Once Is Never Enough by Mira Lyn Kelly

  She’s going to do this. She’s really going to do this!

  Nichole Daniels has had her share of heartbreak. Two broken engagements and a single bed are proof of that. But when a blue-eyed stranger offers her a taste of her every nighttime fantasy, she’s considering putting an end to her dry spell!

  Garrett Carter’s reputation as a ladies’ man…? Absolutely right. A danger to her health…? Definitely. The man for her…? Not on your life. Nichole has no intention of getting involved with a man known to be able to whisper almost any woman into bed! But something tells her that, when it comes to Garrett, one night will never be enough….



  Her heart slammed to a stop.

  That was no toe in the pool. No testing the waters or even taking a tentative dip. It was a full-on, feel-the-rush, blast down the water slide, total body immersion into the deep end. And the most frightening thing about it was, as she peered into those brilliant blues…it was tempting as hell.

  Where was her friend Maeve when she needed her most!

  When she wanted someone skilled in the art of justification and adventurous enough—

  And then it struck her. She didn’t need Maeve at all. Not only did she know with one-hundred-percent certainty what her friend would want her to do…she knew herself.

  This guy was the simple pleasure she’d been missing. He had a connection to and was obviously liked by nearly half the people at the party—so chances were good he wasn’t a serial killer. This was the first time she’d met him—so chances were even better this could be something brief. Something quick.

  Something in the moment.

  Something she wanted more with every second that passed.

  A slow smile spread to her lips.

  “Okay, Blue-eyes. Let’s go.”

  Dear Reader,

  Confession time. I’ve become something of a KISSing bandit over these past months.

  That’s right. A total book tart.

  But with the offering of titles from Harlequin’s new line, KISS, how can you blame me? I’m hooked on the fresh and the flirt. The sweet and the smolder. The heroines I want to invite over to share my chocolate and wine with. And the heroes I just want…because, seriously, how could I not!

  These are stories I relate to. Characters I love. And books I can’t get enough of.

  So as much as I savor each new KISS title, once I hit that last incredible page and have my so satisfying HEA in hand…it doesn’t take more than a day before I’m batting my lashes at the next month’s offering, shamelessly counting down the days until I get my next KISS.

  Are you enjoying the new Harlequin KISS line as much as I am?

  Find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiraLynKelly.Author or Twitter at www.twitter.com/miralynkelly and let me know!

  All my best,

  Mira Lyn Kelly

  Once Is

  Never Enough

  Mira Lyn Kelly


  Mira Lynn Kelly grew up in the Chicago area and earned her degree in fine arts from Loyola University. She met the love of her life while studying abroad in Rome, Italy, only to discover he’d been living right around the corner from her for the previous two years. Having spent her twenties working and playing in the Windy City, she’s now settled with her husband in rural Minnesota, where their four beautiful children provide an excess of action, adventure and entertainment.

  With writing as her passion and inspiration striking at the most unpredictable times, Mira can always be found with a notebook at the ready. (More than once the neighbors have caught her, covered in grass clippings, scribbling away atop the compost container!)

  When she isn’t reading, writing or running to keep up with the kids, she loves watching movies, blabbing with the girls and cooking with her husband and friends. Check out her website, www.miralynkelly.com, for the latest dish!

  Other Harlequin® KISS™ titles by Mira Lyn Kelly:

  Waking Up Married

  This and other titles by Mira Lyn Kelly are available in ebook format. Check out www.Harlequin.com.



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen



  “So you take your reckless adventuring like you take your coffee: lukewarm and watered down?”

  Nichole Daniels stared first at the shu mai being jabbed in dumpling accusation from across their small table, and then at the gleaming blue eyes centering her best friend’s face beyond. “Hypothetical reckless adventuring. And, for clarification, I want to enjoy my coffee. Not get hurt by it. So I take it hot, but not scalding. I like it brewed strong, but cut with something creamy to avoid heartburn.”

  Maeve snorted. “You cut it with skim milk. Cripes! The whole point of this was to embrace the no-consequences element of a fantasy we weren’t planning to live out. I mean, seriously, I don’t want to be trapped on a deserted island at all. And if I actually was, I’d hope it would be with some kind of mechanical genius who played survival games of the non-cannibal variety in his spare time. But for the purpose of this chatty lunchtime game girlfriends play...in a context separate from reality...for one single night without consequences maybe you’d want something robust...rich... Oh, my God...something topped with whipped cream!”

  “Enough, enough.” Nichole laughed, cutting into Maeve’s ramping excitement before the whole restaurant started staring at them. “I get the concept. Honestly, I’m just not interested.”

  Maeve narrowed her eyes. “It’s a fantasy. How can you not be interested?”

  Echoes of a distant conversation teased through Nichole’s mind—accusations and blame, heartbreak and humiliation, and the fantasy she’d bet her future on revealed for the nightmare it was. Everything she’d lost. Everyone.

