Originally published in March 2005, Susan Mallery's bestselling novel, FALLING FOR GRACIE is being reissued by HQN.  It will be on sale tomorrow so be sure to pick up a copy at your local bookstore!

FALLING FOR GRACIE
January 2009
HQN


First comes love, then comes marriage. . .


Or that was Gracie's plan, anyway, at the ripe old age of fourteen. She loved eighteen-year-old heartthrob Riley with a desperation that made her a town legend. Even now that she's all grown up, the locals in sleepy Los Lobos won't let her forget her youthful crush.

. . .but it's not as easy as it looks.

And how can she, when she's face-to-face with Riley at every turn? The onetime bad boy has come back to town seeking respectability-but the sparks that fly between them are anything but respectable! Gracie's determined to keep her distance, but when someone sets out to ruin both their reputations, the two discover that first love is sometimes better the second time around.

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Excerpt from :
Falling For Gracie
© Susan Mallery


He was here.

She didn't know if she should run for cover or boldly step into the night. She settled on waiting for him to knock on her front door.

"Hi," she said as she pulled it open, then was grateful she'd done the speaking thing before seeing him.

God, he looked good. Like her, he'd dressed all in black, but his T-shirt didn't advertise anything beyond the chiseled muscles of his chest and the narrowness of his waist. Raindrops winked from his slicked back hair as if bragging about their close proximity to the man himself.

"Ready?" he asked as he brushed off his bare arms. "You have a coat. Good. It's really raining."

She found herself more than tongue-tied. She felt frozen in place, as if her feet had somehow become completely stuck to the foyer tile. She might never move again. Centuries from now archeologists would unearth her and put her still upright body in some natural history museum with a little notice beside her on the wall saying they couldn't explain what she was doing, either.

She forced herself to breathe and then to speak. "Are we, um, taking your car?"

"I'd rather."

It was fine with her. She didn't feel up to driving. She doubted she was capable of much more than involuntary bodily functions at this moment. She wasn't just overwhelmed by her attraction to Riley, but also by the unfairness of the situation. She'd been gone for so long and had gotten on with her life. Was it too much to ask that she be able to come home for a few weeks and not make a complete fool out of herself?

No answer crashed through the heavens, so she grabbed her purse and her keys, turned out the living room light and stepped into the cool, damp, night air.

Riley led his way to his car—a sleek, silver Mercedes that still smelled of new car and high-end leather. She slid onto the passenger seat and tried not to think about the fact they were going to spend the next who-knew-how-long together. Confined.

In some circles this could be considered a date. Of course in some circles she would be considered a menace to society and in desperate need of counseling.

"Why aren't you staying at your mom's house?" he asked.

"I thought about it, but I need the space for my work. I tend to be a night owl and a lot of people don't appreciate noise from the kitchen at 3:00 a.m."

He backed out of the driveway, then glanced at her. "Do I remember something about cakes?"

"Wedding cakes. They're very fancy. I also do cakes for showers sometimes, but most people aren't willing to pay that kind of money except for the actual wedding."

"How much are we talking about?"

She shrugged. "I'm working on a shower cake right now. It's fairly ornate and will serve fifty. I'm charging a thousand."

The car swerved slightly. "Dollars?"

"I've found it really helpful to keep my prices in U.S. currency. It saves confusion."

"For a cake?"

"A really good cake."

"But still."

She smiled. A lot of people reacted the way he did. Those who wanted something incredibly special and totally handmade were willing to pay the price.

"How many cakes do you make a year?" he asked.

"Less than a hundred. Of course wedding cakes are more expensive, but they take longer. I do okay, but I'm not getting rich. I won't until I decide to expand, which I'm not sure I want to do. I like having total control."

As she talked he drove through Los Lobos. "You know where Zeke lives?" she asked.

"I've been there a couple of times."

"I have his license plate," she said, digging in her purse for the information Alexis had given her.

Riley nodded at the windshield. "If this rain gets worse, we won't be able to read it from any kind of distance."

He pulled onto a side street and slowed. Gracie had only been by her sister's house once since returning to town, so she had to check out numbers to figure out which one it was.

Riley turned off his lights and cruised to a stop across the street. He pointed. "That's Zeke's SUV."

She peered through the windshield. "Is it black?"

"Dark blue, but in this weather, anything dark is going to look black."

"Okay." She leaned back in her seat. "Now what?"

Riley glanced at her. "We wait."

She'd known that, of course. That's what stakeouts were all about. Waiting. But thinking about it and actually doing it were two different things. Not only did Riley make her nervous, she found it really difficult to sit still. He sat there, immobilized, watching the house, while she shifted in her seat, stretched out her legs, fussed with her jacket, then tugged on her Dodgers cap.

"You going to settle down anytime soon?" he asked, never taking his attention from the house.

"I'm settled. I just can't get comfortable." She sat up straighter in the seat. "I've been accused of fidgeting, but I don't understand how people can sit there like lumps. It's not natural. It's—"

"There," Riley said, cutting her off and pointing.

Sure enough Zeke hurried out of the house towards his SUV. Gracie instinctively sank down in her seat and shielded her face.

"I doubt he can see you through the rain," Riley said dryly.

"I want to be sure," she said. "Keep your voice down."

Riley grinned. "You're taking this too seriously." He started his engine and waited until Zeke pulled out before shifting into gear and following him.

Riley might think they were safe, but Gracie stayed slumped in her seat until it became obvious Zeke was heading directly to the freeway and not trying to lose anyone.

"Where do you think he's going?" she asked as she shifted into a more comfortable position. "And what's he up to? If he's not seeing another woman, the possibilities are endless."

"Please don't list them," Riley said.

She glanced at him. "I wasn't going to."

"One never knows with you."

She bristled. "Excuse me." she said, turning toward him as much as her seat belt would allow. "You don't know me at all. Your impressions and assumptions come from my actions when I was barely fourteen years old and whatever you picked up reading that stupid series of articles. Until yesterday you'd never had a conversation with me or spent any time in my presence."

"We talked when you threw yourself in front of my car and begged me to kill you if I was going to marry Pam."

She felt heat flare on her cheeks and was grateful for the darkness. "That wasn't a conversation. I talked, you got in your car and drove in the other direction."

"Good point. So you're saying I should give you a chance?"



Contest!


Susan Mallery wishes her readers a very Happy New Year!

She's giving away a copy of ACCIDENTALLY YOURS to five lucky winners. For a chance to win, please visit Susan's website and find the answer to the following question -

Susan recently finished writing the last book in 'what' series?

Email us with your answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address. Winners will be notified by email on January 4th, 2009. Good luck!

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