The Beauty Series has been optioned for film by PASSIONFLIX!
They agreed on three months… but their love knew no boundaries.
Jack McLachlan is a winemaking magnate and easily one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors. His success and wealth make him no stranger to the complications of romantic relationships. That’s why he goes to extreme measures to avoid the hassle.
He prefers simplicity in the form of a beautiful female companion. No strings attached.
He arranges relationships like business deals and they’re always the same. No long-term relationships. No real names.
It’s his game and his rules. He’s content to play as usual until Laurelyn Prescott enters his life. His strategy must change because this player is like none he's ever encountered. His world is turned on its head after he begins a three-month affair with the beautiful American musician.
Nothing goes according to plan. As he breaks more and more of his own rules for her, she’s exceptionally close to becoming something he never thought possible.
His ultimate game changer.
Beauty from Pain is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller.
Heat level: 5/5 Cheating: None
Tropes and Themes:
Hero with an accent (Australian)
Age Gap (7 years)
One's Rich, One's Poor
Please enjoy this excerpt of Beauty from Pain
I am sick of being on this plane. The four-and-a-half-hour flight from Nashville to Los Angeles was fine. The layover was tolerable, thanks to the airport bar. But the last leg of our flight to Australia is becoming more and more unbearable with each passing minute.
I try to calculate how much longer it is until we land in Sydney. My exhaustion makes it difficult for me to do the simple equation in my head, but it looks like it’s still almost two hours until I will feel solid ground beneath my feet again. I sigh and tell myself to be patient. I’ve made it this far. I can take another two hours. I mean, I don’t really have a choice at this point, right?
I look at my best friend sleeping in the seat next to me and I’m irritated. Addison has slept most of the flight, leaving me to entertain myself. She offered to share her Valium, but I declined, certain I wouldn’t need it. Wrong.
I climb over Addison and take a walk up and down the aisle to stretch my legs, which helps me feel better. Upon returning to my seat, I decide reading will help pass the time, so I grab my e-reader and pick up where I stopped on the slutmance I’d started earlier. Only at chapter six and of course, the woman is in love with the hot new guy but is in denial. How typical.
Chapter twelve is winding down when the pilot announces that we’ll be landing in Sydney in ten minutes. Addison doesn’t stir, so I put my naughty tale away and nudge her, knowing it will take the next ten minutes to get her out of her drug-induced slumber.
“Wake up, Addison. We’re almost in Sydney.”
She barely stirs so I nudge her again. “Addison. Get up. We’re in Sydney. You need to get buckled for the landing.”
She lifts her head and stares at me with unfocused eyes. She straightens in her seat and takes a moment to get her bearings. “Wow, that went faster than I expected.”
“I guess so since you were in a freakin’ coma. It was the longest thirteen hours of my life. I didn’t sleep a wink the whole flight because I was too busy wondering if we were going to end up being shark food.” That came out a little pissier than I’d intended. “Well, there’s no reason to be miserable when you don’t have to be. You should’ve taken a happy pill and then maybe you wouldn’t be so cranky right now.” She won’t have to offer twice on the flight home three months from now. Lesson learned.
Buckled into my seat, I squeeze my eyes as the plane’s wheels screech against pavement. Our fellow passengers erupt into cheer and clapping when we’re safely on the ground. I’m not the only one glad to be getting off this plane.
We collect our three months’ worth of luggage and take a seat in the terminal to wait for our last flight. With an hour layover, I decide to visit the airport bar. “I’m gonna grab a much-needed and well-deserved toddy.”
Addison’s phone rings and I recognize her brother’s ringtone. Before she answers, she gives me a warning. “Be back in thirty minutes or I’m sending security for you.” I don’t reply in words but make sure she sees the hand gesture I have for her.
The airport bar isn’t far from our terminal and I plop down on a stool. “What can I get you?” I might not be able to tell by my surroundings, but I know I’m in Australia when I hear his accent.
“I’d like something from a local brewery. I tend to favor lighter flavors.”
He serves me a pale ale from a Sydney brewery. It’s stout, but good.
I sit at the bar enjoying my ale. The bartender doesn’t try to talk about where I’m from or where I’m heading. He appears to be in his fifties, so I can only assume he’s heard more shit than he’d like over the years and thus isn’t interested in mine. Works fine for me.
