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VISION OF SEDUCTION
By CASSIE RYAN
Copyright © 2008 Cassie Ryan
All right reserved.
Chapter One "Is a little mind-blowing, no-strings-attached sex too much to ask?"
Katelyn Hunt gripped the display case so tightly she thought the glass might shatter and rain down upon the carefully displayed crystals and pendants as she stared at him.
Rita, Katelyn's business partner and best friend, shook her head, sending her bob of dark hair swinging. "No. I imagine every woman is entitled to a little toe-curling sex, but have you ever considered scratching that itch by actually finding a man you like and care about, rather than a one-night stand in between each case of batteries?"
Katelyn rolled her eyes at Rita's familiar argument. "Relationships are for women who can't function on their own." She glared at her friend before letting her gaze slide back to the hunk who had haunted their shop for the last few days. "I don't need a man for anything."
"Uh-huh-what about that mind-blowing sex?" Rita closed the display case with a snap. "But you're not even going to have that if you don't eventually talk to the man." She walked away and left Katelyn racking her brain for a good retort.
Damn! I hate it when she does that.
True, Katelyn had never actually met him, never even spoken to him, but he'd spent the last few days inside the store-totally oblivious to her, much to her irritation.
He bought chai tea in the coffee shop, sat in the overstuffed chairs, andspent hours reading an eclectic collection of books. In fact, the only part of the entire two floors of her new-age shop he hadn't frequented was anywhere she happened to be working.
Or maybe it just seemed that way.
His muscled arm reached for his chai tea, which was sitting on the small oak table next to him, and Katelyn's mouth literally watered as his long fingers closed around the cup and lifted it to his lips.
A surprised gasp slipped from her lips as a hot spurt of arousal arrowed through her, tightening her nipples and making every inch of her skin heavy with need.
What the hell is happening to me? For some reason this man made her react like a bitch in heat.
"At least he's a paying customer."
Katelyn jumped as Rita's voice sounded next to her.
"Don't sneak up on me like that!" Katelyn placed her hand over her heart, willing it to slow before it galloped out of her chest.
Rita laughed and shook her head. "I didn't sneak anywhere. You're just too involved in fantasizing over him to notice anything around you." Rita hummed as she padlocked the display cases and then bumped Katelyn aside with her hip to wipe off the day's smudges with glass cleaner and paper towels.
"What the hell are you so happy about?"
Rita's face blossomed, and her eyes sparkled with excitement. "I think Aedan is going to ask me to marry him tonight."
"That loser?" Katelyn grabbed her friend by the shoulders and glared at her, half tempted to shake some sense into her. "I thought you broke up?"
Rita rolled her eyes and ducked out of Katelyn's grip. "No, you were hoping we would. Just because you're terrified of a relationship doesn't mean the rest of the world is, too."
"I'm not terrified!" Katelyn's response sounded too defensive, and she wished she would've taken a deep breath before answering. Rita always knew how to press her hot buttons. "I just don't want you to get hurt. Every time you talk about him, it gives me the creeps."
Rita's eyes narrowed, and she pinned Katelyn with a glare. "Are you trying to tell me you've had a vision about him?"
"No," Katelyn reluctantly admitted.
"Then we're done discussing this." Rita, back to her overly cheerful self, gave Katelyn a quick hug and then stepped back but seemed just short of performing a pirouette. "Lock up for me, okay? I know it's my turn, but because you still need to go talk to Romeo over there, I figure you can handle it."
Katelyn shuddered as she watched her best friend and business partner bounce out the front door. The door chimes jingled merrily behind her, but for some reason they reminded Katelyn of a death knell.
She had asked Rita thousands of times to bring Aedan into the shop. If she could just shake hands with him, it might trigger a vision and give her more insight as to what bothered her about him.
No matter what Rita said, Katelyn's gut clenched whenever Aedan's name was brought up-and that definitely couldn't be a good thing.
The movement of her dark stranger picking up his chai caught her attention, and she swiveled her head to watch, even as she bit back a long sigh of appreciation.
His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed, and she watched, transfixed, until he broke the spell by glancing her way and catching her staring again.
His eyes reminded her of liquid amethyst, and each time their gazes locked, she felt as if she might drown in those deep purple depths. The corners of his lips curved, and then his attention returned to his book as he set the chai back on the table.
Once again, his gaze had held nothing but polite acknowledgement.
The loss of even that noncommittal attention made her feel suddenly chilly, and she rubbed her arms to chase away the gooseflesh.
She wasn't under any delusion that she was "model" hot, but she was a reasonably attractive woman, and there had definitely been men in her past-even though she hadn't allowed any of them to stay for long.
Hell, he could at least take one appreciative look before returning to his books, right?
Katelyn puffed out a breath that fluttered her bangs. "Men."
