Donovan Steele opened the door to his home and walked inside with a huge smile on his face. Over the weekend in New Hampshire, his best friend from childhood, Bronson Scott, one of the most popular drivers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, had placed in the top five.
Donovan was proud of Bronson's success because Donovan, of all people, knew how hard his friend had worked to achieve it. Bronson was not only a skilled driver but was also a racer for the team he owned, Scott Motorsports. Donovan's chest also swelled with pride at the fact that his family-owned business, the Steele Corporation, was a major sponsor of Scott Motorsports. That provided plenty of advertising for SC and offered Bronson the financial support he needed to pursue his lifelong dream.
Another reason for Donovan's smile was that at the race he'd been among friends and had managed to unwind and not think about how busy the coming months would be for him back at the office. A new product under development at SC, the first in several years, had everyone excited; especially Donovan since he headed the Product Administration Division. But Gleeve-Ware, as it was called, had to be completed in time for the annual Product Trade Show being held in Toronto this November.
Instead of returning to Charlotte yesterday like he'd planned, he and a good friend from college, Uriel Lassiter, as well as two of his cousins from Phoenix Galen and Tyson Steeledecided to stay an additional day to celebrate with Bronson and Myles Joseph, another good friend and a Scott Motorsports driver.
And then there had been Joanne Summerville, a racetrack groupie who'd come on to him after finding out about his close relationship to Bronson and the other drivers. Even now he could still picture her standing under the July sun in those skintight jeans and that sky-blue T-shirt that had stretched snugly across a pair of well-endowed breasts.
Joanne had been a looker, all right, and he regretted not taking her up on what she'd been offering. He hadn't the time to squeeze in a short fling, no matter how tempting, and he could still see the sexy pout on her lips and the disappointment in her eyes when he'd turned her down. His only saving grace was that he figured he'd run into her again at a future race.
Donovan dropped his travel bag on the floor by the sofa instead of taking it upstairs to his bedroom. Due to an early flight out this morning, he'd missed breakfast and was hungry. He walked toward the kitchen, deciding that in desperate times even a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich sounded pretty good.
The moment Donovan walked into his kitchen he could tell his housekeeper had been there. Everything gleamed, from the stainless-steel appliances to the ceramic-tile floor. He appreciated the way she kept his house clean. He was a stickler when it came to neatness, but he also liked having a good time and had no desire to spend his weekends doing chores. He was too busy spending his time doing women.
It came as no surprise to those who knew him that he enjoyed and appreciated female company. There was no crime in that and at thirty-three, he enjoyed being single. He spent his time doing things he liked, which included a lot of traveling for pleasure, and refused to be tied down to a woman who'd have a hissy fit if he left her behind or one who felt entitled to accompany him.
He'd learned the hard way that women tended to get outright possessive. Alyson Greer had been such a creature, and even now he got cold chills remembering how she had resorted to stalking him. From that point on, he'd made a conscious effort to make sure any woman he became involved with knew the score.
There were simply too many beautiful ladies out there to get tied down to just one.
His three older brothers were wearing wedding bands and that was all well and goodfor them. He was happy they had found wonderful women to fall in love with and marry. But he was not the marrying kind. He wasn't even the serious relationship kind. Short-term affairs suited him just fine.
Besides women, his favorite pastime was auto racing. Not that he would ever get behind the wheel of a race car but he totally enjoyed being a spectator. He couldn't describe the rush of adrenaline that flowed through his body while watching a race. Of course, sharing an orgasm with a woman was still number one in his book, but being at a race was a close second.
He reached to open his pantry when he noticed a pair of women's sandals on the floor by the sliding glass door to his screened patio. Where had they come from and whom did they belong to?
Had the cleaning lady left her shoes? Was she still there?
He picked up the sandals to study their design. Sleek and snazzy. He'd only seen his housekeeper once or twice, and although she wasn't a bad-looking older woman, he couldn't imagine her wearing a pair of stylish and trendy shoes. But then he might be wrong. He couldn't judge every fifty-something-year-old woman by his mother and his aunt's taste in fashion.
He cocked his right brow, his curiosity piqued, and for the moment his hunger was placed on the back burner. He went back into his living room and then the dining room and glanced around, noticing that the rooms were neat as a pin, tidy as could be and well-dusted. That was enough evidence to indicate his housekeeper had been here.
On the main level, he also had a guest bedroom and a spacious bath, with the master suite and his office and another bathroom upstairs. If and when he felt inclined to invite a woman to stay for the night, the downstairs guest room was where they would sleep. He considered it his entertainment room. At one time he'd installed mirrors in the ceiling over the bed until his nephew Marcuswho would come spend the night on occasiongot old enough to question why they were there.
The master bedroom was off-limits. He considered it his personal domain. No woman could lay claim to ever sleeping in what he considered his real bed. A number of them had tried, considered it a challenge, their ultimate goal. But so far none had ever made it up those stairs.
After checking the other rooms, he made his way upstairs. It didn't take him long to check the bathroom and his office before heading down the hall that led to his master suite. His bedroom door was closed, which wasn't unusual, but what was unusual were the sensations he began feeling in the pit of his stomach, similar to the ones he felt when he was standing on the sidelines waiting for the race to begin.
He opened the door, and his eyes quickly circulated the room, stopping first on the vacuum cleaner that was still plugged into the wall and then on the feather duster that was sitting on his dresser.
He stepped into the room and held his breath when he saw a woman asleep in his bed.
What the hell?
Quickly, he crossed the floor to his bed and stared down at the sleeping woman. She was definitely not his regular cleaning lady. This woman looked to be in her early twenties and was absolutely, undeniably beautiful.
She was lying on her side but her face was angled in a way that showed an ample portion of it. What he saw flooded his gut with something he'd never felt before, a sensual attraction so hard, gripping and intense that he had to struggle to get air past his lungs.
