HART BROKEN Preview

ONE

An earthquake woke her. At least it felt like a damn earthquake.

Groaning, Mickey flailed a hand around the incessant buzzing noise. Finally locating the source, she brought it in front of her face and peeked one eye open at the bright screen.

Mom.

She shut her eye and slid a thumb across the glass.

“You finally answered your phone! You’re still at Trent’s, aren’t you? I can’t believe you went home with that scumbag last night! This is precisely why I never let you drink!”

Mickey winced and held the phone away from her face, while the familiar voice belonging to her best friend continued to berate her.

After what seemed like an eternity, all she heard was panting and then, cautiously, “Mickey, you there?”

Grinning, she turned on the speaker and tossed the phone carelessly back on the bed. “Good morning, Mom,” she purred seductively.

“Don’t you dare good morning, Mom, me,” Melinda’s voice scolded back. “How does your head feel?”

“Terrible.”

“Serves you right,” Mel quipped, followed by an exasperated sigh. “At least the sex was good, right?”

“Probably was.”

Mickey could feel Mel’s eyes narrowing. “Probably?”

“Honestly?” Mickey wrinkled her nose, throwing an arm across her brow like a curtain. Or a shield. “I don’t remember.”

Another exasperated sigh. “Geez, Mickey. I didn’t realize you were that wasted! You’re still in his damn bed, aren’t you?”

“Maybe.” Mickey shrugged casually and then smirked as she noticed the sound of running water.

Thank you, God.

“But Trent’s still in the shower, so I’m going to take this golden opportunity to hightail it out of here.”

“My little escape artist,” Mel snorted. “You’d better hurry up before you actually have to talk to that oh-so-loyal ex-fiancé of yours.”

“I’m going, I’m going,” Mickey muttered, swatting around blindly for her phone again. “I’ll see you tonight, Mel.”

“Same bat time. Same bat channel.”

“You’re a weirdo.”

“That’s why you love me. Now, get your cute little butt out of there. Pronto.”

Mickey smiled and hung up. Cat stretching against the sheets, she thought it was odd that they felt silkier than she remembered. And smelled better too.

Musky, woodsy, somehow very masculine…

She had met Trenton Marshall three years ago at an obstacle course race, both covered in mud from head to toe, and they had instantly hit it off. At least from the standpoint of physical attraction.

He was a modern day Adonis. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. The perfect poster child for pretty boys all around the world.

This isn’t the time to get nostalgic, Mickey. It’s the time to make your escape.

Grinning wryly at herself, Mickey sat up and opened her eyes.

Oh. My. God.

This definitely wasn’t Trenton Marshall’s bedroom.

Oh. My. God.

This definitely wasn’t Trenton Marshall’s bed.

Mickey pulled the sheets up to her chest and was shocked to realize that she wasn’t naked. She was wearing a plain white t-shirt.

That’s weird.

And still had her underwear on.

That’s even weirder.

Mickey suddenly envisioned a hand pulling her panties to the side.

She flushed at the thought, practically catapulting herself off of the bed. “Check, check,” Mickey mumbled, mentally crossing off have a one-night stand from her bucket list as she began the manhunt for her dress.

It was a huge room…

It’s practically the size of my entire apartment.

And downright stunning, like something out of a Robb Report. Gorgeous hardwood floors. A dark brown floating bed, low to the ground. Deep cobalt blue sheets and a lavishly plush comforter to match.

No wonder they had felt so incredible.

The headboard was upholstered in rich brown leather, tufted with matching buttons. The whole room oozed class and luxury but was most exquisite in its understated simplicity.

That’s strange.

Mickey always looked for one thing first.

There are no photos.

There was no clutter whatsoever.

This could be a hotel. A super expensive one. Or Hugh Hefner’s penthouse.

She gagged at the thought.

Mickey noticed a black blazer draped over the armchair in the corner and reached over to finger the label: Armani 42R. “Fancy schmancy,” she whispered, suddenly consumed by an overwhelming curiosity in regards to the identity of her mystery man.

Curiosity killed the cat, Mickey.

Much to Mickey’s chagrin, her missing little black dress was nowhere to be found. Tugging the t-shirt down, which thankfully covered her butt, albeit just barely, she contemplated whether or not she’d be able to hail a taxicab before getting arrested for indecent exposure.

Run into the street half-naked? Or come face-to-face with Mystery Man?

Both bad options.

Mickey reluctantly opted for the latter upon catching a glimpse of her reflection in a full-length mirror sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall. She leaned down for a better look, rubbed at her raccoon eyes and did her best to smooth out some serious bed head.

