An RT Book Reviews Top Pick
In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.
Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.
Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.
Flirting with Disaster is the third book in the Camelot Series.
448 pp. Ebook ISBN: 978-0-345-54170-3. Pbk ISBN: 978-0-345-54666-1.
Publication date: June 10, 2013.
“You have never met a romance hero quite like Sean Owens. This fascinating man is smart, strong, dedicated, and he also struggles with a severe speech disorder. Crafting a heroine to match this incredible character must have been a challenge, but Knox doesn’t disappoint. Katie is open, honest, and just plain lovable. The spark between these two is electrifying. Add to that the author’s trademark one-liners and laugh-out-loud dialogue, and contemporary romance doesn’t get any better than this!”
—RT Book Reviews, 4.5-star review and Top Pick
“Emotionally rich . . . I was super impressed with this installment of Camelot, the characters, plot and subject matter, and wished I could have had many more pages.”
—Heroes and Heartbreakers
“Fresh and hilarious . . . sweet and sexy.”
—All About Romance, B+ review
“Probably the best of the Camelot series so far. Here is another wonderful male lead to sigh over, and an everywoman the reader can identify and empathize with. There is also the trademark witty banter and the sizzling love scenes which Ruthie Knox is known for. Add to that a chance to revisit with couples from the past stories, and this book is a winner.”
“A well written story with characters that are beautifully flawed making them believable and relatable. Add to that a completely engaging plot including all the characters from the previous books and this is the perfect ending to the Camelot series.”
—Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, 5-star review
“A great push and pull dynamic between the two that keeps the reader engaged and smiling the whole time. . . . Knox’s characters are not perfect nor do they ride off into the sunset without a care in the world but the journey to their inevitable love is both authentic and satisfying and that’s what keeps me craving more of her work.”
—Fiction Vixen, B+ dual review
Read the first chapter!
“Yes,” Katie said, gripping the steering wheel harder. “Uh-huh, yes, I get it.” She glanced in the rearview mirror, signaled left, and changed lanes. The traffic was getting thicker as they approached Louisville.
Her brother kept talking, his voice robbed of its customary power by the cheap speakers of her cell phone, which sat in a cup-holder mount and broadcast Caleb’s warnings upward at her head. “If you have the slightest indication that there’s danger attached to this threat, you’re going to call me, and—”
“Yesssssss,” she droned.
The drama was wasted on Caleb, who was going to give her this lecture for the seventeenth time whether she wanted to hear it or not.
It was wasted on Katie’s traveling companion, too. Sean didn’t react to anything she did. Ever.
Katie glanced at the man in the passenger seat of her Jetta, just to be sure. His expression as he stared out the windshield matched the bleak, featureless expanse of southbound I-71. He was like a human wall of granite, completely impervious to everything about her.
A stern, gorgeous cliff face.
Suppressing a sigh, she tuned back in to Caleb’s speech. “—you to be in charge of anything along those lines, Sean. This is a trial run for Katie. I’m only letting her go because Judah insists she’s the one he wants to work with. You got that, Katie? It’s Sean’s show. I need you to play nice and stay out of his way.”
“Yes,” she confirmed. “I know the deal. I agreed to the deal. I am on board with the deal. Now can we stop talking about it, please?”
She flinched at the way her voice came out, sharper than she’d meant to sound. It was only because she was nervous about this trip. Her palms had gone clammy and slimed the leather wheel cover, so uncomfortable did it make her to venture into an unknown city to do an unfamiliar job with a man who didn’t like her.
She had a tendency to bristle when nervous.
One more bad habit she needed to make an effort to tame. Better to be professional. What Katie really needed to figure out was how to act cool and icy like some kind of Bond Girl assassin, slinking around and poisoning people by slipping strychnine into their drinks.
Except without the poisoning. Her goal was to win herself a promotion from office manager to agent for Caleb’s security company, not to become an assassin. Not unless her ex-husband strolled into town needing assassinating.
“We’ll stop talking about it when I’m positive you’re going to cooperate,” Caleb said. “Right now, you sound like you’re blowing smoke up my ass.”
