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Wicked Night Games
By Kathleen Lawless
All right reserved.
"You don't recognize me, do you?"
Sloan Hardt gave the redheaded beauty his sexiest smile: the tilted head, the frank blue-eyed interest, and the "come keep me warm" crooked half grin. "Should I?"
"We went to school together."
"What school?" Sloan challenged, convinced she was mistaken. He never would have forgotten such a looker.
"West Bend High."
"Apparently I owe you a drink and an apology, Miss...?" He waited expectantly, having already checked out her unadorned ring finger.
She met his gaze, her eyes the color of warm sherry. "I think I'll keep you waiting a little longer for that. See if it comes to you."
"That would be cruel beyond words. What are you drinking?"
"Champagne, of course. What else at a wedding?"
"You're here for a wedding? What a coincidence. Me, too."
"It's no coincidence, Sloan Hardt. We're here for the same wedding." Miss Red turned and sashayed away, leaving him with his mouth hanging open as she greeted his brother. Luckily, he could hear every word.
"Steele, when do I get to meet your wife?"
"As soon as I find her, I'll do the honors. Since she's pregnant, she's always in the bathroom."
After the redhead left, Steele went over to Sloan with a grin. "Jeez, man, pull up your jaw. I know she looksgood, but -- "
"Who is she?"
"Are you kidding me?" He cocked his thumb toward the departing redhead. "Little Cassidy Ferrill."
"Be kind. She had a serious crush on you, man."
"What the hell is she doing on our parents' wedding cruise?"
"If you ever went to visit Gramps, you'd know that Cassidy's mother is his current squeeze."
Sloan let out a low whistle. "Go, Gramps, go."
"Yep. Louise Ferrill has given him a whole new lease on life."
"A whole new reason to get out of bed in the morning. Or better yet, stay there."
Steele punched him on the forearm. "Pretty sad state of affairs when our grandfather has a better love life than you do."
"Cut me some slack. You know I've been busy building the house and running Black Creek Ranch."
"I also know you need to get laid. I'd go talk nice to Cassidy, if I were you."
"For once, big brother, I am about to heed your advice."
It took him a while to hunt her down. A rancher, he wasn't used to crowds the way Steele was. It seemed like Angel and Rake, their parents, had invited everyone they knew to witness their rekindled love, making his progress slow as people he barely recognized stopped him constantly. Watching his folks across the room, he had to say they sure looked happy, and he felt a sudden, unaccustomed flash of envy. Ever since Steele had married Montana, and Rake and Angel had rediscovered true love, it felt as if everyone was paired up except him. He wasn't accustomed to being on the outside.
If memory served, Cassidy had never been much for crowds, either, so he took the hunt out onto the ship's promenade deck. Up-deck he spotted a flash of red hair shimmering in the sun and sped up his pace, careful not to spill the champagne he'd picked up on the way. As if she sensed his pursuit, Cassidy turned and waited for him.
"I bear champagne and an apology. Shame on me for not knowing who you were."
She dipped her fingers in the champagne and spinked them playfully his way. "Double shame."
His grin widened. "I should be punished."
"Spanked, perhaps," she said in a way that sent blood surging to his loins. This was a whole different Cassidy from his memories.
"To getting reacquainted." He clinked the rim of his glass to hers. "It's wonderful to see you again. I hear we're practically related."
Cassidy might have changed physically, but her smile still lit up her face. "It's great to see my mom so happy. She loves having James to fuss over, and he treats her like gold."
"She deserves that," Sloan said. Cassidy's father had not been a nice man, not to Cassidy or to her mother. "So how are we going to amuse ourselves, stuck out here at sea for days on end?"
Cassidy flashed him a half smile over the rim of her glass. "I would have thought that was obvious. We're going to be lovers."
As Sloan choked on his champagne, Cassidy robustly pounded on his back in a way he remembered from their youth.
"You've certainly become direct. I like that in a woman," he said through a gasp.
"I'm glad," Cassidy said. "So here's how it's going to play out. Ground rules: anything goes."
He stepped toward her. "I'm liking it so far."
She moved in so close, he could feel her body heat and smell her sultry fragrance. "It gets better." Her voice was a sexy purr. Not only did the hair on his arms rise, everything male sprang to instant and rapt attention.
"It's going to be the best sex you ever had. Feeling warm and fuzzy from the wedding, you might start to think it's more. It won't be. So right up front, I'm telling you that once the ship gets back to port, we walk away in separate directions. No regrets. No false promises. Just happy memories. Agreed?"
