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YULE BE MINE by Charlene Teglia Copyright 2004 Charlene Teglia Scheherazade Tales Romance E-Novels scheherazadetales.com All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental. 2004 Scheherazade Tales Romance E-Novels scheherazadetales.com YULE BE MINE
Prologue Seymour Walters was the last straw. Jordan had put up with a lot from her brothers. She knew they meant well. She knew they loved her. She knew that deep down in their little misguided and deranged brains, they only wanted her to be happy. But looking at Seymour's sober face, beneath a thatch of hair no artist could give style to, set off by glasses that were definitely, actually taped together over the nose, Jordan realized with a chill of horror that it was never going to end. They would never stop trying to fix her up with “the perfect man." And their version of theperfect man was Jordan's version ofperfect hell . First of all, if Seymour had ever laughed in his life, she was certain he would have apologized immediately. She made it a firm rule that any man she dated had to laugh at her jokes. Then there was his appearance. Jordan eyed him in sober silence and was unable to even comment internally. It was that
bad. No, actually, it wasworse —because if Jordan didn't do something, and fast, she'd be thrown together with Seymour or some other equally bad Disaster Date on every single hayride, skating party, dinner and dance of the holiday season. She pictured herself seated by Seymour through an endless meal. Even in her imagination, she couldn't eat. A mortician just didn't contribute sparkling small talk to dinner. And his compliments—she could hear them now. “You're looking lovely this evening. So lifelike. So natural." You're a creative person, Jordan,she screamed at herself.Last year you wrote two hundred different ways to say “Happy Birthday.” You need a plan. And make it good. Or Seymour will be by your side from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, and you'll have to kisshim. The greeting card writer shivered at the very thought, and Seymour noticed. "Got a chill?” He heaved a morose sigh. “Leona Watkins went like that. Pneumonia. That's how it starts. Before you know it, death comes knocking." Death was already knocking, Jordan thought wildly. Death was closing in and choking the life out of her. Well, not this year! It had to stop. And it was going to stopright now . Jordan was going to give her brothers exactly what they wanted, and gain a reprieve from the Grim Reaper. She was going to get engaged to “the perfect man."
Chapter One Single man! Are you haunted by the ghost of Christmas past—terrifying attempts at holiday matchmaking? Frightened by the ghost of Christmas future—more yuletide yahoos? Then what the dickens are you waiting for? Give us both a Christmas present. Single woman seeks phony fiancé for family functions; will pose as yours in return. Jordan Christian reread her singles’ ad with a critical eye. Was it short, snappy and to the point? Did it communicate her needs clearly, but with a humorous tone that would make it appealing to a decent human being? She pushed her notepad back and dropped her pen on the lacquered surface of her antique roll top desk. Wanting some reassurance, she let her gaze wander over the wall. It held award certificates, the framed copy of her first check as a professional writer and an extremely flattering letter from an editor praising her skills. Jordan found the physical proof of her success and ability as a writer comforting whenever doubt crept in on a project. This was a project she really couldn't afford to mess up. If this ad didn't snare a sane, single and at least semi-attractive male between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, Jordan was going to be in a lot of trouble. She was going to be toasting the New Year with Seymour the Undertaker under the watchful eyes of her four older brothers.
It wasn't easy being the baby of the family. At twenty-six, she still wasn't free of fraternal harassment. True, her brothers—all considerably older—had shared in raising her after their parents were killed in a car accident, making them considerably more involved than most brothers. They'd been there for her through high school and sent her to college. They'd watched her graduate and taken her picture. They'd celebrated with her when she immediately got taken on as a writer for a greeting card company. And they'd shoved countless stuffed shirts at her, every single year. Christmas seemed to bring out the worst in them. They couldn't seem to stand seeing her without a man at her side through all the traditional family events. Jordan had tried reasoning with them. That didn't work. So she'd tried tears, tantrums and had even gone to the Bahamas one year to evade the matchmakers. She'd gotten sunburn and gained ten pounds eating all day on the cruise ship, and all for nothing, because they'd managed to get Mitchell onto the same ship and he'd followed her relentlessly. Mitchell was a dentist, and she was fairly certain he'd been Gary's idea. Gary was the oldest brother and the most determined to settle his baby sister down with a respectable, secure husband. But as annoying and self-centered—not to mention depressing—as Mitchell was, Seymour had him beat. He could drive a right-to-lifer to suicide. Especially if they had to listen to him talk through dinner. Jordan shuddered again and reread her ad. Well, it wasn't perfect, but she didn't have much time. If she got it in today, it would run in the weekend edition of the Singles’ Page, and with any kind of luck at all, she'd get some answers the following week. It stood to reason that somewhere some man was enduring the same difficulties she was, and all because he just hadn't met the right person yet. So they'd help each other out. It was a perfect plan. After the New Year, they'd simply drift apart and eventually end their mock “engagement." Jordan bounced to her feet and stretched, rolling her neck and shoulders to loosen the kinks produced by hunching over her desk. Maybe she should have requested a man who liked to give massages. No, she couldn't be that picky. She wasn't shopping for a real fiancé, just a good fake to fool her brothers with. As long as he didn't tape his eyewear together or talk about dentures, she'd take him. She ruffled her short blond spiky hair and picked up her ad. She'd already rented an anonymous postal box for replies. Now all she had to do was drop off her copy and pay for her ad to run. And sincerely hope for a good man. A good “single man". **** "Luke, I want you to meet Candy,” his sister Wendy gushed. She shoved the saccharine pink fluff-ball of ruffles towards Luke. He knew there had to be an eligible female in there somewhere. Why else would Wendy push her on him? The ruffles spoke in a sickening, simpering sweet voice. “I'mso pleased to meet you. I've heardso much about you.” Then she definitely—distinctly—tittered. "Have you?” Luke Foster's bland, merely rhetorical question was more a statement, neatly providing a response to Cotton Candy's verbal overture without encouraging further communication.
Wendy's little pre-holiday cocktail party was only the beginning. down at the pink ruffled confection with chilling disinterest. But he had the face and build of a born fighter. but she didn't seem to notice—probably because. lonely place with. The Foster clan included two more siblings. But even he could be pushed too far. He went from looking like a man to avoid in a dark. Every year the matchmaking went on.Luke glared at his oldest sister Wendy. he knew he was in over his head. But he did have a rough. combined with his height and an air of reserve as a natural result of his quiet. approachable face and lit his cold blue eyes with humor. Luke eyed the pink ruffles in dread. Candy let out a faint sound of mingled offense and fright and melted into the crowd. and every year it grew more insistent and more unpleasant. lonely place to looking like a man to seek out a dark. A wise man knew when to retreat. uncles. She squeaked out. other priorities. Luke didn't even nod. His successful consulting business spoke for the wisdom of not fighting nature. Luke smiled. The ruffles twitched. reflective personality. and then seemed to wilt under his stolid indifference that bordered on the thin line of rudeness.” and pulled back. “N-n-nice to meet you. I have to go. Damned if he'd encourage this unwelcome piece of fluff. rugged appeal and chiseled muscles that declared him to be aman with a capital M. peacefully single. Luke Foster didn't have anything resembling classical features or Hollywood handsomeness. added to the illusion of watchful readiness for trouble and the ability to handle any that was foolish enough to turn up. parents. she'd artfully retreated and was now busily occupied serving canapés to another guest. These endless excuses to eat and drink and shove unwanted women at him that went on every year from November to January—he hated them. cousins and all their spouses and offspring. He'd found that the intimidating edge of danger he could affect at will produced results in the sometimes rough world of business. It was already starting. actually. His family simply failed to understand that he had other concerns. An easy-going. A shrill sound emerged from the frothy dress. and quickly. Let Wendy entertain her. twittered. a smile of triumph and satisfaction which transformed his rough features into a warm. and that. It was an illusion. Luke squelched the chiding sound of his mother's voice in his head that urged him to be a gentleman in any situation. And all those relatives couldn't bear to see their Luke peacefully alone. He was gentle by nature. Wendy frowned at him and Luke realized that she was going to come over and demand that he apologize to Cotton Candy. steadily and silently. In truth. It had taken time to . and they celebrated the holidays with a vengeance. His eyes silently encouraged her to do so. having done her “duty". He stared. They suffered some sort of genetic compulsion to match up and marry off every member of the family. He was a patient man. Cotton Candy was Wendy's guest. actually. He blended into the crowd and made his way towards the door and freedom with a sense of desperation that was sheathed in outward calm and confidence. even-tempered man. Luke was too prosaic not to use whatever natural advantages he had.
You might think there's plenty of time for a personal life later. I'm tired.” Jake said. In time. "Jake Marlow. sat in a corner booth and asked for coffee. Here it was—solid evidence that he wasn't the only person who hadn't succumbed to marriage mania. Luke felt quietly gratified by that fact." "Heartproblems. He shrugged on his heavy wool overcoat but instead of his office he headed towards a nearby café. “You could say that. I'm old. Go back to your business—but if I were you. Somebody had left a newspaper on the table. He recognized that voice. “I know how I look.” the voice continued. "Leaving already? Heading back to the office?" The question made Luke pause. He hoped it would be a dentist. Yes. It wasn't exactly a newspaper. The college student waiting tables waved to him and told him to sit anywhere. he pitied the man who ended up with that bit of fluff.” Jake gave a wheezing laugh that held no trace of amusement. Then something different caught his eye. Luke. .gain the experience to start his own business." "I didn't know you had heart problems. If it hadn't been for the voice. Luke reached the door. That kind of commitment meant long hours and short weekends and didn't leave the time. I'd go find a life instead. were distinctly unsettling. Why hadn't he ever read them before? There was abig woman seeking big man for a whale of a good time . But there was no hurry. It was a listing of singles ads. he intended to select a suitable wife. he wouldn't have recognized his old mentor. Idly. Wash away the sugary taste that just looking at Cotton Candy had left in his mouth. Jake shook his head and waved him on. Luke nodded brusquely. It isn't too late for you. Luke opened it and flipped through. And somebody to live it with. That was the only rational explanation. "It's what I would have been doing." Even old Bottom Line Jake Marlow had matchmaking on the brain? The holidays caused mass insanity. Let this be a warning to you. With grim sarcasm. “Go on. too. He barely noticed when his coffee came. Yet. twenty years ago. Freedom and sanity lay just beyond. he realized after a moment. I put my heart into my business. He'd get some coffee in peace and quiet." The words. turning around. "Don't bother to tell me how I look. The ads were enthralling. the energy or even the inclination to pursue a serious relationship. Thirty-two wasn't too old to be single. and I'm scheduled for another triple bypass. but later might turn out to be too late. AndDaisy seeking gardener with stamen-a . Some of the ads were from people in their forties and fifties who'd never been married. combined with the sight of what had become of the man who'd taught Luke everything he knew about succeeding in business. and more years to firmly establish it. Turns out it was a bad investment.” said Luke.
The waiter returned with a full coffee pot. whoever she was.” He left a pad and pen for Luke after refilling his coffee cup. If she didn't agree to be his fake fiancée. She didn't want a ring. Then he pictured himself with a poised. scratched out and rewrote. The mystery woman was intelligent enough to out-do the former and devious enough. She knew Dickens. He thought she would likely be able to handle the thankless task of fending off his family. He tore . And she had a quirky sense of humor. He wanted his message to stand out amongst the replies she'd get to her ad. she'd be impressed by a literary reply. Finally satisfied. Single woman seeks phony fiancé for family functions. Luke realized. Whoever had left that newspaper lying at his booth had circled that one in red. Luke imagined the forthcoming round of manic holiday events. And Luke would be up against the wall—alone. Will pose as yours in return. She'd drive away not only the sniveling sweet types but also the militant equal-partner business types who only wanted to use a ring to further their careers or to get a foothold in his own company.. and the more he did. intelligent companion. some other man would get a free ride through the holidays with no pressure to settle down.. Sounded like some poor woman was enduring the same fate. An intelligent woman. Luke noticed. She wanted a co-conspirator to weather the holiday madness. too. parents and assorted partner-pushers. Luke continued to think. from her blatant proposal to perpetrate fraud. to deal with the latter. how to respond to something like that? It would take some thought. Now . He shuddered. wrote briefly. and the inevitable parade of pink-ruffled piranhas. and Luke caught his eye. “Do you have a pen and some paper I could borrow?" The waiter looked at the singles ads and smirked knowingly. Candy wouldn't have gotten within a mile of him. “Certainly.. She intrigued him. will pose as yours in return. She'd compared blind dates and surprise fix-ups to being haunted by phantoms. He wondered what the male equivalent of Cotton Candy was like. Luke drank his coffee and pondered. She'd impress his siblings.. Luke thought about it. Presumably. Something must have pushed her over the edge to resort to an ad like that. Okay. The words reverberated in his head as he stirred his coffee and sipped the dark brew. and probably not just from watching a Christmas movie. If he'd had her with him tonight.Single man! Are you haunted by the ghost of Christmas past—terrifying attempts at holiday matchmaking? Frightened by the ghost of Christmas future—more yuletide yahoos? Then what the dickens are you waiting for? Give us both a Christmas present. for instance. That revealed something else about her. he read back over the result and nodded to himself. the more it intrigued him. Wendy wouldn't be perusing her guest list right now looking for another candidate to foist on him. She didn't mind being a single woman.
A man in the same boat. And hope that there really was a Santa Claus after all. She'd attracted men who thought it was a clever hook and wanted to date her. Together we would escape our sad plight . **** After waving to the postman out front. Thanksgiving was only a few days away and the holiday madness was underway. she thought in disgust. Her brows shot up. Well. Not one single reasonable rational reply in the whole batch.the ad out and folded it with his answer. She pulled the single sheet of paper free of the envelope and started to read. Men who wanted to show her theirDickens . Men who wanted to unwrap her for Christmas. business cards and other odds and ends for the all-important envelopes. “Well.” she murmured. An hour later. He'd mail it to her post office box tomorrow. as she reached the last letter. her enthusiasm had dimmed considerably. The dreadful mismatches of misses and misters." 'T'was the month before Christmas and all through the house Were relatives trying to find me a spouse. “It seems we have a winner. Even in the mail. A man with a sense of humor. She didn't have much time. The slot bulged with envelopes. Fretting when the key stuck. nobody took her seriously. she practically danced around the box until she had it open and peered inside hopefully. Then what to my weary eyes should appear But a singles ad asking for my help this year! Together we'd fend off the brothers and sisters. The bag was upended on her desk and Jordan rummaged through the clutter of pens. lipsticks. well. She couldn't believe it. She hoped it wasn't too soon to expect a response to her ad. Bonanza! She'd struck itbig! With a quick glance to make sure she wasn't noticed. she might as well read the last one. I got talked half to death by sickly-sweet chatter And fled for my life from her sugary patter. So much for attracting a decent human being. Jordan scooped the mail into her oversized bag and zoomed back home. Jordan fitted the key into her box. What did she have to lose? Maybe this one could even spell.
He could spell. Her notebook ready.And find Christmas Eve. A man who'd appreciate her creative abilities and personality. except in her vivid imagination. did he like tactile experiences like using paper and pen or did he do everything on computer? The typed letter on a blank piece of regular paper told her very little. to the pen cap's detriment. In short. patient. inviting an answer. Or did that matter? She couldn't get off-track. it would be better if he were as close as possible to her fantasy man. understanding man with a good sense of humor. Although. and occasionally via the . Now she just had the problem of trying to roughly determine how close her “Single Man” came to her specifications. she conceded. Now she just had to find out a little more about him. A man who could get along with her four impossible brothers. She'd sifted through an awful lot of pebbles.” She'd drop it in the mail along with the new concepts for her greeting card company. he didn't like the Three Stooges. A fun-loving. She did most of her work by mail. he could play the one she defined for him. for once. a questionnaire. So as long as he wasn't a felon on parole. He had a sense of humor. She really needed to know if she could stand his company better than the dentist or the undertaker or any of the other past holiday horrors her brothers had come up with. And he needed her as much as she needed him. a good night. The rest of the letters went directly into the round file—the wicker garbage basket. Fortunately Jordan was free to create her fiancé in her own dream image. Why not? If he could play a role. but she'd struck gold at last. sensitive. So what would she consider marrying? Jordan pondered that. Like—did he prefer Larry or Moe? If he couldn't answer. Maybe she should send him a survey. she chewed thoughtfully on the cap of a pen and debated possibilities. Amazing. It took some time. A man who found her little eccentricities amusing. For instance. instead of recommending a good therapist. a man who didn't exist. most important. Did he have an ego the size of a mountain? Did he consider commercial artists like herself hacks or sell-outs? Did he have the ability to think on his feet and. Sexy and devastatingly attractive. Jordan pinned the letter from “Single Man” to her corkboard. but Jordan got her reply finished and addressed to “Single Man. and whether or not she could tolerate hours of his company through the holidays. The mystery respondent had signed “Single Man” to his spoof and enclosed his address. and a great deal of thought. The kind of thing that would reveal all sorts of little quirks. Jordan thought she just might have found the solution to her dilemma. He had to look enough like someone she'd actually consider marrying to make it work. the ability to play a pretend role convincingly? Her brothers knew her well enough to spot an obvious fake. A man who was successful enough not to mind her success. Fortunately she had the sort of job that wouldn't cause any of her brothers to question her frequent trips to the post office or rabid interest in the mail.
"Listen. I couldn't eat. Jordan shook her head.” she agreed solemnly." The literal reply made Jordan want to laugh again. so what did she expect? “Last Thursday. I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't skip a meal. And she was. She might actually get away with it. Jordan thought in delight..” Randall gave her a faintly accusing look. but she usually took turns eating with one of her brothers’ families. There was no reasoning with her brothers. I want them to go out first thing in the morning. He'd be hurt and he was too kind and considerate to deserve that. who could eat? Even a cast-iron constitution like hers had its limits.” Cheer radiated from her voice.fax function on her computer if it was urgent. “You're right. you know I'm as healthy as a horse. it would look a lot less suspicious if Randall remembered her being excited and sparkly-eyed over something. With Seymour. what are you doing?” he inquired. Honestly. Randall was a serious guy. “I have a new batch of cards ready to go and they're really good. “Jordan. She held her pose and smiled innocently at her second to oldest brother." Her shudder was entirely unfeigned. I told you we'd be going out tonight. Just the prospect of putting one over on the bunch of matchmakers—along with the possibility of actually relaxing and enjoying the season—was enough to have her doing cartwheels. Jordan hugged him reassuringly. “What are you doing here? I didn't even hear you come in. But then he was a CPA." Randall's faintly reproving look censured her for having a sylphlike slenderness. as they called it. but you didn't answer.” Jordan grasped at anything to explain her flight from Seymour the mortician. The gray eyes and light hair that added to her otherworldly air made the rugged brothers feel like they had a fragile hold on someone who might slip out of their grasp at any time. “You're a dear. they kept her fed and also kept her from being “reclusive". “Can I walk you to your .. But they meant well and she loved them. She whirled around in a burst of sheer joy. “I had a sudden attack of . Between the four of them. I also eat like a linebacker. Did I forget to show up or something? Were you expecting me?" "No. You missed a meal last Thursday because you didn't show.” Jordan said with deliberate cheerfulness. I have to drop these at the post office. so I just put your dinner in the refrigerator. and so is Teresa for sending you over to feed me. I stood in your doorway and called. When do I ever miss a meal?" He responded to her teasing with typical seriousness. of something. Randall caught her giddy arabesque as he came out of the kitchen wiping his hands. Had she missed a dinner appointment? She didn't remember having one. “Come on. Just because a person liked to live alone. but she resisted the impulse with an effort. She figured if she suddenly turned up engaged." "You didn't hear me because you were writing when I came in. “Something that didn't agree with me. "Thanks!” She dropped her improvised joyful dance pose and skipped over to kiss him on the cheek. Strong as an ox.
” Randall pointed out. His family was more than capable of it. he told himself. It was too soon to expect a reply. Jordan leaned companionably against her brother's side. She could usually get a little smile out of him. It was the sort of prank they'd pull. He couldn't expect to hear from her before Wednesday at the earliest. Christmas wasn't going to be a humbug. She could even spare some good will towards “Single Man. Lawrence.” Jordan answered his remark with a mischievous grin. Chapter Two Monday Luke was on pins and needles. She probably hadn't even got his letter yet. Unlike Gary.” She stood on tiptoe to kiss him good-bye and waved as he drove away. too.car?" He indicated for her to precede him and they walked outside together. and I'll see you on Sunday. She was one step closer to peace on earth. now that she thought about it. “How could I forget dinner at your place with my favorite nephews?" "You say that about all your nephews. He'd probably been the one to set her up with Seymour. "They're all my favorites. the next in age. Above all. He was counting on her help. But he smiled. She really didn't think Randall was responsible for that one. Jordan thought in satisfaction. and could usually be counted on to appreciate her antics. Either Theodore or Lawrence. the sudden disappointment when no reply appeared in the stack of business correspondence was surprisingly sharp. He was fairly laid-back in contrast to the rest. He wasn't obsessed with a woman he hadn't even met. He'd be fending off advances from men named Maurice or Gavin. He hoped . But that didn't stop him from waiting impatiently for the mail and digging through it eagerly when it arrived. Even though he'd told himself not to expect anything. too. “I won't forget. “You won't forget next Sunday?” Randall insisted. Then there was Theodore. And all your nieces.” she assured him. the voice of Jake Marlow was not ringing in his head with dire warnings about leaving things too late. the oldest. that was all. Evidently shewasn't forgiven for not showing up on Thursday. who'd wink at him and encourage him toembrace his sexual identity. Then she broke her previous land speed record for getting to the post office. Luke reflected grimly that even that could change if he stayed single much longer. was probably born laughing. He simply dreaded the coming onslaught of parties with the inevitable questions about his still being a bachelor and being seated next to women whose only potential suitability as a future mate consisted of their having been born with the proper chromosomes." This year. if they decided he'd never married because he wasn't interested in heterosexual monogamy. “Give my love to your family. He hoped again that the mystery woman got his letter. He was a tough nut. Seymour would have given him the willies. even if it was somewhat stiffly. the youngest of her brothers. with any luck at all. Luke shuddered.
who just crossed her legs and settled back comfortably.” he agreed. Abby. A sister's special prerogative. With an effort. “Perfume?” It had to be her." That startled him. silent invitation. Only he was expecting her to write. He looked up at her with the same unseeing expression. . When a knock interrupted his musings. since obviously it was the truth. was bringing in his mail. that will be all. he wasn't even pretending to be working anymore. Abby chose that moment to appear with his morning mail. what a charming welcome! No wonder you get so many visitors. and Luke shot out of his chair again.. Luke shot out of his chair and took a step towards the door. He was acting strangely. No such luck with Wendy. yet he couldn't even concentrate on work. his secretary. “Oh.she'd found it amusing. all-business man staring blankly at the report in front of him as if wondering where it had come from.. "Expecting someone?” She arched an inquiring look at her brother and took in the unusual sight of the normally intense. He'd stared at the same report for so long he should have had it memorized. He'd hoped she'd answer it. and both eagerly waited for an explanation. Luke realized. Disappointment drove him to speak without thinking. his only thought was that Abby." Wendy raised a fair brow at his surly tone. They exchanged thoughtful glances as he turned back to his desk.. At least intriguing enough to warrant an answer. “My.. "Yes. He gave her a disgruntled look and all but snatched the mail from her. “What?" She was suspicious. If he suddenly turned up engaged. "Expecting a letter from Ed McMahon?” Abby teased. but she acquiesced and left his office. he supposed. the one thing guaranteed to absorb his attention and divert his morbid thoughts. Abby . Besides. His family knew him too well to buy the charade without laying some groundwork. he figured this could work to his advantage. Dare I come in?" Luke retreated to his desk and waved at the chair in front of it in a grudging. By Wednesday morning. “Thank you. thanks. It wasn't Abby. “Uh . he wanted Wendy to be able to remember his distraction." "That would be the lavender envelope with all the perfume on it. And soon. Iam expecting an important letter." Abby's smile looked a bit disappointed. Witty.. He smiled and the abrupt transformation didn't go unnoticed by either woman. not appear in person. It's you. he snapped his attention back to the present and pushed the mystery woman and Jake Marlow to the back of his mind.. focused.
.” Luke agreed. although he didn't remember any such thing. “The letter. It clearly had no purpose but pleasure. The one you're keeping so romantically over your heart. The chic blonde leaned back in her seat and swung one foot idly.” Wendy expounded. Fine handwriting graced the outside. Personally. I'm sending you. “As a matter of fact. Although I reserve the right to plead the Fifth. Wendy was fond of dares. That had to be a good sign.) Please complete and return the questionnaire. A truly cheerful thought. Question One: I'm unmarried because. Your only brother. Luke managed to weather the rest of the low-level debriefing before Wendy finally accepted that she wasn't going to get anything more out of him and mercifully left. That was a little soon. He planted both hands on the cherry desk. Really. Encouraged. there is. He hoped she didn't mean this coming Friday. There is absolutely no cost to you (other than postage) and all answers will be held in strict confidence. the enclosed questionnaire. he heaved a sigh of relief and pulled out his letter. Unfortunately.. He ignored it. using each other's families as an excuse.Luke dropped the stack and sorted through until he found the envelope that was obviously not business. and feel free to ask any questions of your own. He'd only just heard from his mysterious single woman. absolutely free of obligation. “You remember—a little thing at Aaron's. He repeated. Single Man: Poetry? I'm impressed! As my number-one contender for the position of temporary fiancé. "Next Friday. The day after Thanksgiving." "Friday?” Luke frowned and tried to remember what was happening Friday. You can bring her along Friday. There were always far too many of these “little things” scheduled from November to January. “Is there something I can do for you?" Wendy smiled triumphantly. “Is there something I can do for you?" Wendy smiled winningly back at him. but Luke was still in the dark. . He needed time. “Who is what from?” His tone dared her to question him further. leaned forward and asked with studied casualness. from the feminine stationary to the musky fragrance it exuded." "Right. “Who's that from?" He put on his coldest business persona and stared back. Luke swiftly tucked the envelope inside the pocket of his discreet gray suit and squared his shoulders to face Wendy's curiosity. “The perfumed one. He had high hopes that he and his fabulous fake fiancée could manage to avoid several of them." Luke dealt with that the only way he could think of. Alone at last. Within reason. She'd written by hand.” she drawled. (Although I have to remind you that you're trusting a person who was desperate enough to place a singles ad in the first place.
Single Woman Luke smiled more than once reading her pert answers that revealed as much about her as she claimed to ask about him. Also. Single Woman: I would have sent flowers. Candy would start to look like a real candidate for Ms. I don't know of any other way to save my sanity and survive the holidays.. I just got out on parole d. The obviously slanted responses disqualified the first four and left the last as her less than subtle preference. Single Woman. especially during the holiday season b. shower single women with flowers and poetry I'll bet you've noticed a distinct pattern here. e. Thanksgiving was coming. he should be as blatant in his preferences as she was. it sounds like fun e. but how can I convince you only through anonymous letters? Since you might have some real concerns about meeting me for the first time. a. Close Enough. If he didn't have someone to fend off his family by then. I don't have a job c.. I don't have a life d. Question Three: I'm willing to spend my time filling out this ridiculous questionnaire because. my therapist recommended that I stay busy. I hate them all and they deserve it b. a. I don't talk to my neighbor's dog.. She didn't like bowling. Yours Most Untruly. There had to be a way to get through the letter-writing stage and meet her in person. but the florist wouldn't deliver to a post office box. Or even Ms. I haven't yet met Ms. Too bad her post office box wouldn't accommodate a floral delivery. Otherwise he could earn some extra points with her and speed up the process that way. attend Star Trek conventions dressed as my favorite character d. why not? d. in this case. I don't know e... or use the wrong fork at dinner.a. my neighbor's dog told me to c. I'm convinced I'm the right one for you. play the accordion c. Luke mused. Maybe he should come right out and ask her to cut to the chase. women haters or psychobabblers. Question Two: I'm willing to lie to my family because. wax my car e. you fascinate me and I'd do a lot more than fill out a silly questionnaire for you Question Four: What I really like to do for fun is. I have no social graces whatsoever and bathe only as an annual ritual c. She all but admitted to preferring bribery and flattery. I'm revealing my identity so you can . haven't you? I eagerly await your reply. I hate women b. Also a dependency issue.. go bowling b. And that “little thing” at his brother's. Maybe. I suggest that you choose the time and a public place you'd feel comfortable in. hate my family. So Right I Can't Believe It. I have a commitment issue. Also a trust/intimacy issue. Thee 's definitely had it. a. Right.
and there was a good chance he'd get it the next day. he was certainly worth meeting. I'm waiting to hear from you. she did not live in a cave. The sooner the better. Apparently. He had family problems. Her mind made up. If nothing else. Make me your stand-in and I'll send you flowers every day. There were plenty of respectable cafes and coffee shops. And if. Maybe her “Single Man” was the last rescuing knight in existence. He'd given her the advantage of retaining anonymity while he revealed himself. Jordan glanced back over the letter and grinned. 32. Saturday at the latest.investigate me for any criminal history I might potentially be hiding. No matter what opinion her brothers held. and of choosing the time and place if she even chose to meet him. Or a very chivalrous one. by some freak of chance. I own a consulting business called Solid Solutions. Luke **** His bold. I need you because I have an extended family with an unwarranted and disturbing interest in seeing me paired off. she'd have an excuse to escape from Randall's get-together in case her demented brothers had another surprise waiting for her. Luke Foster? The local financial expert featured in magazines and newspapers?The Luke Foster neededher? Well. slashing signature told Jordan that here was a man who left his mark. So she should arrange to meet him on Sunday. You may have heard of it. Meet me at the cafe on Battery Street. She might have heard of his business? He did have a sense of humor. it just went to show that money didn't solve everything. I'm Luke Foster. She could get a reply to the post office by five. never married. Sunday afternoon at four. Meet me. He could hardly be worse than Seymour. Any one of those would have people there at all hours. she wouldn't be any worse off for trying. Foster. and apparently anything female qualifies. I can't call you Mr. She'd have to live in a cave not to have heard of it. Luke: I suppose if we're engaged. Jordan glanced at the clock. Jordan figured. he was a total write-off. too. he was willing to resort to bribery to persuade her. She really didn't have anything to lose by showing up to check him out. Whatever. As good a meeting place as any. Only a very confident man would give her the upper hand like that. can I? I appreciate your willingness to meet me at my convenience. Jordan **** . You won't be able to miss me.
