We’ve all had the experience, when you get well and properly stuck into a good book. When the experience becomes far more than just reading. It becomes an obsession. It becomes an experience. In so many ways it feels like you’re right there with the characters on the pages. Time goes completely away when we spend time with our favourite authors in their latest novels. And who hasn’t wondered about those mysterious people inn the shadows behind the computer screen tap, tapping away at the stories we love. What are they really like? What really inspires them? How can they write such amazing stories. I don’t know about you, but I have fantasies about what my favourite writers must be like, about fan-girling majorly with them one-on-one.
But what happens when you find out your fave author isn’t the person you thought they were, but in fact they’re exactly the person who irritates you most, and they need your help. Identity Crisis is the second of the Executive Decision novels and a case of way more secret identities than can truly be kept secret for very long. Here’s sizzling except, in which Garret and Kendra go for an unexpected swim.
PR rep extraordinaire, Kendra Davis, is elated when she gets the chance to work for her hero, reclusive, romance novelist, Tess Delaney. Her elation is short-lived when she discovers that Tess is none other than Garrett Thorne, the bad-boy brother of business tycoon and eco-warrior, Ellison Thorne, who is engaged to her best friend, Dee Henning. Kendra blames Garrett for the comedy of errors that nearly destroyed their relationship. Garrett doesn’t like Kendra either, but he’s desperate. His alter-ego, Tess has been nominated for the prestigious Golden Kiss Award. No one knows who Tess really is, and he needs Kendra to play Tess for the awards.
When Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, the two unite to protect her identity. With Kendra, the body and Garrett the soul of Tess Delaney, is there room in this strange ménage for romance? Can a woman who doesn’t exist understand their hearts even better than they do?
An Unexpected Swim — Identity Crisis Excerpt:
‘You look poorly slept with’ Ellis said, giving Garrett a hard slap on the back.
‘Can’t say the same about you,’ Garrett said. ‘Either one of you.’ He gave Dee a hug and took the bottle of Sam Adams his brother offered him. He leaned back against the deck railing, glancing out over the golden mid-day glow of the Water Hole, as Harris’s little private lake had been dubbed.
Stacie came to his side. ‘It’s friendlier on this half of the deck,’ she said nodding over to where Harris and Kendra huddled around the grill with Wade Crittenden. Ellis and Dee’s secretaries and their spouses along with several other people Garrett didn’t know, people he figured were friends of Dees milled around down by the water.
‘Give them some time,’ Dee said, following her gaze. ‘They’ll warm to you.’
Garrett’s gaze came to rest on Kendra Davis dressed in a baby-blue bikini top and a pair of shorts that made her legs look like they went on forever before they joined her luscious bottom up under what he could imagine was nice soft cotton. Damn, it would be easier to dislike the woman if she didn’t look so good. Garrett’s jaw still ached in muscle memory when he recalled the hard slap she had given him down in Wade’s office back on the day when no one was really sure what would happen between Ellis and Dee and everyone was waiting and nail-biting to see how the two would deal with the sharks of the press waiting to accuse Ellis of sexual harassment. Falsely accuse, of course, but that never stopped them. Garrett still felt awful about the role he and Stacie had inadvertently played in that nightmare. One more item to add to his guilt list where his relationship with his brother was concerned. Dee and Ellis had forgiven them, and it was clear all was well in paradise, but Dee’s friends didn’t seem nearly so willing to forgive and forget. In spite of being closer to his brother than he’d been in a very long time, he still wished there was a way to make things up to him and Dee.
He watched as Kendra put her arms around Harris from behind and gave him a tight squeeze from where he leaned over the grill, tongs in hand. He’d been told they were just friends, but if that wouldn’t make a man stiff, he didn’t know what would. Garrett had given himself a hard-on several times thinking about Kendra Davis’s enthusiastic slap. How pathetic was he? Of course in his fantasies, what followed the slap was a lot more fun for him than what had actually happened. Still, he would have liked it if she at least loathed him a little less.
‘So what’s up, Bro?’
Garrett turned his attention back to Ellis, but before he could say anything, Stacie spoke up. ‘Tess Delaney’s been nominated for the Golden Kiss Award.’
‘Really? That’s fantastic!’ Dee threw her arms around Garrett and gave him a proper bear hug. Ellis had obviously told her about the lesser Thorne brother’s secret life.
Ellis gave him another hard slap on the back. ‘Congrats, Tess. You must be all aflutter.’
Garrett gave a quick glance around to make sure no one else was close enough to overhear.
‘So,’ Ellis continued. ‘If Tess has been nominated for such a big honor, then why do you look like you’ve had an encounter with a freight train?’
‘They want to out him,’ Stacie said, sipping daintily at her Margarita. ‘Tess, I mean.’
