He’ll be her undoing. . . .

Former high-powered investor Leo Fischer has memory loss and staggering pain after a workplace shooting. He’s on Cape Cod to recuperate, but as his pain—and his loneliness—become unbearable, he asks a beautiful yoga teacher met on the beach to help him.

Jasmine Stanford clawed her way up from the dirt after the scandal from her father’s insider trading ruined her life. She’s built a new life that she fiercely protects. Getting anywhere near Leo is a mistake—but it’s also irresistible—even when he threatens to dissemble her carefully constructed existence.  

However, they might be able to heal each other—or wreck each other’s hearts if they risk too much.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Chapter One

 

     Jasmine Stanford was packing up her gear after her morning yoga class on the beach when she saw Leo walking toward her. 

     Great. 

     She really should have seen it coming even though they’d agreed that their “date” wasn’t a date; it was a one-night thing. Classic one-night stand: they'd met on the beach, which had led to dinner and a few drinks and some very mutually satisfying sex. Then they’d gone their separate ways.

     Granted, that was a bit more difficult because he lived in the beach house that was right behind where she taught her outdoor class four mornings a week. Still, the typical one-night stand rules applied: no last names, no need for follow-ups.

     No need to come down to the beach to say…

     “Hi.”

     She took a breath as she prepared to give him a quick brush-off, but the words caught in her throat when her eyes met his. Leo had gorgeous eyes—and gorgeous everything else—but she really, really didn’t want to do this. They knew the ground rules. They’d had a good time.

     A very good time.

     She studied his expression and her heart sank.

     Oh hell, he was going to ask her out again. Or maybe not – it wasn’t lust she saw in his eyes. At least, not only that. She could feel the emotion radiating through his gaze—a deep sadness that reached out and sucked the chill from the words she’d been about to speak.

     “Hi.” 

     It was all she could manage, her wires momentarily crossed.

     A bit taller than her five-nine, he had an athletic build under the loose, casual clothing he wore. She’d touched, kissed, every bit of him, and he was delicious.

     She’d noticed an injury, a scar from surgery on his shoulder. He’d been careful with it, so it must have been relatively recent. She’d been tempted to ask what happened, but that wasn’t part of the deal. He didn’t share, either.

A slash of dark hair that the wind kept blowing down over his face made his sharp features so dramatic. Rakish was the word that came to mind.

     Leo was a rake, and rakes were pure fantasy. She wanted him to stay that way.

     Please don’t ruin it, Jasmine thought silently.

     “Is everything okay?” she asked.

     He smiled, as if the question was funny somehow. “Not exactly. I wanted to come down and say hello.”

     His smile was self-effacing, but sincere. His accent was New York, not Boston.

     “What can I do for you?” She kept her tone light, professional. Distant.

     He shifted his stance, and she couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of strong thigh muscles moving under the light material of his shorts, his tee showing hints of his lean chest and biceps. A tingle of warmth ran down her spine. She was trained to be attuned to people’s bodies, their movements, but in this case, hers wasn’t a professional interest.

     “Can I help you with something?” she prompted again.

     He blinked and took a deep breath, as if he were nervous. It was hard to imagine this guy would be nervous about anything.

     “Yeah, I know this is probably a little weird, but I wanted to ask about joining your class. I’m recovering from a shoulder injury. I was in physical therapy for a while, but it’s still bothering me. My previous therapist said yoga might help.”

     She took a moment to assess his story. She’d known a lot of guys like this; in fact, they defined her circle of friends growing up. Charming, handsome, wealthy. His clothes were expensive, if casual, and he was staying—alone, as far as she could tell—in one of the most expensive beach houses on this stretch of the Cape.

     “I noticed. What was the surgery for?” 

     He looked down at the sand, as if gathering energy through its warmth. The air around them seemed to become weighted, a bit heavier. Maybe a storm was rolling in, she thought, casting an eye upward to find only blue skies.

     “I was shot.”

     The words came out so fast, on one single breath, and she thought she’d imagined them. She was stunned silent for a moment as her assumptions ran face-first into a brick wall.

     “You were shot? Like, with a gun?”

     “Yeah. I had two surgeries, and it’s healed up well, but the pain has started up again with a vengeance. Especially at night. The doctors said the bullet caused some nerve and cuff damage that’s permanent, but I would have full range of motion with exercise and therapy. They wanted me in physical therapy for longer, but I had to get out of the city. I’ve been doing some lifting lately, moving furniture, that might have aggravated it.”

