SECOND CHANCES
by Catherine Snodgrass
Romantic Suspense
January 2004
Amber Quill Press
ISBN: 1-59279-192-1 (Electronic)
ISBN: 1-59279-869-1 (Paperback)

Love and relationship are the last things federal agent Donovan McCormick wants. His first marriage ended when his wife and child were killed because he refused to turn over the man he was protecting. He refuses to put another woman, another love in jeopardy. Love is also the lowest priority on Corey Nichols's list. In fact, it isn't even on her list. She was burned once before when the man she loved used her for his own sick gain. No more. Now Donovan and Corey have stepped into each other's circles. Do they give love a second chance or shove aside these burning emotions? Or will giving love a second chance also mean giving a murderer a second chance at revenge?

To read an excerpt of this book, click here


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~ Reviews ~

Blue Ribbon Rating: 5!!! With an intense and engaging story line SECOND CHANCES was nonstop action from beginning to end. There are twists and turns at every corner and you never know who to trust. Catherine Snodgrass has done a great job in creating this romantic suspense that is sure to grab any readers attention. Dina Smith, Romance Junkies

4-1/2 ROSES!!! Intrigues the reader from the very start. The plot has numerous twists and turns that keep the reader interested. However, the best thing about this book is the wonderful testament to love it makes; the characters in this book never give up on each other and stick together even when things appear hopeless. I truly believe it is this sentiment that makes a wonderful love story. Jen, A Romance Review

FOUR HEARTS!!! Full of suspense and action. A wonderful romantic suspense, and more than worth a read by anyone. Tara Black, The Romance Studio

FIVE ROSES!!! Filled with passion, murder, betrayal and suspense, it will grip the reader in the edge of their seats, as this reviewer was. Two words for this romantic suspense and Catherine Snodgrass's creative mind are WOW and AWESOME. Once again, she has created a book worth treasuring like so many of her previous titles. Melinda, Love Romances

4 ANGELS!!! a suspenseful story full of twists and turns. Catherine Snodgrass deftly weaves threads of suspense, romance, family, friendships and tragedy to skilfully create a thoroughly entertaining story. ~Jane, Fallen Angels Reviews

A good way to escape reality for a while. Fans of romantic suspense will enjoy the latest effort from Ms. Snodgrass. ~Denise Powers, Sensual Romance Reviews

A multifaceted story with so many sides the reader will not get bored. I really liked the story and would recommend it to other readers. The main problem I have with the book is that I feel some subject matters require more time and sensitivity than they receive. ~Jennifer Ray for Road to Romance

EXCERPT

Cori Nichols stared into dancing flames of red and gold. The perfect end to a perfect Christmas Day. When she’d arrived at her mother’s house the evening before, she feared the constant presence of federal agents would put a damper on the holiday. They didn’t. In fact, the six of them blended in quite nicely—just like one of the family.

She tucked her toes under her gray wool skirt and settled more comfortably on the carpet before the fireplace. But they weren’t family. These men weren’t even friends, although her mother and Angelo treated them like they were. These six men were here for a purpose—to protect Angelo until he could testify in federal court against his father.

Cori swirled her wine around her glass, watching the chardonnay reflect the fire. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t resent this intrusion into her mother’s life. But Angelo was nice enough. He made her mother happy and that’s all Cori cared about.

Okay, so that was a lie. Cori cared plenty. The last person she wanted her mother involved with was the son of Carlo Torrelli. True, Angelo was nothing like his syndicate father and that’s what made Cori accept him in the first place. But now her mother was in danger and that wasn’t all right. All the security in the world, all the federal agents in the world wouldn’t make her change her mind. And there wasn’t a damn thing Cori could do about it. Her mother was her mother—the famous and infamous Kitty Dupree, award-winning actress. Head strong, heart of gold, friend to anybody and everybody, and fully deserving of the love Angelo gave, even if it meant her life.

"Oh, Mother…what am I going to do with you?"

"Ever wonder how many times our parents said that about us?"

Glass perched halfway to her lips, Cori glanced over her shoulder even though the man’s voice would be etched in her memory for a long time to come.

"Are you implying I was less than angelic as a child?" she asked, smiling.

Donovan McCormick’s answering smile lit his eyes. Cori forced herself to sip her wine rather than gulp it. He’d caught her attention the second she’d burst into the house the day before. No doubt she’d caught his, too, since he always seemed to be close by. His smile, wit, and charm had wormed their way under her skin.

