Reagan Campbell’s flight just got grounded. She’s planned her brother’s perfect wedding weekend down to the minute, but her checklist didn’t include running into the one guy she’s never been able to get over. Only two things stand between her and the Florida Keys: fifteen-hundred miles and the man who broke her heart.
Zach Anderson has a score to settle with Senator Campbell. And running into his daughter, Reagan, gives him just the opportunity he needs. But it’ll take more than planes, trains, and automobiles to get her all the way to Florida in one piece. He might not be able to keep his hands off her cupcakes, but will he be able to keep his heart out of the way long enough to exact his revenge?
Grab your copy of All I Wanna Do Is You today for a laugh-out-loud, romantic, road tripping romp that’s hotter than the stretch of highway down the Florida coast.
This roadtrip rom-com releases on May 14th! It’s free to read in Kindle Unlimited or available exclusively at Amazon!
Eight Years Ago
Reagan Campbell stood at the curb of the suburban Chicago mansion, trying to work up the nerve to enter the biggest and last bash of her high school career. Half of her senior class seemed to swarm across the manicured front lawn, like drunken bees returning to the hive. Her dad would ground her for the rest of her life if he knew she was attending her first and last high school kegger.
But it was her last chance to see Zach—the boyfriend she’d kept secret for the past nine months—before she headed off to Washington, DC, for her summer internship. Her dad never would have approved of her relationship. In his opinion, Zach didn’t have the right pedigree to date a senator’s daughter. After seventeen years of towing the line, Reagan had finally found something more important to her than her dad’s approval. So she shrugged off the warning shivers racing up and down her spine and pushed past the crowd of intoxicated grads crowding the front stoop.
Music blared from speakers someone had set up in the living room. Reagan rose to her tiptoes to peer over the crowd. Someone bumped into her and sloshed beer down the front of her floral-print sundress. Great. Not only would she have to lie about where she’d been tonight, she’d have to figure out a way to get the smell of cheap beer out of her clothes, too.
“Reagan!” Zach’s voice came from behind her. His arm slipped around her waist, pulling her back and anchoring her against his solid chest.
She wheeled around in his arms, meeting his gaze. “Hi.”
“I’m so glad you made it.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before kissing her forehead.
“Me, too. My mom and dad had to stop in at a fundraiser tonight, so I was able to sneak away. It’s our last chance to see each other before—”
His lips met hers and cut off her words. She responded, trying to tamp down the ache of their inevitable goodbye. They still had tonight. She’d fill herself full of him and live off the memories until they could be together again.
He pulled back, and his gaze searched hers. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll see each other in a couple of months.”
Reagan sighed. Why hadn’t they gotten together sooner? She’d noticed him freshman year, cheered him on every Friday night during hockey games, and spent three years imagining what it might feel like to bury herself in his arms. They hadn’t had enough time together. Dating on the sly through senior year wasn’t enough. She wanted more.
He rested his arm around her shoulders. “Want something to drink?”
She shook her head. “Can we go somewhere quiet to talk?”
“You bet.” Zach glanced around. “How about out back by the pool?”
Reagan nodded. She’d follow him anywhere, do anything, for a few more hours by his side. Around him she didn’t have to put up a façade. He liked her for who she was, not who she pretended to be to fit in with her father’s political aspirations.
“Hey! You’re not leaving so soon, are you?” Jimmy Baldwin, host of the party and voted “Most Likely To End Up Selling Bad Mutual Funds For A Living,” blocked their way.
“No. Just looking for a place we can talk.” Zach clapped Jimmy on the shoulder.
Jimmy stumbled forward. “Come on upstairs. I can show you a place where you can have some privacy.”
Zach glanced at Reagan, who shrugged her shoulders. Taking her hand in his, Zach followed Jimmy up the steps. The noise of the raging party faded into the background. Jimmy stumbled down the hall toward a cracked doorway at the end. A half dozen of their fellow grads sat in a circle on the floor of what appeared to be Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin’s bedroom.
“Got two new recruits.” Jimmy slumped to a seated position. “Add their names to the bowl.”
A girl from Reagan’s Calculus class scribbled something on two pieces of paper and dropped them into a silver bowl in the center of the circle.
Reagan backed away. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
“Yeah, we’ll just head out back.” Zach turned, pulling Reagan behind him.
“Stay for a few rounds. It’s Seven Minutes in Heaven. Come on, guys.” Jimmy staggered to his feet and fake punched Zach in the stomach. “Does Reagan’s daddy know she’s here?”
Zach grabbed Jimmy’s fist and twisted his arm back.
“Hey, watch it.” Jimmy put his other hand out. “I’m not going to be the one to rat her out.”
“You’d better not.” Zach let go and tugged Reagan down to settle beside him. “Fine. We’ll stick around and watch for a few minutes.”
