by Jennifer Dawson
Series: Undone #2
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
I’ve wanted my brother’s best friend, Leo Santoro, for too many years to count.
No matter what I do, he won’t confront the attraction that burns between us.
It’s time to put him behind me once and for all.
I have no choice but to call his bluff.
And then I will walk away.
The last woman I should want is my best friend’s baby sister, Jillian Banks.
No matter what I do, she won’t ignore the attraction that burns between us.
It’s time she learns the real me.
The only promise I can make is that her fantasies are no match for reality.
And then I’ll watch her walk away.
Sinful by Jennifer Dawson is the second book in the Undone series. Sinful is a contemporary romance that delves into the dominant and submissive genre. What make Sinful unique is the depth Dawson brings to her characters and the realistic portrayal of this world. Wickedly hot and deliciously sweet, Sinful delivers a powerful romance with low angst creating a wonderful escape.
While this is the second book in the Undone series, it can be read as a standalone. Events in this novel take place before those of Crave and we actually witnessed a scene where Michael was scoping out Layla.
Jillian Banks is Michael’s little sister. She has been attracted to Michael’s partner Leo Santoro since the men graduated from the academy. She knows Leo is attracted to her but he will not make a move and Jillian has decided she will. I liked Jillian, she is grounded, sincere and intelligent despite the fact she is unsure of her career goals. As strong and confident as she is, there is a vulnerable side to her, and I appreciated how open she was about her feelings.
Leo, poor, poor Leo, I felt sorry for him for about a minute. He wants Jillian bad but two things are stopping him. The first is Michael, because you do not bang your partner’s little sister. The second reason is that Leo is dominant. As much as he wants Jillian, he does not think he can change and Jillian is far too bold, vibrant and stubborn to be submissive.
Oh what fun Sinful was from the intense attraction to Leo’s spiraling fall. The set up for Jillian’s plan of action was fun, and Brandon a friend of Leo and Michael was sexy and hilarious. I cannot wait for his book. Jillian has no idea about the Dom/Sub world and it was powerful witnessing her introduction. Forget Fifty Shades; Dawson introduces a more realistic exploration of the Dom/sub relationship. Compared to Crave, Sinful is smoking hot. The foreplay, games and build up were delicious. We get a few darker scenes as Leo tries to fulfill Jillian’s fantasy and I appreciated how Dawson made clear Jillian was always in charge.
While the tale is heated, the romance itself was sweet, and slow building. We see the characters grow and I love when two people bring out the best in each other. Dawson gives a small-town feel to her stories including family and friends. The friendship between Michael, Leo and Brandon is strong and an enjoyable dynamic. We see Michael and witness his reactions to their relationship. If you have met Michael, you are sure to snicker as I did. We also meet Leo’s family and learn his history. Dawson pulled on my heartstrings with Leo and a scene towards the end made me deliriously happy even as I shed a tear.
Sinful was delicious with toe curling heat, and characters who endeared themselves to me.
Read Chapter 1 of Sinful
“Is he going to be there?” my roommate Heather Cowan asks, carefully studying her bright, glittery pink nails. She’s been painting them on my nightstand table as I tear through my bedroom like a mini tornado to get ready for this evening’s festivities.
The “he” in question is my brother’s best friend. And tonight, I’m going to put an end to our extended game of cat and mouse, once and for all. In the mirror, I grin at Heather. “Oh, he’ll be there.”
Heather gives me a long-suffering smile and shakes her head at my craziness.
Which, I’m totally used to, and honestly I can’t blame her.
Where he is concerned, I’m impossible.
The party is for my older brother. It’s his birthday, and he’s recently been promoted to the next rank of homicide detective in the Chicago Police Department. He’s one of those overachiever types. Between his birthday and the career success my parents’ heads were in danger of exploding with pride and they couldn’t resist throwing him a big bash.
Which works to my advantage.
I survey myself in the full-length mirror, twisting and turning in my minuscule dress, pleased with what’s staring back at me. I turn to my roommate. “So, what do you think?”