She'd found herself openly staring at him hundreds of times throughout the day, and although he'd caught her a few times, she was sure she'd made it look nonchalant. She hoped.
But how could she help it? This man was a walking wet dream. His dark mahogany hair gleamed with almost auburn accents under the fluorescent lights. The hair looked soft as silk, and her fingers literally itched to reach out and touch.
He'd gathered it back into a simple ponytail that hung halfway down his back. She'd always thought men with long hair appeared too feminine for her taste, but no one would ever think to accuse him of anything of the sort.
The harsh, unforgiving lines of his face made him appear aloof, and his jaw seemed carved from solid granite. But ... those sensual lips. They softened him, which made him rakishly handsome, even approachable.
His broad shoulders tapered to a trim waist and down to muscular thighs Katelyn could envision tracing with her tongue. His wasn't the overly ripped physique of a bodybuilder which made men resemble plastic Ken dolls on steroids. Rather, he had the muscles that spoke of a male in his prime.
In fact, he oozed liquid masculine sex-something that, if bottled, would give spontaneous orgasms to every woman within a fifty-mile radius. A product Katelyn would definitely invest in for personal use.
She blinked and realized his intense amethyst gaze studied her briefly before returning to his book.
Damn! He caught me again. He's going to think I'm a stalker.
She squared her shoulders, yanked on the bottom of her low-cut vee-necked top to ensure "the girls" were shown to best advantage, and walked from behind the display case toward him.
Sexual awareness tingled through every pore as she neared him. It was as if the air around him was drenched in pheromones designed to draw her closer. Her steps faltered as she briefly considered that he could be using a spell of some sort to draw her. Enough magick practitioners frequented her shop that she knew such things were possible; however, she had never used them herself.
Her senses expanded, sampling the energy around him. When she found nothing amiss, she resumed her confident trek forward to stand in front of him. Katelyn cleared her throat before speaking. "Excuse me."
He looked up, and her breath caught as the full intensity of his gaze settled over her, causing her blood to heat and her libido to sit up and beg. He seemed to see deep inside her to places with dark secrets best forgotten. A sudden mental image of one of those long fingers tracing a line between her breasts and straight to her clit flashed through her, and she resisted the urge to shiver.
His lips curved. "How may I be of service?"
The deep bass rumble of his voice surprised her, and not just because it seemed to feather against her nipples, clit, and every intimate place she owned, but because of the formal way he spoke.
Where is this guy from?
Wherever he called home, the sensations his voice created made her realize just how long it had been since she'd had a man willing and naked. Every erogenous zone on her body tingled and ached-adding their input to the equation.
The deluge of arousal brought to mind a laundry list of ways he could "be of service." Katelyn breathed deep against the surge of lust before speaking. "I'm Katelyn Hunt, the owner. I've noticed you around the store for the past few days."
And Rita thinks I'm freaking insane for obsessing over you.
He continued to study her as though memorizing her every nuance. She resisted the urge to fidget as a surge of moisture dampened the insides of her thighs and her skin began to feel achy and heavy with need. She swallowed hard and vowed to crank up the air-conditioning as a trickle of sweat lazily traced its way down her spine. "We're getting ready to close. I thought maybe you'd like to go have a drink." Or some kinky, mind-blowing, illegal-in-thirty-seven-countries sex.
In one languid movement, he stood, forcing her to crane her neck to look at his face. He reached down and took her hand in his before placing a gentle kiss on the back, which sent shock waves of arousal straight to her aching labia. "I'm Grayson-"
"Hello, Grayson." An older woman pushed her considerable bulk between them, cutting off his words, forcing him to drop Katelyn's hand and making Katelyn take a step back. "I'm Ethel Harding, and you're the sexiest man I've seen around here since my fourth husband, Earl."
Katelyn glared at the interfering woman who had pressed her ample bosom against Grayson's arm while one hand caressed his chest. There was no way Katelyn was going to lose him to some woman who was ninety if she was a day-especially after she'd finally worked up the nerve to approach him. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Harding, but this is a private conversation between myself and Grayson."
Ethel batted her fake eyelashes at Grayson, and Katelyn was surprised the poor things didn't crawl off her face like indignant black spiders that refused to do her bidding.
"It's Ms. Harding. The last Mr. Harding passed on last year." Ethel's drawn-on eyebrows disappeared into her overdyed hairline. She waved a fleshy hand liberally dripping with gaudy rings and bracelets that clacked together like discordant wind chimes.
Katelyn narrowed her gaze and wished she could shoot lasers from her eyes and fry Ethel where she stood. She dropped her voice to arctic-chill levels. "All right ... Ms. Harding. Again, this is a private conversation, and the store is now closed. It's time for you to leave."