Reagan leaned her head against his shoulder. Of course her father didn’t know where she was. As a long-time conservative senator from Illinois, he’d made it perfectly clear her behavior was a direct reflection on him, the family, and his entire political party. She didn’t usually disobey unless it involved Zach Anderson. He’d been her lifeline in the storm of being Senator Campbell’s only daughter. Even her older brother, Teddy, encouraged her to get out tonight and even said he’d cover for her.
Jimmy picked a couple of pieces of paper out of the bowl. “Josh and… Ashley. Off you go. Have fun, you two.”
Josh and Ashley moved toward the bathroom and shut the door firmly behind them. Jimmy set the timer on his phone to seven minutes then leaned against the bed frame and popped open a beer.
“Well, this is a blast.” Zach checked his watch. “So we sit around for seven minutes and wait for them to come out?”
“I suppose we can draw again. My house, my rules, huh?” Jimmy leaned forward, digging through the bowl. “Oh, hey, look here. Reagan and…”
Reagan’s heart thudded in her chest. There was no way in hell she was going anywhere with anyone except the guy she’d risked her dad’s wrath to see.
“Ha!” The can of beer next to Jimmy’s knee spilled onto the plush, cream carpet. “It’s me. Reagan and me.”
Zach let out a low rumble, almost like a growl. “Want to check that piece of paper again, Baldwin?”
Smirking, Jimmy grabbed a shirt out of the drawer next to him to sop up the spill. “Why don’t you take my turn, Anderson? I’ve got to clean up this mess anyway. Use the closet, and take all the time you need.”
Zach pulled Reagan to her feet. They crossed the room to the closet. He opened the door, and the overhead light automatically came on. The smell of leather, shoe polish, and dry-cleaning chemicals surrounded them, not exactly the kind of ambiance she’d pictured when she thought about their last night together.
Reagan followed him inside and pulled the door shut behind her. Surrounded in darkness, she felt for him.
“I’m right here.” His voice came out soft, low.
She bumped into him then wrapped her arms around his neck. “We need to talk. Have you decided where you’re going to be in the Fall?” He hadn’t applied to any colleges. Said he couldn’t afford the tuition, so why bother.
“I’ll probably be right here where you left me. I might take some classes at the community college.” His hand brushed her cheek. “Get the basics out of the way for cheap, and then maybe look into a photography program or something.”
“When will we see each other again?” She’d considered applying to a college closer to home so she wouldn’t be so far away, but Zach shot that idea down fast. He didn’t want her to sacrifice any opportunities for him.
“You’ll come home after your internship, before you head out East for school. Then we’ll do the long distance thing until you come home for good. It’ll work out. I promise.”
She snuggled her head into his chest. Enough talk about the future. Tonight was their last night together for a while, and she wanted to make sure it would be one they’d both remember. “Do you think they set the timer?”
“I don’t know. They won’t be able to push the door open if I lean against it, though.”
Reagan put her hands on his shoulders and positioned his back against the door. Rising on her toes, she aimed for his lips, but caught his cheek instead. She worked her way around his face, breathing in his scent: shower gel mixed with laundry detergent. The smell she’d come to associate with feeling safe and secure. The planes of his cheeks, the scruff on his chin so familiar, but they still had so much to learn about each other.
His hands wrapped around her waist, nestling her against him. “What do you have in mind?”
She didn’t answer, preferring to show him instead. Her chest pressed against him. Heat radiated through his T-shirt, and seared her skin. His hands tangled in her hair, cupped her head, and drew her mouth to his. Need simmered inside her. Need for him to know how much he meant to her. Need to make him her first.
They’d stolen moments before, after school before her driver came looking for her or during lunch period. They’d even managed a few make-out sessions in his dad’s car when she’d lied and said she had to stay late after school to work on a project.
Finding time together outside of the prying eyes of their classmates and her family had been challenging. Having a chance to be alone in a dark closet did seem like heaven, and, if Zach barred the door, they could take as much time as they needed.
She stepped back, lifted her dress over her head, and dropped it behind her.
“Where did you go?” Zach’s hand landed on her stomach, inches under her bra.
She sucked in her breath, attempting to prevent the spasm in her chest from exploding into a full-blown hiccup. No use. A loud hiccup escaped.
“Come here.” Zach planted his lips on hers, stealing her breath, obliterating her hiccups. His fingers roamed, over her ribcage, up the center of her breastbone, along her collarbone. Everywhere but where she wanted them the most. She reached behind her, unhooked her bra, let it fall forward.
Zach groaned, finally touching her with tentative hands. “You sure about this?”
She nodded against his chest as she pulled her arms free of her bra straps and tossed it somewhere near her dress. He knelt in front of her, kissing her navel, working his way up to her breasts. She pulled his shirt over his head then let her fingers ruffle his hair until she couldn’t take it any longer. Sinking to her knees in front of him, she fumbled with the button on his shorts.
