Read an Excerpt
By Lori Foster
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Lori Foster
All rights reserved.
Trailing close behind in the rusted, rattling junk heap of a car, he watched her, plotting, planning ... growing tense and hard and excited.
Between two jobs and school she scattered her routine, but he'd figure it out. Everyone fit a pattern eventually. People were sheep. Predictable. Easily overcome. Especially with his unique brand of tools.
She was the one to blame, the one who'd fucked up all his plans. She was the one directly responsible for ruining his life.
Before she caught on to him, before anyone could stop him, he'd have her. Then he'd have his much-deserved retribution.
She turned into the parking garage at the building where she worked the night shift. Slow and watchful, he drove on past the entrance. And he saw things he hadn't expected. He smiled with the discovery. Another way to twist the knife, to get his revenge.
The little bitch deserved no less for putting her nose where it didn't belong.
With building impatience and anticipation, Quinton Murphy leaned against the cinderblock wall and checked his watch for the tenth time. How pathetic for a grown man to go to such lengths to talk with a woman.
A woman who had refused him — after kissing him senseless.
He didn't leave. He wouldn't leave. Not until she showed up and he had a chance to set things right with her.
Loosening his tie and pulling at the collar of his dress shirt, he cursed the unseasonable warmth of the October night and the stifling stillness of the parking garage. He checked his watch yet again, and then, finally, her yellow Civic pulled through the entrance.
Headlights flashed around the gray, yawning space, now mostly empty except for his Porsche Carrera and the vehicles of the night shift workers. Her brakes sounded a little squeaky, and she parked with a jerk of the gears that shook the aged automobile.
Always in a hurry — that described Ashley Miles. At least from what little he'd seen of her. He had to wonder if she ever relaxed or took a day off to laze around.
As soon as her engine died and her headlights went dark, the driver's door swung open and she stepped out. Quinton soaked in the sight of her, letting his gaze meander along the length of her long legs, her trim midriff, and the understated curves of her small breasts before settling on her face.
Once again, he mulled over her startling effect on him — and wondered at it. At thirty-three he was hardly a monk. He'd had infatuations, relationships of convenience, and once he'd even been in love.
But something about Ashley, some indefinable nuance in her nature got to him in a most unusual way.
Pieces of her were perfect: her dark eyes, her long silky hair, and her mouth ... God, he loved her mouth.
She smiled easily, had a sharp tongue, and said no far too often.
But she kissed with an enthusiasm and hunger that made her impossible to dismiss, almost as if she'd never kissed before and the sensation of it overwhelmed her. He wanted more. He wanted everything. Until he had her, he wouldn't be able to get her out of his thoughts.
Put all together, Ashley made a mostly average appearance. But when she spoke, all that sassy attitude came crashing out, and it made her seem appealing yet unattainable, brash yet vulnerable.
She said things he didn't expect, behaved in ways unfamiliar to him. She smiled, and he wanted to strip her naked.
Her car door slammed hard and she looked around the garage behind her, talking to herself in low mumbled words that reeked of irritation and disgust.
Unaware of his presence, she said, "For God's sake, Ashley, get a pair, why don't ya."
Never taking his gaze off her, Quinton pushed away from the wall. Patience, he told himself. He'd have her, and soon.
"A pair of what, Ashley?"
She screeched. The high-pitched yell of panic bounced around the cavernous garage in deafening force, causing Quinton to wince. "For God's sake, it's me."
Eyes wide, she whipped around, zeroed in on him, and went from startled to furious in a heartbeat. The change was something to see.
And she looked as desirable pissed as she did impatient.
After stomping across the concrete floor, she thrust her chin up close to his face. Since this was the second time he'd startled her in the garage, he felt a little guilty. Holding up his hands in concession, he said, "My apologies."
She didn't soften a bit. "You're making a habit of this, Murphy, and I don't like it."
Quinton gave in to a half smile, gently touched her hair, and lied through his teeth. "Not on purpose. I just finished some late business. Since I knew you were due in soon, I decided to wait to say hi before heading home." The last time he'd seen her, he'd been with a client. A sexy, blond, female client, and though he knew Ashley wouldn't admit it, she'd misinterpreted the situation.
Now he needed to make her understand his interest for her and her alone.
For a single suspended moment she stared at him, mostly at his mouth, her expression soft and giving ... then with a frustrated growl she strode away from him.
Damned contrary woman. She wouldn't make this easy for him. But she did make it interesting.
Quinton propped his hands on his hips and watched her long-legged retreat, undecided on whether or not he should say anything more.
But after only three steps she halted. Her straight, stiffened back still to him, she snapped by way of explanation, "I usually don't scare so easy."
