Previously released as part of the Lovers Unmasked anthology. Now available individually!
Real identity optional...
Kindergarten teachers aren't known for breaking the rules, but Steph is ready to go undercover—and get under the covers—to work her magic on her best friend, Landon. Sexy costume necessary, multiple orgasms crucial, real identity optional.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Cari Quinn wrote her first story—a bible parable—in 2nd grade, much to the delight of the nuns at her Catholic school. Once she saw the warm reception that first tale garnered, she was hooked. She attempted her first romance in junior high, long before she'd ever read one. Writing what she knew always took a backseat to what she wanted to know and that still holds true today.
Though she has also fired up her computer as a graphic designer, proofreader and editor, she can't resist the lure of disappearing into a world of her own creation. Now she gets to pen sexy romances for a living and routinely counts her lucky stars. The only thing she loves more than writing is hearing from readers! Visit Cari at www.cariquinn.com.
Read an Excerpt
Tempted by His Best Friend
By Cari Quinn, Tahra Seplowin, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Cari Quinn
All rights reserved.
She'd come dressed ... to come.
A nervous laugh nearly escaped Stephanie Price as she slammed her car door shut. She tugged at the short, fringed skirt that hid her crotchless tights and hoped the weather report of a stormy evening proved wrong. One strong breeze and she'd be flashing the neighborhood more of her than she preferred.
She already felt way too chilly in places that weren't used to being so exposed. Really exposed, since she'd had her first Brazilian three days ago. Only for Landon Grant, her best friend and object of her ardent affection, would she make such extreme sacrifices.
For the decade since meeting at college at Syracuse University, she, Lan, and their mutual best friend, Craig Connolly, had been a trio.
When she'd first noticed her interest in him veering toward the friendship no-man's-land of physical attraction about two years ago, she'd done what she did best — ignore how she felt. At first she'd thought maybe it was just lust. No arguing the guy was gorgeous. But no, it wasn't just desire. Lan had always been by her side. They had so many things in common, from movies to music to what they liked on their pizza. He got her. And when he grinned at her ... Lord, even Kevlar didn't make panties strong enough to douse those flames.
At first, she'd tested the waters by spending more time alone with him without Craig. She'd also tried to subtly change the tone of their activities to something more intimate than their usual friendly fare. Since Landon had then proceeded to put way more distance between them than had ever existed before, she had to declare her first attempts at growing their closeness unsuccessful.
As Lan's reassuring presence had faded from her life over the past year, she'd come to terms with what had been in front of her all along. He was why she'd never been able to find the perfect guy. And she suspected she was the reason he'd never met the perfect girl.
Tonight Landon would see he'd met his match.
She'd prepared for this seduction well. That included practicing talking sexy. She'd finally nailed the smoky low tones she would use to blow Lan's mind. Or embarrass herself senseless.
"Let me suck your cock." Eh, not hot enough. She tried again. "I want your cock in my mouth."
Steff looked up to find a grim reaper blocking her path and nearly choked in her haste to mutter an apology. "No, God, no. I'm sorry. I wasn't — I didn't mean —"
The reaper deflated like a pensioner when the Viagra ran out. "Figured. That never happens to me." He shuffled off before she could apologize again.
She sighed and hurried toward the door, a chill sneaking through her as crisp dried leaves skittered around her mile-high stiletto boots. Hurrying was a relative term. Kindergarten teachers didn't get much chance to practice walking in super high heels. The Keds in her closet got a lot more of a workout than her Jimmy Choos.
But Halloween smexy times required a bigger commitment. Like a leather bustier with lots of extra padding, long red gloves, and tiny pointy ears. Then there was the ornate red fox eye mask that covered half her face, the green contacts, and the wavy red extensions she'd carefully added to her long brown hair. Sparkly powder and exotic makeup completed her transformation to a sexy fox. Oh, and mustn't forget the bushy red tail.
