He Made Her Feel Beautiful
Grace Jenkins has had little experience with menfeeling too awkward and insecure to free the passionate woman inside her. But that hasn't stopped her from dreaming about Noah Harper. Gorgeous, strong and darkly sexy, his rough edge beneath the polish promises no mercy in the bedroom. When Grace learns Noah's engagement has ended in scandal, she shyly offers him her support and her friendship. But Noah's looking for something extra. . .
Noah wants Gracebadly. He wants to possess those curves that go on forever, to savor her sweet innocence, to take her to the limits of white-hot desire. . .again and again. What he doesn't want is anything more complicated than that, and he knows Grace is a woman who deserves better. Grace, however, knows exactly what she wantsthe kind of ecstasy only Noah can give her. Brazenly, she accepts, and Noah promises to make all her secret fantasies come true. . .
"Foster outwrites most of her peers. . ."
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Too Much Temptation
By Lori Foster
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2002 Lori Foster
All rights reserved.
Noah Harper stood frozen in the carpeted hallway of his fiancée's house while his skin prickled with some vague, unsettling emotion. It wasn't really anger or grief. It sure as hell wasn't jealousy.
If Noah hadn't known better, he might have sworn it was ... relief. He shook his head at the thought. No, he'd wanted to marry Kara. He'd accepted it as his fate and even viewed it as part of a grand plan for the future. Not really his grand plan, but then, he didn't think in grand terms. His grandmother did.
Noah liked Kara, respected her and her parents, and his grandmother adored her. Almost from the time he'd met Kara, everyone had assumed they'd eventually marry. In one month, they would have.
But now ...
Without a conscious decision, Noah moved toward the obvious sounds of soft moans, low encouragement, and rustling sheets. He wasn't in any particular hurry, because he already knew what he'd find.
He was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Oh, Kara was in bed all right, doing exactly what he'd suspected she was doing: having very passionate sex, when all he ever got from her was perfunctory attendance. It was her partner who was so unexpected.
Not that it really mattered.
Noah's eyes narrowed as Kara gave a particularly ardent moan and bowed her slender body in a violent climax. He watched, unmoved.
Faced with such a bizarre circumstance, Noah pondered what to do, and settled on propping one shoulder on the door frame, crossing his arms, and waiting. Surely he'd be noticed soon enough, and at the moment, his territorial nature rejected the idea of offering them privacy. After all, Kara was his fiancée — or rather, she had been.
That had all changed now.
Her skin dewy from exertion, her eyes dazed and soft in a way Noah had never experienced, Kara leaned back and sighed. "Oh God, that was incredible."
"Mmm," came the husky, satisfied reply. "I can give you more."
Looking scandalized and anxious, Kara purred, "Yes?" and came up on one elbow to smile at her lover.
That's when she noticed Noah.
Kara's beautiful face paled and her kiss-swollen lips opened in a shocked, horrified oh. Her lover, with his dark eyes glittering and bold, lounged back in antagonistic silence.
Amazingly enough, Kara snatched up the sheet to conceal her body ... from Noah.
Noah shook his head in disgust — most of it self-directed. He'd been a royal fool. He'd treated her gently, with deference, with patience. And she'd cheated on him.
"Don't faint, Kara. I'm not going to cause a scene." Noah didn't even bother to glance at the other man — there was no challenge there.
Instead, Noah lent all his attention to the woman he'd expected to be his wife. "Under the circumstances, I'm sure you'll agree the wedding is off."
Kara gasped in panic. Having said his piece, Noah turned on his heel to stalk away. He was aware of the race of his pulse, the pounding of determination that surged in his blood. It wouldn't be pleasant, ending elaborate plans already in progress. The upper society of Gillespe, Kentucky, was about to be rocked by a bit of a surprise.
Kara's parents, Hillary and Jorge, had gone all out on preparations for the celebration. They'd rented an enormous hall and purchased a wedding gown that had cost more than many houses. Guests were invited from around the country, and all of Gillespe was aware of the impending nuptials.
His grandmother ... God, Noah didn't even want to think about Agatha's reaction. She fancied herself a leader of the community, and she was tight with Hillary and Jorge, treating them like relatives as well as her dearest friends. In many ways, she already thought of Kara as her own.
Noah bounded down the spiraling carpeted stairs two at a time, anxious to get away from the house so his mind could quit churning and settle on a course of action. He'd learned at an early age, while being shuffled from one foster home to another, to make cool, calculated decisions and then to analyze the repercussions so that nothing could ever again take him by surprise.
