Book Title: Hard to Regret (Scarlett Bay Book 1)
Author: Kris Pearson
Genre: Sexy Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 4, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Dragged up under the callused thumb of his dirt-poor father, Jason Jones regrets his choice of security over his dream. His ambition to work as a freelance photographer has been ruthlessly supressed in favour of setting up his own construction company. He has a pre-Christmas deadline looming on the current project, and the last thing he needs is constant surveillance by the owner’s sharp-tongued daughter – or the lure of her hot body and big blue eyes.
Forced to endure each other’s company in the small-town beach house, mutual frustration and undeniable chemistry pull Anna and Jason together for a few stolen days. Enemies become lovers – but how long before secrets are revealed that will change everything?
HARD TO REGRET is the first in Kris Pearson’s new Scarlet Bay series of sexy, funny and heart-warming romance novels and is intended for mature readers.
CHAPTER 1 – SAUSAGE ON A FORK
“I’ll do it,” Annaliese Wynn said, heaving her travel bag from the back of the taxi to save the overweight driver waddling out. Finally she’d be swapping her stilettos for summer sandals and solitude, and hopefully winding down from the everlasting treadmill of her life.
As she listened to the waves crashing on the shore of Scarlet Bay, she drew a deep satisfied breath and discovered the delicious aroma of grilling meat wafting on the warm breeze. She glanced at her watch. Someone was barbecuing. At ten-fifteen? She inhaled again. Her tummy gave an unladylike gurgle. The barbecue smelled amazing after her hasty early breakfast of a fresh pear.
Sighing, Anna clicked the bag handle up into place and rolled the case over the cracked concrete path to the old shorefront cottage. This would be her last holiday here before it was demolished to make way for a new, much larger dwelling for her extended family to share. She unlocked the front door and stepped back into her childhood. Faded Indian cotton curtains, Great-aunt Emily's fussy watercolours (also fading) and… the back door at the end of the hallway swinging wide open!
She stood stock-still, like a cat transfixed by a bird that had just landed unwisely close. Loud masculine laughter billowed in and echoed around the high-ceilinged space.
“Shit, no…” someone said.
“Totally crappy luck,” another man agreed.
“And probably a spoiled little bitch,” a deeper voice added.
Anna released her bag, set down her laptop, and crept the length of the old house on tiptoe, trying to stop her high heels from echoing on the varnished hardwood floor. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, bursting through the doorway.
Four pairs of eyes swivelled in her direction. Three men stuffed meat into their mouths and chewed.
“Ms Wynn?” the deeper voice asked. The attached male raised a can of cola and took a leisurely swig. Dark eyes locked with hers over the shining can, and she watched his tanned throat constrict as he swallowed. He lowered the drink and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth.
“Anna Wynn. Why are you all here?”
Plainly they were the crew from the almost finished house through the hedge. Why weren’t they there instead? And how had they opened the door?
Three sets of teeth continued to chomp. Three pairs of eyes shifted away. The other man set the cola can down with no haste, and stood.
Up and up.
Anna had to tilt her head back to keep eye contact.
He thrust out a large hand as though he expected her to shake it. “Jason Jones,” he said.
He blocked out the light, stole her breath, irritated her far beyond anything that was reasonable.
“We’re having breakfast,” he added in that gritty velvet voice that had queried her name with unmistakeable amusement.
She inspected his fingers for cleanliness before extending her own. His boots were caked with mud, his long, powerful legs were smeared with dust, his khaki shorts had the zipper at half-mast, and there was sawdust all over his garish orange visibility vest. She tried not to ogle his arms and shoulders.
“Breakfast?” She found her fingers enclosed in firm warmth and then held captive.
“Or brunch, if you want to be fancy.” A faint grin teased the corners of his mouth.
Suddenly Anna’s choice of high heels and tailored black silk crepe pants felt ridiculous. Why hadn’t she worn jeans?
She tried to retrieve her hand and he tightened his grip, allowing her no escape.
“We’re on the job by seven in weather like this, and we work hard. We’re ready for more than a sandwich by now. You want a sausage?” Without waiting for a reply he reached sideways with his other hand, speared one from the barbecue on a bent and tarnished fork, and passed it to her.
Of course she didn’t. Nothing was further from her mind. A sausage with a gang of rough builders who had no business intruding into the house? From this over-muscled, overbearing, testosterone-soaked tower of annoyance?
Her traitorous stomach chose that moment to give another loud gurgle, and she gave in to the inevitable, trying to accept the fork without touching him any further. She took a cautious nibble and closed her eyes. She possibly moaned. God, it was good!
“Ketchup with that?” the velvet voice asked, stroking every one of Anna’s nerve endings exactly the wrong way.
Snorts of amusement exploded from the other men and he threw a sharp, “Shut it,” in their direction. She opened her mouth wider and took a more ravenous bite.
“Go for it…” the youngest man encouraged.
“Shut it, Hoolie,” Jason Jones repeated. He turned to Anna. “Doesn’t take much to amuse someone with no brain.”
Anna glared at them all. The youngest one grinned from ear to ear, the other two tried to stifle their laughter, and even Jason Jones had the faintest twitch at one end of his surprisingly gorgeous mouth. No prizes for guessing what they were imagining.
She managed to swallow the mouthful without choking, took a step backward in case it made him look less impressive, and pinned him with her best ‘you’re-an-insect-beneath-my-notice’ gaze. “And I’ll ask you again; what exactly are you doing here? This is my family’s home. I’m staying to do some work for a few days, and I’m not expecting, or wanting, company.”
