Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dude Looks Like a Lady by Jack Greene

Darien stared up at Orion and his body began to react despite the situation. The older man was blindingly sexy, and he was really laying it on. He was sure that any girl would have dropped her knickers for him by now, but if he did so, there would be serious repercussions. Darien wished with all his heart that he could, though. He imagined being under the big, strong man, pinned to a bed, spreading his legs for him, filled by his big cock. Darien swallowed hard and tried to push that fantasy out of his mind. It wasn’t going to happen, and he had to get out of here before he got the shit beat out of him.

“Orion, I, I’m really flattered, but…”

“Please. Call me Ryan. It’s my real name.”

Darien smiled. “Ryan. I…”

“Do you think I’m sexy, baby?” the rapper interrupted.

“Fuck yes,” Darien blurted, feeling himself blush. What a stupid question!

“And are you married? Have a boyfriend?” Ryan continued patiently.

“No,” Darien answered honestly.

The rapper’s brow furrowed and he moved back a little. “Um, girlfriend?”

Darien couldn’t help but giggle at the idea. “No, of course not, silly.” He was touched that Ryan had asked, actually.

The rapper spread his hands out, palms up. “So what’s the problem, Darien? I can make you feel good, I promise…” His tone was gentle, beseeching now.

Darien felt his heart melt. He’d expected the big man to be pushy, insistent. He wasn’t prepared for this. He wanted to give Ryan what he wanted, so badly. But he wasn’t what Ryan really wanted. He turned away, hugging his upper body. “I, I can’t, Ryan, please, just understand…” He felt the heat of the other man’s body behind him, not quite touching, and he looked up to catch their reflection in the mirror. God, they looked good together. Ryan was twice his size and so masculine it made Darien’s knees weak. For the first time in his life, he really wished he was the girl he seemed to look like. Just so this could be real.

Tied Up With Green by Becca Dale

He stood too close. Warmth from his breath flirted with the curls on the base of her neck that had escaped her upswept hair. Shivers skipped across her trembling skin. Trea took a drink and tried to pretend he didn’t make her horny as hell. “I thought you wanted to show me something? Don’t you think we should get to work, Jay?”

He shook his head. “Not yet. Drink your champagne and enjoy the view.”

He stepped closer. His cologne, spicy and clean, teased her nostrils. God, he smelled like a man should. Her libido jumped another notch. She closed her eyes against his broad reflection, so strong and alluring behind her.

Bad idea.

Thoughts of all that power at her mercy filled her mind. He’d not be easily dominated, but she’d welcome the challenge. To have him kneel between her legs and beg for release, plead for forgiveness, or best of all, promise whatever she asked. The image nearly made her dizzy. She opened her eyes only to meet his hot gaze in the darkened glass. He knew she desired him. She could see the knowledge in his face.

“Take this.” She offered him her glass as a test—would he obey without a courteous please or thank-you?

He smiled and accepted the flute without comment.

She turned fully toward him. He towered above her. Most men didn’t. Most topped her by only an inch or two, but he stood nearly six and a half feet tall. Strength emanated from his incredible body.

“Why are we here, Jay?”

“To review a proposal.”

“You said that. What type of proposal?”

“That depends.”

“On what?” His sexy voice and evident arousal made the question unnecessary, but she had no intention of getting into an uncomfortable situation with her boss.

“On what you want, Ms. Daniels.”

He didn’t reach for her, but she could feel his touch on every part of her body.

“What if I want something you can’t give?”

“I’ll find a way to make it happen.”

He drove her crazy with words alone. She shifted to ease the tension gathering between her legs. The idea of coming without physical stimulation suddenly seemed possible.

“What happens Monday morning when we face each other across the conference table? When the guys ask about me in the john? Do you brag about how you convinced me to spread my legs for you, or do you keep tonight to yourself and forget about it?”

“No one else will ever know what goes on here, but I have no intention of forgetting anything.”

“Can you keep a secret?”

He edged closer, head tipped to meet her eyes. “Not a soul, not even you, knows how often I think about sinking slowly into your warm, sweet body, or how the thought of you lying across my desk naked and hot distracts me from my work. I’ve kept that to myself for eight months. Why would I jeopardize the realization of those fantasies?”

She closed her eyes again to fight back the images his confession conjured. Her body hummed with restrained passion.

“I’ll ask again. What do you want, Ms. Daniels?”

Her decision became clear. She wouldn’t walk away from what he made her feel, but she refused to surrender either. Reaching for the glasses, she set them on the end table near his leather sofa. She hesitated another moment, more to savor the anticipation than anything else, then pointed toward his chair.

“Have a seat behind your desk so every time I come in here I can picture you there waiting for me.”

“All right.”

