Devil May Care ~ Devilish Devlins Book 2
Free-wheeling rogue Flynn Devlin roars into Marisa Matheson's well-ordered life on a Harley, with a devil-may-care attitude, a body made for sin, and an Irish lilt that could charm the panties off a nun.
Exactly the kind of bad boy she doesn't need.
Except Flynn also possesses magic talent with a camera—something she desperately needs to keep her wedding planning business from tanking after her regular photographer is injured.
Flynn Devlin is the only thing standing between Marisa and complete financial ruin.
He's also hiding a damning secret from her. All in the name of love, but still...Flynn knows that when the lass who's capturing his heart as easily as he captures images finds out he's not quite what he claims to be, all hell will break loose.
And his devil-may-care attitude doesn't include his heart.
Because this devil doesn’t want just a one-night fling with his stubbornly independent lass…he wants forever.
“Flynn!” The familiar, desperate male voice rang hollowly through the cheap throwaway cell phone. “I’m begging you. Help me!”
Squinting at the sun-dappled stone church across the street from the park, Flynn Devlin edged behind a tree. “I don’t know how in the sodding hell you talked me into coming here this morning, especially after I emailed you snapshots from the rehearsal dinner last night. Even from a distance, you can bloody well see this one’s not
“Could’ve been a decoy, or a stand-in. I need to be absolutely, a hundred percent sure. I heard a rumor she’s interested in using this company, but she’s keeping everything on the down-low. I have to talk to her before she marries him.”
Flynn sighed. “Look, mate—”
“You owe me, Devlin.”
He clenched his jaw so tight it hurt. “Aye.” When the shite had hit the fan three years ago, the frantic man on the other end of the line was the only client who hadn’t immediately bolted and threatened to sue and/or dismember him in disturbingly creative ways. “So what do you want from me, then?”
“Hang around a while, keep your eyes and ears open.” A snort echoed in his ear. “Hell, ever since we were high school, babes have flocked to you like you wear chocolate-scented aftershave. Go charm it out of Ms. Matheson.”
Flynn frowned. “From what I’ve seen so far, Marisa Matheson is more likely to take my charm and shove it up my arse.”
“Then do what you do best—work that unfailing sixth sense and Irish blarney. Devlin, you’re the luckiest sonofabitch, and the best con artist I’ve ever known…and coming from me, that means something.”
Queasiness churned in his gut. “Lady Luck hightailed it out on me.” Along with everyone else. “I don’t play the
“I’ll pay you. A hundred grand.”
“One hundred thousand dollars. In cash. She’s worth it to me. Just find out where and when…and it’s all yours.”
He swallowed hard. That much money would buy the freedom he’d been longing for. Buy the dream he’d thought forever out of his reach. He hesitated.
“I’m not asking you to break any laws, or do anything unethical. Just find out where and when.” His friend choked.
“I love her, man. All I want is a second chance.”
Flynn’s lungs constricted, squeezing the breath out of him. “Aye.” He dragged in a stinging inhale. “I’ll help you, then.”
Because didn’t everyone crave a second chance?
* * *
Observing from the back of the flower-laden church, Marisa Matheson watched the groom tenderly kiss his new bride. One more minute…then she could sneak out unnoticed.
Beside her, Nate Hyatt, her best friend and business partner, leaned down with sentiment sheening his kind hazel eyes. “They’re so happy,” he murmured into the mic of his headset. “Marriages are made in heaven.”
Marisa wrinkled her nose, careful to whisper into her own mic for his ears only. “So are cyclones.”
“Cynical, much?” Nate’s luminous smile transformed his face from handsome to stunning. “Especially for a
“I’m good at the job because I don’t get emotionally involved.” She reached into her oversize taupe leather bag
for her twenty-page list. She always made printouts in case of technology-fail on her phone apps. “And this event better come off without any screw-ups—or you, Travis, and I will be living in a cardboard box under the I-205 overpass.”
“If anybody can haul us out of the red, it’s you, Marisa. Scoring the wedding of the mayor’s daughter was a strategic coup.”
Marisa glanced at her watch as the newlyweds turned to face six-hundred guests, who greeted them with enthusiastic applause. First kiss: check. Next: Intro from the clergyman. More applause. Then a beaming promenade as man-and-wife.