When it finally did. Jordan represented a mystery. The woman paused inside the door and her clear gray eyes. If he ran into Jake Marlow again. Nothing distinctive about her. Her cool gaze continued over the tables and patrons and came to rest on Luke. At least she'd chosen a place with an interesting view. He stood politely as she reached his table. too. She smiled—an elfin expression that lit her composed features with mischief—and strolled confidently towards him. He'd have his holiday conspirator secured. He doubted she'd be stunningly beautiful. he still couldn't fail to notice the next person who came in. She wore a heavy black cape that came to her knees. She tilted her head back to meet him eye to eye and grinned again. visible to Luke even at this distance. he was early. Sunday couldn't come soon enough. There were many ways he could think of that would make a person impossible to miss. revealing white-blond hair cut spiky short. But then. It sounded ominous. Well."You won't be able to miss me. Luke wondered if that was her problem. under which black jeans were visible down to where they tucked into black leather half-boots. Beautiful women collected men as a hobby. She was dressed in black from head to toe. She casually unwound her scarf and draped the ends over her shoulders. A long black scarf covered her hair and the ends trailed carelessly down her back.” Luke found himself wondering what she meant by that. He held his breath. brushing stray snowflakes from her hair and he eyed her carefully. Luke sipped meditatively at his hazelnut coffee and continued to keep watch on the comings and goings at the popular cafe. Lake Champlain was a beautiful sight in the large window as snowflakes swirled. he'd be safe from that quarter. Luke settled at a small table that offered a clear view of the door and waited. Still he wondered—until she joined a group of friends at another table. A woman came in. But apparently the woman in black wasn't easily intimidated. He towered over her and wondered if maybe he should have stayed seated. He didn't want to intimidate her. Sunday he'd meet her and the mystery would be solved. . Caught up in the scenery. She'd said he couldn't miss her. She had another fifteen minutes. For the first time. and few of them were good. she might say the same of him. the traffic through the cafe door and his private musings concerning the identity and appearance of the mysterious Jordan. wandered over the cafe patrons for a moment. She'd have a hundred volunteers without having to place an ad. It was simply the natural desire to solve a puzzle. too. His problem wasn't lack of feminine attention. For some reason the thought disturbed him and repeatedly intruded as he attempted to focus on a marketing analysis for a new client. but in fact the opposite. he told himself.
Just the type to impress her brothers with his manly ability to defend her delicate person. couldn't complain about his secure. if not pure aesthetics. Definitely. undertakers and lawyers of her nightmares. His were light blue and steady. Or the charming slightly pointed chin. His broad chest and wide shoulders would appeal to most women with a pulse and he had the face of a rather battered knight. Something about him reminded her of John Wayne in “The Quiet Man. He was also very appealing in a way totally atypical of stereotyped movie-star good looks.” Turning back to Luke. Jordan wondered if he'd ever been a cowboy. . Come to think of it. or a fighter. “Something else we have in common. She'd just known it was going to work out perfectly. in spite of his rugged appearance that might otherwise be alarming. Jordan firmly believed that eyes revealed a great deal about a person's character. rumbling voice that went well with his battle-worn face. He had nice eyes. “Your fiancée. And even Randall. “Hello. he scored high on sex appeal. “What's that?" "Hazelnut. He was absolutely perfect. I'm Jordan Christian. She laughed and he thought she looked more sprite-like than ever. he noted with approval. in every way he was just the kind of man her brothers would love to have her bring home for their inspection." Airily she waved one slender hand to indicate the seat across from her as if she thought he was waiting for her permission to sit in her presence. the accountant. too. “If I wasn't. merely because she managed to get herself into the occasional scrape."Luke?" She had a husky contralto voice.” As he seated himself across from her. “I love hazelnut. Nothing she couldn't handle herself. But of course big brothers never saw it that way. “I'll have the same. Or her diminutive size. She looked very much like one of the little people come to charm him. solid financial prospects." She nodded and felt a bone-deep conviction that this was absolutelyright . I'd change my name. He was the man to protect her from the dentists. "Flattery will get you everywhere.” He had a low. Their waiter appeared and Jordan dropped her eyes to the cup and saucer in front of Luke.. maybe he had been. Luke. she added." She turned her smile on the waiter. It made her feel she could depend on him. Something about her carriage made Luke think of the queen of the fairies." He gifted her with a slow smile that lit his blue eyes with warmth. Yes. Maybe it was her pale coloring.” Luke answered. Big and macho-looking. She continued blithely.. Jordan considered Luke with a sense of ever-growing jubilation.” she assured him and seated herself before he could move to assist her. since they imagined she needed alot of defending . pale pink Cupid's bow mouth and deep dimples.
I can't say I've ever suffered that." There was nothing sadder than a depressed pixie. And failed. undeterred. He turned his hand palm side up to hold her small one comfortingly. "So tell me." Wry amusement in his eyes told Jordan what an understatement that was.” She reached forward and took one of his broad hands to emphasize her point. Luke. "And before that was the sadistic. have you?” Jordan challenged. “It's unkind to laugh at another person's misery. Luke. “At least you've never been stuck with an undertaker. Luke decided as he took in the defeated slump of her fragile shoulders. Therewere worse things than Cotton Candy. he decided. She was still indignant over that one and it showed. I can't tell .” he assured her. talking about death and dying. I have a business that takes most of my time and energy. that's wonderful. depressing and egotistical dentist who followed me on a cruise to the Bahamas. I'm going to change my name and move to Mexico. “what's a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?" He gazed back at her steadily. cruel people responsible for her misery. She could envision spending the next two months in his company without suffering the agonies of the damned. “The undertaker was the last straw. Which made her wonder why he didn't have a line of volunteers to aid and abet him if he wanted to keep his family off his back. He wanted to find them and flag their bookkeeping systems for an IRS audit.” No wonder the poor woman had resorted to running an ad. “No. I also have a large family who think their sole purpose here on earth is to find me a wife. She frowned at him. I'm at the end of my rope. That might not be so bad except for the—shall we say—unusualcandidates they come up with." She grinned. Then there was the divorce attorney who wanted me to sign a prenuptial agreement on our first date. “That's what fiancés are for. “I might ask you the same question. “I do need you. “I believe I told you the answer to that. now you see why I need you.Nothing about him was off-putting or abrasive. If you can't pull off this charade with me. She brightened magically at his words and Luke felt rewarded. And best of all. “I asked you first. “Oh. Just imagine it—dinner with an undertaker. I was supposed to have dinner with him." Jordan recited her list of grievances moodily and drank some hazelnut coffee to ease the pain." Luke tried not to laugh at her melodramatic recounting. He felt a sudden surge of resentment for the thoughtless. He looked surprised." He squared his wide shoulders and braced his hands against the table top. Luke. Anyway. she didn't have to worry about him getting serious on her or taking advantage of the enforced intimacy due to their unusual circumstances.” she began lightly. He wasn't desperate for female companionship. as the man who'd been named Burlington's most eligible bachelor.
and she saw his unguarded reaction. She looked as if a good gust of wind coming in off the lake would sweep her away. And Aaron and Cassie—his other sister—would be right behind her. either. "They have this fixation about getting me married off.you how much this means." "Do you actually do that?" "Talk out loud? Sure. "I'm glad. productive member of society. She needed him. He nodded his agreement with her assessment of the situation. He hadn't even considered the uncles and cousins and assorted others. Luke could see her point. yelling out punch lines to the walls to find out how they sound. this could work to our advantage. “You know. It was beautiful. She laughed merrily. No doubt Wendy would have a number of awkward questions lined up and waiting. “Are you free on Friday? My brother Aaron is having this ‘thing'. “People like me. but I'm content to wait for the right person and I'm tired of fending off the wrong ones. She seemed blithely content to answer. So easily hurt." She nodded. Luke drew her out with the ease of a man accustomed to getting information from even unwilling sources as he questioned her about herself. “And what about Thursday?” She pondered the possibilities. sometimes. “So that's about it. Luke filed that information away for future reference.” Luke answered soberly. She was so small. She'd had time to prepare. And that's where you come in.” Cheerful candor and a careless shrug finished that admission.” he admitted. That piece of information surprised him. I don't have anything against marriage. “I'll need your number and directions to . I'm a decent." There Luke thought he might see eye to eye with them." So her brothers were the villains. if his parents didn't claim seniority. I love my brothers.” She gave him another beatific grin. Maybe she didn't need a keeper. using the other family as an excuse. He learned that she lived alone.” she continued. Cards usually get read out loud and things that look good don't always sound right. but really. we can eat twice and miss all the dish-washing. never to be seen again. the more advantages Jordan could see. If we time it right. And constantly coming up with new and different ways to say the same thing is enough to make anybody talk to themselves.” Her gray eyes sparkled. “And we can duck out of both places if the interrogation gets too hot. That she was an orphan and that her four older brothers had taken on the job of raising her. I want a rest. "I always wondered who wrote those. law-abiding.” A light of fanatical glee lit her gray eyes. but she certainly needed a fiancé. indeed. sometimes I wonder if they're firing on all cylinders.” The more she thought about it. yet. "Now you know. A prearranged escape route seemed prudent. “They think I need a keeper. hunched over desks and computer keyboards. That she earned a living writing greeting cards. Jordan slid comfortably low in the booth and summed up her abbreviated life story.
“Size five—but don't you think that's going a little overboard?" . I'm always running in there to send my submissions off. Your birthday. He'd come back. I did write down a few things for you. “I need to know your ring size. “We did meet through the post office . Wonderful. and putting the energy he'd funneled into his business into an equally satisfying personal life. her elfin face catching his attention as he stood in the mail line." Luke could almost believe it had happened just like that. Her graceful. But don't worry. You just tell me your size. I'll get the ring. Luke cleared his head. The best fictions are the most believable. they'll see through us in a heartbeat..your house. And you're absolutely right.” he reminded her. He'd propose before she could brace for it. Eventually she would agree. She wouldn't be able to resist. much less from a pawn shop. I should be able to find something in a pawn shop. She was just out of reach. Jordan's charming face took on a decidedly stubborn. purposely hoping to catch her again. We started meeting purposely and lingering.” Jordan added in explanation. he'd draw her closer and weave her into the fabric of his life. tantalizingly near. And if she did. Mentally." "You did?” She was thorough. Luke thought in approval. Your brothers’ names. and hope to catch one of her innocent smiles that he already could tell meant trouble. He'd wait for her. “No fiancée of mine is going to buy her own ring. “A man with a mind for detail. flat voice warned her not to argue. He wouldn't be able to resist persuading her to linger and exchange more than a casualhello . he'd wear her down in the sweetest way. and you had a priority letter to pick up. or she'd escape his silken snare. He'd offer her any terms she wanted. He could just imagine it. That sort of thing. set for a fight. He'd have to work quickly." Jordan rummaged through her shoulder bag. Something about her seemed so elusive.. He wouldn't rest from the first fleeting contact until his ring rested on her slender finger. With that one. He blamed Jake for planting ideas about rearranging his priorities." Luke braced his hands flat on the table and leaned forward. “As a matter of fact. mutinous expression. The closest to the truth. light walk would draw his eyes after her as she left and he'd be intrigued by the petite pixie. in a way. “You might also make some notes for me. Your secretary had the flu. How about this—we met at the post office. "Then we ran into each other a few other times. Also I came up with a pretty good story to explain our whirlwind courtship. But the mental lapse had reminded him of something vital. slim thread. "Uh huh. Without an engagement ring. He'd draw her into a conversation that would capture her agile mind and lure her into his offer to continue over cappuccino. and then one thing led to another.” His hard. started exchanging small talk. her fey eyes catching his and exchanging a telling look." She looked impressed. This imagination stuff was dangerous.
When he looked back down at the check. “Fine. Don't worry." Luke nodded brusquely. "We might be able to duck out sooner. it was oddly fitting." "Oh. I'll get the ring. it definitely carried disquieting implications. as the starting point of their unconventional relationship. It didn't bode well.” he placated. Of course you'll get it back. wouldn't it? Sorry. I'll pick you up at your place on Thursday." He didn't miss her look of dismay. She hadn't even put his ring on and already she was giving it back.” He slid a business card over to her. outwardly calm while inwardly he reeled from her words. What do you think?" He wondered where the dickens he'd lost control of this entire crazy situation. She tapped one fingertip on the tabletop for a moment. It shouldn't have bothered him. What time are you expected for dinner?" "Around two.” Gray eyes twinkled at him. For a man who was always solidly in control and securely entrenched." Jordan unwound herself from the booth and stood. Dickens. Probably from around six to ten.He'd overreacted. “I have appearances to maintain. “Maybe you should insure it. the money isn't a problem and I won't lose anything on the deal. It shouldn't have made him worry that this was proof that he'd already left matters of the heart too late. I might lose it. None of his reliable methods could predict what she might do next. I forgot. For a man who relied on solid facts and carefully kept records.. “Right.. but it did." Luke stared steadily back. The black scarf swathed her head again. then. However. “Until Thursday. With a final conspiratorial wink. She wouldn't even think enough about it to keep from losing it.” Then she frowned. “If you have any questions or need anything. Luke. It wouldn't look right. It shouldn't have .” Jordan mused out loud. it's not like it's going anywhere. . It shouldn't have hit him where it hurt—in his masculine pride. Luke stood. And I see your point. we'll go deal with mine. Luke drew a slow breath and searched for an explanation.” She brightened again. to tell each other we're drowning and need to be rescued. “Perfect. he saw that she'd had the effrontery to pay the tab. Then she beamed. After we get through your family. “I have it. both ways. “Then I'll be there at one-thirty to go over anything last minute we might need to cover. staring numbly after her for seconds—or possibly hours. He decided he was on thin ice and it was best to stick to the facts for now. the black fairy vanished into the gathering twilight. "We should have a signal. making her look like a movie star incognito. it was particularly disturbing. And then I'd feel terrible. He didn't think she'd translate to any kind of graph or chart. only without the sunglasses. Itwould look funny if your fiancée didn't have the Rock of Gibraltar on her finger. A code word. of course. call me. though.
thanks. "Oh. May I help you?" Yes!Jordan did a little victory dance that her smooth speaking voice didn't betray.. I hate them.” Inspiration struck once. Jordan tapped out the number from the card Luke had given her.. “No. as the unknown Abby no doubt tried to figure out who “Jordan” was and if she was supposed to recognize the name." "Darling. “Hello.Still. handsome. “Yes. They were going to drop the bomb on Thursday. and didn't. She could only hope that the woman would follow standard business phone etiquette and identify herself when she answered. "Good morning.” he assured her in a strangled voice. or did he sound pleased to hear from her? She couldn't resist vamping a little." Hmm. I hope so.” Abby replied with a distinctly warmer tone to her voice. “Some family member who just happened to drop in to grill you." "Okay. slowly stretching her arms over her head and leaning to the far side both ways. With quiet satisfaction he decided that his family deserved everything Jordan would give them. We're not." . This is Abby." Jordan thought. Chapter Three Bright and early Monday morning. I need to speak with Luke. Abby. with the phone cradled between her shoulder and cheek. is he in?" A slight pause followed. One small detail overlooked. but I'll buzz him for you. tell me we aren't on a speaker phone.” Jordan waited." "We aren't. This is Jordan. as if he'd started to choke on something. "Jordan?" Was it her active imagination. Luke probably hadn't informed his secretary yet. Luke's on another line. a tough one. It was only when the phone started to ring that she realized she should know his secretary's name. "Oh. Luke was actually looking forward to Thanksgiving. then twice. Solid Solutions. “Ilove your perfume. “Then your secretary's in the room?" "No. yes. “Someone's in your office. Oops. Party line?" "No. Are we alone?" He made a faint sound.
no price is too high. a fact she was certain she hadn't mentioned. I didn't like the way we left things last night. "No. because you didn't send them. darling. He hadn't been teasing about the flowers. But considering my options. And even if you weren't. A very enjoyable sound. Jordan didn't think she'd heard him laugh before. “Youwere being high-handed. The graceful white flowers were her favorite." "No. I sent you flowers. she was smiling again. Not easy to do. darling." Oh. “I have my ways. your fiancée will ride to your rescue at the drop of a hat. I'm willing to overlook it. you wouldn't know where to send them to. "There is that. Meet me at my office. “Where do you want to meet?" Then he actually topped her for bold moves. We'll go shopping for the ring together. Nice touch. “Of course I didn't get them. "At twelve-thirty?” he continued smoothly—somewhat like a steamroller moving steadily ahead. remember?" Luke laughed. Jordan rolled her eyes. and I was being a bit high-handed.” Jordan huffed. but unfortunately he couldn't personally appreciate the effect. He evensounded like John Wayne in “The Quiet Man.” Jordan sniffed in mock derision. can I? It would look suspicious." "Darling.” Jordan figured circumstances being what they were. Moments later. “But I have a better idea. he'd be too relieved at the present time to hold a grudge. line and sinker." "I don't believe for a minute that you actually mean that. You were too busy being high-handed.” Then he added the clincher. “I'm glad you called. no sacrifice too great. Maybe he had a healthy dash of ." "I can't fax it to you right now. How dare he hang up on her? Was that any way to treat a fiancée? The doorbell interrupted her fit of pique and she banged the phone down to answer it. Only it occurred to me that you wouldn't knowwhere to drop your hat because I neglected to leave the information with you. of course I mean it. I realized you were right about that." Whew." Jordan eyed the bouquet of calla lilies and wondered where he'd gotten them from. though—she's probably bought it hook." Then he hung up. whoever she is. Jordan stared in disbelief at the receiver in her hand. Did you get them?" "Never tease a woman about something really important like flowers. And hedid have his “ways.” Jordan swore fervently.” Humor sounded dryly through the line. “I look forward to it. Can you meet me for lunch?" "For the man who's saving me from Seymour the undertaker."I admire your intuitiveness. "Never fear. sure.” Luke hesitated only a second. After you left last night. I'll see you at twelve-thirty.
Maybe he had a really dreadful middle name he could use. When she put down her pen to stretch her aching shoulders. . better still. She wet her hands and fluffed up her hair. A friendly smile in return from the perfectly made-up face beneath the sleek chestnut bob at the front desk convinced her she was off to a good start. That led to an idea for a series of cards. Norton and company. If for no other reason than his name. and car keys in a miniature whirlwind. Winston. Fortunately. Her brothers seemed to share a bizarre penchant for choosing ludicrously inappropriate men with names no loving mother would choose. grabbed pink lipstick to touch up with on the way and collected cape. Jordan took a breath. She hoped it wouldn't put them off Luke. Her white leggings and matching long sweater in a slightly flared tunic style made a nice contrast to the black cape that hung open on her shoulders. although she'd done it before and pretended it was a fashion statement. Her fiancé was a man of many talents. Luke and the origins of his name forgotten entirely. or “Luke” was short for something else. No. she was being ridiculous. Deciding a dramatic cape might be a bit much for business types. It took an unusual man to surprise Jordan. Ten minutes later a composed. Jordan caught sight of the clock and let out a shriek of horror. Just barely . Knit leggings barely preceded baggy socks and half-boots. All in white now. Unless it was a much larger office than she'd realized. He was far preferable to Seymour.intuitiveness himself. Gaston. But she did owe it to Luke to at least appear normal. she removed it and slung it over one arm. she looked as innocent and pure as the driven snow. She'd make it. serene Jordan stood outside the impressive office door. no seams declaring an item donned inside-out. There. Getting away with almost anything depended on a shameless ability to lie on command and. The thought was unsettling. pocketbook with notes still inside. Starting with the woman behind the front desk who must be Abby. her sweater was already sliding down over her head. believe it. but she'd make it. She flew out the door and her faithful little car came alive on command. she was a pro at the art of the quick change. Her stylish boots were laced and on the proper feet. donned a smile and swept inside the quietly plush office as if she had always belonged there.” Jordan said and turned up the wattage on her smile. and she was soon scribbling away. That distracted her from her flash of trepidation and Jordan started paging through a book of names. Mitchell... As she hurled her sweats to the floor. She would do what she always did when in a tight spot—charm the socks off of everybody. "Hello. A surreptitious glance revealed no forgotten items of clothing. Also it helped that she seemed to lack the ability to blush. The man who could out-do her for unpredictability was a man to be reckoned with. It occurred to Jordan that she might have simply traded one problem for another.
” Abby responded cheekily. Luke wondered how she managed to look so fascinating in black and equally captivating in white. morbid tutelage of a mortician suitor. Whatever it was. Jordan wasn't getting it. His blue eyes focused solidly on her and as he reached her and took her hands in his. she decided. referring to the fictitious upcoming nuptials.” Jordan dimpled charmingly. “You must be Jordan.Following her instincts. He wondered how many other looks she had. All it took was the shuddering thought of spending the holidays with Seymour the mortician to focus her energies on adoring Luke. Thanks to him. He wasn't using the right mental wave-length. You know. evidently. he simply wanted her to stand and gaze longingly into his eyes for the benefit of whoever might be present. Or. He wondered if he'd ever see all the sides of her mercurial personality. I've been half afraid to meet you." The sweet confession was just the right touch. a performance worthy of an Oscar at the very least as she looked up adoringly at Luke. fantasizing about his bride. his eyes steadily continued to penetrate into hers as if he was trying to telegraph some silent message to her. He looked and sounded just like a smitten groom-to-be. Jordan turned to see her newly acquired fake fiancé moving towards her in a straight-arrow fashion that she thought was probably typical of him. She turned her head in the direction of .” she teased." "Thank you. He wondered. Jordan continued brightly. She was a vision in soft angora that nearly matched her white-blond hair. A faintly amused “ahem” was Jordan's first audience response. Jordan did her best to look demurely bridal. Now for whose benefit were they putting on this little show? She could play the role better if she had some inkling as to the nature of the audience. They really needed to work out some more signals. what she must be thinking when he just kept looking at her. “I hope I will. Jordan tried to telegraph the question back to him. Simple enough. He should say something. possibly. She'd gone from the black fairy to the Snow Queen overnight. Luke made you sound like such a paragon.” a masculine voice replied from somewhere off to her left. Abby was looking more like a person and less like a polished executive assistant with every word. "Luke is very impressed by things like color-coded files. It's nice to meet you. eventually. She thought that was a good touch on his part. Jordan gave it her all. dismissing the label ofparagon even as she warmed to the compliment. “Is Luke with someone right now?" "Yes. This was her rescuer from truly deadly conversational gambits. “You must be Abby." At his compliment. but again the wave-length didn't seem to be working. "You look beautiful in white. she wouldn't spend the holidays composing her own epitaph under the dreary.
Luke thought. He'd thought Jordan's timely phone call would get him off the hook.the sound. and the maternal stance of inspection gave it clearly away. Jordan realized. In fact. Really. She might be small. “I can't believe it. no officer would have the heart to arrest her and no judge or jury would ever convict her. Somewhat. not even trying to avoid being overheard. and although she played it right up to the edge. Jordan turned horrified gray eyes on her silent conspirator. His mother was now looking at him as if he'd inflicted terrible suffering on Jordan's frail. dear. “I can't believe he let me meet you looking like this. the woman proceeded to turn an accusing look on Luke. How could you do this to me?” The accusing question ended with her wounded face lifted to his. Jordan thought in satisfaction. it fell far short of describing her slippery. Instead he looked sort of harried. fragile shoulders. That would have been going too far. visibly went from reserved inspection to motherly sympathy. "Oh." She managed to stop short of wringing her hands. thanks to Wendy's rumor mongering about perfumed love letters. Devious wasn't the word for her. Luke was certain she'd make a fortune pulling off con games and never being caught. he realized in dawning horror.” Luke replied.” she hissed. the family resemblance. The obvious conclusion floored him. I thought I raised you to have better manners. Instead. Also her marvelous acting talents. but she certainly wasn't helpless. Although if she was caught. she would be downright frightening. “Tell me this isn't your mother. his mother had decided she had to get a look at the mysterious fiancée before the rest of the family met her on Thanksgiving." Luke was dumbfounded. This isn't how I wanted it to go. And now he was the bad guy?Unfair . Luke would be in trouble now. He had her sympathy. like his reaction to her description of her fraternal tormentors. which she hoped he appreciated. . and didn't have to fake her consternation. No doubt she was recalling her own trepidation about meeting her future mother-in-law and feeling Jordan's pain. Sort of in need of rescue. And he'd fallen for it. wily ways. If they really were engaged. No. She'd given him a snow job fit to open a ski season. meanwhile. In fact. How had the wicked fairy done it? His mother had insisted on lingering and annoying him. Oh. you've embarrassed this sweet little thing. he protested silently. Jordan turned stricken eyes to his mother. she resisted the temptation to step over. Luke's mother. He didn't even have the grace to look abashed. If she ever turned to a life of crime. Luke. I was going to be all dignified so you'd be impressed. The woman waiting to be introduced to her had to be his mother. if she wasn't his ally. The age. She'd have his mother on her side. "I'm afraid I can't. She let out a faint moan of despair and buried her face in his suit jacket. Maybe contending with four brothers—plus spouses—was a piece of cake compared to a whole clan.
she let out a long gasp of relief and sagged against his convenient support.” She kissed Luke's cheek in a congratulatory salute. and in return I'm not only rescuing you but keeping my promise to send you flowers every day. I think you should be grateful. don't worry." With a parting wave and smile to Abby. “Truly. "And we should go. of all people! Still. I found you in the directory. After all. he supposed in resignation. but actually Luke was rather proud of his detective work. He thought he'd scored a few points for perseverance as well as delivering superior . They had. since she was nearly running along beside him. “But that's just it." Jordan's eyes twinkled. He glanced down at her and gave her a rueful look. I think we did pretty well. “If anyone calls for me. We had nearly given up hope that Luke would ever settle down. Luke. A cheerful warmth rose slowly and settled somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. she exited Luke's offices. "I didn't think there could be many Jordan Christians in Burlington. “You did rescue me. I'll be back around two. Once they were safely out of sight and hearing.He was impressed. And they wouldn't have been driven to it in the first place if their families would simply listen to reason. “Now.” Margaret Foster interjected. dear. Jordan let Luke pull her along.” he agreed. but she and Luke were only acting out of a sense of self-preservation. What are they going to think?" "They'll think you're an angel sent from heaven. how did youdo that?” Jordan demanded. Besides. What do you think?” Jordan went from consternation to exhilaration in a single conversational bound and waited patiently for Luke to catch up with her. It's much more fun.” Luke neatly sealed their escape as he led a very willing Jordan towards the door. for having to improvise. was to take the fall and look more or less contrite for subjecting Jordan to his mother unprepared. I'm so pleased. “Now I have to be going. not to mention any further potential matchmaking she might have had up her sleeve?" Airily. How could she help falling for you as fast as I did?” Luke teased the shameless little liar. It all happened so suddenly. she pointed out her justification for lying to a dear woman whose only crime lay in wanting to see her son happily married. “Welcome to the family. Yourmother . The least he could do. “I don't know if I should spank you or thank you.” With a final approving smile. Jordan would be firmly embraced by the family. “Thank me. Jordan might sympathize. darling. He was really going to get away with it. remembering his unexpected maneuver." "Hey.” She came closer to hug Jordan. What would a real fiancé do? He drew her into his embrace and wrapped one arm securely around her slight form. Then I called a florist and asked if they'd ever delivered to that address. I'll look forward to seeing you both on Thursday. Jordan looked pensive. "True. "Whew. Abby. That was a close one. Didn't I just rescue you from nagging and haranguing. too.” His explanation sounded businesslike. she was only keeping her side of their bargain. Judging by his normally reserved mother's reaction. shortening his stride to accommodate hers. and I just took a chance that you liked calla lilies. He'd had no idea he was getting a true professional for his holiday hoax.
