e bliss, but when you peel away the happy layer, it’s still just a lack of information.
“An endearing, laugh-out-loud, funny read. If you loved Drew, you’ll love Matthew. Once again, Emma Chase doesn’t disappoint.”
—K. Bromberg, bestselling author of Driven, Fueled, and Crashed
Fans are talking, texting, and blogging about Emma Chase and her New York Times and USA Today bestselling series
“Emma Chase will keep you enthralled and captivated. A brilliant 5-star read!!!!” (Neda, The Subclub Books) • “A brilliant, out-of-this-world hysterical, swoon-worthy five stars. Emma Chase’s unforgettable characters are absolutely beyond compare. One of the best reads of 2013.” (Tessa, Books Wine Food) • “It was absolutely amazing! Drew Evans is hands down my favorite leading man.” (Liz, Romance Addiction) • “A 5-heart read. It’s perfection in a book. RAWR hot, hilariously funny, and a romance so good you won’t want it to end.” (Tamie & Elena, Bookish Temptations) • “Tangled is panty-dropping, outrageously funny, and overwhelmingly lovely. I finished it in nearly one sitting because I had to know more of Drew and Kate.” (Angie, Smut Book Club) • “Witty and hilarious insight into a man’s head. I fell in love with Drew Evans’s playful and cocky attitude and I will never forget him. . . . A sexy hero.” (Lucia, Reading is My Breathing) • “The characters are insanely hilarious! Drew had my sides splitting and in stitches with his witty and undeniably competitive personality! The funniest and most creative book told by the male point-of-view. You will not be able to put this book down!” (Stephanie, Romance Addict Book Blog)
This one is for all the “nice” guys and “crazy” girls in the world. May you find each other and enjoy the roller coaster ride of life together.
By the time Tamed is released it will have been one year since Tangled, book #1 in the Tangled Series, was published. What an amazing, beautiful year it’s been! I’m tremendously grateful to be able to work with so many talented and dedicated individuals, who believe in me, my writing, and these fun, heartfelt stories.
Thanks to my super-agent, Amy Tannenbaum, and everyone at the Jane Rotrosen Agency for your wonderful guidance, encouragement, and support. Thanks to my editor, Micki Nuding, publicists Juliana and Kristen, and the entire Gallery Books family for all you’ve done to make these books more than they ever would’ve been without you. I’m always grateful for Nina Bocci of Bocci PR for your superb advisement and enthusiasm. Thanks to the tireless online bloggers for helping so many readers discover and fall in love with these characters—please never stop doing what you do!
I am so grateful for my readers—the best in the world. Thank you for each online post, email, and message—I read every one! Your excitement is humbling and inspiring. Thank you for loving these characters every bit as much as I do.
Finally, to my husband, my children, and my whole family: I love you. Thank you for your unending patience and encouragement—and for giving me a lifetime of golden comedic material.
During the last few weeks, it’s been brought to my attention that sometimes women actually like to cry. They cry over books, TV shows, those awful abused-animal commercials, and movies—especially movies. Sitting down to purposely watch something you know will make you unhappy? It makes no frigging sense.
But that’s okay; I’m just going to chalk it up to another thing I will never understand about my girlfriend. Yes—I said girlfriend. Dee Warren is officially my girlfriend.
One more time for those in the back—girlfriend—Delores—mine.
Repeating it might make me sound like a Harry Styles–obsessed prepubescent girl, but I don’t give a damn. Because it was a hard-won victory—if you knew what I had to go through to make her mine, you’d understand.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Chicks like to cry—but this isn’t one of those stories. There’s no dying best friends, no dark tortured pasts, no hidden secrets, no sparkly vampire breakups, and no kinky fuckery.
Well . . . okay . . . there’s some kinky fuckery—but it’s the happy kind.
This is a story about a player, who meets a slightly crazy girl. They fall in love and the player changes his ways forever. It’s a story you’ve probably heard before, maybe even from my buddy, Drew Evans. But the thing is, while he and Kate were figuring their shit out? There was this whole alternate universe going on with Delores and me that you don’t know about. So stick around, even if you think you already know the ending. Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.
Before we start, there’s some background info you may need to know. First off—Drew’s a great guy, a true best friend. If we were the Rat Pack, he’d be Frank Sinatra, I’d be Dean Martin. Although Drew and I are tight, we differ in our opinions about women. At this point in our tale, he sees himself as a bachelor for life. He’s got all these rules about never bringing a chick to his apartment, never dating someone he works with, and the Cardinal Rule: Never hook up with the same woman twice.
