Keeping His Promise: A When It Happens Novella, Book 2

Keeping His Promise

a when it happens novella

Rhyannon Byrd

Contents

A
ll rights reserved
. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook cannot be re-sold or given away to others. No parts of this eBook may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any manner whatsoever without the express, written consent of the author.

Copyright
© 2015 Rhyannon Byrd

This eBook is a work of fiction. Any references to actual events, persons, or locales are used fictitiously. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover credit:
Sarah Henson

*
T
his eBook is meant
for readers 18+ due to mature content.

Other Titles in the series:

Making His Move

About the Book

The Cynic

B
artender and business
student Natalie Richards is a twenty-four-year-old who’s seen it all. Making ends meet working at an upscale San Diego restaurant, Natalie’s nights are spent slinging drinks to players who are all over one woman one night, and a different pretty face the next. After everything she’s witnessed, she’s completely given up on the ideas of love and commitment…and a male’s ability to actually keep it in his pants.

The Alpha

S
portswriter Sean Cartwright
is a man who’s been burned only once, but it was bad enough to leave a lasting mark. A mark that’s made Sean just as wary as Natalie when it comes to emotional connections and lasting relationships. But he knows a good thing when he sees it, and he’s not a man to back down from a challenge…or a captivating woman. Especially when she’s the
only
woman he wants in his bed.

The Perfect Storm

N
atalie’s friends
thought all she needed was a little luck. Turns out what she really needed was a man determined enough to break through her defenses so she could let him in. A mouthwatering alpha male who’s so much more than what he seems…and one who will do
whatever
it takes to keep his word.

T
o every incredible
reader who has ever helped spread the word about my books. Thank you!!

Chapter One

O
h
, hell no. You have got to be kidding me!

Staring across the upscale, beachside condominium parking lot, Natalie Richards couldn’t believe how rotten her luck was. Seriously. Her twenties were meant to be her limelight, weren’t they? But at a tired, cynical twenty-four, she honestly felt that Friday the 13th had better luck than she did these days.

Turning away from the sight of the tall, dark-haired male who had just climbed out of a black SUV and headed into one of the complex’s courtyards, she shielded her eyes against the bright San Diego sunshine and glanced over at her best friend. “Hey Soph.”

“Hmm,” Sophie murmured, making her way up the noisy metal ramp and into the back of the moving truck they were nearly finished unloading.

“You remember that fortune cookie you gave me a few months ago?”

Sophie looked over her shoulder, her crooked smile shining in her eyes. “Of course.”

Yeah, it’s not like Sophie was likely to forget. After lusting for months after the Chief of Security at the research complex where she worked, a fortune cookie (along with some enthusiastic prodding from Natalie) had finally given shy Sophie the courage she needed to go after the incredible Chris Riley. And Chris had taken charge from there, claiming Sophie for his own, and proving that there were still some decent guys out there, though Natalie firmly believed they were few and far between.

Like really few. And really freaking far.

Not long after Sophie and Chris had gotten together, they’d taken Natalie to the same Chinese restaurant where Sophie had opened that auspicious fortune cookie, and this time, it was her best friend who had urged Natalie to follow the sage words written on the tiny scrap of paper, once she’d cracked open her cookie at the end of the meal.

Only an open heart can see its way clearly to love.

It’d taken everything Natalie had in her not to snort with derision when she’d read those words. So, yeah, she didn’t really see the fortune cookie doing all that much for her. But Sophie was determined. Especially now that she and Chris were moving in together and the little romantic thought the same fairy-tale ending she’d found should be in the works for Natalie.

As fucking if
. The only thing she wanted a guy for these days was to tune-up her car, and that was only because she hadn’t been able to pin down a female mechanic yet who could do it for her.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Sophie asked, frowning as she walked back to the top of the ramp, while Nat still stood at the bottom. “You look like you just saw a ghost.”

No, not a ghost. Just a dickhead asshole who had the arrogance of a fucking god, as well as the looks, attitude and sex appeal. So much so that it seriously pissed her off.

And I sound like a bitter old hag.

Shaking off the unflattering thought, she reached up and tightened the high ponytail that was keeping her long, dark red hair off her back in the grueling heat, thankful for the ocean breeze blowing in from the nearby beach. For a moment, it worried her that the man she’d seen had been walking through that Spanish archway, into the same courtyard that Chris—and now Sophie—shared with three other neighbors.

She knew that one of the units belonged to Chris’s cousin, Karin, and her little boy. But she didn’t have a clue who lived in the other two. She only knew that one had been up for sale until a few weeks ago, and now the For Sale sign was gone.