Heather flicks a glance over me. “I think you’re going to give your poor brother a heart attack.”
“Don’t you worry about Michael, he’ll be fine.” Yes, he’s annoyingly overprotective, but I’m twenty-eight, and there’s not much he can do but grumble and scowl. Since he can’t help himself, I take it in stride and don’t deny him his big brother privileges. Nope, I’m a good sister. I just smile, nod and do what I want. See, a win-win for both of us.
I plant my hands on my hips. “You didn’t answer.”
Heather sighs, and flops down on my bed, holding her hands in the air so she won’t ruin her manicure. “You look like I hate you and I’m glad I don’t have to stand next to you and watch men drool all over you.”
“Perfect.” I’ve achieved the intended effect, although the man I want to drool all over me refuses to bend to my seductive will.
“Please, Jillian, I’m begging you, let this go.” Heather’s voice is a pleading whine. We’ve had this conversation before, but I’m nothing if not determined.
“Not going to happen. So just deal.” I twist once again in the mirror. I’m not normally this vain, but tonight I have to look perfect. Impossible to resist. “And the dress?”
“You look like a very expensive escort.”
“Excellent.” I beam, my lips extra full and pouty with the dark crimson gloss I’ve slicked on. It goes with my light olive skin, long, dark wavy hair, and hazel eyes.
I must say I do look spectacular. Yes, my red dress is painted on, short on my long legs, extra slinky, and maybe a bit slutty. But I’m going for show stopping here.
Subtly is not one of tonight’s words.
No, I’m going for hit-you-over-the-head bold.
Heather rolls her eyes. “This will only end in disaster. I’ll be gone this weekend, who will help you pick up the pieces of your tattered heart?”
I step away from the mirror and put on a pair of nude, stiletto heels. “I’ll be fine, I promise. Yes, it will probably be a disaster. But, I’ve tried everything else, I’m running out of options.”
Most girls probably would have taken no for an answer a long time ago, but I’ve been told I can be a bit stubborn at times. Just a bit.
Heather rolls off my bed and stretches her long, lean frame. She’s a ballerina at the Joffrey Ballet, and with her platinum blonde hair, fine classical features and clear blue eyes she looks the part. Dressed in black yoga pants and a tank top, she reaches for her heel and stretches her leg to the ceiling. Her flexibility is something to marvel.
I tilt my head at her. “Are you sure you won’t come tonight? Even for a little bit?”
“As much as I’d love to watch you make a fool out of yourself, I’ve got to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.”
“Too bad.” While I’d love her there to support me, which she would despite her belief that I’m being dumb, I’ll know plenty of people at the party, including my best friend Gwen Johnson. We grew up right next door to each other so she’s almost as close to Michael as I am.
My father had rented the back of the hot new Irish pub featured in all of Chicago’s “what’s trending” magazines. Michael protested the celebration, but my father refused to budge. His only son being a homicide detective wasn’t what my investment banker father wanted, but he was proud and showed it. At least my older sister took pity on him and married a partner in my dad’s firm.
I’m the last Banks hold out.
After college I gave it a try, taking a low-level entry job in my dad’s office, but I hated it. I’m not cut out for corporate life. I lasted three months before I quit. Since then I’ve flitted around in various careers, abandoning each one much to my parents’ worry.
I’m affectionately what they call a free spirit. Aka, I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
Something with art, where I’m not cooped up in an office all day—in other words—poor. Of course my family worries about my lack of direction, but I don’t. When I finally hit upon that elusive “thing” I’ll know. And I’ll give it everything I’ve got. In the meantime, I support myself by waitressing at Gwen’s trendy restaurant.
With a six-month waiting list, it’s a great gig, but I’m a mediocre waitress and the restaurant business isn’t my passion. The best I can say about my job is I use my relationship with Gwen for the best shifts, and didn’t have to work out much.
I straighten my dress and walk into our tiny living room. I’ll figure out my career another time, tonight is about pursuing my other elusive passion.