Moonlight illuminated the curved walk that led up to the imposing mansion where the law firm of Kenney and Kilborn had chosen to hold its annual costume bash. Craig and Lan both worked as divorce lawyers for K&K, and the Halloween party was known in their crowd as the most excitement to hit their small town of Warner, New York, all year. Especially to her always-up-for-a-good-time best pals. Both men left a trail of dented hearts in their wake, though Craig did it with good humor. She'd heard that Lan left his easygoing nature behind at the bedroom door, and he redefined the word fickle.
Apparently that fickle behavior now extended to his friends, too.
She frowned. Hurt feelings aside, she refused to let this particular holiday pass without a resolution. The three of them had met at a Halloween horror movie fest during their freshman year of college, and they'd celebrated the holiday together ever since. They had two weeks until Halloween. By then, she hoped to have Landon back in her life, one way or another.
Preferably the other.
Maybe she wasn't brave enough to seduce Lan as regular old practical, innocent-seeming Steff, but Stephanie the minx in leather and lace was a different story. Her original plan had been to come tonight as herself, but she'd rationalized that since she'd gone all-out with the costume, high-end makeup, and even a new beachy scent, she'd become a new sexy, daring version. She was desperate enough to connect with Lan to try anything. Even to try forging that connection with him under a different persona, at least at first. Despite how wrong it was to lie, she hoped the ends would justify the erotic — very erotic, please God — means.
She made it up the steps to the front door without tripping. Just as she was about to lift the brass knocker, her cell dinged from where it sat nestled against her chest. She didn't have a purse that went with this outfit, so she'd tucked her phone, her car key, and a twenty between her breasts. As she tugged out her phone, she saw Craig's latest text.
U sure u can't come? Thought u wanted 2 c Lan. Lame.
Despite Craig calling her lame, she couldn't stop the rush of guilt that flowed through her, hot enough to combat the cool northern New York breeze. She hated lying about not coming tonight, but she had no choice. What was she supposed to tell Craig? That she'd decided she couldn't settle for the latest lukewarm guy who drifted into her life? How she hadn't had a worthwhile orgasm since the last appearance of Halley's Comet, and if she didn't have one soon, spontaneous combustion would become a real possibility? And, oh yeah, she had way more than friendly feelings for Lan and she couldn't stuff them down any longer?
She slid the phone back between her breasts. Avoiding Craig was the only option.
She frowned. Lovely. Now she was turning into Lan.
But this situation was different. If she accomplished what she came to do, Craig wouldn't ever have to worry about her and Lan being distant ever again. The plan was simple. Once she'd demonstrated her ability to rock Lan's world, she'd confess her identity. Unless she didn't crank his motor. In that case, she'd resume her kindergarten-teacher-on-her-way-to-spinsterhood persona without saying a word. And possibly grow out the Brazilian.
She touched one of her rose quartz earrings, the final magic touch to her costume. Lan didn't know their significance — she'd bought them with the gift certificate he'd given her to a jewelry store for their college graduation — but she did. She'd only worn them twice and never around him. She'd saved them for just the right moment. The crystal's supposed power to attract love would help provide that extra little spark of help she needed tonight.
Throwing back her shoulders, she lifted the knocker. Landon better be ready for her bag of tricks. And treats.
* * *
In the forty-five minutes Landon had been at the Halloween party, he'd knocked back half a beer, been hit on twice, and heard approximately six far-fetched sex stories from his best friend. Whether any of them were even slightly factual was anyone's guess.
"What about her?" Craig inclined his chin, nearly dislodging the face mask tipped back on his head. He was so lazy he'd used his college team uniform as his costume, much to the obvious delight of the ladies. Hockey was pretty popular in northern New York. "She wants you. Look at those baby blues."
Landon glanced at the woman his friend was not-so-discreetly gesturing toward. The tall, statuesque blonde dressed as a Greek goddess looked his way and her eyes were a clear blue. Except he had a preference for a darker denim shade. Like Steff's.
His chest clenched. Not going there. His saving grace was that Steff wouldn't be at the party. Getting to see her would be both the highlight and lowlight of this month, and he was already cruising at land altitude. If he descended any further, he'd end up with his nose in the dirt.
