When it comes to love, he plays to win.
There’s only so much frustration a guy can handle before he gets a little nutty. For Jude Jamison, his frustration has a name—May Price. She’s everything the former Hollywood bad boy actor came to Stillbrook, Ohio, hoping to find: open, honest, lovable, and full of those luscious curves you don’t find on stick-figure starlets—curves May doesn’t seem to appreciate in herself. Every time Jude tries to get close to the skittish businesswoman, to take her in his arms, she thinks he’s joking. Joking? Joking does not involve lots of cold-shower therapy.
Time for new tactics. If May can’t respond to his compliments and sexy innuendos, he’ll just have to spell it out for her. Jude Jamison is going to lay down the law for May Price. And after that, she’ll have no delusions about just how much he wants her . . .
“With her trademark blend of danger, humor, and passion, Foster has written another entertaining romance.”—Booklist (starred review)
“It’s impossible not to feel heat radiating off the pages.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Lori Foster
“Foster writes smart, sexy, engaging characters.”—Christine Feehan
“A Lori Foster book is like a glass of good champagne—sexy and sparkling!”—Jayne Ann Krentz
“Lori Foster is a funny, steamy, guaranteed good read! Say YES! to Lori Foster.”—Elizabeth Lowell
“Lori Foster writes about real people you’ll fall in love with.”—Stella Cameron
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By Lori Foster
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Lori Foster
All rights reserved.
He blamed May Price for his new affinity toward lush curves. Before meeting her damn near a year ago, he'd been more than satisfied with willowy models and leggy starlets.
Now, Jude Jamison couldn't get the voluptuous Miss Price, or her very sexy body, off his mind. He wanted her. He would have her.
But so far, she hadn't made it easy for him. Hard? Yeah, he stayed plenty hard. When it came to May, nothing went as he intended. Thanks to his fame and acquired fortune, he usually only needed to make himself visible and women were interested.
He liked it that way — or so he'd thought before May challenged him with her resistance. She didn't care about money or fame. No, May liked his interest in art. Specifically, she liked his interest in the art she sold in her gallery.
Trying to make headway with May brought back memories of his youth, when getting laid made the top of his "to do" list and occupied most of his energy. He'd worked hard on sex back then, and he'd had the time of his life.
He still enjoyed sex, but without the chase, it didn't seem as exciting. Hell, it had almost become mundane.
May made it exciting again.
In fact, she made everything exciting. Talking with her left him energized; laughing with her made him feel good; just looking at her gave him pleasure — and often had him fantasizing about the moment when she'd give in, maybe loosen up a little, say yes instead of shrugging off his interest as mere flirtation.
He'd turned thoughts of that day into a favorite fantasy — May out of her restricting clothes and her concealing glasses, with her hair loose and her expressive eyes anxious, seeing only him.
He adored her dark brown eyes with the thick fringe of lashes, the way she looked at him, the way she seemed to really see him, not just his image.
But before he could make moves toward getting her in his bed, he needed to go the route of casual dating. She was different from the other women he'd known. More old fashioned. In no way cavalier about intimacy. And she had a big heart.
He appreciated those differences a lot, but thinking of his failed come-ons left him chagrined.
She took his best lines as a joke. Added sincerity left her unconvinced. And at times, she didn't even notice his attempts at seduction. Yet subtlety wasn't his strong suit. She left him confounded, and very determined.
May wasn't an insecure woman. She wasn't shy or withdrawn. Open, honest, and straightforward — that described May. But no matter what Jude tried, she found a way to discount his interest.
He decided the local yahoos in Stillbrook, Ohio, were either blind, overly preoccupied, or just plain stupid when it came to women. For May to be so oblivious to her own appeal, they sure as hell hadn't given her the attention she deserved, the attention he'd give her — in bed.
It had to happen soon. With his financial status and number of investments, not to mention the propositions from two other factions, a slew of daily business details demanded his attention. But until he had May, he couldn't concentrate worth a damn.