‘Shut up, Stacie,’ Garrett said between gritted teeth.
‘Out you, what do you mean out you?’ Ellis asked, and he took the stance Garrett was too familiar with, the one that said he wanted the straight answer and he would have it one way or another.
Once he was finished with the whole tale and starting on a bottle of something from one of the local micro-breweries he’d never heard of, he was pretty sure he wasn’t happy with the way everyone else who’d just heard his sad little story seemed to be smirking.
‘Why don’t you ask her?’ Stacie nodded to Kendra, who was now engaged in conversation with Wade Crittenden as though he were the most fascinating man in the whole world.
And in spite of himself Garrett couldn’t keep from offering her an admiring glance.
Ellis laughed. ‘Not sure he could survive a date with her, incognito or not.’
Dee elbowed him in the ribs, but even she couldn’t hold back a snigger.
‘All joking aside,’ Dee said, ‘PR is Kendra’s forte and this is sort of a PR task, specialty, no doubt, but still, Tess Delaney needs someone who knows her work really well and is really comfortable around big crowds, someone who could move with the movers and shakers and blend right in. Surely that’s what Tess Delaney would be able to do.
‘Tess Delaney? What’s this about Tess Delaney?’ No one had noticed Kendra until she stood in their midst. Her blond hair slightly wind-blown, her bright eyes at least a couple of shades bluer than the sky, and Garrett so did not want to be thinking about the way she looked.
‘Nothing.’ Garrett gave them all a warning glare, grabbed Stacie by the hand and practically dragged her away. He knew Ellis and Dee would be the epitome of discretion. Stacie he was never too sure about.
‘Apparently Tess Delaney is looking for some specialty PR help,’ Stacie managed over her shoulder before Garrett could drag her away. Damn it, the woman had a big mouth. He was sure she’d done it on purpose.
As he escorted her briskly off the deck, he overheard Kendra ask Ellis, ‘Do you know Tess Delaney?’ But he couldn’t hear his brother’s response because Wade was suddenly asking him how he liked his new house.
‘Ellis, do you know Tess Delaney?’ Kendra asked again. ‘If she needs help with PR I’m her girl.’ She lifted her glass in a toast, way more excited about any lead that would give her a chance to meet Tess Delaney than she cared to admit.
Ellis and Dee shot each other a meaningful glance, and whatever the meaning was, Kendra had every intention of getting it out of her friend the first chance she got.
‘I know her, yes.’ Ellis spoke as though he wasn’t overly willing to let the words out of his mouth. ‘I don’t know the details of what she’s looking for, Garrett didn’t exactly say.’
‘Garrett knows her too?’
He shot Dee another glance, then shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. ‘Better than I do, really. Maybe you should talk to him.’
Talking to Garrett Thorne was not something that Kendra really wanted to do, and for someone who was so good at giving nothing away at the negotiating table, Ellis certainly was not good at keeping his discomfort to himself when it came to talking about romance writers. ‘What is Tess Delaney an ex-lover or something?’ She asked.
Ellis nearly choked on his beer. Dee pounded him on the back and Kendra could tell she was trying hard not to laugh. He shook his head. ‘No, nothing like that. Honestly, she’s much closer to Garrett than she is me. Why don’t you talk to him?’
She looked over the deck railing to where Garrett was now chatting with Wade. He was the last person she wanted to talk to, but it would be really something to spend time working with Tess Delaney. And the truth was, she was bored with being a lady of leisure. Though she was set for money for a long time to come, even had the funds set aside to buy a house whenever she got round to actually looking for one, a bit of interesting work, a chance to pick the brain of the woman who created such tantalizing tales would be the perfect distraction. She waited until Garrett was alone, down on the dock. He’d stepped aside to answer his cell phone. She’d just catch him when he hung up and ask him a few basic questions, then leave him to his ruminations and that would be that. It couldn’t take too long.
‘Now’s not a good time, Don,’ Garrett hissed into the phone. ‘I’m at my brother’s engagement party.’
‘Tell Ellis congratulations for me,’ his publicist said. ‘This’ll only take a minute then you can get right back to the party.’
Garrett gave a gargantuan shrug. ‘What do you want?’
‘I just wanted to let you know that I’ve put it out among some of my close friends and more respected colleagues that Tess Delaney is looking for a PA.’
‘You did what?’
‘Well, I didn’t know what else to call it. I thought I could maybe screen the candidates for you. I also know some folks who have connections with the actors guilds and they may be able to send some possible candidates as well, I mean we have to get on this, Garrett, that is if you’re absolutely sure you won’t just go to the award banquet as yourself.’