Cori had his features memorized. The way his dark brown hair obeyed the mere flick of his fingers and fell into place. The light behind his hazel eyes when he laughed. That hint of a cleft in his chin, ready to nestle an inquisitive index finger or exploring tongue.

She shook the image away too late. Try as she might to blame the wine, Cori knew the liquid warmth spreading through her body came from his nearness.

"Mind if I join you in a glass of wine?"

"Do you think we’ll both fit?"

"Ouch, bad pun. But I set myself up so I’ll give it to you." Laughing, he walked to the bar to retrieve the bottle of chardonnay and another glass.

"Aren’t you on duty?"

Cori studied his rear end and the way his gray trousers fell. His waist lined up exactly and she bet if she could strip that burgundy velour shirt off him, she’d find a washboard stomach. His shoulders flared out, hinting at muscles and strength and power. A perfect "Y" shape, absolutely perfect.

"Someone else has the watch for now. The rest of the night is mine."

He turned toward her. Unbidden, her gaze fell to his crotch. Any doubts she might have about his interest in her vanished. He was quite a…handful. Cori’s blood pulsed in anticipation. Common sense pushed past lust. She barely knew the man. Where was her caution?

Cori nudged it aside. How long had it been since she’d had sex? Two, three years? She was due a little fling, a little something to ease those pent up tensions that no amount of self-love could satisfy. He was here, safely ensconced in her mother’s house until this case was complete. She’d return to San Diego tomorrow and they’d never have to worry about messing each other’s lives up. Besides, he was a federal agent. Liaisons were probably just his style.

Donovan forced himself to walk across the room, not run. He’d thought there was a spark between them the instant they met. Judging from the way her gaze wandered over him, he wasn’t wrong. Her lusty perusal added to his discomfort, threatening to burst the zipper on his fly. That he could deal with, but if she didn’t quit running her tongue over the rim of her glass, he’d lose it before he got close to her. And to think a month ago he’d cursed the assignment.

His gaze wandered to the painting of Cori that hung in Kitty’s library. Commissioned on her sixteenth birthday ten years ago, each brush stroke showed the beautiful promise of the woman to be.

Since his arrival in early December, Donovan had spent hours staring at it trying to envision what Cori, the woman, would look like. In the portrait she wore an off-the-shoulder gown of white and her tanned skin glowed, as did the mass of dark blonde hair that fell about her shoulders. Her blue-gray eyes sparkled with humor. The artist had captured her on the brink of laughter. One second in time that forever sparked Donovan’s curiosity and a constant need to look at her—a habit his friend and fellow agent, Matt Carlson, didn’t hesitate to tease him about.

Each time he’d catch Donovan staring at the portrait, he’d accuse him of falling in love with it. Donovan laughed it off. How could someone fall in love with a picture? Still, he had to admit he was infatuated.

Then infatuation became reality and Donovan was hooked. She burst into Kitty’s house dressed in shorts that showed off her tanned, shapely, long legs and an oversized University of California San Diego sweatshirt that drove a man to distraction trying to figure out what was beneath. Cori bounced by him with a dazzling smile while she announced her arrival with a shout that rattled the crystal. He’d been following her around like a puppy dog ever since.

He shifted his attention back her way. He loved the way her long blonde hair drifted down her back and around her neck, not straight, not curly. One strand curled around her breast begging to be moved aside. The firelight caught the gold in her hair, the light in her eyes, highlighted the heat of her skin, and glinted off the tiny pearl buttons keeping her burgundy sweater closed.

Those buttons drove him to distraction all day, especially the top one that refused to stay closed. Cori was constantly slipping it back into place. It was open again, giving him a glimpse of cleavage. She reached to button it then stopped. Her fingers brushed her hair away, clipping the second button free. It was enough to drive a man insane.

Donovan stretched out on the floor behind her, curling his body partially around hers. Smiling, Cori turned into him using his thighs as a back rest.

"More?" He lifted the bottle.

Cori slowly shook her head. "I’m fine for now."

She watched the liquid fill his glass, the way he set the bottle onto the table with barely a move, and his long fingers as they cradled the glass. He traced the bowl with his thumb and Cori imagined that caress against her bare breast. A shiver raced through her.

"Cold?" he asked, lifting his eyebrow ever so slightly.

Smart-ass. He knew what he was doing to her. She took a sip and let a smile lift her lips. "With the fire on one side and you on the other, how could I be?"

