During the day, Cathy Markham is a sweet, innocent, slightly frumpy hometown girl with a heart of gold. At night, however, she is replaced by Cat--a tough as nails, independent, sexy bar owner who is a master at playing the boys. Her goals and dreams are simple--run her bar, gain the security of owning her own home, and live life her own way.
Ex-Navy SEAL Lieutenant Blake Carlisle returns to the only real home he's ever known to find that everything has changed. His old friends have grown up, moved on with their lives. Even the awkward little girl who used to idolize him has matured in some very wonderful ways. Maybe the very things he's been searching the globe for have been right at home all along.
They say you can never go home, but home is where his heart is. If so, then maybe Blake can finally grow up, adjust to civilian life, and find peace. On this journey he will do whatever it takes to make Cathy's dreams a reality as she fights to discover the real woman behind the roles she plays.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from The Boy Next Door by Nicole Austin
"What are you up to, Steve?" Cathy's already tense nerves sent anxious tremors of anticipation surging through her body. His smile kicked up another notch, displaying brilliant white teeth. Slightly long chestnut hair hung over his brow, giving him a rakish, bad boy appearance.
Steve guided her with a protective hand pressed against her lower back. He turned her around saying, "I brought an old friend to see you."
The first thing she saw was a broad, solid wall of muscular chest. Slowly her gaze wandered up the thick vein pulsing in a masculine neck. A firm, square jaw was topped off with seductively curved lips, the top one a perfect cupid's bow. His nose was as strong and straight as a knife slash down the center of his face, perfectly dividing the two sides. When she gazed into familiar, exquisite sapphire blue eyes she sucked in a shocked, gasping breath. She felt like someone had just hit her with a two by four.
Those disconcerting, fathomless blue pools had starred in every fantasy she'd ever dreamed up. Cathy had ached for so long to see those eyes staring intently into her own, just like they were now. She had hungered to see emotions swirl within their expressive depths.
His silky, golden blond hair was cut much shorter than she'd ever seen it before. While his body had always been muscular, it was now honed to perfection from hard physical work. And if she wasn't mistaken he'd grown taller over the years. Her gaze drifted briefly down again, noting a trim waist, strong muscular thighs, and a distinctive bulge behind his zipper.
Regardless of the changes that had occurred, she would never forget those deep, twinkling blue eyes. She returned her gaze to those sparkling depths, seeing genuine delight, and if she wasn't mistaken, heated desire.
The paralysis of her shock finally released her from its tight grip. With a squeal of joy, Cathy launched herself into his arms. There was really nothing else she could do. She was so thrilled to see him again, even though in the back of her mind she harbored a little resentment, it was overpowered by her happiness. He caught her easily as her arms clasped around his neck, long legs around his waist. Burying her face in the curve of his neck, she drank in his scent like she was starved for the sandalwood cologne and underlying natural masculine musk.
After a tight embrace she leaned back against the support of the strong arms wrapped firmly around her back. Her hands roamed the chiseled planes of his face like a blind woman studying his features, memorizing with her hands. Was he real, was she actually touching Blake?
"Oh, God. Is it really you? I can't believe my eyes." She stared for several moments, lost in amazement. "Let me hear your voice, then I'll know for sure."
Her intense reaction drew the curiosity of the crowd, but she was too wrapped up in Blake to notice. She was not acting very much like the Cat they were used to seeing, but all she cared about was the fact that she held Blake Carlisle in her arms for the first time in ten years, and she had no intention of letting him go any time soon.
Blake's eyes drank in the changes in the gorgeous woman whose sweet kiss had haunted him for years. The kisses he'd shared with other women had always been compared to that one sweetly passionate kiss with Cathy, and they all were found to be somehow lacking in comparison. There was just something special that had passed between them in that exchange that still managed to touch his soul. Now he discovered that she had been transformed into a stunning woman. He'd never be able to hold himself in check around the amazing beauty he now held close.
"Ah...yeah...it um, it's me." What the hell was wrong with him? He never stuttered. He cleared his throat before trying to speak again. "I'm back in the old house again. Just completed my discharge from active duty. Trying to figure out what to do with myself." He'd be damned if he wasn't running at the mouth, too. His reaction to her was so incredibly strong.
He felt the tremors that coursed through her body as he spoke, along with the goose bumps that broke out over her soft skin. There was no mistaking the affect his voice had on her. Blake took a deep, steadying breath before continuing. The woman in his arms had rocked his world down to the bedrock of its foundation. He watched in fascination as a single fat tear rolled down her cheek.
"Damn, brat. It's so good to see you," he stated in a raspy, emotion-filled tone.
Hearing the nickname snapped Cathy back to their surroundings. She could not show any weakness or vulnerability in the bar. What the hell was wrong with her? With great effort she pulled her Cat persona firmly back into place then slid down his big, hard body with tortuous slowness.
There was no mistaking the long, thick erection that she rubbed against. After several years of having every size and shape dick pressed against her butt, hips and abdomen, Cat was quickly able to size up any man. What she felt now was truly impressive. Far better than anything she'd ever felt before.
She became flushed with heat, awareness setting her nerve endings to tingling. Just the thought that she'd given Blake Carlisle a hard-on made her feel dizzy. How the heck was she supposed to be Cat around him? Conflicting emotions swirled through her head. She still had two more hours to go until the club closed for the night.
Pull yourself together, girlfriend, she silently chastised.
Putting on a show for her audience, she brushed her body against Blake, circling his muscular form. Long red nails scraped over his firm ass, a slim hip, then up to his fascinating, sculpted chest. Casually she drawled, "You sure grew up, sugar."
Okay, you can do this. You have no choice. Cat can't be blown away by a man in public. Get your act together.
Blake was shocked by the change that came over the enigmatic woman who used to be sweet little Cathy. It was similar to watching a chameleon change its colors to blend in with a new environment. What the hell was up with the seductress act? It made his head swim. Who was the real woman? The sweet girl who had greeted him so warmly, or the siren who now circled him like a land-shark ready to take a bite out of his ass?
"Um...yeah. Obviously, I'm not the only one." He watched the practiced, seductive sway of hips as she moved. "Maybe we can get together somewhere outside of here...catch up on old times."
She turned to the bar and filled her tray with drinks. When she turned back he heard her purr.
"Mmm. Give me a call some time, stud." She glanced down at his crotch suggestively. "Maybe we can work something out."
The double entendre was not lost on Blake. His cock jerked against its confinement, demanding he seize what she was offering, now! Thankfully it had been a long time since he had allowed his cock to make decisions for him.
Without another glance, Cathy turned and sashayed away between tables. Blake wanted to rip the arms off the men who dared touch his woman as she passed by. Oh, and make no mistake, she was his woman, even if he wasn't the kind to settle down. She always had been and always would be his. He was home now, and he meant to claim what belonged to him. One way or another he would get her brother's blessing.
Steve clapped him on the shoulder as they both stood watching Cathy expertly work the captivated crowd. "She sure grew up, didn't she?"
Blake turned toward his friend. "Jesus H. Christ. You could have warned me!"