His Fantasy Girl ONLY
a Things To Do Before You Die novel by Nina Croft
There’s nothing like a near death experience to make a guy reassess his life. And that’s exactly what nightclub owner Logan McCabe decides to do, starting with looking up the girl he spent one wild night with eleven years ago, right before his life turned to crap. He spent a year fantasizing about her. Now he’s ready to see how reality matches up.
Abigail Parker is a perfectionist. She’s only strayed from the straight and narrow once in her life, on her eighteenth birthday. It was supposed to be one wild night with a totally unsuitable man before she settled into her sensible future. Instead it changed her life forever.
Logan might still be the sexiest man Abigail has ever seen, but a dirty-talking, tattooed, ex-con is the last thing she needs in her perfect life. He claims she’s his fantasy girl, but what he doesn’t know is she’s also the mother of his ten-year old daughter…
Novels in the Things to do Before You Die series by Nina Croft:
Title: His Fantasy Girl
Series: Things To Do Before You Die, #1
Author: Nina Croft
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 190 pages
Release Date: October 2015
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
An Excerpt from:
His Fantasy Girl
by Nina Croft
Copyright © 2015 by Nina Croft. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
|Things to do before you die…|
In the distance, the ship burned, listing in the water like the great bloated corpse of some sea monster. The sea had settled, the rage of the storm dying to nothing, and the lifeboat swayed gently in the ebb and flow. Back and forth…
“Oh, shit.” Heat washed over him. Logan McCabe slapped his hand over his mouth and lurched to the side of the boat. There was nothing left in his stomach, and he hung there staring down at the dark, treacherous water below.
Pushing himself back up, he sank onto the bench seat, eyes narrowing at the looks of amusement directed his way. “I fucking hate boats,” he growled, swallowing the sour taste in his mouth. “I’m never going on a goddamn cruise again.”
The man sitting to his left let out a short laugh. Vittorio D’Ascensio appeared amazingly cheerful considering it was his multimillion-dollar cruise ship rapidly sinking beneath the Mediterranean. But things could have been much worse. At least everyone was accounted for, and Vito hadn’t wanted the ship anyway—he’d been in the process of trying to sell it to Logan when the storm had struck. That’s what had brought Logan here. He wanted to expand his business out of nightclubs and had thought a cruise line might be an interesting addition.
Never going to happen.
Vito reached inside his orange life vest and pulled out a silver flask. He offered it to Logan. “I take it the deal’s off?”
“Too damn right, the deal’s off.” Logan unscrewed the lid and took a swallow. The smooth scotch—double malt if he wasn’t mistaken; nothing but the best for Vito—flowed down his throat, soothing his stomach. Then the boat rolled again and he clamped his lips closed to stop the scotch coming back. When he was sure he wasn’t going to puke again, he took another swig and leaned his head back. “I feel like crap.”
“And I thought you were a tough guy, McCabe.” The man on his other side held out his hand. Logan handed him the flask and gave him a quick once-over. Josh’s face was pale, lines of pain bracketing his mouth, his broken leg stretched out in front of him, held straight by the makeshift splint.
“Well, I was too busy carrying your sorry ass to safety to think about throwing up earlier,” Logan replied.
“Yeah, thanks for that.”
As head of security for the ship, Josh had found Vito in the chaos, meaning to ensure he got to safety, but the Sicilian had refused to leave until everyone else was away. Logan had battled side-by-side with the two men, directing the last of the passengers off the ship before nearly getting cut off by the flames.
Logan didn’t make friends easily; he was a loner at heart, but something about facing death together forged a bond. Once the shock of near death, and the euphoria of actually surviving, had faded, they’d talked. And as they talked, something changed. What started as a joke—things to do before you die—took on a more serious tone. Everyone had regrets. Now, each of them vowed to choose the one big regret of their lives, and after this was over, they would go home and do something about it.
“Come on, McCabe, time to choose,” Josh said. “We’ve told you ours.” Josh had a wife he hadn’t seen in over five years; he intended to change that.
“Now it’s your turn,” Vito added. Unlike Josh, Vito had no wife, because his bride-to-be had run out on him mere hours before their wedding. Vito planned on finding out why. “One thing you’re going to go back and change.”
