All or Nothing: A Love by Design Novel

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9781476764641: All or Nothing: A Love by Design Novel

You’ve met Ben Shaw. Now meet Braydon Kincaid, the devil-may-care male model who nearly stole the show in Working It by New York Times bestselling author Kendall Ryan.

As one of the world’s most sought-after male models, Braydon is no stranger to the finer pleasures in life. The last thing he wants to do is limit himself, especially when it comes to women. His best friend, Ben, might’ve settled down, but Braydon doesn’t want to waste his youth on the messy complications of commitment. He wants fun. He wants easy.

Ellie isn’t looking for a casual relationship, but her tough and sassy personality instantly attracts Braydon, who proposes a “friends with benefits” arrangement. Unable to resist the powerful pull of the charming bad boy, Ellie eventually relents, though she longs for all-consuming love.

As the two spend more time together, Ellie soon realizes that Braydon’s posing skills extend off the runway. His carefully crafted façade masks a secret hurt that he’s reluctant to share with Ellie, even as they embark on a passionate affair that sends them hurtling toward a fate neither expected. Can Ellie risk her heart while she waits for Braydon to let her in, or will she be forced to demand all or nothing?

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About the Author:

Kendall Ryan is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the contemporary romance novels Unravel Me, Make Me Yours, Hard to Love, Resisting Her, The Impact of You, and Working It. She's a sassy yet polite Midwestern gal with a deep love of books and a slight addiction to lip gloss.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

All or Nothing

1

“Ahhhhh . . .” A deep male groan broke from behind the closed door.

Sex noises seemed really out of place in a church. Call me old-fashioned, but I was certain of two things: One, doggie style should be reserved for the bedroom, and two, we were all going to hell. “Come on,” I urged Braydon, tugging his tuxedo-clad elbow. “We can’t listen to this.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” His feet remained planted to the floor, despite my efforts to shove him farther down the hall.

A loud, thundering moan vibrated the door.

My eyes jerked up to Braydon’s. His mouth quirked up in a lopsided grin, showing off his perfect dimple. He lowered himself to the floor, leaning his back against the wall with his long legs stretched out in front of him, and crossed his feet at the ankles.

“What are you doing?” I hissed. Shouldn’t we give our friends some privacy?

“Guarding the door.” He shrugged. “I’m sure one of those photographers outside would love a shot of the action in there.” He gestured with a nod toward the door of the church library where our friends were currently getting it on.

I couldn’t argue with that. There was a fleet of paparazzi outside who’d give their left testicle to get a shot of the action today. This wedding was practically the event of the summer in Manhattan. World-famous male supermodel Ben Shaw’s wedding to my best friend, Emmy, would be front-page news on the celebrity gossip sites.

I looked down at Braydon’s stretched-out form. He was dressed in a tailored black Armani tuxedo, crisp white shirt, and sleek Italian leather shoes that tapered just slightly at the toe. His bow tie was hanging loose around his open collar, and he was sipping from a silver flask, watching me curiously.

“Come sit with me.” He tapped the floor beside him with his knuckles. “Those shoes can’t be comfortable.” His eyes slowly lowered, wandering the length of my black strapless gown and all the way down to my strappy five-inch heels.

He was right again; I’d been in them for thirty minutes and already I could feel my toes becoming numb. The price of beauty. Sometimes it sucked being a girl. I sighed, not wanting to admit he was right.

“I won’t bite, kitten. Unless you want it rough.” He flashed his dimpled grin at me again and my stomach knotted.

Braydon tested my willpower like no one else. I’d sworn off men, so why did I want to take off my panties and give in to him? Lord, this wasn’t healthy. Not one bit. I forced my eyes from his. Gazing into his navy blue depths felt entirely too intimate. He saw too much. I wondered if he knew just how much he got my heart racing. I’d met him last year through our mutual friends, Ben and Emmy. He was a sinfully sexy male model, often working with Emmy’s soon-to-be husband, and trouble with a capital T.

Defeated, I slipped off my heels and sunk down on the floor next to him. Trying to maintain a sense of modesty, I arranged heaps of black satin and organza around my legs in the hallway of the church where my best friend was about to wed the man of her dreams. Pity party, your table of one is now available. I knew it was cliché, but weddings depressed me. Always have. I’d helped Emmy into her dress and fussed with her veil until it was just perfect. And now, I could only imagine what was going on in that church library, and the mess I’d have to clean up before their wedding ceremony even began.

“Ben wanted a quick fuck.” Braydon shrugged like this situation was completely normal.

Oh, that was romantic. Men were disgusting. I rolled my eyes at him; I felt like sticking out my tongue, too, but I didn’t. Weren’t most people nervous before their wedding? Apparently Ben and Emmy were just horny.

But this was fucking ridiculous. Their wedding ceremony was scheduled to begin in twenty minutes, and I could see the stream of guests already filtering in and sitting with the assistance of the ushers. When Ben had come knocking at the door, looking for Emmy, I hadn’t argued; I’d just helped her out of the one-of-a-kind white lace gown made just for her by Vera Wang, and let him inside the little library where we’d been getting ready.