“I’m not,” she replied levelly. “I promise. I understand that this is your company and Sean’s assignment, and I’m just a companion on this trip. I promise I’ll be quiet and helpful and learn things, okay?”
“I need you to be safe.”
She made a face, then immediately regretted it. Wrinkling her nose and pursing her lips in response to Caleb’s babying only proved she deserved to be babied. Not the way she wanted Sean to see her.
She flicked another glance in his direction. If he saw her at all, he gave no sign. Infuriating man.
“I’m safe,” she said.
“I care about you, Katelet.”
“I know you do,” she replied. “I care about you, too.”
“And it’s only because I care about you that I’m going to say this again . . .”
Katie tapped her fingertips against the steering wheel and stopped listening.
She understood his worry. Ever since she’d confessed that she was married and needed to locate her spouse so she could get divorced, Caleb had become all concerned and brotherly. She kept waiting for him to go back to the way he’d been before, but so far, no luck.
Five years older than her, her brother was a born nice guy who had spent most of his adulthood in the Military Police before moving home a year ago to help take care of their parents after their dad had a stroke. Katie had been living in his house rent-free at the time, working as a bartender nights and spending her days in elastic-waist pants, moping and watching daytime TV. Her husband, Levi, had cleaned her out and dropped her like a bad habit, but she’d been the one to let it get to her. She’d practically regressed to adolescence by the time Caleb pulled her out of her self-pity slump.
He gave her a job running the office of his new company, Camelot Security, and after the first month or so, Katie had started to feel useful again. Competent. She’d discovered her life wasn’t over just because her marriage was, and that she actually wanted to do something with it.
Caleb was also the one who’d encouraged her to enroll in a couple of online classes. He’d even appointed himself her personal trainer, helping her whip her body into its best shape in years.
He was a great brother, but Katie was done with the coddling. She’d turned over a new leaf. He needed to get with the program.
“Sean, are you hearing all this?” he asked.
Sean nodded. He was invisible to Caleb, but the two of them apparently had a man-telepathy thing going, because Caleb said, “Great. Give me a call after you’ve talked to Pratt. I want to hear the details of these threats he’s supposedly getting. And if you can, find out why he’s brought this case to us instead of giving it to his security team from Palmerston, because—”
“Caleb,” Katie interrupted.
“Give it a rest.”
“We’ve been over this and over this. Sean gets it. I get it. We’ll call you. Now let us do the job.”
Her brother exhaled explosively, which made Katie smile a little. “Aren’t you supposed to be taking today off?” she asked. “Go home and help Ellen with wedding arrangements or something.”
Caleb and Ellen had met on a job and gotten engaged about six minutes later. He pretty much lived over at her place now, and he’d become more of a father to her son, Henry, than the two-year-old’s real father ever had.
“God, no. She won’t let me near any of the wedding stuff. But I did tell Henry I’d take him to the hardware store.”
“So why aren’t you doing that?”
Katie spotted an exit and swerved to take it, weaving nimbly through three lanes of traffic. The gas tank was getting low.
“I’ve got payroll to figure out first.”
She caught herself right before the words left her mouth. I can do that when I get back.
It was the kind of thing a self-sacrificing doormat would say, not a slick professional. A decade of specializing in being a doormat had left her rumpled and ground down, with boot prints on her forehead.
Time to stop jumping to the rescue.
“You should hire somebody else to do payroll, now that I have a new job,” she said instead.
At the end of the off ramp she turned—a little too fast, perhaps, because she got distracted by the fact that Sean was looking directly at her. Somehow he made looking look like not-looking. Like he could see her, but he couldn’t be bothered to see her.
How was she supposed to concentrate on Caleb talking about payroll when Sean was not-looking at her that way?
She didn’t know what the guy’s deal was. It seemed as if he didn’t approve of her—though what it was about her he disliked, she had no idea. Her personality, her being on the job, her existence?
Sean had been working for her brother since the summer, and in that time he and Caleb had grown thick as thieves. He spent hours every week in Caleb’s office, a solid panel of pine muffling the mingled sound of their voices as they bent their heads over some obscure security challenge and Katie tried to get her work done at the reception desk a few feet away.