     “How did you get shot?” She shook her head and corrected herself quickly. “I’m sorry, that’s none of my business.”

     He shifted his stance, looking away from her. “That’s okay. I don’t remember much, anyway. Post-traumatic amnesia. Or, Dissociative Fugue, the doctors said. Who knows, maybe yoga will help with that, too, you think?” His smile didn’t reach his eyes.

     Jasmine wasn’t sure what to say, and now she was suspicious. Being shot was one thing—but amnesia?

     “You’ve got to be kidding me. Amnesia?”

     Leo ran a hand through his hair, seeming genuinely stressed.

     She shouldn’t be noticing how nice his hands were; she’d be a fool to believe him.

     “I know how it sounds, believe me. I can give you my doctor’s information. I didn’t lose my entire memory, only life related to my work.  There was an office shooting, and I lost a colleague. I don’t really like to talk about it.”

     He became visibly more agitated, breaking eye contact, his hands shoved in his pockets. Everything about him tightened and drew inward.

     Jasmine was unsure of how to respond. His body language said he wasn’t lying, but she had doubts. Her first impulse was to say that it was something he probably should be talking about—in therapy. She bit the words back, but his expression showed he knew exactly what she was thinking.

     “You think I’m lying.”

     “About the shooting, no. But amnesia? I’ve never heard of any real person who experienced that.”

     “Does that make me a liar? I can give you my doctor’s information. He’ll explain it.”

     Jasmine took a breath. Did she really think he was making this up, or was she just trying to make him go away? What was she worried about?

     “I’m sorry. What was the job that you forgot?”

     “I worked at a brokerage. Hedge Fund Manager.”

     A heavy gate crashed down in her mind. So that was it. She’d suspected something like that was behind his wealth, his confidence, but. . .this was too close for comfort.

     Her father had owned a successful private investment firm, and when she was younger, she’d only dated or been friends with people in that circle. She’d even been engaged to her father’s right-hand man at eighteen—until he’d turned her father in to the SEC and ruined their lives. Everything had come crashing down. Her father committed suicide, and her mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She’d been on her own, jetsam of the wreckage, hounded by the media so intently that she couldn’t even go back to school—which she couldn’t afford anyway.

     She’d had to find jobs, to support herself—jobs where people didn’t know who she was—and she’d made some very, very bad decisions in those days. She’d done things, flung herself at the media that followed her around in the worst way possible, and had tried too hard to fit back into the only world she knew, hooking up with guys from the financial world only to be cast aside over and over again.

     No one wanted to be with her for more than a night—she was poison to them. But they had a good story to tell later.

And if brokers were bad, hedge fund guys were even worse—they played high-stakes, high risk games on a daily basis. For Leo to be doing that at his age meant he was not only a player, but that he played hard.They would do whatever it took to win—like her father had, even when it meant cheating normal people out of their life savings or homes.

     There was no doubt that Leo’s injury was real, but who knew how much of the rest of his story was true? She wasn’t interested in finding out. Maybe he had deserved to be shot.

     She sucked in a breath, regretting the thought. No one deserved that.

     Guys like Leo had once been her addiction—her Kryptonite—and she avoided them like the plague. Normally. She hadn’t wanted to know anything about him the other night; she’d just wanted to be with someone. She’d been lonely, and it was as simple as that. Now, it was anything but simple.

     “About your class. I know our. . .date—”

     “It wasn’t a date.”

     “Right. Either way, do you think you could help me with the pain?”

      She kept her tone professional. “This class is too advanced. It’s past the middle point and there’d be too much to catch up on. You’d be better off—”

     “How about individual lessons?”

     “You might like some of the other studios around here better. Mine is pretty basic, and I don’t have some of the special equipment others do.”

     “I don’t need anything fancy; I just need some help. The pain keeps me up at night, and I hate taking the pills they gave me.”

     Jasmine bit her lip, weakening at the mention of pain pills. She’d had students, and friends, who had been addicted to prescribed medications. It had been one of her mother’s favorite coping mechanisms. If Leo was trying to avoid addictive meds, she couldn’t turn her back on that.