When I finish, I go back to where Addison is guarding our huge pile of luggage. “Was Ben calling to check on us?”
“Yeah. He was making sure our flight was running on time. I told him to expect us to arrive around three. He said he’s bringing a friend to help with our luggage.”
I see how many bags we have and I swear we look like a traveling band of gypsies. Most of it is Addison’s, but I have my fair share—there’s no way to pack lightly for a three-month stay. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“He’s my brother. He knows how high maintenance I am.” I sit and prop my feet on the suitcase in front of me. “He didn’t say it, but he’s really excited to meet you.”
He’s really excited to meet me. This is a huge red flag. I hope she isn’t thinking of playing matchmaker.
“Don’t you dare even think about encouraging him.” I’m not interested in dating anyone right now. She knows this better than anyone. This whole Australia gig is about getting away from all that shit, not finding another pile of it.
“He hasn’t dated many Aussies while he’s lived here. I’m just saying you shouldn’t be surprised if he tries to start something with you.”
Oh, hell no. We’re not even there yet and she’s already trying to hook us up. “It’s not happening, Addison.”
“You’ll be living in the same apartment with him for the next three months. Who knows what could happen?”
Okay. Now, I’m getting pissed because it feels like I’m being ambushed. “I might not know what will happen, but I know what won’t, so forget it.”
“Fine, fine, I won’t mention it again. Ben wants to take us out tonight, but I know you haven’t slept much. I told him you might not feel like it.”
“Maybe I’ll feel up to it if I can catch a power nap on the flight to Wagga Wagga.”
This time it’s Addison nudging me when our flight is preparing to land. “Laurelyn. Wake up. We’re finally here.”
I sit up and fluff my long brown hair. I look terrible when it’s flat and I’m sure it’s lying against my head after my nap.
I couldn’t have slept more than forty minutes, but I welcome the overall refreshed feeling it brings—except for my mouth. The combination of mouth breathing, beer drinking, and lack of oral hygiene during our travels has skunked things up. I don’t want to meet Addison’s brother for the first time and have him question which end is my face. “I need some gum. Do you have any on you?”
Addison reaches into her purse and holds out the lime-green pack in my direction. “Doublemint work for you?”
I take two pieces because I’m fairly certain it’s going to take two shots of Doublemint to do the job. “Thanks.”
We walk out of the jet bridge with our carry-ons and I see two great-looking guys standing in the terminal watching the disembarking passengers. I know Ben as soon as I see him. I could pick him out of a crowd anywhere, even if I’d never seen his picture. There’s no way to miss him; he’s the perfect male version of Addison. His blond hair is darker than hers (her monthly date with the hairdresser helps those playful highlights). Their olive skin presents a striking contrast with their light hair. He is stunning, just like his sister, but in a masculine way. It’s too bad I’m not interested in dating because he is hot.
He puts his arms around his sister’s middle and squeezes as he lifts her from the floor and spins several times. “I can’t believe my little sister has come all this way to see me.” He lowers her feet to the floor and looks at me. “And you must be Laurelyn.”
“Indeed I am.”
Addison and I have been best friends since we met our freshman year at Vanderbilt, but my path has always failed to cross Ben’s for one reason or another. Now that we’re meeting after four years, I’m not sure if I should extend my hand for a shake or lift my arms for a hug, so I wait for his cue.
He goes for the hug. “It’s good to meet you, Laurelyn. I’ve been hearing about you for years, so I feel like I already know you.” “I hope my best friend hasn’t ruined your opinion of me.”
“Never.” His crooked grin shows off one of his deep dimples. It’s not a friendly nice to meet you smile. He’s flirting with me already, so I’m wondering what my good pal might have told him.
Addison clears her throat. “Are you going to introduce us to your friend?”
The vibe I’m getting from Ben makes me uncomfortable, so I’m happy to shift my focus from him to his buddy. Zac is tall with an athletic build. His dark hair is buzzed close to his scalp except for the spiked tuft on top, and long, sooty lashes frame his almost-black eyes. He’s wearing a fitted black T-shirt and I spy the tribal art tat wrapping around his bicep. His whole exterior screams trouble and that means one thing: my bad-boy-loving pal is going to be all over him.
He offers his hand to Addison first. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
Oh, swoon. I’m not into guys like him, but I could listen to his smooth Aussie accent all day.