The Taming of a Vixen by Wendy Stone

Alyssa snatched her hand from his grasp. A strange tingle shot up her arm, leaving her gasping. She blinked as she heard his name, for it was well known in London. He was a known rakehell and scoundrel, a determined bachelor and a touted horseman. He was also rumored to be known for his fists at the gentleman’s club he frequented; not one to take on in the ring unless one was willing to walk away bruised and swollen.

And he was unbelievably handsome, a fact that was just becoming apparent to Alyssa as her ire slowly faded. She had a temper as fiery as her hair and was known for sharp tongue and bursts of pique. But she was also known for her generosity and kind heart.

This was her first trip to London. She had been forced to come. She’d returned home from France just a few months before, where she’d gone to a finishing school at the behest of her father who thought she was becoming too “male-minded”. The one bright point of this trip would be her visit to her best friend, Lady Catherine Trent. Cat had been her roommate at school and also her conspirator, helping her get away with numerous pranks on the staffers of the school. A fact that hadn’t set well with her father and had caused him to rage at her when he’d come to visit.

But now she had returned to the life she loved; raising horses, reading, and hunting, all the things that had sent her father into such a tizzy.

“It is not necessary, Lord Ashington. I am sure I will be able to find my own way very well.”

“But Lady Alyssa, it grows late and the night will be upon us soon. With no horse, it will be full dark before you reach home. Come, it is only a small ways and you can ride pillion behind me, if that will cover your maidenly modesty,” he chuckled, watching as her cheeks grew redder, and her eyes flamed with ire once more.

She lifted her fingers to her lips, pursing those lush morsels and letting loose a shockingly loud whistle. Within moments, a high pitched whinny was heard, followed by the sound of a horse’s hooves beating down as it ran. Alyssa held her gown as her mount barreled toward her, making no effort to get out of the brute’s way.

Jason watched, his heart unexpectedly in his throat, his hand, ready to pull her out of the way. To his surprise, the horse swerved at the very last moment and ran past Alyssa. She reached out, grasping the pommel with both hands, swinging herself up and into the saddle with an ease that told him that this was a practiced move.

“Impressive,” he said, whistling through his teeth as he watched the fiery vixen ride away. She turned and he swore she was laughing at him. With a wave of her hand, she aimed her mount into a small copse of trees and disappeared from his sight.

Stocking Stuffers by Jenna Byrnes

After clearing the snow from his driveway, he went around back and shoveled an area for Tillie. He ate a quick sandwich and lay down on his bed for a half hour or so. Normal routine meant getting back to the store by two-thirty, so Shannon had time to pick up the kids from school. He'd work until seven, head over to pick up Tillie, and often stayed for dinner with his mom. It was a comfortable life, even if it was boring as hell. But he'd be damned if he'd tell Dean that. As far as the other man needed to know, Ben had the best fricking life on the planet.

He'd decided not to call his ex. There was nothing to come of their getting together, hashing out the last couple years and talking about where they went wrong. It was unnecessary, and he suspected it could be painful. Best to avoid the other man altogether.

Dean apparently had other ideas. When he called the store in the afternoon, Ben read the Caller I.D. on the phone and chose not to answer it. He thought he'd escaped cleanly as he climbed into his truck later that night, until Dean stepped up behind him and grabbed the door.

"Must have been busy today. I tried to call a few times and you never answered."

"Really?" He acted surprised. "I'd better check the phone, make sure it's working, with the snow and all."

"Yeah, right." Dean looked at him. "You didn't want to see me."

With a sigh, he leaned back into his truck seat. "Not that I didn't want to, couldn’t. It still hurts, Dean. After all this time, I can't believe that it still hurts to see you."

"We need to talk." Dean reached for his face, cupping his jaw in one hand.

"Oh, no." Ben pulled away. "The last thing I need to do is to be alone with you."

Dean chuckled and stepped one foot into the truck, their faces inches apart. "So you're afraid to be alone with me?"

"Oh, yeah." He sighed as their lips met in a kiss he could taste from memory. Feeling the strong mouth pressed against his, he almost relented and returned the kiss. When Dean's tongue nudged the seam of his lips, he jerked away. "Don't. I don't want this."

Dean ran one hand up his jean-clad thigh until he reached Ben's groin area, squeezing his growing erection. "Tell me again you don't want this."

Ben shoved the hand away, looking him firmly in the eye. "Okay. How about, I don't think we should do this."

Dean's face was still so close, he could feel his breath. "I hear you. But we need to talk. Can we get something to eat and just talk?"

"No, because we won't." He had to force himself not to return the kiss. The closeness was agonizing.

Dean backed away. "Yeah, we will. I'll promise to be on my best behavior and we'll talk. What do you say?"

Knowing it wasn't prudent but wanting it in the worst way, he gave in. "I've got some pretty good lasagna and some damn good beer."

"Great. I'll follow you, okay?" Dean smiled.

He couldn't smile back. Something about this felt like trouble. "Sure."