  She’d been down that road. Twice already. No thanks for a third.

  It didn’t pay to pretend. Not even over a dim sum lunch with her best friend.

  “I’m just not,” she managed through a stiff smile.

  “Hence your overnight-on-a-deserted-island order for a male of unspecified looks who’s safe, honest and can keep up his end of a conversation.” Another jab of the chopsticks. “Lame.”

  “Not lame. Maybe my reality is everything I want it to be. How about that? I’ve got a kickass career, a button-cute place in a cool neighborhood and the greatest friends in the world,” she said, batting her eyes at the best of them. “What more could a girl ask for?”

  “Do you want me to start down at the toes or up at the head... Or should I just start in the middle, ’cause that region might make my point a little faster.”

  “None of the above! Now, stop taunting me with your dumpling or I’m going to eat it.”

  Maeve snapped her chopsticks back, popping the shrimp bundle into her mouth with a grin. On finishing the bite, though, her look became more contemplative than t
easing. “I’m serious, Nikki. It’s been three years. Don’t you ever get lonely?”

  Nichole stared back, the word no poised on her tongue. Only as the seconds stretched, the single word that was the lie she’d been telling herself for all too long suddenly wouldn’t form. Her life was so right—in all the ways that mattered—she hadn’t let herself think too much about those times when the stillness of her apartment left a sort of hollow feeling deep in her chest. Or when the empty chair across her table kept her from using the bay window breakfast nook that was half the reason she’d signed the lease in the first place. But they were there, nonetheless, apparently lying in wait for the right opportunity to glare at her.

  Maeve slumped back in her chair. “I should have given you the last shu mai.”

  “Please, it’s not so dire as that,” she assured her, starting to stack the plates cluttering the table. “I’m just not interested in another relationship.”

  “But what about—?”

  The strains of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” cut in, signaling a call from Maeve’s brother.


  With Maeve scheduled to leave town for business the next day, Garrett Carter would probably keep her on the line for the next twenty minutes, reassuring himself she wouldn’t leave the coffeepot on, let anyone—anyone—into her hotel room, or accept candy from strangers in general. Only the reprieve proved short-lived when Maeve thumbed the call through to voicemail.

  Nichole reached for her wine as an unholy gleam lit her friend’s eyes.

  “I should set you up with Garrett.”

  The crisp, fruity vintage burned like acid as it hit her sinuses. Napkin to her mouth, lungs wrestling to expel the alcohol in exchange for oxygen, she choked out a strangled, “What?” Then, wheezing, “I thought you were my friend.”

  “I was thinking maybe you could learn something from him.”

  “Like what? The most effective antibiotics for treating—?”

  “Hey.” Maeve cut her off with a stern glance. “Uncalled for. He’s not so bad.”

  Nichole cocked a brow at her. “They call him The Panty Whisperer. I’ve seen his name on the ladies’ room wall. And my mother warned me about men like him.”

  Maeve chuckled, a sisterly combination of worship and irritation filling her eyes. “You could be dating Attila the Hun and your mother would be delirious with the whole breathless ‘he’s so powerful’ business. Trust me, she’d take Garrett with open arms.”

  Nichole shook her head, knowing it was true.

  “And, between you and me, Mary Newton wrote that on the wall to get even with him for putting her off when she offered up the goods. I know you’ve never met him, but Garrett’s actually a pretty decent guy.”

  “‘Domineering, hypocritical, arrogant, womanizing, workaholic control freak.’ Gee, where did I hear that from, I wonder?”

  Maeve shook her head. “Okay, take it easy. I’m not serious about setting you up. And even if I were he wouldn’t go out with you. He’s got a rule about dating his sisters’ friends.”

  Handy. Because Nichole had a similar rule. She’d lost enough friends because of broken relationships. People she’d already considered family—

  Fingers snapped in front of her face. “Chill! I told you I was kidding.”

  The muscles down her back relaxed. “Your point, then?”

  “Just this. Maybe it’s time to dip a toe back into the dating pool. Test the waters and see how it goes. I know in the past your relationships have always been...serious. But they don’t have to be. Look, Garrett’s the only guy I know as commitment-phobic as you. But you can bet he isn’t lonely. He’s proof positive a couple of dates for the sake of some non-platonic company can be just that—a couple of dates. Simple. No big deal.”

  Yeah, except the last time Nichole had gone on “a couple of dates” she ended up with a white dress she’d never worn, thousands blown on non-refundable deposits, the very fabric of her life torn asunder and an aversion to fantasies and forever powerful enough to keep her out of romance for three years running.

  As it turned out, that fateful “it’s not me, it’s you” speech had been the best thing ever to happen to her.

