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Love Like You've Never Been Hurt - Summer Lake Book 1 (ebook)

Love Like You've Never Been Hurt - Summer Lake Book 1 (ebook)

Sweet n Steamy Romance

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3282+ 5-Star Reviews

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Emma Douglas came to Summer Lake as an orphan twenty three years ago. After losing her parents so young and later suffering a disastrous marriage, she believes that love only ever leads to pain and loss.

When she meets Jack Benson, the business partner of her childhood friend Pete, she sees everything she used to long for in a man; tall, dark, and drop dead gorgeous! Despite their undeniable attraction, Emma is too scared to risk her heart, especially on a man so much like her ex - sexy, smart, funny, successful and no doubt the same kind of cheat!

When events lead them both to Summer Lake for the summer, will Jack be able to persuade her that he's nothing like her ex in all the ways that really matter? That the love she used to dream of isn't a little girl's fantasy, but a reality they can share if she can get past her fear and learn to trust?

Available to Read on Kindle, Nook, iThings, Kobo, Phone, Computer, Tablet, Etc! Your eBook will be delivered to your provided email address by BookFunnel. 

Love Like You've Never Been Hurt is the first book in USA Today Bestselling Author SJ McCoy's international hit Summer Lake Romance series, loved by over 1,000,000 fans of sweet and steamy romances. 


Readers say:

"Such an incredible book...hooked from the very beginning."

"Now this is what I call the perfect romance"

"The characters grabbed my attention from the beginning and I couldn't put the book down until I finished." 

 "Just finished Book 1 and I loved it. Steamy hot and sexy just like a book should be. SJ takes you on an adventure of love and how one man finds the woman of his dreams and will do anything to prove that love is really forever. Looking forward to reading more of the Summer Lake Series."

"I fell in love with the whole gang of childhood friends. Its a wonderful ride."

"Perfect! It’s sassy, it’s emotional, it’s full of chemistry and it’s a love story. I’m amazed"

"Absolutely loved this book!! I couldn't put it down. I am definitely reading rest of this series."

"The storyline was amazing. Very touching. The group of friends add great dimension to it. It is good enough for me to buy the next book in the series and that means it has to be really good. Great book"

"Sweet and hot romance!

    Chapter One Look Inside

    Chapter One

    Sitting on the freeway surrounded by thousands of other frustrated drivers, Emma wondered why on Earth she had decided to go to Pete's office instead of just calling him. LA traffic was nothing to mess with and she knew it, but once more she'd succumbed to the need to see a real friend. In what she'd come to think of as the 'fakedom' of this city, she took every chance she could to connect with the few genuine people she knew here.

    After taking forty minutes to drive a few miles, she soon forgot her frustration once she pulled into the parking lot of the Phoenix Corporation headquarters. It was a beautiful modern building, all steel and glass. Emma had always loved it; it seemed so fitting to her that Pete had built it. Her childhood friend had always been considered 'most likely to succeed'. The success of the construction empire he had created with his partner had far exceeded any expectations and he continued to go from strength to strength.

    Pete's secretary, Judy, beamed as she ushered Emma into his grand office.

    “Hey, Mousey,” he grinned. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this wonderful surprise?”

    “Hey,” she said as he wrapped her in a bear hug. “I wanted to make sure that you're okay. That you haven't fallen prey to the evils of the fake city yet.” Pete was the last person she could imagine ever losing his sense of self. He was as grounded as a man could be. He'd been that way since they first met when they were eight years old.

    “Well, I haven't crumbled in the last ten years. Not much chance of it happening today. So why not tell me what's really up?”

    “Nothing up at all, Pete,” she reassured him. “You know me, I just wanted to check in with reality. And I needed to let you know that I won't be able to drive up to the lake with you on Friday.”

    “Aww, Mouse! Why not?”

    “Carla's brewing some god-awful meeting and you know how those go. Lord knows what time we'll get done.”

    “I could wait and we’ll leave when you get finished,” he suggested.

    “Thanks, but I think I'll come up Saturday morning. Get there when the fun starts.”

    They were both looking forward to the fourteenth birthday party of their godson, Scot, on Saturday. Scot's mom, Missy, was the third member of their 'gruesome foursome', and Ben was number four. Emma smiled, grateful that the four of them were still so close after all these years. They had formed such a bond at the little school in Summer Lake when they were eight. It had stayed strong for twenty-three years and counting.

    “I really don't mind,” said Pete. “I could get a few more hours in here while I wait.”

    “Oh, no you don't. I'm not going to be the one to explain to your mom why you got there so late. You know she loves it when you're there the whole weekend. And besides, I'm too scared to roll in late at night now.”