Then he would come out, fix her with that blue stare, nod like a robot, and leave.
She’d tried being nice to him, reminding him they’d gone to high school together and sat by each other in Algebra II and Trig. She’d tried ignoring him. She’d tried glaring at him and even, one embarrassing day, flirting with him. Nothing made a difference.
He didn’t speak to her. Not at all, not ever, not under any circumstances. It was extremely weird, and it drove her nuts.
Caleb was way too casual about it.
Don’t send me to Louisville with him, she’d begged. He hates me.
No, he doesn’t, Caleb had said. I’m positive he doesn’t hate you. You two just need to work it out between you.
She didn’t know how to work it out, but she refused to let Sean get to her. This job was the big chance she’d been waiting for—her opportunity to get out of Camelot and see new places, rub elbows with interesting people, become somebody independent of Levi and Caleb. Her own somebody.
Judah Pratt saw her potential. The singer-songwriter had asked for her specifically. And okay, yes, maybe Judah’s interest in her was largely carnal, but an opportunity was an opportunity. She’d only been in his Chicago apartment for half an hour when it arrived: he’d announced that he would hire Camelot Security, but only if he could have Katie.
He’d said it just like that, too. Only if I can have Katie. A week later, the memory retained the power to send shivers skittering up her spine.
Or it usually did. It was a little hard to get swept up in her Judah fantasies with Sean sitting next to her, emanating stony disapproval of . . . something. Her being assigned to work with him. The way she breathed. Her boots. Who knew?
“Katie?” Caleb interrupted her reverie.
“Are you even listening to me?”
“Sure.” She rewound her brain, hoping to locate some phantom memory of what he’d said when she wasn’t paying attention. Nada. “What did you say?”
“When did you stop listening?”
“Never mind. The upshot is, you’ve still got your old job when you come back.”
“Yeah, but after I completely blow your socks off, you’ll need someone else to do my old job.”
“Please don’t try to blow my socks off. Be safe.”
“Right, right.” She turned into the gas station. “I’ve got to go.”
“One last thing.”
“I want you to keep your distance from Pratt.”
“No, I’m serious. Sean, I need your help here. Keep the guy away from my sister. I don’t trust him not to take advantage.”
Katie pulled to a stop beside a pump, her blood boiling. There was overprotective, and then there was stifling. She loved Caleb and all, but she wasn’t about to let him smother her to death.
Sean had turned to look at her. He had the most astonishing eyes. Dark, dark blue, with thunderstorms in them.
She lifted her chin. “That isn’t necessary,” she told Caleb.
“I think it is.”
“No, it isn’t. If Judah wants to take advantage of me, I’m all for it.”
“Katie,” Caleb said, a note of warning in his voice.
“Stop. You don’t want to have this conversation any more than I do, so just drop it, okay?”
Sean got out of the car. Katie watched him go, uneasy but resolved. It was hard enough to defeat her own internal censor. She didn’t need two men dog-piling on to judge her ability to make decisions about her own freaking sex life.
Not that she had a sex life.
“Believe me, I would love to drop it,” Caleb said. “But I don’t think I can.”
“Try. I’m a grown woman. I have condoms. I think I’ve got this under control.”
Sean tapped on the passenger-side window and pointed toward the gas tank. Katie popped the fuel door for him, and he swept one open palm in the direction of the gasoline options. “The cheap stuff,” she said, loud enough for him to hear her through the window. He nodded and turned his back on her.
“I don’t imagine you care,” Caleb said carefully, “but I think your sleeping with Judah is a bad idea.”
Now that was just unfair. Six months ago, Caleb had asked Katie if she thought it would be unethical for him to get involved with a client. She’d thought about it and told him no—that it depended on the situation, and in the situation he and Ellen had been in, it was fine.
She’d come to the same conclusion about this Judah job. It would be one thing if Judah were traumatized by fear, quaking in his boots and relying on Katie to keep him safe, but that just wasn’t the case. She was along for the ride. Why not make the ride a little more enjoyable—especially when Judah had made his interest in climbing aboard more than clear?
