Cooper James and Gigi Gibson take the lead in the next Gansett Island novel! Find out what happened on their crazy first date and whether these two can make a go of it after Gigi finishes shooting her show on the island. It’s time to head home to LA, but will Cooper give her a good reason to stay?
You’ll also hear more about what happens with Cooper’s brother Jared and his wife, Lizzie, who’ve had a baby come into their lives under less-than-ideal circumstances. Are they in for more heartbreak or will the baby be the start of a new chapter for them?
The summer is winding down on Gansett Island, but you can count on plenty of hot days and steamy nights ahead before the winter sets in.
Temptation After Dark
(Gansett Island Series, Book 24)
Cooper James had had a lot of girlfriends. So many, his mom had stopped bothering to get to know them because, as she said, they were never around long enough to make it worth the bother. His sisters called him the Honey Pot. Girls had been the bees, buzzing around him from the time he was old enough to realize girls were the secret to eternal happiness. When he was fourteen, Mindy Farthing’s father caught them having sex in their barn and threatened to shoot Cooper’s balls off if he ever went near Mindy again. No one had wanted to hear that Mindy had been the one to suggest they have sex, not Cooper.
His mother had marched Cooper to the parish priest for a stern lecture about sins of the flesh.
Poor Fr. Patrick had tried to put the fear of God into young Cooper.
It hadn’t taken.
The girls kept buzzing around, and he kept letting them catch him, temporarily, of course. As a make-love-not-war kind of guy, he knew just when to invoke his patented exit strategy to get himself out of a situation before it turned ugly. As a result, most of the women he’d dated in the past were still his friends, regularly checking in via text to see how he was doing.
He was doing just fine, thank you very much.
Cooper loved everything about women—their soft skin, the way they always smelled so good and how they had curves in all the right places. He liked them tall and short, thin and plump. He loved the tomboys as much as the princesses, and more than anything, he loved how freaking brilliant they were. They kept him constantly intrigued as he sought to understand what made them tick. Figuring out the unique characteristics that each new woman brought to the game had become a hobby of his.
He took his responsibility to show them a good time seriously and was always a gentleman in his dealings with them. At the outset of every new “relationship,” Cooper made sure the lady of the moment knew he wasn’t looking for anything serious, and if she happened to be looking for a husband, he quickly made sure she knew that wasn’t going to be him. He believed in honesty and was straightforward about what he was and wasn’t offering.
A good time? Absolutely. A ring on her finger? Hell no.
Why would any guy want to settle down with one woman when he could dine at the smorgasbord?
That said, after spending time with his brother Jared and his wife, Lizzie, Cooper saw that Jared had found something special with his wife. If someone like Lizzie came along, Cooper might be tempted to give up his serial-dating ways to settle down. But thus far, he hadn’t met anyone who’d make him want to change his life that dramatically.
That was until he’d come across the goddess of all goddesses swimming in Jared’s pool on Gansett Island.
He still couldn’t believe his Hollywood crush lived in his brother’s Gansett Island garage apartment and was swimming in his pool.
In a white bikini.
Dear God, the woman was so smoking hot that Cooper had been tongue-tied around a female for the first time in his life. Also, for the first time, one of the “bees” had been somewhat underwhelmed by Cooper’s honey. She’d played along with his flirtatious banter (another of his trademarked skills), but he had a feeling she’d be cool if she never saw him again.
Whereas he was counting the minutes until their date that night.
He, Cooper James, was going out, on a date, with Gigi Gibson. Best day of his life, and it was just getting started. Before he did anything else, he had to find Jared and convince him he needed to let Coop borrow the Porsche. A woman like Gigi had certain expectations, and Cooper was determined to meet them by not asking if she could drive.
Things were tense around the house right now. Jared had told Cooper that their latest attempt at IVF had failed, and they weren’t sure what they were going to do. A pervasive feeling of sadness had overtaken them, so he needed to tread lightly on his frivolous request to borrow Jared’s prized Porsche—the first splurge Jared had made after he started making money. He was incredibly sentimental about that car.
