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Things were about to turn really ugly in the atrium. It wasn't just Paris's active imagination, she knew her brothers well enough to know when a fight was about to erupt. The Deveraux brothers were known throughout Louisiana as hot-tempered brawlers even though they were all well educated and had been brought up with an excess of home training. They'd all had what was referred to in the South as a "gracious plenty" of etiquette, something their genteel father had insisted on, although no hint of it was apparent at the moment. There was a running joke in their hometown that the only reason all four of them practiced law was to keep each other out of jail, a place where one or more of them might be headed that very evening, from the looks of things.
"Paris, what the hell do you think you're doing, letting him paw you all over in a public place?" This was from Julian, her oldest brother. Before she could answer, Wade jumped in. "I don't know who you think you are, but if you touch my sister again I'll rearrange your face for you," he growled at Titus.
Titus gave the furious man a half smile that was completely at odds with his icy cold stare. "You're welcome to try," he invited in a quiet, dangerous voice.
At those words Philippe began removing his suit coat. "You ain't said nothin' but aword. You want some of this, come on," he said roughly.
Paris had quite enough of their antics by now and stepped in front of her brothers, grabbing the two nearest, Philippe and Julian, by their expensive silk neckties. "Cut it out! What in the world is wrong with you men — have you lost your minds?"
Wade, her second oldest brother, took issue with her question, shoving Julian out of the way so he could face her. "We haven't lost anything, Paris Corinna. I think you're the one that's gone crazy lettin' this here clown wallow all over you. We didn't raise you like that," he said, his voice rising with every word. His southern accent came out whenever he was enraged, and tonight was no exception.
Paris's face turned bright red, an ugly contrast to her rose-colored gown. "You didn't 'raise me' at all," she countered. "You're my brothers, not my daddy."
"A statement with which I must concur," a deep voice without a trace of humor intoned. Paris turned to find Julian McArthur Deveraux, known to all as Mac, standing behind her with a look of utter disgust on his handsome face.
"Daddy," Paris breathed with a sigh of relief.
Mac acknowledged his daughter with a comforting pat on her shoulder and a kiss on her cheek. He turned to his sons, however, with the lowered brow of censure plain for all to see.
"Why is it that I'm still breaking up your brawls? At your ages, with your educations, why can't you find it in your hearts to imitate civilized adults, at least when you're in decent society? What's gotten into you people?"
Philippe and Julian were busy straightening their ties while Lucien tried to justify their behavior. "Judge, we saw Paris leaving the ballroom and this...person followed her, so we followed them. And you won't believe what he was doing to her," he added angrily.
The elder Deveraux looked Titus over and seemed to take his measure. "He was probably doing what any man with sense would be doing when he's alone with a beautiful woman. What you all would be doing if you fools could leave your sister alone long enough to find someone to tolerate you." He turned to Titus and extended his hand. "Mac Deveraux, young man. And you are?"
"I'm Titus Argonne, sir. I assure you, sir, I have nothing but respect for your daughter," he said quietly.
The two men gave each other a long stare as they shook hands, and were apparently satisfied by what they saw. Mac nodded to Titus and suggested he take Paris back into the ballroom. "I seem to need to have a quiet word with some members of my family." He winked at Paris and said, "Don't forget to save me a dance, Cupcake."
Paris couldn't trust herself to speak, but she nodded weakly. Titus put a strong hand on her waist and guided her in the direction of the ballroom while her brothers stared after her, all of them scowling and mumbling as the couple took their leave.
They were about to follow the two of them when their father's voice stopped them cold. "Where do you lunkheads think you're going? I'm not through with you, not by a long shot," he said in the voice they each knew meant business. He looked at his four sons one at a time, his expression growing more and more morose. "I've told you over and over again, Paris is not a child. She's a grown woman, a very intelligent and accomplished woman and she can run her own life. She doesn't need you hanging over her shoulders, nosing around in her business and acting like her father. That's my job, one I think I accomplished quite well, thank you. You all need to butt out of her personal life. This is not a suggestion, it's an order, in case you were wondering," he said sternly.
"Yeah, but Judge, look at her!" Julian frowned, making him the mirror image of his handsome father. "When did she get to be all...all..." His words stopped and he used his hands to approximate a very curvy woman's frame. "All of a sudden she's like this...um..." His voice faltered and he looked to his brothers for aid.
Lucien chimed in at once. "Look, Judge, I don't know if you've noticed but our Paris has turned into a real hottie. Out of nowhere she's gotten gorgeous and sexy and she's gonna have men hanging all over her like that fool was tonight. We just don't want anything to happen to her, that's all."
Philippe and Wade agreed. "You know she's been sheltered, Judge. That's the way you wanted it, the way we all wanted it," Philippe pointed out.
Wade concurred, saying, "She doesn't know enough about men to handle all this attention, that's all. We just don't want her to get hurt."
Mac shook his head. "You'd do well to remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'm sure your hearts are pure and your motives are, too, but you've got to leave your sister alone. Paris has indeed grown up to be a stunning woman, something you obviously haven't noticed until now," he said dryly. "But she's also a very smart and self-reliant one and she can handle herself. It's time for you to let your sister handle her own affairs. Now, why don't we go join the party before these nice people regret inviting us?"
Without another word he left them standing there with their mouths open, walking away from them with the stride of a man who's in complete control of his universe. His oldest son broke the silence he left behind.
"I don't care what Judge says, Paris is headed for trouble with this guy and I'm keeping an eye on this situation," vowed Julian.
"You got that right, brother," Wade agreed. "This is something that's going to need our attention."
The four men exchanged their customary handshake, which was more like a dap and pound ritual. Whether she liked it or not, Paris had four guardians who took their job very, very seriously.
