- Cover & Excerpt Reveal
by Aria Wyatt
- Release Date: August 11, 2021
Lori Jackson Design
Best friend’s little sister
- When hemispheres collide…
It started out innocent.
He was my older brother’s best friend. The teen who built sandcastles and splashed in the waves with me when I was a little girl. We’d collect seashells and build moats around our castles to protect the imaginary princess within. He was my Jake. I was his princess.
His summer visits to Australia became less frequent after scoring his first record deal, but I never forgot him. While the multiplatinum singer-songwriter traveled the world, melting hearts and panties with his lyrics, I filled a notebook with his name.
Everything changed when Jake flew in for my brother’s thirtieth birthday party. At eighteen, I’d come a long way from the girl he remembered. One lingering touch was all it took to ignite us. I kissed him, but he walked away. He was still on tour, I was about to start college, and let’s not forget my hotheaded brother.
But after graduation, when a New York internship opportunity lands me in the Brooklyn brownstone across from his, the ocean between us is replaced with a street.
Jake thinks he can’t have me—we’re different as earth and sky—but I’ll prove him wrong. Those five years of distance only deepened my ache. His demons don’t scare me. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted, and I know I can make him happy if he’ll let me.
I’m determined to try. After all, his old sweatshirt is not the only thing I’ve held on to for him…
When earth meets sky on the horizon, Jake Bennett, the King of Ballads, will be mine.
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- “Do yourself a favor and pick your jaw up off the floor.”
My childhood best friend is the only person who understands the approaching woman’s impact on my being. Jesse Quinn knows absolutely everything about me, which is how he can tell I’m gaping without laying eyes on my stupid slack jaw.
I snort and close my mouth. “Thanks.”
He laughs. “Remember what I said . . . I know it’s hard but try not to act like a bumbling idiot.”
“No guarantees,” I mutter. “Catch you later.”
“Good luck, man.” He hangs up.
As Isla steps off the escalator, wheeled carry-on in tow, I linger to the side, ever the dumbstruck fool. I need a few moments to take her in before I attempt interacting. Who am I kidding? Like Jesse said, even after days of preparation, I’d still be a bumbling idiot.
With her dewy, porcelain skin, golden-brown waves, and cobalt-colored eyes, Isla Rose Emerson is a goddess. She’s an ethereal, beachy vision with a heart of gold and legs that go on for days. She’s also the much younger sister of Wes Emerson, my hotheaded best friend of too many years to count. Isla is forbidden in every sense of the word. Yet I’ve wanted her for longer than I have a right to.
I’ll never forget that weekend in Australia five years ago when I flew in for Wes’s birthday. She sidled up to me in her yellow string bikini, handed me a seashell, and smiled. The little girl who tagged along—the one I collected shells and built sandcastles with—had become a woman. She was gorgeous. Flirty, yet sweet, she looked at me like I was her hero. She kissed me, and at barely eighteen, ruined me for all other women. We’ve crossed paths a few times since then, but I’ve kept my distance. There’s no sense torturing myself when I can’t have her.
Now, she’s twenty-three and hotter than lava. I’m thirty-three and ready to erupt. If Wes knew the thoughts running through my head, I have no doubt he’d castrate me—and feed me my own balls. My hands instinctively brush my zipper, checking my fly for the sixty-fifth time since I got here.
It’s zipped. Just like it was three minutes ago.
Isla spots me and smiles. I stop breathing.
Me thinks barbeque will be the best dipping sauce for my family jewels.
She glides through the crowd, closing the distance between us. Fresh faced and makeup free, you’d never know she spent more than twenty hours in the air.
She throws her arms around my neck and kisses my cheek. “Jake, it’s so great to see ya.”
I’ve always enjoyed listening to Wes and Reed talk. Their accents and lingo amuse me. Wes has come out with some hilarious sayings that have kept me on my toes over the years, and I’ve incorporated a few into my day-to-day speech. But with Isla, it’s different. She makes the Australian accent sound fluid and sexy as hell. It’s no exaggeration to call her voice an aphrodisiac—especially the way she says my name.
My arms find her waist and pull her close. “Great seeing you too, Sprite.”
Her hair tickles my nose as I breathe in her scent. Dessert. Warm coconut with a hint of mango. I’ve never smelled anything more enticing.
“Thanks for coming for me. Sorry for the short notice. Lena had something pop up at the last minute.”
Lena Hamilton, aka matchmaker extraordinaire. I chuckle because I know damn well Wes’s girlfriend has nothing going on today. She told me so herself. This is all part of Lena’s elaborate scheme—a ploy that I am not buying in to.
