One of the best parts of this job (who am I kidding this isn’t a job it’s fun) is to share with everyone new to us authors and books. When I was asked to review a new series by an author I’d never heard of I went sure, the book sounds intriguing. And it was. Then came book two in the series and I was all over that like a book-a-holic in bookstore the size of Macy’s on Fifth Avenue. By the time I finished the second book I was happy, excited, furious, and anxious. How in the world was Adeline going to tie up this series. Would Cassi and Will get their HEA and what about Solange? In Revealed all of those questions are answered. I have to admit things didn’t play out as I thought they would, but exactly how they needed to for Cassi, Will and Solange. This is one series that needs to be read all at once. And it’s one that I think all women should read. Whether you like romance or not. This snippet comes from Solange’s pov.
I grew up in this house so I knew every plane and corner, every nook and cranny; the cracks in the tile roof from hurricanes that failed to do more than bruise the siding; the grouting that needed tending to on the only stone porch on State Street. These flaws always drew my eye when I pulled my Volkswagen into the cobblestone driveway. My dad had bought this Craftsman-style house from its original owners, and for a time we were the only black family for two blocks in Uptown. So I was still conscious of keeping it looking as pretty and pristine as he had. But lately I’d let things slip. What can I say? I’d been busy.
Still, when I pulled up that warm fall day, I knew something was not quite right. Or that something was very right, depending on how you looked at it. The broken roof tiles had been replaced, the newer ones now a little more vivid than the old ones surrounding them. And the grout was dark where it had been newly filled in around the porch stones. My ten-year-old son, Gus, was with my ex, Julius, for the weekend. These were jobs he had said he’d help me with. When he got around to it. I said, No. I’ll do it. I can take care of myself, thank you very much.
But between ten-hour shifts with grumpy news crews chasing breaking stories and weekends anchoring, I had no time to properly research the right maintenance company or to ask around at work if anyone could recommend a good contractor. They were so hard to find in New Orleans, so many booked up on the condo boom in the Warehouse District, or on big government reconstruction jobs. And Julius was never any good as a handyman. My ex-husband was an entrepreneur, a creative type, or at least that’s how he saw himself. So how the hell had these repairs come about? Surely if Julius had tackled them, or found someone who could, he’d have told me.
It was only when I threw my car into park that I noticed the white utility truck in front of my house, a long ladder jutting out. Someone was here. I quietly exited, not fully closing my car door. Just then I heard a metal on metal clanging sound coming from my backyard.
My journalist instincts were on high alert. Leave your purse in the car. Just take your keys. Be prepared to throw them. Don’t go into the house. Observe from the outside in. I was wearing heels so I padded on my toes, navigating the side drive, noticing as I did so that the leaky hose had been repaired. Wow. Nice. But still. How? And who?
I looked across the street. Dr. Franz in the brick Colonial was washing his car. Okay good. There’d be a witness, someone to hear me scream in case whoever was in my backyard tinkering and hammering is actually breaking into it my house.
Ding, ding, plink, plink. The sounds continued. Feeling bolder, I made my way to the gate and raised my hand to unlock it, but the lock was completely gone, removed by the screws! My heart leapt. Should I stop here and call the cops? I padded around for my phone, but realized it was in my purse in the car. Damn it. I stepped onto the grass, my heels sinking into the moist lawn. Who watered it? Carefully peeking around the corner, I saw him: a young man bent over a portable sawhorse, hammering away at something. It was seventy-three degrees, a hot day for November, so he was shirtless, an expanse of muscled back deeply browned by the sun. When the police asked for a description I’d say he was probably Italian, Greek or Hispanic, lithe, with more of a dancer’s body than a construction worker’s. No. I wouldn’t use the term dancer’s body with the police, would I? I was five-eight, shoes off, so I put him at five-eleven. Full head of curly black hair. Sinewy forearms. Not that I would describe them to the cops as “sinewy”; I wouldn’t say that. Thick, maybe. Ropy? No. Wait. Why would I even describe his forearms? Well, his were remarkable. He looked to be twenty-five, thirty tops. Faded khaki work pants, naked torso, a white T-shirt hanging out of his back pocket.
He continued hammering at something finicky resting on a platform strung between the sawhorses, his tool belt hanging crooked around his lean hips. More tools were neatly laid out on a portable worktable set up on the back patio. (“Yes, Officer, that’s when I came upon a young, lithe Italian man with a dancer’s body, brown rippled skin, black curly hair, lean hips and incredibly sexy forearms—he was doing repairs on my place. Arrest him.”)
