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WHEN SHE'S BAD
By Leanne Banks
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
Tonight's the night.
Full of hope and anticipation, she told herself that tonight would be filled
with lazy, sensual pleasure that would sate her body and soul. A night that
would provide release from the frustration that had built to unbearable levels
during the last two weeks.
Restless hunger burned inside her, building with each passing moment. Her need
had risen to fever pitch and it pounded inside her like a primitive drumbeat.
She slid her hand over her body with a comforting stroke. Soon, she told
herself. She wore cotton, the fabric of babies, but this lover wouldn't mind the
absence of silk and satin. She would seduce this lover in other ways. In fact,
she had already begun with a champagne cocktail, a long, warm scented bath
surrounded by candles, and now with secret, expectant darkness.
What she wanted was a satisfaction as old as time. What she wanted was a
freakin' full night of sleep.
More than anything, all Delilah Montague craved was a peaceful, uninterrupted
night of sleep. She needed it to forget for just a little while that her best
friend in the world had died one month ago. She needed sleep to ease the ache in
her heart and head. She needed to pretend that eventually everything would work
out and she wouldn't always be the object of disdain and distaste. She needed it
so she could keep a razor-sharp clear head in the morning, especially since
she'd inherited a large interest in the spa.
She'd been told she had a smile that opened doors and a body that made men want
to empty their pockets and lower their zippers. With a father who was a
fire-and-brimstone preacher and a mother who had won more wet T-shirt contests
than all the Baywatch babes combined, Delilah had a lot to live up to ... or live
down, depending on one's perspective. She knew she wasn't a good candidate for
marriage or motherhood, so it was easy to focus on her career. She hadn't,
however, grown accustomed to the new responsibility Howard "Cash" Bradford had
bequeathed her yet.
Delilah would trade her most treasured possessions for one night's sleep;
designer shoes, a perfectly mixed champagne cocktail, perhaps even her secret
stash of M&Ms. She would even trade her body except her poor body was too tired
for anything more than intimately melding itself with her mattress.
"It's not too much to ask, is it?" she muttered to the sleep gods as she flipped
her pillow over to press her cheek against cool Egyptian cotton. Her mattress
was the perfect degree of firmness, a far cry from the cot in the homeless
shelter where she'd slept a few years ago. Her duvet provided the exact weight
and warmth to ease her trip into Lala-land.
A professional interior decorator had furnished her boudoir as a sanctuary of
peace from the harsh outside world. She kept waiting for the day when she felt
comfortable in her own condo. Until now, she'd felt as if she were walking on
eggshells, afraid of messing up the white carpet and ivory leather furniture,
afraid of messing up everything and ending back on the streets.
Her heart raced at her thoughts and she tried to take a calming breath. As
director of Spa DeMay, the most elite spa in Texas, she worked in an environment
where she pulled knives out of her back on a daily basis. No one believed she
truly had a lick of business sense. No one thought she would last more than a
month after her mentor Howard Bradford died. Everyone believed she had achieved
her present position by lying on her back for Howard Bradford. Only she knew the
real truth, and it was her job to keep the truth a secret.
Delilah pushed the hated plugs into her ears as protection from her neighbor,
whom she was convinced had been hatched from some alien species which didn't
require sleep. That was the only explanation she could think of for doing
renovations in the wee hours of the morning.
Sighing, she closed her eyes and began to count backward from two thousand. One
thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine. One thousand nine hundred and
Howard lay in his large bed, a cigar in one hand, a glass of scotch in the
other, his heart medication on his bedside table.
Tsking in disapproval, Delilah took the cigar and scotch away.
"Hey! Give that back!" he protested. "I'm a dying man. You shouldn't deny me my
"You wouldn't be dying if you didn't indulge your pleasures so much. You just
had your third heart catheterization and I know the doctor didn't recommend
scotch and a Cuban as part of your recovery."
Howard sighed, but smiled his wily winning grin.
"You know I'm in love with you, Delilah." "Me and fifty others," she said.
Delilah couldn't resist smiling in return at the ornery multi-millionaire, but
she tried not to show that he scared her to death.
His complexion was gray and she didn't want him to die. She wanted Howard
Bradford to live forever. He had transformed her life when he'd taken her on as
arm candy. She'd expected to become his lover, and for a time, she had wanted
that, but then she'd learned the truth Howard was determined to hide.
