Blackjack & Moonlight: A Contemporary Romance

Blackjack & Moonlight

Former lawyer Magdalen Braden writes legal romances set in Philadelphia.

In book 3 of The Blackjack Quartet it’s a case of Sex v. Love—a battle in the courtroom and the bedroom…

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Hotshot litigator Elise Carroll doesn’t have time for romance—she wants to make partner at her Philadelphia law firm. Despite her mother’s urging, Elise avoids settling down by keeping her relationships short and sexy. Her idea of a perfect date? Beer and pretzels at a Phillies game.

When Jack “Blackjack” McIntyre—Philly’s super-sexy new judge—falls for Elise in court, she’s horrified. He “claims” to be in love with her—but that can’t possibly be true. He doesn’t give up trying to wine and dine her, though, so she devises a new scheme. Like all men, surely he’ll leave after a short and sexy fling.

Only problem—Blackjack refuses to sleep with her! They compromise—she’ll go on his romantic dates if he’ll alternate them with her “just sex” dates. Their contract works surprisingly well—until Elise can no longer find the line between love and sex.

Can Elise get her life back where she wants it—in a partner’s office? Or will Jack McIntyre use his superpowers to win their contest of wits?

Blackjack & Moonlight is a standalone contemporary romance. It’s also Book 3 in Magdalen Braden’s Blackjack Quartet. It was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America® (RWA) 2012 Golden Heart® contest.


REVIEWS

  • “Braden grabs readers’ attention from page one and never disappoints. Elise’s inability to invest herself emotionally plays out until she finds herself gradually falling in love, despite all protestations. Jack’s tenacity is a force of its own. The third book in the Blackjack Quartet is a standout. ****½ HOT” — RT Book Reviews

ADVANCED PRAISE

  • “The verdict: smart, sexy and sophisticated.” — Jennifer Bernard, USA Today bestselling author
  • “An unexpected delight! This smart, stylish romantic comedy sparkles with humor, great characters, and a whole lot of sexy fun.” — Carolyn Crane, author of The Disillusionists
  • “With witty legal banter and a battle-of-the-sexes à la Tracy and Hepburn, Braden gives us a modern spin on love at first sight.” — Megan Mulry, USA Today Bestseller

EXCERPT

When Elise got to judge’s chambers, Blackjack—she really had to stop thinking of him like that—Judge McIntyre was hanging up his robe.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” he asked her. “Brenda might have some cookies…?”

“No.” She held her briefcase with both hands as if it were a shield. If anything, he looked taller without the black robe. She added hastily, “But thank you.”

She forced her shoulders to relax. “Could you explain to me what just happened in there? Because we both know that you don’t—that you aren’t—”

Those telegenic good looks of his seemed out of place in Judge Wilkins’ chambers. “In love with you? I suspect I am. In any event I would like to explore the possibility of a personal relationship. Clearly I can’t do that as long as you appear before me as counsel.”

Possibility? There was no possibility here. He had to be insane. She looked up. He was gazing at her steadily, calm and relaxed. He signaled that she should sit.

Elise wanted to stay standing—she’d look more formal and it was a better exit strategy—but she really needed to get off her gummy-worm legs. She sank into the chair. Judge McIntyre had donned his suit coat, adjusted the cuffs and smoothed his tie. He sat in the other armchair. He was the picture of urbane confidence.

Then he smiled at her. Really smiled. Even his eyes crinkled.

Oh, God. He was so freaking gorgeous. Warm and friendly and—where had Judge Freeze-Dried gone? If he’d smiled at her like that in court, her backbone would have given out.

She shouldn’t be surprised. She’d seen the coverage of his prosecutions. Hell, he’d been the darling of the media all the time he’d been the US Attorney. Nothing—not the local news coverage, the photos in the newspaper, the quick TV interviews in front of the courthouse—none of it prepared Elise for the sheer power of his smile in person. She prided herself on her immunity to a shimmering-white smile and laughing eyes. On Blackjack, though, that hot man magic was other-worldly. She could feel it weakening her resolve. Which just made her madder.

