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Authors: Janelle Denison

Wilde for Him (5 page)

BOOK: Wilde for Him
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The corner of his mouth twitched with a smile, but he managed to keep his humor under wraps. "Maybe that was just beginner's luck."

"Hardly." She stopped in front of him and gave him a smug look. "I'll have you know that I was a guard on my high school varsity team."

That bit of news finally shook a surprised reaction out of him. "You played basketball in high school?"

He sounded as stunned as her mother had been when Christine had announced her choice of extra-curricular activity at the all-girls boarding school she'd attended. Audrey had been pushing for ballet or something equally feminine and had been less than pleased to discover her daughter had chosen what she considered a boy's sport.

"I know it might be hard to believe, but it's true," she said to Ben, as well as the boys who were still gathered close by. "Of course, it's been a while since I've actually played a game, but I'm sure I can hold my own. How about a quick ten-point game with the boys?"

"Yeah!" the foursome cheered enthusiastically in response.

Ben's gaze narrowed. "You're kidding, right?"

She spread her hands wide. "Do I look like I'm kidding?"

His gaze took her in, all the way down to the red painted toe nails peeking from her open-toed shoes. Then he gave her a private, teasing smirk. "You'll break your neck in those stilts you're wearing."

Which was easily remedied. She kicked off her Jimmy Choos, pushed up the sleeves on her top, and glanced back up at Ben, now four additional inches shorter than him—and much closer to the boys' heights. "I'll go barefoot."

He shook his head, not the least bit moved by her efforts to sway him. "I don't think so."

He was in full bodyguard mode, obviously trying to protect her from something as simple as a game of basketball, which she found ridiculous. Sure, she was smaller than most girls, but she was far from being a delicate debutante, and she wasn't about to let him treat her like one.

"I'm not that fragile, Ben. I swear I won't break if I get bumped around a little bit."

He blinked lazily and rocked back on his heels. "Maybe not, but you'll definitely get all hot and sweaty."

Something about the low, husky tone of his voice and the too sensual way his gaze held hers gave his comment a whole different meaning and inspired tantalizing fantasies of hot, sweaty sex … with him. The sudden awareness flaring between them made her feel restless, and a bit daring, and she didn't hesitate to act on the impulsive moment.

Still mindful of their young spectators nearby, she leaned closer to Ben to give them a small measure of privacy, licked her bottom lip, and whispered, "That's what showers are for."

Ben experienced a swift kick of lust straight to his gut as Christine's less than innocent comeback flooded his mind with provocative, erotic images—of her joining him in his shower, a steady stream of water sluicing down her naked body and a come-hither smile on her lips as he lathered all her sleek, sensual curves.

He swallowed back a low groan and shoved those dangerously arousing thoughts of Christine right out of his head. But despite the disappearance of those risque images, he still had to deal with the flesh-and-blood woman standing in front of him, who seemed so bound and determined to tempt him with what he couldn't have. Her.

Ever since they'd left her parents' house that afternoon, he'd noticed a distinct change in Christine. While she'd always teased and flirted with him in the past when their paths crossed, now that he'd been assigned as her bodyguard for the next three weeks, there was a stronger, more tangible seductive quality to her behavior he found way too inviting.

Like now. The irresistible dare in her sparkling blue eyes encompassed a slew of possibilities, and beckoned him to accept every single one of them. Then there was that beguiling curve to her lush mouth that captured his full attention, along with the fact that she was standing close enough for him to look down and watch the intriguing rise and fall of her small, firm breasts.

"Awww, come on, Ben," Jimmy said, effectively reminding him that he wasn't alone with Christine, as he suddenly wished he were.

"It's just one quick game." Nick added.

Christine batted her lashes, taunting him in that affable way of hers. "Yeah, come on, Ben," she cajoled, her tone sugar-sweet. "Or are you afraid I might whoop your butt?"

"Ooooo," the foursome chorused together, as if she'd just issued the ultimate challenge to his masculinity. Which she had.

He pointed a finger toward her pert little nose. "You're so on." After that bold, nervy statement, he wasn't about to say no. "And don't expect me to go easy on you because you're a girl."

