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Opposites Attract in The Harder They Fall

Will this pair give in to their irresistible connection? 

On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. 

Dr. Hunter Adams is a successful NASA space scientist, a workaholic, and financially supporting his parents as he has done throughout most of his life. Left at the altar twice, he no longer has faith in romance and instead prides himself on staying in control. 

Then he meets Trisha Malloy. The wild and unpredictable lingeries saleswoman is his new neighbor—the upstairs tenant of the duplex that his Great-Aunt Eloise left to him after her recent death. To his surprise, his great-aunt also signed a lifetime lease over to Tricia—and she’s there to stay. 

As they spend more time together, Hunter and Trisha realize that beneath their opposite exteriors, they actually have more in common than they thought. But will they be able to express their own feelings—or risk losing each other by keeping them bottled up forever?

In the steamy excerpt below, Hunter comes to Trisha's store to speak with her about some apartment renovations. But what starts as a simple landlord-tenant conversation soon turns into something much more...and they can't deny their attraction to one another for long. 

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The Harder They Fall

By Jill Shalvis

The Harder They Fall

By Jill Shalvis

“Imagine that I actually thought you were kidding about destroying the floor in your kitchen.”

She jolted at the deep, unbearably seductive voice. Heart hammering, she turned to face the man who had knocked her world off its axis.

Dr. Hunter Adams filled the doorway, watching her quietly.

“It’s a sin to have a voice like that,” she said without thinking, tucking her hands under her folded arms to keep them from yanking at her hem.

“A sin?” He cocked his head questioningly.

His voice could melt the North Pole, but she didn’t see any reason to stroke his ego. Not when he stood there looking at her with an intense, inscrutable gaze. “Never mind.”

“Your shop is … something.”

She tried not to care about what he really thought of her shop and what she did for a living, but at this moment she didn’t feel strong enough to defend herself. “Yes, it’s something.”

“Have you always done this?”

“You mean sell panties?” She imagined Aunt Hilda rolling over in her grave, and let out a little laugh. “No. But I’ve always wanted to do something unusual.”

“Well, congratulations; you succeeded.”

Her amusement drained. “I’m sure you didn’t drive all the way over here to insult me.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t insult you.”

Not with words. “You’ve made no secret of what you think of me and what I do.”

“You have no idea what I think of you,” he murmured. “You seem upset,” he continued in the slow, careful manner that made her think of a man who was stuck in a canoe without a paddle, an image that for some reason made her want to giggle. “Is something the matter?”

Yeah. He was driving her crazy. “No.”

“Hmm. You’re a horrible liar, Trisha. It’s the eyes; they give you away.”

She sighed. So much for her moment of peace and quiet. “How did you find me?”

“I saw you come in here. What’s the matter?”

“I said, nothing.”

His eyes narrowed, and in the tiny space not taken up by her files and the desk, she managed to turn from him. He wasn’t going to let it go, and his probing eyes seemed to see far more than she was willing to explain. If only he’d let her alone for a few more minutes, she could have gotten herself under control. Inhaling deeply, she forced herself to relax her shoulders and drop her arms to her sides. Yeah, the cleavage of her dress slipped and the hem hiked up, but that was what they were supposed to do.

“Trisha. Talk to me.”

Distraction, she decided. He needed to be distracted. “What was that about the floor in my kitchen?” she asked over her shoulder.

Resignation flitted across his features. “My kitchen now has a sort of skylight into yours.”

Again, the urge to giggle shocked her. “I’m sorry.”

“Hmmph.”

Control, she reminded herself. Confidence. Not easy under the best of circumstances. Next to impossible with this man standing so close to her. “Handy thing, a skylight,” she ventured.

“Not much privacy.” He looked piqued. “I like privacy.”

So did she. After enduring years of surprise room searches, it meant everything to her. “Maybe it’s overrated.” Now he glowered and she nearly laughed at how easily she could rile him. “I really am sorry,” she said kindly. “Did you come down here to buy some … underwear?”

“No.” He seemed to speak through his teeth. “Not from here.”

“I stock some beautiful things,” she pointed out, enjoying his obvious discomfort with the subject. It seemed sort of incongruous, this big, gorgeous man looking so prim and proper. Unless … Oh dear. “Is there a … wife?” She held her breath, strangely relieved when he shook his head. Beneath his casual denial she sensed pain, and she knew she had to stop pushing him, but her insatiable curiosity got the better of her. “Girlfriend?”

“I didn’t come to buy underwear, for me or anyone else,” he assured her grimly, taking a step into the only available space left in the entire room—directly in front of her.

No wife, no girlfriend. The knowledge shouldn’t have sent a thrill through her.

“If you don’t want underwear, how about a bathrobe?”

“No, thank you.” He took another step. Their toes touched.

“Nightwear?” she squeaked.

“I don’t wear any.”

