Read an Excerpt
By SASHA WHITE
Kensington BooksCopyright © 2007 Sasha White
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWith less than a week until Lush's opening day, Teal Jamison didn't have time to fuck around, especially with something as frustrating as some punk kids spray painting nasty messages on the front of her building. Pissed off and stressed out about all the piddly little things that kept screwing up her plans, she strode into her soon-to-be art gallery muttering to herself only to stop dead in her tracks.
Anger turned to desire, and excitement of a different sort flowed through her at the sight that greeted her-soft, faded denim stretched lovingly across perfect tight male glutes.
All thoughts of temperamental artists, inconsistent suppliers, and juvenile delinquents evaporated as she watched the man straighten from his bent-over position and enjoyed the sight of a worn leather tool belt framing his ass perfectly.
Now, that's a work of art.
"Lookin' good, Zach," Teal purred as she dropped her backpack on the reception desk and continued in his direction. An hour or two of uncomplicated no strings naked wrestling with him would certainly take the edge off her stress level.
The carpenter ran a loving hand over the custom-built mahogany shelf he'd just installed before turning to her. "Thanks, Teal, but I'm just helping bring your vision of the place together."
"Oh, I've no doubt the gallery will be beautiful, but I was referring to the view when I walked in." She winked at him and gave his impressive form an obvious once-over.
His eyes flared brightly at her brazen comment before they closed in a slow, lazy blink that made her knees weak. When he looked at her again, the heat was banked and his smile was unhurried. "Well, that's the point of the setup, right? That the view be good from every angle?"
Zachary Dillon had come highly recommended as the finish carpenter for her new art gallery, and she'd made it a point to be completely professional with him. But his work for her was almost done, and she was ready to be more than his boss.
Her eyes followed his movements as he pulled a cloth from his tool belt and wiped his hands. His rough, calloused, manly hands were large enough to hold her C-cup breasts and make her feel small. Her nipples pebbled in response to her thoughts and she lifted her gaze to his.
"I was talking about you, darlin'." She couldn't help it. Flirting had always been second nature to her; man or woman, it didn't matter, she flirted and charmed ... and usually got whatever she wanted.
From the start, just being around Zach had made her blood heat and her pulse race, but she'd remained professional. Teal prided herself on always being a professional, no matter what job she was doing, but she was working for herself this time. Lush was her place. Her baby. And she didn't want anything getting in the way of Lush's success, even her own libido.
Waiting until his work for her was completely done would be the smartest thing to do, but she'd had a shit day and her emotions were running high. Maybe letting herself go this once would be a good thing. One night of steamy lovin' and her hormones would calm down, and she could concentrate on work again.
Yes, that was exactly what she needed.
She touched his bare arm lightly and gave him the slow, sultry smile that always got her whatever, and whomever, she wanted. "You're looking good."
"Thank you." His voice was a bit deeper as he shifted his weight to his other foot, taking him just out of reach. A knowing smile lifted his lips as he reached for the sweatshirt laying on a nearby stool, then pulled it on over his ragged T-shirt.
"I can't do anything else until I pick up more varnish, so I'm done for the day. I'll see you bright and early Monday, Teal." He picked up an old wooden toolbox and waved to her with his other hand. "Have a good night."
Teal said good night and watched him saunter away.
What the hell had just happened? She'd come on to him. In fact, she couldn't have been more obvious if she'd stripped off her clothes, and said, "Let's wrestle naked." And he'd walked away!
Men never walked away from her.
Her cheeks heated and she chewed on her lower lip. There was a definite attraction between them. She knew the spark of lust when she saw it. By investing all of her savings into opening the very first completely erotic art gallery around, she was betting her future on knowing that look.
So why would a big, healthy, and attractive man walk away from a woman he desired?
A few of hours later, Teal was working in the back room, and the question was still on her mind.
"Maybe he's just shy," the perky brunette said from her perch on top of a packing crate.
"No, that's not it." Teal shook her head and pulled the lid off the smaller crate on the table in front of her. She thought about the way Zach moved, the way he ran his hands over whatever he was working on, and a shiver danced down her spine. "He's way too ... confident to be shy. He's quiet for sure, but he gives off this impression of restrained strength. Very strong and sexy, and completely alpha."
It was just after 10 P.M. on Saturday night and she and Brina Jo were in the spacious back room of the gallery, unpacking the first shipment of items. Teal had spent the past two hours on the phone trying to line up a cleaning crew to come and wash the graffiti off her building, but since the next day was Sunday, nobody wanted the job. She'd lined up a crew for Monday, though.
She'd been enjoying her time alone in the back room. The first bit of quiet time she'd had in a while.
