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Authors: Teresa Southwick

A Word with the Bachelor

BOOK: A Word with the Bachelor
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When opposites collide...the plot thickens

When former Special Forces agent Jack Garner opens his door to Erin Riley, he makes two things clear: he won't sleep with her, and he writes alone. Clearly, fame and fortune have done nothing to brighten this bestselling author's brooding manner. But his second book is long overdue, and Erin is there to jumpstart his writing...if not his heart.

Bright, chatty and positive, Erin is like a sunny day to Jack's perpetual night. And even as she struggles to contain her sizzling attraction, she knows she can help Jack have a breakthrough. When the words finally start to flow, Jack starts to wonder if “once upon a time” could become “happily-ever-after.” Now, that would be something worth writing about...

“I'm a private person.”

“You used to be, but not anymore. Not since your book hit the bestseller lists and stayed there.”

“Drip, drip, drip,” he said.

“What does that mean?”

“You're like water on a rock, wearing it down.”

She lifted her chin. “I like to think that's one of my best qualities.”

“It's good.” Jack's gaze dropped to her chest, and the glitter was back in his eyes. “But not your best.”

He didn't miss much, so she was pretty sure he could tell that the pulse in her neck had just gone from normal to racing. There was only one way to interpret those words and that look. He moved closer and she held her breath, hoping that he was going to kiss her. Heat from his body warmed her skin when he stopped right in front of her.

* * *

The Bachelors of Blackwater Lake:
They won't be single for long!

Dear Reader,

Writing is a solitary profession, and finding the balance
between work and play can sometimes be a challenge. Authors tend to lose
themselves in a story and characters, and the catch-22 is getting out of that
made-up world to the real one—where one experiences life, observes people and
fills up the creative well. And when one doesn't live alone, carving out the
kind of space necessary for your imagination to run wild turns into a delicate
dance. It requires both tact and toughness.

In
A Word with the Bachelor
,
bestselling author Jack Garner has the toughness down to a T. It's the tact part
he needs to work on when book coach Erin Riley arrives on his isolated
Blackwater Lake doorstep to jumpstart his Muse. Book number two is late, and the
pretty, perky English teacher's presence is the price he has to pay for a
deadline extension. But he figures, like every other woman in his life, she'll
leave when the going gets rocky.

The only problem is Jack underestimates Erin's determination
to get the job done. She is the opposite of a pushover and her sunny disposition
camouflages the steely resolve that sustained her through the loss of someone
important to her. The ex-military lone wolf is not happy about sharing his
space, and even more crabby when she tempts him to share his heart. And so the
battle of wills is on!

The only thing more fun than writing books is creating a
character who writes books. This story is close to my own heart and I hope you
enjoy it.

Happy Reading!

A Word with the Bachelor

Teresa Southwick

Teresa Southwick
lives with her
husband in Las Vegas, the city that reinvents itself every day. An avid fan of
romance novels, she is delighted to be living out her dream of writing for
Harlequin.

Books by Teresa Southwick

Harlequin Special
Edition

The Bachelors of
Blackwater Lake

How to Land Her Lawman

The Widow's Bachelor Bargain

A Decent Proposal

The Rancher Who Took Her In

One Night with the Boss

Finding Family...and Forever?

Montana Mavericks: The
Baby Bonanza

Her Maverick M.D.

Montana Mavericks: What
Happened at the Wedding?

An Officer and a Maverick

Montana Mavericks: 20
Years in the Saddle!

From Maverick to Daddy

Mercy Medical
Montana

Her McKnight in Shining Armor

The Doctor's Dating Bargain

Montana Mavericks: Back
in the Saddle

The Maverick's Christmas Homecoming

Montana Mavericks: The
Texans are Coming!

Her Montana Christmas Groom

Men of Mercy
Medical

The Doctor and the Single Mom

Holding Out for Doctor Perfect

To Have the Doctor's Baby

Cindy's Doctor Charming

The Surgeon's Favorite Nurse

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more
titles.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin
ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
http://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

Chapter One

S
he'd been warned that Jack Garner would be difficult but no one had prepared her for his overwhelming sex appeal.