A chuckle rumbled deep in his chest. "You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?"

Her smile widened. How could any woman not want this man? "What makes you say that?"

"Oh…I think you know."

He danced his forefinger up her buttons until he reached the open space. There he lingered, dancing circles gently into her cleavage before tracing the edge of her black lace bra. His fingers brushed her nipple. It peaked to a tight little bud. Then he gently raked his hand into her hair.

Cori met him halfway, parting her lips for his kiss. He nipped at each corner of her mouth then each lip, easing his way to what Cori was all too willing to give. Still he went no further.

She broke contact, pressing her forehead against his. "We…we’ve forgotten our wine."

Donovan moved away a fraction of an inch. "So we have." He took a sip as she did. The flavor was lost on her now.

She missed the rim and a drop splashed against her chin. Donovan caught it on the tip of his finger, paused, then drew it to her mouth. Cori wrapped her tongue around the digit and sucked it in. Closing her eyes on a sigh, she laved circles around his finger.

"You know you’re killing me," he said in a raspy tone and slowly pulled free.

Cori nuzzled her mouth into his. Donovan slipped between her open lips and deepened the kiss, twining his tongue around hers until Cori was breathless. His arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her down beside him. She was conscious of him taking her wine, the clink of glass as he set it beside the bottle, and the heat pouring off his body surrounding hers.

A cool droplet touched her throat. Her eyes flashed open as he pulled his lips away and lapped his way downward. Wine… He’d put wine on her. Another drop to the well of her throat. She pressed her lips tight against a cry as he traced circles to it.

Donovan shifted and ran his fingers down the front of her sweater. Buttons fell open at his bequest. Braced on one elbow, he lifted his glass and poured.

Cori gasped as the drops hit her chest and drifted into the valley between her breasts. He caught them on his tongue before they traveled further, dancing along the edges of her bra until little cries escaped from her throat.

There was a tug at her waist, the soft sigh of her zipper, and her skirt slipped down her legs. Cori kicked it to one side and shrugged her sweater off her shoulders. In a snap he freed her bra hooks and closed his mouth over her nipple.

Cori clutched his head to her bosom and wrapped one leg around his waist. Nothing could be as sweet as this. He cupped her other breast and teased that nipple to a tight peak. Cori balled the back of his shirt in her fist and pulled it over his head.

He leaned back long enough to add it to the growing pile of clothes. Firelight cast shadows on the planes of his chest. Cori molded her hands to his pecs, reveling in the sigh she drew from him. She dared to go further, lower, raking her short nails down to the waistband of his trousers before pulling open the button there. She hesitated, then eased the zipper down.

Donovan caught her wrist and drew it to his lips. He dropped a line of kisses down her arm, brushed her breasts, then aimed for her navel. His fingers breached the elastic around her panties, easing them down and off her legs, only to travel a lazy circuit up her inner thighs. His lips moved lower. His destination was clear.

Cori wanted to protest that it was too soon, that she didn’t do this the first time. She didn’t do this ever. But the feeling was too sweet, too forbidden to ignore. With the first brush of his tongue, she arched herself to him and tossed back her head.

Donovan fought for control, for the patience to wait and give her this. If she only knew how beautiful, how damned sexy she looked there. He buried himself in her sweetness, tracing each hidden fold over and over while those soft sounds drove him crazy. He felt her heat, her tension, and longed to feel that power wrap around him. He struggled out of his trousers, fumbled with a condom, and nipped at that tiny bud.

A cry caught in her throat. She shuddered beneath his lips as the orgasm overcame her, then clutched at his shoulders, pulling him to her. Donovan slid up her body, sealing them in one hard plunge. She rocked beneath him, urging him on with each twitch of her pelvis.

"Don’t hold back. Give it to me," she gasped.

He seated himself hard, then again and again. She gave as good as he, rearing up with each thrust, opening herself to him. Donovan let passion take him.

She wiggled her hips to him, ripping away the last of his defenses. He felt her tense once more and tried to hold out. Muscles rippled beneath him, around him, pulling him to the point of no return.

Cori opened her eyes to slits and watched the moment wash over Donovan. Agony, pleasure, rapture passed over his features in the space of seconds. It captured everything perfectly.

But there was one thing she was certain of. This was no fling. This was the beginning of a full blown relationship. And all Cori wanted to do was run the other way.

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