When the idea for an art gallery that specialized in erotic art had come to her, she'd run with it, and that meant the gallery was pretty much all she thought about. She lived and breathed whatever job she was working when she worked it, and Lush was the most important job she'd ever had. It was all hers. Besides, full speed ahead and complete stop were the only speeds she knew.
Unpacking inventory in the back room was a bit of both for her. She got to work fast and efficiently, and since she was alone, she could turn off her brain for a while and just enjoy. But her brain hadn't cooperated. Instead, she couldn't stop thinking about a certain well-built carpenter and fantasizing about ways to get him naked.
Until she'd heard someone rattling the locked door of the gallery.
Thinking she might catch the graffiti punks, she'd dashed through the empty gallery only to open the door and find nobody. Well, nobody with a spray can, anyway. What she did find was a flyer with the words: "House of Sin. You are going to hell." glued to her front door. Slightly creeped-out, and tired of her own thoughts, she'd called her longtime friend and newly hired assistant, Brina Jo.
By the time Brina arrived at the gallery, Teal had scraped the flyer off the door with warm water and a putty knife and pushed it to the back of her mind. However, thoughts of Zach would not go away, so she'd blabbed uncontrollably to Brina about the brick wall hitting on him had been.
"If he's not shy, maybe he's not interested."
Teal snorted. "Oh, he's interested."
"How do you know?" Brina asked. "I mean, if he's as distant as you say and he's not gay, then how do you know he's interested?"
Turning away from the crate in front of her, Teal faced her friend. "I can feel it. Whenever we're in the same room together, the air fairly vibrates with pheromones, and it's not just me. I've caught him watching me, and I've seen the look in his eyes. He wants me, too." Why wouldn't he?
"What look have you seen in his eyes?" She glanced up from the clipboard she was using to catalogue the items Teal unpacked.
"The look of lust."
Brina Jo's eyebrows jumped. "Lust, huh? Are you sure it's lust and not just tolerance because he thinks you're crazy? He has been in and out of here for the past two weeks, he's seen your moods."
"Crazy is the way your husband looks at you!" Teal threw a handful of Styrofoam peanuts at her friend. "And my moods haven't been that bad. It's just a bit stressful getting this gallery ready to open in less than a month."
Brina cocked her head to the side. "Tell me again why someone with no experience in art whatsoever decided to open an art gallery?"
"I don't need to know art for this particular gallery. I know everything there is to know about desire, hidden and otherwise." Teal arched an eyebrow at her friend. "That includes what lust looks like, even in its subtlest form."
"If you're so sure of his attraction, why don't you just ask him out?"
Teal turned back to the crate in front of her so she didn't have to look at her friend. She hated to admit it, but even though Zach's "hard to get" act just made her want him more, she didn't want to ask him out first. It was silly, but it felt like, if she did that, she'd be giving him the upper hand. And that was something she didn't like.
She tried to think of a way to explain that to her friend as she reached into the crate and dug past the packing. She grasped the bronze sculpture within and lifted it out, scattering the little-styrofoam peanuts everywhere, and her jaw dropped. "Wow."
"You're not kidding." Brina Jo hopped off the table she'd been sitting on and stepped forward for a closer look. "That is ..."
"Amazing," Teal finished for her.
"That's one way to put it. Are you really going to display it?"
Teal set the sculpture down on the table to her left. She wiped a dust cloth over it lovingly, taking in every detail. It was a couple making love. The female stretched out on her side with the male on his knees, straddling one of her legs while cradling the foot of the other against his shoulder. She was spread completely open. Her head was thrown back, her expression one of pure ecstasy. There was nothing hidden to the viewer as the man plunged his cock into her. His cock was as lovingly crafted as her sex.
Teal turned the sculpture around and found it beautiful from every angle. Every curve and crevice detailed to the point that her own sex clenched in anticipation of being filled.
Brina's voice broke the spell that had fallen over Teal, and she pulled her hands away from the bronze couple. "Hmmm?"
"You're not really going to display that in the main room?" Teal looked at her friend. "Of course, I am. Why wouldn't I?"
"It's very ... it's so ..." Brina Jo waved her hand about.
Teal watched her friend's cheeks flush as she searched for the right word. "Erotic?" Teal finally took pity on her.
Brina Jo planted her hands on her ample hips and rolled her eyes. "Yes, erotic. But blatantly so."
"Well, that's what Lush is for. I want it to showcase the erotic art that normal galleries think is too 'out there' or 'too edgy.' I can't call it an erotic art gallery, and then hide the most erotic pieces in the corner."
"True, but you know you're going to take some flack for it, right?"