The blonde-headed man stepped out and closed the truck door. He got into his SUV and started it up.

Ben led the way to his house, fingers absently rubbing over his mouth. He knew inviting Dean over was a bad idea. He just couldn't seem to say no.

Pulling into his garage, he watched Dean park in the driveway behind him. The other man came in through the garage, stomping his feet along the way. Ben entered the house, kicking off his boots, and Dean did the same.

"Where's that Tillie?" He called loudly, glancing around the kitchen.

"She's at my mom's." Ben flicked on a light and shed his jacket onto the back of a chair.

"Oh, so we really are alone?" He tossed his sunglasses on the table and his coat on another chair.

Waving a finger back and forth, Ben shook his head. "You promised to be on your best behavior."

"That's not much fun." Dean smiled, taking a step toward him.

"You said you wanted to talk. If that was a lie, or that's changed, maybe you should just go now. It's been a long day." Ben didn't crack a smile. He was serious about keeping the other man at arm's length, and intended to stand his ground.

"Okay." Dean nodded, stepping back and removing his coat. "I do want to talk. You said something about beer?"

Ben opened the refrigerator and pulled out two beers. He handed one over and set one on the counter. He removed the pan of lasagna and prepared it for reheating in the microwave.

"So how are things?" Dean started the conversation, sipping his beer.

"Fine. Everything's good. Shannon's youngest just turned three. Ruby. You should see her, she's a little beauty. Oh, and Renee Walden—remember her from high school? She got married last year, and they just had the cutest little baby boy."

"Nice." Dean rolled his eyes. "I wasn't actually inquiring about the population growth of Mabel. I wondered how you are. How have you been?"

Ben looked at him squarely. "By that do you mean, am I seeing anyone? Nope, as far as I know, Mabel doesn't have any other gay men. I'm still unattached."

Dean leaned his hip against the counter. "There's always the city. I wondered if I'd ever run into you in one of the gay bars we used to frequent."

"That part of the city is a good two hours from here. Not exactly my idea of a fun night, driving two hours to get to a bar."

Shrugging, Dean replied, "My thoughts exactly. That's why I wanted to live there, so we'd have more access to the social scene. The city's great. No one knows you're gay, and if they find out, they don't care. It's no big deal there. Not like that lady cop today—" He slapped the side of his head and mimicked, "Oh yeah, you're one of them! Why didn't you tell me?"

"She didn't mean it like that." Ben took a swig from his bottle. "Believe it or not, nobody here cares if I'm gay, either. Everyone knows it, and it's just not a problem."

"Except for finding dates. Next thing you'll be telling me is that you go to the movies with Wayne."

The microwave timer dinged and Ben set his bottle down. He removed the casserole dish and served lasagna onto two plates. Carrying them to the living room, he called over his shoulder, "Grab a couple napkins and my beer, will you?"

"You got it." Dean did as asked, and the men sat at either end of the sofa.

Head Over Heels by Jenna Byrnes

"You don't have to raise your hand to use the restroom, honey, just go." Catlin McCall smiled at the little blonde haired girl in front of her.

Suzie Brighton beamed in response.

"Thanks, Miss McCall. We'll be right back." Suzie's mother took the child by the hand and left the classroom.

Catlin exhaled and returned to the front of the room. It was back-to-school night, two weeks into the new term. Parents and students gathered in the classroom to hear her speech about what would be happening in second grade this year. Catlin taught at Roosevelt Elementary, located in the medium-sized community of Marshall, Kansas. After three years, her back-to-school speech was repetitive and, she thought, boring. But it was her best opportunity to scope out the parents.

There were three types, she'd discovered. The first-timers clung to her every word, sometimes taking notes. They looked at her with respect, which was amusing but appreciated.

The next group had braved second grade before, and while they listened politely, she knew that some felt like they knew as much about it as she did. Catlin liked their laid-back attitudes.

The third type of parent could care less and would rather be anywhere but sitting in their child's classroom. Many of them weren't there. Those people tested her patience.

She turned, scanning the sea of faces. Eager parents looked on with anticipation, while zealous children dragged item after item from their desks to show proudly to their parents. Most seven- and eight-year-olds still enjoyed school, and that was one of the reasons she chose to teach that grade. There was something heartwarming about these enthusiastic folks, little and big, and she smiled.

The Brightons returned to their seats, and she began her talk about second grade. The children were well-behaved, the adults seemed interested and asked good questions. Catlin relaxed and continued her presentation until she glanced up and saw a man in the doorway, peering around nervously.

She caught her breath. He was incredibly good-looking, with tousled, wavy brown hair that brushed mid-collar. His blue suit was stylish, and there seemed to be muscles filling it out in all the right places. The askew necktie implied that he'd been tugging at his collar. Catlin wondered if it was fatigue or nerves that plagued him. The look on his face showed both.