Howard might be one of the most wealthy and powerful men in Houston, but he
couldn't quite, shall we say, lift his crane. His sexual difficulties were such
an embarrassment to him that he made it a practice to keep a young woman on his
arm at every public opportunity.
He'd showered Delilah with gifts, clothing, an informal education and the
opportunity to prove herself.
She'd gone from shampoo girl to executive director of Spa DeMay, and she had
"Cash" to thank for it. He'd introduced her to the arts and she'd introduced him
to the World Wrestling Federation. For all their playful arguments, both he and
Delilah knew there wasn't anything she wouldn't do for him.
He coughed and his grin fell. His eyes turned serious. "There's something I need
to tell you." She offered him a sip of water and sat on the edge of the bed.
"You should rest instead of talk." "You're a bossy woman."
She cracked a sassy grin. "You helped make me that way."
He laughed and absently rubbed his chest. "So I did." He sighed. "I need you to
do something for me."
"Anything except the cigar, scotch and Viagra," she said, knowing none of the
three mixed well with his heart condition.
"The evil trinity," he said wryly, then turned serious again. "If something
happens to me-" Delilah's heart contracted. "It won't."
"Don't be a sissy about this," he said with an edge to his voice. "I'm
surrounded by enough hysterical idiots. I'm counting on you to be sensible."
Delilah stiffened her lip. "Okay, what can I do?" "If I die, I'd rather you not
tell anyone the truth about my, uh-" He cleared his throat. "My condition."
Realization hit her. Male pride, one of the strongest forces in the universe.
Even in the face of death, Cash was concerned about his image. "If anyone asks
me, my response will be that you were so virile I couldn't keep up with you."
Cash chuckled. "Whatever happens, Lilly needs to be protected. I want you to
keep an eye on her." "She may not like that."
"I'll talk to her," he said.
"I'm not sure that will help," she said, suspecting that Howard's daughter,
Lilly, wasn't overly fond of her.
"Let me handle it. There's something else, though, that's very important to me.
It's not a small request and it won't be easy for you." Delilah wrinkled her
brow in confusion. "What-"
A knock sounded on the door, interrupting them. Miguel, Howard's longtime
housekeeper, stepped into the room. "Sorry to interrupt, Señor Bradford, but
Señorita Lilly is on the phone."
Howard's eyes lit up. "I'll take it, Miguel. I must have forgotten to turn the
ringer back on," he said, picking up the receiver. He covered the mouthpiece.
"We'll talk tomorrow. Okay, darlin'?"
Still worried, Delilah forced a smile and kissed his forehead. "Sure thing," she
whispered, wondering what he had intended to tell her. "Get some rest after you
talk to Lilly."
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow ...
A buzzing sound permeated her brain. Delilah frowned. She covered her ears, but
it felt like a bee was buzzing inside her head. She desperately tried to go back
to sleep. If she stayed asleep, maybe Howard would tell her what he wanted her
Tomorrow had never come for him. He had passed away in his sleep.
Refusing to open her eyes, afraid of looking at the clock, she buried her head
under her pillow. The buzzing continued.
Her heart sank. Not again! She peeked out from under the pillow at her alarm
clock and scowled. The luminescent numbers mocked her. 2:37 A.M.
Frustration and impotent fury raced through her. She threw the pillow against
the wall. "Stop!"
The buzzing continued.
Not certain whether to cry or scream, Delilah pulled the remaining earplug out
of her ear. Who knew where the other plug had gone? The buzzing sound reminded
her of a trip to the dentist. Pushing back the covers on her bed, she stomped to
the wall she shared with her neighbor.
"I'm in hell," she muttered to herself. "That guy Cash told me about, what's his
name? Danny, Dan, Dante? He left out a level of hell and I am in it."
She'd tried to keep her exchanges with her mystery neighbor civil up until now.
She'd left polite little notes at his door, but she couldn't handle another
night of sleep deprivation. She pounded on the wall. "Stop it! For God's sake,
stop it, stop it, stop it!"
The buzzing miraculously ceased. Delilah slumped in relief.
"Did I wake you?" called a muffled male voice from the other side of the wall.
Delilah rolled her eyes. Only every night for the last eighteen days. "Yes.
Please stop," she called back. "Sorry. I didn't know you could hear me," he
yelled. "Yeah, right," she murmured darkly.
"Are you sure it was my drill that woke you? It's a silent drill."