Teal shrugged. "I'm prepared. Plus, I know that sex and sexuality is a huge part of human nature, even if some people like to pretend it isn't. I'm banking on a lot of people getting more turned on by these things than they thought possible." Teal smirked at her friend. "Just like you."
"What?" She laughed. "You mean to tell me you're gonna go home to Doug after handling all these and not want to try out this position?"
Brina Jo's lovely chocolate eyes glittered and she bit her lip. "That's beside the point."
"No, Brina baby, that is exactly the point."
Chapter TwoZach desperately wanted to have one of the cold beers waiting patiently in his fridge when he got out of the shower, but he knew it would be a mistake. He was already on edge after being tempted by Teal's unspoken invitation, and alcohol would only weaken his control.
Instead, he toweled off and padded through his bedroom to the walk-in closet. He pulled on his favorite black leather pants, the ones that were worn and comfortable, already broken in. The ones that always put him in the right mind-set for a scene.
Bare-chested and barefoot, he went to the living room where he turned on the sound system that was wired throughout the house. The dulcet tones of the saxophone filled the room, and he settled into the comfortable lounge chair near the patio. Closing his eyes on the view of the Saskatchewan River as the sun set behind the skyline, he concentrated on his plan for the night.
Deep breaths in through the nose ... out through the mouth. An image of the sexy and enticing Teal Jamison emerged behind his eyes and he ground his teeth together. No matter how seductive she was, she was too aggressive for him.
She had a palpable sexual aura that made him want to strip her down and tie her up so he could explore her to his heart's content. But as he'd worked in the gallery, he'd seen her assertive nature come more to the fore each day. While she was still immensely attractive, he knew they wouldn't fit.
To his way of thinking, aggressive women rarely had it in them to completely let go. To let him pamper, spoil, or play with them. They always wanted to fight for control of the relationship, in the bedroom and out of it. And while he enjoyed power exchanges, power struggles weren't his thing.
He breathed deeply again, focusing on the beating of his heart, slowing it to a heavy throb that settled in his groin as his body recognized the ritual. In his mind, he saw the room in his basement, a slim, soft female blindfolded and strapped to the lovingly crafted X-cross. He saw himself step closer, brace his hands on the cross, and lean in, dipping his head. The view switched and he saw the eagerly parted lips just beneath his, the same plump, luscious lips that had taunted him only hours ago at the gallery.
Zach's eyes jerked open and he cursed.
His heart was pounding, his cock was aching, and a small trickle of sweat ran from his temple. He shook his hands out, rolled his shoulders, and resettled himself deeper into his chair.
Forget about Teal, he chastised himself. She's not for you.
A short time later, the heavy chime of a doorbell sounded and Zach opened his eyes, ready to begin. With smooth movements, he got up and strode to the front door. He pulled it open and frowned at his curvaceous blond visitor.
"Hello, Jenna. I've been waiting for you, and you know how I feel about being kept waiting."
"I'm sorry, Master." Jenna cast her pretty blue eyes down and clasped her hands together in front of her, waiting. "How can I make it up to you?"
A familiar hum of pleasure rolled over Zach as Jenna stepped into the room. He closed the door and turned to see her standing still and straight. Her body was tense and eyes glowing with an eagerness that tightened his groin.
"Let's go downstairs, shall we?" Zack held out his hand, gesturing for her to go first. She'd been to his home before, so Jenna knew which door led to the basement, his playroom.
She sashayed down the steps, her movements slow and deliberate, knowing that he enjoyed watching her move. Jenna was a dancer at one of the many downtown nightclubs. Both beautiful and intelligent, she teased and taunted men for money and used that money to pay her way through veterinary school. She didn't come to him for romance; she came to him because he gave her what she needed-relief from always being in control.
And they both enjoyed the way he did it.
She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and waited for him. He pointed to the sturdy wooden bench with the padded leather top that stood in the far corner, and she quickly made her way there. "Prepare yourself, Jenna," he said over his shoulder as he reached into the cabinet next to the bottom of the stairs.
After he'd retrieved the toy he wanted and inserted the batteries into it, he made his way over to her. She was naked by the time he reached her, having made quick work of her clothes.
"How do you want me, Master?"
"On your stomach."
She stretched out on the padded bench and he began to work. The sultry jazz music filled the silence as he ran his hands gently over her body from stem to stern. She expected a spanking for being late. It was a reasonable punishment that they could both find pleasure in as well, but one of the best ways to assert the top position, or power position, was to do the unexpected. So when she was trembling with anticipation, he bent her left leg at the knee and had her grip it in her left hand.
Excerpted from Lush by SASHA WHITE Copyright © 2007 by Sasha White. Excerpted by permission.
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