  She’d been lucky to escape a marriage that, despite what she’d believed at the time, would have been a train wreck. Lucky to have chosen Chicago as the city to clean slate her life in. And luckiest of all to have picked the open treadmill next to Maeve’s that Friday that had, in essence, been the first day of the rest of Nichole’s new life.

  She hadn’t been tempted to even the merest flirtation since. Not once. And she honestly couldn’t imagine that changing anytime soon.

  But, seeing Maeve about to come at her from another angle, Nichole held up a staying hand. “How about this. If I happen to meet someone who actually makes it hard to say no, I promise I’ll give Garrett a call to talk me through The Panty Whisperer’s six-step guide to keeping it casual—”

  “Ha-ha. Very funny,” Maeve grumbled, flagging the waitress for their check.

  “But until then I’m not dipping my toe in anything.”


  Good Lord, was that a tongue?

  Nichole Daniels ripped her attention from the kiss deepening at exponential rates less than fifty feet away and dragged it back to where Chicago’s cityscape reflected the molten hues of the western sky.

  Having arrived early to help her friend Sam set up for his rooftop bash to welcome his older brother home from Europe, she’d been stocking wash pails with beer, wine and a myriad other pre-packaged cocktails when the lovebirds had pushed out the door, their breathless laughter dying at the sight of her. With the party scheduled to start—well, right then, for the few minutes before the guests migrated up to the terrace she’d figured the roof would be big enough for the three of them. Only now the evening breeze had picked up, carrying with it whispers not meant for her ears. Private words and promises of the kind of forever she’d stopped dreaming about years ago. The intimacy of their exchange had her feeling like some kind of creepy voyeur.

  Boxing up the last packaging to recycle, she eyed the door. Anytime now...

  People always showed up early for Sam’s parties. The view from his roof was one of the best in the city for watching the sunset.

  A muffled groan.


  Tipping the longneck that hung from her fingers for a small draw of the lemony draft, she glanced down at her phone for the hundredth time. She saw a text from her mother, who was checking to see if she had any special plans for the night, so she pushed it aside on the picnic tabletop, making a mental note to call her the next day.

  Tonight she wasn’t in the mood for a diatribe on beggars versus choosers, ticking clocks and doing the work to make her dreams a reality. No matter how well-intentioned her mother might be, a guilt-flavored pep-talk wasn’t on the evening’s agenda.

  Another gasp. This one edged with unmistakable need—and she hazarded a sidelong glance—

  Whoa! Mistake!

  She hadn’t just seen...and the hands...and the legs...

  Jumping clumsily from the picnic table, Nichole stumbled back and made a beeline for the stairway access.

  Eyes on the ground. Eyes. On. The. Ground.

  She was halfway down the narrow flight, ready to text Maeve her first report from the party, when she stopped, staring blankly at her open, empty palm.

  She’d left her phone.

  Her stomach turned to lead as she hesitantly looked back up to the roof. The sunset she could live without. But that phone was her lifeline. All her contacts...appointments...shopping lists...music...Maeve.

  She had to go back. Only she really didn’t want to.

  Maybe if she gave it a minute or two they’d be done and she’d be able to collect her phone wi
thout feeling like she needed to boil her eyes in bleach or start therapy seven days a week to scrub the memory from her mind.

  How long had it been already? She didn’t even know. So accustomed to her pretty little pink-rubber-clad smartphone, who needed a watch?

  Okay, this was ridiculous. She was an adult, and her phone was a critical part of her existence. She turned toward the roof, bottom lip parked between her teeth, foot poised to advance—

  The door below opened and she glanced back, hoping against hope it was Sam so she could make him get the darned phone for her. Only this wasn’t her five-foot-ten-if-she-looked-up-just-right, whipcord-thin blond bud, come to rescue her phone, but rather a six-foot-something stranger in worn jeans and a white Oxford rolled back at the arms, shouldering through a doorway made too small by his frame.

  Head bowed, he called back to someone within the apartment, “Yeah, see you up there in a few.”

  Maybe she should warn the guy about the rooftop action. Only before she could figure quite how to phrase it, the head topped with short, disheveled, dark curls tipped back, revealing a set of electric blue eyes that sent a shock straight through the center of her. Her mind whirled and stalled as recognition washed over her in a wave, receding just as quickly.

  She’d have sworn she knew him.

  “Looks like we had the same idea to catch the sunset,” he offered with an easy smile and a jut of his chin toward the roof as he took the steps at a loose jog, meeting her at the midpoint of the stairwell. “You going up?”

  “I think I have to,” she answered weakly, her eyes tracking nervously to the rectangle of open sky at the top of the stairs. “I left my phone when I ran....”

  Her phone would be fine. It wasn’t like she’d left it balancing on the rail.

  Was it possible they were finished?


  Of course it was possible. Probable? Who knew?

  “Did something happen up there?”

  “Yeah,” she answered with a shudder as she covered her eyes with her hands. The way they’d started going at it—she’d never seen...never done....

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