The man looked relaxed. At home. At my home. Maybe police weren’t necessary.
He didn’t hear me.
“Hello,” I said a little louder.
That sent his hammer flying out behind him, landing just a foot in front of me on the grass.
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed, turning around. “You scared me!”
“I scared you? This is my backyard you’re hammering away in.”
I finally took in his face, full on. He was seriously handsome but with gentle features; soft brown eyes, full lips. He gave me an easy smile and rested a fist on his hip, his other hand pulling the T-shirt out of his back pocket to wipe his brow.
“How long have you been standing there?” he asked.
I realized I was holding my car keys so hard they’d pressed grooves into my skin.
“I just got home. How long have you been working here?”
“All day. I fixed the broken tiles on the roof, reset some of the stones on the porch, watered the lawn—”
“I know. I saw. Who hired you? I certainly didn’t.”
“—and I was just fixing the fence lock, but this here’s just going to be a temporary fix. You’ll have to get a new lock. One with a dead bolt, I think. I mean this is Uptown, it’s pretty safe, but you never know.”
He had a very slight accent, not from around here—maybe East Texas? For me as a journalist this instant awareness of details was an automatic skill, one I was known for. I took a step closer to him as he thoughtfully tilted his head; he was taking in my shoes, my legs, my waist, my breasts. I was wearing a blue silk blouse, deep jewel-toned, the same one I had worn to anchor the news that morning. I felt a current dance through my body, instantly warming me. Solange, this is a very young man. And you are a professional, a divorcée, with a young son and a high-profile job in the city. It would not be fitting to flirt. With this man. Who is trespassing on your property. Who is fixing your house. Who is younger than you.
“Who are you and who hired you?” I repeated, a hand moving to rub my neck. Nerves.
“I’m thirsty. I’m wondering if I can get a glass of water maybe? Then I can tackle the leaky dishwasher—that is, if you’ll let me into the house.”
Sexy man, this one. He had swagger; he had a bit of game.
Sounding firm but not angry, I said, “You will remain thirsty until you tell me who sent you and what it is you’re doing on my property.”
“Well, I’ll tell you . . . if . . . you accept the Step.”
As he said it, literally as the words were coming out of his mouth, I knew. Finally, it was starting. The thing. The S.E.C.R.E.T. thing.
My guide, Matilda, had said it would begin within the month, that’d I’d be warned about some of my fantasies but that others would simply . . . unfold. God, how many times had I thought to pick up the phone and cancel all this sex-fantasy nonsense before it started. I didn’t have time for this. Sex used to be important. Certainly it was a big part of my life with Julius, before things turned sad for us. But I was forty-one years old, for crying out loud. I had a kid. I had no business gallivanting around town, or even my own backyard, having sex with strange men, even if they did have a dimple in the left cheek and wore pants that kind of draped around their lean hips.
He walked over to the garden hose. Actually, he sauntered. Damn.
“If you won’t quench my thirst, I’ll have to do it this way,” he said, raising a cool arc of water to his lips.
I held up my hand.
“Wait, you can come in.”
“And?” he asked, letting the water run onto the lawn.
“And . . .”
My mind was scrambling. How will this go? Oh god, what if I am bad at sex? It has been a while . . .
“Will you accept the Step?” he asked, taking in another mouthful of water, letting some of it splash across his bare shoulders and chest.
I almost burst out laughing. “Do you know how old I am?”
“Do you know how hot you are?”
“Are you guys told to say those things?”
“Yes. We are . . .
I felt my face drop. Do I look crestfallen? I’m too old to be crestfallen.
“. . . but we’re also instructed to say only things we mean.”
He dropped the hose and shut off the water, standing stock-still in front of me, his expression calm, cool, his beautiful arms relaxed at his sides, one hip cocked, his stomach muscles contracting.
I closed my eyes.
“All right what?” he asked.
“All right.” I shrugged, waving my hand. “I accept . . . the whatever. The Step.”
“Sure, why not? What do I do now? Am I supposed to go upstairs and put on some lingerie? Or should we just do it back here?”
His mouth fell open. I could hear Julius in my head: Why do you have to be like this, Solange? Can’t you turn off the defensiveness? Can’t you just relax and be a woman?
“We could do it here if . . . you want . . .” he said, casting his eyes around the yard, thinking. “But I should take a shower first.”
“Okay. Yes. Fine. Good idea. I’ll show you where it is. Follow me,” I said, about as seductively as a librarian taking someone to a stack of books.