    Pete raised an eyebrow.

    “Gramps might shoot me!” she laughed.

    Pete joined her laughter, remembering last summer when Emma's grandfather had become a little too eager to defend his property.

    “I guess it probably would be safer to come up Saturday then, but if you do get finished early you could always come over and sleep at the guest house. The key is still in the same place it's always been. You wouldn't disturb anyone out there, or get shot at, and that way we could still all do breakfast on Saturday.”

    Emma put her hands on her hips.

    “Ah, she's considering it,” smiled Pete. “I knew the mention of breakfast might swing it.”

    It was something of a tradition for the four friends that, whenever they were all back at Summer Lake, they made it a point to have breakfast together on the weekends. Ben and Missy still lived by the lake. Ben ran his family business, the resort. Missy raised her son and had always worked whatever jobs she could find. A few years ago she had started her own business, cleaning the second homes and vacation houses around the lake.

    Emma was all too aware that she was the one who had been missing from the group more and more over the last year. She didn't like it one bit, but her agent, Carla, had been keeping her nose to the grindstone with one project after another. A few years ago Emma wrote a screenplay adapting a best-selling novel into a major movie. Since then she'd been in high demand for adaptations and rewrites, but hadn't really enjoyed any of it. Her time and energy were engaged to the full, but she wished she could say the same about her creativity or sense of achievement. She frowned; it irked her that yet again she'd be missing out on what she really wanted to do in order to do something she didn't.

    “Sorry if I touched a nerve, Em,” Pete's voice broke her train of thought.

    “Oh, it’s okay. You know how to push my buttons. Maybe I'll drive up really early on Saturday and get there in time for breakfast.”

    “Don't sweat it, just get there when you can. We can do breakfast on Sunday...I was only winding you up. No need to go into Super Mouse mode, flying up the freeway in your mouse-mobile at the crack of dawn, cape blowing in the wind!”

    Emma took a step towards him, shaking her finger in the air, about to give him hell for mocking her with his childhood nickname for her. At that moment Pete's intercom buzzed.

    “Sorry to interrupt,” came Judy's voice, “but I've finally got Mr. Bowers on the line for you.”

    “Great,” said Pete, suddenly all businesslike, “put him through.” He smiled up at Emma and whispered, “Saved by the bell!”

    Emma did her best to flounce from the room. She often hung out in Pete's adjoining meeting room when important calls interrupted her visits with him. This time, still feigning indignation, she stuck her nose in the air, turned, and flung the double doors dramatically wide open, only to hurtle into someone on the other side. She ran straight into a broad chest, which she noticed smelled wonderful... sandalwood. Unfortunately that was all she had time to notice before she realized that their feet were somehow tangled together and her momentum was carrying her off balance. She felt a strong arm latch around her and pull her close. The next thing she knew she was on the floor, cushioned by that big arm which was attached to the most handsome man she had ever seen. Huge, deep brown eyes were staring down into hers; for a moment they were both lost.

    “Are you okay?” he asked.

    She nodded, unable to speak, entranced by those eyes still staring into hers. She watched them fill with concern when she didn't respond.

    “I...I'm okay,” she stammered.

    The moment of magic was broken by a snort from Pete's office. He’d seen the whole thing through the open office doors. Hand over the mouthpiece of his phone, his face was red from the effort of trying not to laugh.

    “Super Mouse!” he squeaked, before lowering his voice several octaves to continue his conversation.

    Emma scrambled to her feet, ready to slam the doors shut. But before she did so, she stuck her tongue out and turned and wiggled her backside at him. No sooner had she slipped back into that moment of shared childishness than she remembered the man on the floor. She felt her cheeks flush as she looked down to where he still sat.

    “Oh no, are you okay?” She rushed to help him to his feet, hoping he wasn't hurt.

    “I'm stunned.”

    She frowned, beginning to worry. He laughed, a deep, slow, sexy laugh that made her catch her breath.

    “I’m stunned because I've never seen Peter the Great have a door slammed in his face before! I've never seen him lose his cool on the phone and here you are, making him snort and wiggling your tushie at him!”

    Emma felt the heat in her cheeks again. In this city she was used to projecting calmness, composure, and elegance. Now here she was with this gorgeous man sitting on the floor laughing at her childish behavior. She took a deep breath.

    “I'm so sorry. Pete and I have known each other since childhood and we occasionally revert to old ways.” She extended her hand, this time all cool composure. “Let me introduce myself in a more traditional manner. I'm Emma Douglas.”

    “Oh, I know who you are.” As he looked into her eyes, she had a crazy urge to open them wide so he could see her soul. She made herself snap to; that was ridiculous!