Titus took Mac Deveraux at his word, and as soon as he and Paris arrived in the beautifully decorated ballroom, he led her out on the dance floor and they danced several times before they returned to the bridal table. He sat next to her, pulling his chair closer to hers and smiling down at her. He could tell she was still embarrassed by what had taken place earlier and he wasn't having it. He ran a long finger down her cheek and turned her pretty face so that she had to look at him. "What's on your mind, Paris? I can tell you're deep in thought."
Paris made a face as she gently moved Titus's hand. She didn't let it go; she continued to hold one of his long fingers and unconsciously stroked it up and down with her soft, supple hands as she answered him. "I'm trying to think of a time when I was more embarrassed than I am right now," she said glumly. "There was the time the top of my bathing suit came off at the family reunion, but I was three at the time, so it's not quite the same thing, I guess."
Titus tried not to smile, but she looked so pretty and so flustered, he felt his lips turn up in a grin. She kept talking, trying not to meet his eyes. "Once on the first day of school my slip fell down. It was a fancy half-slip and I just had to wear it even though it was too big. Well, down it came and landed around my ankles right in front of God and everybody. I mean that literally, too, I went to a Catholic school. Of course, I was only seven then, so I managed to live through it. But this performance is the very limit, it really is. This just passes all understanding. I've always known they were protective, but this..." Her voice trailed off as her head went down a notch.
"Listen, Paris, you don't have to apologize for having protective brothers. As fine as you are they'd be crazy not to be concerned about you. You're a very sexy woman and they're smart enough to know that all kinds of men are going to be after you," he said honestly.
Paris hadn't released his finger and the touch of her hand was having an odd effect on him. Her delicate strokes gave him a heightened sensitivity as sensual as it was unexpected. Titus wasn't prepared for the sudden arousal that grew as she continued to play with his finger, with a sweet and unaffected sensuality that came from the fact that she didn't realize she was doing it. She was totally unaware of the effect her touch was having on him, her mind was focused on the words he was saying. He cleared his throat and gently retrieved his finger, kissing her on the forehead as he did so. He was pleased to hear a little throaty giggle as his lips touched her soft skin.
"That's better," he said with satisfaction. "Don't let your big brothers get you down, they're just showing you love."
"The sad thing is, only two of them are my big brothers. Philippe and Lucien are younger than I am," she said, making a face. "And every single one of them thinks he's my daddy, which is ridiculous. I have a perfectly good father and I don't need four bodyguards. I can take care of myself," she added with flashing eyes.
Titus loved the look of determination on her face. He liked all her expressions; Paris wasn't the kind of woman who could hide her feelings. Whatever she was thinking was reflected on her classic features and made her even more attractive. He was about to tell her that when the DJ called for the bridesmaids to dance with the bride. They had a big disco number planned and Paris went to join the other women on the floor.
Titus settled back in his chair to watch Paris as she and the other bridesmaids danced energetically to "Boogie Wonder-land," the old Earth Wind and Fire classic. Nina Whitney-Flores loved disco music and he could see why; she was incredibly adept at the kind of dancing that went along with it. But so was Paris, matching Nina step for step.
Her creamy skin was aglow and her rosy lips were parted in a smile as she tossed her long thick black hair out of her eyes. All of the bridesmaids looked fantastic in their dresses, but Paris looked the best, in his opinion. Each dress was slightly different from the others, something he'd never seen before, not that he'd ever really paid any much attention to the outfits worn by bridesmaids. Paris's dress had a sweetheart neckline that extended into a sexy halter and it curved to her body in a way that really accentuated her figure. The skirt of the dress flowed out to a matinee length that allowed a provocative glimpse of her trim ankles and suddenly he was consumed with the desire to see more of her stunning legs. Paris was built just the way he liked his women; she was tall and stacked with a nice full bosom, small waist, big hips and a lush, rounded behind that swayed when she walked. And she had big shapely legs, too. Titus had a serious weakness for a big thick woman. He was six feet six inches tall and muscular and he had no use for a petite little thing. His eyes continued to follow Paris on the dance floor and he smiled in satisfaction. This was an affair he couldn't wait to begin. He'd been flirting around with Paris long enough; it was time for the real thing to start.
Excerpted from The Closer I Get To You by Melanie Schuster Copyright © 2006 by Melanie Schuster. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 25, 2015
Posted February 6, 2007
I enjoyed this novel. I like Melanie Schuster's writting style. Enjoyed the romance between Titus and Paris. And also enjoyed the closeness of all her family and friends. She definitely was a loved, young woman. And once Titus realized that he loved her the story couldn't get any better. I mean the brother definitely put his foot in his mouth, but in the end, he redeemed himself beautifully with the help of Trey!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2006
Melaine I was looking forward to Paris's story because she was so vocal in all your other books. It was wonderful, She was a beautiful person inside and out. It took Titus awhile to realize that. But for sure he was not going to loose her. It held my interest from beginning to end. I did not want to put the book down until it was finished. That little Trey D. is an up and coming romantic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 15, 2006
If you read any of the Ms. Schuster's previous books or even if you have never read one of her books this one is a must read. The range of emotions and the twists in the book keeps you glued to the pages. I would definitely recommend this and her other books. Very good writing. Love It.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2006
This book is a true master piece by miss schuster. I love all the books she wrote about the deveraux's. This book made me cry, laugh and cry some more,it is my favorite of all of them because of paris,she is so sweet. I can not wait for the next one. I love the pet names miss Melanie gives to her characters in her books, it makes you want to find a man like the ones she writes about.Love this book this is the amont of stars it should get ***************Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2009
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