The shower in the en suite was still running.

Might as well have a look-see around.

Mickey opened the bedroom door and stepped into the living room.

“Oh, wow,” she couldn’t help but gasp.

Simple. Open. Floor-to-ceiling glass.

“You have impeccable taste, Mystery Man.”

A massive flat screen TV and L-shaped, black leather couch were all that sat in the center of the room.

Gosh, we’re high up. Is this the top floor?

Mickey walked over to look out at the vast expanse of the city below. The panoramic view was absolutely breathtaking.

I’m still in Seattle…

“Good morning, stranger. How’d you sleep?”

Mickey jumped at the deep voice floating out from the bedroom. She couldn’t recall hearing when the shower had shut off. Or when the bathroom door had opened.

When she didn’t reply, Mystery Man’s voice drifted over again, “Are you still there?”

God, his voice sounds sexy.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Good.” A throaty laugh. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Young too. Most definitely not Hugh Hefner.

“Is this a hotel room?” she asked, flushing immediately at the question.

Classy. Real classy.

“No. It’s my condo.” A pause, followed by another throaty laugh. “At least I sure hope that it is.”

You’re such an idiot, Mickey.

“S-sorry,” she stammered and bit her lip, resisting the urge to glance back toward the open bedroom door. “It’s j-just really nice.”

“Thanks for clarifying.”

There was that laugh again. Mickey’s stomach fluttered.

“I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not.”

“Uh-huh.”

Uh-huh? Classy and articulate to boot.

“All right, you can look now. I’m decent…”

The butterflies intensified as Mystery Man’s playful voice approached her.

“I promise.”

Self-consciously tugging down her – well, his – shirt, Mickey slowly turned around to face Mystery Man.

Oh. My. God.

She could feel all the color drain from her face as he rolled up to her.

Oh. My. God.

Mystery Man parked his wheelchair in front of her, looking up with a lopsided grin. “Cale Windermere,” he said, sticking out his hand.

“C-Cale?”

“Yeah. Like the leafy green, just take off the K and replace with a C.”

Oh. My. God.

“And you are?”

“Uh…”

Cale raised an eyebrow, chuckling lightly.

Say something, Mickey.

“I-l’m, uh…”

Something intelligent. And preferably English.

With the help of a mental slap, Mickey willed herself to take his hand and shake it, a bit too eagerly. “I-I’m Mickey.”

Cale raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Mickey?”

“Y-yes.”

“Like the mouse.”

“W-what?”

“Mickey Mouse.”

Oh, right.

“Y-yes.”

Cale’s chuckle deepened. “Are you positive?”

“P-pardon me?”

“Are you positive that your name’s Mickey?” Another chuckle. “You don’t seem sure.”

“Y-yes, I’m sure,” she croaked. “I-I’m Mickey.”

Dear Lord, please let the stammering stop.

“Okay then, Mickey, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he replied, still grinning crookedly.

Nice teeth.

“Officially, that is.”

“Likewise, Cale.” Mickey nodded, grateful that she had finally managed to recover at least some of her wits. She shot him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry about before.”

Cale shrugged nonchalantly. “Don’t worry about it.”

As emerald green eyes sparkled at her, Mickey wondered how in the world she was ever going to explain this one to Mel.

So, you’ll never believe what happened. It was the funniest thing. I kinda sorta spent the night with a cripple in a wheelchair. But hey! At least he’s easy on the eyes. And I’m pretty sure he’s loaded too.

“I know.” Cale leaned forward, a devilish glint flickering across his eyes. “You were just rendered speechless by my incredibly good looks, right?”

He is kind of handsome.

Mickey blushed.

Actually, he’s extremely handsome.

“Something like that,” she whispered back.

“I tend to have that effect on women.” Cale paused in mock contemplation before continuing, “And babies. And the majority of domestic pets. They’re typically at a loss for words around me.”

Mickey couldn’t stifle a giggle.

“Ah, that’s better,” Cale said softly, leaning back in his chair with a satisfied look on his face. “Now that I’ve succeeded in making you smile, may I interest you in a cup of coffee? I brewed a pot in the hopes that you might resist any urge to jump off the balcony.”

“I would’ve used the door,” she giggled again, suddenly aware of the delicious aroma. “And yes to coffee.” When Cale didn’t move, Mickey’s brows furrowed together. “Please?”

“As much as I appreciate your impeccable manners,” there was a touch of amusement in his voice, “I still need my hand back.”

