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Authors: December Gephart

Undercover Professor

BOOK: Undercover Professor
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Undercover Professor
By December Gephart

Rule Number One: Must not lie.
Rule Number Two: Must not live with parents.
Rule Number Three: Must have a job.
Rule Number Four: Must not be a friend’s ex.

These dating rules shouldn’t be hard for Lucy Benoit to follow—after all, she made them. But she didn’t plan on falling for Andy Sullivan, a scruffy-yet-attractive man who lives with his mother and is between jobs. These should be deal-breakers, but in other ways Andy is just her type. And there’s something intriguing about him...

Andy isn’t the geeky gamer he claims to be—not by a long shot. But what seemed like a harmless social experiment has put his chances of a relationship with Lucy at risk. Even if she can get past the silly rules she has set for herself, will she ever forgive him for breaking Rule Number One?

53,000 words

Dear Reader,

Exciting things happen in November. It’s the month we first
announced the creation of Carina Press, the month of my Harlequin employment
anniversary and it’s the month when we in the U.S. get
gorge-yourself-on-bad-carbs-and-turkey day (otherwise known as Thanksgiving). We
also get Black Friday (I think they call it that because of the color of your
bruises after you’ve been run over by crazy shoppers).

This November, we’re excited to release our first Carina
Press book in trade print format.
The Theory of
Attraction,
an erotic BDSM romance collection featuring novellas from
Delphine Dryden, Christine d’Abo and Jodie Griffin, is on shelves and available
for order online.

We also have fourteen new stories in digital for you to enjoy
post-turkey coma, in that long, long line outside the mall on Black Friday or,
if neither of those is your thing, to enjoy just because you like a good book!
Try to avoid the crime and violence of some of those crazy holiday shoppers and
enjoy some on-page suspense instead. Marie Force is back with her popular Fatal
series and ongoing protagonists Nick and Sam, in her next romantic suspense,
Fatal Deception.
Also returning is author Shirley
Wells with
Dying Art,
the next Dylan Scott
mystery.

I’m happy to introduce debut author Jax Garren’s new trilogy,
which kicks off this month with
How Beauty Met the
Beast.
This novella grabbed my attention when I read it on
submission, with off-the-charts sexual tension, a wonderful, character-driven
futuristic world, a smart, sassy heroine and a tortured, scarred hero who yearns
for nothing more than to keep the woman he’s secretly falling in love with
safe.

Looking for something out-of-this-world to take you away from
the pre-holiday madness? J.L. Hilton offers up her next cyberpunk
science-fiction romance,
Stellarnet Prince,
continuing the adventures of futuristic blogger extraordinaire Genny. Meanwhile,
Cáit Donnelly’s
Now You See It
gives a paranormal
edge to a thrilling romantic suspense, while erotic fantasy romance
Dark Dealings
by Kim Knox is guaranteed to give you
that “take me away” feeling.

Joining Kim with erotic romance releases this month are Jodie
Griffin with her next Bondage & Breakfast novella,
Forbidden Desires,
and Lynda Aicher’s first of a BDSM trilogy,
Bonds of Trust.
All three books in this trilogy are
both smokin’ hot, while delivering a wonderful, captivating story.

We have two authors with male/male releases this month,
including L.B. Gregg’s contemporary romance
Men of
Smithfield: Adam and Holden.
Also in the male/male niche, author
Libby Drew has her first Carina Press release, paranormal male/male
romance
40 Souls to Keep.

Susanna Fraser’s
An Infamous
Marriage
is our lone historical romance offering this month, but one
that won’t disappoint. Anchoring us in the here and now are several
contemporary romance titles. Jeanette Murray’s
No
Mistletoe Required
aims to get you into a holiday mood and
December Gephart bursts onto the publishing scene with her debut, the witty, fun
and romantic
Undercover Professor.

And don’t miss the upcoming conclusion of Shannon Stacey’s
second Kowalski family trilogy,
All He Ever
Dreamed.

Wherever your reading pleasure takes you, enjoy this month’s
variety of releases as we gear up for the holiday season.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your
thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
.
You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter
stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

Thank you to Gep, for always encouraging me to follow my dreams
and supporting me every step of the way.