She tossed her head back and laughed. "And don't whine like a little boy when you lose."

God, she was too much, though he had to admit that her confidence was a huge turn-on.

They divided up into teams, with two boys on each side. With a toss of the ball, the game began. Christine took the sport seriously, using exceptional skill when it came to playing with the kids, but she saved all her womanly wiles for when it came to dealing with him. Like when he came up behind her to steal the ball from her grasp, and she turned the move into a full, frontal body assault as she scooted back and pressed her curvy bottom against his groin, forcing him to retreat from the too-intimate position or risk embarrassing himself in front of the boys with a raging hard-on.

But putting distance between himself and Christine on the court didn't stop him from noticing how a gradual pink flush suffused her face, or enjoying the fun-loving laughter that pierced the air as she managed to outwit her opponents. She played aggressively, and she was in it to win. She passed the ball to her teammates when the opportunity presented itself, made a few shots of her own, and didn't mind getting down and dirty for fear of breaking a nail or messing up her hair.

Every time she got close to him, Ben caught a whiff of her signature scent—a warm, vanilla fragrance that made him want to take a big bite out of her. Or lick her skin to see if she tasted as good as she smelled. And the harder she played the game, the stronger the scent grew, combining with everything else about her to distract the hell out of him.

He couldn't focus on the game, couldn't make a shot if his life depended on it. Because when he tried, she was right there in front of him, trying to take the ball away—and using everything in her feminine arsenal to do it.

She didn't play fair, at least not with him.

By the time the game ended, with his team losing by four points, he was sweating and breathing too hard, and it had little to do with the October sun overhead, and was more a result of Christine's frisky moves.

As she celebrated with her teammates with high-fives and atta boys, all he could do was grin, shake his head, and take the loss like a man.

His teammates, Jimmy and Andrew, weren't as benevolent.

"I can't believe we lost to a girl," Jimmy grumbled.

"Yeah, that totally sucks," Andrew added with a frown.

"Come on, guys, don't be poor sports," Ben said as he clasped both Jimmy and Andrew on the shoulder in a small attempt to soothe their bruised egos. "They won fair and square, so let's go congratulate them."

With a little push from Ben in the right direction, the boys headed toward the champions and issued a "good game" compliment. The foursome went back to playing basketball on their own, and Christine picked up her shoes and strolled toward Ben, glowing from the exertion of playing the game, and from her recent victory.

She stopped in front of him and wrinkled her nose. "Well, well, well. It looks like you're the one who's all hot and sweaty."

He dragged his fingers through his damp hair and laughed. It figured that she'd turn that comment back around on him, and he did the same thing.

"It's nothing a quick shower can't take care of." But while he'd previously fantasized about her joining him, in reality he was all on his own.

 

Chapter Three

 

CHRISTINE followed Ben inside his apartment and waited as he locked and bolted the door after her. The extra bit of security was a direct reminder that it wasn't all fun and games between her and her bodyguard, even if she'd had a blast playing basketball and showing the boys, and Ben, that she wasn't the prissy girly-girl they'd thought she was.

"Go ahead and make yourself comfortable," Ben said, waving a hand toward the small living area of the apartment. "And help yourself to something to drink in the kitchen. I think there's some bottled water in the fridge, along with Gatorade and beer, if you feel like drinking and belching like one of the boys," he teased.

"No beer for me," she said with a shake of her head. "That's where I draw the line and prefer a froufrou drink, like an apple martini or piña colada."

His smile was slow, deliberate, and combined with his still tousled, sweaty outdoor appearance made him look sexy as hell. "Sorry, but I'm fresh out of fruity umbrella drinks."

"Ha-ha," she replied with a sassy grin of her own. "Go take your shower, smartaleck."

He placed his keys on the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen. "I only need about twenty minutes to shower, dress, and pack a bag, so I shouldn't be long."

"Ahhh, the joys of being a man." She sighed enviously. "A quick shower, no angsting over what to wear, and no preplanning what to pack for your stay."