“What?” Mickey followed Cale’s gaze, mortified to discover that she was still holding on to his hand. With both of hers.

When did that happen?

She released it instantly, blushing ten shades of red. “Sorry!”

“No problem. It’s understandable.” He peered up at her, suggestively murmuring, “I am good with my hands.”

We have confirmation. An eleventh shade of red does indeed exist.

Mickey wondered just how good his hands had been last night…

Smirking wryly at her silence, Cale sighed, “Damn. It seems that I’ve maxed out my funny joke quota for the day.” He picked up the neatly folded sweatpants from his lap and handed them to Mickey. “Here. These are for you.”

He wants me to put pants on? Well, that’s a first.

“Thanks.”

“Anytime.” Cale winked before popping a little wheelie and spinning toward the kitchen. “Make yourself at home,” he added, over his shoulder.

Mickey pouted at the gray sweatpants for a moment before quickly pulling them on and rolling the waistband over twice.

Wow. These are long. He’s really tall. Or was really tall. Is? Was?

She scrunched up her nose and then shrugged.

Whatever. It’s all the same when you’re lying down anyway…

Looking around to consider all of her options, she finally opted for the dining area and sauntered over to slide into a leather-bound chair.

The man sure likes his leather.

Mickey watched as Cale poured two cups of coffee. His wheelchair didn’t look anything like what she had expected it would, not that she knew exactly what to expect, mind you. It seemed compact, fitting his lower body perfectly like a custom-made glove. There were no handles.

How do you push it?

The inconspicuous backrest was almost nonexistent, barely coming up to the height of his waist. Her eyes drifted upward.

He has a nice back.

The muscles were clearly visible underneath his shirt.

“How do you take your coffee?”

The question took a few seconds to register. She was just a tad distracted. “Black.”

“Same here.”

Nice shoulders too.

Cale was wheeling toward her again. He had both mugs precariously gripped in one hand and was propelling the wheelchair forward with the other, clenching his jaw in intense concentration. The uneven motion caused his knees to bounce slightly and Mickey thought the movement seemed somewhat unnatural. He was wearing a burgundy, short-sleeved polo shirt and distressed, dark wash jeans with a rip across one knee. She felt her eyes irresistibly drawn to the thin sliver of exposed skin.

As some coffee nearly splashed over the edge, Cale frowned slightly.

Mickey stood up, intending to help, but realized that he was already setting the cups down and sliding one into her reach.

“Sit. Relax.” Casually waving away her efforts, a wicked grin spread over his features as he added, “I somehow managed even without your assistance.”

Sitting back down, Mickey wrapped her fingers around the coffee mug and leaned forward to blow gently at the steaming liquid. She peered up through her lashes at Cale, feeling oddly like a voyeur. One of his feet, clad in a simple, white Lacoste sneaker, had fallen astray from the single footplate. She observed as he grabbed his leg under the knee and pulled it up, returning the runaway foot back to its proper position before readjusting both knees with his hands.

Do his legs not move at all?

Cale pulled out the leather chair across from Mickey and shimmied it aside, then smoothly rolled into the empty space, his wheelchair disappearing completely from view underneath the table.

Carefully taking a sip, Mickey did a once over of the man sitting in front of her. Cale’s shirt was just fitted enough to show off the remarkably solid build of his upper torso. She jotted down a mental list of all his attractive attributes thus far.

Thick, unruly chocolate locks. Gorgeous emerald eyes. Award-winning smile.

And he had a long list of greats.

Great back. Great shoulders. Great chest. Great arms.

Really great arms.

She ran her nails over the hot ceramic.

You’d never think that something was wrong with him.

She wondered if he had great abs too.

“You know what?” Cale finally broke the silence, drawing Mickey out of her trance.

She looked up, taken aback by the guarded expression in his eyes, despite the lopsided grin that persisted.

Was I staring? Did he catch me staring? Or maybe he’s going to say something about last night…

“Yes?”

“If you’re going to give out a false name to someone, the least you could do is come up with a girl’s name.”

Mickey stared at Cale, momentarily dumbstruck before she began to laugh. Hysterically. She choked on her coffee, coughed a bit, and then laughed some more.

He cocked an eyebrow at her, smiling all the while. “Is it funny I’m not that ignorant?”

“Mackensington,” she was able to squeak out between chortles. “It’s short for Mackensington.”

“Mackensington, hm? That’s quite a mouthful.”

