Unbound

By: Kimberly Derting

Do opposites really attract?



Emerson Monroe McLean is a true Texan through and through. But she's never wanted to be like the other girls she grew up with, the ones who view debutante balls and sororities as stepping-stones to landing the perfect husband.



Instead, Em has set her sights on becoming a sports agent, just like her “Aunt Bitsy,” the woman who helped turn her dad into a household name.



Yet everyone underestimates Em. When they look at the leggy blonde, all they see is a serial-dater who leaves a string of broken hearts in her wake. What people don’t realize is that keeping guys at arms length is more than just about having a good time; it’s a deep-rooted defense mechanism.



Lucas Harper is California born and bred. The product of his wealthy upbringing and an overbearing mother, Lucas has always been told where to be and when to be there. But after his older brother’s death, Lucas is tired of being a puppet.



Taking a break to figure out what he wants out of life, he moves to West Beach to spend the summer surfing and planning a charity gala for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation—the disease that took his brother from him.



At the beach, he meets Emerson McLean, the free-spirited beauty who lures him into her bed—there’s something incredibly sexy about a woman who knows what she wants. Refusing to be tied down, she’s unlike any girl he’s ever known.



Can they find common ground...or will their differences tear them apart?



Their chemistry is undeniable. There’s only one hitch: Lucas already has a fiancée. And when she lands on his doorstep, insisting he come home, Emerson realizes that for the first time in her life, she has genuine feelings for a guy.



With her heart on the line, Emerson discovers that, win or lose, she isn’t the kind of girl to play by the rules.








For Josh—



Because of you, my world is a better place!





EMERSON



I came to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk, asking myself how it had come to this. How I’d failed my best friend in the whole wide world so miserably. Did she really believe in fairy tales? “You sure you wanna do this?”

Lauren stopped too, midstep, as her shoulders slumped forward. “Em, we’ve been through this. I’m not abandoning you.” She dropped the box she’d been lugging and came back to where I stood. This whole beach-house-for-the summer thing had been her idea in the first place. A way to celebrate that college was finally behind us. She tilted her head to the side, studying me as she placed her hands over mine as I clung to the carton marked “BATHROOM” in bold black Sharpie. “It’s not like I’m skipping town or anything. I’ll be less than a mile away.”

I shot a meaningful look to where Will—Lauren’s new roommate—had gone over and plucked her abandoned box from the walkway and was hoisting it into the back of his pickup truck. I lowered my voice, trying my best to be discreet. “I mean, are you sure you wanna move in with . . .” I gave a quick nod his way and resorted to pig Latin. “ . . . im-hay? He looks etchy-skay.”

She took the box I was holding and passed it to Will, too. He managed it with one hand as he winked at me, not bothering to pretend he wasn’t eavesdropping. “Me? I’m sketchy as hell,” he agreed, flashing me the dimple that had surely done Lauren in. “I plan to do shady things to your friend here.” Then he smacked her on her ass with his free hand, and she blushed.

Fuck. It was too late. I’d already lost her.

I let out an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. Whatever. Go on, then. But don’t come crying to me when it all goes to shit.” I scowled as I imparted my wisest words on her. “And it sure nuff always goes to shit.”

“Be careful, your Texas is showing.” She grinned, and then cast a calculated glance over my shoulder to the house next door—Lucas’s place. “Like you’re one to talk . . .”

I settled my hands on my hips, preparing for battle. “If you have something to say, spit it out already.”

She opened her mouth, looking like she was about to launch into another explanation about how I might not be keeping a toothbrush over at Lucas’s house, but that I’d hardly spent a single night at our place in the two months since we’d moved here.

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