Their eyes caught and he smiled helplessly. "Is this the second grade?"

"One of them," she replied, her voice shaky. For some reason she was mesmerized by his deep, chocolate eyes. "Who are you looking for?"

He raised his eyebrows hopefully. "Tessa Naughton?"

"Excuse me for a moment," she said to her students and parents. Catlin stepped to the doorway and lowered her voice. "Tessa's in Mrs. Noll's class. Down the hall in Room 106." Motioning in that direction, her arm brushed his sleeve. "Sorry," she mumbled, embarrassed.

"I'm the one who's sorry for interrupting your class. I have two children, and I spent the first half hour with my son in Mrs. Diamond's third grade. I was supposed to meet Tessa in her room at eight—" he trailed off and grinned. "You don't need to know all this."

"That's okay." She smiled and nodded down the hall. A dark-haired child with nervous eyes like her father's stared out of room 106. "But I believe you're needed down the hall."

He glanced over and smiled at Tessa, waving. Looking back at Catlin, he said, "That's my girl. Thanks so much Miss—"

"McCall. Catlin McCall."

"Miss McCall." He nodded, then smiled impishly. "It is Miss, right?"

She grinned back. "Yes, it's Miss. Nice to meet you, Mr. Naughton." Catlin glanced quickly at his left hand and spotted a silver band on his wedding ring finger. Her heart deflated for a moment, and then she realized how silly that was. He had children, for goodness' sake! Of course he was married. "Goodnight." She took a step backwards.

"Thanks again." He winked at her, turning and hurrying to his daughter.

Catlin clutched her stomach briefly, and tried to compose herself. Damn, he was good looking! Why are the great guys always taken? She heard a small crash from her classroom and saw a stack of tissue boxes hit the floor. The natives were getting restless. "Sorry about that," she said loudly. "David and Ronnie, can I ask you to pick those up? We're going to talk a little about mathematics, and then we'll see if there are any more questions."

* * * *

Catlin was grading math papers after school the next day, frowning. The children forgot so much over the summer. She was contemplating how long it would take on review work before she could get into new lessons, when there was a knock on her classroom door. She glanced up, surprised to see Tessa's father. The amazing-looking, but very married Mr. Naughton, was again standing in her doorway. "Hi," she said simply.

"Hello." He smiled at her. "Are you busy?"

Catlin stood and gave a little shrug. "The usual. Three plus six is not seven, so apparently I've got more work to do than I thought."

A look of surprise crossed his face. "It's not? Shoot, I've been telling Tess wrong all this time. Thanks for straightening me out."

She chuckled and he took a step inside her room. "Thanks for straightening me out last night, too."

"No problem." She shrugged again. "I hope you didn't come all the way over here to tell me that."

"I had to pick up the kids, anyway."

She felt a heated blush spread across her face. Of course he did. He hadn't come to speak to her. "Sure," she replied, wondering why this man flustered her so easily.

"But I also hoped to speak with you." He glanced back out in the hall and said loudly, "Give me two minutes. You guys wait right there, okay?" He turned back to Catlin. "Look, I don't have a lot of time, so I'm going to cut right to the chase. I think you're beautiful and I suspect you're funny and fascinating, too. I'd like to know if you'll go out with me."

She was dumbstruck, and glanced down at his ring finger again. It was empty, save a thin tan line. "That's really sweet of you, Mr. Naughton—"

"Steve," he interrupted.

"Steve," she repeated, nodding. "But didn't I see a ring on your left hand last night?"

He glanced back at his children, then leaned against her doorway. "Yes, you did. I'm a widower, Miss McCall. My wife's been gone a little over two years. It's taken the kids and me a long time to get over her death.

"But now, we're in a new town, with a new job and school; a fresh start. I should have taken the ring off earlier. I knew that the moment I caught a glimpse of you."

Catlin's heart melted. She wasn't sure how to respond.

Another look out in the hall and he said, "I'm sorry this is so rushed. Perhaps I could get your phone number and call you. We can talk awhile before you give me an answer."

"No," she said, and he looked crushed. "I mean, yes! I'll give you my phone number! But I don't need to think about it." She smiled. "I'd love to go out with you."

He grinned with apparent relief. "Thank you. I think we'll have a great time." He patted his chest pocket and pulled out a pen but no paper.

Catlin took the pen and reached for his hand. She wrote her number across his palm. His hand was smooth and for a moment she wondered what he did for a living. It obviously wasn't construction or hard labor. She was about to ask when a young voice from the hall interrupted.

"Dad!" a boy called.

"Be right there!" Steve yelled back, and looked at her sheepishly. "Can I call you tonight?"

"I'll look forward to it." She released his hand, and they smiled at each other.

"So will I." He winked before slipping out the door, and she grabbed the door frame to steady herself. A wink from those killer eyes was deadly, and sent a jolt straight to her core.