Then he had no doubt that she could turn on a stream of tears to compete with Niagara Falls. complete with charming little hiccups. she sighed and threw her hands up. He had to concede that he didn't know what it was like to be in her small shoes. “Well." Her dejection at being forced to play a demeaning role looked entirely convincing. she'd cry before she'd be willing to give it up. that's why. you had her so fooled with your helpless act that she jumped on me for upsetting you. As if reading his thoughts. He patted her hand comfortingly. He silently dared her to find a real fiancé who could compete. Luke. Once she saw it. “All right." . She looked hurt. And he was about to buy her a ring to die for. He could almost see it. So much so that Luke was forced to reconsider his harsh judgment of her. He hadn't met the pixie he couldn't impress. and he wasn't exactly showering her with gratitude. She'd be one of those women who didn't look blotchy in a fit of tears. And she wouldn't be giving it back before she even put it on. In fact. She'd done it once. Four big brothers.fiancé service. How else am I supposed to compete? Look at me. but she wouldn't do it twice. of course I can't. Luke mentally added another carat to the ring they were shopping for. I might add. Then Jordan would twist her victim around her little finger as she accepted a hankie and dabbed at the crystal drops sparkling like dew on her pink cheeks and adding luminescence to her gray eyes. either. He wasn't an easy man to fool. Luke didn't think the minx cried often—unless she was in danger of not getting her way. “Do what?" "You not only had my mother believing you were my fiancée.” Come to think of it. He used his size to intimidate his competition. She gave him a look of startled innocence that he probably would have fallen for a day earlier. You won't have any problem meeting the rest of my family. I'm reduced to humiliating myself by pleading helplessness. Jordan crying would be a sight of feminine distress that would cut to the heart of any right-thinking male. He was onto her little bag of fairy tricks." Luke was beginning to suspect she did it because she couldn't help herself. Perhaps his temporary faux fiancée was a compulsive liar. No. I was supposed to have three more days to prepare. his mother wasn't easy to pull one over on. And she was correct. She'd done it for his benefit. “I was doing what I agreed to do. He'd never managed to get away with it as a child. Do you really think I can negotiate from an equal position with four hulking brutes? No. Under very difficult circumstances. She'd like the ring and she wouldn't talk about losing it. I had to just wing it. "Why do you do it?” Luke inquired as he directed her to his sedan. you want to know why? I'll tell you why. he made a mental note to keep a handkerchief on hand for the day she tried that stunt on him. Could he really blame her for using hers to gain sympathy? It seemed uncomfortably hypocritical put that way. whatever your reasons. either. you do it very well.
Luke was smugly confident thatboredom was one problem he wouldn't be struggling with. In fact. he wondered how she'd failed to deal with the divorce attorney. She figured any real fiancée would be nervous and prone to forget things when meeting the whole family for the first time. Still. Luke. Chapter Four Thanksgiving Day found Jordan pacing in a circle. in fact. he got a disgusted look. He really was acting the hero on her behalf. Luke thought he was one man she'd find it hard to dance her way around. but not how to drive away the un-suitables. chanting names. Not only was he on to her tricks. He still shows up from time to time to laugh in my face when I tell him to go away. trust me—being charming and helpless makes a man like Norton believe that I will eventually break down and marry him because I'm too fluff-headed to know my own mind." Her playful act didn't diminish the warm feeling Luke got from her words. It's enough to make a woman of steel crack wide open.” he assured her. Think about it. considering her talents. Just the opposite." "Norton?" "The insurance broker. If I charmed them into wanting to do anything I asked. they wouldn't. “My hero. Yes. grasping or dull. “I did do a good job. He knew she was sincere. much less buy a diamond ring. Jordan was deceitful. And so many tricky little details. I'll gladly leave Norton in your big and capable hands.” Jordan shuddered. Whatever else the coming holidays had in store." Luke laughed at her melodramatic expression of despair. they'd hardly agree when I asked them to leave. Luke. Norton will have to take you seriously. she wanted to keep it straight as much as humanly possible. He decided to ask. as of now. she could probably fluff a few without giving anything away. “No.She brightened at his praise." Jordan gave him a look that would have melted granite. I didn't mention Norton? Maybe my subconscious was trying to block out the horror. They'd be certain that deep down inside my frivolous head lurked an undying devotion to the big lunks. There were somany of them. "I know how to turn on the charm. infuriating. he had her using them for his benefit. and always one step ahead on her nimble feet. And Jordan feeling grateful was enough to make a man want to slay dragons. now would they?” Jordan asked reasonably. He'll find himself dealing with me if he doesn't. Hollywood. Fortunately. but she wasn't sugary. For an answer. She held the three-by-five card that contained her notes behind her back as she tried to remember . he had an advantage over all the other poor males she'd had at her mercy. Besides. the dentist and the undertaker. didn't I? The stage lost a real star when I went into the greeting card business instead. I know—because I was foolish enough to try it with Norton. “Now let's go pick out an appropriate rock. “Well. eat your heart out!" Her moods changed faster than her ever-shifting appearance. “Anyway.
husband Mitch.. “Aaron. He'd imagined his troubles were over. A miniature tornado of trouble named Jordan had moved into his life instead. She did have to admit that it was beautiful. son Keith. The sound of a muttering feminine voice drew his attention. She sincerely hoped he knew better by now than to expect any kind ofhigh standard out of her. Stepping in. he liked her brand of trouble. Margaret and . surprisingly. Yelling at her in public was a big mistake. He'd hauled her around in search of the Hope Diamond. Had she changed her mind? Run away? Left him for another single man? Luke frowned. Wendy. After knocking again and waiting a few minutes. but nobody answered. Following it. The idea kept crossing his mind that maybe Marlow was onto something and that maybe Jordan would make an interesting permanent addition to his world. as unique and exquisite as she was—although certainly not comparable in size. Jordan sighed and took a peek at the card. Then she put the ring out of her thoughts and continued to pace and chant. Jordan had to laugh. anyway. Thinking about that. and Tommy Jr.Luke's parents’ names. That was something. butgaining a fiancée was nothing compared tokeeping one. Jordan had to wonder why he'd even pretended to consult her. remembering she hadn't seemed all that pleased with the ring. oldest sister. Honestly. younger sister. wife Tess. He'd thought it was perfect. The lovely pear shape of the huge diamond was set off by an unusual platinum setting. He'd regretted it instantly. That brought the rock into view.. A woman in a somber business suit had handed Jordan a card and announced loudly that she was a divorce attorney. Hisreal fiancée wouldn't have any complaints on that score. she'd protested and pouted. four. But instead of the feminine admiration and gratitude he'd imagined.. And he was finding that. and it turned in his hand. he closed the door behind himself and looked for signs of life. an antique style that Luke had insisted on. It was a wonder she could lift her hand at all—it was that big. When she'd questioned his fussiness. seemingly dissatisfied with everything they looked at. He hadn't known it when he'd acquired her.. baby daughter Audrey. though.. Luke had good taste. The man truly was high-handed. he'd insisted that none of the rings so far measured up to the high standard his fiancée deserved. He tried the knob. Ben! Yes!" **** Luke knocked. six. husband Tom. and in a big way.. No children. younger brother.. She was dressed in fitted black slacks and a white blouse that made her look like a pilgrim. Margaret and . and . Parents. Especially when every single shopper in the jeweler's had turned to glare at him as if he were a child-beater. That their shopping expedition had ended in a rip-roaring fight instead of the traditional sort of romantic moment should put any silly ideas like that clearly out of his mind. Luke decided that she was being perverse and trying to avoid him. A disturbing sensation settled somewhere around his vitals. He should have known better. Luke reflected morosely that at least Jordan had an aversion to lawyers. Cassie. He'd ended by shoving it on her finger and shouting that she'd wear it and he didn't want to hear one more word. She even . Luke turned a corner and stopped at the sight of her. evidently.
swooned and sighed. serious expression. I'm not upset with you. He smiled and Jordan felt as good as if she'd gotten a smile from Randall on a bad day. you call that a fight?” She shook her head. “I hope you don't come from a family that never raises their voices.had black shoes with square buckles. Sorry. “What's wrong?" He hesitated before answering carefully. manly.” Her airy explanation delivered." "It would?" "It would. or you're going to think you've stepped into a madhouse when you meet my brothers. That kind of flair for costume was pure Jordan. A brilliant smile lit her pale features. and Luke laughed out loud. shattering the illusion." "Oh. “I thought you might still be upset with me. Jordan spun around and saw her fake fiancé watching her in open amusement. are you fishing for compliments? All right.. there was something so fey and other-worldly about her he was almost afraid to speak for fear of frightening her away. Luke.” She fluttered pale lashes at him. “Just practicing. the ring thing. “I adore a shouting man. How about you? Are you ready?" He studied her for a minute. He reminded her of Randall when she forgot to show up for dinner. Especially when you shout. "You know. “What. “Luke. you got it. For a moment. I find you irresistible. come on." He gave her a look of blatant disbelief. She had to laugh. Even shouting at the top of your voice and forcing oversized diamonds on me. A smile tugged at his mouth. big guy. You didn't answer the door. but if Iwas . "Hi Luke!” She waved her cheat-sheet at him. He'd actually thought she'd run out on him over a little disagreement? Amazing. the cloisonné lily you sent me would have gone a long way towards smoothing things over. I don't always hear when I'm concentrating on something. I wasn't sure you were here. chanting softly. she turned to search for her shoulder bag. She turned back to find Luke still looking at her with a sort of watchful. She was moving in a fairy circle. then laughed.” Jordan grinned. It's so exciting." "What about? Oh. you would have to prove yourself worse company than Seymour. For the record. Then she stopped and swore loudly. I've got the immediate family down cold. clutched his lapels. but don't be surprised if I mess up on some of the aunts and uncles..” She stood on her tiptoes.” Jordan assured him in a conspiratorial whisper. I think I should tell you that in order to get me to back out on our holiday deal. hands down. “Oh. you've got Seymour beat. I find it so . “Ready as I'll ever be. Jordan gave him an exasperated look and linked her arm through his. humor twinkling in her gray eyes. “What will you do when we have a real argument?" He didn't seem to know how to take that." . Luke.
Luke added. but never on the altar." Jordan couldn't resist cooing." Luke started to laugh again." Luke nodded. “Or what? You'll make me wear the matching earrings?" Laughter shook Luke's shoulders and nearly made him drop her.” he answered knowingly. I can see his point. I promise. You're incorrigible. “You see? There's no keeping you from a life of wickedness. but once they stepped through the door into the reigning pandemonium. wicked one. “It's nice to know one of your brothers knew what you were up to. you'll get Gary started. actually he didn't—not in the way you mean. But next time I won't be so forgiving. But I'm afraid sending you to a convent wouldn't do any good. “Well. “Who are all these . Behave yourself. he shot her a horrified look. “Yes. All the snow in Vermont doesn't compare to the amount I can produce for our mutual benefit. please." "You'll behave like you always do. “No! Not the family jewels! Have mercy on me. please. “I think I should have a talk with your brothers about the lack of discipline they raised you with." "Yes. “Minx." Jordan sniffed in injured pride. I've seen you in action. “I'll get the Foster family jewels out and make you wear those. The drive to Gary's house didn't take long.” he threatened." He pretended to consider her case." He set her back on her feet and she groaned at his last threat.He plucked her off her feet effortlessly. Get your coat. spanning her small waist with his big hands and lifting her to eye level. “I'll behave." She gave him a look of feigned terror. all right. we've got family to snow.” Luke agreed as he guided her towards the door." She gave him a look of sweet innocence. Jordan quizzed Luke on the way. He wanted to send me away to Catholic school. I'll let you off this time." Luke shook his head sadly. When he sobered enough to talk. For some reason he thought I might be too frail to resist temptation. “Pass out in the confessional. maybe. You are the undisputed Snow Queen. “You'll be thanking me a thousand times for my wicked ways before the year is over. “Why? Does he hate nuns?" Jordan shot him a nasty look that didn't discourage his laughter in the least. “Oh. “Worse. “I wouldnot . too. Jordan replied saucily. You'd find a way to get into trouble there. He wanted to keep me away from all the deadly sins. Don't say anything like that. Drink too much communion wine and pass out on the altar at the very least. “Well. too. Tacky." Jordan grinned." As she got her cape and threw it over her shoulders.” Then she added.
“Don't worry. Luke really did look like a gun-slinging cowboy about to draw. Amy. It was up to her to smooth this over. “You are?" "Yes. If he had.” She handled the introductions with the smooth dignity of a society matron. he found himself face to face with three men who matched him for height and width and he barely resisted the urge to push Jordan protectively behind his back. “You. . She glared at Gary.” She grinned back at him." He had the grace to look slightly abashed. sinking to the floor with Amy on her stomach. “Good grief. The toddler forgot about the toy and started to laugh. The three strangers looked him over and it slowly dawned on him that they must be her brothers. “They're so easy to distract at this age. Jordan gestured at Luke to set the toddler down. she kept hold of his hand as she marched up to Gary to stand toe to toe with him. defiance in every line of her small body. sitting on the floor like that.” Jordan pointed to each as she named them. She gave Luke an encouraging smile. Any minute now war was going to break out. It looked like there was going to be a showdown at sundown.Oh boy . she could have ended up with a dangerous nut in her panicked flight from their matrimonial mismatches.people?" Jordan tried to view the usual three-ring circus from the perspective of an outsider. Oooff!” She pretended to stagger and collapse under the crushing load.” He reached down to collect the child and lifted Jordan back up. this is Luke Foster. Randall and Theodore. Jordan swung Amy up into her arms and gasped. Jordan gave Luke a grin of victory. Just her luck—the one brother who could be relied on for comic relief was conspicuously absent. anyway. instead of an impish pixie being held two feet off the floor. And the brothers were just as bad. She sighed gustily. Then she turned to Luke. too. I love it. her brothers wouldn't respect him in the morning. You'll get used to it. Randall and Theodore in turn." He didn't look convinced. not in the least perturbed at the unsubtle suggestion that she wasn't the one in charge. That was too much for Luke. One is missing. If there was any more testosterone flowing here. “Luke. Still. When he straightened. She felt like the lone cat in the middle of a gang of dogs. I can't take it. He easily lifted her off her feet to dangle her above the floor. sitting on the floor in tears over a lost toy. I want you to meet my brothers. The younger children were running up and down halls yelling. he didn't back down from his protective stance. Instead he kept a firm hold on her hand. and she spotted Theodore's youngest. The teenagers were banging their heads in the den to whatever was the latest grunge rock CD. I'd be drowning. but she could tell he still wasn't about to back down first. They were the ones who'd driven her to concoct this wild scheme in the first place." Luke grinned back at her. Just as well. Jordan looked from her brothers to Luke. Most of them. My fiancé. She supposed it could be a little overwhelming. “Guys. “You look like you're about the same age. This is Gary. When he did. you weigh a ton. “Behave! All of you!” Jordan yelled at the top of her lungs. “He's mine and I'm keeping him!” she shouted at full volume. Instead of a nice guy like Luke.
"Ring?” Gary asked mildly."Glad to meet you. peel the potatoes!" The pronouncement of her sentence had Jordan moaning and pleading for a lesser one. Now you'll expect to get your way all the time. You're a CPA. It gave him chills to think of the trouble she could stir up without even trying.” The stranger let out a chilling cackle and began stomping off with her down the hall. It's your turn. “I want you to meet someone. Too bad. that's my company.” Luke relented enough to set Jordan back on her feet as he shook Gary's hand. not the other way around. She was his now. isn't that right? I remember Jordan mentioning it. And it gave him an inner sense of deep satisfaction to think of her wreaking havoc on his unwitting family later. The older brother hesitated a moment longer. no. I knew I should never have let you get your way with the ring. “Yes. “Don't try to weasel out of it. He could tell they didn't like it. “There you are! I've got you now. Two of them continued to look suspicious.. She waved a tiny fist. “I guess you're the lucky man.” Luke murmured blandly. It served them right for all their heavy-handed attempts to see him paired off. “Stop! Wait!" The bear lumbered to a halt. Jordan beamed at him and displayed the rock for his perusal. You'd better get used to doing things the Foster way. His smug reflections were disturbed when another bear-like male let out a roar and charged." Jordan gave a peremptory “ahem” for attention. Nice to meet you. as if he wasn't toying with their sister before their very eyes. Then she seemed to recall that she'd forgotten someone and tugged at one handy ear. then reached out to clasp Luke's hand." "No. He ignored the fact that it was only temporary." "Thank you. but he made sure he kept a firm grip on her.” he agreed willingly.” he countered. Youwill . Congratulations.” Jordan fumed. “I admit nothing! A Christian never says die!" "But you aren't going to be a Christian much longer. He turned to her in response. I'll peel the potatoes. Luke. swooping his fiancée off her feet. "Iknew it." "Only if you admitI'm keepingyou . “Yes?" "Put me down. “You can't escape your fate.” Jordan assured him.." Luke continued to hold Jordan easily with one hand and shook Randall's hand with the other. this is . “Luke Foster? Of Solid Solutions? I'm Randall Christian. but the middle one relaxed and held out a hand.
“Nice to meet you. half groan in answer to that. He wondered if Lawrence would bellow that a woman with an unworthy name likeMargaret couldn't be allowed to have anything to do with the ceremony. She was driving him insane. It was rather amusing. “All right. “What'sright with Seymour would be a better question. But you'd better think of the children when it's time to come up with names. And my heart. He really should have known. “Him? You want to marry him? What's wrong with Seymour?" Jordan gave a half sigh. Lucius. Welcome to the family. He followed the stomping bear-like Lawrence carrying Jordan off to the kitchen if not to the dungeons—and he had the distinct feeling that he'd stepped into a strange world inhabited by mysterious beings. “What kind of a name is Luke? I can't let you marry a man with a name like that. my other brother.Lawrence. He had a sudden desire to see her naked feet. Luke had already captured my hand.Luke . considering.” Jordan stated serenely. Drucilla and Lucretia for girls. And he had a long way to go before New Year's Day. No. Then he rumbled. perfect pink toes with miniature pearly nails. A person like Jordan didn't come from an average. You can marry him. . It's ridiculous. Luke could appreciate the sentiment of keeping a woman in the kitchen. I'm sorry. Or maybe he'd be moved to accept her on the basis of her name consisting of three syllables. thinking of his mother's expression as she anticipated wedding plans that would accommodate the preferences of both sides. Then he realized the direction his thoughts were taking. she'd be even more adorable. An enticing urchin with dirt streaking her face.” she threw in for good measure.” Luke murmured. For the first time. he'll have to go. content to stir gravy if it meant he had the unprecedented pleasure of watching her be made to peel the spuds." "His full name is Lucius." "I won't. would you?" "Glad to. She'd make a charming scullery slave. The Christians were a family of heathens. Apparently she'd given that one a great deal of thought ahead of time. The bear nodded. Luke shot her a look of pure venom. He was sure she'd have tiny. He couldn't wait for his family to meet them all." The bear turned and subjected him to a leisurely head to toe survey. The bear rumbled. Jordan grinned at him over her brother's shoulder and Luke smiled back at her. normal American family. actually. Luke began to wonder if he wouldn't have been better off with Cotton Candy after all. One syllable.” Jordan replied with apparent sincerity. Come and stir the gravy. It was exactly what they deserved. He could barely contain a grin. Anyway he came along too late. Lawrence. meet Luke Foster. The bear growled. your future brother-in-law. Don't let him help. I've already thought of Desdemona. Barefoot.
” he announced." "Yes. so we'll let her keep him anyway.” He removed his hand and handed her the whisk with a flourish." "No. Your choice. Then he glared at her.Then Jordan winked and blew him a kiss and he knew he wouldn't trade her for anything. presumably in readiness for the spuds Jordan began dutifully peeling. He did an impromptu Dirty Harry impersonation. “This was handy. Then he placed a paw between Luke's shoulders and aimed him at the stove. Maybe he should make it easier for her to back down. "Here. I'll do these.” Then his eyes bulged in horror as he saw Jordan pick up an enormous carving knife to cut out a potato eye. as if that was necessary.. “This is Luke.” Then the bear lumbered away. but Jordan promises not to let him name the children. For better or worse. Luke decided he could well understand Jordan's penchant for charm.” he boomed. He moved quickly to take it away from her and heaved a sigh of relief. wench. where a pot of gravy bubbled to the side of a cauldron of boiling water. “What's it going to be. He wished he had some of it himself." Suddenly he didn't trust her with a paring knife. she was his . It was a good thing she couldn't speak.” he threatened.” Lawrence adjusted the temperature. stir the gravy or we'll have some explaining to do to Lawrence when it burns. the hitch-ee. “Come on. either. Luke grinned back at her. “Go stir the gravy. oblivious to the shocked female faces left in the wake of his announcement. at least for the time being. nearly deafening Luke. “Stir or wear the matching earrings. “Stop!" She jumped at his unexpected shout and Luke nearly died inside until he saw that she hadn't lost her grip on the knife handle. “Everyone. listen up!" A hush fell over the kitchen and all eyes turned to the bear. handed him a wire whisk and then made a megaphone from his hands. “Don't ever do that again." She glared back. “Nice to meet you. I'll turn it down to simmer for you. She wouldn't sound very loving just at that moment. “Jordan's getting hitched. Sparks flew from her gray eyes. .." She opened her pink Cupid's bow lips to argue and Luke clapped a hand over them in callous disregard. You use a paring knife for that. he decided. “Keep stirring until it thickens. He summoned up his best smile and made eye contact all the way around. Introduce yourselves and don't let him burn the gravy. It's a terrible name. Jordan. pointed to a pan for the peels and plunked down an enormous bowl to contain the readied potatoes. huh? Do you feel lucky?" She started to laugh in surprise and delight at his talent. Lawrence elbowed past a crowd of women to deposit Jordan in front of a mountain of potatoes. It could come in handy around this group. He handed her a peeler.
dinner was finally served and the whole family gathered to give thanks. Gary gave the blessing. A man like himself. don't you? She was a late gift. Then she threw him a melting. and assorted other moments of madness." Luke digested that piece of information with some dismay. He'd beenhad . The boys were all grown so when their parents died. they nodded thoughtfully. “Private joke. “I'm Vicky. “The quiet one." As one. she'd done it again. “Theodore's wife. we all sort of helped mother her when we married into the family. A saint would never be able to handle Jordan.” Vicky continued. “Don't worry. she actually stuck her tongue out at him when nobody was looking. He's the youngest brother. getting his fence whitewashed. and nowhe was stuck peelingher potatoes. The Snow Queen had just struck. Luke felt the first hint of unease when he was included in the . he mused. Tom Sawyer hadn't been half as clever. He certainly couldn't announce to the whole kitchen that he was an idiot who'd been thoroughly snowed. Let's just leave it at that. Luke did a slow burn as she saw the realization in his eyes and giggled in helpless delight at his predicament. He was growing in his understanding of her every minute." Luke wondered how to respond to that. Unmoved.” she said with a friendly smile. In a flurry of banging dishes. "I've known Jordan for years. Only a more devilish and determined man stood a chance. She shrugged when the group of sisters-in-law turned their questioning eyes on her. But he would get her later. impish look over her shoulder and blew him another kiss—and it hit him. we're all so happy to see her finally settling down that you'll probably be nominated for sainthood. It was a pleasantly heady thought. In fact meeting her family was providing all kinds of little revelations. By golly. The mothers-in-law—or sisters—whichever—ooh-ed and ah-ed gratifyingly over the engagement ring. “Well. The dark promise burned in his light blue eyes and the incorrigible imp just laughed harder. things are never dull around here.Jordan took it and headed for the stove. As the eldest. Vicky laughed at his obvious consternation. Without some peace and quiet. you'll soon have four mothers-in-law." Luke nodded. He wasdefinitely going to get her later. He thought he could understand Jordan's preference for living alone. arguments over the proper way to carve the bird. insanity would strike quickly. “Are any of them quiet?" She grinned back." Luke raised a dubious brow. A motherly-looking brunette pulled up a chair and started to assist Luke in peeling through the mountain. So in a manner of speaking. Luke shot Jordan a look of smug satisfaction. “You know that her brothers raised her from the time she was twelve.” she added in explanation.
She charmed. Jordan reasoned. she noted admiringly. Show time ." She was practically dancing in an agony of anxiety. Warm. He smirked knowingly at her. was warm and witty. Visions of harps. Made polite conversation. as pure as the pearly gates. His smile made her feel positively buoyant. told amusing anecdotes. There should be some kind of limit. If all else failed. She smiled. But if she lost her wings. Now he was rising to the challenge of straightening out a woman with more twists than a wire clothes hanger. The very image of an imp from the netherworld. she could count on Luke to catch her before she plummeted to oblivion. “I'm going to get you." She didn't look at all concerned. Then he decided that no thunderbolt from the heavens would be striking. He gazed steadily back at her and mouthed. An angelic Jordan was looking soulfully at him. I'm right behind you. Luke gently but firmly turned her in the direction of the genteel crowd in the large open foyer and propelled her forward. Jordan promised silently. it was a very loving. she tried an especially heavenly smile on Luke and was rewarded with one of his warm smiles in return. And she wouldn't lethim down. thanks to diligent study beforehand. she cheekily dropped one lid in a naughty wink. She'd probably even put in a good word with his father. .prayer of thanksgiving for the family's blessings. unable to resist the heat. he did. “Relax. He wouldn't let her down. Her sweet mouth shaped the words “thank you” at him." When he settled one big hand on her shoulder. It was poetic justice. He stopped to whisper in her ear. And hadn't she said they'd think she was an angel? That the family would love her? Jordan concentrated on seeming sweetly angelic. Jordan went with dragging feet. Trustworthy. Amazing. She summoned up a smile and prepared to be her most irresistibly charming. The more he thought about it. really—he'd started off wanting a fraud for his family. she reminded herself to bolster her confidence. He had his hands full fighting for the side of good. Chapter Five "Who are all thesepeople? ” Jordan whispered as Luke hung her cape in his parents’ hall closet. She suddenly felt as high and giddy as Icarus flying into the sun. This isn't fair. trying to keep a wicked. To all appearances. wings and haloes danced in her head. she relaxed slightly. intimate sort of gesture. And didn't forget a single name." That was a good touch on his part. she could easily hide behind Luke. Instead. “There's too many of them. He had steady eyes. wayward wench out of trouble. the more certain he felt that if anyone needed the hand of divine providence. “Now you know how it feels to be on the receiving end. Dependable. her palms together in prayerful devotion. too. His mother already liked her. She'd be as charming as a cherub. He was certainly big enough. For practice.
She cuddled trustingly in his arms. You were drooping. Not even the time she'd given Randall's long suffering retriever a punk haircut.” Luke drew her closer and cupped the back of her head with one palm. they loved her. They were directly under a sprig of mistletoe.” Luke tugged her into an alcove and smoothed back her white shock of hair in a comforting gesture. And her eyes widened.” She told him the truth baldly and leaned her cheek against the smooth fabric of his jacket. the lucky lady would have wonderful in-laws. But as predicted. Jordan couldn't ever remember feeling worse. Then he tipped her chin up with one warm finger and slowly lowered his mouth to brush lightly against . The other stroked her spine. They had it coming for ruining her cruise with Mitchell. She wasn't so sure Luke's family would be as forgiving. “I see. That is. His sister Wendy admired her perfume and asked Jordan the name of the fragrance." She did. if she didn't embitter them for life by perpetrating a hoax like this on them. “I didn't think so.” Luke informed her in a solemn voice. "All right?” The low question spoken against her cheek looked to anyone watching like a kiss and an endearment. she reflected with a flash of unease.. Luke.Margaret Foster was demonstrably glad to see her again and took her in hand to make the introductions. To Jordan's delight." She was glad he did. they were glad to accept her. “What's the matter? Running out of trouble to stir up?” His teasing grin didn't draw the expected smile. Her startled eyes met his amused ones. She leaned up to answer. A warm arm hugged her to a solid side and she leaned into Luke's support readily. feeling better by the minute. But lying to people who hadn't done anything to her was different. She'd exhausted all other avenues first. She felt an instinctive certainty that he'd know how to straighten everything out without causing a family feud of epic proportions." A brow quirked at her. if nothing else. It would have been easier if they'd hated her. "Hmm. "I don't like lying to your family. Luke's father Ben presented an impromptu toast to their future happiness.. The dog hadn't held it against her. It was one thing to fool her impossible brothers. "Jordan?" "Yes?" "Look up. “No. "Providence. There is nothing sadder than the sight of a forlorn fairy. She felt a shaft of envy for whoever Luke ended up marrying for real .