I think I hear a sigh from Addison, and I know she’s thinking the same thing. “It’s great to meet you. Love your accent.”
He offers his hand to me, but not his attention—that still belongs to Addison. “I hope your trip has been a pleasant one.”
The trip here wasn’t a damn bit pleasant, but it’s rude to complain to someone I’ve just met. Addison replies, so I’m neither forced to lie nor complain because she is eager to keep Mr. Dark and Handsome’s attention. “We had a super trip.”
“Do you ladies feel up for hitting a club tonight?”
I feel like hitting something, but it’s called a bed. Addison is well rested from her snooze on the plane, so that means I’ll be the party pooper if I decline, which I’ve never been labeled as, and I don’t intend to start now. “I’m like an Energizer bunny, ready to go.” I’ll sleep when I’m dead, right?
I sit in the dark corner and scan the room like a starved predator searching for prey. I haven’t chosen her yet, but the woman who will share my bed for the next few months is in this room right now.
I watch a lovely blonde approach my table. “What can I bring you?” Hmm. A waitress—not at all my usual taste.
I have a type. Attractive. Mature. Refined. This barmaid meets the attractive requirement well enough, but she’s void of refinement or maturity as displayed by her choice of apparel—a white, barely there tank top and frazzled cutoff denim shorts. She doesn’t do it for me. Plus, my last two companions were blond. I want a different flavor this time, but no redheads. I want a brunette. A beautiful one.
I remind myself I’m not in Sydney where I have an endless variety of sophisticated women from which to choose. My choices are more limited in the small town of Wagga Wagga, but that doesn’t mean I have to settle for the first attractive woman I see. “I’ll have a Shiraz.”
I’m prepared for a more prolonged relationship this time—three whole months instead of the usual three or four weeks. I’m looking forward to keeping this one around a little longer, and that’s all the more reason to be certain I make a wise choice.
I begin my search of the club with the first table toward the front of the room. A brunette beauty sits with a group of women. I watch her for a while, but decide she’s too friendly with the woman sitting next to her. Lesbians aren’t in my repertoire.
I spend the next hour scanning the club and come up empty-handed. I’m discouraged. No one stands out as the one and this club is by far my best bet for meeting single women in this town. Maybe I should consider coming back another time when it’s not open mic night. Tonight, the place is crawling with boozed college students.
Tonight’s search has been a failure, but at least the karaoke was entertaining.
I’m finishing off the last of my wine before I leave when an announcer from the club takes the stage and asks for the next singer to step forward. A small group of people across the room nominates one of its own. My view of the poor bastard is blocked by the crowd of intoxicated kids standing between us, but I’m certain this is going to be another delightful train wreck.
The club erupts into cheer and chants. “Do. It. Do. It. Do. It.” A young woman walks onto the stage and stands with her back to the crowd as she takes a guitar from its stand. She lifts its strap over her head and then tosses her long brown hair over one shoulder. When she’s finished settling the guitar into place, she circles around and sits on the stool in the middle of the stage.
She’s beautiful. And somehow overlooked during my search.
She’s wearing a short ivory dress and a denim jacket with brown cowgirl boots. She bares her thighs as she lifts her feet to rest on the bottom rail, but she’s careful to push her dress between her legs so she doesn’t provide a peep show to the crowd. She strums the borrowed guitar a few times and then leans into the microphone. “Is everyone having a good time tonight?” She’s American. I think. Her accent sounds different—not like what I’ve heard in the past.
The crowd erupts into a drunken cheer and I hear a man’s voice yell over the crowd, “It’s better now, sweet thing!”
She smiles and adjusts the mic. “I’m not from around here. It’s my first night in Australia.”
“Leave with me and I’ll make you feel right at home!” a man shouts from the back of the room.
She ignores the fat, ugly bastard yelling at her. “I don’t know what kind of music Australians like, but this has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember.” She strums a few more chords. “This is ‘Crash Into Me’ by the Dave Matthews Band.”
She sings it slower than the original, putting her own twist on it. Her voice is raspy and sexy, her eyes closed. She oozes eroticism. She tilts her head and opens her eyes when she begins to sing the chorus. I swear it feels like she’s looking right in my direction, singing to me.
