"I SURE AS HELL KNOW HOW TO KISS A WOMAN."
-- ZANE RANKIN
Uh-oh. Nicole Beauman had overcome a lot of obstacles in her life, and she sure as heck had never backed down from a challenge. But her boss, Zane Rankin, presented an entirely new sort of dilemma. Sexy and charming, he was like chocolate -- sinfully good, but bad for her health. Nicki knew Zane didn't want to settle down, particularly not with a girl like her, and she didn't plan to lose her heart to a temporary fling. But when a friendly date got a little too friendly, things got a little bit steamy...and Nicki wound up just a little bit...pregnant. What was a girl to do?
Fantastic friends to lovers story with an interesting twist. Nicki has worked for Zane for three years and has developed a great friendship with him as well as a great working relationship. There's a lot of good natured teasing between them, but they also know that they have each other for support if it's needed. What she has kept buried deep is the crush that she has on her playboy boss.
I loved Nicki. She's smart, she's independent, and she's got challenges rarely seen in a romance novel heroine. When she was fourteen she was involved in a skiing accident that left her unable to walk, so she has been in a wheelchair ever since. She has a wonderful "can-do" attitude about almost everything, and rarely lets her handicap get her down. At the beginning of the book, Zane is giving her a hard time about her latest boyfriend, who hasn't impressed him. When she gets stood up for an office party, Zane suggests that they go together, as he's between women right now.
Zane likes Nicki. She's pretty, she's fun to be around, and he feels like he can be himself around her. When he picks her up for their "date" suddenly there's an extra kick to the way he's looking at her. In an effort to demonstrate to her what a loser her boyfriend is, he begins treating her the way he would treat any of his other dates. When he takes her home after the party, an effort to show her how a good night kiss should be done suddenly gets out of hand.
That night together was off the charts hot, and suddenly Zane is looking at her in a whole different way. But Nicki is afraid that becoming lovers will wreck their friendship, so she backs off. She's sure that getting involved with him will end up with her getting hurt. After all, she's nothing like his usual woman. They work to get past the awkwardness and make it back to their old relationship just in time for a business trip together that sends their chemistry rocketing out of control again. Just as she's considering the possibility of continuing with the affair, she discovers that she is pregnant.
Zane is stunned by the news. He had planned to never have children. He had been blissfully married five years earlier, when he and his wife were both Marines. When she got pregnant, he insisted that she transfer back to the States, where she and the baby would be safe. When the helicopter she was on malfunctioned and crashed, he held himself responsible for her death, and swore he'd never risk his heart and someone's safety again. Having Nicki become pregnant sends him into a panic.
I have to say that Zane was pretty amusing with the way he reacted. Once he got past the shock, his first reaction is that they should marry so that he can keep Nicki and the baby safe. His protectiveness goes into overdrive and he becomes quite obsessive in that determination. At first Nicki believes it is because he thinks she can't handle it because of her handicap, and that makes her really angry as well as hurting her feelings. Once she realizes that's not it, she gets a little more patient with him, but still has to work at keeping him under control.
Nicki keeps rejecting Zane's proposals since she won't settle for anything but love as a reason to marry. She loves him, but believes that he can't love her in return. Zane's fears are overwhelming to him, and keep him from seeing the truth about his feelings for her. When he actually takes the time to face those fears, he is stunned by the realization of what he has been doing. I loved his "aha" moment, and seeing the advice he gave his friend Jeff get turned around and applied to him. Seeing him finally open his heart and show Nicki how he felt was great. I loved how the chapter ended with words of love and some of their usual banter. The epilogue was different with it taking place so far in the future.
One of the things I liked best about the book was the treatment of the heroine. I loved that her handicap was treated so realistically. She has dealt with it for a long time and has accepted it, but also has moments where it gets her down or frustrates her. I really loved her frustration as she dealt with the hassles of travel because it was so true to life. I understood her need to be seen as a person outside her handicap. Seeing the way that Zane dealt so easily with her challenges while still seeing her as a woman made him just about perfect in my eyes.