Despite the flower girl’s earlier freak-out before the bride walked down the aisle—because she was scared she’d get in trouble for scattering flower petals on the church carpet—they were on schedule to the second.
She slipped out of the sanctuary, Nate following. The heavy oak doors swooped closed behind them. “In order
to edge out every other planner vying for the gig, I had to slash our profits to the slimmest margin. Our rivals were not happy, and we’ll barely cover expenses. But if we thrill Mama Mayor, hopefully she’ll refer enough
clients whose deposits will pay our overdue loans. And you know what else is riding on this. Our entire future is
on the line.”
“Yeah, I do. And it is.” Nate’s glance lingered on the closed doors. “But in the end, today is all about two people who care about one another enough to pledge a lifetime commitment.”
She re-tucked a springy auburn curl that had escaped the antique pearl stickpins wedged into her tight bun, then paused in the vestibule to triple-check her lists. “After almost a year in this cutthroat industry, how can you still get sentimental over every bride? They’re all the same. Poofy dresses, psycho mothers, prolific checkbooks.”
“Everybody has a soul mate out there.” He rotated a vase overflowing with apricot roses, creamy hydrangeas, and ferns. “Someone who completes them, makes them whole.”
“Gack. You’re hopeless, Hyatt. ‘Happily Ever After’ is a fairy tale. Just like these weddings we put together. An illusion of romance. All primroses and promises—with no substance.”
Strong arms pulled her into one of his all-encompassing hugs, which she tolerated because she loved him. They’d become best friends almost the moment he’d moved into the trailer next door during their final year of junior high. Mutual misfit status had drawn them together, and years of sharing secrets and dreams—and comforting each other’s heartaches—had fostered deep love and respect. “Ah, Mar, I know you’ve had a rocky landing. But don’t let a couple of asshats skew your perspective.”
“I’m not skewed. I’m a realist.”
His grin shone again. “One of these days, the right man will show up and light your fire.”
“I think not. I have my extinguisher set on stun.” She returned his grin. “Except for—”
“Steve Thomas.” Rolling his eyes, Nate finished her sentence.
“You got it, baby. For him, I’d break my man moratorium.”
“I suspect it’s safely intact.” Nate snorted. “Not likely Thomas will abandon his Hollywood Golden Boy status and ride into P-Town in his silver Jag convertible to sweep you away to eternal bliss.”
“Never know…lots of movies are filmed in Portland. And he went to high school here. I feel for the guy. That skanky bitch shattered his heart. You can see the pain in those big, wounded cerulean eyes in every magazine photo.”
“Damn, you’ve been crushing on Thomas ever since we went to see his first teen heartthrob movie when you
were fourteen. Are you ever gonna get tired of him?” Nate shook his head. “Because unfortunately, that skanky bitch is—”
“Marisa.” Their photographer, Daryl Morris, bounded down the stairs from the church balcony to join them. “My damned headset is on the fritz again.”
“Sorry, Daryl. We’ll get new ones as soon as we can afford them.”
“Yeah, well, in the meantime, I need to know how the hell I’m supposed to snap saleable pictures of a bride who doesn’t have a good side?”
“Hey,” Nate said. “The poor girl is a bit...unfortunate. But she has a lovely personality. Unlike some of our Zillas, it’s been a pleasure helping her plan her big day.”
“Try photographing a personality, dude.” Daryl groaned. “I’ll have to stand clear across the street to get a decent shot.”
Marisa ruthlessly shoved her stubborn curl into submission again. “Don’t dis the client, Daryl. Airbrushed models aside, everyone has flaws.” Like her wildly curly auburn mane. Worn short, Marisa’s hair resembled a mutant shrub. So she kept it shoulder length, making it easier to wrestle into a submissive chignon.
As for her other flaws, she didn’t even want to discuss her butt. “Jeannette Yardley is the most influential customer we’ve signed so far, and every detail has to be perfect. Including exceptional pictures.”
“Shit, female is going to take some creative angles. ‘Exceptional’ will require mass audience hypnosis…and I’m no Criss Angel.”
Nate’s chestnut brows furrowed. “Our motto at Picture Perfect Bridals is ‘Every bride is beautiful.’”