    “I'm afraid I don't know who you are,” she replied. There went that smile again, those lips. She couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to kiss them. Oh my goodness, Emma! Stop it!

    “Forgive me...Jack Benson,” he said as he got to his feet and towered over her. He had to be at least six feet two inches tall, powerfully built, all muscle and controlled energy, short dark hair to go with those smoldering eyes and everything packaged in a crisp white dress shirt and black suit pants.

    “So, Mr. Benson. We finally meet,” she smiled up at him coolly.

    “Wow!” he looked surprised and, could it be, disappointed by her switch to coolness? “You don't seem too thrilled to finally meet me. Does a reputation I don't know about go before me?”

    “No, sorry. I'm pulling myself together from the fall.”

    He reached out and touched her shoulder. “You okay?”

    She took a step back as his touch sent an electric current zapping through her whole body.

    “I'm fine, thank you.” Her voice sounded much stronger than she felt.

    “Well, okay then.” Jack stepped back himself.

    At that moment the door flew open and Pete appeared.

    “Are you two all right?” he asked. Obviously believing that they were, and not seeming to notice the tension between them, he went on, “Sorry, Mouse. I should have warned you that Jack was still in here.”

    “Mouse?” echoed Jack as Emma blushed yet again. She hadn't blushed this much since high school. This time she wasn't sure if it was caused by anger at Pete or embarrassment in front of Jack.

    “It's Em's...” Pete began.

    Emma cut him off. “It's Pete's attempt to be funny,” she said, giving him a stern look, “and it’s not working.”

    Pete smiled, seeming to realize he'd made her uncomfortable. “Sorry Em. I'm still too much of a kid when we get together, I guess. I forget that you're all grown up and dignified these days.”

    She rolled her eyes at him, unable to stay cross for long.

    “Let me make the formal introductions more befitting of the adults we are,” he grinned.

    “Aww,” said Jack, “I liked our first introduction best. Could we try that one again?”

    Emma looked at him as he and Pete began to laugh.

    “You're as bad as he is,” she said, smiling in spite of her embarrassment.

    “Oh, no. He's much worse than me,” laughed Pete.

    Emma shook her head at the pair of them.

    “Okay. I am going to take what is left of my dignity and leave now. I'll see you on Saturday, Pete. Nice to meet you, Mr. Benson.”

    “Oh, Mouse. At least call him Jack!”

    “I think after rolling around the office floor together we should probably be on first name terms, don't you?” Those eyes were laughing down at her again.

    She shook her head. “Let’s try this again. Pete, I will see you on Saturday. Nice to meet you, Jack.” With that, she turned and left quickly.

    As she stood in the elevator, she ran through the events in Pete's office. How on Earth had she managed to knock that man over? He was so big and strong. Oh, Emma, you sound pathetic. She laughed at herself, glad she was alone in the elevator. So big and strong… and so darned sexy, she couldn't help adding.

    So, she had finally met the mysterious Jack Benson. He'd been Pete's partner for years. They'd met in college and founded the Phoenix Corporation together not long afterward. Admittedly, he'd mostly worked out of their offices in Texas and on the East Coast, but he must have been in LA for a year now. She'd have to ask Pete why they'd never been introduced before. She felt her whole body tremble as she remembered today’s introduction. On the floor. With that big arm around her. Protecting her from harm. She tried to chase those thoughts from her mind. See, she berated herself, this is why you stay away from men. You turn into a pathetic, mushy little romantic whenever there is a good-looking one around. And the good-looking ones are all about the superficial. They're all about themselves and how many women they can get into their beds.

    As she thought about it, it dawned on her that perhaps she'd never met Jack before because Pete had engineered it that way. He knew her so well, and was protective like a big brother, even though they were the same age.

    Jack is probably the kind of man who could really hurt me if I let him, she thought, and Pete knows that.

    By the time she emerged from the elevator she had vowed to herself that she would endeavor to stay out of Jack Benson's way. Leaving the building, she stepped into the bright sunshine and set out to do battle once more with the horrible traffic.

    ~ ~ ~

    Jack smiled to himself as he remembered Emma wiggling her rear end at Pete.

    “So, what do you say? Jack?”

    He looked up to find Pete staring at him expectantly. “Huh? Sorry?”

    Pete burst out laughing.

    “You haven't heard a word I've been saying, have you?”

    “I errr....” Jack shrugged. He had no idea what to say. How could he tell his partner that all he could think about were dancing green eyes and a scent of summer breeze? He could imagine Pete's face if he spoke those words out loud. But, man! That roll on the floor with Emma had really shaken him up. Pete was still staring at him, curious now.

