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By SASHA WHITE
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Sasha White
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCaleb Mann strode through the heavy glass doors of Fusion Cafe and continued straight to the service counter without looking left or right. The air-conditioning inside the café was a welcome relief from the humid heat of mid May in Pearson, British Columbia. It also took the edge off his nerves.
Mug of strong, black coffee firmly in hand, Caleb stepped to the side of the counter, and scanned the room carefully.
The sunlight bounced off the surface of Pearson Lake, directly across the street, brightening the small café. Colorful paintings on the walls and mismatched furniture gave it a funky, comfortable feel that was reflected in the diverse clientele. A slick-looking businessman stood a couple of feet away, impatiently ordering a fluffy latte from the frowning counter girl. An older lady and a girl who was probably her granddaughter sat with a coloring book in front of them.
None were who he was looking for.
He disregarded the twentysomething male engrossed in a novel nearby and briefly considered the woman by the window. Well dressed, with long dark hair, she sat ramrod straight as she watched people come and go. She was pretty, but Caleb didn't think she was the type of woman his brother would be friends with. Uncertain, he let his gaze slide away.
Then he saw her.
Removing his sunglasses, he gave the woman a slow perusal. She'd isolated herself by sitting at a small corner table, head bent over a notepad of some kind. Yet she still seemed approachable. The invisible wall that emanated from most people when they wanted to be left alone wasn't there.
She was dressed casually in a short camouflage skirt and a tight black tank top that made it impossible to ignore her pert breasts. If for some unknown reason he hadn't noticed her mouth-watering cleavage, he'd certainly have given the length of tanned flesh exposed by the short skirt a second glance. It had to be her.
Caleb had expected nothing less from his little brother than to set him up with a real looker. What he hadn't expected was his own primal reaction to her-the way his blood heated and his stomach clenched when he looked at her-or the way her inky black hair, which was full of vivid red streaks and skimmed across her pale shoulders, made his fingers itch with the urge to touch ... to brush it aside so he could nibble on her tender flesh.
His reaction surprised him, but for once he didn't try to contain or control it. After all, if she was a friend of his "work hard-play harder" younger brother, chances were she was also a party girl-a bad girl.
Oh, yeah, he thought to himself. The total opposite of what he normally looked for in the fairer sex, and exactly what he needed.
Detail-oriented guy that he was, Caleb leaned against the counter and studied her for a minute. Skimpy clothes flaunted bare limbs, bright purple polish sparkled on her fingertips, and silver jewelry flashed when she shifted in the filtered sunlight. There was also a tattoo on the inside of her wrist-very ... exciting. He willed her to lift her head so he could see her face clearly, only to have his breath catch in his throat when she did so.
Flawless skin smoothed over high cheekbones, tiny white teeth nibbled at a full pink lip, dark eyebrows flared over almond-shaped eyes. He couldn't see their color from where he was, but it didn't matter. Her classic beauty and outrageous sex appeal called to him unlike anything, or anyone, ever had.
He wanted her, instantly and unequivocally.
Shrugging his suddenly tense shoulders, Caleb pushed off from the counter. You're not here to find your soul mate, he reminded himself, just someone to let loose with.
He was tired of everyone ragging on him for being a workaholic. Hell, if he hadn't worked so hard for the past ten years, Gabe wouldn't have been able to go to college. Someone had had to pay the bills after their parents died. Plus, his work was satisfying in a way his player of a brother would never understand, so the nagging hadn't really bothered him.
Until his last girlfriend dumped him because he was too "old and settled" for her, that is. Then he'd felt a bit of a sting. He was only thirty-three, for God's sake!
Even then her comments hadn't really hurt him. Not until she'd turned the sting into a downright festering burn by adding that his good looks couldn't compensate for his lack of imagination in the romance department, let alone the bedroom.
Anger, and a twist of uncertainty, burned a hole in his gut. That had been hitting below the belt, literally.
Lack of imagination? He had plenty of imagination. And the wild-child woman his little brother had set him up with was going to help him prove it.
Halting next to her table, he pasted a winning smile on his face and opened his mouth.
"Excuse me. Christina?"
When Gina Devlin realized the question was directed at her, she huffed out a grateful breath and tossed aside her charcoal pencil. Normally she didn't welcome interruptions when she was working, but her temperamental muse had deserted her, taking any semblance of artistic talent along with him. That made it pretty damn hard to get the sketches for her new commission down.
Eager for a distraction, Gina leaned back in the spindly chair and looked over the wall of muscle standing next to her corner table with a big grin on his gorgeous face. And her skin immediately began to itch from the inside out.
