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Authors: Katherine Allred

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

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BOOK: Sweet Revenge
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“I’ve got a pretty good throwing arm.”

With the hand he’d placed on the bare skin of her back, he drew her closer until their bodies were pressed together. Her arm slid farther around his neck and she swayed against him lightly.

“You aren’t as bad at this as you seem to think you are, Sheriff,” she murmured.

He didn’t answer, well aware that his ability to make conversation was deteriorating rapidly, right along with his power to think rationally.

A ll he could do was feel.

Her perfume, subtle and elementally female, wrapped them in a cocoon of scent until he was dizzy with it. Before he could stop himself, he let his hand drift across the smooth, warm skin of her back and she shivered lightly in response.

He was unaware that he’d moved his other arm to encircle her waist until she slid her hand across his shoulder to cup his nape. What were they doing? he wondered dazedly, even as his grip tightened, pulling her so close that their legs were entwined. Whatever it was, he didn’t want it to stop.

Suddenly, Jess tilted her head back and looked up at him, her expression one of confusion. “Chase…” She shouldn’t have looked up at him. He might have been able to control himself if she hadn’t. But she had, and his gaze caressed her face, lingered on her lips in anticipation before he lost himself in her amazing eyes. When his head lowered, her eyes widened, and then, like an invitation, her lips parted. The hand at the back of his neck fisted in his hair, unconsciously urging him closer.

“Jess,” he breathed her name, prolonging the delicious moment by only brushing her mouth with his. A tremor ran through her when he used the tip of his tongue to softly outline the parting of her lips. He wanted to taste, to tease them both before he finally claimed her mouth the way he was dying to do. A nd he was succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. Now, he thought. It was time.

“Jess? You out here?”

The effect of Bridget’s voice was instantaneous. Without quite knowing how it had happened, Chase found himself standing two feet from Jessie. With a very big problem, which the snug pants of his tux did nothing to conceal. He could only pray that it was dark enough not to call attention to his dilemma.

Jessie was staring at him, her face pale in the moonlight. He saw her breasts rise as she took a shaky breath. “I’m over here, Bridg.” He had to give her credit. In spite of her obvious loss of composure, her voice was steady. He doubted his would have been at that moment. Not when his whole body was trembling with need.

“There you are.” Bridget stepped into view. “Oh, hi Chase. I didn’t see you for a second.” She turned to Jessie. “I think you better go rescue Dom. Nancy Silus has him penned up, talking his ear off. He’s starting to look a little desperate.”

“On my way.” She hesitated, glancing back at Chase. “A re you coming in?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. If I leave now, maybe I can watch that last movie with A my and A unt Ruth.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Goodnight.”

He stood there until she vanished through the doors. If her perfume hadn’t lingered in the air around him, he might have thought he’d dreamed the entire episode. Her perfume and one other thing. Gingerly, he reached down and adjusted himself into a more comfortable position. “Damn,” he muttered under his breath.

Letting his mind replay what had happened, he suddenly smiled. Maybe he had only been seeing what he wanted to see in her body language, but one thing was undeniable. Jessie had wanted him to kiss her. Wanted it every bit as much as he had. If she hadn’t, she’d have found a way to stop him. Instead, she’d encouraged him. He could work with that.

Whistling quietly, he made his way across the balcony, down the steps, and headed for the parking lot.

Chapter Six

She was insane. Totally and completely insane. A nd her body was still vibrating like a plucked violin string. The whole time Jessie was extracting Dom from Nancy’s clutches, she prayed her wobbly legs would hold her up long enough to reach a chair.

“Thanks for the rescue. I was beginning to think I was going to have to agree to a leading role in the local production of Grease just to get away from her.”

She made herself smile at him as she headed for the nearest table. “She’d have let you off the hook the first time she heard you sing.”

“You are so good for my ego.” His grin changed to a look of concern as she collapsed onto a seat. “Jess, are you okay? You look kind of flushed.”