It doesn’t mean anything. I need to focus on what’s important today and stop obsessing over the jerk. I mean, it’s not like he’s moved in. No one’s luck could be that shit!

Yeah, what was important was that her best friend was finally taking the next step with the man she loved—a man who obviously adored every single thing about her.
That
was what mattered. And as she looked up at Sophie’s pretty face, Natalie was thankful that despite her own issues, she was still capable of feeling truly happy for this incredible woman.

Thank God they’d both agreed to go on that double date from hell all those years ago, which was how they’d met. She didn’t like to think of how dull her life would be without her best gal by her side.

Forcing a brief smile onto her lips, she started making her way up the ramp, and finally answered Sophie’s earlier question. “Nothing’s wrong, Soph. I just wanted to say thank you.”

“For the cookie?” Sophie murmured, giving her a doubtful look.

“No, you loon.” She laughed, then gave a little shrug. “For caring enough about me to want to see me happy.”

Sophie’s expression softened. “Oh, Nat. You know I love you like a sister, right?”

“I know.” She slid Sophie a wry look. “And ignore me if I’m being too sappy. I’m just feeling a little sorry for myself.”

Worry flashed through Sophie’s big brown eyes, making Natalie flinch.

“Oh, Soph, stop. I’m so freaking happy for you it’s silly.” A restless feeling had her pushing her hands into the front pockets of her cutoffs. “I just always hoped I’d find the same thing one day, but I know that’s not going to happen.”

“What? Why? That’s such bullshit, Nat!”

“It’s not bullshit,” she said softly. “What you and Chris have found, it’s so freaking special. Things like that…they’re not in the cards for most of us.” She gave Sophie a heartfelt smile. “I’m just glad it happened to you. If anyone deserves a shot at this ‘true love’ stuff, it’s you, girl.”

With a slight V between her brows, Sophie reached out and grasped her upper arm with a gentle squeeze. “That means the world to me. But listen to me when I say this, okay? You deserve it too. I know you’ve had your…your
faith
kicked in the teeth when it comes to relationships, but you’ve got to stop—”

“Hey, you two get lost in there?” Chris’s deep voice came from just outside the truck, making them both jump. Then he came into view a second later, all tall and golden and too handsome to be real.

Sophie had hit the jackpot with this guy, seeing as how he was not only gorgeous, smart, and insanely sexy, but also as far from an asshole as a male could get. And today, he looked like a man who’d just won the friggin’ lottery. He’d been desperate to have Sophie move in with him, and once she’d said yes, Chris had moved heaven and earth to make it happen as quickly as possible. Now, less than a week after she’d finally agreed, they were almost finished.

Amazingly, given that most moves were a nightmare, this one had been incredibly easy. But then, Chris and a few of his brawny friends had taken care of all the heavy stuff in less than an hour. There wasn’t much left now to go inside, except for some luggage and Sophie’s crapload of plants, so Natalie hoisted the strap of one of the canvas bags that were packed with Sophie’s clothes up over her shoulder, and rested it on her back.

Thinking that the happy couple probably wanted a few minutes alone to kiss each other senseless, as they often did, Nat made her way down the ramp, and started toward one of the condo clusters in the beautiful Spanish-styled complex that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. With a deep breath of the sea-salty air, she tried to let her tension go and just relax, but her heart still felt as if it were beating too hard.

She didn’t know what it was about seeing that familiar dark-haired male earlier that had prompted her to get all emotional on Sophie. There was just something about the guy that got under her skin. Whatever it was had been there since the first time she’d set eyes on him, nearly four months ago, and it seemed to be getting worse.

She couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing at the complex. No doubt he was probably visiting some perky blonde or sleek, sophisticated brunette. The thought made her scowl, and she shook her head, determined not to let the guy get any deeper under her skin than he already had.

Lost in her troubled thoughts, she headed through the archway that led to Chris and Sophie’s shared courtyard, without really looking where she was going.

“Oomph!”

“Whoa,” someone rumbled in a deliciously deep, rough-edged voice. “You okay?”

“I’m good,” she replied, intending to apologize as she lifted her gaze to the powerful, solid wall of muscle she’d just walked into. A masculine wall of muscle that smelled like freaking sin. But the sheepish grin immediately slipped off her face the instant she looked at his face and realized he was the same Adonis-like jerk she’d wanted to avoid. And the arrogant ass looked even better up close.

He was so tall she knew he had to be near six-three or six-four, and every fucking inch of that tall body was packed with lean, ripped muscle. Short, dark hair that looked like it would be given to curl if he let it get too long gleamed in the golden afternoon sunlight, his features just rugged enough to keep his striking face handsome rather than pretty.

