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Cher Dawson pushed Luc Broussard up against the white tiles of the shower wall and kissed him, hard and deep. He returned her passion, his hands roaming over her body to create that familiar, blinding heat that always left her writhing with desire and craving more. For a few sizzling seconds she didn't care that he had a final exam in an hour and his entire future rested on passing the class. She closed her eyes as his fingers slid down her slick skin, massaging and caressing her.
Warm water sluiced off their bodies, and Cher gave herself up to the promise of lovemaking. She loved taking long, hot showers with Luc, exploring his body as he explored her. She never got enough of him. She tore herself away as reality crept into her head. "Okay, I kissed you, now get out and get dressed."
His dark brown eyes sparkled with mischief. "I want more than a kiss."
Her stomach tightened against the exquisite hardness of his erection. She wanted him in a way she'd never wanted any man, but now was not the time. She tried to pull away from him, but he slipped his hands around her waist and held her tight to him as he licked her lips. "Luc." She braced her hands against his chest, prepared to push him out of the tub. "Stop that. You have an exam in an hour."
"I'd rather be inside you than writing the answers to a bunch of dull questions." His full, seductive lips tilted upward into a wicked grin. Water streamed over the muscles of his shoulders.
Cher groaned. She drew in a ragged breath as she pushed hair out of her eyes. This man made her legs tremble and her mind go numb. As tempted as she was to succumb, someone had to keep their head. "No test, no graduation, no degree, no cushy job at the State Department."
He laughed a rich, full-throated laugh. "Are you marrying me because you love me, or because of my earning potential?"
Which reflected his moneyed, upper-class background. She still thrilled that a man like Luc would be interested in a girl like her, one who'd spent half her youth homeless and on the streets, headed for a life of crime if not for the intervention of David Dawson, her foster father and her savior. "You're pretty smart, too."
He nuzzled her neck. "The smartest thing I've ever done was ask you to marry me."
Her knees nearly buckled. Tremors exploded throughout her body. "So you're going to smooth-talk me now."
He nipped her at the base of her neck. "I'm trying to be romantic." His fingers circled her breasts, moving inward in ever smaller movements until she couldn't breathe.
Blood roared in her ears like the driving rain of a thunderstorm. Cher knew it was now or never. She had to get out of the shower, or he'd be late. No final, no degree. He'd delayed long enough.
Summoning all her will, she shoved him away, the lure of his lovemaking almost too strong to control. She wanted him desperately, but first things first. "Be romantic after your final exam."
He grinned at her. "You're a hard woman, Dawson."
She thumped him on the chest. "Because I have to be to keep you in line. Now finish your shower and get to class." She didn't want him to be late, not when so much depended on this one last test.
She pushed open the glass shower door, but he grabbed her arm, tugging her back inside the large shower stall.
Luc braced her back against the wet tile wall. "You thought you were going to escape?"
A shudder of desire ran through her. "A girl can hope, can't she?" She closed her eyes, maybe just a quickie. God knew that until the end of her life, she would never be able to resist him. You are so weak, Cher Dawson.
Luc bracketed his hands on both sides of her shoulders. "Come on, tell me you don't want me."
She leaned her head against the warm tile, knowing she could not escape ... even if she wanted to. She placed her palms flat on his chest and trailed her fingers downward. His muscles contracted at her touch. Slanting a glance up at his face, she debated the wisdom of letting him tempt her into sin. All her choices should be like this. Luc's eyes closed. Her choice was made, she could play his sexual game. Her hands began to descend, but he grabbed her wrists.
"I thought you weren't interested," he said in a deep, growling tone.
She grinned. "I'm always interested, Luc."
He pushed his body flush against her. "Me, too."
Gently he nibbled her lips. Cher opened her mouth, and his tongue slid inside. He swirled it around slowly, just the way she liked, and he explored the depths of her mouth, his thumbs kneading her nipples. The only thing preventing her from sinking to the shower floor was his body crushed against her.
Heat danced around her body. The steamy water cascaded over their shoulders, and the warmth of his slick skin was an invitation she could no longer deny. The desire for him flowed through her with such intensity, she gasped for air.
Luc snaked his arms around her waist and lifted her. "Wrap your legs around me."
She hooked her shaking legs around his waist as he commanded. She wrapped her arm around his neck. Hot, passionate excitement escalated inside her. Slowly he lowered her on his hardness, filling her so completely she wanted to scream. Her intimate muscles contracted around him. Resting her head against his shoulder, she gave herself up to the rhythmic movements of his hips. In the back of her head she wondered how she could have been so foolish as to deny him for more than five seconds.
