Official Website of USA Today bestselling author Tawdra Kandle
SECOND SHOT Bonus Epilogue!
What happened after the big loss–and the big WIN??? Find out here!
I was exhausted. The trip home from Houston had been long with lots of delays, but I had a feeling that most of my tiredness stemmed from the sleep I had NOT gotten on my last night at the Vivaldi!
Not that I would have given up even a second of my reunion with Carter. Each touch, each tender whisper, had been a healing balm to my bruised heart. Even now, thinking about it, I felt heat rise, and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling broadly.
Leaving him had been harder than I’d expected. We’d said goodbye–for now–in my room, since Carter needed to rejoin his team upstairs and pack up to head back to Philadelphia. I had two more sessions at the conference before my car service picked me up for the airport.
Carter had kissed me, holding me close as though he didn’t want to let me go. I understood; I felt the same way. When he finally left me, I’d stood in the doorway, watching him until he turned the corner to take the elevator. And then, with a sigh, I’d gotten myself together, packing up my suitcases to leave them with the bell captain while I was in the last few classes.
Downstairs in the mezzanine, I’d found Cora, Missy, and Felicity standing around the pastry table, each of them holding a cup of coffee. To my surprise, Caitlin was with them, along with her friend Debbie Drummond. I remembered what Caitlin had said about Debbie reading my sexy books and suddenly, I was certain my face was bright red!
“Well, well, well.” Cora had studied me with both eyebrows arched. “Look who finally made it downstairs.” She’d glanced around at the other women. “Girls, do we want to guess what our friend Amelia was so busy doing? Or should I say . . . who she was so busy doing?”
I’d rolled my eyes, tried to play it cool, and then ended up confessing the whole story to my new friends. They’d loved it, and all of them had teased me for the rest of the morning.
It wasn’t until I’d found a moment alone with Caitlin that I’d managed to turn the tables on her! She had blushed and told me that she, too, had had an interesting evening, though she wouldn’t give me any other details.
Now I stood in front of my suitcase, pulling out my dirty clothes and sorting them into piles for washing. What I really wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep, but I knew that unpacking now would be a kind gift to my future self, who had to be back at the office bright and early tomorrow morning.
Thinking about going back to work made my stomach clench. I wasn’t sure if it was because I hated the idea of being Liesel Duncan once again or because I had committed to telling Honey the truth about my secret writer life.
My phone buzzed, and I glanced down, my smile growing even wider when I saw Carter’s name.
Hey, babe. I miss you.
I picked up my phone and tapped a reply.
I miss you, too. I can’t believe it’s only been about thirteen hours since we were together. That’s too long.
Three dots appeared before his answer.
I agree. That’s why I’m standing at your door downstairs.
With a little cry, I dropped the bra I was about to toss into a pile of delicates and sprinted down the steps. Flinging open the door, I launched myself into Carter’s arms.
“Hey!” Chuckling, he stepped across the threshold and kicked the door closed. “I was about to ask you if it was okay I was here, but I guess I have my answer.”
“Yes, you do.” I nuzzled his neck, breathing in his intoxicating scent. “But I shouldn’t be letting you get so close. I still have airplane stench all over me.”
“Same.” Carter lowered me down his body until my feet hit the floor. “I had the car service drop me here after my flight. I haven’t even been to my apartment yet.”
“Really?” That revelation made me so very happy. “Well, then, I guess you can get as close as you want.”
He waggled his eyebrows. “Watch what you promise, lady.”
“I don’t make promises I don’t plan to keep.” I tugged his lips to mine.
“Mmmmm.” Carter’s hands trailed down my back until they cupped my ass, squeezing suggestively. “Want to lose the airplane stench together in your shower?”
“That sounds like a perfect idea.” I wriggled just far enough away to grip the hem of my shirt and lift it up over my head. “I hope you remember where my bathroom is because I’m going to race you up there. First one to the shower gets . . .” I cocked my head, thinking. “An extra orgasm.”
“I’ve got a better idea.” Carter expertly unhooked my bra and lowered his mouth to one waiting pink tip, sucking the needy bud into his warm mouth before he finished his thought. “How about we go upstairs together, and while we wait for the water to get hot, I make you come . . .” His eyes glittered dangerously. ” . . . for the first time tonight?”
“I like that,” I breathed, my head spinning just a little as I wondered how I’d gotten so lucky with this second chance.
“Good.” Carter lifted me into his arms and had just begun kissing the hell out of me when I became aware of an odd sound.
“Liesel!!” The shout was accompanied by pounding at the door, making me blink in confusion. Why did I hear my mother’s voice?
“Um, babe . . .” Carter’s arms tightened around me. “I think we have company. Were you expecting anyone?”
“No!” I shook my head. “But you better put me down and let me grab my shirt–“
But it was too late. Apparently making good use of the emergency-use-only key I’d given her, my mother burst through my front door, coming to a sudden stop in my foyer that was so comical that I had trouble not snickering. She was followed in short order by my grandmother Honey and my sister Bria.
“Oh!” All three of the women stood gaping at Carter and me, their mouths open, wearing identical expressions of shock. For a long moment, no one spoke, then I heard another familiar voice.