    “Tell me this isn't what I think it is?”

    “What do you think it is?” Jack played for time. He and Pete were close, but he knew how protective his friend was towards Emma. He wasn't sure how he would react.

    “She's really gotten to you, hasn't she?”

    “Well, um....”

    “Why did I never think of this before?”

    Jack pulled himself together, glad the reaction wasn't what he'd feared.

    “What do you mean, ‘thought of this before’?”

    “You and Em of course. Two of my favorite people who might just hit it off together.”

    “You probably haven't thought of it because I don't do relationships, remember?”

    “Yeah, but only ‘cos you attract man-eaters that you wouldn't survive a relationship with. You never get the chance to meet any genuine women and believe me, they don't come more genuine than Em.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes, it is. You know, in many ways you two have similar stories. You've both worked your butts off to achieve success and neither of you has achieved any of what really matters.”

    “Hey, is that the pot calling the kettle black?” asked Jack, keen to deflect the focus away from the issue that bothered him the most.

    He had worked hard, damned hard, all his life. His father had drunk himself into an early grave and Jack had determined that he would not take after him. He'd worked since he was thirteen, any job he could find. He'd worked his way through college where he'd met Pete. The two of them had founded this company that was now a multi-million dollar enterprise, but somehow it all felt hollow. All he'd ever wanted was to achieve success. By most people's standards, he'd done that in a huge way. He loved his mom and brother, and he'd done all of this to support them. But Dan didn't need his support any more, he was doing great himself, and Jack had already set his mom up so she'd never want for anything the rest of her life.

    Yet somehow it wasn't enough; there was an emptiness that couldn't be filled by his work, his success or even his family. Of course, there had been women, and plenty of them if he was honest. But they never seemed to add anything to his life. In fact, they ended up detracting from it. Like Pete said, he attracted man-eaters. They wanted to take—his time, his attention, in most cases his money. He realized Pete was watching him.

    “Maybe I am the pot and you are the kettle bro,” admitted Pete, “but at least I know it. We've done great things since we started this place. To me, for now, it’s enough. I know I'll add a special someone into the mix when the time is right, and that won't be for a few years yet. In the meantime, I'm content with my lot, I'm engaged in it, I love every minute. I'm not the one who is burned out and looking for more meaning, am I?”

    Jack had to admit, if only to himself since he wouldn't give his friend the satisfaction, that Pete was right. He had worked himself into the ground the last few years. His demons had driven him to the point of exhaustion, mental and physical. He'd been working on projects in Houston, Miami, and New York. Pete had probably saved him from a breakdown when he'd insisted Jack come back to LA last year. He gave Pete a rueful grin.

    “Okay, Peter the Great. No need to point out, yet again, that you've got it all figured out and I'm just a crazy mixed-up kid.”

    “Ah, come on. All I'm saying is that if you really want to find some joy in life you might have to lift your nose from the grindstone to see what else is around.”

    “Okay. Point taken. Now back to business, can we? Before giving me this little life lesson, you were about to run a new project by me, right?”

    “I did run it by you,” laughed Pete, “but you didn't hear a word ’cos you were too busy reminiscing about rolling on the floor with Em!”

    Jack had to laugh. “Okay, so a pretty lady caught my eye. What can I say? But that's the end of it; your friend is very attractive, end of story.”

    “If you say so, we'll leave it there, for now. Although it may come up again since she'll be at the lake this weekend too.”

    “The lake?”

    “You really weren't listening at all, were you? The new project I was talking about?”

    Jack shook his head and grinned sheepishly. “Didn't catch a word.”

    “I want you to build me a house up there. Since there's nothing new starting here ’til the fall, I thought we could kill two birds with one stone. Get you a summer by the lake to get you back to full strength and, to keep you out of mischief, you can build me a house while you're there.”

    “Wow, so you're banishing me to the boonies?”

    “Yep. Of course, it’s all in my best interests really. I get you fully recovered, I get the house I've been after and I get the excuse to spend more time up there myself this summer. I win all ’round.”

    “I don't know,” mused Jack “there are a few things I wanted to do here while we're quieter.”

    “I know,” said Pete quickly “and joking aside, I'm not really steam-rolling you into this. I just thought it might work out. All I'm saying is, come up with me this weekend. There's the party, but there will still be time to look around, see what you think. There's something special about that place, I think it might do you some good.”

    “Okay, why not? I didn't have any real plans for this weekend anyway. I'm not promising anything though.” He hesitated a moment. “And you say Emma will be there?”

    “She sure will. So, I take it that seals the deal?”

    Jack smiled and nodded.

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