Thank you to my family and friends, my critique
partners, and thank you to the SSv2.0.

Chapter One

Lucy Benoit shoved the door to the laundry room open with her back, her fingers slipping from the handles of the overloaded basket. Dropping everything onto the closest washer with a groan of relief, she flexed and extended her aching hands.

“Hello there. Need some help?”

She spun in surprise. A bearded guy rose from the cracked vinyl couch and scooped up a pair of socks and two black lacy thongs.

An extremely cute, helpful, bearded guy.

“Wow. Not awkward at all. Thank you, kind stranger.”

Straight white teeth gleamed in a smile as he dropped the lacy bits into her hand. Aiming for nonchalance after he had handled her delicates, she jammed the thongs into the mound of clothes.

Her breath wheezed in her lungs and she coughed. Partly from bringing in the laundry, but mostly from the surprising blue of his eyes. It would be a shame to cloud those nice eyes with pepper spray. But no matter how nice his smile, a girl can’t be too careful living in downtown Milwaukee.

He cleared his throat and sat on the nearest washer. “I’m apartment 26B. Andy.”

“Andy. 26B.” Lucy shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine. “What happened to Susan? Is she okay? Did she move out?”

“No, no, she’s fine. I’m just crashing with her for a while.” He leaned back on the dryers, watching her avidly.

Crashing with Susan? That was odd, this guy was at least twenty years her junior. Well, hey; who was she to judge? Still, Susan didn’t strike her as the cougarish sort. Go Susan, get your freak on...

“I’m her son.”

Her son, that makes sense. No pepper spray required. Probably. Stealing another look at him as she loaded a washer, she upgraded cute blond guy to darn near yummy. Light hair, twinkling blue eyes, sweatpants and a worn Portland University T-shirt that fit just right on his broad shoulders.

And socks with his sport sandals. Uh-oh. Rule number seven: bad fashion sense. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But not enough to knock him off the potential dating list.

“I’m Lucy. 30C. Good to meet you.” She extended her hand to shake his. He held contact a moment too long, his palm warm and firm. Not limp or clammy or, worst of all, that smooth overly moisturized feeling some pretty boys had. But he wasn’t so much pretty. Too rugged, too manly.

She turned sharply back to her laundry. “Susan never mentioned you.” She blew at a hair teasing her forehead, trying to cool down. Susan was one of those nosy neighbors who kept tabs on everyone else’s life. Nonetheless, she was also a sweetheart who always dropped off plates of cookies around the holidays.

“She never mentioned you either, but I wouldn’t expect my mom to bring up her hot neighbor with beautiful brown eyes.”

“Whoa, what?” She swiped nervously at the hair now tickling her nose, taken aback by the blatant interest in his eyes. Normally by two o’clock on a Tuesday the laundry room was a flirt free area.

“Sorry, sometimes I speak without thinking.” He released a blinding smile, the type that charms black lace panties off unsuspecting gals.

That type of brilliant grin didn’t occur on anyone who drank coffee. Not to mention the three gazillion cups of coffee she chugged to stay up late cramming for community college exams. Lucy kept her lips together in a tight smile. His charisma was a bit overpowering in the dingy laundry room. He was obviously the kind of guy who got away with outrageous statements like that. Hell, it probably worked for him in all sorts of fun ways.

Had she remembered deodorant before coming down?

“What brings you to Wisconsin?” She steered the topic back to safety as she dumped another pile of laundry into the next machine, working the detergent, laundry and quarters like a dance. A rather clumsy dance. Her hand trembled as she lined up the quarters in the slots carefully, and she kept her eyes on her business. Until she risked a quick peek. Damn, he was tasty.

“I’m staying with Mom for a while. Waiting for something to open up. In the meantime I’m doing a freelance article for the
Shepherd Express
. But if Mom had mentioned her neighbors were so friendly, I would have come home a lot sooner.” He winked as he hopped down from the row of washers, and wandered to the couch again. The way he said “friendly” and the wink had her fighting a grin.

Waiting for something to open up?
She flagged him on her list. Rule number three: must have a job.

She brought her paperback and iPod and sat on a green vinyl chair, propping her flip-flops up on the table. Suddenly inordinately glad she had stopped for the pedi special on Sunday.