She sat up straight. “You simply can’t be in—” She refused to utter the L-word. It would be bad tactics to act as though his declaration wasn’t delusional. “You don’t know me.”

He nodded. “Obviously I’d like to change that. Dinner this evening, perhaps?”

“No.” She shook her head for emphasis. She had work to do, a deposition to prep for, hours to bill, a partnership to snag. Kim’s home to save. She didn’t have time for some man to push romance at her like it was the secret to happiness.

He cocked his chin. He considered her as though she were an intriguing exhibit in the Natural History Museum. “I’m sorry. Are you in a relationship? You don’t wear a ring, so I’m afraid I assumed—”

She pounced on that. “See? You don’t know anything about me, including my status, my sexual orientation, anything. For all you know, I don’t even believe in ‘true love.’ We’re strangers to each other and I think it should stay that way.” Please let that be enough to stop him sending out those hot-guy lures. His effect on her—insidious and disarming—was scary. She might be immune to masculine appeal, but Blackjack possessed a particularly potent strain. She made a move to stand up.

He rose politely. He seemed to do everything elegantly. Elise could easily hate this man.

“I can’t agree, of course,” he murmured. “I’d hoped to learn a bit about you before asking you out. The rules for judicial conduct rather interfered with that plan. I apologize for taking things out of order.”

Recusing himself on the basis of his so-called feelings before they’d even been introduced—yeah, that did seem back-to-front.

Elise was more worried about this idea of him checking her out. Ominous to think how he’d go about that. He’d been the US Attorney for years. He was bound to have lots of ways to investigate people. Thank God her past wasn’t too scandalous.

“How were you planning to learn about me?” she asked.

“I was going to ask my fellow judges.” He flashed a boyish, caught-in-the-act grin.

Elise studied the carpet. She could imagine that judicial lunch table discussion all too well. “Please don’t,” she begged.

He moved toward her. He smelled nice, something slightly spicy. The scent of a man’s skin just out of the shower. Damn him for putting that image in her head. She clenched her teeth and took a step closer to the door. She clutched the back of the chair, keeping it between her and the judge. She looked down—it was too heavy to lift for that lion tamer move.

“You know they’re going to tell me anyway,” he pointed out. “This story is undoubtedly already making the rounds.”

Elise closed her eyes. The horror kept mounting. And it was only Monday. She had a deposition tomorrow with Jerry Slezak representing the other side. He was going to rib her unmercifully. She could hear his braying-donkey laugh already.

Well, she wasn’t going to give Jack McIntyre the satisfaction of knowing he’d just made her professional life uncomfortable. She let go of the chair, picked up her briefcase and held out her hand.

“It’s been very interesting meeting you, Judge McIntyre. Congratulations on your elevation to the bench. I’m sure it’s my loss that I won’t be appearing again in your courtroom.” There. Neatly done.

He just laughed. “Oh, I’m certain we’ll meet again soon.” They shook hands. He released her immediately. Good. She was relieved, of course she was, that he didn’t try to use their handshake as an opportunity to touch her a bit longer. She ignored the lingering feel of his warm fingers on her skin.

He edged a tiny bit closer. His scent pulled at her—it wasn’t just an aftershave, it was his pheromones, wasn’t it? No woman could be immune to that smell. She bet female defendants lined up to confess when he’d walked in the room.

Elise steeled herself. That was his Blackjack superpower. She couldn’t get involved with anyone like that—it would be like putting jet fuel in a compact car. She went for the let’s-have-a-few-dates-and-some-fun guys, not legal celebrities who owned their own tuxedos. She had to leave before his good looks and charm worked their evil magic on her. Once she was gone, his delusion would lift, he’d shake his head at his own zany notion, and find a lanky brunette to take to the next charity ball.

Judge McIntyre—Elise thought it sensible to use his formal title even in her head—opened the door for her. She ignored his murmured words of farewell as she passed him. She ignored Brenda and the two law clerks hovering in the outer office. She ignored the head poking out of Judge Richards’ chambers at the end of the hall. She kept her head up and her game face on as she left the building.

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