Hands in his pockets, shoulder resting on the ornate door frame of May's small art gallery, Jude watched her with the piercing intensity of a predator.
Time for new tactics. She hadn't reacted to compliments and innuendos, so he'd spell things out for her instead. After tonight, May would have no delusions about what he wanted with her.
As she bustled across the floor, bouncing in all the right places, he visually tracked her, soaking in every jaunty step, each carefree movement. She hadn't yet noticed him, but she would. Soon.
Anticipation curved his mouth.
No matter the location, no matter the occasion, May always became aware of him within seconds of his entrance. She could deny it all she wanted, but the awareness went both ways.
Fighting it would do her no good.
Jude played to win, always had. If May knew anything at all about his history, she knew that much. And for right now, he intended to win her.
It didn't matter that her denial made sense. It didn't matter that, despite the attraction, she probably feared him — with good reason. He wouldn't let it matter.
Hell, he wouldn't even think about it.
Ignoring the curious gawking of everyone else in the main room of the art gallery, Jude wove his way toward May. She had her profile to him and, as usual, her suit jacket showed wrinkles from an uncomplimentary fit, likely caused by her impressive rack. The seat of her knee-length skirt hugged her generous ass. And somehow she'd snagged the back left leg of her nylons.
Like the finest fetish garb, her rumpled wardrobe made her that much more enticing.
He couldn't help but think about the voluptuous body she tried so hard to hide. Because most women flaunted their assets, her modesty amused him. Well used to bold seductions, her attempts to be demure dared him. Everything about her made his imagination go wild.
What type of panties did she wear under that asexual clothing? Cotton, or something slinky and slippery and barely there?
Soon enough he'd discover the answers for himself.
He was still studying her ass when she finally sensed his approach. Her animated conversation fell flat, and she whirled around to face him, almost dislodging her wire-framed glasses. He liked the front view as much as the back. Slowly, he brought his attention away from the notch at the top of her thighs, to her belly, her breasts, and up to her flushed face.
Their gazes locked, and Jude smiled.
Regardless of the crowd around her, he didn't bother to hide his intent. He wanted her, and she could damn well deal with it.
A look of delight flashed over her face before she transformed it into a polite welcome. Without even realizing it, she'd dismissed the women clustered around her and took a step toward him. He loved her candid response, the way she always greeted him with pleasure. But with so many people crowded inside the gallery to view the display of artwork by local talent, she could barely move without bumping into someone.
Lacking her manners, but with twice her determination, Jude pushed forward until he stood near enough to breathe in the combined scents of lemon shampoo and powdery lotion. "Hello, May."
"Jude." Eyes big and bright, she beamed at him. "How are you? I was afraid you wouldn't make it tonight. You're usually waiting when I open the doors. When you weren't, I just assumed the rain had kept you away."
Only with him did she chatter. His presence threw her off balance. But for Jude, the lack of coy pretension was cute.
Hell, everything about her was cute. And sexy. And real.
"That lightning's so fierce," she said, "I was afraid the electricity would go out and I'd have to cancel. You know how Stillbrook is. It doesn't take much to shut us down. But so far so good." She held up crossed fingers. "With any luck, the rain will blow over soon. But I don't think I could have fit anyone else in here, anyway. This is the biggest crowd yet."
He resisted the urge to press a shushing finger to her lips. If he touched her, he wouldn't want to stop touching her. "Storms don't bother me." He stared at her mouth. "If anything, they turn me on."
She blinked at him in what looked like incomprehension, before putting a hand to her hair. "I don't really mind them so much either, at least when I'm not working. But the humidity plays havoc with my hair. I'm a mess."
"Not true." Curling, light brown tendrils had escaped her pins to trail over her shoulders. She had that just-laid look going on, and he liked it. "You look good rumpled."
Her lips twitched. "Right."
