Read an Excerpt
A woman's boots.
They sat on the floor, next to the bed. A fancy curlicue design stitched on smooth chocolate leather trailed to the top of the zippered knee-highs. Seeing them brought a smile to Jackson Worth's lips. He lifted his arms quietly, stretching out while trying not to awaken his sleeping companion. Images invaded his mind of how sexy she'd looked wearing those boots and how turned on he'd been sliding them off her coltish legs. Her short skirt and scoop-necked top had come next, with very little effort on his part, as he recalled.
It didn't make a lick of sense. But he couldn't deny that after taking one look at his sister-in-law's best friend, Sammie Gold, approaching him at the hotel bar last night, with her familiar sweet smile, slender hips swaying and those incredible boots catching the overhead lighting, he'd been thunderstruck with lust.
But Jackson Worth was no fool. There'd be hell to pay for what he'd done. He'd hear it from both his brothers, Clay and Tagg, but the worst of the wrath would come from Callie. Tagg's wife would take his head off and probably threaten to disown him.
Bright sunshine seeped in through the drapes and he closed his eyes, trying to ward off the headache pounding in his skull. The woman beside him on the king-size bed stirred and the scent of jasmine filled the air. Jackson breathed it in, and damn if his sated body didn't react, just from the sweetness.
Never before had he mixed business with pleasure, but this time, he'd outdone himself.
Sammie rolled over and her arm flopped onto his chest, her fingers on his skin, soft and possessive. She murmured something in her sleep that sounded too much like "boot-scooting boogie."
He glanced at the top of her pixie-cut, brown hair with colors of caramel, chestnut and rum blending like those of a rare gem. She was cute but not the kind of woman he usually dated. He winced at how that sounded, even to him.
He hadn't dated her. He'd slept with her.
Yep, Callie wasn't going to be happy when she found out. Without giving Jackson so much as a verbal warning to be on his best behavior, his sister-in-law had asked a favor of him, giving him her full trust.
Sammie's had it rough lately. She's lost her father and her business. Take her under your wing, Jackson. Help her. Please. It means a lot to me.
He'd blown that trust to hell.
Slowly, Sammie lifted her head off the pillow. Disoriented, she peered at him with deep brown eyes. "Jackson?"
Her gaze darted around the elegant room. She blinked and refocused, then shook her head to clear it. All the color drained from her face and her eyes grew round as poker chips. She lifted herself up, the covers falling away from her unclothed body. Her breasts appeared, small, round and firm. Jackson silently groaned. If she were any other woman, they'd be halfway to heaven again this morning.
With a gasp, she looked down and grabbed the sheets to her chest. "Oh, no!" She sent him a questioning stare, blinking rapidly. "We didn't."
It wasn't the usual reaction he received from a woman after a night of great sex. "Apparently, we did."
She made an unfeminine groan and searched the room, looking for some sign of familiarity. "Where am I?"
She gulped air and her voice squeaked. "France?"
This was worse than he thought. "Las Vegas."
She collapsed against the back of the bed, her head cushioned by a feather-down pillow that billowed when she landed. She looked up at the ceiling, clutched the covers to her chin and muttered, "How did this happen?"
He was pretty sure it was a rhetorical question, but Jackson had the need to answer her anyway. With his head propped in his hand and elbow braced on the bed, he met her tentative eyes. He gave her the only explanation that would make any sense.
Sammie's muddled brain began to clear and through the haze she remembered coming to Las Vegas for a shoe convention. Her best friend, Callie Worth, had insisted that, because Jackson was in Las Vegas at the same time, she meet with him. Jackson had a good head for business. Jackson could help get her out of the financial mess she was in. Jackson could give her sound advice. Sammie had been robbed by her last boyfriend, an accountant who'd known how to juggle numbers and her heartbefore absconding with nearly everything she'd owned.
She'd felt like a gullible idiot to have believed his lies.
She still felt that way, only now she had Jackson Worth to contend with, too.
Ever since her father had died a few months ago, Sammie hadn't made good judgment calls. But this might have been the dumbest thing she'd ever done sleeping with her best friend's brother-in-law.
