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By the Book
By Nancy Warren
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShari Wilson wanted to kiss the dyslexic postal worker who serviced her vintage brick apartment building in Seattle's Capitol Hill. He'd mixed up her mail again.
Sandwiched between her own letters for S. Wilson, Suite 325, was a bulky brown paper package addressed to L. Lawson, Suite 235. She'd have another excuse to see Luke Lawson, megahunk. She hugged the package to her, as giddy as a schoolgirl with a crush.
Okay, she was a schoolteacher with a crush. And what a crush. Her downstairs neighbor made her shiver. It was a combination of a charming smile, tall, rangy body and a twinkle in his sleepy green eyes that just hinted at devilry between the sheets.
They'd been exchanging mixed mail for months now. In all the misdirected letters, she'd noted nothing was addressed to anyone else in his apartment, and there was no sign of a female when she'd delivered mail to his door, so it seemed logical to deduce he was single.
Just as she was single.
Getting hotter every time she thought of L. Lawson just a floor below her and one suite over in 235.
Fate, in the form of the portly postie, had thrown them repeatedly together and the zing of attraction had been immediate and, she thought, mutual. The last couple of times Luke had come to the door tousled and stubble-cheeked, his heavy-lidded eyes gazing at her as intimately as though she and Luke had just made love. Oh, what those eyes could do to a woman's blood pressure.
So why, apart from seduction by eye contact during their neighborly exchange-mail-and-chitchat sessions, hadn't L. Lawson made any kind of move to get to know her better?
She bit her lip as she bypassed the elevator and jogged up the stairs to her floor. Maybe he was shy, or uncertain of her feelings or status.
Perhaps it was time she took charge of the situation and let him know both her feelings-attracted, very attracted, and her status-single. Very single.
The easiest way to give him the message was to ask him out. Nothing too intimate, just a movie or Chinese or pizza. A simple get-together that would give them a chance to become better acquainted.
She would run down with his mail, casual as can be, and say, "Hey, I was just going to grab something to eat. If you're not doing anything, why don't you join me?"
Yes. That was the way-easy, no pressure. If he turned her down she'd know where she stood and could ditch the adolescent fantasies that had begun to creep into her mind. Letting herself into her apartment, she snorted. There was nothing adolescent about her fantasies. They were definitely of the not approved for audiences under the age of eighteen variety.
She dumped her bag of marking on the dining table and picked up Luke's package. Taking a deep breath, she decided to go for it. She'd reply to the erotic messages his eyes had been sending her way. She'd ask him out.
A once-over in the bathroom mirror reminded her that teaching English to a bunch of high school students was no day at the spa. She couldn't go anywhere without a quick shower. While she was lathered up under a warm spray of water she decided she might as well shave her legs.
After drying off, she brushed her teeth, fixed her hair, applied fresh makeup and headed into the bedroom. She reached for jeans, then changed her mind. She was sick of jeans.
A nice flirty skirt just jumped right out of her wardrobe and into her arms. She added a torso-hugging top in her favorite purple, some fun, dangly earrings and she was ready. She reached into the bottom of her closet for strappy sandals and caught herself. She didn't want to look as if she'd dressed up for Luke, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Shari grabbed her Birkenstocks instead. Yes, they made just the right statement. She retrieved the package, then noticed a blob of something on her skirt.
Back to the bathroom. She put the brown envelope down, turned on the tap then reached for her hand-washing soap. Ach, she needed a new bar and it was under the sink somewhere. On her hands and knees she rummaged through the bathroom cleaners, boxes of first-aid items, that time-of-the-month stuff, her travel bag for toiletries. Ah, there was the soap, right at the back. She found a clean facecloth, too, and rose.
Damn. The faucet was leaking again. Water trickled from its base gathering on the countertop in a pool that had reached Luke's package and soaked into the kraft paper. She grabbed up the brown envelope and gingerly poked at the wet end. It was a little soggy, but surely there hadn't been time for the water to soak whatever was inside. Felt like a book. Uh-oh.
Best to get it into Luke's hands before the moisture penetrated. She decided to leave cleaning her skirt until later and just scraped off the blob with a fingernail.
She grabbed her keys, her black leather satchel and the package, let herself out of her apartment and ran down one flight of stairs to Luke's floor.
In no time she was standing outside his door breathing faster than anyone should who'd only run down a single flight of stairs. She took a deep gulp of air, rehearsed her casual dinner invitation and knocked.
It hadn't occurred to her that he wouldn't be home. He was always home. She knew from their casual conversation that he was a journalist-she'd even seen his byline in the local paper. Almost as soon as she'd had the thought, she heard the lock scrape and then the door opened.
And Luke Lawson cast his usual erotic spell over her. He was, without doubt, the sexiest man she'd ever seen. No matter how many times she saw him, his in-your-face sex appeal always struck her. And, just as reliably, her heart jumped and started working overtime, pumping blood to every erogenous zone in her body-and a few zones that were borderline but just wanted to join the party.
The wonderful sizzle of attraction danced and popped through her blood and along her nerve endings as she gazed at him. It wasn't just the devilish glint in his green eyes, hinting at intimacies they'd never shared, but so easily could. And it wasn't just the dimple in his chin, or the disheveled dark brown hair that reminded her of lazy Saturday mornings in bed, or the broad shoulders and muscular chest. It was, she decided, the way all the elements of his appearance went together.
His mouth broke into a welcoming smile when he saw her and the package she held out. "Don't tell me he did it again?"
He didn't sound annoyed at the mail mix-up. He sounded as delighted as she felt.
She tried to keep the grin off her own face as she handed him his package. "Yep. He did it again."
She wanted to say something to him, of that she was absolutely certain, but what was it? She gazed at him, feeling the powerful force of his animal magnetism drawing her closer.
His gaze skimmed her body, which immediately upped the sizzle wattage. "You look great," he said. "Going someplace special?"
Excerpted from By the Book by Nancy Warren Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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