If Erin Riley had known the author was more buff and better-looking than the guy on the cover of his action-adventure novel, she wasn't sure she'd have taken this job as his book coach. Quite possibly she was in over her head. She'd already failed the first test by not researching the man she would be working for. He'd just answered her knock on his door and all she could do was stare.

“Are you selling something?” He glanced at her wheeled suitcase.

“No. Sorry.” She took a deep, cleansing breath. “I'm Erin Riley. Cheryl Kavanagh sent me.”

“My editor.” His dark blue eyes narrowed. “Cut the crap.”

“Excuse me?”

“You're here to babysit me.” He glanced over his shoulder and called, “Harley!”

Moments later some black-and-white creature ran outside, stopped beside Jack and looked up adoringly. Erin could respect the feeling.

Jack closed the front door and proceeded down the three steps. “Walk.”

She wasn't sure if he meant her, but left the suitcase on the porch and hurried after him. That's when she realized the creature was without a doubt the ugliest dog she'd ever seen. It looked like a four-legged elf, a mythical being straight out of
The Hobbit
. The thing was small with a hairy head that didn't look substantial enough to hold up the ginormous ears. Stick legs had tufts of fur by the paws and some kind of garment made of camouflage material covered the skinny, hairless body.

Fascination with the dog would have to wait. She moved quickly to catch up to the man. For him and his long legs it might be considered a walk, but she nearly had to jog to keep up. He was headed toward Blackwater Lake—the body of water from which this small town in Montana took its name.

“Mr. Garner—”

“Jack.”

She assumed that meant he was giving her permission to call him by his first name. “All right. Jack.”

They passed a building on the dock that said Blackwater Lake Marina and Bait Shop. Almost all of the slips in the natural bay were full, and held small boats and some that looked more luxurious and big enough to sleep on.

The scenery was nearly as breathtaking as trying to keep up with Jack. Dark blue lake water stretched ahead of her as far as the eye could see and bumped up against some impressive mountains. Overhead, the blue of the sky was only interrupted by wispy white clouds. It was quiet and serene, a place that on the surface looked to be a perfect writing environment. But if that was the case, she wouldn't be here.

“So, Jack—”

“Harley, stand down.”

The small dog stopped chasing and barking at the little brown birds that had been pecking in the sketchy grass beside the lake. They took off and the homely animal instantly moved into step beside his human as ordered.

“Girl or boy?” she asked.

“What?” Jack gave her a wary sideways look.

“Is the dog male or female?”

“Male.”

“That's unexpected.”

“Meaning?”

“I would never have figured a guy like you to have a dog like this.”

“Are you insulting my dog?”

Oh, boy. How did she put into words that she'd been profiling and figured a manly man like Jack Garner would have a big, burly guy dog. Pit bull. Rottweiler. Bulldog. The problem was the ugly little animal didn't seem compatible with a man who'd spent a good number of years in the United States Army Special Forces Operations, Ranger Battalion. She only knew that from reading his book and the short bio in the back.

Finding the words was like trying to navigate a minefield. “I just... The two of you are—” She sighed.

“What's wrong with him?”

“Nothing.” Aside from not being very attractive. Unlike his owner, who was so attractive her toes were curling. There were a lot of things she could say.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is only skin deep. Don't judge a book by its cover.
She finally settled on a question. “Why did you pick him?”

“It's classified.”

He could tell her, but he'd have to kill her? He looked like he wanted to do that anyway.

“Okay,” she said. “What kind of dog is he?”

“A Chinese crested.”

“I see. Sounds noble.” She knew very little about dogs.

“Don't judge a book by its cover.”

Did she get points for not saying that? At least it was the segue she'd been waiting for. “Speaking of books—”

“Cheryl wants to know where mine is.” Anger and frustration were wrapped around the words.