* * *
Cher wrapped a plush, navy-blue towel around her body. After stealing one last look at him as he rinsed off, she headed for the small, cozy bedroom they shared. When she'd first arrived at Stanford, she'd stayed in the dorms. But after one semester of sharing showers and putting up with her roommate's idea of sharing clothing and makeup, Cher had taken a second job and then moved out to this small apartment. Privacy was very important to Cher. She had wrestled with the loss of it for several weeks before formally inviting Luc to move in. Now she was glad she had him in her life and in her bed. She couldn't imagine a life without him.
She dried her skin and pulled the burgundy silk robe Luc had given her for Valentine's Day around her body. She loved the robe with its matching silk nightgown. She loved the way the silk felt against her skin. She'd never before had anything so finely made and beautiful.
Luc had also presented her with the diamond engagement ring she now wore. She still smiled at the memory of his proposal and the naked longing in his eyes. At first she had considered refusing him, but realized her future was with Luc.
Cher went to the kitchen to make Luc a cup of coffee. By the time the coffee finished dripping, Luc was out of the shower and dressed. He walked into the cozy kitchen, thumbing through a spiralbound notebook filled with his loopy, sloppy handwriting. "Catherine de Medici was Queen Regent of France, right?"
She eyed the notebook. "And ordered the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre. Either you know it, or you don't. Now is not the time to start cramming."
He grinned. "Just testing you."
He tossed the notebook to her, she caught it, and set the notebook on the oak dining table. "I did manage an A in the class." She managed A's in all her classes. Cher would tolerate nothing less from herself. Not that she was a perfectionist, but David Dawson had given her a chance and she didn't want squander it, or embarrass him by performing badly in school.
"Show-off." He gulped down coffee, kissed her, handed her the cup, and bolted out the door.
She touched her mouth, still burning from his kiss. They were going to have a perfect life together. She could hardly wait for the wedding. They had decided on a late June ceremony, a scant two weeks away. All their plans would soon be a reality.
Cher finished dressing, cleaned the bathroom and straightened the bedroom. Luc was a slob. All those years of having maids to pick up after him was definitely changing after they were married. She didn't want strangers going through her dirty laundry and touching her underwear. Her freshman roommate had been bad enough, but a total stranger was worse.
She touched the square-cut diamond ring adorning the third finger of her left hand. Cher had never expected marriage to be a part of her future. If anyone had asked her what she thought her future was when she'd been eleven, she would have answered, "why bother wondering. I'll be dead by the time I'm eighteen." But fate had intervened in the form of one tough cop who'd taken her in and given her a life and new hope.
She'd never thought a man like Luc Broussard would be attracted to a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Prince Charming only came along in fairy tales. Luc was charismatic, intelligent, and sexy. Cher really liked the sexy part. Just thinking about how he brought her body to climax started her tingling.
She began cleaning the tiny living room. Luc had insisted on a new sofa. The one she had found at the thrift shop had been lumpy with the springs pointing through. And they shopped for the dark green leather sectional that took up almost the whole room. She'd been appalled at the price, but Luc had stated that leather, well-cared for, lasted a lifetime and had insisted. Besides when they had friends over, everyone would have a place to sit. As an afterthought, he added a large boxy table, which was now piled with their textbooks.
Cher touched her sociology text. She'd taken her last final two days before and was pleased that school was finally over and she could start her life in earnest now. She plumped up the pillows and dusted the side tables.
They were having dinner with his mother, and Cher didn't want Victoria Broussard arriving at a messy apartment. Luc had said his mother was very meticulous in the way her own home looked. This would be the first time Cher had met Luc's mother, although she had talked with her on the telephone a few times.
The doorbell rang, and Cher jumped, startled. Who could be ringing the doorbell at nine in the morning? She folded up the dustrag as she walked toward the door and answered it.
A tall, slender woman stood in the hallway. She was elegant in brown silk slacks, a tan cashmere sweater and a Gucci scarf draped about her slender shoulders. Her resemblance to Luc testified to the fact she was his mother. Graying black hair framed an oval face. Her skin was the color of burnished almonds, and her eyes were a dark, intense brown. Full lips, expertly painted in a muted red, gave Cher a cool smile. Victoria Broussard reeked of class. The type of woman Cher aspired to be.
"You must be Cher," the woman said brusquely in her cultured Nob Hill tone. "I'm Victoria Broussard, Luc's mother."
