Read an Excerpt »
Buy Now »
Take Me There
At thirty-one, Kat Fallon’s luck with men shows no sign of improving. But when she asks her best friend Nav Bharani to be her date at her younger sister’s wedding in Vancouver, she has no idea that she’s about to get on board the most surprising ride of her life…
Nav has been secretly in love with Kat ever since he moved in next door. When she reveals that she loves taking train rides, especially the meeting-strangers part, Nav devises a plan to win Kat’s heart. On every leg of her trip to Vancouver, he shows up disguised as a different sexy stranger. Stunned by Nav’s daring, Kat finds herself succumbing to his inventive transformations. But what starts out as an innocent adventure soon becomes much more for Kat as she is forced to choose between her long-held fantasies of the perfect mate—and the prospect of something far more real…
Read an Excerpt
“What’s new with me? Only everything!” Nav Bharani’s neighbor Kat widened her chestnut brown eyes theatrically. She dropped her laundry basket in front of one of the half dozen washing machines in the basement laundry room of their apartment building, then hopped up on a dryer, clearly prioritizing gossip over chores.
Nav grinned and leaned back against his own washer, which was already churning his Saturday-morning laundry. “I saw you Wednesday night, Kat.” She’d taken him to one of her girlfriends’ to supply muscle, setting up a new bookcase and rearranging furniture. “Everything can’t have changed in two days.”
Though something major had happened in his own life yesterday. A breakthrough in his photography career. He was eager to tell Kat, but he’d listen to her news first.
She gave an eye roll. “Okay, almost everything. My baby sister’s suddenly getting married.”
Even in the crappy artificial light, with her reddish-brown curls a bed-head mess and pillow marks on one cheek, Kat was so damned pretty she made his heart ache.
“Merilee? I thought she and . . . what’s his name? always intended to marry.”
“Matt. Yeah, but they were talking next year, when they graduate from university. Now it’s, like, now.” She snapped her fingers.
“When’s now?” he asked.
“Two weeks, today. Can you believe it?” She shook her head vigorously. “So now I have to take a couple weeks off and go to Vancouver to help put together a wedding on virtually no notice. The timing sucks. June’s a really busy month at work.” She was the PR director at Le Cachet, a boutique luxury hotel in Old Montreal—a job that made full use of her creativity, organizational skills, and outgoing personality.
“Too bad they didn’t arrange their wedding to suit your workload,” he teased.
“Oops. Self-centered bitch?”
“Only a little.”
She sighed, her usual animation draining from her face. Lines of strain around her eyes and shadows under them told him she was upset about more than the inconvenience of taking time off work. Nav knew Kat well after two years. As well as she let anyone know her, and in every way but the one he wanted most: as her lover.
He dropped the teasing tone and touched her hand. “How do you feel about the wedding?”
“Thrilled to bits for Merilee. Of course.” Her answer was prompt, but she stared down at their hands rather than meeting his eyes.
Her head lifted, lips twisting. “Okay, I am happy for her, honestly, but I’m also green with envy. She’s ten years younger. It should be me.” She jumped to the floor, feet slapping the concrete like an exclamation mark.
That was what he’d guessed, as he knew she longed for marriage and kids. With someone other than him, unfortunately. But this wasn’t the time to dwell on his heartache. His best friend was hurting.
He tried to help her see this rationally. “Your sister’s been with this guy a long time, right?” Kat didn’t talk much about her family—he knew she had some issues—but he’d heard a few snippets.
“Since grade two. And they always said they wanted to get married.”
“So why keep waiting?”
She wrinkled her nose. “So I can do it first? Yeah, okay, that’s a sucky reason. But I’m thirty-one and I want marriage and kids as badly as she does.” She gave an exaggerated sniffle and then launched herself at him. “Damn, I need a hug.”
His arms came up, circling her body, cuddling her close.
This was vintage Kat. She had no patience for what she called “all that angsty, self-analytical, pop-psych crap.” If she was feeling crappy, she vented, then moved on.
Or so she said. Nav was dead certain it didn’t work that easily. Not that he was a shrink or anything, only a friend who cared.
Cared too much for his own sanity. Now, embracing her, he used every ounce of self-control to resist pulling her tighter. To try not to register the firm, warm curves under the soft fabric of her sweats. To fight the arousal she’d so easily awakened in him since they’d met.