This time, he had few choices, so his decisions were easy. He wouldn't marry Kara now, but at the same time, he hated to disappoint his grandmother.
He'd just started to pull the front door open when a small hand grabbed his upper arm. "Noah!"
Damn. He'd really hoped to avoid this confrontation. He sighed and turned.
Kara stared up at him with wet eyes and a trembling mouth. Her fair skin blanched whiter than usual, with none of the rosy glow he'd grown used to. She wore only a hastily tied robe that emphasized the swells and hollows of her body — a body he'd once thought very sexy. Her short golden brown hair was becomingly tousled and as Noah watched, she released him and ran a shaking hand over her forehead, pushing her wispy bangs aside.
Her shoulders slumped and she looked down at her bare feet. "I'm sorry."
A cynical smile curled Noah's mouth. He could just imagine how sorry Kara felt right now. How could he ever have considered making her his wife? "Sorry you were caught?"
She clasped her hands together. "There's more than just our wedding at stake, Noah, you know that. My parents ..." She shuddered. "Oh God, I can't imagine how they'll react. Everyone has been planning for us to marry for so long."
Noah snorted. "Your folks accepted me, Kara, mostly out of respect for my grandmother. I doubt they'll be brokenhearted not to have me in the family. There're plenty of other guys they'd rather you marry and we both know it."
"They love Agatha." Kara looked at him, her expression fierce. "I love Agatha."
At least that much was true, Noah decided. "Yeah, my grandmother loves you, too." Much more than she'll ever care about me. "You're the daughter she never had, the granddaughter she wants, the female relative to fill all the slots. She dotes on you, and I doubt that'll change."
Kara swallowed hard. "This will kill her."
The laugh took him by surprise. "Kill Agatha? She'll outlive us all."
"Noah, please, don't do this."
Big tears ran down her cheeks and she quivered all over, truly beside herself, pleading. Why the hell did women always resort to tears to get their way?
"Please don't ruin me. Don't ruin my family. I can't bear the thought of everyone —"
Realization dawned, and with it, a heavy dose of disgust. Didn't Kara know him at all?
Noah looked at her sad, panicked eyes and accepted that no, she didn't. She'd have married him, but she didn't really know him.
Just as she'd never really wanted him.
He said, "Hey," very softly, and watched her try to gather herself. Any second now he'd have a hysterical woman on his hands.
Looking at it from her perspective, now knowing what she expected of him, Noah could understand why.
Feeling a surge of compassion, Noah took her delicate hands in his. "Listen to me, Kara. The wedding is off; there's no changing that. But why we ended it is no one's business but our own, all right?"
Her mouth opened and she gulped air. She wiped her eyes on her shoulder, sniffed loudly. "You mean that? You really mean that?"
Hell, he was used to worse hardships than censure. Kara had led a pampered life protected from ugliness, never forced to face the harsh realities life often dealt.
Noah had learned to survive almost as a toddler. He could shoulder the heat much more easily than she. "Yeah, why not?" Then he added, "I'll break the news to everyone if you want."
She pulled her hands free and searched in her pocket for a tissue. "I don't believe you." A shaky laugh trickled out. "You're too damn good, Noah Harper."
Now there was a joke. "No, I just don't relish being humiliated either."
Rather than make her laugh, she covered her face and sobbed. "I'm so, so sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen."
"We were obviously never meant to marry, babe, you know that." It was Noah's turn to glance up the stairs, but her lover wisely stayed out of his sight. Noah shook his head, still bemused by her choice. "Your secret is safe with me."
She threw herself into his arms, leaving him to awkwardly deal with her gratitude. Noah wanted only to escape. Even at the best of times, he'd never totally felt at ease with Kara. She was too refined, too polished and proper — the opposite of him.
Noah set her aside and said, "Maybe you should think about a quick trip, until you have time to figure out what you want to say. I'll wait to tell Agatha until tomorrow, to give you time to get away."
She managed a pathetic smile. "Thank you, Noah. Really."
Kara had just saved him from making a horrible mistake. Though he felt like thanking her right back, Noah merely nodded and walked out. For more than the obvious reason waiting upstairs, tying himself to Kara would have been a disaster.
For one thing, he didn't love her. If he had, he wouldn't be so easy right now. He should have realized that sooner.
As he went down the walk, he felt the sun on his face, the chill of a late spring breeze, the freshness of the day — but he didn't feel hurt or heartsick. He felt no real sense of loss.
