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The Sex Solution
By Kimberly Raye
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEVERYTHING ABOUT HIM promised hot, steamy, mind-blowing sex.
From the way he looked ...
So rugged and masculine with his white cotton T-shirt, the words Cowboy Up emblazoned in black letters across the front. Perspiration soaked the material, making it nearly transparent. Dark swirls of hair covered his broad chest. Damp cotton clung to his shoulders and biceps. Soft, faded denim cupped his crotch and molded to trim hips and long, muscular legs, the cuffs tucked into a pair of dusty brown cowboy boots.
To the way he moved ...
So strong and sure and purposeful as he reached for a sack of feed on the hot pavement near his feet. Muscles rippled and flexed as he hoisted the weight onto his shoulder. One hair-dusted thigh played peekaboo with her through a frayed rip in his jeans as he turned and tossed the load into the bed of a beat-up pickup truck.
Definitely mind-blowing. A man as strong and toned and blatantly physical as Austin Jericho would never be a lazy lover. He would touch and stroke and stir a woman until she screamed for release.
Not that Madeline Regina Hale knew such a thing firsthand. Only in her most private, provocative dreams.
She stared through the glass of Skeeter's Drugstore and tried to calm the sudden pounding of her heart. Even after twelve years, Austin was still the hottest boy in Cadillac, Texas.
Make that the hottest man. One-hundred percent, prime, Grade-A, pinch-me-I'm-dreaming man.
Her breath caught at another squat, another flash of hard, muscular thigh.
The reaction sent a rush of nostalgia through her and suddenly all those years, a challenging career as the senior research-and-development chemist for one of America's leading cosmetics companies and a shelf full of well-read self-improvement books didn't seem to matter.
Madeline felt seventeen again. Young. Naive. Awkward. And lovesick over a hot teenage boy in dusty boots and a black leather Harley jacket.
Back then he'd looked every bit as delicious as he did right now. His jeans had been just as flattering, and her heart had fluttered just as much.
She'd always had a powerful physical reaction to Austin.
He, on the other hand, had never had any reaction to her.
She couldn't really blame him. She'd been practically nonexistent back then. Just another geeky, four-eyed member of the Chem Gems - the only academic club at a school that lived and breathed football and state championships. Forget victory parties with the in crowd. She'd spent her Saturday nights in the kitchen of her dad's doughnut shop, Sweet & Simple, mixing up muffins and fritters and other goodies for the Sunday-morning rush. The expected pastime of the over-weight wallflower voted Most Studious for four consecutive years.
Austin, on the other hand, had been lean, loud and rebellious. The oldest of the notorious Jericho brothers - a hot, handsome trio of heartbreakers who'd invented the word scandal. A leather-clad bad boy who'd ridden a screaming chrome demon and shot every rule to hell and back. The boy voted Most Likely to Serve Time in a Maximum Security Prison.
Dangerous. That had been Austin way back when.
His attitude. His looks. His effect on the opposite sex.
Only a select few females had been lucky enough to keep company with him, however. Most had been blond and beautiful, with big boobs and even bigger egos. All had been as wild as the boy himself.
Mousy-brown hair, a chubby figure - thanks to all those Saturday nights at the bakeshop - and a hum-drum existence had knocked Madeline completely out of the running. She'd had to settle for lusting after him from afar.
Then and now.
As soon as the thought struck, she stiffened. While she was, indeed, staring and lusting from a substantial distance, things had changed.
Expensive blond highlights, a strict diet-and-exercise regime, makeup lessons and subscriptions to Cosmopolitan and Vogue had seen to that. But even more, she'd evolved on the inside, as well as the outside. She no longer settled for what life doled out. She didn't sit around waiting for luck or the right moment or perfect alignment of the planets to experience what life had to offer. She went after what she wanted when she wanted it. She didn't content herself with dreams. She made things happen, and she lived for every exciting moment.
Her cell phone chose that moment to shriek, drawing her attention away from the sweaty, succulent picture of Austin to the overflowing leather sack she called a purse.
"Girlfriend, where are you?" Janice demanded. Janice was the ex-vice president of the Chem Gems and the maid of honor for Cheryl Louise Martin's wedding - the reason Madeline had taken time off from her job at V.A.M.P. Cosmetics to make the hundred-and-fifty-mile drive from Dallas to her small home-town.
Cheryl Louise, two years Maddie's junior, had been an honorary Chem Gem thanks to her older sister, Sharon, who'd let her tag along to study group. Their parents had been busy running Chester's Diner - the family business - and so Sharon had been in charge of her little sister while her dad cooked and her mom waited tables. Since the Chem Gems - all five of them - had been best friends as well as study partners, they'd all taken charge of Cheryl, particularly Madeline. She and Sharon had been best friends since kindergarten.
An image rushed at her. Of a dark night and a deadly curve and a monstrous tree and ...
Madeline closed her mind to the memory the way she always did. Sharon's death was in the past and dwelling on that night wasn't going to bring her friend back.
Besides, Sharon wouldn't want tears ruining the occasion. She would want her little sister to have a grand send-off. Exactly what the Chem Gems intended to give her.
Starting with the bachelorette party tonight.
"Hello?" Janice's impatient voice drifted over the line. "Girl, you were supposed to be here ten minutes ago to hang crepe paper for the pre-party festivities."
Excerpted from The Sex Solution by Kimberly Raye Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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