“Oh, my,” she whispered.

He filled the office with a sort of devastating male grace, watching her with an unmistakable light of awareness in his eyes. He studied her slowly, from her low neckline, to her short hemline, and everywhere in between.

Suddenly the stuffy scientist didn’t seem so stuffy, but the room sure did. “What did you come for?” she asked, her voice low and quavering.

His jaw tightened, and he took a deep breath, which brought him within a fraction of an inch from Trisha, who suddenly couldn’t breathe. Slowly, she tipped back her head and looked at him, swallowing hard at his intense expression.

“Hunter?”

“Hmm?”

“Why are you here?”

A wordless sound of frustrated humor escaped from him. “I haven’t the foggiest.” His big hands touched her shoulders. “For some ridiculous reason, looking at you made me forget.”

“You forgot? That’s ridiculous—”

But the words were swallowed by his mouth.

Before Trisha could draw a startled breath, Hunter had gathered her close to him and gently slanted his mouth over hers. Despite her “seize the day” philosophy, she’d kissed only a few times before. But even with her inexperience, she knew Hunter was no ordinary kisser. She could feel the strength in his arms, the immense power in his body, and how he held it all in check. The challenge was there, certainly, so was the provocation, but all without the demand she’d have expected, and she trembled at the onslaught of surprising, gut-wrenching passion. Inhaling the warm, male scent of him, she opened her mouth to his, gripped his shirt, and held on.

Deepening the kiss, Hunter pulled her even closer, making her sigh in delight as she felt herself molding to every inch of his fully aroused body. 

Instinctively, her hips pressed against his, making him groan softly. Excitement and a delicious shiver traveled up her spine, followed by his hands.

“Shut the door,” he murmured into her mouth, turning them both when she did, nudging her up against the wood.

Trisha, dizzy with a swirling hunger she’d never before experienced, grabbed his shoulders for support as her world spun wildly.

Trailing his lips over her jaw, he whispered hoarsely, “God, Trisha, what are you doing to me?”

She didn’t know, but if it was making his knees half as weak as hers, she could sympathize. But then he nibbled at her ear and she couldn’t think at all. Nothing, nothing, had ever felt so good.

Leaning over her, his hands caging her head against the smooth wood of the door, Hunter kissed her throat, then the drumming pulse at the base of her neck.

No longer certain she could stand, Trisha dropped her head back. It hit the door with a thunk. “Hunter,” she managed.

Luckily, he understood the single-word plea, for he brought his arms around her, gently thrusting his thigh between hers. The material of his pants rubbed against the bare skin of her legs. “Oh, my,” she gasped, and he did it again. “Oh, my goodness.”

“So profound,” he whispered, laughter and more than a little awe in his voice.

“It’s just that I had no idea….”

“Me, either.” His mouth came back to hers, hot and hungry. Her dress inched up as his muscled thigh eased her legs farther apart.

She was quivering, hot and cold at the same time. This had never happened to her, and she couldn’t quite believe it was happening now. The crazy impulse to beg him to make love to her right here, standing up against the door, nearly overpowered her. The pure recklessness of the thought startled her so, she surfaced slightly from the mist of arousal.

So many years of being controlled, browbeaten, and too shy and unconfident were washed away in an instant “Hunter, I don’t understand this.” But she pulled his mouth back to hers.

The door slammed open, smacking Trisha in the rump and propelling her full force into Hunter. He grabbed her easily, regaining their balance with an almost feline grace.

“Trish, I—” Celia’s voice seemed loud in the stunned silence of the room.

Trisha dropped her forehead to Hunter’s chest, wondering if she could possibly be lucky enough to have a huge hole swallow her up.

“Oh. Oops,” Celia said.

Embarrassed, Trisha backed slowly out of Hunter’s embrace and turned to face her friend.

“The space scientist, I presume,” Celia said dryly, her eyes burning with avid curiosity as she studied Hunter. “Conducting a new experiment? Never mind”—she raised her hand—”don’t answer that. I’m gone. In fact, I was never even here. Never saw ya.” With a wide grin, she backed out of the room and shut the door.

For once, words failed Trisha.

Hunter had his hands on his hips. His brow was creased, his face dark with a moody concentration she didn’t know if she wanted to understand. But his eyes still held the fire of barely leashed passion.

“Do you have any idea what the hell just happened between us?” he demanded.

She smiled weakly. “Absolutely none.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Pretty intense.”

“You could say that again,” she muttered, running her hands over her hips to smooth down her dress.

His gaze followed her movement. He looked about as far removed from a stuffy scientist as he could get, and none too thrilled about it. “That’s some dress, Trisha.”

Used to criticism, she automatically stiffened, just managing to bite back the surge of defensiveness. “Isn’t it?”

“I’m sure I didn’t mean that the way you seem to have taken it.”

“Forget it.”