     This was her job, she reminded herself. She was a professional. Her life was built around helping people. If he was telling the truth, he needed help. The fact that they had turned each other inside out a few nights before didn’t make a difference—did it?

     She let out a relenting sigh. “I’d want to talk to the Physical Therapist you were working with before, and after that maybe we could work something out. But professional only, and I mean it. One wrong move and we’re done. We should just forget about the other night. As if it never happened.”

     Fat chance, her inner voice mocked.

     “No problem. I have his info on my phone and can text it to you right now.”

     She wasn’t sure how to feel about his easy agreement. Relieved? Suspicious? Maybe a little insulted?

     She reached into her bag and gave him a card. It was a simple white card with the studio’s name, Body Sense, the address, and her phone number printed above a stylized blue ocean wave that twisted into Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose, in the corner. The cards were inexpensive ones that she’d designed herself on the internet, but they got the job done.

     She also wasn’t kidding about her studio. It was nice, but simple, because she was still building it as a business while paying her mortgage on the fixer-upper home she’d bought. She’d worked on it herself over time, but she didn’t have many of the extras that bigger studios had. And it was smallish, which was why she did the extra outdoor classes in the summer and early fall.

     Another reason not to turn down a paying client—especially a wealthy one. She had so many things to fix, upgrade and buy to keep the place competitive that it wasn’t even funny.

     “Thanks.”

     He turned the card over in his fingers, staring at it, before looking back at her. The shadow of sadness was still there, as if it hovered over his spirit. Jasmine was sensitive to people’s energy. It wasn’t anything psychic or supernatural, but a result of meditation and years of trying to be in tune with her students. It helped her teach.

     Leo’s energy was muddy, but there was some brightness flickering through the dark, as if it were struggling to make its way to the surface.

     He definitely had issues. A spark of sympathy ignited in her chest, but she tamped it down. She couldn’t afford an emotional connection with this guy, but she was a professional, and capable of helping him only on that level.

     “Okay, send me the contact info, and I’ll be in contact after I talk to him. I have to get going to my next class,” she said, turning away and grabbing her gear.

     He nodded, looking at the card, and then at her.

     “Thanks, this is great. Hey, um, maybe you could come up to the house and have a cup of coffee with me some morning, after your class?”

     Snatching her card back from him, she shoved it in her bag.

     She was so disappointed. Had she hoped, on some level, that he was different?

     Leo played the wounded hero well—and she’d almost bought into it—but then he’d gotten too confident.

     “Bye, Leo,” she said, really intending to leave this time. “There are lots of good yoga teachers on the Cape. I’m sure you’ll find someone who can address your needs,” she said, not bothering to hide the innuendo.

     “Jasmine. Wait.”

     There was a note of regret—and desperation—in his voice that no doubt had gotten more than one woman to stop and reconsider. She ignored it, walking to the parking lot where her car was parked. As she put her bag in the back seat, she peeked behind her. He was still standing there, watching.

     He waved again.

     She didn’t wave back, regretting that she was even caught looking as she got in her car and left.

     Guys like Leo were a tempting candy shell, nothing good inside. She knew that, but she’d hoped…what? That he was different?

     She wasn’t nineteen anymore, looking for a soft landing or for someone to save her after the tragedy of her youth. Back then, she’d been too confused and naïve to know better. She’d fallen for their lines, believed their promises, only to have them laugh as they walked away, leaving her even more broken.

     She was still broken—some parts of her had never mended, not completely, and probably never would. That was evident because men like Leo still made her feel a tug in her chest. They were like magnets, pulling her in, leaving her with the inevitable shame it all caused.

     Everyone had weaknesses. Some women liked bad boys, cowboys, blue-collar boys, whatever. Nothing lit Jasmine’s fire like a successful man with a sharp mind dressed in a silver-gray suit. Throw in a pair of Italian dress shoes and she was butter on toast. Success was an aphrodisiac.

     Was.

     Now, Jasmine depended on one person and one person only: herself.

     That focus had earned her a life with a steady foundation, her business, her own home, and good friends.

She was building her own success. A life that no one would take away from her.

     Still, Leo’s energy clung to her as she drove away. Maybe because she could see that while he might be a shark, he was a wounded one. He hadn’t been lying about that. It made him even more dangerous.

     Jasmine had learned the hard way to count on herself and to make smart decisions. As much as she might feel obligated to help him, Leo was not a smart decision.