“So, Lucy, what do you do?” He sprawled on the couch, one leg on the coffee table, one on the floor. Like he was totally comfortable in his skin. He used her name like he was trying to memorize it.

“I’m a manager at the Sports Authority.” She couldn’t help the pride in her voice. After seven years, manager. She worked her way up from cashier, to outdoor expert, a brief, albeit distasteful stint in the firearms department, up to assistant manager, and smoothly into manager position. Once she got her degree, she could transfer wherever she wanted with the international sporting goods company. Maybe even go into the corporate offices.

“Yeah, you guys hiring?” he asked, but his gaze didn’t quite meet her eyes. Maybe her bra strap was showing.

That slashed him from the potential dating list. Yep, definitely no job. Rule three.

It didn’t matter if he was new to town. Pesky list. Maybe... Maybe this once she could make an exception.

“Not right now, sorry. But I’ll let you know if anything opens up.”

He lived with his mom and didn’t have a job. Plus questionable fashion sense. Even if he did have a devil-may-care tilt to his grin, he was off the potential dating list. No need to lead him on when he was undateable.

Too damn bad.

She realized again he hid a nicely impressive pair of shoulders under the T-shirt. Pesky list. She herself would have dressed up for laundry day if she had known she’d run into someone handsome. Hell, anyone at all. Usually the laundry room was empty at this hour. Her cutoffs and tank top weren’t quite man catching materials.

Man catching, ha. He lives with his mother
. Rule number two: must not live with his parents. Roommates negotiable on a case-by-case basis.

“What do you do?”

“Whatever I can get. Customer service, sales. But I’m really into World of Warcraft—type online gaming. That’s what my article is on. Do you game?”

“Nope. Some of my friends are really into it, but I just can’t sit still that long.”

He glanced down, pursing his lips.

“Hey, no offense. I’m more likely to read a book or go out for a drink or two.” She bit her cheek. Why did she apologize for not playing video games?

He seemed to notice her reaction, and shot her another pleasant grin. The wattage dialed back. Yet somehow it was more charming. Yowza. “Any good bars around here?”

“My favorite bar is about a block away—the Dirty Goat. They have a great wall of pinball games, and this fantastic import lineup. I love the Labrador Brewery from Oregon, they have the seasonal brew on tap. Are you from Oregon?”

He glanced at her quizzically. She held her own tank top out, indicating the chest area, where his shirt was emblazoned with Portland University. He stared at her chest for a moment before glancing down at himself.

“Oh, right. Yeah, I am.” He cleared his throat, and Lucy felt like the nosy neighbor at his irritated frown.

“Hey, that’s a great book.” He gestured at the book resting next to her. “This is actually the prequel to the series,” he said, holding up his own paperback, passing it over for her to see.

Lucy snatched it in a fit of excitement. “Get out, there’s a prequel? Can I borrow this? Should I read it first? You’re almost done, I can wait.”

She flipped to the inside cover to read the synopsis. “ARC, what does that mean?”

“It’s an advance reader copy, I sort of know the author. He wanted it to be read the way you’re reading it, but sure, you can borrow it once I’m done. Book three in the series is my personal favorite.”

“Why?” Lucy handed the book back, caressing the cover one last time. This series had grabbed her unexpectedly. It wasn’t her normal realm. But the writing moved so fast, she had stayed up hours reading when she should have been studying. “Tell me the captain and the four-armed interpreter get it on. They are so hot for each other.”

His jaw dropped. “You haven’t gotten to the part in that book where...” He snapped his mouth shut abruptly, shaking his head. “I can’t ruin it for you. Needless to say, yes, they do get it on, in the one you’re reading. And she has some pretty special, um, equipment.” He winked at her again, a light blush ruddying his cheeks.

Lucy grinned, liking this goofy stranger a lot more all of a sudden.

He brushed his hand over his chin. “There’s even a video game. I bet you’d like it.”

Lucy shrugged. “I think the last video game I played was Mario Bros., in high school.” There had been some good make-out sessions with her senior-year boyfriend, in his basement with Mario Bros. music in the background.

Andy’s face fell again, and he picked up the novel. His washer buzzed, and he stood, stretching his long arms high overhead. She couldn’t help watching the little gap of skin showing above his low-slung sweatpants. Surely it hadn’t been
that
long since her last view of some manly flesh.