“I’ll be fine in just a minute. I think I had a little too much champagne.” A nd too much Chase Martin, she added mentally. Or maybe the problem was that she hadn’t had enough of him.

What had possessed her to let things go that far? She’d known he was going to kiss her, had even started to protest. A nd then he’d looked down at her and the protest had died on her lips.

Oh, he was good. He hadn’t even completed the kiss and she’d already been a quivering mass of nerve endings. A t the rate she’d responded to him, if he’d actually kissed her, she probably would have let him make love to her right there on the balcony. It didn’t bode well for her resistance to him.

She propped an elbow on the table and lowered her forehead to her hand, a small groan escaping her. If she had been a naïve virgin she could have understood her reaction. But she wasn’t. Not that she’d been as free as some of her friends in New York. One-night stands weren’t her cup of tea.

In truth, she liked making love. Liked the sounds and smells of it, the feelings of being close to someone. But never in her experience had she gone up in flames like she had with Chase tonight. A nd with so little prompting. Unconsciously, she licked her lips. She could still taste him, for God’s sake.

“Hey, you really do look rough. Maybe we should head back to your house.”

She tilted her head sideways to look at Dom. “I think you’re right. I’ve had about all the fun I can stand for one night anyway.” Dom took her hand and helped her to her feet, then slid an arm around her waist. “Geesh, Jess. You’re shaking. Could you be having an allergic reaction to something?”

She barely stopped a snort of hysterical laughter. If she was allergic to anything, it was Chase Martin. She had promised herself before she moved back that she wasn’t going to let him know how she felt and now look at her. The first time he touched her she crumbled like a rotten brick wall.

“I swear, I’m fine, Dom. The last few weeks have been exhausting, getting moved and getting the studio ready. I probably overdid it. A good night’s sleep and I’ll be back to normal.”

“You’re sure you don’t need a doctor?”

“Positive.”

It was time to get a grip, and the only way to do that was to stop thinking about Chase. She had accomplished her mission tonight. Quite a few people had already approached Bridget about enrolling their children in a dance class. That was the only thing that should matter right now.

She waved at Bridget and Howard, then took a deep breath of the night air when she and Dom left the ballroom. A s soon as Dom helped her into his car she leaned her head back on the seat and closed her eyes. She was tired, she realized. It was only ten p.m. and she was stifling a yawn.

Instead of waiting for Dom to open her door, she climbed out of the car as soon as it stopped in her drive. Chase’s sedan was parked beside his patrol car but his house was dark. Either he was still at his aunt’s house with A my, or he’d already gone to bed.

Flipping the light on as she entered the kitchen, Jessie yawned again. “I think I’m going to hit the sack.”

“Good idea. If you don’t mind, I’m going to stay up a while, maybe watch some TV.”

“Of course I don’t mind. Make yourself at home.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “See you in the morning.”

“Night, Jess.”

* * * * *

The ringing of the phone woke her. Groggily, she reached for it just as it stopped. Dom must have answered it. From downstairs she could hear the muted sound of the TV. A s she shifted positions, she glanced at the illuminated dial of her clock. Eleven. She’d only been asleep for about thirty minutes.

It felt like she was smothering. Jessie kicked the light blanket away from her. Her cotton nightshirt, damp with sweat, was glued uncomfortably to her body. The damn air conditioner was at it again, she realized. There was no middle ground with the thing. You either fried or you froze. First thing Monday she’d try to find someone who could fix it.

Pushing the blanket farther down, she slid out of bed and headed for the window, making a detour to turn on the ceiling fan. The night air had to be cooler than the air inside her room.

The wooden frame on the window was partially stuck. She was wondering if she were going to have to break the glass to get any relief when there was a sudden give and it slid all the way up. She sighed as the cool air washed over her and her attention wandered to the house behind her own. There was a light on in the room directly across from hers, and the blinds were slit just enough to give her a clear view of the interior.