Cooper’s heart ached for Jared and Lizzie, who were so stupidly in love, it wasn’t even funny. They were also filthy rich thanks to Jared’s astounding success as a stockbroker. They were proof, however, that there were some things money couldn’t buy. After Jared told him what they were going through, Cooper had wondered if he maybe ought to head back to New York to give them some privacy. But both Jared and Lizzie had asked him to stay. They said he was an entertaining distraction that they could use right now. So, he was staying until he wore out his welcome.
He found his brother by the pool, reading the Wall Street Journal and puffing on the once-a-day cigar Lizzie allowed him—as long as he smoked it outside.
“Hey, Coop. What’s up?”
Cooper stretched out on the lounge next to Jared. “You’ve been keeping secrets from me, brother.”
Jared looked over at him. “What secrets?”
“Hello? Gigi Gibson is living in your garage apartment?”
“I already knew you were older than dirt, but do you honestly have no idea who and what she is?”
“She’s on some show with Mason’s girlfriend, Jordan.”
Cooper laughed. “Some show. It’s only the number one show on TV.”
“Duh. Honestly, Jared, how can you not know this?”
“And you watch it?”
“Everyone watches it. It’s the funniest fucking thing you’ve ever seen. Two beautiful women who are hilarious together, living their best lives.”
“I’ll have to check it out.”
Cooper rolled his eyes. “If you got your nose out of the Wall Street Journal for ten minutes a day, you might find there’s more to life than growing your fortune.”
“I already knew that, thank you very much. Just because I don’t watch much TV doesn’t mean I don’t have a life.”
“I know you do, but you need to watch their show. It’s awesome.”
“I’ll do that. If you’re a fan of the show, you must’ve heard she and Jordan were filming out here.”
“I did hear something about that, but no one told me she was living at my brother’s place.”
“I didn’t know you’d care.”
“Did you come out here hoping to run into her?”
“I came to see my brother and sister-in-law,” Cooper said with feigned indigence.
“Sure you did,” Jared said, laughing. “You must’ve flipped a nut when you found her right here with us.”
“I did! She was in the pool in a white bikini, and I almost swallowed my tongue.”
“I have to admit I love the idea of a woman like Gigi looking down her nose at you.”
“She’s so far out of my league as to be laughable.”
“No, she isn’t. She’s a nice person. Lizzie and I like her a lot.”
“I have a feeling I could like her a lot, too.”
“This is very interesting,” Jared said.
“Don’t go blabbing to the girls about this,” Cooper said. “The last thing I need is the sisters knowing about Gigi.”
“I’ll see if I can refrain from spreading this very juicy gossip.”
“You do that. Where’s Lizzie?”
“In town, helping out at the clinic.”
“I didn’t know she did that.”
“She helps out everywhere, even in places she shouldn’t.”
Cooper couldn’t miss the edge in Jared’s tone, which was highly unusual when speaking of his beloved wife. “What does that mean?”
“Victoria, the nurse practitioner-midwife, called to ask her to help a new mom who’s on her own without any support.”
“Yeah, exactly. I didn’t want her doing that, but you know Lizzie. When she hears of someone in need, she can’t help herself, even if it’s at her own expense.”
“Are you mad?” That would be unprecedented, as far as Cooper knew.
“I can’t be mad with her and her big heart. It’s just sometimes I wish she’d put herself first. She took the latest IVF failure hard. Hell, we both did. She’s barely had ten minutes to process that news, and now she’s off helping a new mom? That’s not in Lizzie’s best interest.”
“She promised to come home if it was too much for her, but she won’t. Even if it breaks her heart, she’ll help that mom with whatever she needs.”
“She’s probably the best person I know.”
“She’s the best person any of us has ever known. We should all aspire to be more like her, but I hate to see her hurt.”
“What can I do?”
“It helps to talk about it, so thanks for listening to me rant.”
“I’m always happy to listen. I might be the stupid younger brother, but I feel for you guys.”
“You’re not stupid, Coop. You just graduated with honors from NYU business school.”
“That was a fluke.”
“No, it wasn’t. I read your proposal last night.”