‘I already told you, no. Let me do the screening. If this woman is going as my date, I need to at least like her and trust that she knows enough about my work to pull it off.’ Though in all honesty he was finding it very difficult to imagine how he’d ever find someone who would understand Tess Delaney on a level that could convince people she was the woman that lived inside Garrett Thorne’s mind. But then, he wasn’t the one she’d have to convince, was she? She’d just have to convince Tess Delaney’s fans, and writers were often quite different than their loyal fans imagined them to be.
‘I insist.’ He interrupted Don’s list of reasons as to why he should choose the future Tess Delaney rather than Garrett.
There was a moment of silence and for a second Garrett thought they’d lost the connection. ‘Alright then,’ Don spoke at last. ‘I’ll send you the resumes of the candidates. But remember what I told you. She’d better good, or you’re outed. It’s not my call. That’s just the way it is.’
Garrett hung up without saying good-bye. ‘Asshole,’ he growled, as he stuffed the BlackBerry back in his pocket.
‘So tell me about Tess Delaney.’
Garrett jumped. He hadn’t even seen Kendra until she was right on him.
‘Jesus,’ he said. ‘Do you always sneak up on people like that? Were you listening to my conversation?’ The minute he said it he realized his mistake and the phantom burn from her hand to his left cheek flared with a vengeance.
She thrust her hands on her hips and glared at him. ‘I wasn’t sneaking, and why the hell would I be listening to your conversation?’
He thought she was going to turn around and leave, but instead she took a step closer. ‘Ellis just told me that you know Tess Delaney. Is that true?’
‘Why?’ He stepped back dangerously close to the edge of the dock.
‘Well Stacie said she needed some kind of PR help and PR’s my specialty.’
‘She doesn’t need your kind of PR help,’ he said.
‘What the hell’s that supposed to mean? And how would you know anything about PR needs. I’m damn good at what I do, and if anybody could solve her PR problem, I could.’
‘Oh I doubt that,’ he said. Another big mistake.
She took another step closer, folding her arms across her chest, and if looks could kill, he’d have been well dead and buried. ‘Why don’t you let her be the judge of that,’ she said.
‘Trust me on this, you’re not right for the job,’ he said. ‘I know Tess Delaney, and she’s looking for someone way more cooperative than you are.’ Jesus, why the hell couldn’t he keep his mouth shut?
The smile she offered him had no humor in it at all. In fact the curl at the edge of her luscious lips was down-right dangerous. ‘Oh I’m very cooperative with my clients. I promise you Tess Delaney will be very happy my work, and you know why that is, Thorne? It’s because I keep my nose out of other people’s business and do my job, something you wouldn’t know anything about, would you?’
He felt her words like a slap, and yet, even as he was regretting it, he still couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut. ‘So what are you going to do for Tess Delaney, Huh? Slap her around? Throw your drink at her?’
The words were barely out of his mouth before she gave him a hard shove. He waved his arms wildly, teetering on the edge of the dock, then just before he went over, he grabbed her around the waist, and they both went off the end hitting the mirror bright water of the lake with a huge splash while Ellis and Dee and all the rest of the guests looked on.
“Outstanding! Marshall weaves together a wonderful and brilliant story. With so many twists and turns, the author keeps you on your toes from the beginning right up to the very end. What I also loved is that even if you did not read the first book in the series you are not completely lost in this book. Overall, this was a fabulous book! I can’t wait for the next book!” 5 out of 5, Risque Reviews
“…I enjoyed this book very much, with its fascinating mix of love, hate, passion, violence, mystery and action. The outcome was a page-turner that I whizzed through even faster than its predecessor. Definitely recommended for hot romance fans… I’m now eagerly awaiting book three.” Erotica For All
“A great romance novel with a good out lined concept to keep you turning the pages of this book. Highly recommended to all lovers of Woman’s fiction, Romance with heart thumping passion and a good dash of suspense.” 5 out of 5, Lynelle Clark
“I have absolutely fallen in love with Kendra and Garrett. The tensions in the book perfectly transitions from hate to sexual and finally fear. The emotional highs and lows keep the reader intrigued, and the mystery keeps them hooked. I have been unable to put the book down until the momentous revelation at the end. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Ms. Marshall changes all the rules.” 5 out of 5, Coffee Time Romance
“This book pulled me in and had me on the edge of my seat with all the mystery, suspense, and hot, hot, loving. It was refreshing to read about a very romantic bad boy with a protective streak. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.” 4.5 out of 5, The Jeep Diva
“All in all, I found Identity Crisis to be one incredible read and cannot wait now to finish off with the third book in The Executive Decision Trilogy, The Exhibition. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of diverse, hot, steamy reading that will have you clutching the bed sheets for all the right reasons.” 5 out of 5, Blood, Lust and Erotica