His eyes had drunk her in, moving down from the little white bra and panty set to the pale blue garter around her thigh. “Fuck, sweetheart,” he’d murmured.

The chemistry and intensity between them was impossible to ignore. It’d always been that way between them though. Ben had crossed the room in three long strides, stopping in front of her and watching her with a look of adoration. His hands had skated down her sides, gliding over her hips and thighs. His voice had been a weak whisper when he told her how beautiful she looked. My heart had twisted in my chest. It was obvious how much he loved her, despite how many times he’d messed up. You only found a love like that once in a lifetime. And as happy as I was that my best friend had found it, it only reminded me of how painfully alone I was.

As I sat trying not to listen to my friends go at it in the tiny church library, I wished it was me in that room with a white poufy dress pushed up to my ears and a man who was so deeply in love with me he couldn’t wait another moment to be inside me.

“Is it true?” Braydon asked, passing me the flask.

“Is what true?” I accepted the flask and took a small sip. Mmm. I wasn’t expecting it to taste good. Citrus vodka. My favorite.

“That bridesmaids are horny at weddings,” he chuckled.

“Guess you’ll have to be a good boy tonight to find out,” I replied, taking a healthy swig from the flask before handing it back to him. “Zoey and Jenna are both single.” So was I, but that wasn’t happening. No thanks. I’d be leaving here tonight with my dignity intact.

His eyes lifted to mine. “There’s someone else I had in mind, actually.”

That little pang of nerves in my stomach was back. He needed to stop flirting with me. I wasn’t interested. Sure, my body processed that he was sexy—he was a supermodel for goodness’ sake—but my brain wasn’t stupid enough to fall for his batting eyelashes and quips. I wasn’t going to be another notch on his belt. “That’s not happening,” I deadpanned.

Braydon chuckled, the low rasp sliding from his perfect lips. He was like one of those jock-types in high school who thought the V on his varsity jacket stood for vagina. He was a total player, I was sure of it. “We’ll see,” he said.

“I’m a bitch to you. Why do you even like me?” I asked.

“I don’t argue with my cock, sweetheart. And he seems to like you. In fact, he’d like to get to know you a lot better.”

Good Lord! He couldn’t say things like that to me. I wanted to tell him where to take his cock and shove it, but I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth.

His hand patted mine. It was meant to calm me, but any time he touched me little darts of heat fractured out from his fingertips and across my skin. It was disorienting. I pulled my hand away and tucked it safely into my lap.

We sat there in silence, passing the flask back and forth, listening to our friends’ muted sex noises. God, it’d been entirely too long since I’d gotten any. I clamped my thighs together and groaned. I felt Braydon watching me and turned to meet his eyes.

“You need something, kitten?” His voice was deep and low. Too sexy for his own good.

“I’m fine,” I squeaked out. “You good?”

“Oh, I’m fucking fantastic.”

Finally, the door opened and Ben emerged, his hair thoroughly rumpled—from Emmy’s wandering hands, no doubt. A giant smile was planted across his full mouth.

I rolled my eyes. “You two need to go. I need to get her dressed.” I gestured to Braydon. “Go fix his sex hair.”

Braydon saluted me. “You got it, boss.”

· · ·

The wedding ceremony was beautiful and heartfelt, perfectly representative of Ben and Emmy, just as I knew it would be. They had written their own vows and exchanged them in a tearful display in front of several hundred guests. It was beautiful to watch.

After a thousand photos and makeup touch-ups, we arrived at the reception at a beautiful, historic hotel overlooking Central Park. They’d certainly gotten lucky today. August in New York City could be brutally hot and humid this time of year, but it was mild, sunny, and perfect.

All through pictures, dinner, drinks, and dancing, I played the quintessential maid of honor. I was attentive to Emmy, smiled and made small talk with her loopy relatives from Tennessee, danced with her rather sweaty cousin, Randy Joe, and was fondled by her perverted Uncle Lou more than once.

I’d lied and told Emmy I was fine not having a date to her wedding—I’d reasoned that being the maid of honor meant I’d be too busy to entertain a man. But the truth was, watching Ben hold Emmy close on the dance floor and seeing the older couples swaying together made me realize it was pointless to lie to myself. Not that I had any viable date options. My recent prospects consisted solely of a string of lousy first dates, thanks to the Internet, with no real prospects on the horizon. My best friend’s wedding only amplified my loner status. Enter shame spiral.

I wanted that deep, all-consuming love and acceptance when someone just got you. I didn’t want just a boyfriend. I craved true intimacy and the peace of knowing I’d found my someone. I was tired of the game, and I wanted to settle down with a nice man. But something told me that working sixty hours a week as a scientist and shunning the entire male population wouldn’t make it easy to find my happily ever after. I wasn’t foolish enough to believe in fairy tales, but having a front-row seat to my best friend falling in love with a male model, traveling the world, and gushing about mind-blowing sex with a man who was allegedly hung like a baby elephant was making me hold out hope for my own Prince Charming. Possibly to my own detriment.