I, on the other hand, don’t care where I get laid—my place, her place, the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
That was a great night.
I’m also not opposed to seeing someone from the office—though most of the girls in my line of work are stressed out, chain smoking, coffee-obsessed women with an unpleasant chip on their shoulders. I have no problem hanging out with the same woman on multiple occasions, as long as the good times keep rolling. And someday, I imagine myself settling down—marriage, kids, the whole deal.
But while I’m looking for Mrs. Right? I’m having a blast with all the Ms. Wrongs.
Secondly, I’m a real glass-half-full kind of person. Nothing gets me down. I have a great life—a good career that lets me enjoy the best man-toys on the market, awesome friends, a weird but loving family. “Emo” doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, but YOLO should’ve been my middle name.
Next up is Delores Warren—Dee, if you want to stay on her good side. By today’s standards it’s an unusual name, but for her it’s a perfect fit. She’s unusual—different—in all the best kinds of ways. She’s brutally honest, emphasis on “brutal.” She’s strong and doesn’t give a rat’s ass what people think of her. She’s true to herself and makes no apologies for what she wants or who she is. She’s wild and beautiful—like an undomesticated thoroughbred that runs best without a saddle.
And that was where I almost went wrong. I wanted to tame her. I thought I had the patience for it, but I pushed too hard and pulled too much on the reins. So she broke them.
Are you offended that I compared the woman I love to a horse? Get the fuck over it—this is not a tale the PC police will enjoy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just know that Kate Brooks is our coworker and Delores’s best friend—the Shirley to Dee’s Laverne. And in all the years I’ve known Drew—which is every one of them—I’ve never seen him react to a woman like he reacted to Kate. Their attraction, even though it was mostly antagonistic in the beginning, was palpable. Anybody with eyes could see they had it bad for each other.
Well . . . anybody but them.
Kate, like Delores, is a great girl. The type of woman who, in the immortal words of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, could arouse a man’s intellect as well as his loins.
You got all that? Great. Let’s get this party started.
My life changed about four weeks ago. On a normal, average day—when I met a girl who was anything but average.
Four weeks earlier
“Matthew Fisher, Jack O’Shay, Drew Evans, this is Dee-Dee Warren.”
There’s no such thing as love at first sight. It’s just not possible. Sorry to ruin your fantasy, but that’s how it is. Ignorance might feel lik
To really love another person, you have to know them—their quirks, their dreams, what pisses them off and makes them smile, their strengths, weaknesses, and flaws. Have you heard that quote from the Bible—the one they always read at weddings: “Love is patient, love is kind . . .”? I have my own version: Love is missing the taste of someone’s morning breath. Thinking they’re beautiful, even when their nose is Rudolph-red and their hair is bird’s nest crazy. Love isn’t putting up with someone in spite of their faults—it’s adoring them because of them.
Now lust at first sight, that’s very real. And much more common. In fact, when most guys meet a woman, they know within the first five minutes which category of “fuck, kill, marry” they fall into. For guys, the fuck category has a pretty low bar.
I’d like to tell you the first thing I noticed about Delores was something romantic, like her eyes, or her smile, or the sound of her voice—but it wasn’t. It was her tits. I’ve always been a boob man, and Dee’s set was fantastic. Slightly overflowing in a tight, hot-pink top, pressed together just right to create an enticing cleft of cleavage, beautifully framed by a gray knit sweater.
Before she uttered her first word to me, I was in lust with Delores Warren’s rack.
After she banters with Drew for a minute, I steer her attention my way. “So, Dee-Dee . . . is that short for something? Donna, Deborah?”
Warm, honey-colored eyes turn my way. But before she can answer, Kate lets the cat out of the bag, “Delores. It’s a family name—her grandmother’s. She hates it.”
Delores glares playfully at Kate.
If you want to make an impression on a girl, humor is always a safe bet. It shows a woman you’re clever, smart, confident. If you’ve got balls? Flaunt them.
Which is why I tell Kate’s friend, “Delores is a gorgeous name, for a gorgeous girl. Plus, it rhymes with clitoris . . . and I really know my way around them. Big fan.”
As planned, my line gets an instant reaction. She smiles slowly and runs one finger across her lower lip, suggestively. Any time a woman touches her body in response to something a guy’s said? It’s a good sign.
Then, she breaks our gaze and says to us all, “Anyhoo. I have to jet, gotta get to work. Nice meeting you, boys.” Dee-Dee hugs Kate and winks at me. Also a good sign.
I watch her as she walks out and can’t help but notice the rear view is almost as awesome as the front.