He was her favorite type of distraction-big and male.
The buttoned-up shirt and pressed jeans he wore did nothing to detract from the wide shoulders and slim hips they covered. But, in her mind, they did label him a stickler for the rules, and that made him totally not her type. Only a real stick-in-the-mud irons his jeans.
Not being her type didn't stop her eyes from continuing to skim appreciatively over his trim hips-and the impressive package between them, too. And of course she couldn't stop there, so she mentally drooled over his muscled thighs for a long moment before raising her gaze to meet his.
A steady gaze that was vaguely familiar.
Shaking off that thought, she realized he'd called her Christina. The little devil inside her strained at the leash she'd kept him on for the last six months. Poking her with his pointy tail, he screamed, "Do it! Do it!"
Before she could think twice, her lips parted, and the words tumbled out. "I prefer Tina." It's closer to Gina.
Chapter TwoIn a voice that was so smooth and deep it sent shivers down her spine, Mr. Gorgeous stick-in-the-mud introduced himself. "I'm Caleb-Gabe's brother." He held out a large hand to her.
Gina leaned forward, slipping her hand into his. Long fingers wrapped gently around hers; the heat of him soaked through her skin and inched its way up her arm. Her palm tingled sharply, and images of open mouths, sweaty bodies, and tangled sheets filled her mind.
Whoa! She pulled back in surprise.
To cover up her sudden disquiet over the vision, she waved blithely at the empty seat across from her. "Have a seat, Caleb."
What was she thinking? Or better yet, what the hell was she doing? She had a deadline; she didn't have time to waste on a man, no matter how good-looking he was. Of course, it was rare for her to get a psychic flash just from shaking hands with a stranger-especially if she hadn't deliberately opened herself up and searched for one.
Rarer still for the vision to be one that made her whole body flush with arousal.
Gina eyed Caleb from under her lashes as he deposited his coffee mug gently on the table and settled his large body into the tiny iron chair. Despite his good looks and awesome body, this guy was here to meet someone else. Maybe she should've reined in her little devil and let him move on.
Then again, there was no such thing as a coincidence. Right?
Which she could take to mean ... he was meant to meet her.
She'd been struggling with her new collection of sketches anyway. Her muse had given up and run away to have some fun. She should do the same. She couldn't remember the last time she'd forgotten about everything but having a good time. And if the vision-of hot, sweaty bodies rolling around together-she'd had when they touched was any indication, this man could show her a really good time.
With a mental shrug, she smiled flirtatiously at her tablemate, and the hunk smiled back, blue eyes twinkling playfully.
There was a brief silence while they openly checked one another out. Gina shifted in her seat and crossed her legs, getting comfortable. His eyes followed her movements, and she fought back a wicked grin. Even dressed as she was, in casual just-off-work clothes, she knew she looked good. Then they both spoke at once.
"How do you-"
"So what do you-"
They laughed together, and the tension eased. Caleb settled back in his chair, spreading his hands wide. "Ladies first," he said with a crooked smile.
Relishing the jump in her pulse at his smile, she leaned forward, giving him a clear view of her cleavage, and arched an eyebrow at him. "I was just going to ask what you liked to do for fun?"
Heat warmed his gaze, but Gina was pleased to see that while he glanced at the offered view, he didn't stare down her top crudely. Instead he locked eyes with hers and showed off perfectly white teeth in a sardonic smile before answering softly. "I haven't made much time for fun lately. In fact, just the other day I was accused of being old and stodgy."
"You?" She chuckled softly. "You look like you might be a little uptight. But definitely not old, and, well ... stodgy we can fix."
His eyebrows jumped, a little taken aback by her bluntness maybe, but he didn't run away. He got points for that. "That's good to hear. I will admit I've let business and various responsibilities take over a large chunk of my life in the past. My construction company is doing well now, and I've decided it's time for a change. Time to stop making work the focus of my life." He stared at her with earnest blue eyes. "That's why I agreed to this blind date. It's time to try new things and remember how to have a good time."
He got even more points for such an open answer. Gina understood the demands of starting and running one's own business. Her artwork was a business for her, a part-time one, but still a business. However, she also knew that sometimes a body just had to ignore business and concentrate on the pursuit of pleasure.
A quick scan of the room and her conscience was soothed when she didn't see a single woman alone anywhere. Caleb's date had either missed him or pulled a no-show. It was time to kick things up a notch.
"Do you have anything specific in mind for fun, or are you open to pretty much anything?"
The flickering flames in his baby blues burned hotter at her challenge, and his smile turned wolfish. "I'm ready for anything."