Somehow, he'd make her understand just how she affected him. "You ever made love during a storm, May?"
The bold approach surprised her. She drew an audible breath, stared, finally shook her head, and admonished him. "Behave, Jude." Her worried gaze skimmed the room. "There are people everywhere. Someone might overhear and not realize you're teasing."
"Behaving has gotten me nowhere." Unable to resist, Jude smoothed back one curl, tucking it behind her ear. Enchanted by her warmth and softness, he let his fingertips linger along her jaw, her temple, then recalled his new resolution for plain speaking. "Besides, I'm not teasing."
She stilled, then laughed as if he'd tickled her ribs.
Undeterred, he lowered his voice and stared into her eyes. "So, have you?"
"Have I ... what?"
Damn, she looked confused and uncertain, and very sweet. He curved his fingers under her chin and tipped up her face. "Fucked with the storm all around you?"
Her mouth fell open, then just as quickly snapped shut. The lenses of her glasses amplified her glare. "I don't like that language."
"Do you like the act?"
Her beautiful eyes widened. "Oh, for crying out loud ..."
Again, he caught her chin, surprised that she'd given him hell when May never had a cross or contrary word for anyone. "It's not a tough question, May."
She stepped out of reach. With one hand to her forehead, the other propped on her hip, she wavered. "Not that I should, but ..."
"But?" he encouraged.
"No." She let out a breath — and didn't quite look at him. "I haven't. Made love in the rain, that is."
He asked the obvious question: "Would you like to?"
Her startled gaze caught on his. She laughed again; but when he continued to wait, her eyes flared, turned hot ... and she stepped backward, almost knocking into a tray from a passing waiter. To keep her from falling, Jude caught her arm and drew her forward again.
Even through her suit coat and blouse, he detected her softness and warmth. His fingers contracted, caressing her, enjoying the plump feel of her.
She leveled a get-serious look on him. "Are you here to see artwork, or to fluster me?"
His hand slid down her arm to her wrist, where his fingers encountered bare skin. "Are you flustered, May?"
Seconds ticked by. She licked her lips ... and slowly retreated out of his reach.
Hands trembling, she adjusted her glasses. "Don't be silly." She attempted to smooth the wrinkles out of her jacket. "I just don't want anyone to get the wrong impression. Most of the people here don't know you the way I do. They don't know how you like to kid around —"
"Who's kidding? We've got the storm." His voice deepened. "All you have to do is say yes."
Suspicion darkened her eyes and she added, more strident now, "They don't know that we're only friends."
That had him grinning. "May," he chided, "don't be naive. Men are never friends with sexy women."
She started to argue that, realized he'd called her sexy, and clammed up.
Jude stepped closer. "If a guy seems to be your friend, trust me, he's just biding his time until he can get you in the sack."
A dozen expressions flashed over her face before she settled on a frown. "I thought you and I were friends."
Gently, he told her, "I know."
Her cheeks hot, she lowered her chin and stared at him over her glasses. "So ... you didn't ... I mean, you're not here for the ..."
Jude looked at her breasts. "I've been looking forward to this all week."
She pulled the lapels of her jacket together. "This, meaning..?"
"You." He lifted one shoulder. "The showing. Both."
She tugged on her jacket again, doing her best to conceal herself.
"That's not going to work, you know."
He eyed her breasts. "You've got too many curves to conceal in a business suit."
Color rushed into her cheeks, and she flattened her mouth. Rather than fiddle with her jacket, she crossed her arms tightly together. "Let's talk about the artwork."
The change of subject didn't bother Jude. May needed him in more ways than just the sexual, so he understood her rush to get to business.
If it weren't for him, he doubted her gallery would stay afloat. He'd learned early on that the arts rarely, if ever, gained priority from the good folks in Stillbrook. The town consisted mostly of farmers and blue-collar workers who were more concerned with their schools, their local sports, and the neighborhood bar than with anything else.