Jordan ran through her mental family-tree check. widowed. Feather light.” he assured her gently. In fact. Only a dead woman could be unmoved by a kiss from Luke.” Wendy's husband urged them. Cora. confident that she'd been worried about nothing.” Luke teased.hers. He'd fix it somehow. as sweet and warm as mulled wine. She and Luke were safe from holiday horror dates.” He gave her a gentle squeeze. "I do. Nothing worked. The same instincts that screamed a warning around all the mismatched men had cheered at the first sight of her battered rescuer. she answered herself. flitting around the room from group to group. Jordan set about enjoying herself. She'd known she could trust him. Luke's lips teased hers for an endless moment. She had from the very first. plaintive note in her voice spoke volumes. Jordan and Luke retreated from the alcove and rejoined the party. his wife in tow as he gestured towards the mistletoe. Maybe the fact that she'd never had the opportunity to plan a wedding for her own daughter sparked her rabid interest in Jordan's wedding. "It is." Jordan sagged against him in relief. Time stopped. Smiling. Her spirits lifted once more. Whatever the reason.” She did. Her heart stopped. "Now show me a smile. And he'd probably thought that it would look really funny if they were spottednot kissing under the mistletoe. At least. he'd probably just meant for the kiss to reassure her. the old lady was unshakable on the subject. no children. "Trust me. Jordan tipped her head back and grinned up at him. He meant it. A little side-stepping around questions—like when was the actual date of the wedding—she could handle artfully. "Everything's going to be all right. "It is?” The hopeful. This really was a perfect plan. happy again. oldest sister of Margaret. Jordan tried every ploy she knew. "Hey. It would all work out perfectly. as soft as a sigh. Jordan trusted her instincts. . They could enjoy the season secure in each other's company. She was kissing her fiancé. until Aunt Cora cornered her about the wedding dress. let someone else have a turn. or I might have to go open the safe and start looking for a really heavy necklace. What kind of woman was she? Not a dead one. Then he lifted his head to smile at her.
” Wendy announced from behind. remember that. this is my form of fun and relaxation. Aunt Cora. will you?" "Oh. I will. “It wouldn't be right. "Yes. of course. My hero! You werewonderful . startling them both. “I don't know what I'll do about a dress. “These are wonderful.” He led her through the pictures and indicated them one by one. she said loudly. It was Luke.” She heaped praise on his head as she flashed him a dimpled gamine grin. Maybe there's a petite line of bridal wear. Then she danced around Luke in effervescent glee. He drew her into a room with heavy double doors and closed them. I couldn't get her off the subject of our approaching wedding with dynamite. “This is the family gallery. “Excuse us.” Jordan moaned. Have you sold any?" "Oh. competing with her for the title of most charming. Jordan stepped closer to inspect it—and then she realized. Another close call. “Good things come in small packages. “I can't be the fairy queen unless Luke gets to be Thomas. Luke appeared at her elbow. The painting he'd pointed out featured a rough gunslinger dressed in black. Luke guided her over to it and pointed. "Wendy did this.” Then she prodded.” she said sincerely. “Where are you taking me?" Luke just held up one finger against his lips and pulled her along. She gave a delighted laugh.” the chic blond replied. enjoying her response. “You think so?" "Definitely. From the comfortable chairs and rows of bookshelves. Jordan? Will you pose for me?" Jordan grinned at Luke as she answered Wendy.” Then he turned his charm on Aunt Cora. Jordan surmised that this must be the library.” she swore solemnly. "Whew. “Don't try to turn it intowork . She's done most of us in character. in desperation. Or maybe I could be rescued by the man in black as a . “You dashed to my rescue. Jordan turned to her. What do you think?" Jordan looked. Something about the rough rider looked familiar. I'd have to take up skiing or something.Finally. won't you? I want to show Jordan something. My mother as the Mona Lisa. I have a dickens of a time finding clothes to fit properly.” she teased. please." Immediately. but frowning. My father as a Green Mountain man with Ethan Allen. “I didn't know you painted.” he informed Jordan. “Ilove it!" "I thought you might. “What do you say.” Luke smiled at her. Several paintings graced the walls and one painting in particular seemed to be their goal. She gave him a melting smile. riding a black horse with the conformation of a steed with endurance. Then she looked around curiously.” She smiled and waved them off." "Oh. "I'll do you as the fairy queen with Thomas the Rhymer.
The damselwill be happy enough that she was rescued andwill shut up and go along for the ride. The man in black will be sufficiently titillated by even a popped button. “The man in black willnot be dictated to. Then Luke took Jordan's hand and led her toward the . Jordan?" "I'd love it. And she was beginning to feel a certain fondness for his bark. If Jordan agrees. Then she added. “Or you know what." Jordan considered that. but no embellishing.” he vowed.” Luke agreed. you can have cleavage. “You don't need embellishing. Jordan looked disappointed. though. Maybe I should just take up skiing. “This is going to be some picture. Luke gave a low. “As the man in black." Luke's lips twitched at that description. It's hard to repeat a character..damsel in distress. I can see three's a crowd here. cleavage.” Jordan sighed at the fantasy image. They both turned to Wendy expectantly. Jordan frowned back.” she decided. “Philistines!" Luke tugged Jordan up against his side and traced her dimples with a teasing finger." "The man in black would be paralyzed. or is the artist allowed to embellish?" Wendy threw her hands up in the air. The man in black will ride off into the sunset on his horse. chilling laugh. “Oh. He'd stand there with his jaw hanging instead of dashing to your rescue. “Does the cleavage have to be true to life. with me in his arms. Bigger is not necessarily better. Ripped. no. I don't know if I can do you as the man in black again.” he assured her.” he said with an edge of threat. “I wanted a ripped bodice. Luke frowned.” Luke suggested helpfully.” Jordan answered gravely.” The menace in his voice—combined with his size—didn't disturb Jordan in the least. Wendy sighed. “And they say chivalry is dead. “Well. And nobody was born to wear a black hat like Luke." Jordan and Luke exchanged sheepish looks. I wanted to spill voluptuously over the top and out the sides. Please." "Oh. Okay. "Ithink there should be cleavage. Wendy shook her head in mock dismay at their lack of serious appreciation for art and romance. “Or what?” she sneered in open disdain.I would certainly stop to rescue any damsel with a ripped bodice. "Perfect. “How ripped are we talking? Would there be cleavage?" "You'll have to take that up with the artist. It'll be so much fun. She knew his bark was worse than his bite. wearing a long gown strategically ripped at the bodice.” Jordan answered with an impish twinkle in her eyes. Wendy cleared her throat distinctly..
Yes. "I don't know how. Jordan. The fantasy painting would be fun.” she answered cheekily. Jordan. did he? Although maybe she should. He didn't really expect her to admit what she'd been doing. now she ogled him? What kind of woman would do a thing likethat? Actually.door. “You meanyou know how?" He stopped and turned to her. The man in black lunged." The George Burns take-off undid her. Unconcerned. "I'll be happy to give you lessons. evidently suspicious of her silence. She tugged on Luke's arm. Dead silence followed their unorthodox exit as he collected her cape and bag and carried her off into the night. can't say that I do.” he announced diplomatically. Jordan fleetingly debated the finer points of both sides. she consoled herself.” she sweetly echoed. she trailed along beside him.” he warned her.any woman who found herself this close to Luke Foster's attractive backside would probably take at least one quick peek. First she kissed him. "You don't know when to quit.” Jordan agreed with him cheerfully while she took the opportunity to check out his buns from her new vantage point. he strolled through the suddenly hushed living room and snarled. and when he leaned down she whispered. “Paralyzed? Hanging jaw?" His nostrils actually flared. Although maybe itwould be as much fun to paralyze the man in black with her attributes as it would be to get rescued and carried off on his black horse. "Ah. “That does it. grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder in a terribly undignified fireman's carry. She burst into peals of laughter. and she liked the idea that she'd leave Luke something to remember her by—with or without embellishments. . “Be good." Jordan widened her eyes dramatically. but it was too late. He'd be properly shocked that his fiancée was eyeing him lasciviously and he'd put her down promptly.” Jordan agreed.” she called back to a stupefied Wendy as they headed out the door. do you?” Luke barked." Suddenly wary. She wasn't dead. Then she realized she was checking out her fiancé's buns. “Say good-night. Feeling like a child caught misbehaving. Jordan giggled delightedly. Not bad for a financial expert who probably did a lot of sitting. “Good-night. "No. But she couldn't refrain from cheering inwardly. she backed up a step. "Now what?” he demanded. “I'd say it's time we rejoined the group. after all. "I'm looking forward to sitting for you.
"Jordan. don't answer that. no. Then he came behind her and wrapped her in a hug. Streetlights cast a silvery glow. called love." "No. Until Jordan. She rested her head against his shoulder and spread her fingers to catch the falling snow." Silence. Luke admitted silently. shooting Luke a look full of mischief. but this time in the cradle of his arms. Luke could almost believe that the snow was something magical. “I won't. I won't. She took advantage of his distraction to slip free and whirl around in the moonlight.” she answered dreamily.Then Jordan saw it. Then. She opened her mouth to taste winter and let a snowflake melt on her tongue. He smiled at her dismay." He silently folded her into the wool garment and lifted her again.” he agreed gently. Chapter Six "Caroling?" "Caroling. "Oh. Something as hushed and beautiful as an untouched fall of snow. “You won't let me. In a sense. His chin rested on top of her head. Hadn't noticed. He stopped and looked around as if wondering what she was talking about. “There'll be more snow. “Luke! Luke.” she protested. “You've got to be kidding. nose and cheeks. A miracle of life. “As your . The kind of thing he hadn't had time for. warming her. “It's snowing!” She tipped her head back and laughed as the flakes kissed her eyelids. You'll freeze. a strong silent presence in the night. Luke stood beside her for a long moment. Something else was beginning. you don't have your cape on. maybe it was. eyes still closed to feel the winter night. bringing out a thousand diamond reflections in every snowflake. "You're right. It's just beginning. Something that could make a man of numbers set aside his ledgers and reflect that. squirming to get down. and Luke started for his car with her." They stood together in an awed hush and watched the snow fall. look!” She wiggled in excitement. he'd been on a dangerous path of outward success and inner poverty." He was talking about more than a storybook Vermont winter. Something.” Jordan laughed. She was starting to shiver in his arms. like Dickens’ Scrooge." "Would I kid? No. I don't want to go yet.
Count ’em. I'm so glad. I'd hate being engaged to someone I didn't like. Well. “Oh. Only three letters.” she invited as an afterthought. she realized. In her opinion. do you?” Then in an abrupt shift of mood. “I like you. Well.” She struck a vamp-y pose and continued wickedly. Even temporarily. you want to fightmore? ” Luke looked alarmed at the possibility. that could only be a good thing.. Did it ever occur to you that avoiding a fight is not necessarily a positive course of action?" "What are you saying." "Whatis the subject?" "You'd know if you paid attention." "Ha.” she coaxed as he continued to look stubbornly opposed. We'll go caroling. you know. He certainly didn't look like a man on the verge of having fun. “And I do know that one and one make one." He wasn't bending. The truth was it was simply too much fun for her to resist pushing Luke's buttons. “I think I've just been insulted. Jordan casually lowered herself onto his wide desk like a blues singer draping herself over a piano. you just don't get it.very own genuine fraud. Never. I helped Randall study and I fill in during tax season when he gets swamped.” honesty forced her to admit. “Fighting is one way of negotiating. she said cheerfully. “We do it every year.” she breathed. He looked horrified at the suggestion. Getting what you want. It'sfun . "Luke." He definitely did not look convinced. “It is not a four-letter word. “I know you know how to count. not much anyway.” she answered cheekily. well aware that her zigzagging conversation was driving the by-the-book man quietly berserk. "Come on. But let's get back to the subject. Jordan went on. “I think I'm on dangerous ground here.. She reached out to tease the end of Luke's no-nonsense navy pin-striped silk tie. I've sworn not to kid you. Please tell me how a fiancé can get out of this without a fight. you'll like it. "Fun.” she offered seriously. a man accustomed to having fun wouldn't be in his office the day after Thanksgiving when all the rest of the world was celebrating a long weekend. Luke. I'll have you know that I'm not the sister of a CPA for nothing. looking even more confused. .” While he tried to digest that. sitting back with his arms folded across his chest in a firm position of refusal.. “No. Pulling one over on him and watching him do a slow burn as he figured it out was providing her with a source of vast amusement and entertainment. She shook her head sadly." Luke gave up and scooped her off his desk to dump her on his lap. which is why I said it isn't necessarily a positive action." Jordan straightened to consider him mutinously. This called for drastic measures. She looked down at the reports littering his desk and tugged one from beneath her hip to flip through it. do you have too much to do? I could help you catch up. Much more fun than she would have had with a dreary mortician. Avoiding a fight sometimes means losing by default.. shooting him another teasing look from beneath pale lashes.
And reckless abandon. after all. looking as if he wanted desperately to know how he'd gotten himself into this so he could possibly get himself out." He slanted a look of amazement at her. Oh. she was finding it a maze of unexpected complications. “We're in the same chair. A couple of kisses at most. That was different." She smiled at that telling sound.” She curled happily in the curve of his arm. isn't it? I'm so glad you agree with me on these things. "Oh. If he didn't. Luke prompted her gently. She wasn't made of steel. apparently. And if they should find themselves under a mistletoe again. reflecting that it was certainly convenient that he had such an accommodating chair. “If you keep this up. when she was getting to enjoy the holiday season for the first time in years. hoping the businesslike terms would comfort him and help him come to terms with the concept of having fun." His lips twitched suspiciously.” Luke repeated. He was definitely confused. Then an unwilling smile emerged. “Right. Aunt Cora. he was fun to tease.. you're with me. Wendy . It was terribly inconvenient. He nodded. So serious. Jordan barely restrained her laughter. We were discussing the calendar of social events. Snow angels are spontaneous and unpremeditated.” Jordan should know. She was an expert on snow angels. Well. shocking. Also that he liked her. of course. That would ruin the whole point. One little word could convey so much. that's exactly what I mean." "Caroling. She'd been silent for too long. Coordinating. that's wonderful.. You do them in an uncontrollable. What would Wendy say when Jordan allowed her to paint a family picture for a family she wasn't really joining? And then there was the rather alarming fact that she was definitely attracted to her own fiancé. “How terrible!" "Yes. “Snow angels? Are those on the calendar?" "You don't schedule something like making snow angels. Jordan reflected serenely that the only solution was to avoid kissing him again. this engagement would be terribly awkward. he wouldn't be so comfortable with her. but bending more every minute. “You're so literal. with witnesses. Luke. But it was his fault for kissing her. Where else would I be?" "See.” she reminded him. you'll be one of those guys who wakes up one day and suddenly finds that he's forgotten how to make a snow angel.” she pounced on the opening. "Good.“Caroling. wild moment of reckless abandon. What could that hurt? She certainly wasn't going to let a little thing like swooning over a kiss ruin her engagement. . And if they weren't friends. too. As it was. she'd make an exception for New Year's Eve. but notall the time. of course they'd have to behave as expected. Don't get me wrong.” She sat up straighter on his lap and lectured.
Come January second. now every commitment meant more time with Jordan. no conflict there.” he reminded her. she'd moved on to race like fine brandy through his veins." "No. This pixie would rue the day she tangled with the man in black. is on the calendar for the second week of December. After that kiss under the mistletoe. She'd melted like sugar on his lips. We'll do it all.” he supplied. And it was just beginning. As for the rules. he wouldn't go quietly. He was thinking of calculating it in minutes to make it seem like more."Caroling. And he wouldn't stop until he had all the days and all the years. A little full. sledding parties. All the cleavage and embellishments in the known art world couldn't stop him from holding tight to each and every one of those minutes. If she thought he'd give any of his precious minutes up. Plenty of time for you to brush up on your skills. "I make the rules. aren't we?" "We are. Does your family do it the night before or what?" "The night before. If you want. Hmm. It warmed him considerably just remembering. She tipped her head back to grin at him. “So you want to do it all. Jordan considered that answer." "Someone has to. But she was waiting for an answer. he vowed silently. too. but not that bad. “I break them. it was a good start." "The offer stands. we can limit it to two things a week. In my family we open presents in the morning. And while he'd planned originally to evade family functions. What's a cheese-and-cracker thing?” He pretended suspicion. but we are going to be kind of busy.” Luke agreed. She laughed. I agreed to it. The days.” Jordan assured him. then the stack of files on his desk. I'll be too busy to come to work. "Good.” Jordan informed him magnanimously. and we'll have to figure out about Christmas Day. “Do you do everything by the rules? By the numbers?" Funny she should ask about numbers. “Maybe I'll take you up on your offer. the works?" "I don't know. But unlike a too-sweet confection. All the reckless. wild abandon. then? Caroling. The hours.” he agreed blandly. however rusty they may be. I don't want to limit it. he thought they were off to a good start. he was ready to break them all. she could think again. however. All the moonlight and miracles. cheese-and-cracker things. Luke thought. “But it won't be that bad. and we're scheduling time to pose for Wendy. . Yes. He knew the numbers of the weeks he had with her. “Tonight we have that thing at your brother's.” he informed her positively.
farewell. We'll risk it. after all. then. really." Luke laughed at her description. those excuses to dress up and mingle where you eat little cheese and cracker appetizers designed to crumble on your clothes.Remember what's at stake. He was rough and tough enough to take even a gang of Christians. either. reckless. Jordan thought again contentedly..” Then she speedily made her exit before he could catch her and make her pay for her impertinent antics. Think of Seymour. snowball fights . or her name wasn't Jordan Christian. my hero.. She was going to have to do some fancy footwork herself to stay on schedule. Instead of carrying out his threat to get her. Lawrence would hear about it. That. “I have a good dry cleaner. It might take some thought." "Oh. was a very nice man. for certain. She would even find an opportunity to throw Luke Foster to the ground and make wild. Fortunately she could work in whatever odd hours she had free. Then he'd rubbed her icy hands to warm them while the heater in his sedan chased away the chill. Something to be thankful for. she was sure. youare prepared for any emergency. She pushed it right up to the limit.” Jordan hated the thought of abandoning her present comfortable perch. Yes. Jordan grinned at the thought as she bounded through the dusting of snow to her car. Now I should probably let you get some work done before tonight. The uproar hadn't driven Luke away. “Until I see you again. could ruin everything. And even an hour could be very productive if she was organized. She couldn't ask for a better fiancé. but a man could get very surly if kept from his work for too long.she told herself sternly.” he stated modestly. Okay. Jordan. Snowmen. we say yes to it all. Luke. she could hardly wait. She had weaseled out of it.” she sighed admiringly. Soon the inches would add up.. but she wasn't a fool. she decided as she drove home. As long as he didn't kiss her. And then she laughed out loud as she remembered his face as he peeled that endless mountain of potatoes. though. Any woman raised by four men knew where the line was. Luke had watched the snow with her."You know. "I try. she thought sorrowfully. abandoned snow angels with him . She slid to the floor and stood with her hand dramatically over her heart. Thinking of snow. sleigh rides. "And you succeed. Did she want to find . she was pretty sure her brothers were both convinced Luke was for real and as impressed as they were likely to get with someone they didn't hand-pick for her themselves. Appropriate for Thanksgiving weekend. because his kisses were a terrible temptation to risk ruining everything for. Even she knew where to draw the line—appearances aside. but she would have plenty of time to enjoy every wonderful minute of holiday festivities. Too bad. she'd made the perfect choice..
Jordan shook her head. only her scantiest panties would work. not cover. Jordan held it up and smiled at the sight. his hat was riding too low and blocking out the scenery. at least for the holidays. she thought in satisfaction. "Eureka!” Jordan crowed. Rose oil in a glass decanter.. Then she found it. As for underneath. . and if she had to resist temptation to avoid that—well. Jordan gazed at the dress and felt a wicked thrill. She dug deeper. Paralysis guaranteed. She'd just pose barefoot... Every day something that could be considered a flower arrived. then parked neatly in her driveway and headed inside. A bit of a reckless rebel. His choices were largely unorthodox. She just might already have something. Couldn't she? Tossing her cape and shoulder bag on a chair. He just might be a bit lawless himself. She found a mermaid costume a shell away from wearable. but he really did make them. Back in those days. Now she just needed to decide what to wear to Aaron's get-together and find a dress for the fantasy picture. or paint in the appropriate footwear. She had a collection of costumes from previous Halloweens and she occasionally picked up vintage clothing. It was wonderfully unpredictable. Completely see-through. Peep at your own risk. she thought she had a pair of lace tap pants. A pale yellow silk vintage gown from the late 1800's. It really was going to be some painting. A ridiculous turn-of-the-century bathing suit. Below the fitted waist. a padded bustle draped over the skirt in the rear. designed to display. but all still legitimately within the floral boundaries.. The tightly fitted jacket-style bodice cut wonderfully low was boned and padded and would make even Jordan spill voluptuously out without need of embellishing or ripping. Lilies. shoes and odds and ends. Jordan paused to admire her blooming Christmas cactus. pushing the description of flowers to the limit. first. A cloisonné pin. Luke might claim to follow the rules. No. she'd have to improvise. even a professional sinner could learn to resist. A heady thought. It fastened up the back with a thousand tiny hooks. she didn't want to end up under the mistletoe with Seymour. And he was all hers . wondering if that would ever see the light of day again. Or have Wendy leave her feet out of the picture.herself under the mistletoe with Seymour? Did she? She shuddered violently at the thought. Luke really had kept his promise. but didn't find vintage boots or undergarments. and tossed the naughty undies on top of the dress. The cactus. She dug through a drawer and produced the scandalous wisp of black. they'd had serious UV protection. Well. if she remembered right. Actually. Ha. It had had an unfortunate accident. Jordan rummaged through her closets in a happy tangle of fabric. For something like this. If the man in black wouldn't stop for this. Now that would put the man in black in shock. Gave new meaning tomaking a clean breast of a situation .
You're beautiful. with the lapels crossed in a deep vee to make it appear as if there just might be cleavage to be glimpsed. she was revved up to party and looking forward to more—and she'd just artfully dodge any stray mistletoe that might interfere with her plans. And if I was half naked. He opened his mouth to bellow some more. There would be plenty of other occasions for sequined and beaded sweaters and such. “Oh. He closed his eyes. Then she took her time getting ready." Now she was offended. Jordan glared back in instant fury. Still. A black velvet jacket. A great outfit. I am. as if it made a difference in her height. He took two strides to confront her. Luke struck a gratifying pose of paralysis. It's a beautiful jacket. By the time Luke arrived to collect her. it isn't enough to keep you in. “There's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing. lingering in a tub of hot water into which she had added a generous splash of rose oil. “And if you don't put something under it. “Look. “Go put on some clothes!" Really. That it wasn't a pose became clear when he recovered enough to start shouting. It was an astonishing sight.Jordan stuffed everything back into the closet except for the items she needed to pose in for the painting. pants. You're half naked. Then she flipped through her normal clothes in search of something that wasn't overly holiday-ish. As if she wasn't dressed. His tensed muscles appeared to swell in size. Black silk trousers with a matching camisole. singing carols in a lilting voice. His eyes became stabbing blue beams of sudden death." "You aren't wearing anything!" "Yes. for all she knew. Or.” she answered patiently. She waited. Luke. it was the spirit of the thing. she decided to wear black in case an opportunity to steal Luke's imaginary hat presented itself. in a rough. a—" He interrupted to shout. breathed deeply and hauled her up against his chest. that would be a bad thing? I'm a Medusa look-alike?” Jordan demanded in outrage. he really did have the hat he'd worn in the first painting. it's going to become permanently un-wearable!" It was too coincidental that this conversation was taking place the day she'd come across the unfortunate mermaid costume. The very same conversation had occurred the night she'd worn that. . “I don't want to know! Don't say it! Whatever it is. A jacket. The mermaid costume she set on top of the shelf so she could easily find it again. Some time when she wanted to come out of her shell. but stopped. On a whim. short and fitted at the waist.” Then he roared at full volume. grabbed her shoulders and roared out. Jordan opened the door with a flourish in her satin and velvet. A pair of black satin high heels. only Gary had been the one roaring in her face. Finally he said. “Jordan. Jordan decided as she looked over the pieces. shoes. strained voice.
and her normal sense of mischief began to stir. crossed her arms. and do itnow . He grabbed the lapels. "I am not wearing that sweater!” She barked the words at him in a blinding rage. There is nothing under that jacket but you and we aren't leaving until you change. “Hi. she vowed. Tess. It was impressive. a Shetland wool knit at least an inch thick that didn't even remotely go with her pants and started towards her with it. She was a writer. He was really very upset. She wanted to take notes. Stubbornness would have to do. you don't. He'd get . so he picked her up again and carted her to the door. Luke—" "Jordan!” His shout was enough to give her a permanent headache. Jordan waited a minute. He wanted to drag his family into their little spat? Fine. she saw in satisfaction. We would have been here sooner but Luke thinks I don't know how to dress myself. under the circumstances. The smile dimmed and died as she saw the simmering. "Luke. At Aaron's she refused to speak or get out.” she invited with a wide smile. “If you don't like it. glared and announced. Luke. hauled them shut and started swearing in ways she didn't know had been invented." She saw Tess eye her unusual fashion statement in some amazement. no. heaviest. Jordan.you change it. come in. but was afraid to. and she didn't know those words could be used in that combination. Charm wouldn't cover this occasion. Jordan. He pinned her in place and hauled the sweater over her head without saying a word. Then he picked her up by the waist as if she was an awkward package and carried her bodily to the car and dumped her in. Since he wouldn't listen. Jordan yanked off the jacket before he could stop her and stood there with her hands on her hips. Or tried to. There would be retribution. she ripped open the jacket to demonstrate. That did it. then pulled each hand through the bulky sleeves while she silently resisted and struggled like a three-year-old having a tantrum. Jordan. bulkiest sweater she owned. and put something else on. the perfectly proper—in her opinion—camisole bared to his sight. She guessed he didn't like camisoles. Jordan's fury ebbed as quickly as it had risen. carried her into her bedroom and started to ransack her closet. "Get in there. silent rebellion on Jordan's face and the implacable expression on Luke's. Mutinously Jordan dug in her tiny heels. Tess. He stared. I'm not going to. She cleared her throat faintly and stepped away to let them pass. She glared. “No. He groaned as if she were putting him on the rack and turning the screws.” Luke said in a voice that threatened death and dismemberment at the very least if she failed to comply. He grabbed the biggest. Then he picked her up by her elbows. The door was opened by Aaron's wife. then gave Luke a killing look before she said." She'd shocked him. I have something under it." "But. she thought irritably.” she tried to explain."But.
As if she were fighting tears. and everyone knew it. she denounced Luke as a fashion criminal to the whole clan.” She gave Wendy a look of gratitude that proportionately increased the look of rage Wendy was giving Luke. "Jordan.” she finally concluded. “Don't yell at me again. Luke was too far away to stop her. shaking hand and sniffed. as they silently blamed him for getting them all in trouble by association. She raised pitifully brimming eyes to his. Jordan sipped the wine as if bolstering her spirits in the time honored way. Jordan gave her an angelic smile. Wendy came up to put a glass of wine in Jordan's hand and put a protective arm around her slight shoulders." Wendy accepted the compliment and started to return it. walked in and allowed the merest quiver to touch her lips.” She sniffed audibly. Actually. she was fighting laughter. She pulled off the sweater just as he let loose with a bellow that could start an avalanche and the sweater hit the floor a bare moment before he slapped his suit jacket over her bare shoulders. Her pitiful outfit spoke volumes. “I am. then checked herself as she took in the woolen horror overwhelming the dressy pants and heels. he played right into her hands. In fact. As she did.just that. a chauvinistic autocrat.” she agreed sweetly. Without saying a word. now considerably bulked up by the enormous sweater that appeared to be swallowing her whole. . Jordan?” Wendy inquired sympathetically as she continued to glare daggers at her brother. Ignoring him. helpless Luke. sniffed and brushed at one eye with the back of her hand.” she said in a small voice.” Luke growled in warning. “That's a really lovely outfit. In sympathy. "You look. Then every feminine eye in the room turned accusingly on poor. but he saw it coming.” The warning increased. As she drooped with dejection. There was no doubt that Luke was on to her. haltingly. but there would be time for that later. It didn't stop her. "Jordan. Followed by every accusing male eye. “Warm. he vibrated with ever more tangible rage. "What happened.. lips trembling. She slowly.” Wendy hesitated and searched for something diplomatic to say. wives glared at husbands. she reflected that this might very well prove to be her finest hour as an actress. “Nothing. There wasn't a single nice thing anyone could say about what Jordan was wearing. she turned to Wendy with a watery smile. And worse. ah. In spades. She fully intended to laugh last tonight. Jordan took the glass with a pale.. “Thanks. Jordan shivered.