He stood behind me as I tried to unlock the back door, the keys shaking in my hand. Covering my trembling fingers with his, he turned my whole body so I was facing him and pressed my back firmly against the siding.
“Solange,” he said, looking me sternly.
“Uh . . . ye-es,” I stammered, swallowing hard. I looked over his shoulder at the backyard.
“If you want me to, and only if you want me to, I’m gonna do some things to you,” he whispered, boxing me in with his hands, his eyes taking in my body.
I could feel his breath on my clavicle, my back growing warm against the hot siding.
“At first these things I’m gonna do to you might feel . . . awkward. But then I think it’s gonna start to feel really . . . good.”
I nodded nervously.
“That’s what I’m here for, to make you feel good. That is all I’m here to do. That’s my job.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Dominic,” he said.
“Where are you from, Dominic?”
“Tyler, Texas. My parents are from Colombia.”
“I knew it!”
“Your accent . . . forget it.” I giggled. Nerves again. Solange, relax, just let him do his job. He’s been good at it so far. Don’t kill the moment with your brain.
He stopped my nervous laugh by pressing his lips to mine, waiting a second to part them with his tongue. He kissed with the depth and flourish of someone who knew what he was doing. He kissed older, like a more experienced man. He kissed well. He kissed like he wanted this. Really wanted this. This kiss was going a long way towards convincing me that this was the right thing for me to be doing right now.
His hands grasped my rib cage, a thumb boldly traveling over my nipple, which was hardening through the silk, his mouth moving from my mouth to my ear. He smelled like a man—musky, woodsy, soapy. When was the last time I smelled this smell, this glorious man-smell?
He pulled his lips away from mine and commanded me, quietly in my ear, “Gimme the keys.”
I dropped them in his hand and he leaned across me, unlocking the door. The house was bracing cold. I had left the air conditioning on again. He dropped the keys back into my hand.
“Brrr. I hate when I forget to shut off the air,” I said, rolling away from his body into the house, feeling dizzy. I walked over to the thermostat, moved the needle from 67 to 71 degrees.
“If it were up to me,” I said, “I would just get rid of the air con—”
When I turned around, Dominic was gone. The kitchen and dining area were empty. A few seconds later, I heard the hiss of water through pipes. He was upstairs filling the bathtub! Oh jeez. It dawned on me: this was happening exactly the way I had outlined it three weeks ago as I sat at this very kitchen table. After that weird and wonderful day at that mansion on Third Street, Matilda had told me to write them down, all of them, every sexual fantasy I’d ever entertained, all the things I’d like a man to do to and for me but was afraid to ask.
For one of my fantasies, I wrote: I would like to come home and just for once have all those gnawing little tasks and chores taken care of, by someone sexy . . . who has also drawn a bath for me. I wrote that in the little folder they gave me. And even while I was filling it out, I had my doubts. I still thought: this is crazy, this is a joke. These things don’t happen. And they don’t happen to forty-one-year-old workaholic moms.
“Solange! Where do you keep your towels?”
My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it reverberate in my ears. I removed my watch and put it next to the fruit bowl. Then I unbuttoned the cuffs on my blouse and stepped out of my heels, leaving them side by side on the tiled floor. Then slowly, I headed for the stairs, moving toward the sound of the water, because apparently I was wrong. Apparently these things do happen. And they were happening now, to me.
SECRET Revealed bares all—the final book in the hot bestselling series.
The only thing that Cassie Robichaud has ever really wanted is Will Foret, the love of her life. But when Will discovers that Cassie is part of S.E.C.R.E.T., an underground group devoted to helping women experience their deepest sexual fantasies, Will breaks it off. Heartbroken, Cassie dries her tears and devotes herself to helping the latest S.E.C.R.E.T. recruit, Solange Faraday. Cassie also reignites her relationship with sexy bad-boy Jesse, even if he can never love her as deeply as Will did.
Meanwhile, beautiful, brilliant Solange, a local news anchor and divorced mom, has a great career but a wilting love life. She rekindles long-lost passions, going deeper and hotter than any other S.E.C.R.E.T. candidate before her. Will Can Solange find what her heart most desires? And when Will realizes he’s made a tragic mistake, will Cassie be able to forgive him? In the end, As both women blossom sexually as sexual beings, they also discover that ecstasy and true love is are closer than they ever imagined.
SECRET Revealed is the explosive, sensual and sexually-charged finale to the bestselling S.E.C.R.E.T. trilogy.