"Being a man does have its perks," he agreed. "By the way, what do I need to wear tonight? Does the club have a specific dress code?"

"Jeans and a nice shirt are fine."

He looked relieved that she hadn't asked him to don a suit and tie. "Perfect. That's just my style."

She watched him head down the short hall and nearly groaned when he pulled his damp shirt off just before he turned into the bedroom. She caught a quick glimpse of his smooth, muscled back, and that was more than enough to make her stomach clench with the desire to see what all that hard, honed flesh felt like sliding against her fingertips.

He didn't close the bedroom door, but a moment later she heard a different door shut, then the sound of running water, indicating he was about to get into the shower… completely naked.

Realizing just how dry her mouth had become, she walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. There wasn't a whole lot inside—mainly take-out containers, a carton of milk, and the drinks he'd mentioned earlier. Definitely a sign of a bachelor. Bypassing the beer and Gatorade, she grabbed a bottle of water. Strolling back into the living room, she twisted the cap off the bottle and swallowed a good amount of the cool water as she took in his sparse furnishings.

A single reclining chair in a dark brown leather material, worn from plenty of use, occupied one side of the room. An old, scarred wooden side table was situated nearby with a few Soldier of Fortune magazines stacked neatly on top. Against the opposite wall was what appeared to be Ben's one main indulgence—a large, flat-screen TV tucked inside a basic entertainment center.

The apartment looked like he'd just moved in but hadn't had the time, or the inclination, to decorate or give the place any special touches of his own. The off-white walls were completely bare, and except for a clock on the wall there weren't any knickknacks anywhere to be seen. The only things she saw that she'd even consider remotely personal were two small framed photographs set on one of the shelves in the wall unit.

She found herself gravitating toward those pictures to take a better, closer look. Surprisingly, they weren't snapshots of family. The first photo was a group of men standing together, surrounded by canvas tents in a desolate desert setting. All of them were dressed in military fatigues and sporting short buzz cuts, Ben included. The men looked tired and weary, but the comradery between them was a visible thing.

She assumed the picture had been taken a few years ago, when he'd been in the service. She remembered her father mentioning that Ben was an ex-Marine who'd served in the Iraq War but she didn't know anything about his time in the military, or what his duties had entailed.

Taking another drink of her water, she glanced at the second photograph of Ben and a pretty, dark-haired woman, completely unprepared for the depth of emotion so evident between the couple. Both of them were dressed in fatigues, with the same dry, barren stretch of desert as their background. The woman was hugging Ben around the waist, a wide smile on her lips as she looked up at him with a wealth of love and adoration shining in her eyes. Ben was laughing at something she must have said or done, but there was no denying that he was equally as smitten with her.

"Oh, wow," Christine breathed, shocked at the realization that Ben might have a steady girlfriend. One who might even be living with him, though she doubted that by the lack of feminine presence in the apartment. But the fact that Ben openly displayed such an intimate picture of himself and the woman said a lot about his feelings for her.

Not sure what to think, she dragged her fingers through her hair, wincing as a few tangled strands tugged on her scalp. All she knew was that if Ben was in a serious relationship, then she had absolutely no business flirting with him the way she had been, and vice versa.

"You're awfully quiet out there," Ben called from the other room. "Are you doing okay?"

He was obviously done with his shower. "I'm good." She glanced at the clock on the wall. "And you're down to about twelve minutes. Are you still on schedule?"

He chuckled, and she felt a slice of guilt for enjoying the low, husky sound when there was a chance of him having a girlfriend.

"I'm way ahead of schedule," he said as she heard a shuffling sound coming from the bedroom. "All I have to do is finish getting dressed and pack a few things, and I'll be ready to go."

Still troubled by that picture, she finished her water, tossed the bottle in the kitchen trash, and gave Ben another two full minutes before wandering down the hallway to his bedroom. She had to know if he had a significant other in his life, and if he did, she needed to change her behavior toward him drastically. She'd never poached on another woman's territory, and she wasn't about to start now. She'd been on the other side of that scenario, and it hadn't felt good at all.

BOOK: Wilde for Him
9.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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