He frowned. "There has to be a catch."
It seemed silly to say "because of what happened all those years ago." He cleared his throat. "One thing Gramps taught us was, if a thing looks too good to be true, it likely is."
She walked her fingers teasingly up his forearm. "Do I look too good to be true?" The brush of her fingertips, the whisper of her breath, had Sloan's impulses screaming, Who cares?
He blew out a breath. "You've obviously given this some thought."
She glanced up at him through her eyelashes. "I most certainly have."
Sloan knew he'd always had the golden touch with women; they fell into his lap like juicy, ripe fruit. Even so..."A shipboard fling?"
"No fantasy is forbidden on the Fantasy Cruise."
Mmmmm...Sloan could definitely weave a few fantasies about Cassidy. "How do we get started?"
"Like this." She plucked the empty flute from his hand, set the glasses on a table, wound her arms around his neck, and pressed against him.
Sloan's arms encircled her with an unerring confidence, pulling her near. It had been way too long since he'd been this close to a woman. Especially one who felt this right in his arms.
At the first touch of her, the first taste of her, the years flew back, confusing his senses. Cassidy had been everybody's pal and nobody's sweetheart, a stand-in for his prom date who was home with the measles. And because he'd been selfish and shallow, he'd toyed with her emotions. Was it now her plan to toy with his?
Cassidy had waited a lifetime for this moment -- step one in making Sloan fall for her -- and she kept her eyes wide open for his kiss.
It didn't disappoint. His lips were soft at first, firm, shaping themselves to hers with tiny nibbles that promised great things to follow. He didn't try to force his tongue down her throat, but let her set the pace as her lips opened of their own accord, her tongue instinctively seeking his.
Cassidy felt as if the well of pent-up feelings inside of her drained into Sloan, leaving her empty. She clutched his shoulders as her body melted into him and then, like a miracle, she felt a surge of renewed energy. As if he took what she offered, doubled it, and refilled her wellspring.
The boy next door had turned into one fine specimen of a man. And he was going to fall in love with her so fast, he wouldn't know what hit him.
His hands were everywhere, stroking her hair, tracing her shape, cupping her behind and pulling her close. She made tiny murmurs of approval at what he was doing, the way he made her feel. She rubbed her breasts against his chest, pretending no barrier of clothing separated them, impatient for the heady sensation of skin on skin.
She felt him hard against her and tilted her pelvis, seeking his heat.
"God, Cassidy." His breathing was ragged as he dragged his mouth from hers and she could feel his heart racing. Or was that hers?
"A promising start." She smoothed her hair with unsteady hands and turned to face the sea, gripping the railing, reminding herself she needed to keep a level head.
"Wait till you see what I can do for an encore." Sloan moved in close, but not in a greedy, grasping way. First she felt the heat of his body, followed by the whisper of his breath. He swept her hair aside with a touch as light as the breeze, then tongued the sweet spot on the side of her neck.
Cassidy exhaled and clutched the railing tight as her head swayed, like a flower accepting the sun's loving warmth. There was no reason not to enjoy the sex while she taught Sloan a lesson.
His teasing tongue barely hinted at other delights he was capable of delivering, his gentleness confusing her overwhelmed senses. Staring out at the vast, blue ocean, she still couldn't believe she was here, in the arms of Sloan Hardt, about to embark on a sexual adventure with the ultimate payoff.
"We could go to my cabin." Was that her speaking so boldly, a boldness guaranteed to intrigue Sloan?
"I like it here," Sloan murmured against her skin. "Fresh ocean air. Sunshine."
"Anyone might see us."
"Who?" He slid down the spaghetti straps of her flouncy sundress, then followed the front edging and slid his middle fingers beneath, caressing the soft swell of her breasts, seeking the rapt attention of her cresting nipples.
The brush of his fingertips against that responsive flesh sent a sensation darting down to nest at the top of her thighs, and she gasped at the flash flood of desire. "Sloan, I -- "
"Ssshhh...." Subtly his fingers worked their magic on her breasts, his mouth hot and wet against her neck. She shifted her weight from side to side, trying to ease the increasing ache between her thighs. This wasn't the way she'd imagined it at all. He wasn't supposed to make her feel this much, this fast. She was supposed to have him groveling with lust.