“The fantasy sells.” Daryl shuddered. “But this chick looks like Jay Leno in a wedding gown.”
“Failure isn’t an option.” Marisa slid her list into her bag and slung the straps over her shoulder. “Smear Vaseline
on your lens, stand on your head…do whatever it takes. And I mean whatever. Everything depends on today’s outcome.”
The photographer sighed. “Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it.”
“No way.” Marisa smiled at him. “Bad Karma. Go break a leg.”
Muttering, Daryl slipped into the sanctuary. Nate stayed to manage the wedding party’s transition from ceremony
to reception, while Marisa hurried out into the late afternoon sunshine and jogged across the street to the world-famous Portland Rose Gardens.
She strode inside a lofty white tent sheltering seventy-six tables dressed with coral and cream linens and elegant floral centerpieces. “Travis,” she said into her mic. “Are you in here?”
“Is that a trick question?” Travis Ross, Marisa’s other partner and second-best friend appeared from behind the curtained serving area, tying a chef’s apron over his tux. Tall, fit, and sporting close-cropped sandy hair and misty gray eyes, Travis could have earned a fortune as a model. He greeted her with a warm smile, flashing his dimple. “What do you think of Nate’s décor?”
“Looks amazing.” She fingered a velvety apricot rose tucked into the bountiful flower basket near the bandstand. Jeanette’s theme featured Marisa’s favorite color, but Marisa preferred tulips’ clean lines over showy roses. Her tailored apricot suit matched the theme and provided the camouflage that enabled her to unobtrusively perform
Only she would know she’d snagged her designer outfit and Ferragamo pumps for a pittance at a consignment shop. She’d discovered no matter when disaster struck, or how scared or insecure she felt…projecting confident capability inspired trust in hysterical brides and their Mafioso mothers. Her temples might pound with tension, her stomach might riot in panic, but nobody ever guessed.
Marisa rolled tight shoulders. She’d developed her defenses early. Growing up as the only child of a single mom who made a living cleaning rich people’s houses, she’d donned a steely cloak of false bravado when the other kids mocked her thrift store clothes and odd, meager lunches.
Fake it ‘til you make it.
Travis waved at the tent’s arched opening. “The weather’s holding, thank God. You’d think the mayor of all people would know better than to book an outdoor May Day reception in Portland, Oregon.”
“I researched the online almanac when we scheduled, and it’s only rained eight out of the past twenty years on this date, with none predicted this year. But it’s another stroke of luck we can sure use.”
His dimple deepened. “Even Mother Nature wouldn’t dare bitch-slap you.”
She laughed. “Don’t tempt Fate, Travis. Is the orchestra setting up? How’s the food progressing? Did the cake arrive in good condition?”
He whipped a frosty bottle of vanilla Frappuccino from behind his back. “Ah… You’re going to need this, Caffeine Woman. All systems go…except the bakery. They had a problem with their van this morning—but are supposedly en route.”
Her laughter died. “Crap! If anything happens to Jeanette’s cake, that baker is toast. I’m going out front to wait
“You can’t will them here any faster, you know.”
“If I have to, I’ll hunt down and hijack the van.”
She marched out to the main parking lot. Tapping her foot, she stabbed the speed dial on her cell for Winston’s Bakery. Listened to it ring. And ring.
“Winston’s Bakery, Fred Winston speaking.”
“This is Marisa Matheson. What happened to my cake?”
“Sorry, Ms. Matheson.” The portly baker’s gulp echoed across the line. “Unavoidable delay. We’re headed your direction now.”
“Don’t blow sunshine up my skirt, Fred. Is it actually on the way, or is the van sitting alongside the road somewhere?”
“We’ll be there any second, I promise.”
“Five minutes, then I’m coming after it. And I believe we’re looking at a sizeable discount on this order, for
Smart man didn’t argue.
She disconnected and took grateful swigs of ice-cold, vanilla-flavored coffee. The caffeine hit surged through her, bringing a burst of renewed energy. I love you, Travis.
