Breaking The Bro Code

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Off limits…and oh-so-tempting!

Elise Johnson has more important things to concentrate on than men…saving her struggling ballet studio for starters! So when gorgeous Col Hillam—her brother’s best friend—saunters back into her life, she’s none too keen.

He might be proposing a purely professional arrangement, but the last time they got carried away by their crazy attraction it ended in disaster! Col knows Elise is off-limits, but it only makes her more tempting….

With chemistry this hot, surely that bro code is now null and void…?

 

 




Extras

Breaking the Bro Code has been translated into two languages:

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Reviews

"I adored this read so very much, it had sweet passion, intrigue and such a lovely combination of sweet and sexy meets lust and passion, that it just popped from the pages and I certainly did not want the story to end." - Contemporary Romance Reviews

"The dialogue was fun when it was relevant, and definitely poignant as they discussed their childhood issues. Their romantic scenes were very sexy, but I liked that there was still that emotional connection they shared as teenagers...If you’re looking for a quick but enjoyable romance with deep emotions, definitely give Breaking the Bro Code a try." - Harlequin Junkie

"Their emotional journeys, which deal with some complex issues, are perfectly complemented by their playfulness and strong physical attraction. The interaction between Elise and Col is so vibrant and alive that the words almost jump off the page. Their dialogue sparkles and the chemistry is off the charts. Stefanie London knows how to write some damn hot sexy-times!" - GoodReads Review

"I really loved this story. It was funny, heartfelt, sweet and sexy.
The chemistry between Col and Elise crackles from the page and is given depth by their shared pasts and traumas." - GoodReads Review



Excerpt

Chapter One

The numbers didn’t make sense. Well, that wasn’t entirely true – they made sense, but they didn’t tell the story Elise Johnson had hoped for. They didn’t tell her that she ran a successful, thriving ballet studio. They didn’t tell her that she’d be able to live off anything other than baked beans and toast this week. More concerning, they didn’t tell her that things were going to get better any time soon.

She rested her chin in her hand and frowned as the grid of looping cursive swam in front of her. Maybe she’d skip the baked beans and head straight for a bottle of wine instead.

“You’ll go cross-eyed,” Jasmine Bell, Elise’s best friend and employee, chirped as she changed out of her legwarmers. “I always thought number crunching was best left to the professionals.”

“What are you trying to say?” She looked up from her paperwork, feigning indignity as Jasmine smirked.

“Oh nothing…only I remember a young girl once faking a panic attack to get out of a maths exam.”

“There wasn’t anything fake about it.” Elise closed the folder containing the evidence of her dire financial situation and tucked it away in a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind. “That panic was real.”

“And the time you tried to con your math tutor into doing your homework for you by flashing him?”

“That was less about the math homework and more about him – he was seriously cute. Unfortunately for me a tiny bust was not enough to persuade him…” She frowned, looking down at her boyish frame. “Not much has changed.”

“It’s the curse of the ballerina.” Jasmine slipped her feet into a pair of flats and bundled her legwarmers into her workout bag. “Anyway, that’s why God invented push up bras.”

“Amen to that.”

A flat chest was the trade-off for the sculpted legs and washboard stomachs that ballerinas were known for. Elise’s years of formal training and her short-lived career with the Australian Ballet had given her just that. It was a good body, but not one designed to win men over with flashing.
“Seriously though, why don’t you look into getting someone to do the bookkeeping for you?”

Elise desperately wanted to palm that job off to someone else. Jasmine was right: numbers were not her thing at all. Sequins and choreography and people…those were her things. Addition, subtraction, multiplication – not so much.

“Yeah, I should look into that,” Elise said, brushing the suggestion off. She was doing her best to hide the EJ Ballet School’s financial situation; the last thing she wanted was Jasmine or any of the other teachers stressing about job security…or her.

“Do you want a hand cleaning up before I go?”

Elise shook her head. “Go home and enjoy that man toy of yours.”

Jasmine waved as she left the studio, leaving Elise alone with her worries. She had to figure out how on earth she was going to keep the school afloat despite her dwindling savings.

The silence of the studio engulfed her. After a long day of teaching and managing the seemingly endless administration that came with running a business, exhaustion seeped into her bones. She would worry about the books tomorrow. Tonight she was going to curl up on the couch with a glass of red and good book. Make that a glass of cheap red and a good book.

Elise grabbed the broom and set off to sweep the studio. She couldn’t be too down on herself. It was common knowledge that small businesses often suffered in their first five years and the studio was due to turn three in a month’s time. She could still turn things around.

She had to. Her mother had medication and treatment to be paid for, and she was the only one left to make sure it happened. She had to turn things around.

The sharp bang at the studio’s entrance made Elise jump.

“Jas?” Her voice echoed off the mirror-lined walls.

When there was no response, she made her way to the waiting room. Awareness prickled along the back of her neck; her hands held the broom handle in a vice-like grip. Someone was here.

“Hello?” She tried again.

A tall figure stood by the reception desk, a man. His broad frame was encased in snug jeans and a crisp white shirt. Dark chocolate hair was close cropped, styled. She would have known that body anywhere, but it was the scent of honeyed woods and cinnamon that threw her senses into a spin and her mind into the past.

“Col?”