For another thing, sex with Kara had offered no more than base physical release. She'd never blown his mind, never burned him up. During their engagement, he'd been faithful, and he'd made do with the few quick, passionless screws he'd gotten from her.
But God, he missed the burning satisfaction of hot, sweaty, grinding sex. He missed the bite of a woman's nails, her teeth, when she felt too much pleasure to be gentle. He missed the clasp of sleek thighs wrapped around his waist and the softer, hungrier clasp of a woman's body on his cock. He missed the throaty, raw groans during a woman's climax.
He missed the wetness.
Kara had been a lady through and through, even while under him. Ha! He was a blind fool. A lucky blind fool, because now he was free.
It wouldn't be easy, but he'd deal with the families and the gossip sure to arise — and then he'd find himself a wild woman, a woman who matched him in every way. He'd ride her hard until he'd worked off every ounce of tension. Then he'd be the one to leave her.
Noah's last thought as he drove away from his ex-fiancée's house was that he could hardly wait.
Grace was so furious with herself, she felt like spitting. The near-torrential rainfall didn't slow her down as she splashed her way up the sidewalk to Noah's building, her every step punctuated by a passionate rage. Eight days. Eight hellish days she'd been away, probably when Noah had needed her most. She'd expected to come home to a list of things yet to be done for the wedding, because Agatha did love to give her lists.
Instead, she'd come home to the tail end of an uproar.
She swiped away a tear of fury that mingled with the rain dripping down her cheek. It was always that way. Hurt her, insult her, and she was fine. She'd summon up calm dignity and deal with it. But let her get really mad and look out — she cried like a baby.
Damn her car for breaking down, damn Agatha for being a hardheaded matriarch, and damn everyone for ever doubting him.
Poor Noah. Poor honorable, loyal Noah.
He needed her.
Spurred on by her convictions, Grace hurried on. She slipped as she jerked the foyer door open and bounded inside onto slick marble tile. She'd have landed on her well-padded behind if it weren't for Graham, the doorman, catching her arm and wrestling her upright.
"Here now!" Graham said with some surprise, maintaining his hold on her arm as Grace started to dart past.
It took him a moment to recognize her with her hair hanging in long, sodden ropes in her face and her clothes saturated through and through, making them baggier than usual. When he did recognize her, his old eyes widened.
"Ms. Jenkins! What in the world are you doing out in this storm?" Grace forced herself to slow down. "Sorry, Graham. Is Noah in?"
"Yes, ma'am. He's with his brother."
Thank God. Grace would rather have had her visit with Noah in private, without Ben as an audience, but at least Noah was home. Besides, she should have known Ben would be close at hand. He very much respected his brother, and always offered unconditional support.
Grace was relieved that Noah hadn't been all alone during the ordeal.
"My stupid car broke down a few blocks from here," she told Graham. "I'll call triple A from Noah's."
"Should I announce you?"
Noah had a standing rule that his family was always welcome. Grace was in no way a blood relative, but as his grandmother's personal secretary, Noah granted her the same importance. She'd known Noah for three years. She'd loved him just about that long.
Not that she would ever tell anyone, especially not Noah.
"No, I'll go on up. But thanks."
The doorman shook his head as she turned away, probably thinking she had less sense than a turkey to go running through the stormy weather. But she simply hadn't possessed the patience to wait in her car for a cab. A little rain wouldn't melt her, and since hearing what Agatha had done yesterday, how she'd treated Noah because of the breakup, Grace had been filled with a driving urgency to reach him, to let him know that at least one person still ... what? Still believed in him, still trusted in his innate honor?
The elevator moved so slowly, Grace couldn't stop tapping her foot, which jiggled drips of rainwater from her body onto the elevator floor. She now stood in a puddle.
The second the doors opened, she leaped out, then had to leap back in when she realized it was the wrong floor. The woman getting on the elevator gave her a funny look but said nothing, even when she had to step around the soggy carpeting.
Grace chewed her thumbnail. It was a disgusting habit — as Agatha had often told her — but she couldn't seem to help herself.
This time she checked the floor before getting off. Every step she took caused her feet to squish inside her pumps and left damp tracks across the carpeting. When she reached Noah's door, she drew a deep breath to fortify herself, pushed her long, wet hair behind her ears, and rapped sharply.
She knocked again, and even pushed the doorbell a few times, but still there was no answer. Refusing to give up, Grace tried the door and found it unlocked. She crept inside, calling out, "Noah?" but no one answered. And then she heard voices coming from the balcony.