She spotted her clothes on the floor. They painted a vivid trail of lust to the bed. Her blouse, her skirt, her bra and her thong panties were strung like drying clothes on the line, one right after the other. A whimper, bordering on panic, rose from her throat. "How much champagne did I drink last night?"
She cringed, waiting for his answer.
He seemed to be calculating in his head. "Not that much maybe two glasses."
Her mouth dropped open. "II don't normally drink. It affects me. I get, uh"
He sent her a knowing look. "Wild and sexy?"
"Oh, no, did I seduce you?"
A smile caught the corners of his mouth. "It was mutual, Sammie. You don't remember?"
He'd been helpful, that much she remembered. They'd spoken business for half the night at the bar and they'd had some laughs, too. Then the champagne had arrived. After the first glass, she'd been fine, but she should have stopped at one. Having two glasses of the good stuff, with her sensitivity to alcohol and her slight frame well, she should have known better.
Sammie had traveled from Boston a few months ago to attend Callie's wedding and had met Jackson then. They'd had several conversations and had developed a cordial friendship. He was devastating to look at. Gorgeous with a capital G. He was so out of her league that she'd never entertained thoughts of being anything more than casual friends.
She glanced at the silk sheets, the expensive room and the man who was probably buck-ass naked under the covers beside her. Somewhere between the elevator ride up to the room and Jackson peeling off her boots, her mind went a little fuzzy.
Oh, boy. "Not really. I don't remember much." She sighed. "I shouldn't have had that second glass of champagne."
Jackson stroked her arm, his finger making circles just above her elbow. She trembled from his touch. A jolt of throbbing heat pulsed between her thighs and her memory cleared for a second. She remembered something.. .how her body reacted when he touched her. "It's a little late for that confession."
He was right. Last night at the bar she'd thrown caution to the wind. Tired of being Miss Goody Two-shoes, the bridesmaid and never the bride, and tired of denying that Jackson Worth was the sexiest man she'd ever laid eyes on, she'd done something totally out of character. She'd wrapped herself around Jackson on the dance floor and kissed him. He must have thought her needy and pathetic. "Th-that's me, always late to the party."
"Sammie," he said, his rasp deep and low enough to remind her how much she was missing out on by not remembering last night, "just so we're straightyou wanted to be at the party."
"I, uh I know." What woman in her right mind wouldn't want to be?
She squeezed her eyes shut. She should have been more cautious. She blamed her behavior on losing her father and her business in a short span of time. But getting real with herself meant facing the truth. Last night she'd needed an ego boost and broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, sandy-haired hunk Jackson Worth was just the man to lift her out of the dumps. Not only was he an eyeful, but he'd been sweet, helpful and attentive. The combination had been irresistible.
Sleeping with Jackson was a stupid movebut not remembering all of it? Now that was just plain wrong. She was experiencing the guilt without as much as a hot spicy memory to go along with it. Now, she'd never know. And there would be no repeats of last night.
Yesterday she'd gone to the annual shoe convention hoping to muster some interest in her failing business. The economy was slumping and only the stronger companies were surviving. No one was interested in infusing capital in her small, unique boutique.
No one except Jackson Worth.
Then it dawned on her. Her head spun and her eyes widened with realization. "Oh, my goodness, Jackson. We're partners.."
Jackson's mouth quirked with a quizzical smile, then he sighed deeply. "We made a deal before the champagne arrived, darlin'. You signed on the dotted line. Boot Barrage is now half mine."
Sammie lay in bed, her head cushioned on the pillow, listening to the crank of the faucet being turned on in the next room. The rush of water filled her ears and as the shower door opened then closed with a definite click, she didn't have to imagine what Jackson Worth looked like in the buff. No, five minutes ago he'd bounded off the bed in his birthday suit, beautifully tan, with the greatest backside she'd ever seen on a guy, and sauntered toward the bathroom.
"You sure you don't want to go first?" he'd asked.
She'd crawled farther under the sheets, shaking her head.