She stared in fascination at what had to be Chase’s room. The distance across the two backyards was small. From where she was standing, the foot of a bed was clearly visible. It was a four-poster in a dark wood, possibly cherry. The spread was an Indian design, its colors in blocks of blue, maroon and white. A gainst the wall was a dresser that matched the bed, a huge mirror rising above the main body.

The only thing that seemed to be on the dresser was a wooden tray a few shades lighter than the surface on which it rested.

A t least her curiosity was satisfied. His room was as clean as his car had been. She was about to turn away when movement caught her eye. Suddenly Chase appeared, a hanger in his hand. He’d already removed his tux jacket and his shirt was unbuttoned, hanging loosely on the outside of his pants.

He put the hanger on the foot of the bed and moved to the dresser, his hands going to the cuffs of his shirt. Jessie watched, her breath caught tight in her lungs, as he removed his cuff links and tossed them into the tray.

Turning back to the bed, he let the shirt slide off his shoulders and deposited it next to the hanger. Bare from the waist up, he lifted both hands and rubbed them back and forth through his thick hair, tousling it into a ragged mop. If she’d had false teeth, there was little doubt she would have swallowed the chattering set whole.

In the flesh, he was even more perfect than her dreams had led her to believe. Bronze skin covered the muscles of his broad shoulders and arms. Muscles and sinew that bunched and relaxed with his motions, creating an answering echo low inside her. His chest was sprinkled with dark hair that tapered into a vee over his flat stomach, mimicking the shape of his upper body.

Oh, God. She shouldn’t be standing here in the dark watching him. She had sworn that she was going to be very careful where Chase Martin was concerned. Yet, after little more than a week she had been reduced to a Peeping Tom. A nd she couldn’t even fool herself into believing that the heat running through her had anything to do with the room’s temperature. It was all due to the man she was ogling like a love-starved teenager.

She had to stop. She’d almost convinced her reluctant body to move when he reached down and unfastened his belt. Her feet came to a halt as though someone had nailed them to the floor, and her heart quit beating.

Casually, he unzipped the black trousers and let them drop over his slim hips. Jessie’s breath whistled in though her parted lips. Dear lord, the man couldn’t even wear plain cotton boxers like she’d expected. Instead he was wearing a pair of navy blue silk boxers that left little to the imagination. A nd she didn’t need her imagination to see there was nothing little about him. That couldn’t possibly be real, could it? But the outline was there in plain sight.

Her heart started beating again, making up for lost time by doubling its speed. He stepped out of the pants then leaned over and picked them up, draping them neatly on the hanger. A fter putting them back on the bed he reached for the top of his briefs. Surely he wasn’t going to—

To her guilt-ridden mind, the light rap on her door sounded like a cannon going off in the silent bedroom. She let loose an ear-splitting scream, legs pumping up and down in reaction. A t the noise, her door flew open and Dom charged into the room.

“Jess! What is it? What’s…” His words tapered off as he followed the direction of her gaze. A bruptly he started laughing.

Chase’s head jerked up and turned toward her house. Only then did she realize his window was also up. Immediately, he vanished from sight and less than a second later her phone rang.

While Dom slid down the wall, laughing his head off, Jessie scrambled across her bed and dove at the phone. It took her two tries to suck in enough air to answer.

“Hello?”

“Jess? A re you okay? I heard a scream.”

Chase. She should have known. With one hand clutched to her heart, she tried desperately to think. “A mouse,” she blurted. “I saw a mouse.” Was she babbling? She tried to force herself to calm down.

Her words set Dom off all over again. “A big ugly one,” he chortled.

With a glare, she yanked a pillow off the bed and threw it at him.

“A mouse?” Chase’s voice sounded incredulous. “You screamed the roof down over a mouse?” He hesitated and when he spoke again she could hear a smile in his words. “Do you want me to come over and arrest it for you?”

“Thank you, Marshall Earp, but that won’t be necessary. I think I scared him off when I screamed.” Her heart had almost resumed a normal cadence when it hit her that he must be standing there talking to her in those briefs. Instantly, her heartbeat jolted back up a notch.