” she informed him approvingly. “The night Jordan wore a see-through camisole and started a riot” would never be forgotten. gory detail as he described her coming retribution. after all. Luke settled for wrapping the suit jacket around her twice and looked for something to fasten it with.But not before her scandalous silk camisole made its party debut. Irreclaimable. he admitted silently. merriment alive in her sparkling eyes. And laugh. She brushed one small hand against his cheek to turn his face towards hers. giggling irresistibly. All of them . the louder he yelled. By her standards.” she offered helpfully. She was too tiny for there to be that much of her in the first place. while the family exchanged looks of incredulity. Pandemonium broke out. "You're shameless. A triumph. including Aunt Cora. He'd wanted her to wreak havoc on his family. Jordan threw her arms around his neck and tried to hold on. the party was a raging success. She continued to laugh. It served him right. left far too much of her still bare. Everyone was shouting. He smiled at her and set her back from him just far enough to be able to button the jacket. Do go on. looking nearly as ridiculous in his suit jacket as she had in her absurd sweater. Her legs gave out and she fell into Luke's arms. shouting all the while. Jordan started to laugh. He hugged her. intractable and utterly beyond redemption." "Those are very big words. And laugh. still giggling." "Oh. He noticed that none of his supposedly loyal and concerned family members offered to help. "You forgot incorrigible. Luke gave up. Sorry. He sighed. And she'd done just that. “I can see you meant it when you said you wouldn't wear the sweater. helpless with mirth. Luke looked down at the terribly pleased troublemaker clinging to him. I didn't. Then he frowned as he saw that the size of his jacket on her.” he announced. "No. Ridiculous and utterly charming. Reactions ranging from gasps to dropped dishes presaged the full-scale riot that ensued. This night would live on in infamy. buried his face in her shock of white hair and laughed. I wasn't done yet. hopeless and uncontrollable. and in the midst of it all. The more she laughed.” she encouraged. even buttoned.” he conceded. "You're an imp. A fiend. Half of the members in the group tried to protect Jordan from Luke and the other half started to throw their jackets in as reinforcements. at full volume and in graphic. He'd even looked forward to it. He caught her and never missed a beat. Laughing until she cried. he thought. until finally he stopped as if realizing how futile it was. Luke started shouting at her again. A moment to savor and cherish.
“I did tell you that flattery would get you everywhere. Will you please. I'm a triumph. and instead I got your jacket. And neither plan took Jordan into account. keep this on for the rest of the night?" "Do you admit you were wrong?" He frowned at her." Luke privately agreed. “Since you ask so charmingly.” She beamed and pretended to swoon. this was it. Just wear the jacket. Aunt Cora announced loudly. He gave Wendy a frown. “You single-handedly turned a formal Foster affair into a barroom brawl without getting a hair out of place. .” She settled more comfortably into her corner and put her feet on the space between them as she faced him. "You don't know the meaning of the word. Chapter Seven Jordan was still smiling as Luke drove her home. I amaze myself." Wendy fought laughter and lost." "You are amazing. She saw him glance her way as they passed under a street light and took advantage of the illumination to grin widely at him. he said. There was no telling what she might do next. for my sake.” she answered. folding her arms over the fabric to keep it firmly in place and smiled sweetly at him. I suppose I can't refuse.” he stated. “Can we make a deal?" "I'm always willing to be reasonable. Whatever else you could call it. Luke tucked her just as firmly against his side. since she was still standing there looking both pleased and entertained. He wasn't about to turn her loose again. First he'd planned to foist a fake fiancée on his family. He found himself wondering what plansshe was concocting. The punch bowl was still standing upright and he intended to see that it stayed that way. Luke.were on her side. “Good evening." She sighed dramatically.” She cooperated. her dimples showing deeply." "More praise.interesting certainly described the situation well. I'll give you that. As if nothing untoward had occurred. Jordan. "Still proud of yourself. Jordan was still grinning from ear to ear. are you. then he found himself falling prey to the temptation to turn the lie into truth. “Don't push it. "Definitely. “I originally planned to swipe your hat tonight.” she agreed. If there ever was a situation to bull his way through. He sighed. imp?” Luke asked wryly. “Things are certainly more interesting now that you've gotten engaged. Wendy.
She looked too peaceful to disturb and he didn't have the heart to wake her. Too bad she'd never been especially rational. after a brief skirmish with the door. She barely stirred when the motion stopped and someone called her name. Even knowing he was the mortal who'd suffer for it tomorrow. Luke wasn't boring and. He might have known that a confirmed rebel would refuse to wear a bra. A leopard couldn't change its spots and she would never be able to stay out of trouble. I'm fine. What an evening. She was as light as a child. Wendy was fast becoming a friend and she sincerely hoped the relationship could survive once she and Luke either came clean or announced a break-up—whatever he had planned. She'd probably burned hers in protest. How in the world could someone who looked so utterly peaceful in sleep be the same restless sprite out to destroy all peace while awake? It was as wonderfully incongruous as everything else about her. Even wicked fairies needed their rest for another day's work making trouble for mortals. it went from wonderfully warm to scorching hot. whatever the outcome. It didn't hide nearly enough. that was a universal first. like embers banked to last the night. Luke decided.” She curled into his jacket with a contented sigh. Well. so he made for it in easy strides. And whenever something happened to stoke the blaze. because even if he gave her an ultimatum such as behave or lose her fake fiancé. Luke scooped up a cuddly. The thing about a match made in a fiery place was that it really warmed a person."Are you cold?” He glanced over at her again in inquiry. Lulled by the motion of the car. White blond hair above soft lashes laying against the curve of an innocent cheek. He had a sinking sense of horror that underneath the silky pants there'd be nothing but an endless . whenever Luke was around. Pink lips parted in sleep. Maybe a break-up would be best. She suspected that Luke was enjoying the excitement himself. It clung like a second skin and revealed the lack of any other undergarment. Jordan yawned and curled more deeply into her corner. for Jordan. she had plenty of excitement guaranteed for the rest of the holidays. We're here. she'd never be able to keep it. Luke had a great family. she didn't have the body of a child—a fact he was confronted with when he removed his jacket from her and considered how to put her to bed. fragrant armful of trouble and carried her inside. "Jordan. Jordan thought wistfully. That cursed camisole. It certainly made things exciting. They'd had enough quarrels to convince any rational person that the match was made in hell. A good thing. She suspected glumly that a match made in heaven would be terribly pale and boring in comparison. She'd had a wonderful time. she dozed. Her outrageous antics might infuriate him. "No. he was going to let her sleep. She'd certainly given him enough reason. brawl or no brawl.” Luke looked over at her face in the moonlight and saw the face of a sleeping angel. Heat glowed. He now knew where to find her bedroom. but he was also demonstrably entertained. Unfortunately.
She was going on with the masquerade only because he'd promised to take care of everything. he picked up the velvet jacket still lying on the floor. there would be a white wedding. The pants slipped easily over her small hips and he hung them over a chair so they wouldn't wrinkle. she wasn't completely bare beneath the silk. knowing her. So much so that he'd already determined to turn her little plot back on her and trap her in her own snare. It was too much to expect any kind of conventional behavior from her. He'd put the little minx safely to bed and then he'd go lie in the snow until he recovered from the experience. too. Being on pins and needles let him know with certainty that he was alive. He reminded himself sternly that he was a saint. He smiled just thinking about it. For all her wicked ways. He slipped off her shoes and then decided that only moving very quickly was going to get him through this torture. To his vast relief. He suspected that only a pure heart allowed the sprite to dance through life unharmed and able to abandon herself so completely to joy. she was possibly the most innocent and untouched creature he'd ever encountered. She couldn't bear to disappoint his family or hers. He doubted that she'd ever deliberately hurt anyone in her life. She tormented him mercilessly but he found it oddly exciting. She trusted him. I am a damned saint. For a moment his arms refused to release her. Jordan shifted and the camisole went from bad to worse. complete with pert. As real as the powerful attraction between them and the even rarer bond of friendship and trust. "Lord. however it started out. Even in sleep she tormented him with the ingenuity of an experienced imp in a special chamber of hell. whom she didn't even know. their engagement was very real. The wedding march. By the time Christmas rolled around. Still. she probably would. clad in the briefest briefs he'd ever seen and the camisole which revealed her lack of need for embellishing. It was twisted on her small frame and one small globe lay revealed to his hungry eyes. He didn't care if she wore black and went barefoot and braless . And by then he hoped to have convinced her that. Jordan was all that was good. and. especially on a solemn occasion. free-thinking lifestyle. too. She couldn't even bring herself to deceive his Aunt Cora. He'd roast over her coals any day.. some did like it hot. one way or another. Then he pulled the covers up to her pointy little chin. to be specific. That was the important thing to remember right now.. but alive—and he found the awareness exhilarating." He closed his eyes and reminded himself that for all her free-spirited. and she trusted him to keep his word. . He'd make her face the music. smoothed it and laid it over the chair. sweat beaded on his forehead when he picked her up.” Luke breathed in a pained whisper. maybe.expanse of silky skin. As the saying went. He pulled the covers back and placed her under them. Jordan made up for in sheer trouble what she lacked in size and that was the truth. While he debated. Alive and suffering. It was her innocence that charmed everyone around her. pink nipple. This was one time when she wouldn't go dancing on her merry way. “I do expect to be nominated for sainthood. On impulse. Luke vowed. But Luke was smiling when he brushed a light kiss on her rosebud lips.
He'd need every advantage in the fight to make an honest woman of the world's biggest liar. Then he scowled as he considered the almost absent bodice and hoped she didn't plan to make it worse by ripping it. As it was. it looked like she was going to get her wish. The little scamp. No doubt Wendy would happily paint in the sweat beads on his brow and the look of torture on his face at the sight. There was no way he could sit in front of his sister knowing the temptation in front of him was wearing nothing under her voluminous skirt. an unwilling smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. . And you'd better keep your skirt down. Only Jordan would have something like this. When he bent to investigate. and no matter how many times she batted her eyes at him and called himher hero . he suspected that the more solemn the occasion. Also. too.In fact. Thinking of Jordan trying to be still led to thinking about the fun of posing with her for Wendy to immortalize in a painting. it was more interesting than watching tropical fish or playing new age music—two things he couldn't imagine her being still long enough to enjoy. Luke let out a wicked laugh. he thought with a smile. She couldn't help spilling voluptuously over the top. He put the dress back down and saw that something had fallen loose. Well. too.” he threatened her sleeping form. As if she'd flash him a look at her peek-a-boo underwear. He wouldn't rescue her to ride off with her on his horse. the more outrageous he could depend on her behavior to be. If she did that. He thought it just might be her way of coping with stress. The Man in Black Jordan laughed out loud at the outrageous note he'd left her. the man in black would just keel over in a dead faint at the very thought. you will find yourself in real distress. But what a sight it would be. **** My dear damsel. not his macho threats. “but my way includes a few little formalities which you'll have to accommodate." It was a very good thing that he outweighed her by at least three times her slight mass. the man in black was going to need rescuing more than the supposedly distressed damsel. She was joining the family gallery and by golly she'd have to join the family. You're going to have to do this the Foster way. She'd probably ransacked somebody's attic to find it. He'd capture her and steal her away to become his pleasure slave instead. okay. “I'm going to have my way with you. Luke sighed in resignation. She'd planned to wear those practically nonexistent bloomers? Luke was sorely tempted to foil her plans by stealing them. Another good reason for her to follow through. I'll be sufficiently paralyzed knowing what your bloomers look like. Luke walked over to it and held it up to take a closer look. His gaze fell on the vintage dress then. it wouldn't save her too-tempting hide. As a coping mechanism. If you dare rip this bodice and try to wear it in front of me. but if he did she'd probably go one worse and wear nothing at all underneath. so the thought had occurred to her—but she wasn't sure his heart could take it and that was theonly thing stopping her.
Jordan put the note down and vowed to leave the bodice un-ripped and her skirt down. she vowed. the camisole had appeared in all its glory. She smiled dreamily at the thought. no doubt about it. And it wasn't as if Luke was completely unacquainted with her body.. She started to laugh again at the sweet memory of his comeuppance last night. It made her smile. It made her sigh. She'd come up with something guaranteed to make him shout with rage first and then laughter. would he? Force a big. Well. and she certainly did have a lot—specifically. so she dismissed that idea. deceitful subterfuge that prevented her from enjoying all the privileges of an engaged person. finding the perfect gift was a talent of hers. come to think of it. she couldn't have everything. but the sweetest music of all was Luke's raging. hairy sweater on her unwilling person? He'd seen wherethat would get him. Never Never Never In a Million Years would show up on her doorstep. Luke didn't likenice. She'd be nice to him from now on. Try to make her wear whathe wanted. she'd be herself and make him sing carols. that was where. Whatever. It was a Herculean feat of goodness and it certainly ought to outweigh quite a bit of minor little naughtiness. . any way she looked at it. Luke's delightful companionship and the security of knowing no awful Mr. The sounds of gasps. Feeling distinctly self-righteous at the thought. He'd actually put her to bed and tucked her in. roaring voice. She wasn't a saint. Worse off than before. It made her curse the sneaky. luckily for her. after undressing her and putting her to bed last night. Jordan found that almost unbearably sweet. How was she supposed to resist that kind of temptation? If he merely yawned. Imagine the freedom to walk out her door instead of fleeing through a window! And she owed it all to Luke. Well. Or all her glory. It certainly had been a glorious moment. A gun sprang to mind—but he might be tempted to use it on her. such as telling her what to wear and dragging her to parties when she didn't want to go and from them when she didn't want to leave. As it was. Or maybe his laugh. He reacted so beautifully. as nice as she could stand. so violently to her pushing his buttons. which he would do while scowling so enticingly at her that she'd have to resist with all her strength. symbolizing the disorderly lawman? It was definitely going to take some thought. Well. shouts and breaking glass were music to her ears. Fighting with Luke was her Christmas bonus. A frown to faint at.. So thoughtful and concerned. No. He had a scowl to die for. Cowboy boots? A tin star to go on his black hat.Her fiancé was so much fun to tease. she wouldn't bother. at least he was when he wasn't being high-handed and passing down edicts. Instead. A yell to make her shiver and sigh. Fortunately. proof of his overall niceness. He hadn't been able to stay mad for long . Instead of the jacket she'd planned to wear modestly over it. Nice bored him to tears. It sent little warm shivers down her spine and happy tingles from head to toe. he ought to be glad she was resisting the temptation to kiss him breathless. For that alone she was bound to get on Santa's “Nice” list. She wondered what to give her favorite fiancé for Christmas. she'd be able to pass up an opportunity now and then. after all. But she would go barefoot and shimmy and wiggle as the mood struck her. He was so nice.
Save me!" "I've already saved you. "She's going to get me. It might make my skirt fly up. Luke.. but she managed it. Words to play on. Endings to twist. they probably were. She was killing him by inches. Iam in distress. begging to be touched. "Well." "I can't. Shut up and look grateful before I shove you off my saddle.” Luke retorted. Knowing Jordan. I'll send you both into different corners. She picked up her notebook and went at it with a will.” She said the last in a dramatic whisper designed to remind Luke of who would get damaged in that event. wiggling around on his lap in that outfit designed to inspire ravishment in even the mildest male heart. Jordan added laughing to her repertoire and ruined the distress with deep dimples and the sparkle of humor in her eyes. Which meant.. that she'd better quit gloating over past triumphs and anticipating future debacles and get to work. fidgeting Jordan a dozen times by now.” Luke answered with a stern look. if you move your hip again. and it wasn't from the heat of Wendy's lights that created the illusion of midday sun . If she spilled out any further from the inadequate bodice. Luke secured his hold on her and balanced them both in the saddle that was perched atop a prop horse. Jordan rolled her eyes at that. She had jokes to tell. It was too much to also expect her to be still. because a real horse would have reared up to unseat and trample the twitching. He was sweating. **** "Jordan. then keep right on going . That earned her a killing look.” she replied indignantly. It should rightfully have singed her eyebrows. he'd be able to see her belly button. hold still. Up to diabolical black lace. starting tonight. “Oh. too. Good thing. Up to heaven worth the hell she was putting him through. three feet? It might do permanent damage. which did complicate Jordan's already complicated schedule. Jordan concluded with a wince.Since Wendy wanted to give the new addition to the family gallery to her parents for Christmas. I may never be able to have children.” Wendy threatened. Luke was perilously close to it himself. It was hard to be distressed and indignant while swooning in the arms of the lethal man in black. Help. a fall of—what. She waved a vicious-looking palette knife at them for emphasis and Jordan quailed. "If you two can't behave. The real black steed would be painted in later. Her tiny waist rose above the padded bustle and draping skirt that were all that protected him from the curvy hips that lay across his lap and nestled into his groin. And her bare feet peeking out from beneath the hem of the skirt made him want to run his hands over that tempting arch. she and Luke would be posing for her. at the very least. up. warm and curving. up satin limbs that beckoned. Her dangerous curves surged up and out as if trying to escape the confining boned corset.
She was beautiful. “I'mtrying. don't you? A lot of it is visible in the rock throughout the Champlain valley. The white sail moving across the lake concerned the people. "You know that Vermont produces most of the nation's marble. And she was looking uncomfortable. Luke shifted her a little more to relieve the pressure on her ribs and she looked grateful enough to make up for Wendy's strident remark that he'd just ruined the angle." "Oh. It was a long boat with a sea serpent's head and a sail. which the Algonquin had never seen. They loved the princess. Wendy growled. I forgot.against the painted backdrop. These whalebones are pinching and poking me and I can't breathe. and more alone." Luke paused and Jordan held her breath until he continued. "Well. “Sorry. an Algonquin Indian princess lived in the valley. Yes. The tribe knew when she was born with the white hair of the moon that it was a sign—but what the sign meant they didn't know. do you? I'm telling you a legend.” she added in answer to Luke's question. "How about if I tell you a story?” he offered hopefully. “How about the story about the painter who killed her models so rigor mortis would set in and they'd have to stay in position?" Jordan gave her a pitiful look.” She swooned and waited eagerly. They watched to see what would happen. Whathe needed was a distraction. “You have no romance in your soul. I'll keep still. Start swooning. But he thought he could come up with something original just for her. A romantic legend. and historical tales weird enough to qualify as fiction of the wildest kind. over the lake came a strange boat of a kind they had never seen before.” she finished pleadingly. “I didn't know you could tell stories. He smiled at Jordan and wondered what kind of story would please her.” Jordan answered readily. but they feared her. There were hundreds of local legends involving Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys. Then one day." . the alleged sea monster in Lake Champlain. She looked apologetic. the sight of Jordan in that dress was definitely worth a little torture." Jordan nodded and earned another frown from Wendy. heat and pressure from the fault lines under the mountain ranges. Tell me a story. Okay. “Anything to take my mind off this ancient torture device. What kind of story?" Wendy interrupted archly. It seemed only fair. Luke sighed. Wendy. "Long ago. I am in real distress. Still. too. Jordan brightened. What they needed was a distraction. and so the princess grew more beautiful every year. Luke." Luke was un-chivalrously glad that the dress was torturing her. So beautiful that it was said that her eyes were made from the stars of heaven and her hair from moonbeams. "She was always one of the tribe and yet a person apart. do you know how the marble got there?" "Sure. too.
nudging Luke where it was most likely to prod him to action. they looked for the sign of the moon and found it in a crescent mark over the Viking's heart. The Algonquin people watched the strangers. where was I? Oh yes.Jordan interrupted excitedly. Perhaps. Ow! Jordan." "Right. In the morning the princess was found with the knife that killed him and his blood on her hands. One terrible night. they said. So the princess and the Viking were married and the Vikings and the Algonquians were as one people. didn't it?" . The white sail and the white skins of the newcomers reminded them of their princess with her white hair.” Luke reminded her. “Doyou want to tell this story?" "Sorry." "It always does. it was an omen—new people were coming to their land and perhaps this was a sign that the two peoples should join together." He moved a hand to brush her cheek at the risk of incurring Wendy's wrath. “The Viking colony led by Leif the Lucky!" Luke frowned at her. not only for her lost love but also for the jealous rage in the heart of one of her own people. he knew this was the man that the princess should marry." Jordan sniffled. she was gone and was never seen again." "You should be. But trouble soon came. "Everyone's a critic." She giggled. To be absolutely certain. Perhaps they should give the princess to a man of the new tribe and it would bring luck to all the people. she wouldn't say who had done the terrible deed. “I bet nobody asked the princess. “Well. But her white tears seeped into the ground and became the marble you see in the valley. The princess grieved. “Luke. Perhaps. In the morning. when the sun came up." "Princesses have to do what their told. “What happened then? What about the princess?” she demanded. All right. and when he found the man he could not defeat in a wrestling match. "Ah. “So a great warrior of the Algonquin went to test the strength of the white people. It's sosad . and grief stole her voice and she never spoke again.” Luke snickered.” Jordan sighed. “The princess and her husband loved each other deeply." Jordan waited impatiently. "You should know. that's terrible. Because she loved her own people too well. but he didn't continue. mixing another color in the middle of her palette. but there were still many men of her tribe who were jealous and who secretly wished to have the beautiful princess as their own mate. don't wiggle like that—our future children are at stake. they said. a jealous rival came and killed the Viking man while he slept. it took your mind off of being pinched and poked. Noblesse oblige. their princess with her white hair was born to bring this about. She sat on a rock in the moonlight and wept white tears.” Jordan fumed. But bad feelings on both sides grew until war broke out and the strangers fled in their boat. "Will you just get on with it?” Wendy demanded.
You should do it more often. yes. I can now.” he replied dryly. he swung down and lowered Jordan carefully to her feet.. while everything is still standing. “Can you stand?” he asked. “Of course we don't. “That's much better. thanks. “Well.” Jordan protested indignantly.” he agreed. after their deaths. Luke. Luke. “You just can't help starting trouble everywhere you go. “We'd better run for it. Wendy tossed a long strand of hair back and eyed them both. now." "Oh." "I noticed. “Well. Luke couldn't help laughing. you two. then frowned when he saw her bite her lip. Yes. it was wonderful. they were reunited as stars in the sky. "All right. Jordan leaned closer into Luke. not really.” she added with a lift of her eyebrow." "We don'tbrawl ." She stuck her tongue out at him.” Wendy warned them both. But if it makes you feel better.” Wendy ordered them both sternly." "Get out. “That's enough for now. That dress alone is enough to incite a riot. Without waiting for permission. “Happy endings are for real life. “Only since he met you. I didn't know sitting still was so hard. Jordan sighed happily. couldn't you have come up with a happy ending?" He smiled at her. I don't want any brawls distracting me while I'm working..” he improvised." .She considered that. leave. did he always tell stories?” Jordan asked." "I'm glad you approve.” She sounded surprised and forlorn. “Really?" "No. Something I would have said was impossible. Only I don't have my running shoes. But still . and grimaced until the cramps slowly eased.” She visibly drooped with disappointment. “if you're going to start up again. “Ouch. I can't believe you just made that up. supporting her in case she couldn't. "Just with you in it. Jordan smiled sweetly at him. You've made a romantic out of him. Wendy.” he informed Wendy. She flexed and stretched her legs one at a time." He smiled at her. considering the picture they made." Jordan looked both fascinated and ridiculously pleased. "You're a really good storyteller. “That's because you've never done it before in your life. Luke laughed again and swung her off her feet and into his arms.
Amazing. I will need your faces again. But she woke up eagerly early on in the short drama instead of snoring peacefully through the whole thing. eyeing the strained bodice in trepidation. please." He slanted a wry look at her." He laughed at her dramatics.” Jordan agreed. two small boys weren't running loose in the same house who might possibly burst in unexpectedly. Empty. Get me out of this iron maiden. In his fantasies. The dress was open from neck to waist and his warm hands stroked her bared back soothingly. “Come on. feeling her aches dissipate and evaporate under his hands. “Free at last! Free at last!" "Stop that or some parts of you will be free before other parts.” Luke warned her. “Let us know when.” Luke set her down and tapped on the bathroom door. She hadn't even specifically requested a fantasy massage-giving fiancé and she got a bonus anyway. And maybe a little anticipation. She bounced up and down in eagerness.” Jordan turned and presented her row of miniature fastenings and tried to stand still so he could unfasten her. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the massage. “Oh. He obligingly fumbled at the little hooks and wondered how he'd gotten himself into this." "Okay. Well. This was not the way he'd envisioned undressing Jordan. I got enough from today and from the snapshots for the composition. either of you. since he was holding her already." Jordan sighed happily and looped her arms around her hero's neck as he carried her off and silently vowed never again to wear running shoes when he was around. “I won't need you in costume again. And in his fantasies involving Jordan and this dress. He was in fact undressing her for the second time.” she groaned. and neither one went remotely like the scenarios in his fantasies. When they continued up and slid around to cup her abused cleavage.” Wendy added over her shoulder. moving down her spine. she was .” Then she heaved a dramatic sigh of relief and dropped her head on Luke's ample shoulder. "Thanks. at least she could enjoy being carried off by him. maybe in one or two. that feels sogood . she wasn't asleep. “Take me away. "Certainly. If she couldn't kiss him. He swung it open and ushered an eager Jordan inside and closed it behind them. I'll get you out. Jordan sighed blissfully and leaned back against Luke. Luke. "Then undo me. then spreading out to move up her sides and continue the massage along her aching ribcage. I always carry off damsels in distress.” She moaned in misery. without realizing how it sounded. what wouldyou call it? I'm being stabbed from all directions. Jordan sighed in blessed relief as one by one the fastenings came open and relieved the vise-like pressure. though. “How did women survive this through the centuries? Thank God for lycra and spandex. “Iron maiden?" "Well. Luke. Hurry."Carry me?” she requested unnecessarily. Strong fingers kneaded aching muscles and rubbed away the irritation produced by confining whalebone. Jordan. for the final details.
she settled for staying put and staying still and staying quiet for possibly the first and only time in her life. that was definitely not in the plan. “Okay. Jordan." Randall looked suspiciously at Jordan. Her bones were turning to water. "Luke.” He released her breasts and slid one hand down to her waist to press her back against him. Oh dear. “Huh?" Teresa shook her head. . “I'm sorry. She didn't know whether to protest or cheer. It won't happen again." "Okay.This is what being engaged does to a person? I never thought I'd see Jordan like this—quiet and worried. “She's been like that all day." Chapter Eight "Earth to Jordan. She wanted it to happen again. Would John Wayne lie to her? He was the man in black. she thought wildly. Neither was his jaw scraping against her cheek. Her hero. or his warm breath feathering her bared neck and sending shivers down her spine. after all.” he murmured. "Shh. And when he turned her to him and kissed her fiercely. “Don't look like that." Great. Well.. What had she just done? Ruined everything.” Luke said quietly.suddenly very glad he was holding her up. "It's going to be all right. She was holding it. Luke released her lips and she stared stupidly at him. He'd hate her. “Get dressed. No she didn't. Good. Come in. of course. imp.. Jordan relaxed. Yes she did." They stayed together in a few minutes of silence. the other moving safely up to rest below her throat as he held her tightly. This wasn't in the plan. at least she'd get a good burial plot. Then Luke loosed his hold and smiled down at her. I'll take you home. Steady. Confused. Luke hugged her gently against his chest. Jordan. leaving her to Seymour's tender mercies. And again and again. she wasn't sure which." Her head snapped up and she looked back and forth from Randall to Teresa.” His name burst from the depths of her soul at the intimate touch. but everything else had caught fire. Jordan thought weakly. Jordan tried to look innocent and searched for the fork she'd either lost or forgotten she was holding . I promise. He'd call off their phony engagement. She could trust him. She stabbed at a Brussels sprout and attempted to redirect the conversation.
he hadn't sent her flowers or anything remotely along the floral theme. Did you cook these in garlic butter?" Teresa just sighed. there were no words to describe how she felt. Teresa shook her head. As usual. maybe cowboy boots. Jordan snapped to attention again. She missed him.Attraction fell short. She was lusting after Luke and fantasizing about him in his black hat and nothing else. I'll do something. too. She wanted to see him smile and hear him roar in outrage and feel him throw her up in the air as if she was Theodore's little toddler. Do something. She knew it. Teresa.” she offered inanely with a weak smile in Teresa's direction. She hadn't seen him since he'd dropped her off the previous evening and she missed him all the way down to her toes. A humiliatingly happy smile broke over her face.. Jordan realized in horror that she was inches away from weeping into Teresa's Sunday pot roast." "I did?" "Randall." Jordan couldn't spare any sympathy just then for Teresa's concern. "Good sprouts. She had nobody but herself to blame for her predicament.” his wife demanded. She was worried enough herself. for goodness sake. “You already said that. Sunday hadn't been much more peaceful. She'd spent a restless. But she admitted to herself that she was being lousy company and she ought to at least contribute to the dinner conversation. coerced by her brute and base instincts and deeply depraved urges. lunatic andirrational ? That was better. Pitiful. For the first time. but she was too glad to see him to care how disgustingly . The reason for her distraction wasn't Randall's fault. or Teresa's." At the sound of the familiar voice.Obession? Well. She was insanely driven. Her eyes swung to his. she's your sister. compelled. Pathetic.. that was closer. It's even worse than I thought. But—he was disgusted with her. emotional night—after being unexpectedly kissed and caressed by a dangerous gunslinger in his sister's bathroom. Sad. She was pining for his presence."Great sprouts. And so far. She had to get a grip. No—how aboutderanged. "She's my fiancée. which was equally disgusting. her fork once more forgotten in her limp hand.. delusional. Just thinking about Luke and the fact that he wasn't there had Jordan wilting and drooping over her Brussels sprouts again. She had managed to get herself “engaged” to a man she . “Now she's showing an interest incooking .. Well. or either of their boys.