Twenty-eight was too early for a midlife crisis, so at first he'd chalked up his blahs to a desire for a change at work. The switch from divorce to family and children's law had helped some. It still didn't explain why the pattern he'd developed years ago of working hard and partying harder had lost its appeal, especially since it had occurred right around when he'd started putting distance between him and Steff.
And there was the problem. Steff, his best friend who brought out feelings in him that went way beyond friendship. His cruise down the river of Denial had only been able to last so long. Then, when he'd caught her staring at him during some romantic poetry reading she'd dragged him to last winter, he'd begun to delude himself she might feel the same.
Which was infinitely worse, because it wasn't happening between them. Ever.
She was sweet and steady and dependable ... and he was none of those things. Short-term relationships he could handle. Anything more invariably led to disaster. He couldn't bear to hurt her if something went wrong. As it always did with him.
Not lover. Lover meant sex. And if he thought about sex with Steff, all bets were off.
The biggest irony? He'd stepped back from her to do the right thing, yet every woman he even considered touching — and considering made up the extent of his current love life — caused him to think about his best friend even more. Steff had become the litmus test for all others. And dammit, so far no other woman even rated.
Still, he wasn't so bad off that he'd forgotten how to have fun. He'd been tempted to skip the party and stay home, but he wouldn't get over Steff by turning into a recluse. He intended to have a good time tonight. Distractions were everywhere. Tall ones, curvy ones, and everything-in-between ones. So what if none of them had tugged his bandanna yet? If he kept his mind away from a certain petite brunette, in no time he'd be back to circulating like Craig.
A commotion near the bar took his attention from the blonde who'd barely snagged his interest. Two of the most annoying guys in his firm were looming over a tall brunette in a furry fox mask. One of them wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she gave him a friendly but unwavering brush-off in a husky voice.
Just in case, Landon stepped forward, barely aware of Craig's comment about him living up to his pirate costume. He wouldn't be robbing anyone anytime soon, but he didn't mind playing the role of an outlaw if necessary. The tight black pants, black crushed-velvet shirt, and black bandanna had been the last costume on the rack at Halloween Town and lo and behold, the outfit had fit. A little too well in the crotch actually, since these pants made him feel like his cock had a neon spotlight on it.
Which might account for the stares he'd been getting since he'd walked in the door, come to think of it. That or the ladies were afraid he'd try to plunder their buried treasure.
Ugh, bad mental joke, even for him.
Before Landon reached them, the guys wandered off. She stood sipping a pastel drink adorned with a wedge of peach, and his already shrink-wrapped pants shrank a little more as she sucked on the fruit. He caught flashes of her pink tongue and full red lips sliding over the juicy treat, erasing his earlier objective of saving her. Now he wanted something else.
The laughter and conversations around him dulled to a low roar, and the sounds of "Monster Mash" faded away. Brightly colored disguises spun at the edges of his consciousness as people danced and enjoyed themselves, but his vision lasered in on the woman in front of him with precision focus.
She shifted toward him and stilled. Then she wiggled her fingers in a very obvious "come hither" gesture before she sank her teeth into the peach. Slowly. Like she was inviting him to take a taste of his own.
He walked up behind her and waited for her to whirl to face him. She didn't. With those scalpel-bladed boots, she was tall enough for him to bend down to her ear with little trouble. He sucked in a breath of her beachy scent and let it work its magic. "You'll receive no quarter here, saucy wench," he murmured against her cloud-soft hair.
It was the only bit of pirate slang he knew and completely lame at that. But she clamped down so hard on the last bit of peach that a trail of juice escaped.
"Can I help you?" she breathed, her question barely audible in the noisy room.
The question made his smile widen. Oh, he had some ideas. "A dance?" He laid his palm lightly on the tightly cinched waist of her leather corset. "Perhaps somewhere more private?"
