Blog Tour: Beauty and the Bachelor by Naima Simone
Beauty and the Bachelor by Naima Simone Publication Date: August 11, 2015 Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Synopsis: Billionaire Lucas Oliver is hell bent on revenge. And his plan begins when Sydney Blake—the stunning daughter of his enemy—is tricked into bidding on Lucas at a bachelor auction. Then he serves up a little blackmail...followed by a marriage proposal Sydney has no choice but to accept.Sydney has been controlled by her family her whole life. When Lucas threatens to reveal her father's shady business, she is once again forced to do her duty for her family. But worse—oh so much worse—is the rush of lust that Lucas ignites in her blood. Lucas is determined to make Sydney suffer, but it’s tough when he can’t keep from touching her–or thinking about touching her–all the time. She’s not fairing much better since she’s engaged to a darkly handsome beast intent on destroying her entire family...along with her heart.
About Naima Simone
Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey, Sandra Brown and Linda Howard many years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Though her first attempt at a romance novel starring Ralph Tresvant from New Edition never saw the light of day, her love of romance, reading and writing has endured. Published since 2009, she spends her days—and nights— creating stories of unique men and women who experience the first bites of desire, the dizzying heights of passion, and the tender, healing heat of love.
She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.
EXCERPTS:Beauty and the Bachelor by Naima Simone
“How long have you and Tyler Reinhold been engaged?” Lucas asked.
Surprised, Sydney glanced up, the spoon she’d been stirring with still clasped in her fingers. “Not long,” she said, silently scolding herself. She should have no problem talking about her fiancé. This was an outing because of an auction, not a regular date. Lucas wasn’t enamored with her, no matter what her overactive imagination might have conjured. She cleared her throat. “We’ve been together for a year, though.”
“He seems very protective of you. Not that I can blame him. Auction or not, if you were mine, I wouldn’t have let you fly to another city with a man who wasn’t me.”
If you were mine. She highly doubted he’d claimed any woman as his. That would be too permanent. “I don’t belong to him like a piece of real estate with a deed,” she snapped. And immediately hated the display of irritation. Because the description pretty much summed up her arrangement with Tyler. Theirs wasn’t a love match; they were an amicable, companionable merger. And she preferred it that way…damn it.
A small smile played across his sensual mouth. “You don’t like idea of belonging to a man, Sydney? The idea of knowing beyond a certainty that he’s claimed you so thoroughly, your body’s marked by him, your blood heats for him and him alone? The idea that you’re his, and if any man even looks in your direction, he’s taking his life into his own hands?”
“No,” she breathed. She didn’t. He described everything she was afraid of—blind passion, possession, jealousy. So why did the heat pouring through her like a stream of lava brand her a liar? “Would you want that with a woman? You don’t seem like the kind of man who would appreciate or tolerate a jealous, possessive woman.”
He arched an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t. And I agree with you. I don’t want what I just mentioned. I prefer a relationship of respect with someone who is independent, has her own interests. Someone who understands I don’t work a nine-to-five and is content with that. Desire is easy—lust easier. More than a lover, I want a woman who can hold her own in a social situation or a boardroom as well as the bedroom.”
“And love? I noticed love wasn’t included on your list.”
“No,” he said flatly, something too fleeting and shadowed to decipher flashing in his eyes. “It wasn’t. Which brings me to my next question, Sydney.”
He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers under chin. His intense gaze ensnared her, refused to free her, even though she desperately wanted to avoid the piercing scrutiny. The conversation had left her off-kilter, his cold, matter-of-fact analysis of his desired relationship unsettling. Even though he’d echoed what she and Tyler had. What she was pledging her life to as Mrs. Reinhold.
She reached for her coffee, desperate for a distraction from him…from her own thoughts.
“Yes? What is it?”
It wasn’t a question.
Lucas slid a hand up Sydney’s arm, over her shoulder, and cupped her nape. The warm, vulnerable skin seared his palm while the sleek, thick ponytail of dark hair caressed his fingers. He pressed his fingers into the side of her throat, the tips stroking the tendon running under the graceful column. She shivered. Standing so close together, no way in hell he missed the tell-tale tremor. From where did it originate? Fear? No, not fear. Though she trembled against him, her glare condemned him to the same pit she’d ordered him to seconds earlier.
But there was something else mingling with the anger. He peered closer. Desire? Desire demanding he back her up against the wall, unwrap the dress held together by two simple ties, and unveil the body he’d been fantasizing about for two long, frustrating-as-hell nights?
Maybe. After all, there was a thin line between love and hate. Or in their case, lust and loathing.
“Been to hell, sweetheart,” he whispered. “Have the T-shirt and refrigerator magnet to prove it.” When her gaze flicked toward his scar, he smirked and added, “That, too.” His fingers paused mid-stroke, his grip tightening. “If you betray me, I’ll make your life miserable.”
Long, feminine fingers skimmed up his arm…circled his neck. Squeezed. “Ditto.”
For the first time in more years than he could remember, laughter—true, clean laughter—rolled in his gut, past his chest, and burst past his lips. Even to his own ears, the rumble of it sounded rusty, worse for wear. Few things surprised him, much less genuinely delighted him. Even fewer people challenged or braved the Beast. She’d done all three.
Again, that blast of warning ricocheted through him.
Caution. Evade. Leave. Don’t—
He nipped her bottom lip. She stiffened, jerked away, but he’d anticipated the move and cupped the back of her head. When she didn’t resist, he smoothed a palm up her throat with his other hand. Rubbed his thumb over one of those glorious, patrician cheekbones.
“One last item on the agenda, Sydney,” he murmured. “You’re demanding fidelity, and I’ll give you that. But if I intended to be celibate, I would’ve become a priest.”
Her lips twisted. “So you want conjugal visitation?”