***

There were two likely outcomes from this situation, neither of them good. One, Elise would plant an open palm across his face as she’d done once before – when he told her he was leaving. Two, she would be so completely over him that his surprise visit wouldn’t even have an impact on her.

Was it possible in five years that she’d forgotten all about him? The question plagued Col Hillam as he steered his borrowed car down an industrial street in Melbourne’s inner north. He had to ask himself that question, because if he didn’t focus on talking to Elise Johnson his mind would wander to other, darker things.

Pulling into the dance studio parking lot, he positioned himself a few spaces away from the only other car there. From the outside, the studio was nothing like what he’d imagined. No frill, no frou frou, and definitely none of the over-the-top yet annoyingly attractive things he associated with his favourite ballerina.

Make that ex-ballerina...

He pushed open the car door and stepped out, leaving his blazer on the passenger seat. The sun was setting and the sky bled shades of red and burnished gold. He’d forgotten how striking Australia was in the summertime. Heat prickled the pack of his neck, a droplet of sweat running over the tense muscles there. He rubbed his hand against the corded muscle, willing the tension to ease.

Gravel crunched under his shoes as he crossed the parking lot and opened the studio door with a bang. If he’d been planning on surprising Elise then he’d given himself away. No matter, subtle wasn’t exactly his style.

Photos and girlie decorations in every imaginable shade of pink ran along the wall. A recent picture of Elise showed her standing with her mother and holding a huge bunch of flowers. A lump rose in his throat.

He hadn’t called ahead to warn her of his visit. Hell, he hadn’t even unpacked his suitcase yet. A shower at the hotel was all he allowed himself before he hit the road. Col was more nervous about her reaction to his visit than he wanted to be. He could do business with the most powerful people in the world, but the potential wrath of a tiny ballerina was enough to set him on edge.

“Col?” His name in her sweet, husky tones sent a surge of volatile heat down to his belly.

He turned, shocked at how much and yet how little she’d changed. There was not an extra ounce of fat on her small, pixie-like frame and her gaze was the same twinkling grey he dreamed about. She’d cut her hair so that it now fell to her shoulders, but the wispy gold lengths still caught the light as they always had. He was relieved to see the burning intensity of her stare hadn’t diminished over the years.

“Ellie.”

“It’s Elise,” she corrected him, her tone careful, guarded. “I haven’t been Ellie for a long time.”

“You’ll always be Ellie to me.”

She pursed her lips. “You can call a dog a cat, but it will always be a dog.”

“Sounds like someone’s getting their daily dose of Confucius.”

Her eyes narrowed as she folded her arms across her chest. “What brings you to Melbourne?”

Her suspicion cut him deeply; at one point they’d been close as siblings despite the fact that he’d wanted so much more. Unfortunately five years ago that bond had been irrevocably broken. Now he was here because he’d been dragged back to bury his abusive, deadbeat father. But that was a topic of conversation best avoided.

“Business.”

“Good to see nothing has changed.” Her face softened, but her crossed arms remained a barrier between them. “Remember that all work and no play makes Col a dull boy.”

“I don’t have time to play these days.”

“But you have time to visit old acquaintances?” She leant against the pink couch that dominated the waiting room. It took all of his willpower not to drink in the sight of her slender legs encased in pink ballet tights and knee-high black legwarmers. She looked like a fantasy.

“I’d like to think we were more than acquaintances, Ellie.” Friends, best friends perhaps. Lovers?

She shrugged and tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear, waiting for him to speak. She used her silence to force him to continue the conversation – it was a trick he’d taught her once…back when she didn’t consider him a mere acquaintance.

“Actually, I’m here with a proposal.”

Her brows rose. “Don’t tell me America ran out of socialites for you to sleep with.”

“Jealous much?” He enjoyed the flare of pink across her nose and cheeks.

“Only that you’re here bothering me and not them.” She tried to look bored but her muscles were tense, her body on high alert.

“It’s come to my attention that your ballet studio is going through some difficult financial times.” He cleared this throat, his hands automatically tugging on the cuffs of his shirt. “And I have a solution that I feel would be mutually beneficial.”

“Mutually beneficial?”

“Yes.” He gave a sharp nod. “I’d like to hire you.”

She blanched. “You want ballet lessons?”

“Hell no!” A hearty laugh started all the way down in his stomach and burst forth with a soul-relieving boom. It felt good, and God knew he needed something to laugh about at the moment.

“No need to be ashamed – male ballet dancers can still be masculine,” she said, tilting her head to one side, studying him. “Or are you afraid you’ll need to pad out your tights?”

“You know damn well I don’t need any padding down there.”

Her eyes flickered over him, as though they wanted to slide down the length of him but she was forcing her attention elsewhere.

“I don’t want ballet lessons.” He shook his head, wondering why on earth a grown man would want to learn ballet. “But I do want the advice of someone who’s been a performer her whole life.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a long story but I’ve got something really important coming up and I need your expertise.” He turned a charming grin on her, hoping to hell it had the right affect. Back in the day his smile had won her over on more than one occasion. “In return, I’ll make all your financial woes go away.”

She pushed up from the couch and strode towards him, closing the gap between them. Charged and dangerous. Though he had a head and a half on her she held herself with the grace of a queen. She approached him, lips ready for battle, hands balled into fists by her side.