A reclusive writer … Grace Donnelley’s successful sci-fi novel is about to become a movie. She wants a vacation with her mother before filming starts, but fears her name will cause a geek riot. So she creates Grace Ward, sometimes schoolteacher and doting daughter of Sunny. A hounded actor … Bennett Oliver escapes London for a vacation with his mother. He wants to hide from the paparazzi and his brooding reputation. He takes the role of Ben Brady, successful businessman and overprotective son of Camille. But they never counted on each other … An immediate attraction, aided by their matchmaking mothers, gives Ben and Grace a vacation they never expected — and one they don’t want to lose. Upon returning to their everyday lives, they work to maintain a relationship while trying to find a way to say “by the way, I’m famous.” When the secrets and lies catch up with them, Ben and Grace struggle to open their lives and re-open their hearts to see if love can be their most treasured souvenir.
Sitting next to Adam, Ben got a glimpse of what a vacation without Grace would be like. He couldn’t stop staring as the sunlight highlighted the freckles across her nose and the chestnut strands in her dark hair. Her laughter tickled his ears, and his fingers were cold without her. After a respectable amount of time, he returned and shooed Nora back to her side of the aisle.
Back in his proper spot, Ben watched Nora and Adam together. He envied Nora because of Adam’s acceptance. Whatever she had been through, he had apparently given her a place to dispose of her past. Ben wanted that peace. He wanted to believe it could withstand the truth. The first step was to be honest with the woman next to him.
“Before we get to Salzburg, I should tell you something. Grace, I—”
Her soft fingers muffled his explanation, and her expression stopped it entirely. Her eyes were wide in her pale face. “Are you married?”
He shook his head, never removing her hand.
“Are you a criminal of some sort?”
From schmuck to thug. Great. Still, he smiled as he shook his head.
“Do you have some sort of horrible disease?”
Geez, she’s given this some thought. At his emphatic denial, Grace rubbed her thumb along his bottom lip.
“Does anything you think you need to tell me change what you’ve told me so far?”
Ben placed a warm kiss in her palm, flicking his tongue against her skin. Her breath caught while her fingers cradled his jaw, making him feel fragile despite his size. It was always there, the sweetness of her, the intense heat between them.
He brushed his knuckles along the tendon in her neck. “I will never lie to you about anything that matters.”
She nodded. “All my answers are the same. Can that be enough?”
He was gobsmacked. “Do you realize what you’re offering?”
“Everyone has secrets, sweetheart. If it still matters in Paris, we’ll address it then. Deal?”
Ben took the gift she offered and sealed their bargain with a kiss.
What’s her secret? The devil whispered in his ear.
He pulled away to see her face. “So, you don’t have a husband waiting on you at home?”
The Alps loomed on the horizon, but Grace held his gaze. “No.”
“Thank God.” He rearranged their bodies so they could watch the mountains out the window. “And you teach?”
“From time to time.”
“If my lit teacher had looked like you, I might never have graduated. What do you do the rest of the time?”
He couldn’t help the question. He wanted to learn about her life, even though he knew what would follow.
“I’m a consultant. What about you?”
This was his chance to be honest, to share himself as she deserved. For a moment he watched their reflections, visible in the window. They looked peaceful. A secret that made you peaceful couldn’t be bad. Could it?
“Media and communications,” he finally replied. The quiet surrounded them, and his heart hammered in his chest so hard he was surprised she didn’t feel it shake her spine.
“About this arrangement,” he began, “we don’t have to sleep together. I mean there are two beds, and, well . . .” His words strangled to a stop as he tried to give her an out he prayed she didn’t want.
She took his hand and Ben quit staring at the ceiling and looked her in the eyes. The teasing glint he’d come to expect made it easier for him to continue.
“I don’t want to push you into anything.” As he relaxed, his sense of humor returned. “I won’t lie, sex would be great. But I don’t want you to feel like you have to just because your mother thinks it’s a good idea.”
Grace’s laughter sputtered to life, shaking his free. The chain reaction built until they were wiping gleeful tears from their eyes as the train pulled into the station.
That sudden burst of humor faded as Ben stood with her in a secluded corner of the Hotel Salzburg’s small lobby, both staring at the room keys they’d been given. Their mothers had walked to the other end of the lobby, out of earshot, to look at a tourist map the desk clerk had provided.
“Your place or mine?” Ben asked as he looked over his shoulder. This was weird enough without an audience.
Grace pulled a coin from her pocket. “Heads, it’s yours.”
He won the coin toss.
The ride to the correct floor was quiet, the walk down the hallway worse. Grace unlocked the door and they both jumped as it slammed shut behind them. It was a hotel room just like ones in cities around the world. A closet to one side, the bathroom to the other, a wall of windows opposite the door, and two beds in between. Were the rooms always this small?
Ben gulped. “Okay, this is—”
“Bizarre,” Grace finished.
Mia Kay spent years writing legal documents and keeping people out of trouble. Now she spends her days looking for ways to get her characters into trouble. She lives in Arkansas with her husband, who doesn’t mind discussing (and sometimes causing) mayhem over breakfast.