A merciless mission
There are three goals self-made magnate Flynn Marshall set out to achieve:
1. A multimillion-dollar business empire
2. Acceptance in the highest echelons of society
3. A wife to make him the envy of all men!
Flynn’s ruthlessly accomplished his first goal and he’s on his way to the second. As for the third, he will rush stunning, well-connected Ava Cavendish to the altar at the first opportunity. A trophy bride should complete his plans, but passionate Ava and the desire she inflames in this untouchable CEO threaten to turn his carefully ordered strategy on its head…Read an Excerpt Behind the Book
“Wonderful story fantastic love scenes and another keeper from Annie West.” ~ Dottie, Goodreads
“…the chemistry was perfect between Ava and Flynn, what starts out as a holiday romance, becomes a perfect happily ever after.” ~ Harlequin Junkie
“5/5 star review for a wonderful story of redemption.” ~ Helen, Contemporary Romance Reviews
“The Sinner’s Marriage Redemption is classic Annie West, full to the brim with unforgettable romance goodness. You won’t be able to put it down.” ~ Anna Campbell, author of A Scoundrel by Moonlight
‘I came for you.’ His voice brushed, soft as a summer breeze, across her sensitised skin.
‘Me?’ The word emerged from her constricted throat.
‘You.’ He leaned closer but didn’t touch her. He didn’t need to. That glowing look melted her resistance and incinerated her doubts. ‘I couldn’t stay away, Ava.’
‘But you had meetings-’
‘I dealt with the crisis in a day and rescheduled everything that wasn’t critical.’ When he looked at her that way she was tempted to think he shared her feelings. Her breath hitched.
‘One of the perks of being the boss?’ She kept her tone light. ‘Your secretary must love that.’
‘I’m a good employer.’ She heard pride in his voice. ‘And usually I’m easy to work with. I’ve never done this before.’
The air throbbed between them. Surely Flynn heard her heart pounding.
She swallowed, out of her depth. Carefree companionship teetered on the brink of something beyond her experience. Ava had played safe so long. She was torn between joy and fear at the prospect of stepping beyond her self-imposed boundaries.
‘You’ve never played hookey?’ She teased, her voice uneven. It was easier to pretend she hadn’t read his intense gaze. ‘I find that hard to believe.’
He shook his head, that glimmer of a smile telling her he understood what she was doing. No one apart from her brother, Rupert, read her so easily.
‘I’ve done my share of rule-breaking.’
Flynn’s defiance of the established order at Frayne Hall had been legend and a favourite cause of complaint for her father. He’d accused his tenants’ son of everything from poaching to disrespect and ‘being too bloody clever for his boots’.
To Ava, seven years younger, his exploits had taken on mythic proportions, like those of Robin Hood and Zorro and every other defiant rule breaker rolled into one. She’d applauded his audacity and mourned his absence when he’d moved away. She’d longed to follow in his footsteps and stand up to oppressive authority. Finally she had, but years of conformity had taken their toll.
‘But not now you’re a businessman.’ It had been a shock to discover the maverick was now a respected businessman, doing something conventional in the City.
‘I take calculated risks. But cancelling important appointments isn’t my style.’ The smile disappeared, his face suddenly serious. ‘Until now. Until you.’
The heat in his eyes seared her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.
‘But I’ll be back in London myself next week.’ Her voice was croaky and she couldn’t seem to get her breath.
Flynn shook his head. ‘I couldn’t wait that long.’
Ava’s pulse sprinted at what she read in his eyes. He took her hand, lifting it to his lips, his gaze never wavering from hers.
It was the first time he’d kissed her.
In Paris she’d wondered if he might, hoped he would. She’d berated herself for not taking the initiative to kiss him.
In the background she heard voices, the echo of footsteps, but they barely registered. Her senses focused on those hard, warm fingers enfolding hers and the press of surprisingly soft lips, sending ripples of pleasure up her arm.
Dark eyes glittered as he turned her hand over and pressed a kiss to her palm, turning the ripple into a floodtide of delight.
Dazed, she shook her head. She wasn’t a complete innocent. She’d dated, shared kisses. But she’d never experienced anything so flagrantly erotic.
They were fully clothed, in a public place, yet with that simple caress Flynn had reduced her to quivering neediness. Except she didn’t feel reduced. She felt buoyant, light as air, as if she’d swallowed sunshine.
‘You came for me,’ she whispered, afraid to believe it.
Despite her materially privileged upbringing, she’d never been made to feel special. To her father she’d been a commodity, not a person in her own right.
Flynn had cancelled a packed schedule to join her. No-one had done anything like it in her life – put her first. It filled her to the brim with stirring emotions.
‘I did come for you.’ Flynn’s lips traced the words across her palm, making her tremble as arousal stirred. ‘I told you I couldn’t stay away.’
Her fingers touched his cheek, threaded through his springy, short hair, revelling in the unique textures of him: the hardness of sculpted bone beneath taut flesh, the softness of his hair, his heat against her palm.
