- Pub. Date:
Tony Adamo, billionaire heir to a massive corporation, has no interest in the money and prestige his title brings. What he does want? To stay sharp so the other MMA fighters don’t pummel him in the ring, and to keep his unworthy father from sullying the name of the company his grandfather so lovingly built. But when he locks eyes with the woman he's never forgotten, Tony needs her like he’s never needed anything before.
Ginny Frazier hasn’t seen Tony since the soul-shattering kiss they shared years ago. Ginny was always the good girl, the kind girl—but something about the hot as hell man with a smile to die for that her older sister brought home made her melt in a way no one ever had before. Despite their scorching kiss the night of her cruel sister’s breakup with Tony, they never amounted to more. Until now.
Tony was stupid to let Ginny go, and now that she’s back in his life, he plans to hold onto her forever. The one problem? Ginny is engaged to a powerful, deadly man—a man who holds a dark secret that could shatter the Frazier family if it ever came to light.
Will Tony be able to keep from losing Ginny all over again? And can Ginny save her family, and still have true love?
A Fight for Me Novel
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About the Author
Jessica Linden lives in Virginia with her college-sweetheart husband, two rambunctious sons, and two rowdy but lovable rescue dogs. Since her house is overflowing with testosterone, it’s a good thing she has a healthy appreciation for Marvel movies, Nerf guns, and football. Her books include Fight for me.
Read an Excerpt
Tony Adamo appeared to be the perfect picture of wealth and sophistication in his black tux. You'd never know that just hours earlier, he'd been pummeling another guy in a cage, MMA style.
On his arm, he had the most beautiful woman in the place as his date, and he'd been neglecting her. He leaned down close to her ear so she could hear him over the low din.
"Nonna, would you like something to drink? A water?"
Though the skin around her eyes was wrinkled, showing her seventy-plus years, her blue eyes were sharp. "You can have the water. I'll take champagne."
Tony chuckled and patted his grandmother's arm. "I'll just be a moment."
He carved his way through the crowd to the bar. Before getting in line, he looked to see if Kat was bartending. She was a friend of a friend from his other life — the one that included underground MMA fighting — and he'd like to keep his two worlds separate.
Though most of his time was sucked up by Adamo Enterprises, so in reality his double life was slowly dwindling down to a single one.
Shit, why was this taking so long? He could have made his own drink and that of everyone in the line in front of him in the time it was taking for the bartender to serve one glass of wine.
Tony looked ahead to see what the hell the problem was.
It was five feet six inches of brunette bombshell in a tight dress. Oh yeah, he could understand why the bartender wanted to take his time. She had curves that could bring a man to his knees, and he'd only seen the back of her.
It was when she turned, though, that his heart nearly stopped, and it wasn't from the impressive cleavage on display.
She was the sole ray of sunshine from a part of his past he'd done his best to forget. He hadn't seen her in years, but he'd recognize her anywhere — the slightly upturned nose, the tiny scar on her chin from a childhood roller-skating accident, the full lips he'd experienced once and only once.
When her hazel-gray eyes met his, it felt like all the air had been sucked from his lungs.
Ginny Frazier stopped so suddenly the man behind her barreled into her, causing her wine to slosh out over the edge of the glass.
She nodded mutely as he proclaimed his apologies. At least, that's what she thought he was doing. He could have been doing a full-on strip tease in front of her and she wouldn't have noticed.
Not with Tony's eyes locked onto hers.
How long had it been since she'd seen him? Two years? Three? Apparently not long enough for her to fully get over him. Not if her jelly-like knees were any indication.
Look away! Just look away!
But she couldn't.
Oh, shit. Now he was doing more than just looking at her. He was walking over.
All tall, dark, and ruggedly handsome six feet of him. Even at a glance, she could tell he'd bulked up since the last time she'd seen him. He'd always had an awe-inspiring physique, but his shoulders somehow seemed broader. And though he'd always carried himself with a calm confidence, his demeanor and presence alone now made people step aside to make way.
She turned toward the man who was now blotting her wet fingers with a napkin — and blocking her retreat. "It's okay. Really." Her tone was sharp, too sharp. She wasn't ready for this.
Then again, would she ever be?
Tony took the napkin out of the man's hand and picked up where he left off. "I'll take it from here," he said smoothly, giving the man his exit cue.
The man took the hint and scurried off. Ginny didn't notice which way he went. She was too busy drinking in Tony's presence. Though broader, his face hadn't changed. Well, hadn't changed much anyway. His dark eyes seemed a bit more guarded than she remembered.
But she couldn't blame him for that. Once burned and all.
Tony's fingertips brushed her palm as he wiped up the remaining white wine. Electricity shot through her hand all the way to her heart, sending it hammering against her rib cage.
"Your toes are wet."
Ginny blinked. "Excuse me?"
"We should get you cleaned up. I wouldn't want you to slip."
Ginny looked down at her feet, noticing for the first time that while the wine missed her dress, it had splashed all over her patent peep-toe stilettos.
She looked back at Tony, and his eyes shone with amusement.
"The first words you say to me after three years are 'your toes are wet'?"