Almost as good as he did shouting.besotted she was acting. “Thank you.. It was a subtle reminder of his first promise to her. Personally. and Jordan was distracted by the sound. He'd brought her flowers again. “Burned something? Broken the dishes? Filled the dishwasher with liquid dish soap instead of automatic detergent?" "I only did thatonce . Jordan. Gary wouldn't allow her in the kitchen again for a month. Himself.” Teresa prompted her. it went. Luke wasn't disgusted with her after all. "What has she done now?” Luke asked Randall in commiseration. “It was an honest mistake. Jordan accepted the flowers with numb fingers and smiled her horribly besotted smile. too. though . that was exactly what he'd attribute it to—acting. He didn'tlook disgusted. That struck her as odd and she asked. as swiftly as the relief came. He looked a little relieved. actually. She'd snowed him before. he wouldn't have bothered with flowers. she reasoned. Relief sang through her. "Oh. “To give you these. How was I supposed to know it was the wrong kind of soap?" Randall cracked a smile at the memory. Water.” Teresa added as if to a child. “Why are you here?" He whipped a bouquet of white carnations from behind his back and offered them to her. ." "Oh!" "Take them. She looked down at the flowers and tried not to cry. Once there.. Jordan thought. The fact that he'd shown up unannounced at Randall's to surprise her showed her that he was still planning on holding up his end of their bargain. He sounded so good laughing.” Jordan defended herself huffily. He'd buy it. Hadn't she already demonstrated considerable talent in that direction? Yes. Then.” Fork still in hand. He wouldn't leave her to the likes of Seymour and company. Right. "Go put them in water. and say ‘thank you'." Luke laughed. “We had soap suds all over the kitchen floor up to our knees. she had. she leaned against the counter and sniffed the spicy fragrance of the carnations and smiled dreamily. instead of through George the delivery man. trying very hard not to laugh. Hewould leave her. with any luck. Maybe he planned to put the whole half-naked kissing thing behind him and forget about it. “You're welcome. And he was here. Besides. Jordan abruptly rose from the table and headed for the kitchen with the flowers. If he wasn't. He'd kept every one he'd made since then. leaving her slumped and despondent. January second." She smiled some more." Luke smiled back. who she was rapidly getting to know as well as she knew her mailman.
almost anything." "You don't know the meaning of prepared.” he said apologetically.” It was what she wanted to do more than anything at that moment. I do." "Oh. She lifted her head to smile at him and he smiled warmly back. “Do you want to make a snowman?" Hope ran through her and erased every trace of unhappiness. With something like her old verve. so why risk it? Get your coat and mittens on." He might have been talking about fractions or demographics or tabulated statistics for all she knew. Spicy. Jordan. But not this. “So? I thaw well. “You can count on me. What do you think?" He smiled at her and traced the dimples in her cheeks with a finger. “But I'd rather not have a Popsicle to dance with on Friday." . you do. Jordan gave him a deeply offended look.” he agreed. I'm always prepared for snow from October to April. How about a code word for riot? I've got it—camisole. "It's snowing again. If it's too hopelessly dreary. we'll make our escape unnoticed.” he continued." "Yes. Colorful. Luke set the flowers aside and turned to pull her into his embrace. Of course I do. For once she was without words. Then in all the confusion. “You run outside in your shirt and turn blue and have to be thawed out. “I thought carnations would suit you. All she knew for sure was that it wasn't January yet. “I took a chance. “Friday? I don't remember Friday." Jordan gave him an impish smile and her dimples deepened. I'm counting on you to start another riot.” he snickered. "They didn't have any calla lilies. She lifted wide eyes to his unreadable gaze. Some things were off limits. He took the flowers from her unresisting grasp and put them in a vase with water." She shot him a questioning look." She grinned at him saucily. She laid her cheek on his chest and breathed in his warm musky scent—the scent of a businessman who didn't quite manage to look like he belonged behind a desk—and felt sheer bliss from head to toe. “I think I can use that in a sentence. She never wanted it to end.” Jordan managed to say. Sweet. “I am a native of Vermont. and Luke was holding her in his arms. Well. “Thank you. “Yes. What are we doing?" "A boring business cheese and cracker thing. "Do you have mittens? A scarf? A coat?” He prodded." Jordan didn't respond. She wanted to play in the snow with Luke."You don't like carnations?” Luke asked.
Now hurry and get bundled up or I'll cheat and get a head start instead of waiting for you. “You're afraid of the competition. She didn't have a chance. She'd been happy to see him. and she could be outside turning blue right now. By the time she realized the hoax had grown and overwhelmed her. She'd glowed when he offered to build a snowman with her. No self-respecting outlaw rider would let a damsel in distress charm his horse out from under him and his hat off his head.. at that bold statement. Luke. And if she wasn't. Luke Foster. I'll be fine." "You're on! I make a mean snowman. Come on. Instead. The announcement had already been sent to the paper. “Besides. Not to mention as the dark and dangerous man in black.” She gave him a wicked look. You're trying to distract me.. or didn't wear. He wouldn't put it past Jordan to run outside just the way she was to get a jump on him. she needed to be muffled. horrified. “I don't need something on my head." "You're making that up. “Settle for savingme . “Heat loss." . Bright sun reflected off the new snow but the air held the cold bite of winter in spite of the sunshine.” He wound the scarf over the top of her hair. “we could just make one together. as his future wife. hurry up. “I wouldnot . She might need to be thawed." She frowned in offense. need something on your head. he frowned and started after her. “While you're busy running. he intended to lure her out to the edge of that precipitous leap. hadn't she? She'd smiled and looked pleased when he teased her. too. “Dickens for escape. I'm setting you up. Thinking of that. camisole for riot. Even with a head start. then wrapped it under her chin. quickly and lightly. I'm creative. which Luke did while she zipped her jacket despite her squirming and protesting. Body heat gets lost through the top of the head faster than anywhere else.” Jordan accused.” Luke gave a diabolical laugh at the thought." "Oh no.” she smirked and then raced for her mittens and jacket. We should be a spy team. “You'd start world war three within a week. Friday and every other day. either. professionally. At least not for long. Soon he'd have her registering for crystal and picking a china pattern and—and she'd be lost. And no one was going to ride to her rescue to save her from the man in black. She had to be falling in love with him." "You do. because Luke Foster did not fall alone. He had a reputation to uphold as a desirable and eligible bachelor." "You're insane and I'm not going to let you freeze."Then camisole it is. the invitations would be in the mail and the flowers ordered. She'd just agreed to be introduced to his business associates. But he didn't think she'd be too distressed. you'd never outdo me. I'd save the world!" Luke couldn't resist kissing her again. using one of Wendy's handy photographs of the two of them. No matter what she wore . My snowman will be better than yours anyway.” Luke arranged the covering to his satisfaction then led her outside.” he continued. Hopelessly trapped in an endless snare of formalities that tied her tightly to him. "Oh yes I will.” he promised the empty air behind her. What a code.” Luke shook his head.
of course. How could any man resist a temptation like that? Even a man sworn to saintliness wouldn't be oblivious. She sat up. he rolled onto his back beside her. That was what she looked like—a snow angel. he grabbed her hand and pulled her with him to the ground. “Not bad. she slipped from his arms and threw herself into packing and rolling the beginnings of a snowman. They fell into wet snow that clung and packed when Jordan brushed a mittened hand across the white surface. His light blue eyes met hers steadily as he drawled. Jordan let him pull her up and kept from disturbing her own design." She hesitated. “You want a challenge? You're on. And now I think we should make snow monsters. "Oh. “What a good idea. “You're afraid of a challenge. Wild and unpremeditated. he'd be content to see Jordan smile at him and feel comfortable in his presence again. then grinned and fell back into the snow and made an angel of her own. careful to keep the desire in his voice under control." She laughed in delight. for now. Try it. but I expected better from the Snow Queen." Without another word." Carefully he rose from the packed outline without disturbing the pattern made by his body in the snow and stood."Aha! I knew it!” Jordan whirled to laugh in his face. An animated snow angel. and the two forms were visibly holding hands. to her amazement. But. But you should know they call me the Snowball Kid. I've never made hand-holding angels before.” he boasted quietly. He'd made a mistake last night.” Her breath made puffs of steamy condensed moisture as the warmer air met and mixed with cold. “Being spontaneous. It was the influence of that dress. “The Snowball Kid?" "That's right. You're trying to con me into lending you my talents again. His was huge and hers was tiny. but now was not the time. that'sgreat . Together they looked at the outlines in the snow. Her dimples deepened. settling his hands on his hips and swaggering towards her in his best John Wayne mode. . “I'm the first guy you've made an angel with in the snow. then extended a hand to help her up. Then without warning. He eyed it critically. still holding her hand and moved arms and legs in a definite snow angel. He wanted to do things with her that wouldmelt the snow. coming on too strong. huh?” he asked lazily. Luke couldn't stop himself from smiling at the picture she made. not the kind that lay quiet and frozen on the ground.” she gasped. “Yes. The kind that moved and laughed. She hugged her arms around his waist and grinned at him. “What are you doing?" He smiled at her." Luke brushed snow from her cheek and tucked white-blond hair back under her scarf. Then.
Whenever Jordan lookedthat innocent, trouble was brewing. Luke braced himself for it with a tantalizing mixture of trepidation and anticipation and went to start his own snow creation. A half hour later, Jordan tapped on his broad shoulder. “Ahem." He turned and quirked a brow at her. “Yes?" She smiled sweetly, her gray eyes dancing. “I'm done. How about you?" He considered her impish face. “I'm done, too.” He stepped back and let her see his snowman. He thought he'd done well. The figure had a hat, nose, mouth and scarf sculpted from the snow and he thought it would impress even her. She eyed it politely and nodded at last. “Not bad ... for a beginner." He frowned. “Not bad? It's great. It's better than great. I think you're jealous." She smirked. “Oh yeah?” She waved a mittened hand in the direction of her own creation. Luke followed the line of her hand and started to laugh. The snow angel had indeed made a snow monster. A hideous snow demon, suspended in the act of lurching across the yard. "That's going to terrify your nephews,” he choked out, still laughing. “We'd better warn Randall to keep them away." She gave him an indignant look. “It will not. It's great! It's beautiful." It washideous . There was no other word to describe the monstrosity. “Jordan, it'll give them nightmares. It might giveme nightmares. It's macabre. Horrific. Not to mention bizarre." She scowled at him. “I love it." He grinned at her and cupped her cheeks, pink with cold. “I do, too." She stopped scowling and charmed him with her dimples again. He should have known then. Her gray eyes were melting pools of innocence, her soft lips curved in the sweetest of smiles. She radiated purity. He should have known, but all he could think about was the memory of those soft lips moving against his. Until an icy shock jolted him from his fantasies to the reality of a wicked fairy who'd just dropped snow down the inside of his shirt. Luke gave a roar of outrage and Jordan slipped free to run for her life across the snowy yard. “I'll get you! As God is my witness, I'll get you!” He bellowed as he gave chase. He caught her with a flying tackle and wrestled her down. She just laughed at him, unrepentant. "You're a criminal,” he accused. "I'd do it again,” she vowed, looking very pleased with herself.
He nodded, resigned. “Yes, you would.” He sighed. Then he ruthlessly retaliated. Snow went down her thin sweater and more covered her face. He unzipped her and filled the jacket with cold wet snow until she shrieked and begged for mercy. "Stop! Stop, Luke, it'scold! ” Jordan gasped and laughed at the sensation of snow melting on her bare skin under her clothes. “Oh, I'm cold." He smeared another handful over her face. “I don't think you're sorry yet.” He gathered another handful of snow in preparation. Jordan eyed the snow, then him. “You wouldn't. You beat me. I'm helpless. You wouldn't keep freezing a helpless woman, would you?" Luke sighed in mock regret and gave her a sorrowful look. “Repent, sinner.” He lifted her sweater and dropped the icy mass onto her bare chest and she wailed in reaction. "I repent. I do, I really do. Oh, Luke, that'sso cold!” She protested and squirmed under him, trying to escape the trap but he wouldn't let up. "Oh, Jordan. Too late.” His loins burned at the sight of her nipples, puckered with cold and clearly outlined under the thin wet knit. She saw the line of his gaze and stopped struggling. She caught her breath and waited. He slowly lowered his mouth to hers and she melted into him. She was hot and cold and shivering, all at once. He kissed her in the snow, fire and ice, and Jordan clung to him mindlessly. She protested when he drew away and reached for him. The regret in his eyes was genuine this time as he shook his head at her. “We're in your brother's yard, Jordan." She'd forgotten, actually. She'd forgotten where they were. She'd forgotten their bargain. She'd forgotten about everything but Luke and the wild delight of kissing him. "Oh.” The shock in her voice was audible. "Yesoh ,” Luke teased her gently, coaxing a slight smile in return. “Come on, you'll freeze. I'll take you home and thaw you out before you turn into an icicle." He scooped her up and brushed the snow from her jacket. When he felt her shivering, he frowned. She really was cold. He unzipped his own coat and spread it wide to wrap her in the edges and grimaced at the cold, wet shock. Nothing with Jordan went according to his fantasies. Sharing a coat with her in a daydream wouldn't involve dripping, melting snow and blue lips. Luke privately mourned the inadequacies of reality as he tucked her against his heat and went around to the kitchen door for her flowers. He eyed the puddle forming at their feet and knocked. Teresa opened the door and looked at the two of them, covered in snow. “You'renot coming in here,” she said sternly. Jordan looked up at Luke and grinned. “I think we're in trouble."
Luke nodded. “That seems to happen whenever you're around." Teresa handed them the flowers and waved them away. “Go get warmed up, you two! Go drip water on your own floors!" Jordan snuggled into his warmth and tried unsuccessfully to chase away the chill. “I'm going to drip everywhere,” she groaned. "I'll mop it up,” Luke offered. A warm glint of humor in his eyes made her smile again. "You should, you're responsible for getting me soaked. And frozen. Now you will have to thaw me or I'll be a Popsicle for sure.” Jordan winked saucily. “You wouldn't want to dance with a Popsicle, would you?" He swung her in a giddy waltz. “I don't know,” he mused. “I think it's kind of fun. It might grow on me." She laughed at him and then shivered in earnest. All laughter gone, Luke swept her up and hurried to his car. “Don't worry, I'm an experienced rescuer of damsels in distress. Would you like to see my resume?” he inquired smoothly as he dumped her in and shut the door. She eyed him in interest as he joined her, started the engine and turned the heater on. “You have a resume as a rescuer? Oh, this I have to see." He gave her an arch look. “I keep it at home." She considered that. “You do?" "Yes,” he assured her warmly. “Right by the indoor hot tub,” he added. Jordan debated briefly. She'd never been much for resisting temptation. The lure of Luke and his kisses and his searing heat were bad enough. The added persuasion of the promise of a hot tub made an overwhelmingly irresistible combination. She scooted across the seat to burrow against him. “Sounds like the perfect spot to keep a resume. Rescue me,” she commanded. He wrapped an arm around her. “I'm thinking of making it my sole professional focus." Thatsounded interesting. “You are?" "Mm-hmm. It looks like a full-time proposition. I've never seen anyone who needed more rescuing than you." "You can't have it both ways, Luke,” she retorted. “I'm either a threat to the entire planet, or harmless and no threat to anyone. I can't be both." Luke dropped a kiss on top of her head. “That's what I used to think. Then I metyou ."
a family he loved and respected. steamy water. sought after and desired by hordes of admiring women. He was only temporary. Great. Now she was cold. He was a carefree bachelor. Hot tubs. was that Luke didn't want to marry her. she wasn't so sure. She pictured Luke in the hot tub in his black hat and felt instantly much warmer. No brothers. "Are we?" He took her by the shoulders and drew her close. but probably especially not to her. it could almost be real. No family of any kind anywhere. closing the door behind them.” he teased. She was nothing but trouble and he'd even said so." Shehad been.It couldn't hurt to pretend? She hadn't thought so before. She didn't even notice the neighborhood until the car stopped. hot. Jordan. was that it was all too easy to believe.. she was completely oblivious to anything else. and then the rapidly falling twilight made it difficult to see. for instance. Jordan curled on the seat and concentrated on thinking warm thoughts. At that thought. we are. and depressed. flames. Fire. it was all the more reason not to waste a single minute of it. And it wasn't. “We're almost there. This would be a night to remember. Determination stirred and she realized how idiotic she was being. So it was temporary. and look where it had gotten her—up to her little metaphorical neck in it. but it couldn't hurt to pretend. wet. a conflagration racing through her veins and burning her from the inside out. “Alone at last. He carried her to a huge master bath and set her down on the tiled floor. and if that was all she'd have. all right. Luke wasn't hers. He'd been willing to con his family. The inescapable truth. in his enthusiasm to heroically rescue her. She huddled closer and didn't say anything. She'd never met a nicer man. and it was absolutely horrible that she couldn't have him. Just us. She was still cold. She sincerely hoped the hat was here instead of at Wendy's with the rest of the props for the painting. Luke hugged her in sympathy. and pretending wouldn't change anything. Wasn't she the bane of his existence? A threat to world peace? A riot looking for a place to happen? The day Jordan Christian went quietly would be the day she went six feet under. Jordan shivered and tried to curl more of his coat around her. she paused. Jordan told herself sternly. While she thought and plotted.” He slowly trailed . Then he locked it and leaned against it. no aunts and no uncles. Not that she had much time to see anything as Luke. Luke didn't want to get married at all. Was she stupid? At least she had him now.. no small children. The problem with creative fiction. no in-laws. too. “Yes. carried her to his house and even over the threshold. She was here and by golly she'd leave her mark on his hot tub. Now . Jordan realized. Jordan vowed silently. no sisters. More evidence of his incredible niceness. as insurance against pressure to marry. You'll be warm in no time. Hot water and hotter kisses. It was so believable.It wasn't far from Randall's house to Luke's. Think about hot water—lots and lots of nice. He'd never use it again without thinking of her.
blazing kisses across her upturned face, then teased the corner of her mouth before claiming it in a kiss that stole her breath away. He smiled at her dazed expression. “I can't believe it. You're speechless." Jordan smiled back at him. “You seem to have that effect on me. Enjoy it while it lasts." "I intend to.” The lazy drawl accompanied by the warm glint in his eyes promised just that. Luke turned the hot tub cover back and Jordan saw steam rising from it. “Wow. Quite the bathroom you have here,” she remarked. It was impressive. Above the sunken wooden hot tub, a skylight offered a tantalizing view of the starlit sky. Beautifully polished wooden decking surrounded the tub. An adjoining room contained dual marble sinks and counters beneath a long beveled mirror; another room housed a standard bathtub with whirlpool jets, and a glassed-in shower stall; all laid out in roomy comfort that made an inviting suite. Tile covered the floor in this room and the other bathing room, with deep plush carpet in the sink area and down the center of the tiled area. Jordan could happily imagine spending the entire day in there without ever unlocking the door. "I'm glad you like it,” Luke answered. He began to remove her dripping clothing. The sodden scarf was unwound and dropped, followed by her coat. Jordan tried to step out of her snow boots and was surprised when his grip tightened on her arms, arresting the motion. "Let me.” The low request sent shivers through her that had nothing to do with cold. Jordan gazed back at him, hypnotized by the sound of his voice and the desire in his eyes. She held still and waited. He knelt and peeled off her wet socks, then cupped her feet in his hands to chafe and warm them, one at a time. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feeling returning to numb toes. "You're soaked and frozen,” he informed her. "I know. The penance for my sins, remember?" Luke laughed. “I'm not sure whose penance it is now.” He stood and swiftly and impersonally removed her wet jeans, teasing her when they stuck. “Too much fudge, Jordan?" "There is no such thing,” she informed him loftily. Leaving her in her wet knit sweater and panties, he removed his own clothes down to cotton jockeys and took her hand. “Come on, let's get you warm." Jordan readily plunged into the hot water and sank in up to her chin. “Ah-h-h. Warmth. I love it." Luke joined her and pulled her onto the ledge to sit, then slid one arm behind her to support her head. “Better?" "Better than better. This is the greatest,” she said happily. He arranged her legs across his lap and turned her sideways against his chest. Maybe it was better this
way, Jordan thought in mingled regret and relief. Half of her wanted to rip off the rest of her clothes and wrap herself around him, while the other half didn't want to take the risk. Just what were her feelings for Luke? Was she actually thinking of keeping him? With so much undecided, staying neutral for the time being seemed prudent. Which was too bad, because being prudent wasn't her strong point. She didn't have much practice at it. Jordan sighed and snuggled closer, torn between passion and prudence. "Jordan?" "Hmm?" Luke tugged her more fully onto his lap and she turned to face him, slipping her legs over his thighs. “I don't want to do anything to make you look at me the way you did last night.” He spoke quietly and soberly against her hair. What way, Jordan wondered. Lust-crazed? Dazed with desire? He continued. “You looked so shocked. I don't want to scare you." Jordan eyed his bare, beautiful chest and wondered ifhe'd be scared if he knew what she wanted to do to it. Certainly he'd be shocked. "Jordan, I want you to spend the night." Now there was an idea. She warmed to it immediately. "Just stay with me. I promise not to touch you." Now there was a verybad idea. She didn't think she could promise not to touchhim . Luke tugged her chin up. “Say something,” he urged, searching her eyes with his. What did one say in a situation like this? When one found oneself attracted to one's fiancé—who wasn't really—and was asked to spend the night—but only platonically? Jordan struggled with confusion. “Do you snore?” she inquired. Luke smiled slowly until his blue eyes lit and glowed with enough warmth to chase away the chill permanently. “No,” he assured her. "Okay.” She dropped her head to his chest again and wondered if she should be certified. He was driving her insane, and there was a long way to go before the New Year. They sat in companionable silence, absorbing the heat until Luke declared that their time was up. Apparently a person could only stay in hot water for so long. Jordan ruefully wondered if she'd ever get herself out of the amount of hot water she'd managed to get into. If only it was as easy as climbing out of a hot tub. She stepped out and started to dry off, then realized she was still in her wet clothes. “Do you have
something I can wear?" "Of course. Rescuing includes dry clothes. Wait right there.” Luke rummaged around and came back with boxer shorts and a tee shirt that would probably double as a dress on her. He handed them to her then left her to change in privacy. The wet sweater and panties clung as she yanked them off, and puddles of water swiftly formed on the tile. She toweled quickly, pulled on the shorts and tee shirt, then wrung out her wet clothes and hung them over the shower door to dry. Barefoot, she padded out to join Luke and found him pouring brandy into two snifters. "What a brilliant idea. We'll be warm inside and out,” she said cheerfully. "That's the plan.” Luke handed a snifter to her then picked up an afghan and gestured for her to follow. He led the way to an enclosed gas fireplace which flickered invitingly and spread the cover on the carpet. “Come here and watch the fire with me." Now there was an offer she couldn't refuse. Jordan joined him on the floor and he pulled her into his embrace for another kiss. As warm and sweet as the brandy, it was a wonderful kiss, but it ended much too soon for Jordan's satisfaction. Still, settled in Luke's arms drinking brandy in front of a fire was no bad place to be, with or without kisses. She decided to count her blessings. Luke teased her blond shock of hair with long fingers and she sighed in bliss. “Ah, you do scalp massages, too? You're too good to be true." He tugged her down and took away her glass before leaning over her on one elbow. “I have to put my hands somewhere. Your head seemed like the safest place." She gave him a regretful look. “Do you always do the safe thing?" His fingers moved down to feather over her eyebrows. “It depends on how much is at stake." She tipped her face up to bite his fingers. “Sounds serious." He gave her a warning look. “Behave..." "Me?” She blinked innocently. "You." She gazed up at him seriously. “Shut up and kiss me, Luke." He quirked a brow at her demand. “That's a very ungrateful, unladylike remark from a damsel who's just been rescued." She smiled sweetly. “I never claimed to be ladylike." "Thereis that,” he agreed and lowered his mouth to hers again.
analytical brain. His family would just start in on him again if she walked out of his life and he'd be worse off than he'd been before. He needed to laugh more." If that was a joke. but he still broke it off in the end. And it was for his own good. Maybe she hadn't been clear enough for his detailed. I can only take so much." Jordan raised her head the fraction of an inch required to bring her lips into contact with his for a feathery caress. But she wasn't sure about him and she could understand his hesitation when she looked at it from his point of view. unfeeling fiancée could leave him under those circumstances? . thoughtful way. proof positive that he was seeing things her way. And you have to be sure. Jordan almost wondered aloud exactly what a fiancée had to do around there to get ravished. it wasn't funny. Luke groaned and nearly crushed her underneath him. “I want to make love with you.” he replied teasingly.” she clarified. And he'd made snow angels with her. And the pressure from his family would probably quadruple now that they'd seen him with her. even he'd admitted it. “Stop tempting me. “Luke. He stood to gain a one-night stand. so thoroughly and so completely that you will forget anyone else who's ever touched you. “tomorrow you would have regrets. Tonight. the only thing she regretted was the fact that they were still talking. And then I might find myself dateless on Friday. Luke lowered his weight onto her. but there is definitely a joke here of epic proportions because I am not going to make love to you tonight. quiet.She relished the kiss and never wanted it to end.” he answered seriously. “No. There was only one possible solution to the whole sorry mess." Then he absolutely maddened her by smiling until his blue eyes crinkled in the corners. What kind of cruel. but it would cost him a fiancée. His hands cupped her face. “You can't always get what you want. Realization dawned as she lay there in the firelight with him. How did he know her divided mind—when she didn't even know herself? That was a mystery.This was supposed to help her adjust to not getting what she wanted tonight? Maybe it was worth another try. I want you. Now." It was the awful truth. She frowned. You'll have regrets because you aren't sure. She settled for looking him straight in the eye and announcing baldly. He had fun with her. She was going to have to keep Luke. I will do it so slowly." Jordan trembled at his words. “Here. Jordan. careful to keep part of it balanced on both arms propped on either side of her. “When I make love to you. Only one answer that would resolve everything to everyone's satisfaction. Jordan. she thought. “What makes you so sure I'd have regrets?” At that moment. “Is that a joke?" He shook his head. He just looked back at her in his steady. “Why not tonight?" "Because. I can see it in your eyes.” He didn't seem surprised.
passionate. if it came to that. Jordan noted gleefully. rocking and rocking in the saddle until—" Luke let out a tortured groan and clamped a hand over her mouth. So would the whole family. "I also have fantasies about you and me and that dress on your horse." His mother would help." She was getting to him. He . It's a good thing we left some clothes on in the hot tub. Jordan. Jordan smiled in gleeful anticipation and prepared to begin his ultimate torment. He had to be in control of himself when he made love to her. he'd probably forget how to make snow angels and all the words to every Christmas carol and he'd never again have a riot at a boring function. He was so much fun to tease. And he'd asked for it. Followed by every other item of clothing. like you were in the bathroom. In the state he was in. unzip your pants. all naked. He needed her. She was right. and ride you. "You're right.. too. "Or you could stand behind me. letting her hands roam over his magnificent back in tantalizing caresses. She started to suck on one of his fingertips. She'd wrap him around her little finger and get him to say “I do. “You know ." She had the man in black shaking in his boots and ready to fall out of his saddle. and it wasn't from the brandy or the heat from the fire. and unfasten my dress. She'd just have to do what she always did when the chips were down. and we could ride together. or I won't be responsible for the consequences.And he worked too hard. raging beast. He couldn't jump on her like a maddened." He was breathing as hard as if he'd just raced his black horse at breakneck speed. He was breaking out in a sweat. Jordan thought in satisfaction. I'd be naked underneath.. She went on innocently. She'd charm the socks off of him. I was going to climb onto your lap. Of course. wet and slippery. You'd lift the skirt from behind and lift me onto you and take me. "Stop. She sighed in mock regret for all the fantasies they couldn't bring to life tonight. Jordan.Perfect . right there. She stretched against his wonderful body and delighted in the feel of him as she curled closer. “Shut up. She at least got him to come out and enjoy himself after hours. You could lift up my skirt. She had unmistakable proof. you're right. he didn't doubt that he would hurt her. I wanted to see you in your hot tub in nothing but your black hat. Luke. unforgettable love right here on your floor in front of the fire. She was so small and fragile. Shutup . His eyelids even drooped sexily as she imagined the fantasies running through his mind. He yanked his hand away as if burned and she immediately took the opportunity to go on. or we wouldn't have even made it this far. “We can't forget everything else and make wild. It would be terribly irresponsible to throw caution to the wind and tear off my shorts right now and give me a rug burn to remember. Without her.” he begged." Luke closed his eyes in agony and wondered if she had any idea how close she was to just that fate. “But I see your point. including his symbolic black hat. You'd run your hands under the dress and find me all wet and ready for you. since he'd so thoughtfully put a hand over her mouth. But she noticed he wasn't running away.” She thought that imaginative confession would be particularly effective.” she agreed sweetly.