Not only was he her biggest buyer, but also her biggest draw. Much of the crowd showed up at her gallery just to see him. Because he usually stayed secluded behind the heavy gates of his property, an art showing offered photo opportunities to the money-hungry and personal introductions to the groupies.
Her business had grown because of him. He knew it, and he suspected May did, too.
"I'd rather talk about us, but if you insist ..."
"There is no us!" Her raised voice surprised her as much as it did Jude. With a groan, she slapped a hand over her mouth.
Poor May. She really had no idea how to deal with a suitor. Or with sexual frustration.
He'd be happy to clue her in. "Relax," he whispered. He took her wrist, kissed her palm, and lowered her hand to her side. "No one is paying any attention to us."
She choked. "Of course they are. Everyone always stares at you. They —"
"Do you realize that your showings are one of the few highlights of this town?" He'd have to balance his pursuit with business if he didn't want to scare her off. May had grit, but obviously, she didn't know how to deal with his interest.
The compliment relaxed her enough that the rigidity left her shoulders and she visibly gathered herself.
"Thanks. It's nice to be appreciated." She folded her hands together. "So, is there something in particular you want to look at tonight?"
He couldn't resist. "You mean besides you?"
She missed a beat, and before she could start protesting again, he detailed his artistic needs.
"I'm still working on the downstairs." He had plenty of time left to him tonight, and luckily, the house he'd built had more walls than he could count. He could buy ten paintings, and she wouldn't think a thing of it. "I need some artwork for the home theater and the guest room. Something ... friendly. Bright. Large."
After several deep breaths, she nodded. "I have some ideas."
One eyebrow lifted. Jude looked her over, lingering in select places. "Wonderful."
"My ideas involve your house."
"The downstairs you just mentioned." She sucked in another deep breath that expanded her already lush chest. "Describe it to me."
"Dark leather furniture. Natural hickory floors in the game room and home theater, light slate around the indoor pool —"
"You have a pool inside your house?"
He hesitated. The way she asked that, heavy with disbelief, made him uncomfortable.
"Of course you do." She snorted. "Forget I asked."
Why the hell did she have to sound disapproving? "I swim for exercise."
Mouth twitching, she said, "I understand."
Damn it, she made him feel defensive. "You should come by for a swim. You'd like it."
She looked appalled by that suggestion. "Uh, no."
"Not a good idea."
Impatient, Jude narrowed his eyes. "Again ... why?"
"I don't ... that is ..." She glanced around, and lowered her voice to a whisper. "I haven't worn a bathing suit in ages."
"You're modest." He watched her closely. "I understand. But it would just be the two of us."
That made her blanch even more.
"Water inspires me. We could relax, have a few drinks. Discuss your ... ideas."
"One of my ideas is that we could discuss ideas right here, at the gallery, in our regular clothes."
She could be such a smartass. "My ideas would be more fun."
With a droll look, she straightened her glasses. "But mine would be safer."
Safer. As the word echoed through his head, Jude stiffened and retreated a step. Maybe it wasn't the thought of skinning down to a bikini that caused May distress. Maybe the risk of being alone with him — a man with a past, a man with suspicion still hanging over his head — motivated her.
Her lack of trust bit into him.
But with his reputation, the accusations that had damn near ruined his life, how else could she feel?
"You're afraid of me."
Insulted, she went rigid, too. "No."
She didn't want to lose his business by alienating him. Jude could respect that. "Have dinner with me tonight."
"You know I'll be here till late."
"Fine. Then let's go for a drink."
She shook her head hard. "I don't drink."
His jaw tightened. "I'm doing my best here, May. How about cutting me a break?"
Her laugh was too loud and forced to be convincing. "I always thought you were a serious actor, and now I find you're a comedian." She patted his shoulder. "As if I'd be naive enough to fall for your polished lines."
Excerpted from Jude's Law by Lori Foster. Copyright © 2006 Lori Foster. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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