Only with You by Layla Hagen

Carter Sloane is famous for one thing: winning cases. He's a sharp, astute lawyer, who always gets his way. In his private life, he’s completely in over his head when it comes to raising his two nieces.

When he moves into a new office, he just can’t take his eyes off the fiercely independent woman across the street. He'd love to touch and kiss that irresistible body. 

Valentina “Val” Connor is proud of her booming fragrance company.  If only she were half as successful in her love life… Between trusting the wrong men and sheer bad luck, Val is convinced she’ll never find the one.

But with his sophisticated charm and sex-appeal, Carter is hell-bent on proving to her that he can turn her luck around. Val’s senses warn her to stay away from men like him—even if her body is begging her to cave. But when she finds out about Carter’s nieces, she steps in to help, doting on them with love and care.

As Val and Carter grow closer, one thing is clear to him: He'd move mountains to make her happy, but with Val's career soaring, how can he ask her to commit to the chaos of his life?

Read an Excerpt

“Carter, you’re doing it wrong. You’re supposed to make bows, not knots,” my five-year-old niece informed me.

Peyton sat on the dining table, dangling her feet, giving me a severe look while I worked the ties at the end of her dress sleeve.

“Guys, come on. I don’t want to be late on the first day. It’s a new school. I need to make a good impression,” April called from the hallway. 

“I’m going to ask April to do it,” Peyton said impatiently.

“Okay. Off you go.”

I kissed the top of her head before helping her down. She skittered toward her older sister. I looked at my two ladies, smiling even as April rolled her eyes at me. She was almost fifteen. Eye rolling came with the territory. Peyton usually thought I walked on water, except when I couldn’t pull off the style she wanted… which happened all the time.

Once they were both ready, we headed to the underground parking lot of the building.

“What’s with the smug smile?” I asked April as we drove off.

“I love this car. People will notice it. They’ll think I have a cool uncle.”

I was driving the black Porsche this morning. I owned two other cars. What could I say? I had a weakness for automobiles.

“April, I am cool.” I attempted to sound serious.

“Umm… being on Forbes’s list of top whatever means you’re rich and successful, not cool. Plus, none of my friends read Forbes. Now, if you appeared on TMZ or Hollywood Reporter….”

For three years in a row, Forbes had included my law firm in their top recommendations in the Los Angeles area. Business was booming, which was why we were moving into a larger office this week.

I was getting the keys to the place later today. It was a week of changes for all of us.

“TMZ and Hollywood Reporter don’t care about lawyers.”

“Well, no, but you could date an actress. Or a model. Someone cool. You’re definitely great-looking. Moms check you out all the time. I don’t get why you’re single. Being single sucks.”

“Language, April.”

I glanced at Peyton in the back seat. She was humming a song to herself, oblivious to our conversation.

I hid my smile, focusing on the road. I liked keeping the girls in the dark about how active my dating life was.

But then I replayed her sentence in my mind, zeroing in on a particular detail. Being single sucks, she’d said. How would she know? She hadn’t brought boys home yet. April was a great kid, but I sensed that my laid-back, anything-goes parenting style wasn’t going to work as well in her teenage years as it had for the past five years.  

“You have a boyfriend?” I asked casually, trying to sound more like the cool uncle and not the overbearing uncle. April was a beautiful girl. Both girls resembled my late sister tremendously, April especially. She’d inherited Hannah’s dark brown hair and eyes. Peyton had her mother’s hair but her dad’s eyes. 

“Considering it,” April said nonchalantly. “I can’t wait to invite new friends over to our apartment. They’ll be psyched. Everyone loves our flashy place.”

“Girlfriends?”

April narrowed her eyes, pointing a finger at my chest as if she wanted to stab me with it. “Oh, no! You do not get to police me. I can have any kind of friends.”

“Yes, of course, you can have any friends you want. But I would like to know who you bring over. If you're bringing boys, we will need some rules.”

She raised a brow. “Really? And you think I’ll listen because you’re a fancy lawyer?”

“April, you know I don’t like policing you. But I’m the adult here, and even though you’re old enough to make decisions, I’m responsible for you. Rules aren’t to encroach on your territory but to keep you safe. We’ll have to compromise on things.”

That was a very lawyerly way of saying that I was in charge. There were things on which I wanted to put my foot down. Did she want to wear a short dress at school? No. Piercings and tattoos? No and no. Staying out after ten o’clock? Negotiable. Inviting over a boy when I was not at home? Hell, no. But I had to find a smart way to lay out my rules. I was one of the top lawyers in the Los Angeles area. Opposing counsel had been known to drop cases when they’d found out they were going to face me. But I didn’t want to raise the girls like a despot.

April sighed. “Carter, you’re becoming less cool by the minute. Just thought you should know.”

I was sure Hannah was looking at us from somewhere above and having a good laugh. Before she and my brother-in-law passed away, I’d done nothing but stomp on all the rules, always taking April’s side. Whenever I was visiting, I’d take her shopping, buying everything her parents wouldn’t. It had been five years, but I still missed my sister every day.

After I pulled the car into the parking lot in front of the school, I half turned, grinning at the girls.

“Ready to go?” I asked.

April grinned back, and Peyton squealed from the back seat. It was a big day for my girls. I planned to take them out for a treat tonight, to spoil them a bit.

An hour later, I held in my hand the keys to the new offices of Sloane & Partners. The building manager, Kate, had given me a tour of the space, and as we neared the end, she said, “I’m hosting a charity event for deaf and hard of hearing children. Would you like to participate? It’s in one month.”

“Email me all the details. I’ll send a check if I already have something planned.”

“Sure. But I’d love to have you there. I manage a few buildings in the area, and all my clients are participating. Even the owner of my big fish, as I like to say, Valentina’s Laboratories. It’s the huge gray building around the corner. Big name in cosmetics and fragrances.”

The name didn’t ring a bell, but since I wasn’t involved in that industry, it wasn’t saying much.

 “She invited some of her Hollywood connections, so the place will be packed with celebrities. Might be good for business,” Kate rattled on.

“As I said, send me all details.”

“Will do. Okay. That’s it from me. If you need anything, give me a call. When are your movers bringing the furniture?”

“Later today. We’ll open up for business tomorrow.”

 “My, that’s quick, but I suppose you don’t build a reputation like yours by being anything other than sharp.”

“It’s necessary. Our clients don’t like to wait.”

“I’ll leave you to do your thing, then. Welcome to your new office. I might be biased, but I think you’ll like it much better here.”