in her breath. The almost nonchalant note in her voice belies the worry in her eyes. Too bad for her; I make a living at reading people. Too bad she’s shit at hiding her emotions. God, I could fucking feast, become a damn glutton on her honesty.
“What?” she whispered.
“You heard me.”
“Yes, I heard you.” My own breath really shouldn’t quicken or my blood pump hotter at the sound of those words coming through clenched teeth. Or the sight of her hand wrapped tighter around her cup. As if only her grip on the cardboard container is preventing her from transferring it to my neck. “But obviously I don’t understand your meaning. I owe you for what?”
For witnessing my weakest moments since leaving my aunt’s house. For reminding me that my life, my world, is not in my control. For throwing me back to that twelve-, fourteen-, sixteen-year-old uncertain boy again.
For refusing to be evicted from my head like a sexy, stubborn squatter.
For being my answer, my salvation, in this moment, when for years I’ve vowed to depend only on myself.
And her most heinous sin? For deviating from my carefully laid-out plans. For stepping outside those lines and hungering for something, someone, I have no business desiring.
But I say none of that because those reasons are mine and mine alone.
She gets, “For not stepping back and letting Val have the guts to do her own dirty work. Instead, you allowed yourself to be her patsy, and I’m pissed with you and her about that. I’m also mad as hell that you both stole the chance for me to have my say.”
A starkness enters her eyes, and she briefly closes them before glancing away, her hair concealing most of her profile. Fisting those curls and moving them out of the way so I can see her expression, her thoughts, is such a fierce urge I shift away from her.
“I didn’t think about that. About stealing your voice. I’m truly sorry for that.”
I believe her. But I’m not letting it go that easily. It isn’t in my interest to.
“Look at me,” I say softly. I order softly. And a coil in my gut draws almost painfully, sweetly tight when she obeys. “You owe me. And I’m offering a form of . . . penance.”
She loses that pained, haunted expression, and anger tautens the skin across her cheekbones, emphasizing their boldness, their strength. As perverse as it might make me, my cock pounds at the sign of her ire. Yeah, I’m turned on, and part of me is hoping she takes it out on me with teeth and nails.
Well shit. When did I become a man who enjoyed an edge of pain with his pleasure?
Published since 2009, USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone loves writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. Her books have been featured in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and described as balancing “crackling, electric love scenes with exquisitely rendered characters caught in emotional turmoil.”
She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.
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