His hand stopped her. “Whoa, Reagan. What are you trying to do to me?”
“I want to make sure you don’t forget me.”
In the pitch blackness of the closet, her other senses heightened. The thudding of his heart became the unrelenting thump, thump, thump of a bass drum.
Zach kissed along her jawline. “Are you freaking kidding me? We’ll have plenty of opportunities like this. I don’t want our first time to be next to Mrs. Baldwin’s mothball-stuffed fur coat.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Is that what that smell is?”
“I love you, Reagan Campbell.” Zach leaned forward, pulling her into an embrace. “You’re not a quickie in the closet. You’re the kind of girl who deserves candles and champagne.”
She burrowed into him, her chest against his, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart. “I love you, too, Zach.”
Light flooded the room. Reagan squealed, turning toward the door. Flashes exploded before her eyes.
“Seven minutes is up, Anderson. Holy shit, what an eyeful!” Jimmy held his phone up one more time, cementing her embarrassment for all eternity.
Zach lunged toward Jimmy. Before he could reach him, Jimmy pulled the door shut, sending the closet into darkness again.
“Get dressed, Reagan. I’ll take care of Baldwin.” He flung the door open and disappeared.
Reagan shrugged into her dress and yanked it down over her head, not even bothering to find her bra. The bedroom was empty. Where had everyone gone?
Sirens wailed. She ran down the steps to join the chaotic crowd trying to push their way through the front door.
Zach caught her hand. “It’s the cops. They can’t find you here. If your name ends up on a police report, I’ll never have an opportunity to win over your dad. Come on, out the back.”
She followed through the sliding glass door and into the backyard. Other kids flowed out of the gate toward the front, but Zach led her to the back fence instead.
“There’s an easement back there. When you hit the ground, head to the road. You should be safe there.”
“But what about you?”
“I’ll be right behind you.” He made a basket out of his hands and boosted her to the top of the fence.
She scrambled over, falling to the ground in a heap.
“Yeah, come on.”
Zach reached the top of the fence. She saw his face in the glow of the twinkle lights strung through the trees. She saw the relief in his eyes when his gaze met hers. She saw the exact moment his smile turned to panic as someone on the other side of the fence yelled.
That was the last time she saw Zach Anderson.
Eight Years Later
Reagan Campbell smoothed a non-existent wrinkle from the lapel of her three-quarter sleeve, out-of-season black blazer. Trying to figure out what to wear as she made the transition from the raging March blizzard in Chicago to the white sandy beaches of the Florida Keys had almost made her late for her afternoon flight at O’Hare.
The sooner she got on the plane, the better she’d feel. She leaned against a pillar and glanced at her watch. Any minute they should be making the boarding announcement.
On cue, the gate agent picked up the microphone and a crackle sounded through the gate-area speakers. “May I have your attention, please? For passengers traveling on flight 542 to Miami, we’ve received word from the ground crew that they’ve shut down one runway due to snow accumulation. We’ll be delayed for at least an hour while they work through the backlog of departures.”
A collective groan rose from the disgruntled passengers, like someone stood in front of them with a conductor’s baton and told them to let their disappointment out in unison on the count of three. An hour or two? Reagan’s hand shook as she slipped a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Teddy would kill her for not taking the flight with the rest of their family earlier this morning.
The gate agent continued, “Things might change if they can get another de-icing machine up and running. So please stay close to the gate area.”
Reagan glanced out the wall of windows at the blustery, late winter snowstorm. A mid-March blizzard wasn’t outside the realm of possibility in Chicago. But how dare the weather try to interfere with her plans? She’d orchestrated her brother’s wedding down to the tiniest detail. And now Mother Nature wanted to mess with her?
The rest of her family made it out of Chicago before the storm rolled in, on a chartered, early morning flight her dad’s Chief of Staff had arranged. As Senate Majority Leader, Ross Campbell had connections and wasn’t shy about using them. Especially if it meant keeping his family out of the limelight and avoiding any unpleasant run-ins with the press.
Reagan’s anxiety had kicked into high gear at the thought of flying halfway across the country in a tiny tin can with wings. So she’d used a mandatory meeting at the office as an excuse to take a later commercial flight. If she was going to be gone for a long weekend, she justified to herself, she’d better tie up loose ends or she’d never be able to enjoy herself. It had taken her years to secure a promotion to executive management for a nationwide luxury resort chain that was headed her way. She wasn’t about to risk it.
At least on a big plane she felt a little safer. If she’d finally had the courage to conquer her fear of flying, she’d be sliding her freshly-pedicured toes into strappy sandals and sitting at the beachside bar, sipping a mojito by now.
