Hope Marlow is a twenty-two-year-old seasoned vet when it comes to steamy one-night stands. Hope has had a hard life. From the wrong side of the tracks and abandoned by her mother, she finds herself trying to raise her little sister on a salary that barely pays the bills each month. She's tough, jaded, but when she's pulled over one sweltering summer afternoon for not using her turn signal, she meets her match in a sexually inexperienced cop twice her age.
The day Jack Malone stopped Hope is one he can't forget. It's more than the way she looked in the miniskirt and hot pink tank top, it's her confidence that keeps coming back to haunt him. But Jack is still reeling from his wife's death a year ago, and Hope represents things he thinks he can't have with a woman—passion and a new beginning. Plus, there's the fact that she's practically half his age.
Hope sees things differently. The age difference doesn't bother her, but while Jack craves an emotional connection, Hope has no interest in that. She's an expert at pushing her emotions aside, and she knows that if Jack would let her, she could teach him how fulfilling lust alone can be. With that in mind, she sets out to seduce the sexy cop.
It's only during their first night of passion that they both discover how much they've been missing.
Content Warning: contains sensual sex and some explicit language
Before her knees could touch the linoleum, Jack grabbed her and pulled her up again. "I don't even know you, Hope. And you don't know me. Don't you think there's something off here?"
"Well, I don't," she said. "You're a guy. Guys like sex. They understand it. They relate to it. It's how you operate. Lucky for you, I happen to speak guy."
The beginnings of a smile touched his lips. "I don't operate like that. I don't just sleep with random women. I need more than this."
More than this. Hope considered herself pretty tough. She was young, but she'd seen a lot. Her father's abuse, her mother's abandonment, extreme poverty. She'd seen her fair share. But despite that, hearing those words coming from this man, hurt. A lot. She wasn't good enough.
She dropped her hands and stepped back. "I see."
He must have recognized the look on her face, because he immediately reached out again. She pulled away and sat heavily on the couch.
"That's not what I meant."
She bit the inside of her cheek, unable to look at him. "I know what you meant. And that's okay. It really is."
Liar. It's not okay. It's never going to be okay. The steel wall around her heart magically gained another layer as she made a bitter mental note. It's official. Sexy, older soccer dads who look fantastic in their work uniforms, and who also happen to be handy around the house, are off your list, missy.
Jack bent down and took her hands. When she tried to pull them back, he tightened his grip. "Will you listen to me for a second?"
She stared at the floor as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. When he touched his fingers to her chin, they were warm and calloused, rough and sexy. He raised her head gently until she had no choice but to look him in the face.
"That's not what I meant," he said, his voice low. "You're a beautiful young woman. Any man would be lucky to have you."
She clamped her teeth together. I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry.
"I didn't mean I need more than this." Emphasizing the last word, his eyes fell, lingering for a moment on her breasts. "I meant I need more in the form of a relationship."
"A relationship?" She searched his face for any sign he was joking, but found none. He really was too good to be true. "Seriously?"
"Why's that so hard to believe?"
"I've just never met a guy who actually wanted a relationship before sex." She smiled a little, but he remained serious.
"I don't think sex should be a casual thing. I think you should love someone first. Or at least have feelings for them."
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she wondered if she could convince him otherwise. She happened to know sex could be mind-blowing even if you weren't head over heels in love.
"Can I ask you something?" she said.
He sat back on his heels. "Shoot."
"How many women have you been with?"
His face colored, even through the thick, dark stubble which prickled his neck and jaw. "That's none of your business, Hope."
"I think it's relevant to the conversation we're having."
"I'm not discussing this with you."
"Maybe you should."
He was quiet for a minute, and so was she. They stared at each other for a long moment before he spoke again.
"I'm flattered. I really am. But I'm too old for you."
"You think you're too old for me. I feel differently."
He smiled in a way that said he was done talking about it. "I'm too old for you. But I'd like to be friends. Do you think we can manage that?"
Sticking his hand out to shake, he was suddenly Officer Malone again. The aloof and businesslike cop who had stopped her last week for the blinker thingy.