She fought the urge to crow in delight. So he wasn't as uptight as she'd thought. He might put business before pleasure, but a sense of responsibility wasn't really a bad thing in a man. And this man definitely had bad-boy potential. She could sense it.
Adrenaline pumped through her veins, and her inner bad girl roared to life, ready and willing to face all challenges. Suddenly very awake, Gina was fully energized for the first time in longer than she could remember.
It was time to play.
She grinned at Caleb. "I think I can help you out," she said with cocky confidence. With one last lingering look at her sketch pad, she shoved it into her canvas tote bag and gestured toward the door. "Let's go somewhere with a bit more action and see what happens."
Chapter ThreeShe'd surprised him.
Not many people could do that.
Caleb wasn't sure what he'd expected when they left the coffee shop, but this wasn't it. When he watched her swing a slender leg over the seat of a sexy little crotch-rocket of a motorcycle, leaving her thighs almost completely bare, it had never entered his mind that they would end up in a gay bar.
Not that he minded. He didn't judge people by their sexual preference. It just wasn't somewhere he would've thought to take a woman he hoped to get intimate with.
A quick glance around the dark room made him reconsider. It was early, and the bar wasn't full, but it was busy enough. Yet no one bothered them. No one even gave them a second look.
Couples, of all combinations, lounged on the various sofas surrounding the room's perimeter. A small group of young guys were stationed in front of the bar, and a male couple was on the dance floor, swaying back and forth in each other's arms. He thought about it, and excitement pushed past his apprehension. It was the perfect place to get to know someone. Everyone there was so intent on doing his or her own thing no one paid them any mind. He wasn't the boss or the big brother to anyone in that bar, and that was surprisingly freeing.
Especially considering where his thoughts were taking him. With his back to the wall, he had a clear view of the room and of Tina's antics. They'd been playing pool for almost two hours, and despite the fact that he'd been in a constant state of semi-arousal through it all, he'd learned some pretty interesting things about her.
In fact, she fascinated him.
"You mean to tell me that you work at the coffee shop, making sandwiches and lattes for people every day, when you could easily support yourself with your illustrations?" It didn't make sense to him. He could tell by the tone of her voice when she talked about her art that she loved it, so why would she want to work in a café when she could make a living doing what she loved?
A lush breast brushed against his arm as she reached past him for the cube of chalk on the edge of the table, heating his blood another degree. Was she deliberately trying to drive him insane with lust?
She continued to stroll around the table, looking for her next shot as she talked. "My artwork pays nicely, but if I devoted myself to it entirely, I could easily become a hermit. Working in the café lets me deal with real people without getting too close to them."
"You don't like getting close to people?"
"I love getting close to the right people," she said in a husky voice that made his cock swell. She bent over to take her shot, and he got an eyeful of plump womanly flesh cupped lovingly in fire-engine-red satin.
Swallowing hard, he dragged his gaze from her cleavage to her delicate face. The devilish glint in her dark eyes left no doubt in his mind that if he played his cards right, he could be one of the lucky ones. One of the ones she got real close to.
Tina was different than any other woman he'd ever gone out with. No, not different-more. More sexual, more flirtatious, and more unpredictable.
Flirting was one of those things he'd just never gotten the hang of. It was too much of an iffy thing, a gray area that was always open to interpretation. He preferred to deal in things that were solid ... black and white only.
Unsure of how to handle such blatant flirting without being a complete idiot, he ignored it. "Aspects of construction are like that, too. I deal with clients if I have to, but I prefer to leave that side of things to my brother. He's the smooth-talking salesman of the family."
Tina's lips twitched up on one side, but she didn't say anything about his lack of response to her flirting. She just let the conversation move on, and continued to kick his ass at pool.
It wasn't surprising she was winning. Watching her bend and stretch over the green felt that somehow reminded him of his bed was much more distracting than playing with one of the guys. Yet he felt like he was getting to know her better than he ever could sitting across from her at a dinner table.
"So you enjoy working with your hands then?" she asked in reference to his last comment about preferring to work with his crew instead of just supervising. The comment itself wasn't sexual, but to his fogged brain, everything she said and did had sexual connotations. He was having a hard time being the gentleman he'd always prided himself on being.
Thoughts of getting to know her better in any way but the physical disappeared as she stretched a bit farther to line up another shot, and her skirt rose another inch. Half an inch more and he'd know what color her panties were-if she even had any on.
Excerpted from Sexy Devil by SASHA WHITE Copyright © 2007 by Sasha White. Excerpted by permission.
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