Logan hugged the blanket around his shoulders and gazed across the sea. Far off to the east, the sun was finally rising, lighting the sky with the new day. The wind had dropped to nothing, and everything had an eerie stillness in the half-light.
Did he have any regrets?
It was so long since he’d seen her. In reality, anyway—even after all these years, she still visited his dreams. He closed his eyes and her image flashed up in his mind. Heart-shaped face, blue eyes, long, mahogany hair. His fantasy girl.
“I had this one-night stand,” he started. “Eleven years ago. It was…good.” It had been the hottest night of his life. “The next day I was arrested—long story. I spent a year in prison and never saw her again.”
But the memory of that one night with her had kept him sane through the horror of prison. He’d thought he was a tough guy and could handle anything, but that first night, when the door clanged shut, locking him in that tiny cell, he’d really believed he might not be tough enough. So he’d pushed away reality and thought about her instead, her sweet mouth, her soft breasts, her tight, hot pussy wrapped around his dick. She’d got him through the worst year of his life.
“Every night for that whole year, I’d lie in my bunk, and I’d have these fucking fabulous fantasies about her. She kept me sane.”
“You never looked her up?” Josh asked.
He shrugged. “What was the point? I reckoned she’d either be a disappointment or she wouldn’t. And if she was as good as I remembered, what the fuck was I supposed to do? I wasn’t ready to settle down.” Probably never would be. “It was a lose-lose situation, so I didn’t even look.”
He thought about dying without ever seeing her again. “Now I’m going to go hunt down my fantasy girl. See how those fantasies compare to reality.”
The muscles in his belly tightened, and he recognized that he was afraid.
There was no way any real woman could match up to his dreams.
He’d finally have to let her go.
And then what?
|Abigail Parker smoothed down the skirt of her gray suit and slipped into her black, low-heeled pumps. A quick glance in the mirror showed she was ready to go. She didn’t need to leave for work for an hour yet, but Jenny was due home from school any second and Abby wanted to spend some time with her before she had to go.|
These moments were precious, and she always made sure they had some quality time together, whatever shift she was working. The last ten years had been difficult, but Abby was finally getting to where she wanted to be.
The doorbell rang and she headed out of the kitchen and down the hallway.
She opened the door and took an automatic step back. The man standing on the doorstep was tall, nearly a foot taller than her five-foot-four, so she had to crick her neck to look into his face.
She didn’t know him…did she?
Surely she’d have remembered.
He was the most stunning man she had ever set eyes on, his midnight black hair pulled back into a ponytail, revealing sharp cheekbones and silver-gray eyes. The black and red ink of a tattoo edged out of the neckline of his T-shirt, and more snaked down the length of his right arm. He wore black jeans that clung to his long legs and he looked lean and mean and…vaguely familiar. Something about him tweaked at her memory, but she couldn’t work out what. She returned her attention to his face. He still hadn’t spoken, but was returning her scrutiny, a small frown pulling his brows together as though she wasn’t who or what he’d expected.
Then he smiled; a tilt of his sensual lips, and flutters started in her belly. Most unexpected.
“Abigail Parker?” His voice was low and husky, the words a question.
Where had she seen him before? London was a big city, and she met lots of people through her work, but if she could concentrate for a moment it would come to her. At the same time, a little niggle of foreboding suggested perhaps she was better off not remembering. A smile like that could mean nothing but trouble. And she did not do trouble. She never did trouble. She was practical, sensible, and the few dates she did have were with nice men, not tattooed bad boys who only had to smile to melt the panties right off a good girl.
And why was she even thinking about panties melting?
No man had affected her like this. Not ever.
Well, okay once. But that was a long time ago and best not thought about.
She returned her attention to his face and found him watching her, one eyebrow raised, and she realized she hadn’t answered his question. She licked her lips and wiped her palms down her sides. “I’m Abigail Parker.”
Midnight black hair. Silver eyes. The dark slash of his brows. Where had she seen him before?
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
His question dragged her from her thoughts. He sounded a little…pissed off, as though the meeting was not going as planned and he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed.
“Should I remember you? Mr.…?”
He gave a slightly rueful smile. “I guess not.” Faint amusement twinkled in his eyes, and he gave a slight shake of his head. He looked past her into the hallway. “Can I come in?”
