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Ember Leigh Romance

Make Me Lose

Make Me Lose

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 Signed paperback of Make Me Lose, book #1 of the Bayshore series.


Grayson and Hazel aren’t just rivals. They were destined to hate each other since the day they were born.

Grayson Daly couldn’t wait to break free of high school and prove his worth to his overly critical father, plus show his arch-rival Hazel how little he needed her. Ten years later, he’s well into earning seven figures and enjoying his status as one of New York’s most-desired bachelors. But when his beloved Grammy Ethel passes, leaving him one of her Bayshore homes, he hurries back to sell it. However, there’s only one realtor in town...

Hazel Matheson has the picture-perfect small-town life. She’s the queen realtor in Bayshore, with a Pinterest-worthy home and wardrobe to match. If she could just find the handsome powerhouse soul mate of her dreams, life would be complete. But when her rival-turned-lover-turned-enemy Grayson Daly waltzes back into town, his ego bigger than a skyscraper and needing a favor, she has a new project—making sure she doesn’t give him what he wants.

Grayson’s plan is an easy sell of the house and a speedy return to his beloved big city. Hazel’s plan is to stay the hell away from Grayson and get on with her manhunt. But the harder they fight, the brighter the sparks, until neither one can decide if surrendering to love counts as winning or losing. Maybe, just this once, they can both come out on top.

Chapter One Preview



“All I’m saying is, you can’t take your dad.”

It’s a shame my best friend, London, can’t see me rolling my eyes. She would have
laughed so hard she shot her beverage of choice out of her nose. But truth is, I’m alone in my spacious lakefront office. It’s ten a.m. I’ve finished my
coffee and am already itching for another. And only I can feel how hard my eyeballs are shooting into the backs of their sockets.

“Yeah. Got it. And you know what?” I counter, reaching for my empty coffee mug. The
emptiness I find is depressing, but not depressing enough to make another trip to the cute coffee shop around the corner, The Daily Grind. “I’m not taking my father to the Bicentennial Ball. Never planned on it.”

London is an asshole. But I love her, so I keep her around. Also, she knows me better than anyone on Earth. We went to high school together here in Bayshore, but that’s not where we really connected. The magic for us happened in college, when we went to the Ohio State University. Back before we knew what the hell we were doing. Back before we knew how fucking awesome we’d turn out.

Awesome and chronically single.

“Hazel, I know you love your dad,” London says. “I love your dad. But you need to find
a date. A real date. And he needs to be hot. Like, your level hot.”

I heave a sigh, as though it will help anything. London is making the trip home for the Bicentennial Ball and renting a room at the boutique hotel a few blocks from my office because she fully plans on hooking up with some overlooked hottie from our collective past.

Me, on the other hand? I live in Bayshore permanently. Which means I have my own
comfy king bed on my own quiet, tree-lined street, and a very intimate knowledge of how many un-overlooked hotties remain here. And the numbers are depressing.

Like, Tinder has stopped loading any matches-style depressing.

“I think you forget what our hometown is like,” I remind her, tapping a pen against various points of the edge of my desk. My gaze drifts to the windows
lining the northern wall of the office. Briggs Bay glitters a tealish-blue a block away. A motorboat cuts through the water, leaving a frothy, white-topped wake in its path. Even though I’m in air-conditioned comfort, I can feel the humid bite in the late-morning air simply from staring at the lake.

It’s a feeling I’ve come to love.

Like practically everything about Bayshore. Except for its startling lack of single men my age, that is.

“Oh, no,” she says ruefully. “I remember.” She doesn’t come back much, like a lot of
our graduating class. The ones who stayed, I see regularly, given the fact that damn near everyone in this county uses me for their real estate needs. That means I’ve got my thumb on the pulse of who’s who, who’s married, and who’s gone downhill in Bayshore.

And now that my graduating class is nearing the end of our twenties, the number of
people who didn’t casually go downhill but slid there on a super-greased sled would surprise you.

“What about the Daly brothers?” London asks, which forces another sigh from my lips.

Of course. The Daly brothers. The perpetually handsome bachelors who used to strut
around this town like a flock of virile geese: loud in how handsome they all are, slightly dangerous in that they will probably come chasing you down during a quiet lunch at the park and break your heart. Not that geese regularly break
hearts, but that’s beside the point.

I’m probably bitter. Still. It’s only been ten years, but part of me hasn’t quite forgiven Grayson Daly for his virile-goose antics. Aside from Grayson, I love the Daly family. I grew up with those guys. And despite the fact that one of their boys came out an asshole, I really do love Grayson’s mom. It’s not their fault that Gray is an arrogant jerk. Actually, scratch that—their intense, ladder-climbing dad probably had something to do with Grayson turning out like he did. They got four other good boys, so statistically, one of them had to go bad.