She was blessed to work with her two closest friends. She and Nate had met Travis in college and the trio soon grew inseparable. Big-hearted Nate was trustworthy and compassionate, always there with a kind shoulder or helpful advice—whether it was wanted or not. Travis was the group’s incurable optimist. He saw humor in the most hopeless situations, never failed to make them laugh at life’s curveballs, and never let them give up. Marisa contributed practicality, infallible organizational skills, and loyal-unto-death dependability.
The guys viewed themselves as her brothers and liked to think they took care of her. She let them harbor that illusion because it made them happy. Truth was, Marisa took care of herself.
She’d learned the hard way not to depend on anyone.
She stared down the sunny tree-lined street. Come on, van. She gulped coffee and paced, using the opportunity to examine and re-review every detail.
Across from her, the reception tent’s pristine white folds swooped in a graceful bridal curtsey beneath the cloudless azure sky. Maple and dogwood trees arched a canopy of green leaves and lacy petals overhead, while lavender, fuchsia, and pale pink azaleas promenaded beside the gravel walkways like rows of fluffy bridesmaids. Four-and-a-half acres of roses wove multicolored ribbons around them.
She shaded her eyes with her hand to scan beyond the roped off reception perimeter. The only other people
in the park were some distance away. A young couple pushed a baby stroller along a winding path, an elderly
man walked a golden retriever around the pond, and a guy napped on the grass beneath a white-flowered dogwood tree.
When guests started to spill out of the church and trickle across the street to the tent, she rolled her wrist to consult her watch. Dammit. Daryl would be done with the church pictures before long. The bride and groom would arrive and expect to see their cake—the glorious centerpiece of every reception.
As she again reached for her phone, the van chugged into the lot. Hallelujah! Murdering your baker was bad for business.
Four bakery employees jumped out and began the tricky choreography required to maneuver the tiered confection out of the van and into the tent.
“Marisa!” The panic in Nate’s voice spun her around—though Nate in a panic was hardly a news flash.
He ran across the parking lot.
Nate, running? Nate might panic, but he didn’t run.
Beads of sweat dotted his forehead and upper lip. Meticulous Nate, sweating?
Her stomach pitched. Uh oh.
She sprinted the remaining ten yards to meet him. “What’s wrong?”
“Couldn’t reach you on the headset!” he panted. “Critical crisis mode!”
Gasping, Nate rested his palms on his knees. “Daryl was trying to get a good angle on the bride and took a swan dive off the upper balcony.”
“Oh no! Is he all right?”
“We’re pretty sure his arm is broken, but he’s coherent…and swearing like a sailor on shore-leave.”
“Did you call an ambulance?”
“The minister’s wife was dialing 9-1-1 before he hit the carpet.”
“Okay, once he’s taken care of, is there anybody else who can operate his equipment?”
“His camera’s not exactly a point-and-shoot. Besides, he landed on it. It’s trashed.” Nate shook his head. “Looks like Daryl is out of the picture.”
“And we can laugh all the way to file Chapter Eleven.” She tapped pursed lips with her index finger. “Parents who lay out forty grand for their daughter’s big day expect photographic proof of their generosity. What about Richard Ryan? His studio isn’t far from here. We could stall until he arrived.”
“He’s shooting the Clark wedding today.”
“To the seventh level.” Nate grimaced. “The church pictures Daryl took are ruined along with his camera, and
there won’t be any reception photos. Face it, Mar, we’re screwed, blued and tattooed.”
“No.” She took a deep breath. “Absolutely no panicking. There’s a solution. Think.”
“Sorry, my brain shuts down in the grip of full-blown terror. Disaster management is your department.”
“Sure, me and the Red Cross.” Her desperate gaze raked the parking lot, catching on a powerful black Harley.
And on the front of the motorcycle... “Aha. Catastrophe potentially averted.”
Nate didn’t waste time with questions. “What do you want me to do?”
“Stall the wedding party at the church. I’ll be there with another photographer ASAP.”
“You got it.”
Nate departed, and she studied the object dangling by a strap from the motorbike’s right handlebar. A fancy digital camera. Daryl had been drooling over glossy brochures of a similar model lately and rhapsodizing its virtues to anyone unlucky enough to get within earshot. A couple grand, give or take a few hundred, sporting obscenely high pixels. Not something a vacationing amateur would drag around to snap shots of the Goonie’s movie set house at Astoria Beach.