Jason Jones folded his tall frame down onto a battered white plastic chair and glanced toward the open back porch of the old house. “I arranged with your uncle for us to use the… facilities… there. But some big rocks slid down the hill and bashed the wall in a couple of days ago.”
“No more facilities,” young Hoolie explained helpfully. “No bog, broken basin, only half a shower.”
Anna flicked her gaze into the damaged porch, bared her teeth, and took another bite of sausage - a really savage one - while looking Hoolie in the eye. Her action had the intended effect, and she had the great satisfaction of seeing him flinch.
She tried to suppress a smirk as she chewed and swallowed. “You’ll have to get a Porta-loo then. I don’t want you in the house. How did you get the door open?”
A big hand rummaged in the pocket of the khaki shorts. Anna glimpsed lime green undies through the gaping fly. Lime green? Did the man have no class?
He pulled out a key on a twist of string. James’s key. The little white lighthouse on the end of the string was a souvenir she’d given him on a long-ago holiday.
He swung it to and fro. “Your uncle gave me this in case I wanted to stay over. There have been burglaries from the other house. Boxes of tiles, appliances - and I don’t need any here at mine.”
Why don’t they lock things up more securely?
“So you’re the foreman?”
This brought a ‘yeah, right’ from Hoolie, and a tightening of Jason Jones’ features. He glared at the offender and said, “Hoolie’s not worth meeting until he grows up a bit, but the rest of my men are.” He waved an arm in their direction, and the sun glinted on gilded skin and bulging muscle. “Brett Lambourne and Eric Hansen.”
“Pleased to meetcha,” the younger Brett said.
“Yeah, gidday,” balding Eric added, wiping his lips with a crumpled handkerchief and stuffing it back into the pocket of his shorts.
“But…” Anna said. This was absolutely not what she wanted. She shook her head. “I don’t want to share my bathroom with a crowd of men.”
Jason leaned back in the chair and drew a deep breath. Anna found it hard not to stare as his chest expanded, and saw from the set of his jaw that he was making quite an effort to stay polite.
“There are only four of us,” he said in a tone suitable for explaining quantum physics to young children. “And I’ve been telling them to take their boots off. But okay, I’ll order a Porta-loo. I can’t guarantee they’ll have it here before Monday though. Not with the big surf carnival over the weekend.”
“Every bog’ll be busy,” Hoolie contributed.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Annaliese snapped. She took the last bite of sausage and wondered what to do with the fork. A big hand on the end of a long arm closed around it and she let go in a hurry. “Thank you,” she added, a few seconds too late, turning and flouncing back into the house.
“Yep - spoiled little bitch”, she heard Jason say just before the door swung closed. So it was her he’d been talking about as she arrived? He’d already known she’d be staying? She nearly whirled around and gave him another earful, but what would that achieve? It wouldn’t do to make an enemy of the builder. Keeping out of each other’s way would surely be the wisest course.
She inspected the bathroom as she returned down the hallway. Men! Four empty toilet roll inners sat along the windowsill… the tap wasn’t properly turned off… and very dirty handprints decorated the pale blue towel.
Oh well, at least they washed their hands to some degree, and from the lack of mud on the floor they were indeed kicking their filthy boots off before they came inside.
She tried to be pleased about that as she collected her bag and pulled it into the front bedroom - the one with the best and biggest bed.
Someone had been sleeping in it. The cover had been tossed back and the pillow held the unmistakable indentation of a head. A half empty water bottle and an electric shaver sat on the chest beside it.
Jason Jones’ firm, clean-shaven jaw came immediately to mind, and for some reason his gorgeous mouth, and she just knew it would be him. Turning on her heel she clattered back along the hallway and flung the door open again.
“Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” she demanded.
“Big bad bear?” Hoolie suggested.
Brett Lambourne grinned. “Don’t you know your fairy stories, boy? Big bad wolf.”
Eric Hansen threw back his head and managed a passable howl.
“Hell,” Jason muttered. “It was the longest bed.”
“Well, will you move please? It sounded like you knew the ‘spoiled little bitch’ was coming to stay.”
Jason drew another of those devastating, chest-expanding breaths. “Your hearing’s a bit too good, eh? Sorry about that.” He set his can of cola aside and stood. Anna was almost willing to believe he was blushing under his tan.
“Move your stuff out at the end of the day,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to stop you working.” This time she slammed the door behind her so she wouldn’t hear any more smart comments.
Her first proper job was as a radio copywriter. After living in Italy and London she returned to the capital city of Wellington and worked in TV, radio again, several advertising agencies, and then spent many happy years as a retail ad manager. Totally hooked on fabrics, she followed this by going into business with her husband as a curtain installer. It was finally time to write fiction. In sixteen years she hasn’t fallen off her ladder once through drifting off into romantic dreams.
She writes sizzling contemporary romance, pure and simple. Well, maybe not that pure! They're sexy stories about modern couples who fall in love and into bed along the way, just like real people do. She’s the author of fourteen novels, three of which were finalists in New Zealand’s Clendon Award. Four have been translated into Spanish.
The most widely distributed is 'The Boat Builder's Bed'. She gave away more than two million ebook copies of this to kick-start sales of all her others. Did it work? Beyond her wildest dreams. See them all on her website - http://www.krispearson.com