Grace hurried through the apartment, noticing empty beer bottles everywhere, as well as pizza boxes and chip bags thrown about. A mostly empty, dried-up container of sour-cream-and-chive dip was half tucked into the sofa cushions.
The cleaning lady would have a fit.
Grace wondered if Noah had thrown a party, if he had actually celebrated the breakup. It seemed unlikely. For many years now everyone had expected him and Kara to marry and then be blissfully happy in their picture-perfect lives. The breakup had naturally thrown everyone for a loop, Grace especially.
She finally located him.
Noah sat on the covered balcony with his brother, and together they made such an impressive sight they stole Grace's breath. Oh boy, there were some outstanding genes running through those two. No wonder Agatha had put her pride aside and sought out her deceased son's illegitimate offspring. Noah was a man to make anyone proud.
The two brothers were talking, oblivious to Grace's presence, and she studied them. Their large, bare feet were propped on the edge of the railing, getting rained on. Both of them lounged back in chairs, Ben with his tilted on its back legs.
Noah had a long-necked bottle of beer dangling between his fingers, his other hand resting limply on his hard abdomen. He wore faded jeans, a gray sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, and nothing else. His silky, coal-black hair was rumpled, his face shadowed with beard stubble. His entire body bespoke weariness.
He was the sexiest, most appealing man she'd ever known.
Even from where Grace stood, she could see the lush length of Noah's sooty lashes, sinfully long, too extravagant for a man. They lent a striking contrast to an otherwise hard-edged presence.
"To hell with all of 'em," Ben said. His words were slurred and thick and angry.
Grace tucked in her chin. Uh-oh. Ben sounded ... drunk. Really drunk.
Like Noah, he seldom imbibed, so this must be a ... commiseration-drinking binge? She didn't really know men well enough to know what their habits might be, but it seemed feasible.
Excerpted from Too Much Temptation by Lori Foster. Copyright © 2002 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was my first Lori Foster read but will definitely NOT be my last. I thought the characters were interesting. Grace was a little too prim and proper throughout the book... expected her to loosen up a little more I guess. However, it was a good quick read. Liked that Grace wasn't your typical thin female character and not one of these that says "I'm overweight" just to have the story read as tho they may have 5 extra pounds on them. I will definitely read this one again. It's a keeper.
I love Lori Foster's books. I fall in love with all her books and their characters. This is definatly my favorite. I couldn't put this one down.
I like both of the books in this group. Noah's book was more of the goodness you come to expect from Lori.
This was my first book by Lori Foster but, it won't be my last! Totally agree with the cover assesment - "Sexy, Sassy and Fun" Didn't put it down. Can't wait to get my hands on Never Too Much and see what happens to Ben. If you like sassy, sexy, hot romance, you will enjoy this one.
From the first page I was hooked. The relationship between Noah and Grace was amazing. I love how Lori doesn't make all of her characters an image of Barbie and Ken. I connected with Grace as soon as I started reading. I know how she feels. She was a riot in the book. She made me laugh alot. Noah was just as good too. He was a true gentleman. I envy Grace.
This was the first book that I read by Lori Foster, and I quickly became an avid reader of her books. I love Lori's concept that everyone is different and not everyone can be razor thin, beautiful, smart, or wholesome. All men have an ideal woman in their head, some are lucky to find their other half, while others have to settle. Thank God Noah found his other half in Grace before he committed the ultimate faux pas and settled for the perfect business wife. The sex scenes were sizzling for me, and I felt an emotional connection to the characters.
Lije the goodness in the heros of Lori Foster. The absolute best ones i have read so far are the books in the slave-trade series even tho i like all that i have read so far by LF.
Lori Foster is always a good read.
Not much action. Very standard reading.
One of my favorites great story
I wasn't sure about Noah at the beginning. But he proved himself wonderful. I love Grace. Such strength and class. Determination. And loyalty beyond expectation. This is a wonderful story. A group of people that are family, in a variety of ways. But it takes them all a while to figure out the puzzle pieces. Each person contributes something. And also has issues. But when there is love, it can all be worked out. And then on to book #2....
Could not finish
This book was awesome... I loved the characters, including the cranky old grandmother. This book seemed more reality rather than fantasy. And I loved Noah, I'm disappointed that I can't get Ben's story on nook. I hope its available soon.
Really enjoyed all the books in this series. Hoping more are to come.