The stage lights shine in her face and common sense tells me she can’t see me sitting in the dark corner at the back of the club, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.
She finishes the chorus and shuts her eyes again. Her long legs bounce against the rail of the stool to keep rhythm and I fall victim to her siren’s song. She has bewitched me. And I want her.
She’s the one.
She opens her eyes and looks in my direction again as she sings about hiking up a skirt a little more. Man, she can show me her world if she so desires.
The waitress returns to my table, but I don’t glance in her direction when she speaks. I can’t take my eyes from the beautiful brunette on stage for even a second. “Can I bring you another Shiraz?”
My plans have changed. “Yes, please.”
The American girl finishes her song and the crowd is all cheers and whistles. She smiles as she pulls the guitar strap over her head and then leans forward to the mic. “Thank you.”
I watch her leave the stage and return to a table where she is sitting with a blond woman and two blokes. Damn! A boyfriend, perhaps?
My waitress returns with my wine and places it on the table in front of me. “Excuse me, do you know the girl who just performed?” “No. She said it was her first night in Australia.”
I take my wallet from my interior jacket pocket and remove a hundred-dollar bill. I slide it in her direction across the table. “What about the people she’s sitting with?”
She sees the money on the table and picks it up to deposit in the pocket of her black apron before turning to see who my songstress is sitting with. “The blond guy is Ben Donavon and his friend is Zac Kingston. They’re regulars in here, two or three times a week.”
Why is this American here with those blokes? “She sounds American. Do you know why she would be with them?”
“Ben is a Yank. His family owns a vineyard in California and he’s here to study wine at the uni. I think she’d have to be someone he knows from home.”
I hold up a second hundred-dollar bill between my fingers. “See this? It’s yours if you can find out what she’s doing here and how long she’ll be in Wagga Wagga. And find out if she’s dating either one of the blokes.”
She smiles and I see she’s interested in playing my little game. “I’ll be back to collect that in a minute.”
I sit back and enjoy my Shiraz while the waitress does my detective work. A visiting American couldn’t be more perfect for my next companion. Once our relationship is over, she would be on an entirely different continent, which ensures we won’t have any accidental future run-ins.
My stay in Wagga Wagga is becoming more promising.
I finish my glass of Shiraz as my waitress returns. “Her name is…”
I cut her off before she can finish her sentence. “No, I don’t want to know her name.”
I can see this stumps her, but money is money. “Ben’s sister is her best friend and they’ve come to spend the summer with him. She met Ben and Zac for the first time today.”
Good. That means she isn’t dating either of them.
If the guys are students in the wine science program at the university, I’m guessing they will be at the vintage dinner at the school on Friday night. They’ll be anxious to showcase their wines. I wonder if she’ll be there as a guest.
I pull another bill from my wallet and hold it up for Blondie to see. “This is yours if you can find out what their plans are for the vintage dinner at the university on Friday night. I want to know if the brunette will be there.”
She smiles again. “I could play this game all night.”
Ten minutes later, she returns with another Shiraz and an update. “The guys will be presenting their wines at the dinner, and both girls will be guests.”
I slide the well-earned bill across the table. “Perfect. Thank you.”
“It’s been my pleasure. Would you like me to keep the Shiraz coming?”
I spend the next hour stealing glances at the beautiful American through the crowd of people between us as they shift. I’m disappointed when the foursome gets up to leave, but I see the perfect opportunity for a convenient face-to-face encounter when she moves toward the restrooms.
I migrate in that direction and wait for her to emerge for our chance meeting in the hallway. When the door to the ladies’ room opens, I walk toward her, but she’s looking down into her purse. She attempts to dodge right, so I move with her. “Pardon me.” Her accent is so unusual. And endearing.
She steps to her left and I move with her like a mirror image. “So sorry, Miss.”
Look up at me.
“Wanna dance?” she laughs as she lifts her eyes from her purse.
“I’d love to.” Her smile spreads with my reply. We lock eyes and I try to identify the color of hers, but I can’t. It’s too dark in the narrow hallway.
I was right. She is the one.
She seems embarrassed. “I’m sorry. Asking someone to dance is an expression we use where I’m from. You know? Like when two people try to get around one another as we just did.” “I’m familiar with the expression, but one can always hope.” I step around her toward the door to the men’s room. “I think I would have enjoyed a dance with you.”