And then there were those eyes. God, his eyes were the most breathtaking blue she’d ever seen, his sculpted lips so perfect it was hard not to stare at them. Well, stare…and maybe even drool a bit.

No, damn it. This isn’t fair!

The heat in her face told her she was blushing like only a redhead could, her freckles no doubt standing out in stark relief against her pale skin, since she’d opted to go the no make-up route that day. It was mortifying, but there wasn’t any way to control it. Her freaking skin tingled from where her bare limbs had briefly pressed against his, the memory of the deliciously strong, powerful feel of his body making her pulse quicken.

And he was still gripping her upper arms to steady her from falling down. His big, callused hands were actually touching her, and she was too frozen with shock to do anything but stand there like a statue and gape up at him.

Then he moved, and her eyes went wide when she realized he was lifting one of those big hands toward her face. In the next instant, she felt him tuck a wayward strand of hair behind the sensitive shell of her ear. His touch was gentle, but sure, as if he had every right in the world to put his hands on her, and it threw her off balance.

Worse, though, was how much she actually liked him touching her, and
that
had her hackles rising, a strange kind of panic surging through her veins.

“Why the hell did you do that?” she snapped, sounding like a shrew as she quickly jerked away from him, stumbling back a step. A risky move, considering the bag on her shoulder could have toppled her right over.

As if oblivious to her anger, a lazy grin tipped up the corner of his carnal-looking mouth. “Couldn’t help myself,” he told her, which didn’t make a lick of sense. “And I’m Sean, by the way. Sean Cartwright.”

She ignored the breathtaking way he was looking at her, as well as the whole polite name exchange protocol and the hand he was holding out for her to shake, and simply glared at him instead. “I don’t care what your fucking name is. You don’t have any right to touch me!”

Some of the sensual heat in his deep blue gaze dimmed beneath a heavy wave of curiosity, but he didn’t curl his lip and tell her to back off for being so obnoxiously rude. He just stood there staring down at her with those impossibly dark, sexy eyes, making her feel like he was trying to see inside her head, digging into her thoughts.

Or maybe he was just trying to figure out how he knew her. Not that he did—but there was always the possibility that she looked familiar to him.

Footsteps sounded behind her, and then Chris was standing at her side. “Hey, everything okay?” he asked, after noticing her scowl.

“Peachy,” she bit out, making an effort to smooth her expression as she turned her head to look up at him.

“I see you’ve met mine and Soph’s new neighbor,” he said, relaxing when she managed a smile.

“Sure have,” she murmured evenly, while inside she was cursing a blue streak at the knowledge that this jerk actually lived there.

Chris turned his attention to the guy she now knew was named Sean. “How’re things going? Your trip turn out all right?”

“Yeah,” he replied in that deep, husky, make-you-think-of-sex voice—the kind that had been the bane of females since the beginning of time. “Got everything settled even faster than I’d hoped to.”

“That’s good, man.”

Sean jerked his chin toward the open-topped box of plants under one of Chris’s arms and grinned. “So she’s moving in?”

Chris laughed. “Took long enough for me to get her here.”

Despite her unease at being so close to Sean Cartwright, Natalie couldn’t help but grin a little at Chris’s words. It was obvious the guy was happy-as-hell to finally be taking this next step with her best friend. Sophie hadn’t wanted to ruin things by crowding him, too blind to see that Chris was desperate to have her with him, but he’d finally worn her down. And Natalie didn’t doubt for a second that the guy would have an engagement ring on Sophie’s slender finger before the end of the year.

The men had continued to chat while she’d been lost in her thoughts, but at the mention of surfing, she tuned back into the conversation just in time to catch them making plans to hit the waves together early the next morning.

Oh, great,
she thought sourly
. These two are like freaking peas in a pod. Goddamn Thing One and Thing Two.

The realization made her scowl again. She loved hanging out with Sophie and Chris, but that was going to be ruined if Mr. Jackass was always hanging around.

As if determined to kick her bad mood into a thermonuclear meltdown, Chris looked at Sean and said, “Why don’t you join us for dinner? It’s just gonna be some Mexican from Rosa’s and cold Cervezas, but you’re more than welcome to come hang out.”

Natalie glared at the gorgeous jerk, and he shot her a quick smirk before answering Chris. “That sounds great,” he said in a low tone, that damn voice making her traitorous body shiver with awareness.

She was ready to kick him in the side of one of his beautiful, muscled calves—the lower half of his athletic legs revealed by the faded cargo shorts he was wearing—until he tacked on, “But I’ve got to finish up an article tonight.”

“Some other time then,” Chris told him, clapping him hard on the shoulder in that way that guys did.

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