" "Good. he wanted very badly to contradict himself and take away the covers so he could keep looking. She'd offered herself to him and he'd turned her down. He shook her until her teeth rattled. When did she ever listen? He suffered the torments of the damned as he watched Jordan peel off the inadequate tee shirt and reveal small. perfect." She gave him awho. “Get in.. “That's so much better. he got a shaky grip on himself and proceeded to get a death grip on her. "Luke. They'd probably commend him for not brutally ravishing her. me? look that made him want to shake her harder. but he lay awake. why hadn't she said so tonight? . Luke. however. Get in." Did she listen? No. firm breasts. “I can't sleep in clothes." It was so much worse. too. Then she stood on the bed and let the shorts fall and he wanted to cry for the first time since sometime in childhood. she'd stay away and stay quiet. stiff and unmoving. He dumped her unceremoniously on the mattress so abruptly that she bounced twice. he conceded. Jordan? Not one more word out of you until morning. I'm cold. She kissed his shoulder and sighed. But couldn't she understand why? He wanted her so badly he couldn't see straight. wicked wench had the audacity to inform him.” he snarled in the darkness. By inches. That had to sting. If she did. It wasn't his lucky night. hands down." "Then you won't get any sleep tonight." Then the wretched. naked and beautiful in his bed . Do you hear me. would probably say he deserved it for rejecting her. while her musky scent filled his nostrils and her pert nipples teased his chest and her slender legs tangled through his." Then she went to sleep. but she didn't love him. He concentrated on taking slow. on the other hand. The women. Maybe he did. Luke stood with the irrepressible imp in his arms and strode off to bed. Put your clothes back on. Then she wrapped herself around him and he laid there. He hauled back the covers and pointed. When she moved to obey his directive. I have to sleep naked. And he prayed. Instead he turned away and got in on the other side and shut off the light. "Good night. If he was lucky. He decided finally that it would depend on whether the jury was composed of men or women. and he couldn't touch her. He heard the covers rustle as she slithered over the mattress until she found him. I'm so glad you talked me out of being impulsive tonight. There was Jordan. staring at the ceiling and wondering what were his odds of being convicted or acquitted if he strangled her. He was almost certain of that. The men would acquit him. “Not one more word..outweighed her by three times her small body mass and he was far stronger. deep breaths.
where he couldn't get away from her. **** "Please. She had never ever in all her life had more fun. She had him running scared. he admitted to himself. Luke was conspicuously absent. he'd be feeling real pain all evening and he'd be forced to smile and make polite conversation to his business associates all the while. Jordan was deliriously certain that she'd stuck in the knife and twisted it hard enough to turn him inside out. “Good night. Wendy needed them one more time for the finishing details of the painting. all right.” he said softly. day after day." . Tuesday. Ebullient. He also had to stay away from her until Friday. caught by a mortal and held by desire until love bound them together in an unbreakable bond. Jordan couldn't wait to get him in a pose again.Of course. She hoped he wasn't sleeping. she fell into a creative fit and wrote some of her best material ever. Even a saint. Still. He dreamed of a gray-eyed sprite who came to him out of the snow. She hoped he laid awake at night and remembered her in bed beside him. So it was obvious he couldn't avoid thinking about her. By Thursday. A man could only endure so much temptation. including marriage. Four days. If he told her he loved her. to end the torture. She planned to squirm on his lap until he was ready to commit a crime. She hoped he was suffering so terribly that he'd agree to anything and everything. Jordan. but that was different. she might back off and he'd lose her before he had her in too deep to escape. He had to bide his time. the silence continued. she was laughing out loud in jubilation. By Wednesday. it was a wonderful torture to have her in his arms. I'm begging you. She hoped he had to close his eyes every time he walked past his fireplace to avoid images of naked bodies entwined in an ancient dance. naked and innocent and unafraid.Call her . with one floral offering after another. Chapter Ten Monday. He continued to hold and caress her until sleep finally came and put him out of his blissful misery. But George kept coming. no matter how hard he tried to run or how deeply he tried to bury himself in work. And she hoped he cried. Camisole or no camisole. either. She also had plans for Friday. He was shaking in his shoes. he hadn't told her he loved her. The miserable coward. He tucked her closer against his side and stroked her from hip to shoulder in a lingering caress. She hoped he couldn't bring himself to use the hot tub.
he would have given her worse than a rug burn in his desperation. “Bah! Humbug!" It was all Jordan's fault. He'd barely slept at all since the night he'd had heaven in his arms and endured the fires of hell. I haven't been sleeping much lately. “Worse! You're a bear. he promised himself. patient secretary and wondered what he'd said to drive her to attack him.Luke looked up at Abby and blinked blood-shot eyes. at least. for the love of heaven!” she snapped in exasperation. Luke considered his efficient. he might even be late. yes. a cold fury grew inside him to match the winter storm outside.” Then he added furiously. Jordan. Everything was her fault. he realized. Abby thrust her hands in the air and stalked away. Abby snorted derisively. she whispered in his ear all the delights that were just out of his grasp and laughed when he couldn't catch her. Why was Abby still here? He got up to check . But he'd get the best of her. Right. He'd been working late again and it was after seven. had parties and family activities to attend.” she threatened and slammed his office door behind her. “What?" "Call her. In fact. didn't he? He did. He would. He'd heard that sleep deprivation did that. Naked by the fire. Business sometimes got put on hold. you'd be out of business. He considered that idea with some interest and was startled when the pencil he was holding snapped loudly in half. People went on vacation. maddening deceitful little liar. His lack of sleep. Laughing. or I'm quitting. That was where it belonged. Jordan. Luke sighed and rubbed tiredly at his eyes. His misery. At the thought of her. much less skip gaily out of reach. He definitely wouldn't have left her in any condition to walk away. Abby. You'd have to explain to your son why Santa can't bring that train set. It was frequently quiet during December. Late. Or maybe he was starting to hallucinate. Even Abby threatening to walk out. holding out pale arms to draw him in. “You'd be unemployed for Christmas. of course. All of it was Jordan's fault. is it worth it? Apologize. There. it was even worse. He was certain he remembered a date. the flames turning her white skin to shadowed ruby as she waited for him. Oh. She was everywhere he looked. Tonight. Of course. Look at you—you're a wreck. “Have I been that bad?” he asked cautiously. If you'd talked to any of your clients this week. "You can't quit!” Luke roared after her. sweet little temptress. He would have left her bruised and exhausted and too sore to walk for a week. elusive little imp.” That was an understatement. He checked the time through bleary eyes. He searched for his watch and found it on his wrist. but he'd put it down to holiday madness. “Sorry. If Jordan had really been there last night. Whatever you two fought about. In his bed. Naked in his hot tub. Tonight was Friday and he had a date with his dear little devoted fiancée." So she'd been screening his calls? He wondered why it had been so quiet. “Call her.
he was even looking forward to the sight of her. Then he'd be able to stand the sight of Jordan. I think you need this. “You look like you always do. she didn't think Luke was quite functional any more.” He took the cup and scowled at her ferociously. Although how he was going to keep from doing that he couldn't begin to imagine. Luke. Sadly. but how long ago had that been? Well.” He frowned at her. after all.” he sneered.. She'd left after slamming out of his office. By the time he rang her doorbell. “Of course... Rudeness wasn't completely out of character for Luke. So he had another and felt instantly better.and found that she wasn't. Jordan. but he definitely wasn't driving anywhere else. She guided him to the sofa then called a cab. but probably not nearly enough to numb him sufficiently for the optical assault of whatever almost-naked outfit she'd be wearing tonight. It wasn't a black tie affair. of course. The extra dry martini was wonderful. I'm not a child. He smelled like a distillery. I feel terrible. but for the sake of his male ego she held her tongue. Two was too much for any man to deal with. but we have to take a taxi. and he felt confident that he could get through the night without committing murder. really. but still that was a rather nasty crack.." "No. that was for sure. He did it so very well. “You'll tear off what's left of your clothes and attack me. Too bad. "Thank you. Just a business holiday social. Luke frowned and stared until the images stopped wavering and melded into one." "Stop telling me what I need. Only he wasn't expecting two of her. probably.” she informed him politely. He was adorable when he scowled. I hope you don't plan on bending over... attacking him had definitely been in her plans. “Hello. She stepped closer and sniffed. or everyone in the room will see your nipples. That was a relief.Whoa . What mattered now was the fact that he had to go and get his little lying love and he still couldn't touch her. Then she made him some coffee and pushed the cup into his hand. He popped into the first bar he found. A breeze . was a good stiff drink. She didn't know how much he'd had to drink. as long as Jordan played the role of sweet fiancée instead of trouble on two legs." Jordan considered telling him that in his present condition it wasn't likely to do her any good ." . It made her want to kiss him. One Jordan was bad enough. Luke decided firmly. at least. “Here. Come in and wait." Jordan eyed him suspiciously. "And don't humor me. He glanced down at the suit he wore and decided it was good enough for tonight. it didn't matter. And then his eyes managed to focus on what she apparently—and mistakenly—thought was an appropriate dress for the occasion. no matter what she was—or wasn't—wearing. What he needed. "You look terrible.” she responded in a placating tone. A third . Are you ready?" "Yes.
A whole bunch of bras. the ever practical.” Jordan agreed soberly.? Yes. all of them going from your waist to your neck. “I really don't think that's necessary. “Don't you ever wear a bra. Jordan. And she was. Jordan thought in amusement.. . Jordan?” Luke inquired in the same impersonal way he might ask the time. was bombed out of his skull and in a state to start a riot all on his own. It was part of the plan. You're supposed to be my fiancée. Where's that taxi?" She got up to check the window. too. Wasn't there. She'd figured the low-cut dress would get to him.. Remind me to buy you a bra." He closed his eyes and moaned. She'd been right." Jordan giggled at that description. Come on. Luke thought. “Never mind. "That's my plan.. “I could always wear the camisole again.” she suggested as she collected her cape and keys." The cabbie hastily averted his gaze and drove them in silence to their destination. "No. then stopped abruptly and she plowed into his broad back. Then he noticed the driver's gaze in the rearview mirror was on Jordan's bosom and he frowned. Hundreds of them. "Well.” Luke informed her heavily. then.” He led the way. ever calm.. She smiled winningly. ever controlled.” he informed Jordan proudly. why do you insist on dressing in such a provocative manner? This is a business social. "Right. Don't you have anything you can put over ."No. Then he laughed. Then he turned to face her again. “Keep your eyes off her or they're going to turn black and swell shut after a close encounter with my fist. “Right here. in fact. Got that?" "I won't bend over. of course you aren't. I'm ready for you to introduce me to your buddies. He continued to stare down at her and she realized he was looking down at her revealing cleavage." He let out a pained sigh." There was something funny about that. She wouldn't miss it for the world. not someone from an escort service." "You don't reallythink . “That's my fiancée.” he growled at the man. buddy. “I'm going to introduce you to everyone.” Jordan looked suitably shocked at the very idea. Luke glared at her over the rim of the coffee cup and sipped." He really seemed to be looking forward to it. but inwardly she was bursting with laughter. “Just don't bend over. “Jordan. let's go. “I didn't think so. that?” He waved his hand in the direction of her flagrant cleavage. Luke. Luke Foster. He remembered. He climbed into the cab with her and gave the address.
Jordan laughed at Luke's fierce expression." He sneered at that." "But Luke. She reached up to straighten his tie since at some point he'd yanked at the knot to loosen it. He was enjoying the sight all too much and being unable to do anything but look was evidently beginning to get to him. But just barely. He handed it over with another glare for good measure. you're going a little overboard. Even if he wasn't functioning fully by the end of the evening." "Yes.” Then he gave up and pushed her along towards the door. “Some day. he stayed protectively by her side. “Luke.” he threatened. She'd had enough of thedon't touch policy long ago." She fought a smile successfully. Then he turned the scowl on the cab driver and fumbled for the fare." Jordan would have been insulted if he hadn't produced such a marvelous exhibition of masculine jealousy and raging possessiveness. too. “Come on. And you'd better remember to stand up straight. there was always tomorrow. Luke. Jordan. you professional liar. “Yes. who seemed to sense his dangerous mood and kept a wary and safe distance.” she pointed out reasonably." . She smiled and made polite conversation with all of Luke's business acquaintances. she thought with serene assurance. Jordan finally decided it was time for a distraction." His hands shot out to grip her shoulders and he shook her hard enough to nearly make her burst out of her dress. Luke continued to make frequent trips to the wassail bowl whenever he gazed overly long at her revealing neckline. "Sure. think of all the fun I'd miss. He continued to scowl at her until they arrived. And I won't bend over—you have my solemn oath. aren't you?" He turned his scowl on her. “Come on. one way or another. In between trips. “I'm glad you're amused. On the contrary. “As if your solemn oath means anything. About time. glaring like a madman at anyone he thought might be deliberately ogling her. "Luke. it's as high as it goes. exactly. I can see you far too clearly. Tonight she intended to see to it that he'd had enough of it too. Jordan tried not to laugh and he swung around to face her. “Why don't we dance?” she suggested pleasantly to the glaring madman. Maybe some day you'll actually look in a mirror and realize that your breasts are bare for the world to see and the sight will motivate you to start covering them on rare occasions. He wasn't offended at the sight of her. It was certainly going to be a night to remember. “No. Why didn't I think of that? Then you can wrap your arms around me and slither all over me.” she agreed calmly. "I didn't think the cabbie looked miserable. you'll be sorry. Then he eyed the straining fabric and groaned before he reached down in a vain effort to try to pull it up higher. I think I need another drink.” he countered.” Jordan agreed cheerfully. "Think of all the misery you'd prevent.
It did sound like fun. but drew the line at slithering. then thought better of it and nodded instead. Jordan. “I can't take this anymore. so get your things. You will marry me and you'll smile when you sayI do or you won't be able to sit down for a week!” Then he grabbed her and dragged her towards the door." "Good.She led him to the dance floor and proceeded to wrap her arms around him. “Jordan. “What do you mean. Luke sighed and tightened his hold on her until she was pressed firmly against him. “Don't you talk to me like that! How dare you stand there and agree with me?" It was too ridiculous. Jordan. In fact he came to a rather abrupt halt and glared at her suspiciously." "Yes." He didn't seem to expect that. “Oh. you think it's funny. she assumed.” Luke was silent for a while as they danced. Jordan." "I just agreed with you. "Good. “Then you agree it's time we ended this farce of an engagement. You're not leaving me. Luke.” She had to smile at that." . Not a sound." He stopped and lifted her to eye level—the better to scowl at her. but he really was in such an ugly mood he was not likely to take it well. sweetheart. He gripped her shoulders and bellowed.” he added darkly. “We're leaving. Me either." He frowned darkly. Luke.” she pointed out calmly. “I mean you're right." "Shut up." She started to open her mouth to agree. because you won't be laughing tomorrow. do you? Well. Jordan. I'm right? You're not getting out of this.” he informed her in tortured tones. “I'm not going to sit there quietly while some man looks down your dress. she really tried—but couldn't stop the laughter from bubbling up between her lips. imp. Not a peep. You already tried to do that before I even got it on you. Luke. He started shouting even louder." The mild response didn't appease him." "Yes. "Good. She tried. just shut up and do it. laugh away. Jordan. I'll get a cab." "Yes. I do. “And keep your cape on this time. “What do you mean by that?" She smiled innocently at him. That seemed to enrage him." "Yes. You're not throwing that ring back in my face. Luke. “Not one more word out of you.
She'd managed to tug the shirt free and was preparing to slide it off when he started to struggle and slap at her hands. He'd had it with thedon't touch nonsense and he'd had it with the phony engagement. running her fingers under the waistband in a teasing gesture. And she had a feeling it was only the beginning of his suffering for the drinking binge he'd decided to indulge in. More to the point. shove and cajole him onto the bed. He wouldn't be in much better shape in the morning.don't . And that was too bad. socks and tie and then wrestled him upright to get him out of the jacket and vest before tackling the buttons on his shirt. leaving her free to undress him without interference. “Stop undressing me. then do it yourself. Although there was definitely something to be said for his present scowling state.” she stated firmly. It was really too bad that Luke had consumed so much alcohol that he was probably in no condition to consummate their relationship." "You can't sleep like that. She was madly.He was grimly silent on the way to his place but Jordan was gloating inwardly. she'd take him. but she'd take it. Just a little further. It was exciting. Jordan. That she'dhave to marry him and evensmile while doing it. I have to take your pants off. because she had a feeling that the news would go a long way towards improving his mood. She managed to heave. passionately in love with Luke Foster and it was time to tell him so. She tried to do just that. “If you won't let me. He'd actually roared at her that she wasn't getting out of it. She had him nearly to the bedroom now. "Luke. Although hewas awfully cute.” he groaned and grabbed at her hands to still them. Jordan quickly removed his shoes. wildly. defending his honor against her imagined lusty advances. but he clamped a hand over her mouth and glared a warning. "Jordan. which was miraculous.” He opened his eyes to stare bleakly at her. God. considering his condition. we're almost there. You want to attack me and have your way with me. so she guessed it would just have to wait." "No. Luke. “I know what you're trying to do. Chapter Eleven "Come on. but not just then. "Cut it out. too. He was draped heavily over her and she staggered under the weight—but he wouldn't have even made it through his front door without her support.” Jordan encouraged. "Why not?” she asked sweetly. Jordan. Luke. Luke immediately slumped over. all right.” he muttered. be reasonable. She'd gotten to him.” She got his shirt free and searched for the fastening at the waistband of his pants. It did things to her. The after-effects of overindulgence. Not exactly the most romantic proposal in all of human history. shedid ." Well. .
“It makes it easier to ravish helpless men.” She climbed onto the bed and wrestled him under the covers.” Luke glared some more and pushed her hands away. “You won't let me ravish you.” he declared threateningly. I do.He frowned at her. He was heavy and very uncooperative. All of it. “I am not that kind of man. "You're lying. Luke. "No." She won the fight easily and hung his pants over a convenient chair with the rest of his suit." . wearing nothing but panties and shoes. “You'd better not ravish any other helpless men. figuring she was properly dressed for the occasion wearing nothing but a smile. "You're naked. No other men.” he demanded." "That's too bad." "That's what you'll be saying. “Keep your hands to yourself. “But Luke. fighting for possession of the pants. you can't have it. You'll take off the few clothes you ever bother to put on in the first place and I won't be able to defend myself.” He glared at her ferociously. I understand." "Yes.” His hands went protectively to his jockeys as if he thought she meant to take those next.” Jordan sighed.” she informed him." She bit back a smile and just to be contrary took his underwear while he protested and struggled. Then she got rid of those. Jordan smiled even wider and unzipped her dress. “Go away." "Yes. “But Luke. It was.” Jordan promised as she removed his last piece of clothing. "Well. Even in his present muddled state. “Not without marrying me.” he accused.more . Then she proceeded to undo his pants and tug them down. “You'll say anything to get your way.” Jordan smiled at him and kissed away his frown." "No. "I mean it.” she murmured throatily. “Why are you always naked?" She smiled sweetly at him.” he ground out. Luke groaned and closed his eyes. His eyes bulged gratifyingly as the dress fell to the floor and she stepped out of it. “Please. Jordan. “Now be good and get into bed." "Please. giving her a wounded look." He clamped his hands onto her arms in a vise-like grip at that remark. “It's bad enough that you flaunt your body at me the way you do. You aren't getting my body. You don't mean it. too. Jordan. he was devastating. Jordan. but she managed eventually. Jordan. But then who am I going to ravish?” Jordan inquired in sweetly reasonable tones. I will marry you. I'm not getting into bed with you again. do you understand? I won't put up with it. it's such a great body.
“I think I'd like you inside me. I'm here." It dawned on her that it wasn't his knee that was pressing into her. She saw heaven open up and swallow them both. I want you. The universe tilted and the only solid reality left was Luke. But I don't think you're up to any ravishing right now. "Succubus." "I won't. now.He frowned in confusion at that question. I want to be inside you. “You lie there naked and taunt me all night long. A wicked spirit that descended on a helpless man in the night and ravished him relentlessly. “I accept." "I can't sleep and it's all your fault. hard and fast and deep.” she informed him. “I need you. "Jordan. She'd never been so ready in all her life. She'd always wanted to be an incubus. was she? She liked that idea. Luke rolled over and without warning hauled her into his embrace. “That's what you are." "Well. Jordan. Some ghost of Christmas present that would make. I want you and I want you now. The happy realization gradually sank in. It was a good thing Luke had a hot tub. Luke wasn't incapacitated after all. . Between that. rough sound deep in his throat and jerked her underneath him. all of him. hard and deep inside her. but then you never do. Don't run away this time. That was the proper term. where he belonged.” he accused bitterly. She had a feeling he was really going to need it in the morning. “But you have to marry me and you can't leave me in the morning." He made a low. Jordan. Luke. "Luke.” he offered in a somewhat slurred declaration. and she took advantage of his distraction to get him the rest of the way into bed and joined him before he could come up with another complaint about her presence. "Succubus. I can't stop. "That sounds wonderful. I want to take you so hard and so fast that you won't be able to get away. Jordan wrapped her legs around his hips and silently urged him to hurry.” he whispered against her hair. So she was haunting his nights. She saw fireworks. “You can ravish me. She wanted him with an urgency she'd never experienced. Or was it a succubus? She wasn't certain which one was female. Maybe you should just go to sleep. “Luke. His breathing quickened and his lips closed over hers in a nearly brutal possession as he drove inside and buried himself in her welcoming softness. slithering sexily against him. coffee. although by all rights he should have been. aspirin and orange juice. You tease and torment me and I can't take it anymore.” Jordan murmured teasingly.” Luke agreed. there's an offer that would stun any woman.” She rubbed her breasts against his chest in a teasing caress." "Oh. One knee nudged her legs apart and then he was pressing against her.” she gasped out. She saw stars. telling me what you're going to do to me.” he muttered roughly as he took her with driving fury.” she decided out loud." Jordan's eyebrows shot up at that admission. she thought he just might survive the sunrise. Jordan.
" She heard the regret in his voice and it slowly sank in that he actually meant it.” the voice continued. Luke. "Luke." . tracing her features in the dark. "Just get rid of the sun.” she responded dreamily from the depths of the warm. "I'm sorry. glad she still held him deep inside. He should be at home. hearing the voice. "Oh!” The phantom gasped in dismay and tiptoed to the window to draw the drapes. The voice was thoughtfully lowered. his breathing slowly calming. **** Someone had turned up the wattage on the sun. It was terribly inconsiderate to have that kind of noise going on so early in the morning. She didn't realize she'd forgotten to tell him she loved him. feeling alive and incredibly good in every cell of her body. It didn't belong there. alone. golden haze enveloping her. When he raised his head she snuggled into the curve of his neck and fell asleep. with all that pounding. a welcome weight pinning her to reality." He didn't move for a minute. “Sorry. “Shut up and kiss me. There must be construction going on in the neighborhood. Then he reached for her face. She shuddered and yielded to him and the desire driving them both as he took her to a violent climax that left her weak and drained. tasting the curve of her lips in a slow exploration before deepening the caress to seek out her tongue with his and twine them sweetly together. and then he heard the hammering and raised aching hands to cover his ears."I don't want you to.” Jordan vowed and clung to him with all her strength.” he muttered around a tongue that seemed to have swollen to twice its normal size. She shook her head at the denseness of the man and burrowed deeper into his embrace. Nobody should be there. He closed them to prevent permanent damage. I brought you some aspirin. That was the only explanation that occurred to Luke when the blinding light stabbed painfully into his eyes. clinging limply to him. Then he slowly leaned down to kiss her. He stayed with her. “Jordan?" "Mm. Not ever. loving the feeling of having all of him against all of herself. "Luke?" He frowned. He hoped whoever it was had nothing but cost overruns and permit difficulties for their trouble. He appreciated the phantom's consideration. in bed. Jordan sighed happily and wound her arms tighter around his neck. She arched against him to welcome his weight and tightened her legs to hug his hips. Although he didn't know why an apparition would bring him aspirin.
He thought he remembered a fight. easing into the hot water by inches. He remembered the dream. He thought he remembered her promising to marry him if he'd let her have her way with him and he knew that had to be part of the dream. he frowned. although he wasn't sure he could get the lid off. If you need help. It was too much effort to think with his pounding head. Strong. he remembered fuzzily. The effects of sleep deprivation. as the room swung and settled into a steady rhythm before leveling out. Finally the floor actually looked flat enough to walk on. She'd held him and stayed with him through the night. Last night he'd dreamed that she'd come to him. All Jordan's fault. this time leaving coffee behind. he realized. stiffly and carefully. take this and get into the hot tub when you feel like you can. He thought he remembered a dress that. Too bad the real Jordan wasn't so accommodating. He groaned and then winced when the noise increased the pain. He must still be hallucinating. He eyed them and wondered where they'd come from. Thankful for them. She'd slid into his bed. she hadn't vanished in the mist. however they'd gotten there. "Oh. because he didn't think he could have made his way to the kitchen to get his own aspirin if his life depended on it. "No. And for once. and found the room blissfully darkened. The inescapable conclusion hit home. But his benefactress had anticipated his difficulties and opened it for him. The hot tub. Luke climbed in. tell me you aren't real. “No. "Luke?” The soft voice reached into the dimly lit room. There you are. there wasn't enough of. Thinking of her. He sipped carefully and slowly. That did sound good. Steaming hot.” he muttered thickly. Then he made his cautious way to the bathroom. however. as usual. He'd had alot more than one. Jordan. He risked opening an eye. very strong. good. you took the aspirin. in case his hallucination had actually managed to get rid of the sun. too—and that was a thought too awful to . possibly—had come by and found him sleeping it off and decided to play angel of mercy. Way more than one. it was a good thing that his private delusion was quiet and apologetic. that meant everything else was real. naked.” He heard the rustle of fabric and then a liquid sound as she joined him in the hot tub and he realized in horror that it really was Jordan. he swallowed the aspirin and groaned as the orange juice stirred a wave of dizziness and settled uneasily in his stomach. I'll be right back. his angel of mercy had vanished. and smiled in spite of the pain in his head. “Here. Gradually he remembered that he'd stopped for one drink on the way to Jordan's and had had more than one." If she was real. and he was paying for it now. Jordan. It looked good. Jordan. Orange juice and aspirin sat conveniently on the bedside table. He finished the coffee before attempting it. A good thing. “Oh. Somebody—Wendy. Gingerly he reached for the cup and brought it to his mouth." By the time he felt it was safe to open his eyes. and he'd brutally ravished her in punishment for all her sweet torment.Luke decided that if he had to be haunted. His hands didn't seem to be gripping very well. Last night.” Soft footsteps approached and set something else beside him.
then you're upset because you assaulted me. That I couldn't have your body without marriage. yes. but I'm not sure. So horrified. "Because. As usual.” She slithered over him suggestively. after driving you to drink..” she answered cheerfully. Besides. It meant he'd attacked her in a violent. You wouldn't wear them. she frowned in concentration. “I'm trying to be quiet. Oh. don't you?" She laughed some more and rubbed against him in delight. too. She sounded like she was enjoying herself.” She made the offer in a generous tone that made Luke smile. “Did you agree to marry me last night?" "Oh..” Thoughtfully.” She slid up against him in the water and wrapped around him. You didn't want me to use you to slake my animal passions and then abandon you the morning after. “That was the deal. “Luke.” And he had to admit her preferred state of undress appealed to him too much to want to change it. “I did promise not to go away. “I promised I wouldn't leave. It meant he'd been out of control and too rough. You'd probably take them off in public and throw them at me.contemplate." She sighed in mock dismay and curled closer. “Oh. “I remember. She nodded. you are so funny. “It wouldn't do any good. You see? You should have let me assault you. I had to marry you or there wouldn't be any ravishing. “If you want." He hugged her closer and sighed at that. “Let me recover first. It meant he'd probably hurt her. I remember assaulting you. “The next time?” Hope stirred at the thought. but in a thoughtfully soft voice. a professional liar whose word means nothing . I thought I owed it to you to nurse you through your hangover. I know your head hurts. regardless of who was the ravish-er and who was the ravish-ee. Then you could sit there looking accusing and scowling adorably at me instead of looking like a guilty fugitive from the foreplay police. after all. Sorry. and at his expense." He considered that answer. She didn't sound like she hated him. But then why was she giggling? "Sorry. “I'm afraid I am real." He absorbed that silently.. remember? You were very insistent. But let this be a lesson to you the next time I drive you to drink.” She kissed his shoulder and rubbed his throbbing temples with gentle hands.” he answered painfully. "Why are you here?” Luke inquired cautiously. "I don't think I'm ready to be ravished by you yet.” she answered patiently. I can't help being the way I am. “You also threatened to buy me several very large bras. You told me you weren't that kind of man. I can take a turn as the ravisher now and you can decide which you like better. First you wouldn't let me assault you.” she gasped in a whisper." He brushed back her shock of white-blond hair in an affectionate caress. You're just going to have to deal with it. all right. what else? I think you called me an exhibitionist. a succubus . Don't you remember?" He groaned.. You might want to stop sooner. lustful fit. yes. You hate me. “I'm afraid it's all too likely. You just looked so funny. What did you call me last night? Let me see. . naked as usual.