The strappy sandals were nestled inside a felt shoe pouch in her checked roller bag. But she could do something about that drink. Her gaze swept over the tacky, thatched hut of the busy airport bar, no doubt an attempt to bring some south of the border sizzle to the dull terminal. She gathered her purse and the bakery box full of cupcakes she’d picked up for her brother, and made her way to a vacant high-top.
Just as she reached for a stool, a trio of flight attendants laid claim to the table. Reagan stepped to the side to glance around the packed bar. With so many passengers delayed, it would probably be a while before another table cleared. A cup of hot tea from the coffee shop across the way would have to keep her pre-flight jitters at bay.
“You can sit with me.”
The voice came from behind her. She hadn’t heard that mixture of grit and deep, rich timbre since the ill-fated night of her high school graduation party. But that was impossible, it couldn’t be him.
She took in a deep breath and steeled herself for disappointment. He’d moved to California. Hadn’t heard anything about him in over eight years. Well, except for a late-night, wine-induced Googling session where she’d discovered he’d become a professional photographer after all and had some prints for sale through a gallery in Santa Cruz.
Seeing his two-by-two-inch bio picture had sent a zing right to her hoohah and left her tingling with a mixture of regret and what-might-have-been remorse. Slowly turning, she braced herself for the letdown of some middle-aged businessman on the hunt for a quickie.
“Reagan Campbell. Long time no see, huh?”
Four square inches of a pixelated PNG image on his web site had done nothing to prepare her for the sight of the broad-chested, confident man before her. Her knees turned to spaghetti noodles, and her vision went fuzzy at the edges, like she was looking through a dark tunnel and Zach Anderson stood at the other end, illuminated in a beam of dazzling sunlight.
She grabbed the back of a stool to steady herself.
“Zach?” His name floated from her lips on a breathy exhale. For over eight years his memory made her emotions bounce back and forth between extremes. Joy at the way he used to make her feel. Anger at the chicken shit way he’d ended things. Shame at the way she’d thrown herself at him the last night they’d been together.
The anger and sadness had eventually faded. She even let herself think about Zach from time to time. Even pictured running into each other. But meeting at a cheesy airport bar wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
He stood and wrapped her in a strong, comfortable hug.
The scent of sunshine and leather drifted off his skin. Her brain registered the scruff of his whiskers against her cheek and the feel of his pecs crushed against her chest. Her heart glowed at the warmth and security of being snug in his arms. Her girly parts screamed for more.
All too soon, the hug ended. He gestured to an empty stool and signaled the harried waitress to return to the table.
“Pull up a chair. You on that flight to Miami?”
Stunned by her reaction to the embrace, Reagan nodded and waited a beat, sure the hunky hallucination would fade away as quickly as he had appeared. When Zach’s image didn’t dissolve, she gripped the edges of the small table in both hands.
He smiled, actually gave her the grin with the dimples, like the last time she’d seen him he hadn’t had his hands all over her naked chest. A wave of heat rolled up her neck.
“You okay, Reagan? You look a little warm. Have some water.” He slid a glass of ice water across the table to her.
So this was how he wanted to play it? Casual acquaintances running into each other at the airport? Living in the shadows of her dad’s limelight had taught her how to bury her emotions and keep her feelings in check. Fine. She could do aloof.
Sliding her bakery box carry-on to the side, she pasted on an indifferent smile. “I heard you moved to LA. What are you doing in Chicago?”
“Extended my connection from LAX to Miami to spend the day with my dad.” He nodded toward the large backpack on the stool next to him. “I have an assignment down in the Keys.”
“I saw your photography online. It’s amazing.” Great, now he probably thought she’d been cyberstalking him all these years. “I mean, someone told me about it.” That sounded even worse. Stop talking, just stop talking.
Somehow her butt cheek managed to slide onto the stool without turning it over. Zach Anderson. In the flesh. Were the gods giving her a second chance or rubbing her nose in a bitter dose of coulda-beens?
The waitress reached the table. “I’ll have another one of these.” Zach pointed to his empty bottle of local craft brew. “How about you, Reagan?”
“Um, any chance you can make a mojito?”
The waitress shrugged. “It’s a cantina. The bartenders are better at margaritas, but I’ll see what they can do.”
Reagan almost called her back to change her order to a Diet Coke. But Zach flashed her one of his trademark grins, like he dared her to have a grown-up drink with him, and she decided she’d play along, at least for the short amount of time before they boarded their flight.
“What’s in the box?” His fingers toyed with the lid.
She smacked his hand away. “A treat for Teddy and his fiancé before they tie the knot.” Her stomach twisted around itself like a stick of that red licorice Zach had been addicted to in high school. Crap. Her dad had insisted on absolute secrecy about her brother’s wedding. She’d threatened every member of her immediate family that if anyone divulged the location they’d have to deal with her.
And now she’d gone and let something slip. Damn Zach and his magnetic, molten-chocolate gaze. He used to be able to shoot her one glance with those gorgeous brown eyes and she’d tell him anything he wanted to know. Looked like he hadn’t lost that particular superpower.