“What’s happening? What’s going on? Bria, I can’t see anything–why am I only looking at the floor?”
Rolling her eyes, Bria lifted up her phone, where our eldest sister Kyra’s face filled the screen. Kyra squinted for a moment and then gasped out loud.
“What are you all doing here?” I demanded, wriggling so that Carter would let me down. But he didn’t seem to get the message; instead, he only held me tighter to his body.
“We’re here to get some answers,” my mother replied. She directed a long stare at Carter. “But it seems we have a whole different set of questions to ask now.”
“Ladies.” Honey raised her voice, and then one side of her mouth quirked upward as she glanced at Carter. “And gentleman, as it were. Let’s go sit down and talk about all of this rationally.”
“I don’t know what we have to talk about, but fine.” I gestured with my free hand toward the living room. “Go right ahead. Have a seat.”
Carter remained where he was, still holding me, until my grandmother, mom, and sister preceded us out of the foyer.
“Will you please put me down so I can put on my top?” I whispered furiously.
Wordlessly, he set me on my feet. “I needed you to hide–this.” He pointed toward the huge bulge in his dress pants. “And I’m going to need a minute to calm down, so go ahead of me.”
I nodded, turning my shirt right side out before pulling it on. “Fine. But don’t you dare leave.”
He grinned. “Wouldn’t think of it. I don’t plan to miss whatever this is–and also, I owe you several orgasms.”
“You’re right. I’m not going to forget.” Sighing a little, I hurried into the living room to face the music.
“Liesel.” My mother sat on the loveseat, her arms crossed. “Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. We are so confused–“
“I think we should explain why we’re here, dear.” Honey laid a hand on my mother’s shoulder. “I imagine Liesel is a bit confused herself.”
“Where were you this weekend?” Bria burst out. “You said you were going on a spa weekend.”
“Oh.” I nibbled at my lower lip. “Yes, I did say that, didn’t I? Well, it was lovely, and it turned out that, um, Carter was actually there, too–“
“Drop the act,” my mother ordered. “First of all, if you’re going to spin a story for us, you need to get your facts straight. We all know where Carter was this weekend–he was in Houston, playing in the championship game.” She cocked a brow at me. “As it turns out, you were not at a spa in New England. You were in Houston, too.”
“One of my sorority sisters sent me this picture.” Bria swiped her screen, causing Kyra to vanish, and in her place was a slightly blurry picture of me at the Vivaldi Hotel in Houston. “Only, in the caption, the guy posting it tags you as someone called . . . Amelia Bliss.” Bria jabbed one finger at the incriminating photo. “But that’s definitely you, Liesel. You’re wearing the earrings you borrowed from me last month–and never returned, I might add.”
“We’re just worried, dear,” Honey added. “Worried about you. Please tell us what’s going on.”
I was glad I’d already planned to come clean, because it was clear the cat was out of the bag. Taking Bria’s phone, I skimmed the caption of the picture, realizing that the man who’d posted it was the same one I’d met standing in line the day I’d checked into the hotel. I’d been so proud to tell him my pseudonym; I’d never dreamed it would come back to bite me in the ass!
Slowly but as succinctly as possible, I told my family the entire story of the birth and career of Amelia Bliss.
“Oh, my God, Liesel! That’s incredible! I’m so proud of you!” Kyra’s voice floated out of the phone, reminding me she was still listening. “You’re an author!”
“I don’t know why you felt you had to hide this,” sniffed my mom. “Haven’t we always supported our children in whatever they did?”
“Of course, you have,” I soothed her. “But I wasn’t sure this was going to work–and in the beginning, I didn’t know how much I was going to love it.” I paused. “But I do. I love it so much that–that I’m going to do it full-time.” I turned my gaze toward my grandmother. “I’m sorry, Honey. But I don’t think I’m cut out for the corporate world.”
“Oh, my darling.” Honey stood up and wrapped me in her arms. “I only want you to be happy. This sounds like it’s the right path for you. Don’t you worry for one moment about leaving Honey Bee. We love you, and we’ll support you no matter what.”
“Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up,” began Bria. “What’s going on with Carter? Why did we walk in on the two of you looking like you’re definitely not fighting or broken up anymore?”
“That’s a story for another day.” Carter’s voice sounded final. “Ladies, I appreciate you all coming over to check on Liesel, but she and I are both exhausted after our trip. I’m going to ask you to go for now–I’m sure Liesel will fill you in on more gory details than I want to overhear, but not tonight.”
“The man is right. It’s late. Let’s go home.” Honey kissed my cheek. “Let’s plan a girls’ lunch for Wednesday, and we’ll get the dirt then.”
“I’ll make sure I’m there!” Kyra put in. “But for now, hug my sister for me, please.”
Once they were all gone, Carter pulled me close once again. “Now. Where were we?”
“Hmmm.” I pretended to think. “I believe we were talking about showers and orgasms and how many I’m gonna get.”
“That sounds right.” He scooped me up again, pausing only to throw the deadbolt on the door. “No more interruptions, babe. From here on out, it’s you. And it’s me.”
“Forever,” I murmured, just before he kissed me and made all of my many dreams come true.
If you loved Liesel and Carter’s story,
find out more about the Duncan family by reading the first book in