With my high heels pinching my feet, I headed for the exit, needing a moment to myself. The dance floor raged behind me, but my destination was one of quiet solitude. Emmy’s mom stopped me in my path.

“Darling, I think we’re low on champagne. There’s more in the storage closet down the hall. Would you mind?”

“Not at all.” It’d give me a reason to escape for a few minutes. Be alone and catch my breath.

“I’ll escort her.” Braydon appeared beside me out of nowhere. I’d noticed him throughout the night, quietly sipping his beer and keeping me in his sights but maintaining his distance.

His tone and the intense look in his eyes left little room for argument, so I merely nodded and turned for the exit. Making my way through the crowded ballroom, I felt Braydon’s hand ghosting along the small of my back as he guided me. Little flutters of heat raced along my spine, pooling low in my belly. I turned down the deserted hallway, thankful for a moment of silence. Today had been exhausting. Not to mention, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to be surrounded by two people who were so in love when my own love life was in the crapper.

We reached the storage room at the end of a long hallway only to find it locked.

“Dammit,” I muttered, wrenching on the door handle.

“It’s fine. We’ll just find one of the catering staff and ask them to bring up more champagne.” His hand closed around my elbow and an electric current zapped through me. It was as though his body knew mine and was calling to me. What the hell was that?

“Hey,” Braydon said, lifting my chin to his. “Is everything okay?”

“Fine. Why?” I lied.

He lifted one shoulder. “You don’t seem like yourself. Tonight, after that speech . . . I don’t know. I wondered where my little firecracker had gone. . . .” His hand lifted to my upper arm and glided along my skin in slow, measured strokes.

He was incredibly perceptive. Too much so. But I couldn’t have him getting to me. My maid of honor speech had been cut short when a lump of emotion had lodged in my throat, and I’d nearly broken down in front of everyone. I’d said a quick congratulations and ended it. Emmy and Ben seemed none the wiser, happily kissing and clinking their champagne glasses. I found it interesting that Braydon, of all people, had been perceptive enough to pick up on the change in me.

I sucked in a fortifying breath. I couldn’t let him see how weak and alone I felt. “She’s still here and will happily kick you in the balls if you decide to get too handsy.” I glared at the hand he’d left resting on my bare shoulder.

He quickly withdrew the offending hand. “Glad you’re back.”

I swallowed down a wave of nerves, my heartbeat quickening as I realized we were all alone.

“You look stunning tonight. I should have told you earlier,” he said.

My eyes lifted to his and I parted my lips to speak, to give him one of the sassy quips I was known for, but nothing came out.

“Shh, it’s okay,” he said, his palm cupping my cheek. “You don’t have to be tough all the time, you know?”

I nodded slowly.

“I know you can take care of yourself, but who takes care of you, Ellie?”

He rarely, if ever, called me by my actual name, and the familiarity of it passing over his lips caused a little ripple of desire to dance in my belly. “No one,” I admitted. “Men suck.”

“I can’t argue with that. Most men are assholes who behave like spoiled children.”

I nodded slowly, glad we were on the same page. I thought he’d try to convince me otherwise, or at least tell me that he wasn’t one of them. But he just stayed quiet, watching me with those gorgeous blue eyes of his, making my skin hum with nervous anticipation. What were we doing?

“I could take care of you tonight, make you feel good, if you let me,” he whispered, his mouth just a few inches from mine.

My heart rioted in my chest. He was so good-looking, so sexy. I knew it’d be incredible. But the word tonight stood out to me. I was done with men who wanted one night with me. I supposed a string of failed dates and one-night stands would do that to you. I was looking for something more, a deeper, intimate connection; a real relationship. Not a one-night stand, not a guy who wanted nothing to do with me in the morning. Braydon had a way with words, I’d give him that. That didn’t mean anything was going to happen, though.

“A few sexy words and you expect me to just hand over my panties?” I quipped.

“No. I’d prefer to peel those off you myself. Slowly. Savoring every delicious inch of skin I exposed.”

My eyes slipped closed. My body was screaming at me to give in, to pull him into the nearest coat closet or restroom and let him have his way with me. To make this ache between my thighs go away. But my brain, ever in control, knew I couldn’t do that.

“May I kiss you?” he whispered.

Temptation to kiss him flared inside me, unbidden and unwelcome. I’d been unconsciously watching the way his mouth moved when he spoke, as he took sips from his glass, fantasizing about how those full lips would feel against mine. Despite my body’s urgings, I slowly shook my head.

“What are you afraid of?” he whispered. “Falling for me?”

I raised an eyebrow, looking at him like he’d grown a second head. “There’s no chance of that happening,” I scoffed.

“Then kiss me,” he rasped.

“Why would I kiss you?” I asked, breathless yet fighting to remain in control.

“Because you want to.” His statement was bold, direct, and sure. I hated how well he could r...

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