Did she feel the way his heart raced or was she too absorbed in her own misery? Nav wished he was wearing more clothing than thin running shorts and his old Cambridge rugby jersey, but he’d come to the laundry room straight from an early run.
Feeling her warmth, smelling her sleep-tousled scent, he thought back to his first sight of her.
He’d been moving into the building, grubby in his oldest jeans and a T-shirt with the sleeves ripped out as he wrestled his meager belongings out of the rental truck and into the small apartment. The door beside his had opened and he’d paused, curious to see his neighbor.
A lovely young woman in a figure-hugging sundress stepped into the hall. His photographer’s eye had freeze-framed the moment. The tantalizing curves, the way the green of her dress complemented her auburn curls, the sparkle of interest in her brown eyes as they widened and she scanned him up and down.
As for the picture she saw—well, he must’ve made quite a sight with his bare arms hugging a tall pole lamp and a sandalwood statue of Ganesh, the elephant god. Nani, his mum’s mother, had given him the figure when he was a kid, saying it would bless his living space.
The woman in the hallway gave him a bright smile. “Bonjour, mon nouveau voisin,” she greeted him as her new neighbor. “Bienvenue. Je m’appelle Kat Fallon.”
Her name and the way she pronounced it told him that, despite her excellent Québécois accent, she was a native English speaker like Nav. He replied in that language. “Pleased to meet you, Kat. I’m Nav Bharani.”
“Ooh, nice accent.”
“Thanks.” He’d grown up in England and had only been in Canada two years, mostly speaking French, so his English accent was pretty much intact.
His neighbor stretched out a hand, seeming not to care that the one he freed up in return was less than clean.
He felt a connection, a warm jolt of recognition that was sexual but way more than just that. A jolt that made him gaze at her face, memorizing every attractive feature and knowing, in his soul, that this woman was going to be important in his life.
He’d felt something similar when he’d unwrapped his first camera on his tenth birthday. A sense of revelation and certainty.
Already today, Ganesh had brought him luck.
Kat felt something special, too. He could tell by the flush that tinged her cheekbones, the way her hand lingered before separating from his. “Have you just moved from England, Nav?”
“No, I’ve been studying photography in Quebec City for a couple years, at Université Laval. Just graduated, and I thought I’d find more . . . opportunities in Montreal.” He put deliberate emphasis on the word “opportunities,” wondering if she’d respond to the hint of flirtation.
A grin hovered at the corners of her mouth. “Montreal is full of opportunity.”
“When you wake up in the morning, you never know what the day will bring?”
She gave a rich chuckle. “Some days are better than others.” Then she glanced at the elephant statue. “Who’s your roommate?”
“Ganesh. Among other things, he’s the Lord of Beginnings.” Nav felt exhilarated, sensing that this light flirtation was the beginning of something special.
“Beginnings. Well, how about that.”
“Some people believe that if you stroke his trunk, he’ll bring you luck.”
“Really?” Her hand lifted, then the elevator dinged and they both glanced toward it.
A man stepped out and strode toward them with a dazzlingly white smile. Tall and striking, he had strong features, highlighted hair that had been styled with a handful of product, and clothes that screamed, “I care way too much about how I look, and I have the money to indulge myself.”
“Hey, babe,” he said in English. He bent down to press a quick, hard kiss to Kat’s lips, then, arm around her waist, glanced at Nav. “New neighbor?”
Well shit, she had a boyfriend. So, she hadn’t been flirting?
Her cheeks flushed lightly. “Yes, Nav Bharani. And this is Jase Jackson.” She glanced at the toothpaste commercial guy with an expression that was almost awestruck. “Nav, you’ve probably heard of Jase—he’s one of the stars of Back Streets.” She named a gritty Canadian TV drama filmed in Ontario and Quebec. Nav had caught an episode or two, but it hadn’t hooked him, and he didn’t remember the actor.
“Hey, man,” Jase said, tightening his hold on Kat. Marking his territory.
“Jase,” Kat said, “would you mind getting a bottle of water from my fridge? It’s going to be hot out there.”
When the other man had gone into the apartment, Nav said, “So, you two are…?”
“A couple.” Her dreamy gaze had followed the other man. “I’m crazy about him. He’s amazing.”