“I can smell the sugar from here and the pink box tells me you’ve been to Sweet Sal’s.” He lifted the corner of the lid.
She forced the top of the box down. “Cupcakes. Teddy really wanted Sal to do his wedding cake, but it would have been too difficult to transport. I picked up a dozen cupcakes as a consolation.” God, she’d done it again. Silently cursing herself, she bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from speaking.
Zach’s tongue slid along his upper lip. “They’re like a little taste of heaven. Baker’s dozen, right? They wouldn’t miss just one.”
“Hey, keep your hands to yourself.” She pulled the box closer to her side of the table.
He leaned back on the stool and tucked a piece of hair behind his ear. His sun-kissed, shoulder-length locks settled in a tousled frame around his face. “So Ted finally came out of the closet? I always figured he’d be too afraid of your dad.”
“I shouldn’t have said anything.” Reagan uncrossed her legs and then crossed them again…left over right, right over left. It was like she’d decided to play a solo game of Twister. How long would it take for her antiperspirant to prove it wasn’t strong enough for a man? Not long if that man was Zach Anderson.
“It’s kind of a big secret. Not the coming out, but the fact that he and Cal are getting married. Cal’s one of my dad’s staffers. If the press got wind of it, my dad would have to do some artful political maneuvering.” As a conservative senator, and top pick for running mate of the front runner in the Presidential primaries, her dad made a career out of precariously balancing the political values of the party with his personal views.
“Good for Teddy. He deserves to be happy.”
The waitress approached and set a tall, full, glass in front of Reagan. She gulped. “That’s huge.”
“Happy hour. Free size upgrade until six.” The waitress passed a bottle of beer to Zach, then turned her attention to the table next to them.
“Cheers!” Zach clinked his beer against her drink and took a long swig from the bottle. His Adams apple bobbed up and down, drawing her attention to a braided leather cord hanging around his neck. The tight white T-shirt stretched across his chest hinted at the well-toned muscles underneath. His biceps bulged as he set the bottle back on the table. She raised her glass and took a long draw in an attempt to cool the heat his focused gaze generated in her panties.
The burn of rum hit the back of her throat and she sputtered. Liquid fire slid down her chest and settled in her gut.
“Water.” She grabbed for the glass of water he had passed her when she first sat down.
“The mojito any good?” A questioning smile played across his lips.
“More like rum on the rocks with a hint of mint.” She dabbed a napkin at the dots of liquid spattered across her blazer. “Can you watch my stuff for a sec? I’m going to run to the restroom.”
She left Zach to nurse his beer alone and headed toward the nearest women’s room. What the hell had gotten into her this afternoon? Usually the epitome of cool, calm, and collected, she could assess, evaluate, and master a situation faster than most of her dad’s professional handlers. Running into Zach threw her completely off her game.
Just a drink. She’d be on her way to Miami and back in control before midnight. Assured of her plan, she glanced back at him. He tipped his beer at her and tilted it, licking his lips right before the rim of the bottle met his mouth.
A jolt of something hot and crackling zinged through her, ricocheting off her gut and settling down between her thighs.
The flame she’d carried for him in high school had all but burned out over the years. Seeing him now stirred all those old feelings into a giant, confusing mixture of emotional soup. The best thing would be to play nice, part ways in Miami, and never let the likes of Zach Anderson breach the reinforced walls of her heart again.
Like a salmon swimming upstream, Reagan struggled through the wave of passengers whirling around her. Two steps from the safety of the women’s restroom, she noticed the older, some might say distinguished-looking, Illinois Senator headed her way. A cannon ball of dread thudded into her gut.
Before she had a chance to duck into the restroom, he stopped in front of her, creating a private island for the two of them, the sea of travelers flowing around them.
She swallowed hard. Hard enough to silence the panic alarm the sight of the senator had set off in her chest. Her gaze skimmed up his rumpled navy suit to rest on a paunchy, puffy face. A career in public service had taken its toll on the man her father considered one of his greatest political rivals.
With the mask of her public persona firmly in place, Reagan pasted on a well-practiced smile and offered her hand. “Senator Stewart, what a surprise.”
Douglas Stewart took her hand in his clammy grasp. She resisted the urge to pull away and swipe her now-damp palm across her pants.
“Reagan, I thought that was you. I’m on my way back to the office from DC. I hope you’re headed somewhere nice and warm, away from this weather.”
He’d be able to figure out where she was going if he turned around and looked at the gate monitor, so there was no use lying about it.
Smile secured, her tone laced with a casual inflection, she politely slid her hand from his grasp. “Florida. I have an event there this weekend. I hope you enjoyed your time in Washington.”
“Of course. Although I didn’t get a chance to catch up with your father on the Hill this time. Where’s he hiding?”