My brother’s best friend and partner. Object of my lust-filled fantasies.
And general pain in the ass.
Heather follows me down the hallway that leads to our living room. “You’ve been practicing in those heels.”
I laugh. There is an art to walking around in too high stilettos, and it’s not innate.
“Your legs look fantastic.”
“Why thank you.” They did. I’m tall, five nine to be exact, and I’ve been told by men and women alike that my legs are endless. I consider them one of my best assets.
I move to the kitchen and start transferring necessary essentials from my big purse to my small evening bag.
Heather slides onto one of the stools that line the breakfast bar and watches me. “Do you think it’s smart to wear heals that put you eye level with him?”
I toss my hair over my shoulder and search for my powder. When I can’t find it I empty everything onto the counter. “He can handle it.” Four-inch heels are part of my strategy.
I want him looking me straight in the eye when he rejects me.
Heather picks up a piece of Double Bubble from the contents of my purse and opens it. “What makes you think this time will be the last.”
“I’m realistic, he’ll probably say no.” Leo always says no. I find the powder and pluck it from the rest of the chaos, and put it in my bag. “But for me it will be the last time, and that’s what we need to focus on.”
The first time I met Leo was the day my brother graduated from the academy. They’d been in the same class. It had been just like the movies. Our eyes locked and when we shook hands electricity actually jolted up my arm. I know he felt it too, because his dark gaze had flickered before dropping to my mouth for a heartbeat.
I’d fallen in instant lust.
He’d ignored me for the rest of the day.
Things hadn’t improved over the years. I’d tried a variety of ways to seduce him but he continues to treat me like a little sister. Gently rebuffing me in a brotherly sort of way.
A girl can only get rejected so many times before it starts to mess with her selfesteem, so of course, I’ve tried to move on. I’ve dated loads of guys, and even had sex with a few of them. Sometimes I came, sometimes I didn’t, but when I closed my eyes, it was Leo who filled my mind. There’s just something about him that calls to me and eclipses every other man I come in contact with.
Despite evidence to the contrary, I was stubbornly sure he wanted me. There was something about the way he looked at me, lingering a bit too long on my mouth, the hint of narrowed eyes when another man showed his appreciation.
What I couldn’t figure out was why he refused to act.
Sure, he was my brother’s best friend, and Michael was universally considered intimidating as the devil himself, but Leo didn’t seem the type to let a thing like friendship and intimidation get in the way of what he wanted.
So, why was he resistant? The more I couldn’t figure him out, the more fascinating he became.
I’m twisted that way.
“Well, you know what I think.” Heather popped the gum into her mouth. We’d discussed the topic ad nauseam, and I suspected the whole thing bored her. Not that I blamed her. My obsession bored me too.
That’s why I’m taking action.
I’m going to give it one more try, and if he rejects me, I’ll move on. My plan is to do things differently this time. If it didn’t work, well, I’ll live with it and put him behind me once and for all. I’m far too old and have too much respect for myself to continue to hold out for a guy that didn’t want me enough to fight for me.
I shut my purse. “Tonight’s the night. I promise, when he says no, I will stick to the plan.”
Heather touches my hand and gives me a sympathetic frown. “I don’t know what his problem is, you’re awesome. And I think he wants you, I just don’t think he intends to do anything about it.”
“Of course he doesn’t. That’s why it’s up to me to prove him wrong.”
As soon as I walk into the bar, I spot him, laughing down at some blonde with big tits and a waist so small she could rival Scarlet O’Hara, pre-baby. Apparently enraptured with her, he doesn’t notice me as I make my rounds through the room.
This isn’t off to a good start.
Casual as can be, he’s leaning against a wall, wearing a pair of jeans and a tight black shirt that hugs his muscles and broad shoulders and emphasizes the narrow cut of his waist. He looks ridiculous and just seeing him makes my heart kick into double time.
My best friend Gwen, a gorgeous redhead, with light blue eyes and a lean frame that doesn’t belong on a restaurant owner, runs over to me. “Damn, girl, you look hotter than hell.”
