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By Dee Tenorio
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Midnight Temptation
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDespite knowing they were essentially the last two people in the building, Vanessa worked hard not to scream at the man across from her. Her throat hurt from the effort of keeping her voice modulated and even. "I am not going to drive a Mercedes, Mr. Remington, and that's final."
All right, fine, it was a growl, but it was still more than he deserved.
As usual this late after hours, Raven reclined in his high backed office chair like a king, his suit jacket abandoned, shirt sleeves rolled up over his dark forearms, an expression of bored indulgence smoothing his rugged features.
"Nothing is final until I say so, Vanessa. You'd do well to remember that." His burning gaze centered on her, the intensity almost enough to make her flinch. He'd been that way all day, practically inspecting her like a bug. She was irritated with it; with him. The prodding, the questions that felt like they were leading somewhere before dropping away, forgotten. He'd been driving her crazy and he knew it. Now, when it was finally time to go home, he dropped his little "decent transportation" surprise on her.
"Giving me a car like that would prove an unnecessary cash drain. I'd need a new one every day," she said, her jaw tight and her patience gone.
"If you didn't live in such a dangerous part of town, you'd be fine," he replied smoothly. At least he'd finally got around to the point he'd been trying to make all day. She knew she should have taken a cab.
"I don't have to justify my choice of home to you and I won't. All I'm saying is that this car is unacceptable to be taken into my neighborhood. Why do you think the last one was such a wreck? No one would steal that mess."
His eyes narrowed to slits, the vivid color of his irises glowing between his inky lashes. "This conversation might have been amusing a few moments ago, but it's starting to lose its charm."
She'd just bet it was. He hated when she had a valid point. "You're quitting because I'm not jumping up and down over your generosity?"
"Now that I wouldn't mind seeing." He looked her over slowly, in a completely different light.
She outright refused to tingle. "How unfortunate for you because I wouldn't jump up and down for the Dalai Lama, much less for you and a car."
"I believe you're the one in the unfortunate position, because if you don't take the car, you're stuck riding home with me again." He smiled. He didn't know how to do it without looking like he'd just won something, either.
She curled her fingers into her palms. "I can walk."
Raven rose to his feet, using his slow grace to unnerve her. He rounded his desk, resting a hip on the front edge to study her. Crossing his arms over his chest, he skewed his silver tie slightly to the left. He must have bit the inside of his cheek because it indented while he studied her legs.
"Pretty as they are, those heels won't get you five blocks. As for the rest of you ..."
Vanessa looked down at herself. She was wearing a black, mid-calf skirt, high-collared black blouse and fitted vest. Decent enough, if monochromatic. "I'm fine."
"You'd be attacked before those pretty shoes gave way."
"I can take care of myself, Mr. Remington. I've been doing it all my life."
He scoffed. Why did he find it so impossible to believe anything anyone said? "Show me."
A disbelieving laugh escaped her. "What?"
"Show me. You don't want to drive with me, you won't take the car I've provided for you. If you can show me you're capable of protecting yourself, you're free to walk however many miles it is to your quaint little apartment."
Quaint? Little? No wonder she found new things to hate about him every day.
"Fine." She turned toward the door of his office, prepared to get the pepper spray canister from her purse, even considering pushing the button as part of her demonstration.
She got two steps before finding herself crushed against him, her arm behind her back. She gasped at the press of his hard body to hers, then blew the air out in a whoosh when she couldn't shake free. He had one solid arm around her middle, squeezing her backside into him. She struggled to pull away, but achieved nothing.
"This isn't fair." She tried to keep her voice normal, but it squeaked nonetheless.
Raven brushed his bristly chin against the sensitive skin at the base of her neck. Skin she hadn't realized was so sensitive. "Do you think anyone out there will be fair? Do you really believe men on the streets will see you slinking along in this outfit, all alone, and won't take advantage? Hell, even I can't help but do that."
She closed her eyes, wishing the sound of his rough voice didn't thrum in her blood. Every nerve ending tingled, awaiting his touch, his mouth, his skin ...
She leaned into him, helpless to her body's desires. He stiffened, his intake of breath at the tiny brush of her hips into the cradle of his both thrilling and terrifying. His arm tightened around her waist-a warning? A request?-and a moan escaped her throat. This was why they didn't touch. Why she never allowed herself to remember his warmth or his scent. Because less than a moment in his arms stole every shred of resistance, leaving her breathless ... wanting.
He spun her, making her dizzy before she even finished rotating, unerringly finding her mouth with his, cutting off her weak protest. If she even attempted to make one.
Vanessa lost herself in that kiss, the hard pressure of his lips, the demanding thrust of his tongue over hers; seeking something inside her and ravaging until he found it. His hands gripped her bottom, his fingertips biting into her hips and forcing her to acknowledge the heated arousal against her abdomen. The kiss went on and on, gaining fervency with each touch. There was only the feel of his hard chest crushing hers, the taste of him like rich brandy in her mouth, the rasp of his breath and power of something too strong for her growing around them. Too strong to ignore, too strong to fight.
Her vest flapped open and he was pulling her shirt from her skirt when his knuckles on her belly brought her to her senses. Her eyes snapped open, blind instinct giving her the strength to push away so she could take a breath that didn't include his scent as well. She jumped out of his arms like sparks from a fire, pressing herself to the office door. Even with him an arm's length away, she felt fuzzy, drunk and far too sober at the same time. She'd ... they'd almost ... oh God! Just like the wedding reception, when her skin had felt burned and body had ached for more. But this had gone so much further than a near kiss on a crowded dance floor. And there was no one to hide behind. No one to save her from her own stupidity. Had she lost her mind?
She looked at Raven, too late realizing her sanity was the last thing she should be worried about losing. By the look in those bright green depths, she may very well lose her life.
Excerpted from Midnight Temptation by Dee Tenorio Copyright © 2006 by Midnight Temptation. Excerpted by permission.
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