She frowned. To leave such an expensive camera out in the open, the bike’s owner had to be either a moron or supremely arrogant. Didn’t matter. She needed to hire him.
She hurried across the lot to size up the park’s occupants. Young couple with the baby? Not likely, unless they bolted the stroller to the motorcycle like a sidecar.
Elderly gentleman with the golden retriever? A dog on a Harley…nope, only on YouTube.
The bike—and the camera—could belong to just one person. The dark-haired napper lounging under the
Marisa marched across the lawn, low heels sinking into the close-cropped turf. The piquant scent of fresh
grass wafted up with each footstep, but she didn’t have time to stop and smell springtime today. Or any day
for that matter.
She halted several feet from her potential employee. His six-foot-plus length was stretched out on his back, big hands folded beneath his head. A wadded brown leather jacket pillowed tousled raven collar-length waves. Thick, dark lashes fanned over high cheekbones, and several days’ worth of beard scruff shadowed a square jaw, full, sensual lips, and a determined chin.
She sidled closer. The distinctive, beautifully chiseled masculine features were tanned, a sure sign he was from out of town. A black T-shirt defined every ridge of his muscled torso, the right sleeve revealing the edge of an emerald and gold Celtic knot shamrock tattoo on a big bicep. Worn denim hugged a trim waist, the faded creases below cupping… Yowza.
Marisa swallowed. A brain-boggling male package.
She quickly skimmed her gaze down long, lean thighs and legs crossed at the ankles over scuffed black boots. Even with his eyes closed, he emanated dangerous animal magnetism. One hundred and eighty pounds of sin on the prowl.
Her stomach flipped. And he wasn’t asleep.
His breathing was slow and even, and he didn’t stir. But the odd tingling across her skin told her Bad Biker Boy
was alert and fully aware. She bent over him. “Hello?”
She hadn’t made it this far in the brutal bridal trade by being easily daunted. “Hey.” She nudged his thigh with the toe of her pump. His rock-hard muscles didn’t give an inch. “I’m talking to you.”
“Naff off,” he growled without opening his eyes.
His low Irish brogue glided over her, raising goosebumps. Her brows drew together. Why? She wasn’t the least bit afraid of him. Any woman in her right mind probably should be. Instead, she was—reluctantly—intrigued. “Listen, I need you—”
“Sorry, darlin’.” The flavor of Ireland warmed every syllable of his lyrical drawl with the same slow burn as fine whiskey. “You’re not my type.”
He still hadn’t opened his eyes. Her fists clenched against the reflex to slap his gorgeous face. “Oh, you mean
Thickets of black lashes drifted up to reveal mischievous brown eyes as deep and dark as fresh-brewed espresso, glinting with golden highlights…and razor-sharp intelligence. No moron, this guy. But her other guess was dead-on target. Self-assured male arrogance fit him as well as his faded 501’s. The man could handle just about anything life threw at him.
She swallowed again as her mouth went dry and her panties got damp.
His smoldering gaze roamed lazily down her body, starting with the top of her tightly cinched bun and ending at the tips of her sensible taupe pumps. Then it traveled upward again, just as slowly, just as thoroughly, scorching her skin as if he’d touched her. “You’re a looker, to be sure.” Naughtiness sparkled in his gilded irises as they clashed with hers. Daring her. Tempting her. Seducing her. “Wanting a walk on the wild side, are you?”
Fighting the desire to fan herself, she took two steps back, into the shade. “Listen, Bono, I don’t have time for games. Can you actually operate that impressive apparatus, or is it just for show?”
A wicked grin flashed, shooting the temperature up another twenty degrees. “I assure you, lass, I have complete mastery over all my equipment.”
“Well you really should at least make an attempt at concealment. Openly displaying something that tempting practically screams, ‘Take me.’”
His grin widened. “Pays to advertise.”
“It worked, you got my attention. If you’re any good, I’ll pay you well for your time and effort. A small deposit down, and the rest when you’re finished and I’m satisfied. How does two-hundred dollars for four hours sound?”
“Four hours?” Every movement infused with lazy masculine grace, he propped himself on his elbows. One glossy brow quirked. “I admire a lass with stamina.”