Her reaction must have shown in her face because he gave a short laugh. “I take it that’s a no.” He rubbed a hand over his jawline, faintly shadowed with a day’s growth of beard. Something in the movement tweaked a chord in her memory, but the answer stayed just out of reach. “Shit, this is difficult.” He took a deep breath. “Okay, so the thing is…we used to know each other.”
“We did?” She was getting a really bad feeling, was in fact having to fight the urge to slam the door in his face and run and hide under the bed.
“Well, maybe ‘know’ isn’t the right word.” His lips quirked. “Unless we’re talking in the biblical sense.”
Her mouth dropped open and her eyes stretched wide. “What? No way. I think I would have remembered.” But that bad feeling was getting bigger, swelling, and any second now she was guessing it was going to burst all over her.
“It was a long time ago,” he said.
No. Freaking. Way.
She wanted to squeeze her eyes tightly shut and put her hands over her ears. Because she knew what was coming next and she didn’t want to hear it. And she was suddenly quite aware of why he looked so familiar. Finally, she managed to croak out a question. “How long?”
“Eleven years.” He studied her, his head cocked to one side. “I’m guessing it’s coming back.”
She stared at him—well, at his chest, where his T-shirt strained tight over the swell of muscles. Why? Why was he here after so long? What could he possibly want? Whatever it was, she couldn’t deal with it right now.
“Logan McCabe.” The name came out as a whisper.
She’d had sex with this man. And multiple orgasms. She was tied to him by tethers he knew nothing about. Did he?
It was weird that she’d been thinking about him lately, but in abstract; she’d never expected him to turn up on her doorstep.
She had to get rid of him.
Right now. Before disaster struck.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I have no clue what you want after all this time.”
He gave a casual shrug. “Just to talk.”
“What can we possibly have to talk about?” Actually a whole load of stuff, but she needed preparation for that, a clear head, advice from a lawyer, and maybe a couple of hundred years to think about it. “I can’t. I really can’t. I have to leave for work. Right now.”
When he just stood there, staring down at her, she gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to push him off the doorstep.
His eyes narrowed. Then he pulled a card from his back pocket and handed it to her. She took it automatically, her eyes straying to the road, expecting to see the car pull up any moment.
“Call me,” he said. “Or come by the club. When this has sunk in, I would like to…talk to you.”
When she didn’t answer, his nostrils flared and something flashed in his eyes. “You remember the club? The place where you picked me up and fucked my brains out.”
He turned and strolled away, hands shoved in his pockets.
“Ouch.” The tension oozed out of her, and she leaned against the doorway, closed her eyes, and released a ragged breath.
When she opened them, he was gone.
|By the following afternoon, Logan still hadn’t gotten over his feeling of… What? Maybe that was the problem. He had no clue how he felt. The meeting certainly hadn’t gone as he’d imagined, but then again, what had he expected? He realized, obviously too late, that he hadn’t given any thought to his fantasy girl’s feelings in all this. Hey, she was his fantasy girl. She was supposed to act in an appropriate fantasy-like manner.|
She wasn’t supposed to look at him as though he was all her nightmares rolled up into one big pile of dog crap that she couldn’t wait to scrape off her sensible shoes. And that was only after she’d finally recognized him—which had taken far longer than it should have done considering they’d had hot, mind-blowing sex every night for a year.
In his dreams.
He’d spent last night lying awake, going over the meeting, trying to decide what his next move should be, if any. But Josh and Vito would have a field day if he gave in this easily. And he was one hundred and ten percent convinced she wouldn’t be calling, or turning up at the club, any time soon.
She was nothing like he remembered, and certainly nothing like the sort of woman to indulge in his kinkier fantasies, which was a pity and a dash to his hopes. For a moment, he’d thought he’d gotten the wrong Abigail Parker. Josh’s security company had found her for him. Logan had only had the name Abigail and her date of birth—she’d told him she’d been celebrating her eighteenth birthday that night—but Josh had said that was enough. Logan had asked for a name and address. Perhaps he should have asked for more. But when he’d examined her closely, the basics were all there. The dark mahogany hair, though it was caught up tight in some sort of bun thing, and the big blue eyes. Her mouth…
But he somehow remembered her as bigger. She was medium height, about five-five in her low heels, and she had a trim figure in a gray skirt that reached past her knees and a white shirt, buttoned up tight. Prim and proper. Especially when she’d pursed her lips and looked him over as if trying to work out what a tattooed, ex-con like him was doing on her pristine doorstep.
