Teal Kinzie has finally gotten her life in order. At thirty-nine she's reached the apex of her career as the CEO of a large teaching hospital--and she has her daughter back after an eighteen-year separation. They've even stopped fighting and begun to develop a fragile trust. Teal is in control of her life--a state she has always striven to maintain.
And then a chance encounter and a night of wild, spontaneous sex with a hot Italian stud at her local health club throws everything out of whack. Mac Tirelli is passionate and sexy, smart and driven, and has a power over her that she doesn't understand. But he's too young for her, and too arrogant. He pushes all the wrong buttons and they live in different worlds. There's a host of reasons to stay away from each other...
Just when Teal thinks she's finally managed to get her infatuation under control, fate throws her a twist that she never anticipated. It's unthinkable. A nightmare. The one thing that could destroy the budding relationship with her daughter.
And Mac is the only one who can help her.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Balance of Power by Nikki Soarde
During the course of her aerobic workout, the few stragglers had trickled out, leaving her the run of the weight room. Leaving her to sweat out her frustrations alone.
She pulled down the bar, felt her muscles strain as the metal brushed the back of her neck, and then allowed the bar to rise in preparation for another pass. Eighty pounds was well over her usual limit for this exercise and she was feeling it.
She closed her eyes, bent her head and put every ounce of concentration into her task.
"You're doing it wrong."
At the sound of the deep male voice behind her, she let out a yelp, and abruptly let go of the bar. The weights came crashing down as she leapt off the bench and whirled to face the threat.
Her eyes went wide. Her heart beat against the base of her throat like a war drum and her face flushed hot--but not out of fear.
Incisive brown eyes regarded her from beneath a shank of tousled black hair that hung carelessly over his forehead. A strong jaw boasted a day's worth of stubble, and when his mouth curled into a rakish smile that made the corners of his eyes crinkle, her tummy felt as if she'd just dropped down the first hill of a giant roller coaster.
She wanted him.
Truth be told she'd wanted him for a while now, ever since seeing him at the club for the first time about a month ago. She'd noticed him, laughing and joking with other members, hefting impressive weights, and looking far too sexy in fleece cut-offs and dirty muscle shirts. But she'd always been on the other side of the room, easily able to avert her gaze if he caught her looking his way. At a distance he was eye candy. Up close he was...dangerous.
She'd never reacted to a man like this before--felt as if she'd been socked in the gut with a sexual battering ram--but the effect was instantaneous and powerful.
"A little skittish, are you?" he asked, his voice as cocky as his grin.
She licked her lips, trying without success to not notice the well-defined biceps and shoulders or the fine dusting of dark hair that peeked out from beneath his muscle shirt. Despite her efforts, however, her gaze lingered on the broad chest that tapered down to a narrow waist, and beyond that a set of strong thighs. She found herself wondering what lurked in between, beneath the loose fleece shorts.
She dragged her gaze back to his face. His skin was deeply tanned and she noticed a few beads of sweat trickling down his cheek.
She had to work at scraping together a few morsels of her usual sense of control and authority. "I thought I was alone." She arched her eyebrows in what she hoped was a condescending glance. "And I was not doing it wrong."
She swung her leg over the bench and sat down again, reaching for the bar.
She was startled to feel his hands on hers, and unnerved by the immediate rush of heat to her face--and her pussy. He'd only touched her hands, for God's sake. What was wrong with her?
"What do you think you're doing?" She could hear the tremor in her own voice and could only hope he thought it was from fear rather than arousal.
"I'm just helping you. That weight is too high and you're not doing the exercise right. You're going to hurt yourself."
He still hadn't let go of her hands. "Well, I appreciate your concern, but I've been doing it this way for five years. I think I can handle it."
"That just means you've been doing it wrong for a long time. Now listen to me and follow my movements." Battling a combination of outrage and excitement, she watched their reflection in the mirror on the other side of the room. She watched as he pressed the bar down for her, showing her the proper technique for the exercise. She saw the bunch and play of his muscles beneath his skin, saw the spark of heat in her own blue-green eyes. Her long black hair had been pulled back in a high ponytail revealing her throat, and allowing him to see the crimson color as it gradually crept up her neck.
"Lean back," he instructed, "not forward. And lift your chin." The bar came down in front of her and brushed against her chest.
Why did her breasts suddenly seem too small and her shoulders too bony? And why did she care what this arrogant young muscle-head thought?
"Again," he said, allowing the bar to raise up, and then gently urging her to pull it down again. "A lot of people have the misconception that lateral pull-downs go behind your neck, but the bar should touch your chest."
She swallowed thickly as the bar touched her chest once again. It felt so cool against the burning of her skin. "Okay," she whispered. "I think I've got it."
"Here." He allowed the weights to rest and released her hands before adjusting the weight back to the forty-pound mark. "Now you try."
She nodded, wishing he wouldn't stand so close. Wishing she couldn't feel the heat of his body burning into her back like a blow-torch.
She grasped the bar and was startled to feel his hands settle on her shoulders. She should order him to stop touching her, but told herself he was merely guiding her efforts. She tried not to think about the strength in that grip or the calluses that teased her skin. A working-man's hands. This man did not sit behind a desk all day.
"Okay," she breathed, pulling the bar toward her just as he'd instructed.
"Good," he said as she completed the first rep. "Keep going."
She continued, feeling the keenness of his gaze and fighting the strange notion that his approval meant something to her.
She felt his breath against her ear and almost let go of the bar. "Hmm." His thumbs dug into her shoulder muscles and she wanted to melt. "I sense a lot of tension here. You're wound up tighter than a steel coil." He massaged a little. "Tough day at the office?"
She managed to squeak out, "You could say that."
His thumbs were doing sinful things to her shoulders and deltoids, and yet she managed to continue the reps.
"Where do you work?" She could feel his breath on her neck, and the echo of its effects all the way down to her toes.
"Oh yeah? Nursing?"
"No. Management." She couldn't say why but she wanted to downplay her position. She didn't want to sound like she was trying to impress him. And she definitely didn't want to intimidate him.
"Interesting." He ceased his massage, but didn't stop touching her. His fingers cruised lightly down the length of her arms and then back to her shoulders. A parade of goose bumps followed.
She made herself keep breathing. "Uh...should I stop now?"
"No. You're barely sweating." His hands skimmed over her shoulders and slid down her chest and she wanted to swoon. "And I'd like to see you sweat."