"Mrs. Broussard." Cher offered a welcoming smile, but the woman ignored it as she brushed past Cher to enter the apartment. "What a pleasure it is to meet you." Cher's voice faltered. "How was your drive from San Francisco?"
Victoria Broussard stood in the center of the living room looking around and frowning. "I didn't drive. The chauffeur did." She enunciated every word so clearly, so perfectly, that Cher felt put down.
"I see." Open mouth, take out foot. So much for polite conversation. "We weren't expecting you until this evening."
"Is my son here?" Victoria stared at the dusting rag in Cher's hand, a superior look in her eyes.
"He has a final exam." Cher felt as though she'd been thoroughly examined, found lacking in all areas, and totally dismissed. As though she wasn't even a blip on the older woman's radar.
Victoria took a deep breath, her frown deepening. "Graduation is tomorrow night. How can he have a final?
Cher couldn't help the smile that touched her lips. "Luc has been known to procrastinate." As if the woman didn't know.
Victoria Broussard slanted a piercing, hostile glance at Cher. "You think you know my son so well."
"I love him." She proudly held out her hand with the engagement ring. The ring stood for all the things Cher had never had as a child.
"Love is nothing." A smirk of utter contempt spread across Victoria's beautiful face.
A wave of panic spread through Cher. This meeting was not going as she'd dreamed. She'd expected Luc's mother to embrace her with open arms, and the woman acted as though Cher was the enemy. "Shall we sit down." Cher gestured to the most comfortable chair in the living room, an ivory barrel chair. Another purchase Luc had insisted on.
"No, thank you." Victoria's voice was distant and icy. "We'd best get this over with. I didn't come here to be friendly." She opened a beige Fendi purse, and removed a large white envelope. Holding it by the corner, she handed it to Cher. She withdrew her slender fingers quickly as if wanting to make certain their hands didn't touch. "This is for you."
Cher accepted the envelope with quivering fingers, a lump of panic forming in her throat. She searched Victoria's face for some hint, but all she saw was a lingering scorn in those dark, frosty eyes.
Cher opened the flap. Her knees quaked as she pulled out a half-dozen photographs. Her vision blurred as she stared at the photographs. Bit by bit the world she'd built for herself collapsed. "What do you intend to do with these?" she queried in a strangled voice she vaguely recognized as her own.
How had Victoria managed to get the photos? Her foster father was always so careful. No one knew he was gay, or even suspected. His sterling reputation with the Phoenix Police Department depended on his discretion.
Victoria offered a thin-lipped smile, reminding Cher of a snake about to strike at some hapless mouse. "How I got the photos is no concern of yours. What does concern me is my son and his future. And his future is not going to be with you. You are not going to marry him. If you proceed with your plans, your father will suffer in ways you have never imagined." Victoria waited, one foot forward as though she were a model on a runway. "Now, you be a good girl and pack. I'll be back later, and I want you gone, out of my son's life." She turned and opened the door and with a triumphant smile she left the apartment.
Alone, Cher fought the beginning of shock. She bit her lips until blood trickled down her chin. Her first impulse was to wait for Luc to return, but showing him the pictures and telling him about his mother's treachery made her reel with fear. He'd never believe his mother had engineered this. She was, after all, his mother. And while Cher would believe her own birth mother capable of such treachery, Victoria Broussard was another matter.
Cher tried to tell herself she should trust Luc, that he would understand, but at the core of her being she was deeply afraid. With one word, Victoria Broussard would ruin Cher's father. She would destroy him with a ruthlessness that frightened Cher.
She had expected Victoria to welcome her with warmth and acceptance. Never once had Cher thought the woman would consider her future daughter-in-law to be so lacking as to demolish a man's life and never lose a wink of sleep. What kind of person could do such a thing? But more importantly why would she?
Tears trickled down Cher's face. She didn't know what to do. She walked from room to room, too agitated to think clearly. She had created a house of cards, and all the cards were now scattered on the floor as fragmented as her emotions. She should have known better. A girl from the streets had no future with a blue-blood like Luc.
Cher spread the photographs over the coffee table and stared at them. The damning evidence left her no choice. She wiped tears from her eyes, the loss of her dreams heavy inside her heart. She could barely walk to the bedroom to begin packing, to dismantle the life she had so carefully started building.
Excerpted from A Dangerous Deception by J. M. Jeffries. Copyright © 2001 by Miriam Pace & Jacqueline Hamilton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.