Her foot twitched with the urge to kick him. “Four hours is the norm. The clock is ticking. Yes, or no?” When his smoldering brown gaze continued to hold her captive, she yielded much more quickly than she normally would have. “Okay, make it three-hundred dollars.”
“In a bad way, then, eh?”
“It’s three-hundred bucks, for something you obviously already enjoy.” She pointed to the white peak, barely
visible over the treetops. “I have a tent set up right over there.”
“Isn’t that a wee bit public?”
“The public is roped out of our area of the park. Only invited guests are allowed. Make up your mind…this is
a rush job.”
He made a tsking sound. “You buttoned up types have the kinkiest fantasies.”
Fantasies? Marisa blinked. For the first time in her life, she was struck dumb. Utterly robbed of speech. Surely the obnoxious hottie didn’t actually believe she was coming on to him? For money?
Going to bed with him hadn’t even crossed her mind.
Okay, only briefly.
Like she had time for dangerous liaisons. She had a wedding to run. A career to build. Men tripped your progress on the ladder of success. They were an unnecessary distraction, and caused way more problems than they were worth. Another lesson she’d learned too late, but learned well.
He winked at her. “I’m flattered, but I’m just not that type of lad.”
“Ha, and I’m the Queen Mum.” She shook her head. This walking, talking pheromone factory had completely blown her concentration with his wicked grin and take-me-now eyes. He’d played her, and she’d walked right into his teasing trap. She snorted. “I wasn’t talking about erotic fantasies, and you know it. Sex with you is nowhere near my top ten fantasy list.”
Amusement sparkled in his expressive irises and danced across his sensual mouth. “So, what is, then?”
“I— I beg your pardon?”
“What’s number one on your fantasy list?”
Like a DVD on fast forward, a series of x-rated pictures scrolled unbidden through her thoughts—all starring the dark, sexy, and annoying Irishman in front of her. Her hormones were practically River Dancing. Which ticked her off. “I don’t have time to play games.”
The corners of his succulent mouth curved in an impish smile. “Now that’s a bloody shame, luv.”
Her heart was pounding, her stomach muscles were clenched, and her knees shaking like she’d run a marathon. Holy hell.
Quashing her unruly reaction, she forced herself to casually check her watch. Seven point three minutes until nuclear bridal detonation.
“Look, I’ll keep it simple for you. I’m a wedding coordinator, with six-hundred guests and the mayor’s daughter depending on me. My photographer is injured, and I need you to shoot reception pictures with that upmarket camera hanging off your handlebars. Do you think you can manage that…without propositioning the bride?”
“Ah, photography. Why didn’t you just come right out and say so?”
“You understood exactly what I was asking.”
He cocked his head. “Always get what you want, do you, lass?”
“I go after what I want, and I don’t apologize for it.”
“A philosophy I can get behind.” His grin flashed again, and awareness buzzed through her veins and loop-de-looped in her belly.
Note to self: no more Frappuccinos on an empty stomach.
He looked up at her from his leisurely perch on his elbows. “Make it five-hundred.”
“Five— Geez, why don’t you just whip out a pistol and hold me up?”
He shrugged. “Short supply, big demand.”
“For five-hundred bucks, you’d better be damned excellent. Do you have any work I can see?”
“Aye. I do, that.” In one easy movement, he surged to his feet and offered a callused, long-fingered hand. “Flynn Devlin, at your service. And I’ve never had any complaints. Inside the darkroom or out.”
Devlin? It figured. Not many men came with such a clear warning label. She sighed. Pact with the devil, maybe,
but he was her only option. “Marisa Matheson. You can call me Ms. Matheson.”
Hot, hard fingers closed around hers, swallowing her hand in a strong but gentle grip. Startling electricity zinged
her nerve endings, like the time her hair straightener had shorted out.
He released her to scoop up his leather jacket. Then he turned and strode across the grass. “Follow me, darlin’, and I’ll show you what you’re paying for.”
The sight of his—okay, admit it—tightly muscled ass lovingly molded by faded denim held her immobile for several seconds. Then she gave herself a mental slap and hurried to keep pace with his long-legged stride.
She hit the parking lot more than forty paces behind him. Which also ticked her off. She didn’t follow anyone, anywhere.
Marisa broke into a jog. She wasn’t about to start now.