“Look at it from her perspective. Your first book is incredibly successful. Even more amazing because there was no promotion.” He'd refused to do any. “Word-of-mouth has been unbelievably effective. And it's been optioned for a movie. That's an impressive springboard for a second book.”

“The manuscript is a little late,” he conceded.

“Nine months late. You could make a baby in that length of time.” Did she really just say that out loud? “Not judging,” she added.

The look he shot her was as black as his hair. In worn jeans and a faded olive-green T-shirt, his toned and muscular body was displayed to perfection. She'd read that it was instinctive for a woman to mate with a strong male who could protect her and any offspring she produced. Right this second her female instincts were going nuts.

“Meaning what?” His voice was low, just north of irritated, and creeping into superannoyed territory.

It was an alpha-male tone meant to intimidate, but if Erin let him get to her now, this book-coach thing was never going to work and she really wanted it to. She wanted to help. To do that, she had to stand up to him right now.

“Don't play games, Jack. You know why I'm here. You're late on your deadline and refuse to take your editor's calls. Or your agent's, for that matter. Everyone wants to build on the momentum of your phenomenally successful first book. Cheryl said you have the most raw talent of any writer she's seen in a very long time. So, she sent me here to help you focus.”

“Why?”

“You know the answer to that question, but I'll spell it out anyway. There's a lot of money at stake. Millions,” she said. “Your editor is in your corner. She'll do whatever she can.”

“No, I meant why you?”

He was asking for a resumé so she'd give him a verbal one. Harley walked over and started sniffing her so Erin stopped and bent to scratch his head. “My cousin is an editorial assistant at the publishing house and recommended me.”

“Why?”

“I have a master's degree in English and literature. And I've taught high-school honors English, AP classes and community-college writing courses.”

“Why aren't you in school now? It's after Labor Day.”

“I'm a substitute. That means I can tell them when I'm available.” The arrangement had worked when her fiancé, Garrett, was terminally ill. The money was good and after his death a year and a half ago she hadn't changed her status to full-time. “Do you know Corinne Carlisle?”

“No.”

“She's one of Cheryl's authors, a cozy mystery writer. This summer she was having trouble finishing her manuscript. Through my cousin I was hired to—”

“Babysit.”

“Focus her.” Erin had really enjoyed the job and wanted to do more. She and Garrett had talked about traveling the world, but he got sick and they never had the chance. Assignments like this let her go places she might not otherwise see and, if asked, she wanted to do more of this. “She was a delightful lady to work with.”

Harley stood still at his feet and Jack picked him up. It was automatic, instinctive, as if that was their rhythm. “I'm not delightful.”

“Harley might beg to differ.”

Under Jack's big, gently stroking hand the unattractive animal looked to be in doggy heaven. Erin had the most erotic sensation, as if his hand was brushing over her bare skin. Shivers hopped, skipped and jumped down her spine.

“He'd be wrong.”

“Look, I was able to help Corinne finish her book. I can do the same for you. I'm good at research. I can critique and edit and brainstorm story ideas. And Cheryl strongly suggested that I make sure you eat three times a day. Your home is ideal for this arrangement with the separate upstairs and downstairs apartments.”

A good thing, too, because Blackwater Lake was small. There was a lodge close by, but it had been completely booked and there wouldn't be more in the way of accommodations until the resort under construction was completed.

The look on Jack's face showed a lot of regret and it was probably about the fact that he'd shared details of his duplex home with his editor. “My office is up. I live down.”

Erin was very aware that he was trying to scare her off but the technique was useless on her. Jack didn't know that when you faced cancer with someone you cared about there wasn't a lot left to be afraid of. “I won't take up much room.”

With Harley in his arms he started walking back the way they'd come. “I got a message from Cheryl.”

“Oh?”

“If I want a deadline extension you're the price I have to pay for it.”

“Great.”

“Not.” He stopped walking and stared at her.

“Okay, I get it. You don't want me here.”