Drew asks Kate, “She’s got to get to work? I thought the strip clubs didn’t open until four.”
I have to agree with him on that one. When you’ve been to as many strip clubs as we have, you start to see a pattern. The clothes the women wear—though minimal—are similar. Like they all shop at the same store. And Dee is definitely rocking the Strippers “R” Us vibe.
Though it may just be wishful thinking on my part. It would be awesome if she were a dancer. Not only are they limber—they party hard. Totally uninhibited. The fact that they generally have a low opinion of the male species is a plus too. Because it means the simplest act of chivalry is returned with extreme gratitude. And a grateful stripper is a blow-job giving stripper.
But Kate dashes my hopes. “Dee’s not a stripper. She just dresses like that to throw people off. So they’re shocked when they find out what she really does.”
“What does she do?” I ask.
“She’s a rocket scientist.”
Jack reads my mind. “You’re fucking with us.”
“Afraid not. Delores is a chemist. One of her clients is NASA. Her lab works on improving the efficiency of the fuel they use on the space shuttles.” She shivers. “Dee-Dee Warren with access to highly explosive substances . . . it’s something I try to not think about.”
And now my curiosity is almost as strong as my lust. I’ve always had a taste for the unusual—the exotic—in women, music, books. And unlike Drew, whose apartment is meticulously decorated, I tend to gravitate toward pieces with a history. Even if they don’t match, nontraditional is always interesting.
“Brooks, you’ve got to hook me up. I’m a nice guy. Let me take your friend out. She won’t regret it.”
Kate thinks about it. Then she says, “Okay. Sure. You seem like Dee’s type.” She hands me a neon-green business card. “But I have to warn you. She’s the love-’em-and-leave-’em-with-bruises type of girl. If you’re looking for a good time for a night or two, then definitely call her. If you’re looking for anything deeper than that, I’d stay away.”
And now I know how Charlie felt when he was handed the last golden ticket to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I stand up from the table and kiss Kate on the cheek. “You . . . are my new best friend.”
I consider hugging her too—just to fuck with my scowling buddy—but I don’t want to risk getting nut-punched. I have plans for my nuts. They need to be in top form.
Kate tells Drew not to pout, and he makes a comment about her boobs, but I’m only half listening. Because I’m too busy thinking about where I’ll be meeting Delores Warren for a drink—or several. And all the fantastically lascivious activities that are sure to follow.
So that’s how it started. It wasn’t supposed to be complicated—no love at first sight, no grand gestures, no hard feelings. A sure thing, a good time, a one-night stand with an option for a second. That’s what Kate told me Dee was into, and that’s all I was looking for. All I thought it would ever be.
Elvis Presley was right. Fools really do rush in. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a major fucking fool.
A lot of people live for their job. Not because they’re forced to financially, but because what they do for a living is who they are—their profession gives them confidence, purpose, maybe even an adrenaline rush. It’s not always a bad thing. The office is a businessman’s playground, a courtroom to a lawyer feels like home. And if I ever need a surgeon? Only a full-blown workaholic is getting near me.
That being said, I’m an investment banker at one of the most respected and prestigious firms in the city. I’m good at my job, the paycheck is nice, I serve my clients well—keep them happy and keep new ones coming in. But I wouldn’t say I love it. It’s not a passion. When I die, I’m not going to go out wishing I had spent more time at the office.
I’m similar to my father in that respect. He’s committed to the firm he, John, and George founded, but he doesn’t let the obligations interfere with his golf game. And he’s an old-fashioned family man—he always was. Growing up, dinner was served at six o’clock sharp. Every night. If my ass wasn’t in that dining room chair, I’d better have been in the Emergency Room, or there was hell to pay. Dinnertime discussion focused heavily on “What did you do today?” and “Nothing” was never an acceptable response. Being an only child, there weren’t any siblings to distract my parents from keeping tabs on me. My old man was well aware of the potential pitfalls of growing up privileged in New York City, so he made damn sure I stayed out of trouble.
Well . . . most of the time¸ anyway.
Every kid deserves to get into a little trouble. It helps them learn to be resourceful, think on their feet. And if a teenager isn’t allowed to have some kind of life¸ they’ll go totally ape-shit when they get to college. Which could end badly.
My father’s three basic rules were: Keep your grades up, keep your criminal record clean, and keep your pants zipped.
Two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Even though my dad knows the importance of family and separating business from pleasure, that doesn’t mean I get a free pass at the firm because I’m his son. Actually, I think he rides my ass a lot harder than the other employees’, just to avoid any claims of favoritism. Impropriety at the office is something he would never tolerate. He’d come down on it like Gallagher’s sledgehammer on a watermelon.
