The Bargain is one of the first books I wrote when I finally got my act together and started writing romance fiction. I love the story so much that I hated to reach the end. My older daughter was my beta reader and she called me when she finished and said, “Mom, I actually cried at the end. I love this.”
But my skills were still raw and unpolished and the book needed a lot of work. Over time, as other books sold and great editors worked with me I went back again and again to this book, wanting to make it the very best. It’s a timeless love story, not new but told with a new twist and I still love reading it myself.
Lately reviewers are finding it again and the reviews have been fantastic. Whipped Cream Reviews had this to say: “This lovely and absorbing tale is both a vividly erotic steaming-hot read and a sentimental tear jerker. Ms. Holt writes sex scenes that scorch the ink off the pages.”
I hope if you haven’t read this book already you’ll find it at your favorite bookstore, online or bricks and mortar. It’s out in both print and ebook.
One lucky person today will win a copy of this book. Everyone else will be eligible to receive a set of my Romance Trading Cards. Be sure to leave a comment. And take time to read Tara and Cole’s story.
Tara McKee‘s life came to a crashing halt the night her husband was killed in a carjacking and she lost their unborn child. Now she channels all her energy into her job as assistant to Cole Cassidy, sexy CEO of Alamo Construction. Cole’s own life is a mess. A shotgun marriage based on a lie and the fiery death of his wife on the highway have left him with a child to raise that’s a constant reminder of his first wife’s lies and deceit. Both of them have written marriage out of their future.
But Cole desperately needs someone to mother the child and take charge of his personal life. When he proposes a marriage of convenience to Tara, who still yearns for motherhood, she shocks herself by accepting. And so these two people, carrying a van load of emotional baggage, begin to build a life together under almost impossible circumstances. Conflict builds over the child, whom Tara falls in love with at once and Cole ignores.
Beneath the daily conflict, love unexpectedly begins to grow. But at the moment they dare to explore their feelings, anger over the child erupts and the night turns into a disaster that nearly destroys the marriage. Slowly, bit by bit, they begin to re build their relationship, carefully nurturing these new feelings. But it takes another near-tragedy before they can finally get past the hurdles to complete happiness and truly become a family.
“Thank you.” She pushed away the remains of her coffee, suddenly losing her taste for the sweet drink and took a deep breath. “This is very nice, your compliments are wonderful, the dinner was great and I’m enjoying the evening. But I have no idea what’s on your mind. What’s going on here, Cole? What’s so important you had to ask me to dinner?”
Cole swallowed the last of his coffee and set his cup down with careful precision.
“You’re right. It’s time I got to it.”
Tara waited, forcing herself to sit quietly, even while her pulse began to accelerate. Something was definitely up, and something about Cole’s attitude unnerved her.
He cleared his throat again. “I know that you lost a child when your husband was killed, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
How the hell did he know that? It was carefully guarded information. I wanted a child, but not Mike’s. Not something I can tell a stranger.
“What I wondered…that is, I wanted to know…” He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “If the opportunity to have a child were presented to you, would you take it? Would it interest you?”
Tara stared at him. Now, she was really confused. What did this have to do with work?
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
The air between them was suddenly so thick a saw couldn’t have cut it.
Tara dropped her napkin on the table and pushed back her chair back. “I think I’d like to go home now.”
“Wait, please.” Cole reached across the table and placed his hand on her arm. “I’m doing this badly. Just hear me out, okay?”
She nodded but withdrew her arm, the heat of his hand searing her skin through the silk fabric of her blouse.
“You know I have a two-month-old infant,” he began. “I haven’t done very well with her since Maggie’s death. The circumstances are somewhat difficult.”
What could be so difficult about raising a child? she wondered. Not to mention the fact she had a hard time imagining this sexy as sin man with a child to begin with.
“My fault, nobody else’s,” he continued. “I can’t seem find a housekeeper, and my situation’s desperate.”
Tara frowned. “Did you want me to check out some agencies? Really, Cole, you didn’t have to take me to dinner to ask me that. I’d be happy to help.”
Cole shook his head. “No, that’s not it at all. I know people who’ve had really serious problems hiring through an agency. I don’t really trust strangers, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable having one live in my house. It hasn’t worked so far.”
“Cole, please. Enough. Just get to the point here.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t usually botch things this badly. Okay, here’s the deal.” He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Tara, I’m asking you to marry me.”
Tara stared at Cole, speechless. If he’d asked her to take off her clothes, she couldn’t have been more shocked. Of all the things she might have expected, this wasn’t even on the radar. Cold liquid dripping on her skirt startled her, and she realized she’d knocked over her water glass.