‘I missed you.’ With Flynn here her doubts seemed foolish. ‘I was afraid I wouldn’t see you again.’
He smiled, his expression so satisfied that for a moment it bordered on smug. But the impression was so fleeting she must have imagined it.
‘I missed you too, Ava. Our week in Paris wasn’t enough for me. I need more.’
Ava was still absorbing that when he bent, reaching for the floor. When he straightened he held the guidebook she hadn’t noticed she’d dropped.
Heat flushed her cheeks as she took it. She’d never been clumsy – if she had it had been drummed out of her. She was twenty four, competent, savvy and never bowled over by men, no matter how suave, especially if suave. Life had taught her to be wary, even suspicious.
Yet with Flynn it was as if she were seventeen again, klutzy and breathlessly awakening to romance.
A seventeen she’d never been. She tasted bitterness on her tongue. There’d been no room for romance or dreams then. Just harsh reality that had taught her good things came at a cost.
What was it about Flynn that cut through those hard-won lessons? The fact that he had nothing to gain from being with her? That he could have no ulterior motive? That his interest was in her, not as so often in the past, in who she’d been.
Because Flynn was genuine.
Because she’d known him forever.
Because he’d proved she could trust him. How could she not? He’d helped her on the worst night of her life.
‘Thank you.’ Ignoring the clinging shreds of caution that warned her to hold back, Ava smiled, letting her feelings show.
Flynn blinked then, swift as thought, moved in to grasp her arm, his touch deliciously possessive. ‘I was right to follow you to Prague.’ He paused, his expression making the blood hum in her veins. ‘Wasn’t I?’
For an instant she hesitated, unused to laying herself open. But these new feelings were too intense to ignore. Besides, wasn’t being with Flynn what she’d longed for?
‘Absolutely.’ She curled her fingers around his arm, staking a claim of her own. It felt good.
‘Seen enough here?’
Ava dragged her gaze from those velvety eyes, noticing for the first time the tourists casting them curious stares.
‘Yes.’ She dropped the guidebook into her tote bag and pressed close, revelling in the feel of beside her. She felt ready to follow him anywhere.
Moments later they retraced her route through the Vladislav Hall, so long and cavernous that in the old days knights had entertained the nobility here with indoor jousts. Ava smiled as they headed for the exit, imagining Flynn astride a warhorse. Strangely, the image came easily. With his determination and athleticism he’d be a force to be reckoned with in combat. More, he’d look wildly romantic with his sculpted, dark features and glowing gaze as he accepted a lady’s favour. Her favour.
She shook her head, dispelling the fantasy.
But nothing could dispel the heady sense that she’d left behind dull reality and entered a glorious new world to which Flynn held the key.
He drew her arm further through his, his smile melting her internal organs.
Did she have stars in her eyes? She didn’t care.
For the first time in her life Ava was in love. Completely, head-over-heels in love.
Flynn was everything she’d never dared dream of: understanding, charismatic, funny, sexy, gently teasing, considerate yet strong. Caring.
She’d spent years distrusting men’s motives. All her life, it seemed. But she knew Flynn. He’d never hurt her or play the heartless, manipulative games with which she’d grown up. He’d rescued her years before and never once tried to use her in any way.
Flynn was special. He always had been.
Why shouldn’t she, for the first time ever, let her emotions rule? Fling away caution and live the dream? Even if it was scary, letting go.
Ava was tired of allowing the shadows of the past to restrict her life.
As they left the old palace and emerged into the sunlight of the citadel Ava felt she was stepping into her own private fairy tale.
AUTHOR NOTE: Ava is yet to discover that Flynn isn’t quite what he seems!
Some time ago my editor asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for a collection that would be called the Seven Sexy Sins. It sounded terrific and of course I said yes, only later starting to worry about which sin I’d be asked to write. Think about it – some are definitely more challenging than others.
It turned out I was allotted Envy. Did you notice the touch of green on the cover of the North American edition? Then came the hard work of developing the story. The trouble with those sins is that none of them are appealing when taken to extreme, are they? It turned out, after much cogitation, that the idea that sprang into my head within the first half hour was my best.
Flynn is a hero afflicted with envy in a big way, but still I liked and admired him because I could understand why he was like that. Plus he wasn’t so wrapped up in envy that he deliberately set out to hurt anyone. On the contrary, Flynn is motivated by the need to keep himself and those he cares about safe. He wants the wealth, power and security his family had never experienced in order to protect them. The only trouble is that this driving force skews his logic, making him so tunnel-visioned he doesn’t see until it’s too late, that life isn’t so simple, and that he’s in danger of wrecking several lives, including his own. Fortunately Ava, is the perfect match for him. He got that absolutely right!
This book was partly inspired by a recent trip I took to Prague and I found myself writing Flynn and Ava’s holiday romance in that lovely city. I’ve included here photos of some of the places that feature in the story. I hope you enjoy these glimpses into the world of the book!