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By Lori Foster Julie Elizabeth Leto
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTantalizing by Lori Foster
Tugging at the hem of her miniskirt, Josie Jackson came the rest of the way into the noisy room. Seeing to the end of the bar was almost impossible in the near darkness with blue-gray smoke clouding everything. But she finally spied a man, his back to her, sitting on the end bar stool, just where he was supposed to be.
Brazen, she told herself, trying to get into the part she needed to play. Daring, sexy, confident. She'd scare the poor man to death and he wouldn't be able to leave quick enough.
Josie had chosen the busy, singles meeting place, hoping that would end it right there. But he'd surprised her by agreeing with her choice. At least, her sister claimed he'd agreed. But her sister had also said he was "perfect" for her, which almost guaranteed Josie wouldn't like him. Susan had described him as responsible. Mature. Settled.
Josie was so tired of her sister setting up blind dates, and she was even more fed up with the type of man her sister assumed she needed: stuffy, too proper and too concerned with appearances. Men who didn't want anything to do with romance or excitement. All they wanted was to find someone like them so they could marry and get on with their boring lives.
She was twenty-five now and had spent most of her life working toward her goals, pleasing her sister with her dedication. Well, she'd reached those goals, so it was time for other things. Past time. She deserved to have some fun. Bob Morrison may be interested in a nice little house in a nice little neighborhood with a nice little family, but Josie Jackson had other plans, and if the location for this meeting hadn't put him off, one look at her would.
She sauntered toward him. There was a low whistle behind her, and she felt heat pulse in her cheeks. The next thing she felt - a bold hand patting her bottom - almost caused her to run back out again. Instead she managed to glare at the offender and stay upright on her three-inch heels. No small feat, given that she normally wore sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. She could do this, she told herself, she could ...
All thought became suspended as the man turned to face her.
Good heavens. Her breath caught somewhere in the region of her throat and refused to budge any farther. She stared. Well. He certainly doesn't look stuffy, Josie girl, not in those nice snug jeans and that black polo shirt. This can't be the right man. For once, he seemed too ... right, too masculine and attractive and sexy. Definitely sexy. Fate wouldn't be so cruel as to actually send her a gorgeous, stuffy man. Would it?
She forced herself to take another halting step forward, hampered by the tight miniskirt, the ridiculously high heels and her own reservations. "Bob? Bob Morrison?"
His dark eyes were almost black, as was the shiny, straight hair that hung over his brow, unkempt, but still very appealing. His gaze went from a slow, enthralled perusal of her mostly bared legs to her midriff where he paused, looking her over from chest to belly, his look almost tactile in its intensity, then he reached her face. He drew in a long breath, apparently feeling as stunned as she did. She waited for him to speak, to do or say something that would prove her assumptions had been correct, that he wasn't what she wanted in a man, that he was another typical offering from Susan who was supposed to further domesticate her life.
But then he stood, towering over her, six feet of gorgeous, throbbing male, and he smiled. That smile could be lethal, she thought as it sent shivers deep into her belly. The man exuded charm and warmth, and there was absolutely nothing stuffy or uptight about him. In fact, she felt like Jell-O on the inside. Nothing stuffy about that.
He held out his hand - a large hand that engulfed her own and seemed to brand her with his strength and heat. With the type of voice that inspired fantasies, he said, "I'm ... Bob. It's very nice to meet you, Josie."
* * *
He wasn't usually a liar.
Nick Harris took in the exquisite female before him and forgave himself. Lying was necessary, even imperative, given the fact he was faced with the most gorgeous, sexy woman imaginable - so close, and yet, not for him. He'd tell a hundred lies if it would keep her from walking out. Bob wouldn't appreciate being impersonated, of course, but then, Bob hadn't wanted anything to do with her. He'd been more taken with her sister, that rigid woman who had conspired the entire meeting. What Bob saw in Susan Jackson was beyond Nick, but now he could only be glad. Bob's preferences in women had Nick sitting here on a Saturday night, prepared to make excuses for his friend and partner.
Thank God he'd agreed to do it. If he hadn't, he might have missed her, and she was well worth the football tickets he'd wasted. She was well worth giving up all sports.
She looked surprised, as surprised as he felt, her green eyes wide, her soft mouth slightly open. Her full lips were painted a shiny red, and he could see her pink tongue just behind her teeth. Damn, the things he'd like to do with that tongue....
Belatedly his manners kicked in. "Would you like to sit down?" Normally he was known as a gentleman, as a reasonable man, sane and intelligent and given to bouts of outstanding charm. But he felt as though he'd just been poleaxed. And it only got worse as she flipped her long silky red hair over her shoulder, shrugged, then lifted her shapely bottom onto the bar stool next to his. That bottom held his spellbound attention for a few moments, before he could finally pull his gaze away. Her very short black skirt, hiked up as it was, revealed slender thighs. She crossed her legs, swinging one high-heel clad foot. He swallowed, heard himself do it and told himself to get a grip. He couldn't let her see how she'd affected him.
"Can I get you something to drink?"
She hesitated, and he could almost see her considering, but then she shook her head. Those sexy green eyes of hers slanted his way, teasing, flirting, causing his muscles to twitch. "There's a lot of things I do, but drinking isn't one of them."
It took him a second to recover from that look and the outrageous words she'd spoken. He hoped to hell he'd interpreted them right. "Oh? Religious reasons? Diet?"
Her lips curved and her long lashes lowered. "I just like to have control at all times. I want to know exactly what I'm doing, how I'm doing it and who I'm doing it with. Alcohol tends to muddle things."
As she spoke, a pink flush spread from her cheeks to her throat to the top of her chest, where the scooped neckline of her blouse showed just a hint of cleavage. Light freckles were sprinkled there, like tiny decorations, making him wonder where other freckles might be. He'd heard things about redheads, but he'd always discounted them as fantasy, nothing more. Now he had to reassess. This redhead seemed to exude sensuality with her every breath. And he was getting hotter than a chili pepper just looking at her.
He'd have to wrest control from her, despite her just-stated preferences, if he wanted to survive. Never had he let a woman get the upper hand in any situation, not since he'd been a teenager and his stepmother had taken over his life. He didn't intend to let this little woman, no matter how appealing she was, call the shots. Not even if those shots might be to his liking.
She'd temporarily thrown him, but now he was getting used to looking at her, to breathing her musky scent and hearing her throaty, quiet voice. And she kept peeking looks at him, as if she were shy, which couldn't be, not looking the way she looked. Or maybe she was feeling just as attracted as he was. That should work to his advantage. At least he'd know he wasn't drowning alone.
Excerpted from Lip Service by Lori Foster Julie Elizabeth Leto Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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