“Dad? Oh, he has family commitments this week. But he’ll be back in the office soon.” Family commitments was a truthful way to describe her father’s plans. Senator Stewart wouldn’t hesitate to punch his campaign manager on speed dial if he knew to the real reason for her father’s absence.
“Hmmph.” The senator leaned close to mutter in her ear. “I sure wouldn’t let a family commitment keep me from the action if I were on the short list for potential VP nominees.”
Reagan gritted her teeth, backing away from his stale coffee breath. “I can assure you he’s handling everything he needs to while he’s away.”
With a curt nod, the senator motioned to his small entourage of staffers and assistants. “Let’s get the car. It’ll take an hour to get into the city in this weather.” His minions scurried around them. Before he turned to follow, he narrowed his eyes and focused his red-rimmed gaze on Reagan. “I know your father’s been working on you to join his staff. You’re a smart cookie and a team player, kiddo. You ever want to join the good side, you let me know.”
She stifled a snort at the thought of her die-hard conservative father letting her go work for his left-wing nemesis. “Thanks for the offer. You’ll be the first one I call if I ever change my political affiliation.”
With a wink and quick turn of the heel, he strode away, down the terminal.
Her pulse slowed and the swoosh of blood stopped thumping through her ears. Close call. A run-in with Senator Stewart could have blown her flimsy cover into a billion pieces.
Creating a special day for Teddy and Cal had taken all of her free time and attention for the past six months. She needed to see it through. Five days from now she’d have plenty of time to figure out her career and relearn how to forget about her obsession with Zach. Nodding to herself, she ducked into the restroom and forced her well-worn mask of composure back into place.
* * *
Zach waited for Reagan to turn the corner before he picked up his phone. She wasn’t supposed to be part of this job. He scrolled through his contacts and located the number for the sleazy agency he’d accepted his most recent assignment from a few days ago.
John Scazzoli, chief scuzbag and middleman extraordinaire picked up before the phone even rang. “Anderson, talk to me.”
The edge in his voice sawed along Zach’s nerves like a serrated hunting knife. He hated having to deal with a guy like Scazzoli. But what choice did he have? He thought his career as a celebrity-chasing paparazzi was behind him until Scazzoli reached out with one last request.
“Hey, you’ve got to take me off the Campbell job.”
“No can do, hot shot.”
“You told me Senator Campbell would be traveling with his mistress. I’m at O’Hare and just bumped into his daughter, Reagan.”
Scazzoli clucked his tongue. “She’s on her way to Florida too?”
“Yeah. I think she’s on her way to her brother’s wedding in Miami.”
“Hmm. I knew the senator was spending the weekend in Florida, but maybe instead of a romantic rendezvous, it’s a family affair. The Campbell wedding’s on the hot list. Rumors have been flying around for weeks, but none of my sources have confirmed when or where. Can you stick with her?”
“No. That’s it. I can’t have anything to do with Reagan Campbell. We went to high school together. We’ve got a, uh, a history.” Scazzoli didn’t need to know the details—that Zach still harbored regret about the way he’d been forced to end things with Reagan. But he’d convinced himself it had been for the best. Her dad never would have let them have a future together.
Scazzoli cleared his throat. “You told me I could count on you for this job, Anderson. Screw me on this and you know what’s going to happen.”
Dammit. The last time Zach had gone into paparazzi mode, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t stoop to take any more of these low-life jobs. But when Scazzoli called and said Senator Campbell had been screwing around on his wife and he needed someone to get proof, Zach couldn’t say no. The job would pay more than enough to give him the last bit he needed to start up his own studio. Plus, Scazzoli threatened to expose him as the source behind a few shots he’d taken a few years ago that had some pretty powerful people pretty damn pissed. If word got out, Zach would have a hard time building a legitimate business. So he’d agreed to one final job.
Besides, he was already supposed to be in Florida for a catalog job. Wouldn’t take but a few hours to sneak over and catch the senator with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. And it would provide a way to settle an old score with Reagan’s dad. Scazzoli had even texted a picture of the senator lip locked with a woman with jet black hair. They just needed an image of her face to confirm her identity.
“Hey, I agreed to this before I knew Regan would be around.” Splashing her dad’s extra marital affair across the news would be bad enough, but if he took the pictures right in front of her it would kill Reagan. He’d managed to stay away from her since the night that had completely fucked up his life and ruined any chance of a future between them.
“Sounds like things have changed.” Scazzoli grunted. “If there really is a wedding going on, you come through with pictures of daddy dearest walking one of the grooms down the aisle and you can pretty much set your price.”
Low life bastard. A vision of Teddy standing at the altar flashed through his mind. Zach shook his head. It wasn’t about trying to get more cash.
The asshole continued, “Mid fives, maybe even up to six figures if you get the money shot. Hell, some of his opponents with deep pockets might be willing to pay big bucks for the chance to set up a smear campaign. Plus, you get me off your back for good.”