Which is another reason my dad and his partners were able to build such a suc
cessful business—because each of them brings their own unique talents to the team. John Evans, Drew and Alexandra’s father, is like Face from the A-Team. He’s the charmer, the convincer—he makes sure the clients are happy and the employees are not only content, but enthusiastic. Then there’s George Reinhart—Steven’s dad. George is the brains of the operation. My dad and John aren’t exactly lacking in that department, but George is like Stephen Hawking without the ALS. He’s the only guy I know who actually enjoys the technical, number-punching aspect of investment banking.
Then there’s my father, Frank—he’s the muscle. The intimidator. He’s a man of few words, which means when he speaks, your ears better fucking be listening, because he’s saying something worth hearing. And he has no problem firing people. My dad makes Donald Trump look like a pussy. Doesn’t matter if you’re the sole family breadwinner or a pregnant woman in her last trimester—if you’re not getting the job done, you’re out on your ass. Tears don’t move him, and second chances are rare. Ever since I was a kid, he’d say, “Matthew, family is family, friends are friends, and business is business. Don’t confuse them.”
Even though he’s a hard-ass, he’s always fair. Honest. Keep your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed and there won’t be a problem. I always make sure my i’s are dotted and my t’s are crossed. Not just because I prefer to keep my job, but because . . . I’d never want to disappoint my old man. Sadly, that attitude’s become scarce. So many little assholes running around today give no thought to making their parents proud—but it’s what Drew, Alexandra, Steven, and I were raised on.
Anyway, back to the real story.
After lunch with the guys, I spend the rest of the afternoon at my desk, drafting a contract and making nice with clients on the telephone. Around six o’clock, I’m packing up when Steven comes breezing through my door.
“Guess who spent their lunch break surrounded by rabid gamers in line for the latest fix?”
I slip a folder into my briefcase for some non-enjoyable reading before bed. If you don’t want to live life chained to a desk? Time management is crucial.
I answer, “That would be you?”
He smiles and nods. “Damn straight, brother. And look what I scored.”
He holds up a square cellophane-wrapped package.
Back in my father’s day, guys would occasionally get together for a fishing trip or drinks at the local pub to unwind after a long day’s work. But what Steven holds in his hands is more addictive than alcohol and a hell of a lot more fun that baiting a hook.
It’s the latest edition of Call of Duty.
“Sweet.” I take the disk from his hand and flip it over, checking out the updated real-to-life graphics.
“You up for a mission tonight? Around nine?”
In case you don’t already know—Steven is married. And he’s not just married—he’s married to Alexandra-formerly-Evans, also known as The Bitch. But you didn’t hear that last part from me.
If a regular wife is a ball at the end of a chain? Alexandra’s a Sherman tank. She keeps Steven on a short leash—doesn’t let him come out to the bars on Saturday night, only allows him one poker game a month. Even though Steven’s not the straying kind, Alexandra thinks hanging out with us carefree, single friends would be a bad influence on her husband. And . . . she’s probably right.
But, like any good warden knows, you can only restrict the inmates so much. You can lock them in a cage ten hours a day, ban yard time—but try and take away their cigarettes? You’ve got a major revolt on your hands.
Xbox is Steven’s one permissible vice. As long as his playtime doesn’t disturb their daughter, Mackenzie, after she’s down for the night. One time, Steven got a little too loud during an ambush and woke Mackenzie up. He was on lockdown for a week. Lesson learned.
“Yeah, dude, count me in.”
I hand him the game back and he says, “Cool. See you at twenty-one hundred.” Then he salutes me and heads out the door.
I pick up my briefcase and gym bag and walk out a few minutes later. On the way to the elevator, I swing by Drew’s office.
He’s bent over his paper-covered desk, making notes with a red pen on a document.
He glances up, “Hey.”
“Xbox tonight, nine o’clock. Steven’s got the new Call of Duty.”
With his attention back on the paper, Drew says, “Can’t. I’m gonna be here until ten, at least.”
The people I mentioned who live for the job? Drew Evans is that kind of people.
But it works for him. He’s not a bedraggled, stressed-out clock puncher—he’s the exact opposite. Drew genuinely enjoys the grind; he gets a rush out of negotiating a deal, even if it’s a hard sell. Because he knows he can close it, that he’s probably the only one who can.
Well . . . at least until a certain dark-haired woman joined our ranks.
I look across the hall to Kate’s office. She’s at her desk, the mirror image of Drew—but way hotter.