Maybe it wouldn’t be the smartest move of her life, or the most romantic, but “romantic” wasn’t what Katie was looking for from Judah. If she had to pick one adjective to describe what she was looking for, it would be “torrid.”
Or “inadvisable.” She’d never had inadvisable sex before. She’d had Levi, the high school sweetheart who’d given her every single one of her firsts: first kiss, first sex, first orgasm, first wedding, first abandonment, first divorce.
Considering that Levi had walked out on her almost two years ago—two long, transformative, sexless years—and the ink had finally dried on her divorce papers a few weeks ago, “torrid and inadvisable” sounded like just the ticket. Katie wanted to throw herself headlong into new experiences, skate the edge of recklessness, flirt with disaster.
All while behaving safely and responsibly, of course. No need to get Caleb’s panties in a twist.
Her brother was silent. He seemed to be waiting for a reply to a question she wasn’t sure she’d heard him ask. She tried out another “Mmm-hmm.”
“I didn’t even like the guy,” he said.
“I noticed that.”
“You can do better.”
Judah had unruly black curls and huge, dark eyes. He had a low, sexy voice that she loved to listen to when she was tired, lonely, and in need of a glass of wine.
And maybe it was starry-eyed of her, but she felt as though she already knew him from his music. When he’d said he wanted her on the case, she’d hoped it was because he shared that feeling of familiarity, and their deep, instant connection would lead to awesome conversation and multiple orgasms.
But really, she’d settle for a less-than-mystical experience if it meant she finally got some action.
“I don’t think I want to do better,” she said.
“Fine.” Caleb sounded resigned. “I’ll stay out of it. But I’m going on record as strongly disapproving.”
The gas pump shut off with a hollow mechanical thump, and Sean turned to the machine to wait for a receipt, shoulders hunched against the January chill. The wind ruffled his short blond hair and turned the tips of his ears red. He had to be freezing his ass off out there.
Katie was hoping Louisville would be warmer than Camelot had been lately. It was only a four-hour drive, but Kentucky was the South, right? Gray skies and freezing rain had been haunting central Ohio for so long, she could hardly remember what the sun looked like.
All week, she’d been dreaming of Kentucky bluegrass. Totally unrealistic, given the time of year and the fact that she was about to spend the weekend in some dank, beer-piss-smelling nightclub, but she couldn’t turn the daydreaming off. Her mind had a mind of its own.
“Let me talk to Owens,” Caleb said.
“None of your business.”
“Is it about work or my personal life?”
“Also none of your business.” His voice had gone all clipped. She wasn’t getting anything else out of him. She tried anyway. “C’mon, Caleb. It’s my phone.”
“Put him on.”
“Yeah, fine. Okay.” She jimmied the phone out of its cradle and leaned way over to open the passenger-side door a crack. “Caleb wants to talk to you.”
Sean took the phone, and she closed the door, not wanting any more cold air to get into her toasty car than necessary. He walked ten feet away and lifted the phone to his ear.
She imagined what he’d sound like if she could hear him. He had an unusual way of shaping words. Every sound came out perfectly enunciated, as if he had nothing better to do than tumble the sounds around his tongue.
She liked listening to him talk. Yet another reason it chapped her hide that he wouldn’t speak to her.
After a minute, he disconnected the call and folded himself into the car. He was too tall for a compact. Too broad, too. He brought the cold air in with him, and she could feel the chill coming off his black leather jacket and soaking into her right shoulder.
“You good to go?” she asked, putting the car in gear and releasing the emergency brake.
He nodded, eyes straight ahead.
“You wanna drive?” They’d already begun rolling toward the exit. “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
If he thought she was funny, he didn’t show it. Instead, he waved her on, settled back in his seat, and closed his eyes.
Sean Owens: World’s Most Boring Copilot.
One of her favorite Judah songs came up on the stereo, so Katie cranked the volume and started to sing along, bouncing gently up and down in a low-key car dance.
Caleb couldn’t spoil this for her, and neither could Sean. Nervousness be damned—she was on a mission. She had sixty miles left to drive, a job to do, a future to claim.
Plus, if everything went according to plan, she was going to get laid this weekend.
This trip was the single most exciting thing to happen to her in a long time.