I close my eyes, trying to memorize how it feels to hold Isla. Perfection. She’s everything soft and fragrant, just like I remember from five years ago. This hug is all I’ll allow myself, so I savor the fuck out of it. And God, does the embrace do something to me on a fundamental level. I should let go of her, take a few steps back, place as much distance as humanly possible between us. No, what I should really do is bury this desire before it destroys us both. I refuse to smother her with my pathology. Bottom line, I’m a needy motherfucker and she can’t give me what I need.
Isla melts into my hug. “You’re nice and warm.”
“Where’s your coat?” I tighten my arms around her. “Please tell me you brought one.”
I pull back slightly to meet her gaze. I’m six foot one and we’re damn near eye to eye. “Then, why aren’t you wearing it?”
“Well . . .” She gnaws her lower lip and something inside my chest tightens. I love how her Amazonian height brings her plush, beautiful lips closer to mine. “I packed it in my suitcase.”
I release her—not because I want to stop hugging her, but because my cock is stirring. Pretty much the last thing I need right now.
“Your suitcase? That’s a good place for it.” I lift her carry-on and nudge her along. “C’mon, let’s find the baggage claim so you can put on some clothes.”
She laughs. “I’m wearing clothes.”
“Maybe something a bit more weather appropriate?”
“It was warm when I left home.” She spins dramatically. “And I wanted to show you my dress.”
The lavender frock, with its little white flowers and off-the-shoulder neckline, showcases her curves. Since she’s not overly busty, Isla can get away with not wearing a bra—when it isn’t freezing cold. Now? Not so much. Perky breasts tease me from beneath the material. Images of her in that yellow bikini come to mind. How I wanted to untie it with my teeth, kiss and lick her until she moaned my name. My cock stands at attention.
Please tell me my fly is zipped.
“Beautiful.” I force my gaze from her body, but I’m too late. She caught me staring. Fuck.
A sultry smile curves her lips. “Thanks. It’s one of my own creations.”
She majored in fashion design, but this is the first I’ve seen of her work. The woman clearly knows her way around a sewing machine.
Wes mentioned a few months ago his sister was looking at internships, but I never imagined she’d choose one in Manhattan. Last week, when Lena let it slip Isla was moving to Brooklyn, I nearly choked to death on a mouthful of wine.
Oh, but it got even better.
Since Wes didn’t want Isla living alone in the big city, he purchased the newly listed brownstone across the street from mine. No biggie.
“I hear we’re gonna be neighbors,” I say.
It’s a reality that entices and terrifies me, since I can better handle my attraction with an ocean between us. I’m not on tour right now, so I spend most of my time at home or in my studio.
“I know!” she squeals, hugging me. “I’m so excited to move in.”
“When’s that happening?”
“Wes said probably late December.”
“Nice. Let me know how I can help.” We silently shift out of the way of oncoming travelers and stand in comfortable silence for a beat or two. Desperate to hear her voice again, I smile and gesture to her dress. “I see purple’s still your favorite color.”
Her brows pop. “You remembered?”
“Yeah.” I remember everything about you.
“I have a ton of pictures on my phone. I’ll show ya the whole collection.” She giggles. “And yes, there’s heaps of purple.”
“I’ve yet to master an iron and you’re actually making clothes. I’m impressed.”
She laughs. “You can’t iron?”
“Nope. That’s what dryers are for,” I tell her with a wink. “The baggage claim’s over here.” We stop at the carousel with her flight number listed. “What does your suitcase look like?”
“It’s a shiny blue one with a yellow ribbon.” She stands beside me, scanning the bags. “They were unloading the plane when I got off. I figured it would be here by now.”
“Oh my God!” A woman approaches to our left, an awestruck expression on her face. “Jake Bennett, is it really you?”
“I’m so sorry to be annoying, but could I please have a picture with you? I’m a huge fan.”
“Sure.” I set the carry-on down and lean in for an awkward, outstretched-arm selfie.
Fan encounters come with the territory, and I always make time for my fans. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I have no problem posing for pictures or signing autographs, as long as they’re not too pushy.
Fame is something I have in common with my other two best friends, but Jesse is a regular dude. I’m somewhere in between. The level of attention I receive is manageable. What they deal with is downright stifling. Fortunately, they’re both taken. Austin’s engaged and Wes is likely heading there. Me? Not so much. I’m unlucky in love, and I’ve been the odd man out for longer than I care to remember.
Isla moves her carry-on out of the way and touches the woman’s shoulder. “Let me see your phone. I’ll take a picture for ya.”
“Thank you so much.” The woman glances up at me. “I loved your last album. I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for the new one—especially your collaborations with Austin Pines.”
“Thank you. We’re still working on it, but this album’s been a lot of fun to make.”
“Do you think you’ll do a tour after it releases?”
It’s not official yet, but Austin and I are discussing the possibility of a dual-headliner tour when our collaboration album comes out. In the past, we’ve both done extended world tours that last for a year or two. If we make this one happen, it will be much shorter.