An olive branch? He gladly accepted it. "I gathered as much." He hadn't known Ashley long, but already he accepted that she wasn't a timid woman, definitely not a woman who jumped at shadows. In fact, he'd have described her as ballsy beyond belief. "So what's going on? Why are you so jumpy?"
She shut him out and he didn't like it. "Okay." He'd let that pass for now. Harking back to her earlier comment, he asked, "What do you need a pair of?"
Her shoulders relaxed and she turned to flash him a cheeky grin. "Balls."
"Well, good God, I hope not."
She shook her head. "I could use them in the figurative sense."
He chose to see her chattiness as an invitation and fell into step beside her. "Want to tell me why?"
Her shoulders lifted. "I've had the weird feeling that someone's watching me." She glanced up at him. "It's probably you giving me the willies."
She poked him in the chest. "Every time I turn a dark corner, you seem to be there."
Half under his breath, he muttered, "Not exactly the reaction I'd hoped for." The first time he'd met her, she'd been running for the elevator and he was stepping out. She'd ended up in his arms, and from that point on, he'd been a goner.
He stepped ahead of her to open the door to the building.
In her usual long-legged march, Ashley went in past him. He had a feeling she'd keep walking until she left him far behind.
On a sigh, he said, "Ashley, wait."
She paused and one slim brown eyebrow lifted. "For what?" She looked ... well, adorable. Her disheveled brown hair draped her shoulders, partially concealing the ridiculous long-sleeved T-shirt she wore. Ashley had the oddest fashion sense he'd ever witnessed, but somehow it suited her spirit.
Tonight she wore a purple and pea green striped T-shirt that would have made most women look bloated. On Ashley it made a statement of individuality. For certain, he'd never seen anything like it on anyone else.
Droopy broken-in jeans hung low on her slim hips, leaving a thin strip of pale, smooth belly to tantalize him. Her slip-on sneakers clashed in a glaring shade of pink with silver trim.
What was it about her?
She tried so hard to appear disinterested in him, but when they kissed, her body language told him otherwise. And thinking that ...
Quinton narrowed his eyes. "If I kissed you right now, what would you do?"
Expression arrested, she asked, "Scream again?"
"You aren't certain?" He stepped closer. She didn't back away, but she did plant her feet as if preparing for a confrontation. He didn't want to rush her or scare her off.
Without touching her, he suggested, "Maybe we should find out."
She stared at his mouth. Her lips parted on a shaky breath, then slowly curved in a sexy female smile that reeked of confidence. "Yeah," she whispered. Her gaze drifted to his. "I have a few minutes, so why not?"
Damn it, one little invitation from her and his heart pounded as if he'd been jogging up three flights of stairs. Not waiting for her to change her mind, Quinton tunneled his fingers into the cool weight of her hair, tipped up her chin, and sealed his mouth over hers.
Being so close to her rioted his senses.
He loved the feel of her hair against his palms, the warm scent of her skin, the way her heartbeat matched his. With only the touch of his tongue, her lips opened under his, so soft and sweet.
Just as he remembered, she intoxicated him.
They were in the building's basement, not exactly a place conducive to seduction.
She had to start work.
He needed to head home.
He knew all that — but at that moment, he didn't care.
Her hands on his shoulders, she snuggled into him, pelvis to pelvis, her breath coming fast and hard, her mouth moving with his.
Her breasts were small, but he could feel her stiffened nipples rasping against his chest and it made him nuts because he knew she was braless, that only a thin T-shirt kept her from him. Lost to the here and now, he ran his hand down her back all the way to her rounded bottom, spread his fingers wide over the softened, worn denim of her jeans, and pressed her tight against his erection.
With him every step of the way, she made a purring sound of excitement and dug her fingers hard into his shoulders. Her response pushed him over the edge and he started considering the possibility of taking her in the darkened hallway, against the wall, her long legs wrapped around his waist ...
She freed her mouth. Breathing hard, her forehead to his chest, she half laughed, half moaned.
His own breathing was ragged. He felt primed, more than ready to strip off her jeans and sink into her. But he had enough sense not to press her. Instead, he rubbed his hands over her back, soothing her, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. "God almighty, woman."
"Yeah." Her fingers fisted in his dress shirt. She swallowed twice, let out a long breath. "And now you see why you have to leave me alone."
He stiffened from his hairline to his toes. "You must be joking." She had to be. He couldn't remember the last time a mere kiss had affected him so strongly. And she wasn't immune either. He could feel her trembling.
"Sorry, no joke." Her forehead pressed hard into his sternum and her voice lowered in near desperation. "You have to stop waiting for me —"
He forgot his lie about work and said, "I've only waited twice, damn it."
"— and you definitely have to stop kissing me."
Quinton caught her shoulders and held her back far enough to see her face. A pulse thrummed wildly in her throat. Her swollen and damp lips were open to accommodate her uneven breaths. Heat flushed her cheeks and lust shone in her big dark eyes.