He shrugged in the careless, nonchalant way he always had, like he hadn't a care in the world. These days, though, she knew he did — he was being groomed to take over as CEO at Adamo Enterprises. Maintaining the profitable pharmaceutical company was enough to keep anyone on their game.
He leaned close, close enough for her to smell the cool scent of his aftershave. "Hello, Virginia." His voice was low, like her given name was some kind of secret just between them.
"My toes are wet," she said stupidly, the words simply falling out of her mouth. She closed her eyes momentarily, wanting to slap her palm to her forehead. Having Tony close, even after all these years, threw some of her brain cells into stasis.
He plucked the wineglass out of her hand. "Do you still want this?"
She did, because she could really use a drink — or two or three — but she shook her head anyway.
He set the glass on the tray of a passing server and pulled a bill out of his pocket. "Excuse me. Can you please make sure the lovely lady in the navy dress over there gets a glass of champagne?"
The server looked over where Tony indicated and nodded when Tony slipped the money into his hand.
Then he took Ginny's hand. "Come on."
Even though she knew she should resist, she dismissed the logical part of her brain that was telling her to run in the opposite direction.
He wrapped his arm around her waist, presumably to make sure she didn't fall. Her wet feet weren't a danger, though. Not really. But her body's reaction to being in close contact with Tony was. The feel of his hand ignited a storm within her.
This is not going to end well.
Yet, she couldn't tear herself away. How often had she wondered about him? Wondered what he was doing? If he was seeing someone? He'd dropped off her radar and really only reappeared recently. However, this was the first time their paths had crossed since Veronica broke his heart. It was bound to happen eventually, but she hadn't expected it to happen tonight.
He took her through the crowds of people, out of the ballroom, past the lobby, and down a back hallway to a unisex family restroom. Pulling her inside, he flipped on the lights and locked the door, then got down on one knee next to the sink and patted his thigh.
"Let me have your foot."
She looked down at him for a moment like he was crazy. No, what was crazy was running into him tonight of all nights and then finding herself alone with him in a locked bathroom no less.
He raised an eyebrow and patted his thigh again.
Like she was Cinderella in a really warped fairy tale. Too bad the clock was about to strike midnight for her, and reality would soon come crashing down.
As she lifted her leg, the slit in her dress revealed more of her thigh than she'd intended. Her fingers automatically pulled on the sheer fabric to cover herself, but catching sight of Tony, she stopped.
His gaze was fixed on her bare thigh, which was dangerously close to his face. She watched as he swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing. Seeing her watching him, he cleared his throat and dampened a paper towel in the sink.
Ginny's heart hammered in her chest. She would have killed for him to have looked at her like that years ago. Too little too late.
He carefully undid the strap on her shoe and removed it. Her foot had dried by now, but he carefully wiped with the wet paper towel, removing the sticky wine residue.
As his fingers brushed across the top of her foot, she closed her eyes, imagining his touch elsewhere on her body.
God, her timing was awful. It always had been where Tony was concerned. If only —
Her eyes popped open.
Snap out of it, Ginny! Just because she was still harboring her schoolgirl crush on him didn't mean the feelings were reciprocated. Tony always had been a nice guy. That was all this was.
And even if the feelings were reciprocated, what then?
Nothing. That's what. Nothing could come of this.
He picked up her shoe and gently slid it on her foot. She removed her foot from his thigh and took a step back, needing to put distance between them. In this small space, though, that was nearly impossible.
"All better." He smiled and offered his arm. "Shall we?"
She hesitated momentarily before accepting. Instead of going back the way they came, he turned in the opposite direction.
"Where are we going?"
"I could use some air. How about you?"
Ginny Frazier ... what were the fucking odds? They were actually probably pretty damn good. Tony did his best to avoid these functions, so he may have run into her earlier if he ever bothered to show up. But what was the point? The same people discussing the same shit every time. Different day, same bullshit.
Though Ginny's hand was light on his arm, her body was rigid. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, but she stared straight ahead as they walked down the hall toward the patio door.
What the hell? When had she gotten so serious? The Ginny he knew was light and warm and carefree. She laughed a lot. This one looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.
And maybe she did. How would he know? He hadn't bothered to keep up with her or her sister.
Guilt nagged at his gut, but he shook it off. Ginny was his ex-fiancée's little sister. Things hadn't ended well when he'd found out Veronica cheated on him. So of course he hadn't kept in touch with Ginny.
Even after they'd kissed.
Especially after they'd kissed.
Veronica and Ginny were as different as two sisters could be, right down to their looks. Veronica was blond haired, blue eyed, and resembled a Barbie doll. And like the plastic doll, turned out she was hollow to the core.
Ginny was a dark-haired beauty with a heart as big as Veronica's was shriveled. He'd chosen the wrong damn sister, but by the time he realized that, it was too late.
He opened the door for her, and they both rested their arms on the wrought-iron fence that encircled the patio, looking out into the lush gardens. Her arm brushed his and his gaze settled on her hands, which were laced together. Her fingers were long and slender — pianist's hands. She played — or at least she used to.
He didn't know her anymore. And seeing her again made him realize how much he regretted that.