He chuckled. “Cute.” Swept another caress over her skin. “That’s the second time you’ve intimated I’m taking away your choice. Does it make you feel better to believe I’m forcing you? Have you been giving in to people’s wishes so long, believing I’m taking away your power is comfortable and safe for you? Sorry, you have choices. Even in marrying me. Even in coming to my bed. But, baby, let’s not pretend you don’t want to be there. That you haven’t wondered what being under me…over me…would be like.” Her breath hitched against his mouth, and he nodded, that small reaction as good as a resounding yes. “Yeah, you have,” he growled, then surrendered to the need clawing at him since she’d walked into his office. Hell, since he’d heard her voice on the phone.
So he took. Conquered. Devoured.
“Okay. Go ahead and ask your question,” Sydney murmured.
A corner of Lucas’ mouth quirked. “You say that like you’re about to face a firing squad. Mine is simple. Why have I never seen you wear your hair like this?” He tugged a long spiral once more.
Her gaze dropped to her cup as she dragged her fingers through the curls, self-consciousness in every movement. Maybe not so simple after all. “You’ve known me a handful of weeks.”
“Okay,” he conceded. “Do you wear it like this often?”
“Stop stalling. Why not?”
She heaved a sigh, tipped her chin up. “It’s not a state secret or big deal. The straightened hair is more manageable and more appropriate for many of the events I attend. Less…wild.”
“That seems to be your favorite word,” she muttered around the rim of her coffee mug.
“One of them.”
“Well, if it’s such bullshit, why don’t you tell me the truth?” she asked softy, but he would’ve had to be Helen Keller not to see the glint in her eyes or hear the anger in her murmur.
Edging closer and reclaiming the space he’d placed between them, he regarded her until a flush reddened her cheekbones and her sensual lips parted on a hitch of air.
“I think you’re repeating what you’ve heard from your mother. Not appropriate. Wild. How about unseemly or common?” Something moved behind her unflinching gaze, and if he hadn’t quoted her mother, Charlene Blake, verbatim, then he’d struck close. He pinched a heavy lock between his fingers, rubbed the strands that resembled rough silk. “I understand certain fashions call for certain hairstyles. But the confined ponytails and buns? Those belong to Sydney Blake, the social princess, the beautification committee woman, the silent daughter of Jason Blake. But this?” He lifted the spiral, wove it around his finger. “This belongs to you. The Sydney who volunteers at the youth center. The Sydney who likes to sit on the back porch and stare at the water and distant mountains with a hot cup of coffee. The Sydney who has dreams she hides and believes no one notices. The Sydney who kisses like she invented sex and could make a man come just from having her taste in his mouth.”
The gentle, hungry lap of water against the shore. The faint clatter of the chef finishing their dinner behind the glass doors. And the rough huffs of their breaths.
“I also know why you comply with those dictates, Sydney,” he added, need like a serrated blade over his voice. “You don’t want to be seen. You’re comfortable fading into the background. But I have news for you, sweetheart. You can straighten your hair, wear the latest fashion trends that everyone else has on, sit in the farthest, darkest corner, and you would still be the center of attention. All eyes would still go to you when you enter a room.”
“Luke,” he corrected.
She frowned, thrown off guard. “What?”
“Luke. All my close friends—all being Aiden—call me Luke.”
“Regrets already, Sydney?” Lucas asked, the question a low ripple in the silent room.
“No.” Once more Sydney studied him. The piercing green-blue eyes that had blazed with scorching heat less than an hour ago but were now shuddered, impassive. The almost lush, sensual curve of his mouth that contrasted with the sharply hewn planes of his face. The hard, strong line of his jaw. The harsh imperfection of the scar that was perfect on him.
Confusion commingled, mated with the blush of arousal. Questions and concerns—she had dozens of those. But regret? No.
“Does it bother you?” He plucked up a slice of chicken and popped it into his mouth. God, it wasn’t fair that he made eating with his fingers sexy, too.
She blinked, refocusing on their conversation. But couldn’t follow. He’d lost her.
She frowned. “That we had sex?”
“No. The scar. You were staring at it. Does it bother you?” No emotion or inflection in the question, just a flat monotone that he could’ve used to ask the time of day.
Like the first time he’d asked that question three weeks ago—God, had it only been three weeks since he’d exploded into her life?—the quick “Not at all” rose to her tongue, hovered there. But at the last instant, she didn’t utter the three words. Because they would be a lie.
“Yes,” she murmured. Something flared in his gaze—something old and dark before it became as opaque as before. “But not for the reasons you probably think.” She turned more fully toward him, tucking her foot under her thigh. “When I first met you, of course I noticed the scar. But I wasn’t repulsed. I ached for you. For the pain you must’ve endured. It bothered me that you suffered.” A scowl started to crease his brow, and she shot up her hand, palm out. “I don’t pity you. No one who looks at you could ever feel sorry for you. You’re too…dangerous for that.” She huffed out a short bark of laughter. “I remember thinking you resembled a panther. Dark. Stunning. But predatory. The mark isn’t a sign of your weakness but your strength. Your power to fight and survive. I find it…” She paused, weighed the judgment of revealing this particular truth.
He watched her like the animal she’d mentioned, his scrutiny steady, unblinking, as if searching her for any hint of a lie. Sighing, she rose from the bed, careful not to jostle the tray. She approached him, moved between his legs, and cupped his face.
“I find it beautiful,” she whispered. Then laid a gentle kiss to the ridged flesh beneath his right eye before placing another on the twin scar that bisected his eyebrow. “I find you beautiful,” she confessed against his skin.
His hands clutched her waist. Other than the tiny flexing of his fingers, he remained as still as a statue. No, that wasn’t true. His eyes blazed with a fire that burned her.