At first he’d been amused when she so obviously had no clue who he was. Then he’d been pissed off. Once she had finally recognized him, she had gotten rid of him so fast it should have been funny.
Except he wasn’t laughing.
People had always looked at him and made assumptions about the sort of man he was—most of them bad and many of them correct—and it had never bothered him before.
And it shouldn’t bother him now. So why the hell—
“Are we boring you, boss?”
The question dragged him from his thoughts, and he frowned. He realized he’d been staring at the toes of his boots where they rested on the chair opposite, when he should have been watching the woman on the stage. But it had taken him all of about five seconds to decide she wasn’t suitable. They were a classy nightclub not a seedy strip joint. The dancers were there to provide a little glamour not a service for the customers.
He glanced at Jerry, his artistic manager, who sat beside him, in a crisp business suit. “No, not bored, just a little preoccupied.” With Ms. Prim and Proper.
Still the question made him think. This had once been one of his favorite jobs—interviewing dancers for the clubs. Christ, what man wouldn’t enjoy the show?
He studied the woman gyrating on the stage. She had impossibly red hair and impossibly huge tits only marginally covered by a sequined bikini top. Classy she was not. Nor was she prim and proper. She saw she had his attention and increased her efforts, gyrating to the low throb of the music. Reaching behind her, she tugged at the ties of her bikini top. Normally, at this stage he’d stop her and point out the whole classy nightclub thing, but he was worried.
What the hell was wrong with him?
Shouldn’t he be feeling something right now? Something other than pissed off at a woman he hadn’t seen in eleven years, and who wasn’t even here, and probably never would be.
The dancer was doing this clever move, which made her nipples sort of rotate. Very impressive. But somehow he wasn’t impressed. He looked down and contemplated the bulge in his jeans—not even a twitch. Once he would have taken the dancer up on the very clear invitation in her big brown eyes, just because he could, and because he loved women, all sorts of women, the more variety the better. And they would have both had a good time. Women liked him.
But the thought made him want to yawn.
Shit, he was only thirty-two. Wasn’t that too young for a midlife crisis?
He loved running the nightclubs and had been doing it for ten years, ever since he’d gotten out of prison. His father, Rory, had believed he needed to keep busy to stay out of trouble. Though it wasn’t needed; Logan had already decided he was never getting into trouble again. No way. But he’d loved the nightclub business from the start—the challenge, always something different going on, and an inexhaustible supply of gorgeous women to fuck. When had that lost its appeal? He couldn’t remember the last woman he’d—
“I take it this one is a no,” Jerry said, interrupting his thoughts. “Pity. I like her. Looks like a nice girl.”
Logan snorted, watching as Jerry got to his feet and crossed the room. He spoke quietly with the woman, who flashed Logan a look of abject disappointment, as though he’d broken her heart or something. She picked up her top, clutching it to her bosom, and spoke again. Jerry flashed him a look of amusement but nodded and helped the woman down from the stage. She tottered over to Logan, hovered in front of him. Actually, she did look like a nice girl; there was a hint of sweetness beneath the heavy makeup.
Across the room, the door opened and a woman slipped inside. Logan glanced over and did a double take. Abigail Parker. He almost laughed out loud, and suddenly he had an urge to high five.
Still, he couldn’t keep the grin from his face.
The nearly-naked dancer must have thought the smile was for her. She took a step closer. “I thought we might go for a drink,” she said, halting in front of him.
“Sorry, sweetheart, no can do.” She’d probably heard he was a sure thing. And maybe once he would have been.
He peered past her to make sure Abigail was still there. She stood inside the door, looking around as if unsure of her next move.
The dancer shuffled her feet. “I really need this job. I have a baby and a dog and…”
There was a hint of desperation in her voice and he glanced back at her. He hated that. He looked from her to Jerry, who shrugged. “Okay,” Logan muttered. “Take her on. But a week’s trial only.”