“Two of them live out of state,” I said, frowning as I attempted to reengage with my
computer. A few people wander past my floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking
Water Street. They’re holding maps, marking them as some of the thousands of tourists who populate this town in high season. “Dominic lives in the Cleveland area, I think. And the youngest two are still around. I see Maverick from time to time. He’s usually high.”

London snorted. “Well, those two are a little young for my tastes.”

My frown deepens. I don’t like talking about tastes when it comes to the Daly brothers.
For a brief, psychotic period of my life, I was in love with Grayson Daly. And then he shit all over my trust. We graduated, and after a few other character shaping activities, here I am. The most successful real estate agent for my age in the entire state of Ohio, dressed to kill on the daily.

“I’ll go on Craigslist,” I say. “I’ll put up an ad. Seeking Super-Hot Date for two-hundredth
Birthday of Bayshore. Must be willing to pose for endless pictures and buy all my champagne and appear on my Instagram as a doting partner.”

“There we go,” London encourages.

“Great. You know, you just agreed with my idea to solicit a date on Craigslist. This means I’ve hit rock bottom.” I’m grinning as I give her shit. My ten-minute goof-off window is ending. These scheduled breaks to call friends and family keep me alive in my fast-paced realty business. I work damn near eighty hours a week most weeks. I love my job, though, what I’ve created. It’s not a burden. It’s my dream life. Living in my hometown, my cozy house two blocks from Briggs Bay and, a little further, the expansive, choppy waters of Lake Erie.

“I wouldn’t call your dating life rock bottom,” London says. “More like…pitiful.”

I snort. Even better. But she’s not wrong. The little bells on the front door of my office jingle, signaling a newcomer. I’ve had my four-inch glossy black heels propped on the edge of my desk, a form-fitting skirt hiking up a little too far for professional comfort. I sit up straight, glancing at the new arrival.

He’s gotta be about six foot two. Broad shoulders, a build that falls somewhere between football and soccer star. Stormy blue eyes that cut right through me from across the gallery.

My throat immediately seizes. I jerk my gaze away, lest this man realize that I know who he is.

The man who we were talking about only moments before. As though this conversation
had summoned him from the pits of Hell.

Grayson Freakin’ Daly.

“You there?” London asks.

I force my voice to sound normal. I keep my gaze on my computer, as though I’m
the busiest, most important, most unaffected person in the world at this moment.
“I really appreciate your call. I think that our collaboration will be extremely lucrative. Thank you, George Clooney, for your interest in Hazel Homes.”
I slam the phone down on the receiver, my heart pounding.

That’s the other thing about Grayson.

He and I, we’ve had this killer competitive streak since the day we were born.

And apparently, that was summoned from the pits of Hell along with Grayson.

I swing my gaze his way, batting my eyes, popping on the brightest smile I can
muster. “Hello there! How can I help you?” My heart is pounding so quickly I might pass out. I have no idea how to handle this. All I know is that my old responses are popping out of the deepest depths of my being like no time has passed at all. The responses that push me to win, to beat Grayson, to be better than he is.

And apparently, the best path forward is acting like I’ve never seen this handsome devil before.

Grayson cocks a smirk, the type that takes me right back to that psychotic period when I
fell in love with him for three months. Except now he’s older, more refined. He’s got on a medium-gray suit that sits halfway between Billionaire Chic and Vogue model. Alligator shoes that come to a point. He stuffs his hands in his pockets as he begins an intolerable saunter toward me.

“You’re really going to act like you don’t know who I am?”

The gruff bass of his voice sends heat straight to my pussy. I blink demurely for a few moments, feigning my best confused face. I squint at him. I let it draw out. Maybe too long.

“Hazel,” he says. “Cut the crap.”

His commanding tone irritates me so much that I do exactly as he says. I set my lips in a thin line. “Oh, jeez. Yes, Grayson Daly. It can only be you.” I avoid his gaze as I set to work reorganizing my desk. Anything to avoid looking at
his impossibly handsome frame, his dark hair clipped short on the sides but longer on top, allowing one delectable finger wave to emerge. “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.” I can’t help myself. The words fly out. “You got old.”

He cocks his head to the side, an expression like oh, come on creasing his face. “I’m ten minutes older than you, so
I assume you feel the same way about yourself.”

Ugh. He always threw that ten minutes older than you crap in my face growing up. Like it allowed him to ultimately win. Well not anymore. I’m taking my ten extra minutes of youthfulness and running with

“I’m as perky and bright as they come,” I say, tossing him a plasticized smile. “A veritable fountain of youth.” As I face him down, I try to see myself in my mind’s eye. Hoping my fire-engine red lipstick isn’t smeared. It never is, but
on the day that Grayson shows up, you can never be too sure. I thank the gods above that I got my eyebrows done earlier this week. I would have prepped more, had I known Grayson was going to saunter into my office as if he was auditioning for the role of Unaffected Businessman. But I’ll have to work with what I’ve got. “Now, how may I help you, sir?”