“Trisha.”

“Just forget it.”

“No, wait a minute. Tell me you’re going to give me more credit than thinking I would actually criticize your clothes.”

She didn’t want to hear him lie, not when he’d made it so obvious what he’d thought of her. Yeah, but that was before they’d kissed with wild abandon. Dammit, this was out of control.

“Maybe we should back up a bit,” she suggested.

“Back up,” he repeated. “To that kiss?”

“No.” She had to take a deep breath. “To why you’re here.”

“Oh.” His face tightened into a scowl. “I wanted to talk to you about your kitchen floor—or my ceiling—depending, of course, on which apartment you’re standing in.”

Oh, yeah. She’d nearly forgotten that not only had she made quite a first impression by falling through his bathroom, she’d also nearly destroyed his kitchen. “I’m sorry.”

“You’ve already said that,” he pointed out smoothly. “I don’t expect you to keep saying it.”

He had no way of knowing that it was a terrible habit of hers, drilled into her during childhood. 

Apologizing profusely, then continuing to do so, had become a life-long habit. A self-destructive habit she had promised herself she would break.

“I don’t have a key to your apartment,” he said, still watching her carefully. “And I need to see the full extent of the damage.”

Reaching into her desk, she pulled her purse from the bottom drawer, took her front-door key off the ring.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll reimburse you for the damage, of course.” With what? She had a stack of bills a foot high in the upper right drawer, awaiting attention.

“It won’t be necessary. I’m planning on doing some renovations while we’re at it.”

His warm, work-roughened fingers brushed against hers as he reached for the key. She glanced up at him to find him studying her with now-familiar intensity. Something strange unfurled within her. Longing, she realized with some surprise, and it annoyed her. “I caused the damage,” she said stiffly. “I’ll pay for it.”

“There’s insurance.”

“There’s also a deductible.”

He sighed, dropped his gaze down to their fingers, still entwined around the key, and studied them silently. “We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here, Trisha.”

“No doubt.”

“The kiss might have made it worse.”

“Probably.”

He lifted his head. “I’m not going to apologize for it, since I don’t seem to regret it.”

“I see.” She told herself she couldn’t think of one reason why her heart took off galloping again.

“We’re … different, Trisha.”

She smiled. “That’s quite an astute observation, Dr. Adams.”

He didn’t return the smile. “Maybe we could transcend some of those differences.”

“I doubt it,” she said quite truthfully. He wasn’t likely to loosen up and she certainly wasn’t about to lace up, not ever again.

“We could always kiss again,” he suggested.

“Kissing won’t convince me to break the lease.”

His other hand came up, sandwiching her hands between his large, warm ones. “That kiss had nothing to do with your lease.”

“What did it have to do with?”

“I have no idea,” he admitted, dropping her hands and stepping away. The back of his thighs encountered her desk, and he sat.

He looked stunningly right sitting there, his elegant clothes hugging that sleek body. It made her mouth water with the urge to touch him again, to do exactly as he suggested and go for another bone-melting kiss.

But that was impossible. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. “Look,” she said. “We kissed. No big deal.”

“Right,” he echoed, with a slow nod of his head. “No big deal.” He folded his hands together and watched her.

“It happens all the time.” Not to her, she thought. Never to her.

He looked very unpleased. “Not to me.”

“We definitely shouldn’t do it again.”

“Wouldn’t be wise.”

“We’re different, as you say.”

“Most certainly different.” He spoke with some irony, reminding her of his dry sense of humor.

Hunter glanced at a box on a corner of her desk. Black fishnet stockings spilled over the edge. His jaw hardened, and he swallowed hard, but she couldn’t decide if it was disgust or excitement. “Yes,” he said slowly. “We’re quite different.”

“But you’re still moving into the duplex.”

“Yes,” he said. His hands gripped the wood of the desk beneath him, giving him away.

“Hunter?” Uneasiness filled her. And suddenly she knew. “You said something about renovating. Oh, no. No,” she repeated firmly, trying not to panic. “I’m not moving out so you can turn that place back into a one-family house. I’m not.”

Standing, he pocketed the key she’d given him. Regret crossed his face before it was carefully masked. “I also would like to see a copy of your lease, when you get a chance.” He moved to the door.

“Why? So you can find a way to break it?” Her voice sounded perfectly even, making her proud. She locked her knees together so he couldn’t possibly see them wobble. “There is no way to break it. Eloise was careful about that.”

“I just want to read it, Trisha,” he said evenly, kindly, which was the last straw.

“I’m not leaving,” she repeated, crossing her arms. Nor would she ever, ever kiss him again, no matter how much her body craved the taste of him.

Want to keep reading? Download The Harder They Fall now.

The Harder They Fall

By Jill Shalvis

This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for A Love So True to continue publishing the swoon-worthy stories you love.

Published on 02 Apr 2018

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