From New York Times Bestselling author Gena Showalter, comes the next standalone romance in the Original Heartbreakers Series—CAN’T HARDLY BREATHE!
New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with an irresistible Original Heartbreakers story about a woman who’s never felt desired and the man who wants her more than air to breathe…
Bullied in high school, Dorothea Mathis’s past is full of memories she’d rather forget. But there’s one she can’t seem to shake—her longstanding crush on former Army Ranger Daniel Porter. Now that the sexy bad boy has started using her inn as his personal playground, she should kick him out…but his every heated glance makes her want to join him instead.
Daniel returned to Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma to care for his ailing father and burn off a little steam with no strings attached. Though he craves the curvy Dorothea night and day, he’s as marred by his past as she is by hers. The more he desires her, the more he fears losing her.
But every sizzling encounter leaves him desperate for more, and soon Daniel must make a choice: take a chance on love or walk away forever.
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Hands trembling, she hooked the vacuum to the cart and rolled the cargo to the supply room…where her younger sister Holly was smoking a cigarette.
Coughing, Dorothea claimed the cigarette and stubbed the tip into an ashtray.
“Hey!” Eighteen-year-old Holly glared at her. “I wasn’t done.”
“You mean you weren’t done giving our guests lung cancer and stinking up the inn?”
“Exactly.” Ever the smart aleck, Holly tossed a piece of gum in her mouth and popped a bubble in Dorothea’s face. “Besides, we don’t really have guests, now, do we? Since you took over, only four people have stayed here. Mayor Trueman and his side slice, and Daniel Porter and whatever bimbo he happens to be banging.”
Not true! A few months ago, Dorothea had hired Harlow Glass, and everyone in town had rented a room to witness the former bully’s downfall.
Dorothea hadn’t wanted to like Harlow, but dang it, something bad had happened to the girl in the years since
high school, and she’d changed. More than that, Harlow had done everything in her power to make amends, and eventually Dorothea had warmed up to her.
Now the beautiful brunette was married to reformed playboy Beck Ockley. The happy couple were expecting their first child in a few months.
A razor-sharp pang cut through Dorothea. Won’t think about my own—
Nope. Slam the breaks.
To ward off the oncoming pity party, she drew in a deep breath…slowly released it… Good, that was good.
She focused on her sister. Holly had pinned back the sides of her jet-black hair, the remaining locks tumbling all the way to the metal links anchored around her biceps. She’d paired a crimson corset top—her first pop of color in months—with a ruffled black skirt, ripped fishnet stockings and combat boots caked with mud Dorothea would have to clean from the floors.
In a town as small as Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, Holly was a legend. Unique.
“My inn, my rules,” Dorothea said. “No smoking. Ever.” Besides, she suspected the teenager only ever lit up to aggravate her. Not once had Dorothea witnessed an actual puff.
“You’re worse than a Mogwai that’s been fed after midnight.”
A Gremlins reference? Seriously?
“No wonder Jazz left you,” her sister added.
Air hissed between her teeth. Holly might hate her guts, but the teenager loved to insult her, and this barb hit harder than most.
Rather than waiting for love, as Dorothea had dreamed, she’d settled for companionship, marrying the first guy to pay attention to her. Worse, she’d believed his words rather than his actions. I adore you and only want what’s best for you…for us.
From the outset I could tell I was really going to enjoy CAN’T HARDLY BREATHE. We’re introduced to a teenage Dorothea Mathis, she’s had a horrible time at school so far, but she’s positive and upbeat that this will be her year. When her tormentor sets her sights on her it soon becomes apparent she’s due for another year of ridicule, except this time her object of desire Daniel Porter comes to her defence.
Any visions of falling into one another’s arms are quickly quashed when Dorothea is the accidental voyeur to Daniel hooking up with another girl. Although heartbreaking for her, it serves as a reminder that boys like him don’t go for girls like her.
Years later and Dorothea back in Town to help run the family Inn. A failed marriage and stalled career behind her, it’s easy to see why she’s down in the dumps about things. That is until the object of her teenage affection rents a room in her Inn. She’s not the naive school girl she once was so if he thinks he can charm her with one of his smouldering looks, he’s got another thing coming.
Daniel’s primary reason for being home is help look after his father. He struggles with guilt for being away so long, but more seriously he suffers from the residual effects of being in the Army. Daniel doesn’t need distractions which is why he finds himself frustrated he can’t get his cute Inn keeper out of his head. He’s reluctant to start anything serious, but Dorothea quickly sets him straight. Any notions of having his cake and eating it are off the menu.
Here’s where the fun really starts. Who knew that Daniel had it in him to be so incredibly sweet? He really did well raking up the swoons from me. And Dorothea? Talk about under selling yourself. She has great comedic value and a much loved snarky streak.
CAN’T HARDLY BREATHE is a banter filled, cat and mouse chase and I enjoyed every cheesy moment of it. I absolutely love it when the tables turn, and Dorothea certainly did fantastic job of making Daniel work for it.
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About Gena Showalter:
Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the spellbinding Lords of the Underworld and Angels of the Dark series, two young adult series–Everlife and the White Rabbit Chronicles–and the highly addictive Original Heartbreakers series. In addition to being a National Reader’s Choice and two time RITA nominee, her romance novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan (Red Hot Read) and Seventeen magazine, she’s appeared on Nightline and been mentioned in Orange is the New Black–if you ask her about it, she’ll talk for hours…hours! Her books have been translated in multiple languages.
She’s hard at work on her next novel, a tale featuring an alpha male with a dark side and the strong woman who brings him to his knees. You can learn more about Gena, her menagerie of rescue dogs, and all her upcoming books at genashowalter.com or Facebook.com/genashowalterfans
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