She felt everything he felt.
Determined to understand her, he demanded quietly, "Tell me why."
Her long hair trailed over his wrists as she shook her head. "We both know you were waiting for me tonight because, for whatever reason, you've decided you want to take a turn in the sack with me."
"Take a ..." The way she put things forever boggled his mind. He gently shook her shoulders. "I want to make love to you. We'd both enjoy it." Hell, he'd love it. "But I also like you." He was close to being obsessed with her.
"You barely know me." With shaking fingers she tucked her hair behind her ears, straightened her T-shirt, and moved back to put space between them.
His hands fell to his sides. "True enough. I don't know you as I want to." He managed a strained smile. "But I'm trying to correct that."
"Why bother? Our schedules conflict. We don't work the same hours."
"I'll manage." Given how badly he wanted her, he didn't sleep much anyway.
"We don't even work for the same company."
"But we do work in the same building." They'd met only by chance when he'd had to stop by his office late and she'd been leaving work early. Among other things, he was CEO of a consulting firm. Ashley cleaned the office building where he leased space. "Though it's a good thing we don't officially work together, given most company policies would forbid coworker dating."
Still refusing him, she shook her head. "We're not dating. It'd be a waste of time."
Did she deliberately insult him?
He scowled, but she shook her head and said, "I mean because we have nothing in common."
He touched her mouth with one fingertip. "Oh, I think we have a few things in common." He looked into her eyes and his lust ratcheted up to the max again. He wanted to devour her.
"Yeah, okay." She drew a quick breath. "It's a first for me, but I'll admit we've got the whole sexual chemistry thing going."
"Thank you," he said with dry humor.
"But," she continued, once again on the move, "I've got too much on my plate to be messing around with you right now."
Messing around with him? She made him sound like an inconvenience. Easily keeping pace with her on her path through the building to the locker room, Quinton asked, "So what's on your plate? Anything I can help with?"
"Nope." She kept her head down and her gait long.
She said that too fast, and with too much conviction. The take-charge part of his personality didn't like it. "I'm not without means, you know."
She stopped long enough to roll her eyes at him. "Yeah, I know. You have 'means' coming out the ying-yang. Thanks but no thanks."
On their first meeting, which also accounted for his first rejected invitation to her, he'd learned that Ashley had a spirited way of putting things. He liked it. As he said, he liked her.
He already knew that she attended college classes in addition to working the third-shift job. Busy, but not so busy that she couldn't fit in a date with him.
Unless something, or someone else, was keeping her away.
From two feet behind her, he asked, "Do you find me unattractive?"
"Oh please." She laughed without looking back at him. "As if."
Well ... That was nice. At least he knew his appearance didn't repel. "So is it that you dislike men with 'means coming out the ying-yang'?"
"Your means don't matter to me one way or the other." Now she sounded irritated. "I'm sure you work hard for what you have."
"I do." But he'd also been born into money, not that he intended to say so with her being so prickly about it. "And now you have me working hard to figure you out."
"Might as well stop before you strain something." Finally they reached the locker she used to stow away her purse.
Again, Quinton tipped up her chin. "Tell me what's troubling you." Then he'd resolve it and get her focused on him instead of other things.
She crossed her arms over her chest, cocked out one hip, and eyed him up and down. "All right, fine. First and foremost on my mind is the wedding."
The wedding? Denial lumped in his guts. But a quick glance at her finger showed no engagement ring. He scowled at her for nearly stopping his heart.
"Yeah, my sentiments exactly." She wrinkled her nose. "But you should try it wearing pink taffeta." She turned, opened the padlock with deft movements, swung open the squeaky metal door, and shoved her purse onto the top shelf inside the locker. "Let me tell you, humiliation takes on new meaning." She slammed the locker shut with a little more force than necessary.
"Hold up." Quinton put a hand to her shoulder and turned her to face him. "You're not getting married?"
"No way." And with annoyance, "Where'd you get a dumb idea like that?"
Relief sank into him. "So who's the lucky bride?"
"My best friend."
"And she's getting married when?"
Her head dropped back against the locker with a clatter. "In a couple of days. And I've got all this crap to remember —"
"Yeah, you know. Like how to do that idiotic walk on the rice paper, and to move her train out from behind her when she turns to go back down the aisle." She closed her eyes and huffed. "And to not say crap in front of the minister."
"Such a predicament," he teased.
"Yeah, well, for me it is." She screwed up her face. "I have a tendency to speak first and think later."
Without really considering all the repercussions, Quinton said, "This is where I can come in handy." Then he felt like cursing. He detested weddings almost as much as funerals. Still, he had the entire weekend free and if it'd get him that much closer to her ... "As your escort, I'll assist you in minding your manners."
Excerpted from Murphy'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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.