He cleared his throat. "How's Veronica?"
Not that he cared, but it was a segue into conversation. The silence was deafening. Words hadn't been needed when he was cleaning the smooth skin on her foot. And when that slit had exposed her thigh, he'd wanted nothing more than to put his mouth on her, to follow her leg all the way up.
"She's a widow now."
"Shit, I'm sorry. I hadn't heard." He'd heard the man she married was old enough to be her father. She'd "traded up," as she put it when she left him — Barry Morrison had been wealthier and more influential than Tony — a second son determined not to take over the family business.
If she'd only kept her true colors hidden, Tony thought bitterly, she could have been "first lady" of Adamo Enterprises, which had doubled its net worth in the past three years. Her dream would have been his damn nightmare. God, he'd dodged a huge fucking bullet.
"Barry was a nice man," Ginny said. "He didn't deserve ..." She sighed. "I don't want to talk about that. How have you been? How are your parents? Marco? Your grandparents?"
Tony's lips stretched into a smile. There was the Ginny he knew — always thinking of others.
"My father is —" Still a piece of shit. But that was a story for another time. "He's well. Mom's gone more than she's here, racking up the miles with her travels. But she loves it. Marco's deployed right now. Enjoying the military life from what I can tell. Nonna is still living life a hundred miles an hour. She's actually my date tonight." Tony leaned closer and nudged her shoulder with his, a smile on his face. "I'm sure she'd love to see you."
Ginny laughed. "She was so always feisty. And Nonno is probably indulging her every whim, am I right?"
Tony's smile fell off his face and a pang hit his stomach at the mention of his grandfather. "Nonno passed about six months ago. Per his wishes, we didn't run an obituary and the services were family only."
He'd had time to accept and come to terms with it as best he could, but he didn't have to like it. Nonno had been a huge influence in his life.
Ginny looked at him, her eyes wide with concern. "Oh, Tony. I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
When she looked at him like that, he wanted to pull her into his arms and devour her mouth. To show her that her concern meant something. Because he knew that if she could, she would share the pain with him.
She reached out and put her hand on his arm, and he knew he was taking too long to respond. But her touch — light as it was — only fueled his need to hold her.
The power of it both shocked and scared the hell out of him.
Ginny didn't know Tony's grandparents well, but she admired them from the little time she'd spent with them. Married fifty years and they still looked at one another with puppy dog eyes.
Poor Nonna and Nonno. And poor Tony. He'd always been close to them.
Ginny moved her hand up Tony's arm, wanting to provide comfort. Just before she embraced him though, she stopped.
What am I doing?
No, no, no, no, no. This was bad. She shouldn't be doing this, especially tonight. It was one thing to console a friend, but another to embrace this man from her past. This man who woke things inside her that were best forgotten.
She'd lost count of how many times tonight she'd cursed her shitty timing.
Dropping her hand, she stepped back. Tony's expression was pained, his eyes conflicted.
"I'm sorry, Tony." She hated the stiffness of her voice. She was such a bitch for stepping away when every instinct was telling her to move closer.
But her need for self-preservation took precedence over her instinctual desire. And it was more than just that — her family was depending on her.
Her gaze dropped to the ground. "I should go."
She turned on her heel, not looking at him, because if she did, she wouldn't be able to leave.
His hand grabbed her wrist. "Ginny, wait."
Putting a hand over her eyes, she stopped. "Tony, I —"
Her words were cut short when he spun her around and pulled her to his chest, his gaze raking over her face. It was raw and primal, and no one had ever looked at her like that before. She grew dizzy in his embrace and clutched at his arms, fighting to breathe. With every exhale, her chest pressed up against his and her nipples tightened.
She couldn't remember what she was going to say.
Leave. That's right. I was leaving.
"Tony ..." But she couldn't force the words out, and she certainly couldn't force the action. Her feet were rooted to the ground.
With a guttural growl and a whispered, "Fuck it," he pressed his mouth to hers. Her eyes widened for a moment before closing, and she gave in to the sensation.
His lips worked over hers, strong yet soft. Possessive.
His hand pressed against the small of her back, bringing her body even tighter against his. Her body went into autopilot, and her arms tightened around his neck.
She let out a little sigh and in doing so, parted her lips. Tony used the opening to caress her tongue with his.
Someone moaned. Was it her? Him? She had no idea. The heat they were producing was combustible and she was losing herself in it.
This. This was what she'd never had and always wanted — passion.
"Ginny," Tony whispered against her mouth. "We should have done this ages ago."
Yes, they should have. Ages ago. Why hadn't they? Because —
Her eyes flew open as her sensibilities returned.
"No," she whispered, then disentangled herself from him. She stepped back several steps and sucked in deep breaths. When Tony moved toward her with his hand out, she put up a hand to ward him off. "No," she said more forcefully this time. "This can't happen."
His expression was pained again, and it cut her to the core that she caused that. "Ginny —"
"Do yourself a favor and stay away from me," she choked out. Then she fled, leaving him behind and taking with her the knowledge that she'd regret this forever.
Excerpted from "Hold You Close"
Copyright © 2017 Jessica Linden.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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