Well, hell. Despite that initial awareness between them, she hadn’t been flirting, only being friendly to a new neighbor. So much for his sense of certainty. The woman was in love with someone else.
Nav, who could be a tiger on the rugby field but was pretty easygoing otherwise, had felt a primitive urge to punch out Actor Guy’s lights.
Now, in the drab laundry room, hearing Kat sigh against his chest, he almost wished he’d done it. That rash act might have changed the dynamic between him and Kat.
Instead he’d accepted that she would, at most, be a friend and had concentrated on getting settled in his new home.
He’d just returned from a visit to New Delhi and a fight with his parents, who’d moved back to India when his dad’s father died last year. In their eyes, he’d been a traitor when he’d rejected the business career they’d groomed him for and moved to Quebec City to study photography. Now that he’d graduated, his parents said it was time their only child got over his foolishness. He should take up a management role in the family company, either in New Delhi or London, and agree to an arranged marriage.
He’d said no on all counts and stuck to his guns about moving to Montreal to build a photography career.
Once there, he had started to check out work opportunities and begun to meet people. But he’d moved too slowly for Kat, at least when it came to making friends. She’d figured he was shy, taken him under her wing, kick-started his social life. Enjoying her company—besides, who could resist the driving force of a determined Kat Fallon?—he’d gone along.
But even as he dated other women, his feelings for Kat grew. He’d known it was futile. Though her relationship with Jase broke up, and she ogled Nav’s muscles when he fixed her plumbing or helped her paint her apartment, she went for men like Actor Guy. Larger than life—at least on the surface. Often, they proved to be men who were more flash than substance, whose love affair was with their own ego, not their current girlfriend.
No way was Nav that kind of man. In the past, growing up in England with wealthy, successful, status-oriented parents, he’d had his fill of people like that.
Though Kat fell for other men, she’d become Nav’s good buddy. The couple times he’d put the moves on her when she’d been between guys, she’d turned him down flat. She said he was a really good friend and she valued their friendship too much to risk losing it. Even though he sometimes saw the spark of attraction in her eyes, she refused to even acknowledge it, much less give in to it.
Now, standing with every luscious, tempting inch of her wrapped in his arms, he wondered if there was any hope that one day she’d blink those big brown eyes and realize the man she’d been looking for all her life was right next door.
She gave a gusty sigh and then pushed herself away. She stared up at him, but no, there was no moment of blinding revelation. Just a sniffle, a self-deprecating smile. “Okay,” she said. “Five minutes is enough self-pity. Thanks for indulging me, Nav.”
She turned away and opened two washing machines. Into one she tossed jeans and T-shirts. Into the other went tank tops, silky camisoles, lacy bras, brief panties, and thongs.
A gentleman would never imagine his friend and neighbor in a matching bright pink bra and panties, or a black lace thong.
Nor would he fantasize about having hot laundry-room sex with her.
Glad that the loose running shorts and rugby shirt disguised his growing erection, he refocused on Kat’s news. “So you’re off to Vancouver.” That was where she’d grown up, and where her youngest sister lived with their parents. “When are you leaving? Are you taking the train?” She hated to fly.
She flicked both washers on, then turned to him. “I plan to leave Monday. And yes, definitely the train. It’s a great trip and I always meet fascinating people. It’ll take my mind off my shitty love life.”
“No problem getting time off?”
“My boss gave me major flack for leaving in June and not giving notice. Gee, you’d think I was indispensable.” She flashed a grin, and this one did sparkle her eyes.
“I’m sure you are.” He said it teasingly, but knew she was usually the center of the crowd, be it in her social life or at work.
“We sorted it out. My assistant can handle things. But it’s going to be a crazy weekend. There’s tons to organize at work, as well as laundry, dry cleaning, packing.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“Could you look after the plants while I’m gone?”
“No problem.” He’d done it before, along with playing home handyman for her and her friends. She in turn sewed on buttons, made the best Italian food he’d ever tasted—she’d once dated a five-star chef—and shared popcorn and old movies.
“Thanks. You’re a doll, Nav.”
A doll. Also known as a wimp. As one of his friends said, he was stuck in the buddy trap.
Brushing away the depressing thought, he remembered his good news. “Hey, I have exciting news, too.”
“Cool. Tell all.”
“You know the Galerie Beau Soleil?”
“Yeah. Ritzy. Le Cachet buys art there.”