That was the idea. I smooth down my skirt. Thanks.”
She hugs me, then stands back and whistles. “If he resists this dress, the man is officially a candidate for sainthood.”
We’ve been friends since practically birth; she knows everything about me, including my Leo fixation. But Leo talk is for the privacy of our apartments, not out here in the open with a bunch of nosey cops milling around. “Sssshhhh!!” I hiss, glancing around. “Someone might hear you.”
“Oh relax, I didn’t say his name.” Gwen hooks an arm with mine. “Come on, let’s put you on display.”
I glance one more time in Leo’s direction but his attention is still on the blonde.
I throw my shoulders back. This will not deter me.
We begin our crawl through the room. The place is packed and I’m pleased to see men giving me the down and dirty once over. Their eyes shifting hungrily between Gwen and me, as if trying to figure out who to eat up first.
Now if I can only get the attention of the right one, I’ll be set.
I spot my parents, my sister and her husband, and Michael over by the bar. I point in their direction and we make our way over to the group.
When we get there, I grin. “Happy Birthday, big brother.”
Tallness runs in our family and Michael is six feet, five inches of badass with dark hair, ridiculous cheekbones, and a body carved from granite. He’s scary, beautiful and drives women absolutely crazy.
And right now he’s frowning at me. “What in the hell are you wearing?”
“A dress, geesh,” I say and shoot a glance to my dad, jerking a thumb at Michael. “Can you believe this guy? Isn’t that supposed to be your line?”
My father’s mouth forms a matching frown, showcasing their similar features. “It does seem your dress needs more of it.”
“Don’t listen to him, dear,” my mom says, kissing me on both cheeks. “You look lovely.”
“Doesn’t she?” Gwen beams at me.
Michael practically growls at her. “Don’t encourage her. This place is full of cops, you need to put on a sweater.”
“If it’s full of cops, I’ll be perfectly safe,” I point out helpfully. See what a good sister I am? I turn toward Gwen. The family is not helping my mojo. “Let’s get a drink.” We wave and head to the bar.
Of course everything is free, and Gwen and I take full advantage. Now that my reckoning is drawing near, nerves dance in my stomach, and I need to relax. We order shots of Patrón in honor of our college days and then margaritas so we don’t mix alcohol.
“So tonight’s the night?” Gwen takes a sip and surveys the crowd. Gwen is like super model gorgeous, and between the two of us we’re causing quite the stir.
I do a sideways glance in the direction I last saw Leo. Still talking to the blonde.
That jerk doesn’t even know I’m here.
“Tonight’s the night.” I nod. I will not be thwarted. Gwen knows all about my plans and my promises to move on if I fail. She’s sworn to go hard-core on me if that happens. Zero tolerance for anything Leo related. I smooth a hand over my stomach. “What do you think?”
“I have faith in you.” Gwen tilts her head and it sends her hair swaying over one shoulder. “But remember, sometimes you have to be careful for what you wish for.”
I furrow my brow. “What do you mean?”
Gwen flashes a dazzling smile at the guy across the bar, and then shrugs. “All I mean is that you don’t really know him. If he goes for this, the real guy might not live up to the guy you’ve conjured in your fantasies.”
I wrinkle my nose and nod. I’m no dummy, and of course, she’s one-hundredpercent right. It’s actually an argument I’ve made to myself a million times. On occasion, I’ve even followed it, but then I see him again. I catch the spark of awareness on the air between us, and I fall right back into my infatuation.
I sigh. “I know, but the only way to find that out is to take the plunge, and it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
The cute guy from across the bar gives Gwen a long, slow smile and when she returns it with a flirty look, he starts the path over. Gwen winks at me. “One more shot and then you go get him, deal?”
“Deal.” I glance over to where Leo stands, his head bent talking to the blonde.
His hair is dark, almost black, matching the depth of his eyes.
Tonight’s the night. I either go big, or go home.