Her skin, a beautiful chocolate-brown, looked soft, satiny and smooth. Her long eyelashes fanned her eyes, and in sleep she looked totally at peace. Her hair, a dark brown shade, flowed to her shoulders with bouncy-looking curls at the end. He had encountered beautiful women countless times but never before did one have such a gripping effect on his libido. And that very thought downright unnerved him.
Pulling in a deep breath, he inhaled, then took his time releasing it after deciding it was time to wake her. Although his first instinct was to remove his clothes and get into the bed with her. Instead of feeling his privacy violated by the woman in his bed, he was feeling something else altogether. Lust. Bone-chilling, gut-wrenching lust to a degree he'd never experienced before.
He tried tamping down the sensations by thinking that he definitely had a number of questions for her
but first he had to get her out of his bed. With that thought in mind, he reached out and gently touched her shoulder, trying to ignore the way his fingers trembled at the contact. He then watched as she slowly stretched her body before cuddling into another position without opening her eyes.
Tempted to see the rest of her, he slowly lifted the covers
His sex immediately got hard, pressed tight against the fly of his jeans as his gaze lit on her lush, shapely body. His eyes raked over her khaki shorts and cotton top, taking in her long, toned legs, small waist, curvy thighs and flat tummy. And then there was her scent. It assailed his senses the moment he lifted the covers, a totally feminine aroma that clutched him in blatant desire.
Thinking he'd better do something before he totally lost it, he dropped the covers back in place and gently shook her awake. His fingers trembled for a second time when they came in contact with her shoulder.
He stared down at her face as her eyes fluttered open, blinked a few times, widened and then stared back. The color of flowing honey, her eyes were a perfect match for her complexion. The woman was even more beautiful with her eyes wide open looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
He watched as she opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something but then changed her mind. Instead she moistened her top lip with the flick of her tongue before gnawing nervously on the bottom lip. He felt an immediate tightening in his stomach. An aura of sexual magnetism surrounded them, held them within its grip.
When he couldn't handle the sensations any longer, or the torture of imagining all the things he would love doing to her tongue and lips, he spoke up. "I believe you're sleeping in my bed, Goldilocks."
Though her mind was working just fine, Natalie Ford was speechless and incapable of movement.
When she'd opened her eyes, the last thing she expected was to drown in the depths of the most gorgeous pair of dark-brown eyes she'd ever seen. And the man's features were so striking and breath-takingly handsome.
The sensations overpowering her midsection weren't any better. Her response to him was instantaneous and so intense that, until he had reminded her, she'd forgotten that she had fallen asleep in his bed. His bed. How embarrassing!
The last thing she remembered was thinking she had finally cleaned every room in the house and had saved his bedroom for last. She was about to strip the bed for fresh linen when something about it beckoned her, invited her to lie down between the luxurious covers. That, combined with the little sleep she'd gotten the night before, had her putting her feather duster aside and sliding between the sheets. The moment her head touched the pillow she had breathed in Donovan Steele's masculine scent. With all kinds of crazy fantasies playing around in her head, she had drifted off to sleep. Now she was wide awake and although she'd never met the man towering over her, she was certain he was Donovan Steele.
Her aunt had three clients who insisted that she handle their housekeeping personallyand were willing to pay extra for that request. Harrell Kelly, Jeremy Simpkins and Donovan Steele. Kelly and Simpkins were professional football players for the Carolina Panthers, and Steele was a successful businessman whose family was well-known in Charlotte. According to her aunt, the three men liked things done a particular way and were determined to protect their privacy. They were her aunt's exclusive clients.
Until her aunt's sidelining injury.
Natalie managed a smile hoping he had a sense of humor because she felt the situation needed it. Tossing the covers aside and pulling herself up into a sitting position, she said, "Break's over. I need to finish this room, which means it's time for me to get back to work."
Thankfully, he stepped back as she eased off the bed. However, he crossed his arms over his chest, looked at her intently and asked, "Do you usually take breaks in other people's beds?"
There was that voice again. Deep, throaty, husky. It was crazy, but she felt as though the sound touched her physically, in some of her most intimate places and in very provocative ways. She wished she could ignore both him and his question as she proceeded to strip the bed. Being handsome was one thing, being over-the-top, teeth-chillingly gorgeous was another. There was no way she could forget he was standing there. He was too overwhelmingly male.
Since she was filling in for her aunt who was home recovering from a broken ankle, this man was technically her employer, and she doubted Aunt Earline would appreciate losing him as a customer. She struck a businesslike tone and said, "No, I don't usually take breaks in other people's beds. That was the first. But then I've never seen a bed quite like yours before."
And that was the truth. Although Donovan Steele was probably six-four, with broad shoulders, he wasn't what she considered big. His bed, however, was huge.
There was no doubt in her mind that four people could sleep comfortably in his bed. She could just imagine what a mana very handsome one at thatdid in a bed this size. Whatever he did, she doubted he did it alone.
"Before we get into an in-depth discussion about my bed, don' t you think you should at least tell me who you are, since I know you aren't my regular cleaning lady?"
Natalie stopped and glanced over at him. Not to do so would have been outright rude. The moment her gaze locked with his, she felt sensations she couldn't ignore flood her stomach and her heart rate increased. It should be against the law for any man to look so unerringly masculine.
He had chocolate-brown eyes, a chiseled jaw and a sensual mouth on a creamy cocoa complexion. His hair was cut low and neatly trimmed around his head. A pencil-thin mustache on his upper lip gave him a sexy look. He was wearing a pair of jeans and T-shirt with huge letters that said "Forged of Steele." His scent, the same one that had tempted her to cuddle even more between his sheets, surrounded them.