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And here she thought things couldn't get any worse.
Surrounded by rowdy animal rights activists, journalist Cathleen Nichols rolled her eyes heavenward and wondered who the hell she'd pissed off in a past lifetime to deserve this. As if standing on a picket line outside the Iowa Research Center in a deluge of cold autumn rain with her makeup smeared and her hair plastered to her forehead wasn't enough to top off a perfectly shitty day, she'd spotted him.
The man who despised her.
The man who'd be thrilled to see her in such a predicament.
The same man who'd been starring in her fantasies for the past six months.
Who knew the article she'd written about the Iowa Research Center's sexual experiments would draw so much attention? Negative attention, that is.
From behind the lobby doors, his piercing blue eyes sifted through the crowd and settled on her. Oh boy! Desire thrummed through her veins as their gazes collided. On her date rating scale this man scored a triple "A." Anywhere, anytime, anything. . . .
She'd been living across the courtyard from "not-so-nerdy" scientist Sam York for a little over six months. Except for the day he'd helped her carry in packing boxes, they'd barely spoken. She'd come to learn he dedicated his spare time to his work and didn't have much room in his life for other luxuries.
Luxuries like having her writhing beneath him on his king-sized bed. Her pulse leapt into action as she played out that provocative image. Cripes! This wasn't the time to indulge in herrich sexual fantasies.
She'd also come to learn that he spent many evenings at home, alone with his pet chimpanzee Rio, poring over research. And after a long tiring night of work, he'd sometimes forget to close his blinds when he undressed for bed.
Not that she watched and waited.
Not at all.
Not much anyway.
Her body fairly vibrated as she mentally indulged in the erotic slideshow. Sexual longing swamped her, liquid heat moistening the juncture between her legs. She swallowed, her throat suddenly the only dry part on her body.
Even though they were neighbors, they seldom crossed paths. On those rare occasions when they bumped into each other outside the building, they'd exchanged pleasantries. The soft warmth of his voice always pulled at her as his rich scent singed her blood and sent heat curling through her veins.
Sam usually left the house minutes before her but never failed to leave behind his spicy masculine aroma. It permeated the courtyard and seduced her senses. Cat inhaled, clinging to the enticing memory.
The restless crowd grew louder as they chanted and walked in circles around her. Camera crews milled about, filming the action for the evening news. Shaken from her fantasies, Cat glanced up to see Sam push past the lobby doors and step outside. Even though his mouth was set in a grim line, his captivating eyes still glimmered with dark sensuality.
With determined strides, Sam stalked forward. High over his head, his black umbrella bobbed like a buoy in the sea of people. More rankled than a caged animal, he weaved his way through the congestion and advanced toward her.
Cat glanced at the clouds knitting together in the ominous, late afternoon sky. Where the hell was a bolt of lightning when she needed it?
A protestor's threatening voice boomed from behind. "Hey buddy, you're not going to get away with this. I'll personally see to it that you never experiment on that chimp of yours again."
Lord, she'd barely mentioned the chimp in the article yet activists had jumped all over that minor point, turning the parking lot into a circus sideshow.
Cat scanned the crowd and noted with mute interest how the majority of women seemed more enamored with Sam than angered. Eyes full of lust, they swarmed him, touching him with intimate recognition as he passed. They looked like a bevy of sharks ready to launch into a feeding frenzy. Cat snorted, suddenly annoyed. She knew exactly what those predators were interested in feasting on. It's not like she could blame them, really. When Sam's smoldering baby blues turned on her, it made her want to drop her panties, too.
The loud male protestor moved in beside her and continued his rant. His voice vibrated right through Cat, eliciting a shudder from deep within. Cat pressed her palms to her ears to block out the ungodly sound. She had one nerve left and the man was riding it.
She twisted sideways to glimpse the protestor who was as relentless as a pit bull and louder than a gaggle of preteens beheading a piñata. Well hell! Recognition hit like a high voltage jolt. It was none other than Eugene Letterman, a man who showed up at every protest, regardless of the cause.
As the camera turned on him, she cursed under her breath and tried not to feel as flustered as she felt. She looked heavenward. "Great. Kill me now." Cat linked her fingers together before she did something she'd regret. Like inflict the infamous protester with bodily harm.
Eugene Letterman. Otherwise known as Mr. Glory Hound around her office. An unemployed movie-star-wannabe working on turning his fifteen minutes of fame into a career.
Cat cringed as he spouted rude comments and made obscene gestures with his freakishly long middle finger. Cripes, his remarks were making this situation so much worse for Sam. Surely one little jab in the ribs wouldn't get her into too much trouble. The sudden, delightful image of Eugene dangling from a tree and Cat with a foot-long stick rushed through her mind. The visual made her grin.
She turned back to face Sam as he approached. A scowl etched his handsome face as he pinned her with a glare. Her smile dropped out of sight faster than Eugene Letterman after the cameras turned off. Starching her spine, she rooted her feet, jerked her chin up, and steeled herself. The look in Sam's eyes told her this was not going to be one of their pleasant courtyard exchanges. Pleasure Exchange
. Copyright © by Cathryn Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.