Ignoring Katelyn, Grayson raised Ethel's beefy hand to his lips. Katelyn harrumphed and crossed her arms in front of her.
He brushed a gentle kiss across the back of the wrinkled skin, and Katelyn resisted the urge to turn her glare on him.
A heavy sigh escaped Ethel, and Katelyn knew the woman was lost.
"Perhaps I can be of some assistance, Ethel." Grayson had the gall to toss Katelyn a saucy wink.
"Aren't you the charmer?" Ethel blushed like a virgin and licked her thin lips as her whole manner became ... predatory. Ethel's hungry gaze raked over Grayson, and his brow furrowed for the first time.
Sensed the danger a tad too late, huh? Katelyn resisted the urge to smile at his predicament.
"Actually, Ethel, a woman of the world, such as yourself, deserves a man with more means and the ability to take care of you properly."
Katelyn clenched her fists and tried not to make retching noises in the background of Grayson's "performance."
Oblivious to Katelyn's sarcastic thoughts, Grayson continued. "But let's consult the gods, shall we?"
He placed Ethel's hands between his own and closed his eyes as if waiting for enlightenment. Out of curiosity, Katelyn let her senses expand to sample the energy surrounding him again.
As a Seer, she was used to reading people's auras, and she'd always been fascinated by people who were true psychics as opposed to Seers, who received visions only as needed. She'd been a Seer since birth and had spent many years trying patiently to educate the populace about the difference.
Grayson's aura was definitely different from anything she'd ever sensed-he buzzed with power, whereas most people possessed only a faint hum.
Katelyn stiffened in surprise. This power intrigued her more than his handsome face and his killer body. He was either an old soul or an actual practitioner who knew how to harness and use energy. In either case, this made Grayson a rare and interesting man.
However, when his energy didn't change, she immediately saw him for the fraud he was. She allowed her shoulders to slump as disappointment and a thin tendril of anger flowed through her. In order to receive impressions or messages, psychics needed to change their energy levels. As a Seer she didn't get a choice-the vision came whether she wanted it or not, and her energy not only changed but usually sucked her under.
Grayson's deep voice broke the expectant silence and caused goose bumps to march over her skin. Something about that voice slipped past all her shields and reached deep inside her, exciting her and scaring her at the same time.
"Apparently, the next Mr. Harding is right at this moment sitting down to lunch at the Phoenix Resort. I see a gray, pinstriped suit and a large garnet ring on his right pinkie finger."
Ethel's wide eyes and sudden intake of breath told Katelyn she'd been totally reeled in. "No one has ever been able to give me such detail in a reading before. You're truly extraordinary!" She cast a condescending glare in Katelyn's direction before turning her adoring attention back to Grayson. "What else can you tell me?"
He closed his eyes once more, as if seeking enlightenment from the universe. "I see lots of money in your future and ..." His voice trailed off, and he pursed his sensual lips.
"What? What?" She slapped her other hand over his and shook it as if the jerky movement would spill the answers from his lips.
He opened his eyes. "I'm loath to speak of something so private in front of such cultured women as yourselves, but because the gods are giving me this message for you, I suppose I should share it."
Ethel shook his hands some more and seemed in danger of exploding on the spot if she didn't hear his next words. "Share! Share! We can't disappoint the gods."
He sighed as if deciding whether to override his better judgment. "Well, it seems the future Mr. Harding is rather ... well endowed, and enjoys using his ... equipment."
Ethel's mouth dropped open, and Katelyn thought the woman might drool on the floor like a bulldog. "I mustn't keep him waiting. Thank you! Thank you!" Quicker than Katelyn would've given her credit for, Ethel grabbed Grayson and mashed her fleshy lips against his. Then she reached into her purse and thrust a wad of bills into his hand.
In seconds, the whirlwind who was Ethel Harding left the shop, the chimes on the door tinkling to show Katelyn she hadn't imagined the whole thing. Then her gaze again found him.
"So, are you a professional con man?"
He shook his head, still recovering from Ethel's kiss-though he did stop short of wiping any remnants of the deed from his lips. "She obviously didn't know the difference between a Seer and a psychic and didn't care, as long as she received the answers she sought. So I gave them to her."
Katelyn resisted the urge to be impressed that he knew the difference. "And what happens when Ms. Harding gets to the Phoenix Resort and realizes you lied to her? You'll be long gone, and she'll be back in my shop screaming bloody murder."
Anger and frustration roiled in Katelyn's belly. She stalked to the front door to flip her OPEN sign to CLOSED. Then she strode behind her display case, putting distance between her and Grayson.
Why are men so high-maintenance? I only wanted a hot night, and now I may have a pissed-off retired debutante on my hands.
Excerpted from VISION OF SEDUCTION by CASSIE RYAN Copyright © 2008by Cassie Ryan.Excerpted by permission.
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