His erection was hard against her bottom. "God, you are sweet." He reached around and pressed his palm to her pelvis. "I can feel your heat."
Let him think she was out of control; putty in his hands. "You make me hot."
"And wet. Do I make you wet?"
She nodded wordlessly.
"Turn around and face me."
She hoped her legs would hold her as she let go of the rail and turned inside the circle of his arms.
"Did you mean what you said? That anything goes?" He nudged one knee beneath her full skirt, pressed it to that aching, pulsing central core, and applied a divine pressure.
She moaned softly.
"Ride me." Sloan pivoted his knee from side to side and increased the pressure.
Cassidy gripped his shoulders and angled her body against his, moving with him and against him, leaning into him, then back.
When his clever fingers tweaked her nipples, her breath caught from the force of her desire. Her world spun out of control, into a place where nothing existed save Sloan and the way he was igniting foreign sensations, urging her to behave in unfamiliar ways, a prisoner to her newfound sensuality.
He read her body's response, matching her as she increased the pace. He kissed her face, her cheeks, her lips, her jaw, then finally surrendered his mouth to hers.
She inhaled him, devoured him, intent only on the much-needed release her body demanded, on the sudden, unexpected rush that made everything inside her shudder out of control, with Sloan's secure arms absorbing the impact, holding her close.
"Good girl." Sloan's smile made her heart flip as he lifted the straps of her dress back into place, seconds before his mother rounded the corner
"Sloan, Cassidy. I see you two have caught up with each other."
"You could say that." Sloan's voice was husky and Cassidy quickly stepped in front of him to conceal his still-aroused state.
"It's almost time for the rehearsal, so I'm rounding everyone up."
"I'd think that you and Dad would be old hands after all these years, and wouldn't need a run-through."
"It's not your father I'm worried about," Angel said drily. "You, on the other hand, are as difficult as you ever were."
"Hey, I'm the easygoing one. Steele's the one who lived up to his name."
"Steele's soon to make me a grandmother," Angel said serenely. "While you seem as unsettled as ever."
"Unsettled? I'm building myself a house. Why am I suddenly a black sheep?" Sloan wished they weren't having this conversation in front of Cassidy.
Angel plucked a long red hair from his shoulder. "Just a gentle reminder that you're not getting any younger."
"I feel younger, now that I've run into Cassidy." He made an ushering gesture. "Lead the way. We're right behind you."
"No detours," Angel said. "I want my wedding to be perfect."
"Don't worry about Sloan, Angel. I'll keep him in check," Cassidy said.
"It's high time someone did."
Why did women make such a big deal about weddings? His father didn't seem nearly as intense as his mother had since the big announcement.
Dutifully, he took his place next to Steele and Rake near the front of the onboard chapel. Standing next to Steele's pregnant wife, Montana, was Cassidy's mother, Louise.
Tall, elegant, and silver-haired, Gramps, with Angel on his arm, proceeded from the back of the chapel to the front where Steele hummed Mendelsohn's "Wedding March" under his breath.
"You sure this rascal deserves a second chance?" Gramps said, to a smattering of laughter from those watching.
"He's your son," Angel said. "I figure if Louise can handle an old reprobate like you, I can handle Rake."
Sloan laughed and elbowed Steele, suddenly suffused with happy sentimentality. Family could be a pain sometimes, but they were a good pain.
"I expect he's learned his lesson," Gramps said.
Sloan sent a cocky look Cassidy's way and winked. She flushed a becoming pink, emphasizing the perfect porcelain cast of her complexion. Her full lips curved in a beguiling smile and her red-gold hair swung about her shoulders in soft waves.
His gaze never leaving hers, he pressed his lips together suggestively, revealing only the tip of his tongue.
She opened her lips and slowly traced them, emphasizing the glistening, moist pink within. Sloan imagined those hot wet lips on his cock and inwardly groaned. It was a damn good thing Steele was in charge of the ring; he only had to stand still and try not to embarrass himself.
He got no help from Cassidy. Out of sight of the others, she inserted her index finger between her lips, circled it with her tongue several times, then plunged it into her mouth and slowly withdrew it, only to slide it back inside and pull on it like a sweet, melting popsicle.
Sloan blew out a breath. Just wait till he got her alone!
Copyright © 2007 by Kathleen Shandley
Excerpted from Wicked Night Games by Kathleen Lawless Copyright © 2007 by Kathleen Lawless. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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