An annoyed burst of air rushes past his lips. Treating him like I don’t know him, don’t care about him—this is my new plan of attack.

“Thought you might be able to help me sell a house.” He works his jaw back and forth as his gaze skates around my office. The walls are bright white with gothic black
frames dotting the feature wall where my awards, certificates and licenses are displayed. I’m not one for bright colors. Give me all the shades of black,
purple, and gray, and I’m a happy camper. I would live inside houndstooth if I could. “I won’t be needing it, since you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to live in Bayshore.”

I grit my teeth. I know what his attack plan is now. And it’s high-grade annoying.

“Ah. That’s right. Who would want to live in the Midwest’s number one beach town?
Quality of life must be something that doesn’t appeal to you,” I shoot back, starting to write an e-mail. Just for something to occupy my hands. There’s nothing
in the To field. I’m typing gibberish.

“Populations above one hundred thousand appeal to me,” Grayson says, pulling out the armchair facing my desk. He clears his throat, then makes a big display of sitting down. A waft of his cologne reaches me. It’s husky and earthy and probably expensive as hell. Like Gucci meets lumberjack. “Broadway appeals to me. Diverse restaurants appeal to me. More than one movie theater appeals to

He must live in a big city. Probably New York. But that’s fine. He doesn’t know that people are leaving big cities in droves to come to places like Bayshore. He doesn’t know how much I’m cleaning up on the recent shift to the smaller towns, smaller lives movement.

“Arrogance has always appealed to you as well,” I say, smiling his way without looking at him. “It’s actually one of your strongest suits.” The word makes me glance at
the suit he’s wearing. Big mistake. The e-mail I’m writing now says
“skkskkkksksskk sk fuck you.”

He flashes a humorless smile. His knee is bouncing. “So will you sell this house
for me or not?”


“My grandmother passed away,” he said, the edge going out of his voice. His gaze
moves to the floor. Shit. Didn’t see that one coming. “This was her house.”

“Is that supposed to change my mind?”

“Sort of.”

thuds between us, and I hazard another glance at him. Those stormy eyes of his
haven’t changed, not even a little bit. His nearly black brows are drawn
together. Like he’s pleading silently. Or begging. Not that Grayson would ever beg.

Still, the quiet between us dissolves some of my defenses. Grayson is a fox, more than
when we were in high school and he ended up being voted the prom king. He’s got
that look about him that makes women wilt with wanting him. And hell, I’m the
same way. Even though I hate him. If he were one-fifth less of an asshole, I’d be all over him.

And if I didn’t care about upholding this decades-long competition, I’d abandon my
morals and jump his bones now.

But no. I’ve got something to prove.

“I’m sorry for your loss. Why are you selling the house?” I sniff. I’m trying to walk that fine line between bitchy and consoling. His grandmother did nothing wrong. I knew her—she’d been a lovely lady. Grayson’s mom herself had come to tell me the news a few days ago, which signaled the start of the pit in my stomach, just knowing that Gray might
be returning to Bayshore.

Even though part of me was certain—or perhaps simply hopeful—that he wouldn’t come back for his grandmother’s funeral.

Looks like I was wrong.

“I already told you. Nobody could pay me enough money to stay in this sluggish, uninteresting town.” The evil glint returns. I’m done being soft with him.

“Our sluggish, uninteresting populace can’t wait to be rid of you,” I assure him. “And you’re going to need to find somebody else to sell your house. Somehow, with the approximately three hundred people that you think live here, I’ve managed to make millions.” It’s a slight exaggeration. I’ve grossed millions. He doesn’t need to know that. “Which means I don’t need your money. Have a good day.”

He doesn’t move, though I think I catch a trace of panic in him. Or maybe I want it to be
that way.

“You’re the only realtor in town,” Gray counters.

“Not true. There’s a very capable though vastly underutilized real estate agency down the street,” I remind him. It’s Cabanas Real Estate, run by the Cabana family. They’re nice people, but I already know why Grayson can’t go there. The Dalys and the Cabanas have been at each other’s throats for nigh on twenty-five years. What started as boat-dock neighbor friendliness turned into a cheating scandal turned into active resentment. There’s a Romeo and Juliet-style feud simmering between these families. God help any Daly son that goes after a Cabana girl.

“Hazel,” he says, as though reminding me of my name will help his case. I send him a
pretty smile instead. “Come on.”

“Not sure what you want me to do. All clients are at my discretion.” I lean forward, grabbing my elbows, pushing up my already-pushed-up breasts. Just to give him a
luscious glimpse of cleavage. I don’t know if he ever thinks about me anymore or if he’s wondered what I became since he jilted me right before senior prom.

But in case he has thought about me, in case he’s ever wondered what became of nerdy little Hazel, the girl he set out to make miserable, to beat in every way possible?

Well, here’s his answer.

Hazel wins.

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