"It's not silent. It's a giant man-eating termite." "Are you sure you don't have
a problem with insomnia?" he asked, as if the buzzing sound was all her
imagination. Surely he wasn't patronizing her, she thought, her temperature
rising even more, which meant it would be impossible for her to go back to
sleep. "I definitely have a problem with insomnia and you are it," she yelled.
"Me?" he yelled in astonishment. "Your nighttime renovations." "I do quiet
renovations at night."
"Not quiet enough, Mr. Tooltime. Put your weapons of destruction away," Delilah
yelled in return. "My best friend in the world died a month ago and I really
need my sleep."
Silence followed, then a mumbling sound. "What?" Delilah asked, pressing her
hands against the wall as she craned to hear.
"I said I'm sorry. I quit my job and fianc�e. I've been trying to keep busy."
"All night?" "Can't sleep."
Even through the wall, she could feel his regret in admitting he couldn't sleep.
She couldn't escape a stab of sympathy for the guy. She understood far too much
about losing. Sighing, she felt an odd sort of connection with her insomniac
She thought again and shook her head. "That's wack," she muttered to herself.
"I'm sorry about your problems, but you need to find something quieter to do at
night." "Like what?"
She rolled her eyes. Why was she supposed to solve his problems? "Bowling. The
bowling alley is open all night," she said and headed for the bathroom.
With his ear pressed against the wall he shared with his neighbor, Benjamin
Huntington III would have replied if he hadn't heard a shriek of frustration
followed by the sound of his neighbor's shower.
Pulling back, he glanced down at his high-tech silent drill, then eyed the wall
again with skepticism. The woman's shriek still rang in his ears. Great, he was
living next door to the Wicked Witch of the West.
His fingers itched to continue drilling. After all, Broom Hilda was still in the
shower. She wouldn't hear him. Muttering, he unplugged the drill. The
renovations were supposed to be therapeutic. So far, they'd been working. Even
though he'd made a few mistakes and sections of his condo resembled the
apocalypse, he liked the feeling of progress. He liked working with the tools
and his hands. The renovations helped him deal with his own insomnia and
disillusionment. In one week, he'd lost both his dream job and the fianc�e he'd
thought was his dream woman. As if it had just happened an hour ago, Benjamin
remembered his confrontation with the managing partner of the most prestigious
law firm, Fitzgerald and Lewis, in Connecticut.
Benjamin had been sickened to learn that one of the other attorneys had bribed a
judge on behalf of one of his clients. Fitzgerald's words still rang in his
ears. "Keep it quiet. This is the son of one of our most prominent clients."
Benjamin had quit on the spot and he'd thought his fianc�e Erin, an attorney at
the same firm, would join him in Houston without batting an eye. But Erin
hadn't. She'd told him the bribery was all part of the game. He was
So now he was back in Houston, teaching law instead of practicing it. His blood
pressure rose at the thought. That would change in due time, he told himself,
brushing off his hands and heading for the den. His father was urging him to
join the family firm here in Houston, but Benjamin had never been comfortable
being his parents' "chosen one." That had been part of the reason he'd stayed
back East after he'd graduated from law school.
His brother Robert was finally coming into his own, preparing to run for public
office, and Benjamin refused to steal any of Robert's thunder.
He sank down onto his overstuffed couch and drummed his fingers over his
plaster-dusted jeans leg. He closed his eyes and the familiar edgy restlessness
tripped through him, making it impossible for him to sit still. He needed to
hammer a couple of boxes of nails into the wall or drill all the way to Dallas.
Anything to escape the damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't feeling in his
chest. If he had been able to play the game as his fianc�e had suggested, he
would still be in Connecticut now with his rising position at the firm and his
marriage plans intact.
He wouldn't have been able to look at himself in the mirror. Benjamin had been
told by more than one person that his deep-seated sense of integrity would cause
him unending heartburn if he practiced law. He just hadn't known it would cost
him his dream job and future wife. Since he'd followed his convictions and made
the right decision, the least he had expected was the ability to sleep at night,
but he had too many unanswered questions about himself, about his future.
He glanced in the direction of his neighbor's condo. And now he'd learned he was
living next door to a woman with a shriek that could make his skin crawl. Where
were a good hammer and board when you needed them?
Excerpted from WHEN SHE'S BAD
by Leanne Banks
Copyright © 2003 by Leanne Banks.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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