“Yep. Hence, Mickey.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Cale raked a hand through his hair, now grinning from ear to ear. “And here I thought that you were just too polite to turn me down flat.”

Turn him down?

“Nope, no such luck.” She shrugged, still giggling. “Just a cruel joke that my mom played on me.”

“I think it’s pretty.”

Pesky insects.

Mickey tried to ignore the sudden reappearance of butterflies fluttering in her stomach and cleared her throat instead.

Time to change the subject.

“So, whatever happened to my dress anyway?”

“Your dress? Right. Your dress. Hm.” Cale tapped a finger against his chin. “How do I put this gently?”

“Put what gently?”

“Well, your dress was kind of unsalvageable after last night.”

“Unsalvageable?”

Did he tear it in the heat of the moment?

The thought made her giddy.

“Unsalvageable,” he repeated solemnly. “As in, I doubt even a trip to the dry cleaners could salvage it.”

Mickey’s eyes widened in comprehension and she simultaneously groaned, while doing a face palm.

Duh, Mickey. Drinking equals throwing up. Ugh.

“Sorry about that,” she muttered miserably.

“No apology necessary. It happens to the best of us, right?” Cale paused briefly, a delicious smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Anyway, I should be thanking you.”

“For what?”

“For the best entertainment that I’ve had in ages.”

Mickey blushed profusely at the implication. “About that, Cale.” Staring down at her coffee, she felt shame wash over her. “Not that it really matters but I just want you to know that I don’t do this often.” She gave a short, nervous laugh before making a sheepish confession, “Actually, this was my first time.”

“First time doing what?”

Mickey looked up to find Cale regarding her with a completely puzzled expression, his head tilted to one side. “Oh! I don’t mean that,” she went on hurriedly. “Don’t worry, Cale.” Reaching over the table, she patted his forearm in a comforting manner before continuing, “I’m not a virgin or anything crazy like that. I’ve just never had a one-night stand before, that’s all.”

Cale laughed softly. “Thanks for the intel, Mickey, but I’m happy to inform you that your perfect record remains unscathed.”

She was utterly confused now. “What do you mean?”

Steadily holding her gaze, his voice was even as he said, “I mean that we didn’t sleep together.”

“But how is that possible?”

“How is it possible?” Cale echoed in disbelief. “Quite simply, Mickey. We. Did. Not. Sleep. Together,” he spoke slowly, his words painfully deliberate. “Simple as that.”

What?

Mickey’s mind began to race.

Why? Was it because of the wheelchair?

Her gaze trailed downward until she was effectively staring through the table at Cale’s groin.

Nope, no x-ray vision today.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t r-realize that you c-couldn’t…”

Welcome back, stammer.

“Couldn’t what?” he snorted indignantly. “Take advantage of you?”

Mickey swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded knowingly. “But we did do other things.”

“No.”

Her eyes shot up to meet his. “No?” Mickey barely squeaked out the syllable.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Great. More squeaking.

Cale’s eyes bore into hers. “Nothing.”

“At all?”

He shook his head, grinning wryly. “Not even a kiss.”

Her eyes flitted down to Cale’s lips for a second and she felt a twinge of disappointment.

Focus, Mickey!

Back to his eyes. “But you said that I was entertaining.”

“Drunk people often are.”

“You undressed me.”

Cale stiffened at the accusation but his voice remained low as he explained, “That was only out of necessity and technically, I only dressed you. You did the undressing all by yourself.”

Yikes.

“I slept in your bed.”

“I slept on the couch.”

“No way.”

At Mickey’s incredulous expression, Cale scowled and pushed away from the table. Wheeling over to the couch, he swung around to the front and produced an oversized cobalt blue pillow, waving it in the air. “Satisfied?”

Wow. Mind blown.

By the time that he had wheeled back over to her, Mickey was banging her forehead repeatedly against the table, groaning loudly.

“You’re going to put a dent in my table,” Cale teased. “Or worse yet, in your pretty little head.”

The banging ceased but the groans persevered. “Ugh! Why do I always make a fool out of myself in front of good-looking men?”

That granted her an already familiar chuckle. “So I’m a good-looking man?”

She blushed for the umpteenth time that morning and muttered, “Point proven.”

Cale’s laughter intensified as he rolled back under the table. “More importantly, we’ve proven that I’m not a serial killer, so you can relax and finish your coffee now.”

Mickey peeked up with a rueful smile. “I never thought that you were a serial killer.”

“No.” Cale winked. “Just a womanizing jackass, right?”

“Something like that.”

The coffee was damn good.

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