Cooper’s heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d wanted something as much as he wanted Jared’s approval of the business plan he’d crafted during the MBA program at NYU. “You did? And?”
“You think so?”
“I really do. It’s a great idea to create a business to support the growing wedding industry on the island. Booze cruise bachelorette and bachelor parties will be a huge hit. I have one major concern, though.”
“Liability. Putting drunks on boats is a huge risk.”
“I thought of that and built in a robust insurance plan as well as a three-drink limit on the boats. In addition to that, we’ll breathalyze them on the way in.”
“That’s a good idea. The last thing you need is drunk people falling overboard.”
“We workshopped that scenario in my business law class. The professor thought it was a meaty issue for the class to take on, and they helped me perfect the plan.”
“I’m impressed, Coop. For real.”
“Thank you.” Jared’s approval had always meant the world to Cooper, but never more so than now, as he stood on the cusp of starting his own business.
“I assume you’re looking for investors.”
“Not necessarily.” Cooper had made up his mind to start this business on his own—or as much on his own as he could with the money Jared had shared with each of his family members. “I have the money you gave us all, and as you know, I’ve invested some of it. It’s doing quite well, so I’m set for start-up capital.”
“Good for you.”
“Got to keep up the James reputation, after all.”
Jared laughed. “You’re well on your way. It’s a sound idea, and it seems like you’ve done your homework. What can I do to help?”
“Two things. I could use an introduction to Kara Ballard—”
“Torrington now. She and Dan got married.”
“Right. I heard that.”
“What do you need with her?”
“I want to buy my boats from Ballard Boatworks. I thought she might be able to facilitate that.”
“What’s the second thing?”
“A business introduction to the McCarthys. I’d like to operate out of their marina if they’ll have me. Of course, I met several of them at Quinn’s wedding, but that day was chaotic.”
“I can do that. They’re good people.”
“I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. And while I have you, there is one more favor I’d like to ask.”
“As I said, I met Gigi earlier. Through some miracle, I got her to agree to go out with me.”
“I thought you didn’t ask out women as a rule?”
Mortified to hear Jared say that so bluntly, he said, “Usually, I don’t have to. They ask me before I can get around to asking them. But in this case, I did the asking.”
“And she said yes?”
“Don’t act so surprised.”
Jared cracked up. “Does she have any idea what she’s getting herself into with you?”
For the first time in his entire life, Cooper felt a twinge of discomfort over his track record with women. “No, and she’d better not hear it from you.”
“She won’t, Honey Pot.”
“Shut up with that.”
Jared lost it laughing. He laughed so hard, he had tears in his eyes. “You and Gigi Gibson. She’ll eat you up and swallow you whole.”
Cooper went immediately hard at the thought of such a thing. “I can only hope so.”
“Ewww, that’s not what I meant.”
Cooper waggled his brows at Jared. “But what a picture you painted.”
“Nothing disgusting about it, brother. If you find it so disgusting, maybe I could give you some pointers.”
“Save your pointers,” Jared said disdainfully. “What’s the favor?”
“Can I please borrow the Porsche tonight?”
“Oh, come on, Jared! Lizzie told you to let me use it, and I won’t let anything happen to it. I can’t go out with a woman like Gigi and ask her to drive.”
“Why not? She’s a woman of the new millennium. She won’t mind driving.”
“Please, Jared? I want to do this right.”
Jared lowered his aviator sunglasses for a closer look at Cooper. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Nothing. It’s just that she’s Gigi Gibson.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that.”
“You’re not. You’ve never seen the show. She’s a fucking goddess. Every hetero man in America would kill to go out with her, and she’s going out with me. I can’t ask her to drive or to take her car.”
“If I let you borrow the Porsche, you have to promise nothing will happen to it, because I’d hate to have to kill you.”
“I promise. Nothing will happen to it.”
“When I say kill you, I hope you know I mean it.”
Grinning, Cooper said, “You’d never kill me. You need me around for comic relief.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “If you hurt my baby, I will kill you.”
Jared was going to kill him.
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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
~ Calvin Coolidge
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