“I committed to taking pictures of the senator and his mistress, but I can’t ruin his son’s wedding. That’s sinking too low.”
“You sure about that?” Scazzoli paused. “I’ll give you twenty-four hours to change your mind. After that I’ll be forced to give the job to someone else and leak that little tidbit about your involvement in the scandal surrounding that media mogul’s wife. What was his name again?”
“I’ve got to think about this. I’ll be in touch.” Zach disconnected and took a swallow of beer, drowning the almost imperceptible twinge of guilt that nipped against the lining of his gut. He couldn’t risk Scazzoli exposing him. Plus, the asshole wouldn’t hesitate to send someone else down instead. One of those sharks wouldn’t give a shit if they had to ruin Teddy’s wedding in order to get a shot.
This wouldn’t be the first time Reagan Campbell had impacted his business. The picture he’d snapped of her leaning up against the railing of the Navy Pier on their senior year field trip had catapulted him into a career in photography. He’d entered the photo into a national contest and won second place. Her silhouette had been framed by the Lake Michigan sunset. No one even knew it was her. He’d clicked the shutter while she’d had her eyes closed, the lake breeze blowing long strands of hair across her face.
He pulled his mind out of the past as Reagan made her way through the crowded bar and back to the table. The teen he had the hots for in high school was long gone. She’d grown up and filled out nicely. The honey-blonde hair was the same, although the tousled, out-of-control waves had been tamed to fall in a straight curtain that spilled over her shoulders and down her back.
Her form-fitting black jacket dipped in at the waist, drawing his attention to full hips, the kind he’d be able to grab onto in the heat of the moment. As she took her seat, he caught a glimpse of a white shirt stretching tight across her chest. The soft roundness of her face had given way to chiseled cheekbones, and she exuded an undeniable combination of confidence and sex appeal.
Yeah, she’d changed since high school. He shifted in his seat, suddenly sorry he’d been so quick to succumb to her dad’s ultimatum back then. Reagan had been the best thing that ever happened to him. But starting things up with her again wasn’t an option. They’d had their chance at happily ever after, and he’d fucked it up. She was part of a job now. A job he hadn’t gone looking for and definitely didn’t want.
“Any updates on the flight?” she asked, resuming her perch on the stool.
“You didn’t get into the cupcakes, did you?” She cracked the lid to peek inside the bakery box.
A whiff of sugar and vanilla hit his nose; his stomach growled. “Your box is safe with me. How about splitting some nachos or something?”
“Sure.” Reagan took a small sip of her drink while he signaled the waitress over again and put in their food order.
“So tell me about this wedding. Where you headed?” Just because the flight was landing in Miami didn’t mean she wouldn’t have another connection somewhere else. Smart move to hold the wedding somewhere down in Florida. With the influx of spring breakers, the Campbell family could get lost among any one of the beach side towns down the coast.
She toyed with the paper napkin ring. “Can you forget I said anything? You know my dad. We’re trying to keep this on the down-low.”
His experience photographing people had made him somewhat of an expert at studying body language. The way Reagan cast nervous glances around the bar, the constant bounce of her knee and how she mindlessly twisted the paper wrapper around her finger over and over added up to a major case of nerves.
He’d been told one of his strengths was his ability to set his photography subjects at ease. He covered one of her fidgeting hands with his and gave it a squeeze before letting go. Their gazes met. He’d always been intrigued by the color of her eyes. Not really green, but not brown enough to be considered hazel. Flecks of gold and copper contrasted with the deep jade of her irises.
He’d love to get a shot of her face. Natural light, maybe on the beach at dusk. An unfamiliar sensation settled in his chest, like a dumbbell resting on his lungs. Guilt? Apprehension? Attraction? He rubbed a palm over his heart.
“Already forgotten. So we can’t talk about where you’re headed. How about where you’ve been for the past eight years?” He gave her an authentic smile. No need to fake too much with Reagan. He actually liked her. Thought they had a crack at a future once.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Sure. College out East—”
Reagan’s cheeks tinted pink. “No, I changed my mind at the last minute. University of Pennsylvania. MBA from Wharton.”
“I knew you’d go Ivy League. Did you like it?”
“I needed a break from the spotlight.”
“And what are you doing now?”
“I’m in management for a luxury resort chain based out of Chicago.”
He shook his head. “I always figured your dad would suck you into politics.”
“Believe me, he’s trying. But I like what I’m doing. I’m on track for a big promotion and it’s nice not having to always be ‘on.’ You never know who’s listening or watching.” She broke eye contact and glanced around the bar. “Seems like someone’s always waiting to catch me at my worst.”
The damn twinge hit his gut again. He took in a breath through his nose and tried to unclench his jaw. “Yeah, I can imagine. Can’t be easy with your brother trying to keep his wedding under the radar.”