"No, you go first. I'd rather wait." Now she lay on the bed, her pulse pounding in her ears. For a girl who'd wanted to make a fresh start on a new life, she'd really put her foot in it. Among other things.
A tremble erupted throughout her body like small aftershocks hitting one right after the other as the heavy weight of her indiscretion slowly sank into her brain. She tried taking deep breaths to calm her wayward nerves. It didn't work. Her breaths came out in short rapid bursts.
Then she remembered her yoga instruction, something she'd come to rely on when Allen the Loser had accounted his way out of her life, taking with him the bulk of her hard-earned cash. Slowly she sat up on the bed and swiveled to plant her feet on the floor. She stood, circled her arms above her head, stretching out until her fingertips touched, pinkies down, and inhaled slowly, deeply, letting oxygen fill her lungs. Then just as slowly, with finesse she'd learned from the yoga master, she let her breath out smoothly as she lowered her arms and hinged her body in half until her fingers touched her toes. Better. Much better. She repeated the movements several times. Tension rolled off her. Her fuzzy head cleared and the rapid beats of her heart ebbed to a restful rate.
It was amazing how well the technique worked on her.
For the short term anyway.
She was certain she'd have many more moments of anxiety. Her life was about to change forever. Moving across the country and starting up a new venture in an unfamiliar town was enough to make her anxious. And spending the night with Jackson, her new partner, and having to face him on a regular basis wasn't exactly the best-case scenario for a girl who'd blundered with her last love affair.
So far she was batting a big fat zero in her new life.
The peaceful hum of water ceased with another turn of the faucet, and the shower door clicked open. Sammie sank back onto the bed, lifting the sheets to her chin, making sure her naked self was adequately covered. Instead of picking up her clothes and getting dressed, she'd been focused on yoga. Ironically, all of the peace she'd gained in the past few minutes was effectively wiped away as the door to the bathroom opened and Jackson strode out.
He wore a plush robe the color of rich dark ink. Black suited him, and the day-old stubble on a chiseled face and wet, blond-streaked hair curling at his collar put him on par with a GQ model. But then, she'd already known that about Jackson Worth. He wore his clothes with style, he had a smile that could melt Arctic ice and, darn him, he had a charming personality that would set any female's mind spinning. The bottom line Jackson was dreamy and dangerous and last night all of her internal warning signals had malfunctioned.
He carried a snowy robe in hand and tossed it onto the bed. It landed beside her in a heap of marshmallow softness. "Maybe you should get dressed," he said, his usual air of confidence a little shaken. "We need to talk."
Without waiting for her response, he moved to the window to allow the daylight in and caught a glimpse of a replica of the Eiffel Tower. With Jackson gazing out the window, she hurried her arms into the robe and tied it around her waist. Snatching her clothes off the floor, she headed toward the bathroom.
Her shower was quick and efficient. If circumstances were different, she would have luxuriated in the giant-sized marble enclosure with three directional faucets and lingered under the waterfall-like spray. She would have lathered herself with smooth-as-silk body wash and then treated her limbs to a citrus lotion massage. But Jackson was waiting and they had some serious talking to do.
She dressed in the clothes she'd worn to the convention yesterday, a little rumpled now from their night on the floor. With fingers gingerly moving through her hair, the thick, short layers fell back into place without much fuss. There was something to be said about good-hair days even when all else seemed to be going downhill.
She padded out of the bathroom in bare feet and noted Jackson was still standing by the window, but this time with a coffee cup in his hand. Sometime during her shower, room service had arrived. It always amazed her how magic seemed to happen to wealthy people and how much they took it for granted. With a snap of fingers, their every wish was granted.
Perhaps it was a good thing that Jackson was wealthy though, because he, unlike so many others that had refused her, had entered into a business arrangement with her. They were partners now, and Sammie had no illusions about his reasons. Normally, a cattle baron with investments in major real estate developments and the stock market wouldn't give a small-time boot seller the time of day, but Jackson was doing Callie a favor by backing Sammie's boutique. It made Sammie even more determined to make her business a success. She didn't want to disappoint Callie or have the Worth family look upon her as a charity case.