“Oh, thank you.” She leaned down, dropped the top and kissed him on the lips, squashing her breasts against him. Nope, still no reaction from his dick. He glanced over her shoulder to where Abigail stood. She’d finally spotted him, and an expression of… He couldn’t really define it. Pained horror, maybe, was stamped on her face. She caught him watching her and the expression was wiped clean. Then her tongue came out, swiping across her lips in a nervous gesture, and he felt a definite twitch.
And there was that urge to high five again.
He’d almost forgotten the nearly-naked woman clinging to him, but was grateful when Jerry took pity on him and tugged her free. “Go get dressed and I’ll go through the terms and conditions of the job.”
She smiled and hurried away.
Jerry crossed the room and flicked on the main lights. In the sudden brightness, Logan got his first good look at Abigail, a complete contrast from the dancer.
While she held herself with a certain confidence, as though used to difficult situations, there was an uneasiness in her face, a little line between her eyes. But she was here. That was all that mattered. Logan relaxed in his seat, put his feet back on the chair opposite, took a sip of scotch, and studied her some more.
“You want me to deal with her?” Jerry nodded in Abigail’s direction.
“No, you go sort out our new dancer.” He gave Jerry a sharp look. “Did you tell her to try the ‘I’m desperate’ and the puppy dog look?”
“I might have mentioned you’re a sucker for a sob story. But don’t worry. I’ll make sure she fits in.”
Logan shook his head. But Jerry was good at his job, so he put it from his mind and turned his attention back to more important matters.
When Abigail saw he was alone, she straightened her shoulders and headed his way. Logan took another sip of scotch and watched her lazily. She looked out of place. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was wearing the same gray skirt from yesterday, topped with a black sweater this time. Her dark hair was pulled into the same bun thing at the back of her head, showing off the perfect heart-shaped face, large blue eyes, and wide mouth he remembered. He had a sudden image of her on her knees in that immaculate outfit, her mouth wrapped around his dick, and he shifted in his seat.
Yes, everything was definitely in working order.
She came to a standstill in front of him, her gaze sliding over him, lingering on the tattoos that snaked down his arm, revealed by the short-sleeved T-shirt. Something flickered in her eyes. No doubt she was confirming her judgments of yesterday. But it didn’t matter, she was here.
Her gaze darted away then back, and she blinked a couple of times, shook her head, swallowed… He almost grinned and was about to put her out of her misery and offer her a drink, tell her he was really pleased to see her, when she spoke. “Mr. McCabe?”
Her voice was soft and low and sent a shiver down his spine that settled in his balls, flooding his groin with heat. And this time he did grin. The day was looking up.
“Call me Logan.” He allowed his gaze to wander over her slowly, taking in the thrust of her breasts beneath the black sweater. They were full above a slender waist and rounded hips. And he was betting they were real. They’d feel soft in his hands.
And his dick jerked again. He put his feet on the floor and shifted his chair so she wouldn’t see the reaction—he wasn’t a complete boor.
Her eyes narrowed. Up close, they were as beautiful as he remembered, a mixture of blue and turquoise like the Caribbean Sea.
She cleared her throat. “Can we talk?”
We can do a hell of a lot more than that. But he kept those words to himself. He didn’t want to scare her off. “We can do anything you like, sweetheart.”
She frowned at the endearment. Her lips tightened and her fingers gripped the handle of her extremely large handbag. “I need to speak to you about something. Something important.”
“You didn’t seem to want to speak to me yesterday.”
“You took me by surprise. That was all. It was…nice to see you. After so long.” She took a deep breath. “So can we talk?”
To be honest, he couldn’t think of anything they had to say to each other. But he was intrigued. More than that, he was hot and hard. And only a few minutes ago, he’d been worried his libido was dead. “Go on.”
Her eyes darted around the room, coming back to him. “Could we go somewhere a little more private?”
That worked for him. They needed privacy for what he had in mind.
Maybe she was having the same idea.
Though if she was, she was hiding it well. He suspected that was wishful thinking on his part.
But perhaps she couldn’t help but imagine what they’d be like together again. He was more than willing to comply. He pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. She took a step back, then pulled herself up straight.
“We can go…” He allowed his gaze to wander over her figure, because he wanted to look at her, and because he also wanted to piss her off, a little payback for yesterday. “…talk in my office.”
Her eyes narrowed but she managed to force a smile. “Thank you.”