I can’t suppress my Cheshire cat grin. “Maybe.”
Her eyes light up. “Oh my God! I’m beyond stoked. I’ll buy tickets the second they go on sale. Seeing my two favorite singers on stage together would be a dream come true.”
My heart swells with her enthusiasm. “Thank you so much. Austin and I appreciate your support. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Julie.”
“All right, gimme a big smile,” Isla commands, holding up the phone. I loop an arm over Julie’s shoulder and do as instructed.
“I never noticed your dimples in pictures,” Julie says, pointing to my face.
“He’s had them forever,” Isla informs her. “But he’s certainly been hitting the gym.” She flashes her breath-stealing smile and heat spreads from my cheeks to my neck and ears.
“Thanks for noticing.”
I admit, I’m pleased she noticed. I’ve been busting my ass at the gym ever since my trip to Alaska, where it became abundantly clear I needed to lift some weights. Nothing highlights one’s weaknesses like having their ass handed to them by Mother Nature. Isla knows all about the guys’ trip Wes, Austin, and I went on. Courtesy of the media, so does the rest of the world. We spent three weeks stranded in the wilderness. Three weeks wondering if we’d make it out alive. Wes almost didn’t. It pays to have a trauma nurse in your circle, and I hate to think what would’ve happened if Lena hadn’t been there.
“Duh. Of course, I noticed. I felt your muscles when you hugged me,” Isla explains.
I release a rough exhale. I hope my muscles are the only thing she felt when we hugged.
Julie grins. “Just keep singing. Your voice is phenomenal. Honestly, you’re like a fine wine. You keep getting better.”
“Wow, Julie. You’re making me blush.” Ears burning with her praise, I smile and squeeze her shoulders. “That means a lot. Thank you so much for listening.”
“Thank you for making music. And for everything you do for the community.” She accepts her phone from Isla and flashes a huge grin. “Nice meeting you, Jake. I hope to see you and Austin at Madison Square Garden. Hint, hint.”
I laugh. “Don’t worry. We’d never skip the Garden.”
She rubs her hands together with excitement. “Can’t wait.”
“Take care, Julie. And thanks again.”
Isla watches Julie leave, and turns to face me. “That was sweet. Your fans are polite and appreciative. I hate the shit Wes deals with.”
“Yeah, well, unlike your brother, I’m not seen as a sex object.”
“You should be.”
Wait, what? I open and close my mouth, but words won’t come.
Isla squeezes my biceps. “You were in sex object territory long before these got so big.” She meets my gaze. “For me, anyway.”
My mind takes me back to our kiss, like it’s done every goddamn day since it happened. She kissed me like she was starved for me, like she only had eyes for me. It was nothing short of earth shattering. It broke my heart to walk away from her, but I had to.
For the past five years, I’ve pined from a distance, kicking myself for walking away. I’ve dreamed of her. Burned and ached for her. I’ve even written several songs about Isla—some more obvious than others—which is how Lena knew of my predicament in the first place. No one does blunt better than Lena, and I’ll never forget the way she called me out in Alaska.
Yes, I’m in love with Isla Rose Emerson, but it’s a love I can’t act on. I respect her brothers too much to jeopardize our friendship, and I respect her too much to threaten her bond with Wes.
If I’m being honest, Wes is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if Isla weren’t his sister, it could never work between us. She’s only moving to New York for one year. Then she’ll be gone, off to pursue bigger and better things. I’m at the point in my life where I need someone who will stick around. Isla doesn’t keep men in her orbit for more than a few months. Every time I adjust to the idea of her seeing someone new, she kicks him to the curb. Her revolving-door love life has always baffled me, but it’s not like I can ask Wes about it. He’d get suspicious and kick my ass. Not to mention, her choices are none of my business.
While we shared the best kiss of my life, for her it was just that—a kiss. I’m a pair of lips among the many dudes she’s kissed. No matter how much she flirts, I won’t delude myself into thinking she’s interested. Besides, my baggage is far heavier than anything I’d shoulder her with.
She’s off-limits. Off. Limits.
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- About the Author
- As a community pharmacist for over a decade, Aria Wyatt spends the inhumane predawn hours with a cup of coffee and her laptop, gleefully indulging in her passion. A lover of love, Aria’s novels range in heat from steamy to scorching, and she gets off on fanning the flames.
Aria resides with her husband and two children in New York’s picturesque Hudson Valley, near the Catskills and iconic Woodstock. The avid reader balances marriage, motherhood, her career, and her dream. When not writing, she dabbles in photography, using the natural beauty of the region to her advantage. She cannot live without coffee, chocolate, music & books.
Author of True North, North Star and the Compass Series, Aria has a soft spot for those who are searching, yearning, and ultimately, finding. Whether on a mission to find themselves, find love, find forgiveness or solace, she believes the answer is out there somewhere.
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