His arms fell and his shirt dropped back into place. She didn’t deny herself the pleasure of watching him walk away.

There is a reason for the list, she reminded herself as she put her headset on to read. They weren’t just arbitrary rules. All the items were formed from hard lessons learned. Her heart simply couldn’t take another devastating break.

Rule number one: no lying. That was the first, most important rule.

Rule number two: must not live with parents.

Rule number three: must have job.

Rule number four: no dating a guy who had already dated a girlfriend. No friends’ exes. Chicks before dicks, as her cousin Becca always said. Which was tricky, because Becca dated her way through town like it was an Olympic sport, and she was bringing home the gold. Luckily they had different tastes in guys, and didn’t really travel in the same social circles.

The next few rules were more guidelines, like the fashion sense, socks with sandals, or too-short jean shorts. Facial hair was negotiable; a goatee may slip through now and then, but certainly no scruffy beards. And he must have a life outside of work or school. Some sort of hobby they could share.

She turned up the volume on her iPod to drown out the ’80s movie on the TV, and sank into the book, eager to read about the captain and the sexy four-armed interpreter.

A warm hand caressed her shoulder. She jumped up. Andy stood behind the chair, eyeing her with amusement. She ripped out the earphones, heart pounding in her chest.

“I asked if I could borrow some dryer sheets. I forgot mine.”

“Oh, sure.” She paused the music blaring from the headphones.

“Is that the Rolling Stones? I love them.”

“Yeah, I like them too. Apparently too loud.” She walked over to her basket, sandals flip-flopping on the linoleum, feeling his gaze on her as he followed close behind.

“Here.” She held the box out. A nervous, anxious energy made her hand quiver.

He stood close. Too close.

He was close enough to kiss her. She startled a little at the realization, and all the air sucked from the room.

He licked his bottom lip, as though he’d just had the same thought. She was close enough to catch a hint of his scent and to see the firm jawline beneath the golden scruff of his beard. The warm air felt electric, and the low rumble of the machines matched the thunder of her heart.

Poking him in the chest with the box, she tried to distance herself. She had to at least stop thinking about what his kiss might feel like.

He cleared his throat, taking the box from her hands. “Thanks. I like this brand.”

She stared at him. He hadn’t even glanced at the box. He shut his eyes, winced a little, and moved to the other side of the row where the dryers were.

Lucy sagged against the warm metal of her washer, her heart slowing gradually. Pure willpower pushed her back to the vinyl couch. She slapped the earphones on tightly and picked up the book, clenching her thighs together from the unexpected rush of arousal. A sweatshirt would be nice right now, to hide her traitorous nipples. She hunched to hide the hard peaks. The image of his tongue slicking across his lower lip danced through her head, and she couldn’t stop seeing that heavy-lidded, sexy look in his eyes. Man, she was weak. Weak weak weak, and apparently horny. Laundry was not the place for seduction, especially with a guy who had already pulled himself out of the running. She simply could not take another heartache.

* * *

Dr. Andrew Sullivan, PhD, Drew to his friends, did some deep breathing, trying to return blood flow to normal as he slowly moved his laundry from washers to dryers.

I like this brand.
What a bonehead thing to say.
C’mon, man, you can do better than that.

She had worked him into a twist in a matter of seconds. Her cute butt in a pair of cutoff sweatpants was massively erotic. The lacy red of her bra had peeked from under the tank top, but he was trying to be a gentleman and not stare.

She wasn’t his normal type. Not that he really had a specific type, besides female. Usually he dated the blonde bubbly coeds, painfully thin with big tits, and long hair that he had learned was mostly hair extensions to make it thicker. She wasn’t that.

But she was simply exquisite. Chocolate-brown hair brushed her shoulders artlessly, streaked from what he suspected was sunshine and not an expensive salon. Those cherry-red toes and those long legs. Flip-flops. Who knew some cheap flip-flops would get his motor running?

He wanted to taste her, press her up against the washer and sample her lips, explore her mouth, feel the weight of her breasts cupped in his hand. He took a deep breath again to cool his thoughts.

BOOK: Undercover Professor
10.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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