“If I could fire you I would,” he confirmed.

“You could give back the advance.”

The glare he shot her almost made his eyes glow. “Abandoning the mission isn't an option.”

She studied the brooding man. The sight of the dozing, completely trusting ugly little dog in his arms was so at odds with the hostile, confrontational image he was projecting to her. Somewhere inside him was a guy who'd chosen and was good to a small, homely animal. That was a man she wanted to know. And then there was the powerful, startling, confusing and off-putting attraction she'd felt from the moment he'd answered his door.

“I'm here to be of service.”

He stared at her and his mouth tightened. “We're not sleeping together if that's what you're thinking.”

“I'm sorry— What?”

Holy smokes! Her cheeks burned and it had nothing to do with the sun shining down from that big, blue sky. How did he know? She hadn't exactly been thinking about sex, but close enough to be humiliated by what he'd said.

“I didn't— I never—”

“I need to know if you can do this job and not look at me like that.”

“I'm not looking at you any way,” she protested.

He shook his head. “Your face is so easy to read.”

“No, it's not.”

“And you're a bad liar.” He looked closer. “Have you even been with a man?”

That question was getting awfully close to the one nerve she had left and she figured it was a deliberate attempt to get on it.

“Yes, I've been with a man.” She looked up and met his gaze. If she was really that easy to read he would see her defiance and determination. “I was engaged.”

“That's need-to-know and I don't need to.”

“Okay then. I guess we understand each other.”

* * *

Jack didn't understand Little Miss Perky at all. In the less than twenty-four hours since her arrival he'd been nothing more than barely civil and yet she was still here. Like an eager puppy.

“So let's talk about the book,” she said, putting a mug on his desk in front of him.

Jack looked at it and didn't miss the fact that there was now a coaster for his cup that covered the circular coffee stain he'd grown fond of. That was kind of like shutting the barn door after the horse got out.

He leaned back in his cushy leather chair, a splurge from the unexpectedly astounding royalties on his first book, and met her gaze. “Let's talk about my office instead.”

“What about it?”

He could actually see the oak top of his desk, whereas before only that circular spot had been visible. Pens, pencils, Post-its, a highlighter, et cetera, were...annoyingly organized. His mug with the army insignia on it that was for display purposes only was conspicuously full of writing implements. Yesterday, before she'd shown up, there were yellow legal pads scattered on the ratty chair and thrift-shop tables in this room and now they were nowhere to be seen. He didn't know where anything was.

“Things aren't where I put them.”

“I tidied up. I was awake early and didn't want to start breakfast too early in case you liked to sleep in.” She shrugged. “So I made myself useful.”

“In what universe? A man's office is sacred ground.” The up and down apartments on the property were identical floor plans with two bedrooms and bathrooms. In addition to the isolation out here by the lake he'd liked the idea of separate spaces for work and living. Now Erin Riley had invaded both. Last night she'd slept upstairs in the spare room with unfettered access to his office. That was going to change. “I like my stuff out so I can find it.”

She sat in one of the chairs facing the desk, clearly not discouraged by his inhospitable reception and intending to dig in. “Understood.”

Jack squirmed a little, unable to shake the sensation that he'd drop-kicked a kitten. She was trying to do her job and he wasn't making it easy. Because he didn't want her here poking into things. All he needed was time to work through his creative speed bumps.

“If you want to be useful,” he said, “I need supplies. Like you said last night, there's not much food here to work with.”

But she'd proved to be resourceful and managed to make dinner. With some eggs, a few vegetables and ground beef she'd whipped up a tasty skillet dish. This morning was grilled cheese sandwiches. When he'd reminded her it wasn't lunch yet, she'd said his stomach didn't know what time it was. As if he didn't already know that. Special Forces training highlighted the need for nourishment to keep the body in tip-top working order and sometimes that meant making do with what was available. He'd just been messing with her because that sandwich tasted pretty darn good.

BOOK: A Word with the Bachelor
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