Instead of falling into his arms, she made a strangled noise and stumbled away. But then she glanced back at him and said, "Follow me." Her lips moved, caressing the words he felt in his soul. Then she disappeared into the crowd, her bushy red fur tail vanishing so quickly that he didn't have time to figure out where she'd gone. There were too many people crammed into the sprawling living room, and she moved fast.
So did he, except she'd had a running — okay, rushing — start.
He searched the entire first floor. She had to be somewhere. He hadn't imagined her whispered directive and he definitely hadn't fabricated that instant of connection between them.
God, he hoped he hadn't.
At a loss, he ascended the stairs to the second floor, reaching the top in time to glimpse a swish of brown-and-red hair disappearing into the library. What the hell? No one was partying in this section of the house. He'd only mistakenly gone in there earlier while looking for the bathroom.
Landon followed, about to call out when he realized how dark the room was. The wind wailed outside. No, not outside. The breeze reached him where he stood just over the threshold. He glanced around, realizing why an instant later. His mystery woman had opened the doors to the balcony, and she stood outside, her dark hair streaming out behind her from the cold gusts. He wouldn't have been surprised to see her lift her hands to try to channel the energy swirling in the sky from the approaching storm.
After a moment's hesitation, she turned and beckoned him forward with a wiggle of her fingers. Okay, then. He shut the door gently behind him, expecting her to come into the room and possibly conduct a conversation with him. He didn't mind keeping things on a more physical plane, but some confirmation she actually wanted that, too, would be awesome. It had been a little while since he'd participated in this particular dance and his moves were rusty. Sometimes feelings changed on a dime — did they ever — and he refused to take anything for granted.
Rather than join him in the room, she turned back to grip the rail in front of her and leaned forward, far enough that his heart leaped into his throat before he could cross the distance between them. She looked over her shoulder at the echo of his footsteps on the hardwood floor. "You found me," she said in a throaty rasp.
"Did you think you'd escape so easily?"
"No. I didn't want to."
With five whispered words, she gave him the permission he'd been seeking. The shiver that snuck through her lithe body as he hauled her back from the railing both aroused and encouraged him. She was into this game of cat and mouse, except this pretty fox was his prey instead of the other way around. "I never give up without a fight."
The noise she made sounded more like a snort than a sigh, but he wasn't about to quibble. He dragged his hand up her curvy thigh, waiting for her to either go limp in his hold or tell him to go to hell. She didn't do either. Instead she swayed into his movements, her head tilting to show him a slice of her golden neck through all that wild, wavy brown-and-red hair.
She didn't speak, even when he dug his fingers into her soft flesh through the clingy tights she wore. Testing them both, he let his fingers drift under that fluttery skirt that barely qualified as actual clothing. "Do you want this?" he gritted out at her soft, muffled moan.
Her physical reactions indicated her interest, but he had to hear the words. He needed to look into her eyes and make sure.
He released her leg and gripped her chin, turning her face toward his for a fraction of an instant before she jerked away. Lightning flashed, still nothing more than a distant storm over the shadowy peaks of Whiteface Mountain. In that single instant of light he glimpsed unnaturally bright green eyes and a coy flutter of dark, thick lashes tipped with silver.
Then she was whirling toward him, changing their roles. She pushed his bandanna off his head and drove her hand through his hair while her other hand unerringly sought her target below his waist. One hard squeeze and his question was answered. They must be on the same dirty page.
He didn't know her name, couldn't see her face. Out here it was dark except for the intermittent flashes of lightning, and those were spaced far enough apart as to be useless. The wind gusted, making conversation nearly impossible. Not that he had any interest in talking — and neither did she, since she'd just pressed her mouth to the base of his throat through the open collar of his shirt.
Excerpted from Tempted by His Best Friend by Cari Quinn, Tahra Seplowin, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2013 Cari Quinn. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was such a hot Halloween story! Landon trying to fight his feelings for Steff and her deciding to do something outrageous to show him that she has feelings for him. Craig their other best friend is so great they way he takes everything in stride and tries to get these two together.