Dom had caught the pillow and there were now muffled choking noises coming from his direction.

“Is Reyes still there?”

“Unfortunately.” Her tone was sour as she surveyed Dom’s shaking body in the dim light spilling in from the hall. “Really, Chase, there’s nothing to worry about. It just startled me, that’s all.”

“Okay, but if you need me, call.”

Need him? Her stomach flopped but she kept her voice steady. “Thanks. I will. Goodnight.” She dropped the phone back into its cradle and hissed at Dom. “Will you shut up? He can hear us!”

“Sorry.” He lowered the pillow. “But the expression on your face was priceless.” With a final gasp of laughter, he got himself under control.

“I’m so pleased you’re enjoying yourself.” She slid off the bed and grabbed her robe, belting it loosely around her waist. “I need a cup of tea. A fter that fiasco, I’ll never get back to sleep. What did you want, by the way?” He stood and followed her from the room. “My agent called. They want me in ll.A . sooner than expected for some pre-publicity. I’m going to have leave in a few hours.”

She stopped in the kitchen door. “Oh, Dom. I was hoping we’d have more of a chance to talk tomorrow.”

“So was I, but we still have a little while. A nd I do think we need to talk. A bout you and the sheriff.” Jessie turned away and filled the teakettle with water. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Come on, Jess. It’s me, here.” He moved to the table and sat down. “You’ve never lied to me before. Don’t start now. You were practically licking the glass in the window, watching him.”

“I was not licking the glass,” she muttered, turning on the stove and adjusting the heat. “I just got up to open the window and there he was. A re you telling me you wouldn’t have looked if there had been a gorgeous woman stripping in front of you?”

“Hell no. But I’m male. She wouldn’t even have to be gorgeous. I’d have watched if she was fifty and ugly as sin. Can you say the same thing? For instance, if that had been Howard Castle, would you still have watched?”

“Good grief. Of course I wouldn’t.” She got out two cups, added tea bags and carried them to the table before sitting.

“Why not? Howard’s a decent-looking man.”

“He’s also the love of Bridget’s life, and therefore off-limits. It would be like watching a brother strip.”

“A nd if Bridget weren’t interested in him?”

“He’s not my type.”

“But the sheriff is.” He shook his head. “I thought you’d gotten over him. You haven’t, have you? I should have known. That’s why none of the relationships you’ve had worked out. You’re still in love with this guy.”

“I most certainly am not.”

“Jess, I can read you like a book.”

“Fine.” She rubbed her eyes tiredly, and sighed with resignation. “You’re right. I’ve been in love with him for so long that I don’t even remember when it started. But I don’t want to be and I refuse to give in to it.”

“For God’s sake, why not? Even I can see he’s attracted to you. Do you really think he charged over here today because he was out of sugar? He did it because he was jealous.”

“You don’t understand, Dom. I can’t let myself give in to it because I’m afraid.” The teakettle whistled and she stood.

“A fraid of what?”

Jessie remained silent while she filled their cups and returned to her seat.

“I’m afraid of being hurt even worse than I have been already.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Before, when we were in school, I knew there was no reason to hope. Sure, it hurt, but I learned to live with it and get on with my life. Now, suddenly I’m back and it seems like every time I turn around he’s there. Do you think that would be happening if I were still overweight?” She waved a hand in the direction of Chase’s house. “You’ve seen the man, Dom. He’s gorgeous. He could have any woman he wants. He probably goes to bed with seven or eight a week.”

Dom arched a brow. “Seven or eight? A week? The man must have the stamina of a bull elk in mating season.” Jessie glared at him. “The point I was trying to make is that it’s bad enough being in love with him. I don’t think I could live through being just another statistic. A nd I would be. It’s not me he wants, it’s my body.” He straightened from his slouched position in the chair, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “So don’t sleep with him.” Jessie eyed him suspiciously. “What are you talking about?”

BOOK: Sweet Revenge
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