“Dad’s happy for Teddy and Cal. But he doesn’t want the media to paint him as a hypocrite.” She moved her drink to the side as the waitress slid an overflowing platter of nachos onto the table. The tempting scent of melted cheese, spicy chicken, and cilantro settled between them.
“You two need anything else?” the waitress asked.
“Maybe a little more water?” He glanced at Reagan who nodded. “And then the check.”
“Good idea on the food. I didn’t realize how hungry I am.” She took a delicate bite and the tortilla chip cracked, spilling salsa onto her shirt. Her cheeks flushed. “Dangit.” She swiped a chunk of tomato off her chest with a napkin, leaving a small pink circle in its wake. “I don’t know what my problem is today.”
Zach dunked his napkin into his water and leaned across the table. “Here, let me help you with that.” His hand froze in midair. There was no way he could dab at her tit with a handful of soggy napkin.
Eyes wide, Reagan pulled her blazer over her chest. “I’ve got it.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“No, don’t worry about it.” She took the wet napkin from him and patted the stain. “I’m sure it will come out at the dry cleaners.”
The speaker crackled and the gate agent announced, “For passengers traveling to Miami on flight 542, we’ll be departing at seven. Boarding will begin in about thirty minutes with our Premier members or anyone needing special assistance on the jet way.”
“Whew, that’s a relief.” Grateful for the interruption, Zach wasn’t about to acknowledge the awkwardness of the last ten seconds. “I thought the storm would set us back quite a while.”
Apparently willing to pretend they didn’t have eight years of questions between them, Reagan picked up the conversation and ran with it. “How about you? I heard you ended up somewhere in California?” She used a fork to lift a pile of cheese-covered chips off the platter and onto her plate.
The wet, see-through splotch on the front of her shirt provided more than a minor distraction, but he forged ahead. “Yeah. I ended up with a scholarship to California Institute of the Arts for most of my undergrad. Then I started working. Mainly magazines, some online outlets, travel assignments.”
“That’s fantastic. I always knew you had talent. I’m glad you decided to get your degree.” Her eyes took on a faraway look, like she’d time traveled back to senior year when she’d tried convincing him to apply to college.
“It meant a lot that you believed in me.” Hell, why had he said that? Sure, it was true. But he couldn’t afford to open the floodgates of the past.
She closed her eyes for a moment. A muscle ticked along her jaw. With a smile devoid of any warmth, she asked, “What’s your favorite assignment been so far?”
Good. She could play the let’s-pretend-the-past-never-happened game, too. “On the record? I got to shoot a swimsuit calendar a few years ago. Private island in the Caribbean. Twelve supermodels. That’s usually my standard answer. Being a magazine and travel photographer, it’s kind of what people expect me to say.”
A tiny wrinkle appeared between her eyebrows. He wanted to reach over and run his finger over it to smooth it away. In an effort to keep things lighthearted, he’d just made himself out to be the kind of cliché he’d always hated.
“What about off the record?” she asked.
“An abandoned Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas last year. It’s impossible to describe the complete sense of peace I experienced there. I’ve never been anywhere like that.” Her stare felt like a laser beam, focused on his lips. He watched her watch him as he spoke. Did she think about those seven minutes as often as he had over the years?
She patted her mouth with her napkin, disrupting the moment. “Sorry, you’ve got a tiny bit of sour cream on your lip.”
Shit, no wonder she’d been staring at his mouth. He swiped the napkin across his chin. “Did I get it?”
“No, let me.” She leaned across the table and dabbed at the corner of his mouth with her napkin. “There.”
His gaze slid down the opening of her shirt. Hell-o. The sight of the lacy nude bra sent a rush of blood to his dick and he jerked backward, away from her touch. What the hell? He’d spent days around supermodels in string bikinis, hours with bodies made for sin. But somehow the hint of lace struck him as the sexiest thing he’d seen in months. Or maybe even the past eight years.
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re welcome.”
The waitress set the bill down on the table, and he reached for his wallet. Reagan did the same.
“I’ve got this,” he said.
“No, my treat.”
“Tell you what. Let me get it now, and next time I’m in town you can take me out for some Chicago deep dish. Whaddaya say?”
Her lips pursed into a slight pout. “Or I could buy you a drink on the plane.”
“Deal.” She still seemed to have the need to control everything. He passed his credit card to the waitress. Reagan slipped her wallet back into her designer bag. The twinge prickled his gut again. If he couldn’t figure out a way to get Scazzoli off his back, by the time her trip to Florida was over, she’d be more likely to offer him a ticket to the bottom of Lake Michigan than a slice of Gino’s deep dish.
Want to read more of Zach & Reagan’s story? All I Wanna Do Is You releases on May 14th! It’s free to read in Kindle Unlimited or available exclusively at Amazon!