If I'm not wearing pants." "Yes you do. all the way in. Resigned. it's so much easier for you to get into them." He turned her to face him and tugged her chin up to look her right in the eyes. but it's hard when you do that. “You were an animal. But this will make you feel better. “I want you. in a velvety rush. “You did?" "I did. You have my permission in advance. "I don't want in them. and proceeded to slip his aching need inside her. . Then she slipped onto his lap and lowered herself over him. She wanted his body.” Jordan smiled sweetly at him and continued her pleasant torture. “We'll talk now. What about love? He swore under his breath.Although he would have preferred to be the only witness to her state of undress. you're just cranky because you have a hangover. This was an unbelievable situation. he could fully appreciate the idea of keeping a woman covered from head to toe and shut away—although shutting away a woman like Jordan would be some kind of crime against nature. thorough care. in case you can't stop to ask next time.” she vowed earnestly. fighting off the lustful advances of the woman he loved. Did Iever . Luke." He paused. she closed her hands around the evidence and stroked the painfully hard length.” she whispered wickedly.” she concluded when he remained silent. I loved it. Can't we talk later?” she pleaded huskily. grabbing at her hands." "Later. “Speaking of which. she meant. exploring all of her in slow. He supposed he'd just have to get used to standing over her and scowling. we have to talk. You don't really want me to." "Last night I was an animal. I'll try to be quiet. And for once. who'd started out as his phony fiancée but had now agreed to go through with the wedding.” To prove it. He continued with a generous lack of concern for his ears. he gently stroked her from hip to shoulder. For once. I thought so.” she whispered apologetically. "Stop that. holding her away from him before the temptation overcame him. “I should have done this last night. “Isn't that better?” she asked as she fondled and stroked him beyond speech. she moaned in pleasure. “Jordan. She wanted him. please don't stop now. “Yes.” he hissed. why don't you put some clothes on?" "Because it's no fun. Then she abruptly cut off the sound. Feel free to ravish me at will. When he found her breasts and teased them into tautness." She moved under his hands restlessly. cowboy. "No. Here he was. I must have hurt you.” he snarled." "Last night was wonderful.” she pointed out with practical insight. "Oh. Luke. “No." Her words were like a bucket of cold water in his face. “Ride ’em. Jordan shivered in delight and moved to allow him better access. wanting more already.
I love you. "What?" "Nothing. doesn't it?” she answered dreamily. possibly to intimidate her or impress her with his superior strength. and then he took her in a fierce. where he sprawled over her. Luke. I just wanted to say your name. She needed to feel the sense of oneness." A shudder ran through him. “I need you. “Luke. loving even the sound of his name. then. furious spending that left her trembling and shaken and totally at peace.” Words failed her as she clung to his strength and moved against him in restless need. “Not to your brothers. hold me. She'd probably even worship the ground he walked on after this. He stifled a laugh. happy and sated. “Oh. Then he nodded. "Luke. Sad how completely besotted she was.” she whispered against his throat as he remained still. “Is your head feeling better now?" "Yes. I suppose Lucius was the best you could do. It was either that or Lucifer. "Then don't ever lie to me again. “You're mine." She needed to feel the storm of sensation he brought to life and carried her safely through.” he sternly informed her. Luke. “Do you understand? Not ever again." He studied her face for endless minutes. She needed to belong to him in the most basic. He carried her out of the tub and back to bed." "I won't.” Luke answered with a smile. awed at the powerful sensations." She nodded.” Then she reached up to brush his cheek. “I have a book of names. My choices were severely limited.” He pushed her into the mattress and gripped her chin in one hard hand. Luke.She paused to adjust to the feel of him and wrapped her arms around his neck. then everywhere else she could reach. “I'm glad you appreciate that. under the circumstances. It sounds wonderful. displaying deep dimples." He considered that gravely. and spread kisses all along the exposed column of his throat.Lucius . "Yes. "Glad you like it.” she agreed quietly. “Well. . “Oh.” she sighed. satisfied. it is. the unity that bound them together.” She grinned and stretched under him. "Luke.” she whispered. Your hangover remedy is incredible. I need you. primitive way. Jordan. Where did you come up with that?" She grinned impishly at him. “All right." She curled in his arms.
She wasn't there. and stolen away. She'd been honest from the beginning. Afraid she'd disturb him. She'd flown away without a word and he knew with a sinking certainty that she wouldn't be back." Jordan tugged his hands up to pillow them under her head. he didn't care anymore. “Stay right here and maybe I'll be in a better mood the next time we wake up. that she couldn't help what she was. And she wasn't going to.” he whispered."Am I too heavy?” he asked in sudden concern. but her clothes were gone. As if a promise like that could be trusted. He struggled for understanding. “I'm still catching up on a sleepless week. Not that he'd really expected one. He'd give his soul to have her lying lips pressed against his right now. Wow.” he informed her with a yawn. Well. As if a woman like her could be trusted. too. He should have known better. kissed his sleeping face. but she couldn't stay still. She'd never been so happy. I like it. So alive. come back. and settled for finding a pair of pants before wandering through the rest of the empty house. And heaven help him. **** Jordan bounded through her living room. He'd been angry about that.” She closed her eyes and lazed with him in complete contentment.” she agreed readily. She'd even admitted that she couldn't change. what had he expected? That she'd fallen in love with him? She hadn't even been able to say it. What a rush! Jordan wondered if some . Well. convoluted way. but he'd settled for getting her promise not to lie anymore. in her own twisted. he noticed. and then only to manipulate him into cooperating with her sensual assault. she'd finally slipped out of his embrace. except at the height of passion. Chapter Twelve He couldn't believe it. “Deal. He swung to his feet and peered into the bathroom suite. She didn't come back. but that was also empty. Luke searched the room to be sure. But it was an empty hope and he knew it. he had only himself to blame. Instead. he'd lost her forever and the looming emptiness that was his future without her staggered him. But when Luke opened his eyes again. She'd put the cover back on the hot tub. Luke drew the covers over them and settled her into the curve of his body. singing “Deck the Halls” at the top of her lungs. He'd thought he'd caught a fairy. "Jordan. She'd tried to keep quiet and let Luke sleep. Sothis was what it felt like after really truly incredible sex. So excited. the bed was empty and Jordan was gone. “Jordan?" No answer. "No. Every nerve in her body was singing and energy pulsed and beat through her.
Well. "Oh. She sighed and melted. "What's this?" He smirked at her. as if he thought she'd hang around indefinitely and wait for a response. She grinned at the memory. Jordan. Unbelievable. "Hello. Jordan. She grabbed the paper.particular chemical reaction was responsible. . she suddenly remembered. how sweet!” She beamed at the picture of her and Luke. amazed. she told herself sternly. No. on the floor. She threw open the door and beamed at Norton. She brightened at the thought.” he answered finally. since that seemed to be her only hope of an explanation. “Jordan. She felt reborn. Luke could even make her forget the horror of Norton." She wanted him. With a little write-up in the gossip column. She peeked through the peephole again. thanks to Luke's wonderful supply of goodwill. straightened his fur-lined collar and generally gave new meaning to the word “poser." Norton pushed back his wavy brown hair. I know you want me. fighting at the party last night. She was in love with life and everyone living. Then she had to sit down. You don't need to be coy with me. Until Norton rang her doorbell. She groaned and closed her eyes. She recognized it as one Wendy had taken for the painting." Now what was he talking about? Jordan peered at his pupils and checked for suspicious dilation. Then you can get the rest of your clothes in Luke's car and get back where you belong. She wanted himgone . an event that could only be measured on a cosmic scale. "Notthat . she was sure of it. Get it over with. He flipped to another section and handed it back to her. He was scowling and dragging her out the door. Making love with Luke was an experience of epic proportions. Jordan. It was so irritating. A picture of her in Luke's arms. the two of them gazing into each other's eyes. Her legs just wouldn't hold her up another second. It accompanied an engagement announcement.” That was what she'd always hated about him. and if so could it be synthesized and packaged? Somebody would make afortune .” Norton interrupted. Then she saw the newspaper in his hands. "Oh. today she thought she could stomach even him. You could have simply called. Certainly he'd be grateful to her for returning his car after he'd abandoned it at her place last night in his blitzed state. “I just want to tell you that you didn't have to go that far. hoping she'd imagined it. She'd never felt so good in her life. he was still there. The sooner the better. just in case Norton was on drugs. Oh!” Jordan stared. “Norton! Hello! Nice to see you. With a thud. Hehad to be in love with her if he couldn't stand the sight of her. all right.
Jordan loved Luke. and she had the car. "And where were you when I needed you. A quick peek through the peephole showed Norton taking up what appeared to be permanent residence on her doorstep. which was what she'd come for." Back at his place. He loved her. a tactical maneuver she had considerable experience with. "Now. He'd planned to make the engagement a real one all along. “Luke?" No answer. of all things. “Luke!” She called out. She burst into the house and shook the snow off. forgetting that she'd left in the first place because he needed his sleep. Then a smile broke over her face. She grabbed her canvas tote and hopped out the side window. As small as she felt all of a sudden. but he wasn't there. laughing. Luke?” Jordan muttered under her breath. Isn't he handsome?” She held up the picture. Oh. She did. She'd just known he could be an outlaw if he just had the chance. she bounded to her feet again. Why. “You told me you'd deal with Norton. all right. clutching the paper. She skidded to a halt at the sight of the empty bed. she had a sudden uncontrollable urge to make a snow angel. Norton.” Then she shut the door in his face and searched out the rest of her things. the sneaky rat. by the way. either. Abruptly. “No.An engagement announcement. after all. Great. in sweeping movements that covered her with a frosty dusting from head to toe and left her breathless and laughing. Before she'd told him she loved him. She frowned. A little push in the right direction. you know it'sme you want to marry. she'd escaped anyway. The rest of the house was just as empty. then dropped her coat and boots on the foyer floor and ran to the bedroom. huh. shocked.As if . he'd done this on purpose. “Thanks.” she chanted. without telling her.” the unbelievably thick-skinned cover boy simpered. "Luke?” Her voice sounded uncertain and small. Where was he? She checked the hot tub. She'd just known he had latent criminal tendencies. "Jordan loves Luke. He swore to protect her from her brothers’ horror dates.” It was his job. Norton. I'm getting married. Imagine. He was awake. He'd sent this in before last night. Or two. never in a million years. Jordan sat there. and Luke loved Jordan. She headed for home—figuring that from now onhome would be wherever Luke was—singing “I'll Be Home For Christmas. She didn't want to spend the rest of her life in Luke's tee shirts—although she could imagine worse fates. making letters around the angels to spell out a message with her footprints. Well. more or less. All he'd needed was a little encouragement. He really did. I wanted a copy for our scrapbook. Then she ran along the snow. Where could he . she mocked inwardly. forgetting that Norton had already seen it. To Luke. Jordan. Jordan shook her head in disbelief. An insurance broker. Mission accomplished. She then ran for Luke's car.
" "Jordan. She just wasn't used to being in love yet. he must have left a note. then grabbed for the rolodex by the phone. Ah. Is he there?" "No.have gone. Get a brain. hello! What a surprise. Suddenly Jordan felt distinctlyun welcome. Jordan. that was ridiculous. she'd waited long enough. A horrible thought struck her. so he'd gone out for something." Well. for instance. I need you and Luke today." "Oh. I didn't expect to hear from you. Of course he did. “Well. she bounded off to play mermaid and lay in wait for an unsuspecting gunslinger. he'd said so. Luke always said what he meant. . Laughing at the thought. Maybe something had happened. then dressed and got back in his car. She searched out Wendy's number and punched the buttons in a fever of anxiety. she lectured herself and promptly searched for one. if you have time. No. but she'd adjust. break the other shell off and give Luke something to think about the next time he made snide remarks about her topless dress. “I haven't seen him.” Crushing disappointment hit." Well. “Wendy?” she inquired when a woman picked up on the other end. A family emergency. she pushed his private door open and peered around the corner. Aunt Cora wasn't well. Half an hour later. She'd give new meaning to the phrasewet dreams . He must have just stepped out for a minute. Maybe love made a person unexpectedly sensitive. Grinning in delighted anticipation at surprising him. Incredible as it seemed. She peeled out of the rubber tail section and left it in the bathroom. Maybe he'd had a business call. “This is Jordan. It was open. Maybe he had to go in to the office. because otherwise of course he would have left her a note. without his car? A note. Okay. I'm calling because I can't find Luke. She'd just threaten him with real topless-ness and he'd cave in to anything else. at least Wendy had sounded warm and welcoming. Jordan hesitated. I'm sure he'll be right back. a smaller black hat so they would match from now on. sounding surprised." "All right. A new sensation for her.” Wendy replied. she thought wickedly. she could dig out her mermaid costume. He'd be back. that didn't sound much like a family emergency. Jordan frowned. Luke really had disappeared. a Danish. I'll expect a call. But he hadn't left a note. success at last. “Actually. I'm almost done with the picture. On impulse. it's probably nothing. Maybe Luke didn't want her there after all. Thanks anyway. A paper. and I'll let you know if we can come to finish the picture. she drove to his office and tried the door. She couldn't wait. Meanwhile.
You said it yourself—happy endings are for real life. There was a rational explanation for this temporary insanity. “I didn't know where you'd gone.” She stalked over to him and pushed back his chair. Luke loved her. whatare you talking about?" She sat upright and blinked at him. Never.” she continued. Aliens from another planet had invaded and taken over Luke's body. just looking at someone that icily. what happened was we came up with a brilliant idea that didn't take reality . thankful once more for his accommodating chair. Jordan thought.” Jordan reminded him pointedly. even though it did give her the willies. “What exactly did happen in our case. "Don't be ridiculous. She refused to be intimidated. “That's fiction. biting her lip. “You know. sometimes the line between fiction and reality gets a little thin..” He turned away and started sorting through a pile of papers on his desk. Jordan?” he inquired cautiously." He considered her thoughtfully. The real Luke would never do this. He was staring at her as if he hated her.that surprised the alien being.What she saw wiped the smile right off her face. That was it.” he said in a flat. “Who are you and what have you done with my fiancé?" Ha. “Why are you looking at me like that?” To her horror. I thought a pod had gotten you. Jordan leaped onto the chair and threw her arms around Luke's neck. "Luke?” Uncertain now.” She rained kisses over his face and then ripped open his shirt to continue on his wonderful bared chest. like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers". That was the only possible explanation. and the hesitation proved fatal. "No.” she offered lamely. “It was just like the pod people.” Her voice trailed off in confusion. She must have heard wrong. She put her nose to his and demanded. making him look at her. cold voice that didn't sound like Luke at all. her voice actually quavered. she thought wildly. she hesitated. You should know that better than anyone. “What?" "Get out.” She laid her head on his shoulder and cuddled contentedly with him. It hesitated. She'd stumbled into a B-rated horror movie. Look what happened in our case. “What a nightmare.. Luke slowly raised one hand to the shock of white hair that stuck out in all directions. The pod people." "Yes. Luke lay with his head down on the desk and for a horrible moment she thought he was dead. “I thought you might be here. I'm so relieved. in between kisses." Luke sighed heavily. "Get out. but stopped when he raised his head and stared through her in a way she'd never seen him look before. He could give a person pneumonia. not stories. "Luke!” She dropped the keys and ran to his side. I came to see. she realized with a chill. “In our case. “Jordan. “Luke! Oh. stunned. well.
“Not really. so I went to get your car.A tail? No.” she informed him. he didn't even want to know. instead of pretending to be engaged. It happens to me all the time. we really did get engaged. That didn't make any sense. because you couldn't stand the sight of me and you said so. I know it's real. I do remember that much. Jordan. You were pickled. “You weren't there. so I left my tail on the floor for later and called Wendy. I waited for you in the tub. But I stole his newspaper first. lowdown rat and the only man I could ever love. “But I didn't wreck your car. "So I made you take a taxi with me and we cabbed it the rest of the night. and if you can't believe the newspapers.” she confided." Luke took that in and tried to make sense of it all. “I think. stabbing him in the chest with one pointed finger as she delivered the accusation. Did you wreck it?" She smiled brilliantly at him. don't you ever pay attention when I'm talking?" "You didn't mention Norton. I had to jump out the window and run for my life. you know.” he agreed. but I was starting to turn into a raisin.” Jordan stopped short. I took it away from you because you really shouldn't have been driving last night. Right. but you weren't there. I would still love you no matter what you did. don't you? From last night?" Luke eyed her guardedly. My subconscious must have tried to block out the horror of the experience. Luke was beginning to think that with her. because I saw the picture in the paper. . Well." "Oh. That's the usual problem with brilliant ideas.into consideration. nothing ever would." "Oh. but failed to form the bits and pieces into a coherent whole. He really didn't. I got some clothes and the car. and that's how I saw the picture. well. He wouldn't even ask. what can you believe?" Luke absorbed her disjointed explanation in silence. "Anyway. Anyway. I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to wake you up. no. and Luke didn't even try to understand it. Luke.” Jordan continued blithely. which is how Norton caught me." This was amazing—absolutely the most bizarre and baffling excuse for an explanation he'd ever heard. so your car was still at my place. “Would you still love me if I did?" He nodded slowly. "Yes. “So you saw it in the paper and now you're here?" "No. because I do an awful lot of things that will probably drive you nuts a lot of the time. Luke. "When I saw that you'd sent an announcement to the paper with one of Wendy's pictures. Norton saw it in the paper. good. Happens all the time with Norton. then I knew you were a sneaky.” Jordan stopped there to glare fiercely at him.” Jordan informed him solemnly. “You do remember about your car. "And I knew you loved me already. “You were supposed to defend me from Norton." That made absolutely no sense. either. Then I went back home.
" "I thought I was going to turn into a pod person.. "Oh?" "Yes. "No. where she belonged. She said she's almost done and we're supposed to call her.” Jordan informed him in earnest. by the way. and buried his fingers in her hair to tug her closer. I only thought that because of the way you looked at me. I couldn't stop you to save my soul. really. "I'm sorry. I got frostbite from it.” she warned him teasingly. "Jordan. Luke.” he groaned. “How can we cure your trauma?" She considered that for a moment. “Look at you." Luke was very relieved to hear that there was a point to this. he ruined my trip to the Bahamas. she vowed." "Well. I think we should go to the Bahamas. “And why are you working?” she went on. She undressed . he'd never doubt her love again. “Don't try to stop me. You need a vacation. And he wasn't ever going to let her get away again.” he murmured against her wild hair. "You need me. “Yes. since you ask . I've been having this fantasy involving your chair. Jordan took that as a sign that she wasn't going to get much more time to play with him. “Without me. “Luke. I asked Wendy. She kissed his hard belly as she slipped down to kneel by the chair and reached for his pants.. right?" Luke nodded. bone-crushing hug. A slow warmth began building somewhere inside him and expanded to spread through his whole being. I didn't get to have any fun the last time I was there because of Mitchell the sadistic dentist. Luke's arms closed around her in an endless.. But nothing was wrong with Aunt Cora and she didn't know where you were. would you try to pay attention?” Jordan sat up to give him a disgusted look. She slid down. please don't ever look at me like that again. It was horrible.” she informed Luke with a sorrowful face at the memory.” She tipped her face up to grin at him. “But I'm getting off the point. “Well. To finish the picture. you never let up. you'd just dry up and turn into a file folder one day.. It scared me. but I didn't ask her. I might be traumatized by the experience.” Jordan touched her lips to his in a butterfly caress as she finished pushing his shirt away to bare his chest for her turn at ravishment." "Aunt Cora didn't know where I was?" "Well. Jordan was here. I got a sunburn.” She experimentally huddled into his chest in a traumatized ball. she stopped short and shuddered. You remember Mitchell. Luke. I assume she didn't. with a sharp gesture at the files on his desk. so I came here. trailing her teeth against his chest and heard satisfying gasps and groans as Luke responded to her as he always did—violently. Back with him .” Remembering that. When she was done with him. dimples curving sweetly.” he offered hesitantly. I remember Mitchell the sadistic dentist."Wendy needs us.
They came together in an ancient joining and knew the wild. even for her. “That sounds like a very good idea to me. She laughed against his lips as she helped. “Yes?" "What are you doing?" "It's my new hobby. “I'm what?" "Beautiful. Then she smiled up at him.” she informed him seriously. It was downright chilly in December to run around in the buff. Jordan hugged him fiercely." Now there was an answer guaranteed to chase away the evil pod being's chill. all long slashing lines and molded muscular curves. Jordan. feeling warm all the way through again." Jordan lingered for just another long moment in his lap. hands clasped. I think I should get some binoculars so I can do it better. then leaped up to dress in record time.” Her name was both plea and shout as Luke hauled her up and tore at her clothing. “Let's go home. Luke-watching. “They'd think I was the luckiest man alive. big and bold. she stirred and kissed his chest again. the smoothness of his skin. Everything about him was intoxicating—the crinkly texture of his hair. She gave him an innocent gamine grin. His body was so wonderful to look at.” she murmured. “You think so. you're absolutely beautiful. "Jordan." Luke traced the dents with his fingertip. Looking at him made her long to be a sculptor. forget the momentary fear that she'd be split apart from him forever. “And they'd be right. in case they suddenly needed the chair again. then assaulted his hardness with soft lips. Then she slipped her arms around his waist and leaned against his solid bulk. They melded two bodies into one. two hearts and minds meshed.him quickly. She paused to mention to Luke that he might keep his office a little warmer in the future. The exhilarating male scent that was uniquely Luke filled her senses and fired her soul. huh?" . sweet bond of mutual love. She wanted to be part of him. She wanted to be so close that she'd forget what separateness felt like. His arms wrapped around her and tugged her closer. “What if somebody caught us naked in your chair?" Luke tipped her pointed chin up to kiss her with lingering thoroughness. He blinked at that. Raw and rugged. Luke. smoothing it down and finishing the buttons. “Jordan?” He waved a hand in front of her face as if testing her eyes for motion response.” Jordan got up to run appreciative hands over his shirt.” he answered quietly. to capture the wonder and beauty forever. but got distracted by the magnificent sight of a naked Luke standing beside her in all his male glory. flashing deep dimples. After a while. “We should get dressed. and then he yanked her onto his lap again. She dropped back into the chair to watch him dress. and thoroughly loved. Luke saw her staring at him and stopped in the middle of buttoning his shirt. She wanted him to be part of her.
Now all the neighbors know. I made you a snow angel. We're going home. You promised not to lie anymore. “You did not.” he reminded her. then nodded.” he answered. “Come on." She held his gaze for a minute longer. A Christian never runs from a fight." Jordan stirred at that. You had a spoon and sugar and you never even spilled a drop when you stirred." ." "About time. Jordan. unwilling smile tugged at his lips at that. “I love your big clumsy hands. “You thought I ran out on you. too. lion tamer. Like precious porcelain. didn't you?" He returned her level gaze. I noticed what great buns you have. You were holding a coffee cup and it was too small for your hands." He frowned. wondering who she'd be and why he wouldn't be able to miss her. I told you before—I won't run out on you. Give me a lion and I'll make it roar and purr and follow me like a pussycat." "Grr.” He cradled her gently and brushed his lips against hers in a tender salute. “Fragile and perfect. of course. They're very careful hands. just as seriously. “Yes.” Luke nuzzled her neck and her delighted laughter at his playfulness rang in the office. Roar. A slow. I almost forgot. “Never? What if the Christian meets a lion?" She winked saucily at him. he remembered the cafe and how he'd waited for her. but I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to be shocked that your own fiancée would notice such a thing. “There is one thing I do have to mention.Jordan nodded silently. Luke slipped his hands around her waist and easily lifted her to eye level. “And you are exquisite." Now that she mentioned it. “I can prove it. “Lion taming. “I can't believe I don't break you with my big clumsy hands." He digested that piece of information. I can never do that—I leave splashes on the saucer and the table.” she stated self-righteously. too. I noticed that about you right away. even if we have a huge fight.” Jordan answered indignantly. It went down well. But not you. “I'm very glad my fiancée notices such things. In the future.” she murmured as she nipped his earlobe. "This isn't a lie. “And I wrote Jordan loves Luke in huge letters on your lawn. “I noticed all kinds of things. “You noticed all that?" She smiled and curled against him happily." She smiled sweetly. Especially if we have a fight. Oh. “Don't do it again." "What's that?" She looped her arms around his neck and met his eyes directly. echoing off the walls. I hope she mentions them.
” Gary muttered. punk hair in a flowing nineteenth-century gown. Closer inspection revealed the outlaw's captive to be a small blond woman with short.” Luke teased. ah.. Jordan was Luke's problem now. and now happy." Epilogue Theodore. Against a western sunset backdrop. Aboard the magnificent stallion. in a rocking motion that a keen observer could almost feel. The man was easily identifiable as their new brother-to-be. If she did. "She's not wearing a bra. as he eyed the most fascinating scenery in the picture. They'd finally got her paired off and settled down with a man who'd keep her tied to earth. “You didn't make another. healthy . "Yes." The four men were silent for a minute. You're mine.. with straining muscles and tendons. the way their parents had slipped away.” Jordan gave him a naughty smile and looked terribly pleased with herself. and all the neighbor women had better beware. It was a perfect portrait of Jordan. The brothers exchanged sober looks and nodded as one. Even closer inspection revealed a lustful look on the rider's face. Theodore said softly. She wouldn't slip out of their grasp and leave them. a black horse galloped. cautiously. Then. Jordan was grown up.” Randall offered. Randall. educated. Lawrence and Gary stood shoulder to shoulder and eyed the newest addition to the Foster family gallery in silence. with a neckline cut down nearly to the desert tundra and revealing copious amounts of cleavage. “You'll have to find out for yourself. "She looks cold. At long last they were done with the job they'd started fourteen years before. **** . She did look happy. huh?” He gave her a wry look. clearly visible beneath the brim of a black hat. held a beautiful captive before him in the saddle. did you. "I'm sure they wouldn't dare tangle with a wild Christian."They do. she was solid and grounded now. Jordan?" She just laughed. Luke. mischief clearly sparkling in her gray eyes. “She looks happy. there was no denying that. The captive was busy stealing the rider's gun while he gaped down the front of her gown. Even in the fantasy portrait. snow sculpture. six-guns tied down. Lawrence just laughed. a bold outlaw rider all in black. they felt reasonably certain that the man in black would go after her and drag her back.
he'd enjoyed it.. They'd gone to the tree farm to select an appropriate masterpiece for their first Christmas together. And while he'd definitely thought about it. he'd known better than to buy her a truckload of bras. He'd given her the matching earrings to her engagement ring with the threat to make her wear them if she misbehaved. Then. it's more comfortable. but she'd been right about that. so . as usual. "Hmm.” Jordan teased him playfully as she displayed charming dimples that never failed to tempt him. She'd given him a tin star for his black hat and a pair of very sexy black leather cowboy boots. wrapping paper and ribbon. It was beautiful. beautifully full. like a snow-covered winter sprite. "Lie on your back. "What?” Her voice was slightly muffled by the tree. green and gold glass ornaments and created a sparkling display in the soft evergreen. She'd shown him the Church Street Marketplace holiday window displays. He had a feeling she'd be wearing them often. I don't think mushy looks count. perfectly shaped.. Luke turned and tugged her into his embrace to kiss her. patting the spot beside her. She'd made him go caroling. exactly the right height for his living room. Luke. too. It's beautiful. Jordan had dragged him on a tour of every single display. You should see. He slid a hand along her hip and cupped her against his sudden arousal. walking with her in the new snow that reflected the starlight and moonlight and made the night brilliant. “Did I say thank you for my present?” he asked against her lips. no. she'd danced around it until he acquiesced and cut it to her specifications. She had found the perfect tree. Thinking of shopping led to thinking of his Christmas present." Her soft.” he . He lowered his large frame to the floor and poked his head under the spreading fir branches to join her. To her the world was beautiful and full of wonder and she'd shown him how to see it that way. "What are you doing down there?" "Looking at the lights. and to his surprise. like the night he'd stood with her watching snow fall like sparkly silver fairy dust and he'd felt love pierce his heart for the first time. he saw everything with new eyes. “Let me thank you properly. She'd driven him insane with her insistence on the perfect tree. With Jordan. dreamy answer made him smile. too.” Jordan instructed. a sight he walked past year after year but never stopped to examine with a child's sense of wonder until now. He complied and took her hand in his. looking up at the lights. applauding the innovative or touching while sneering at the blatantly commercial. She was right. A night of wonder and miracles. "Jordan?” Luke prodded her foot with his.Luke's problem was lying under the raided Christmas tree in a bed of fir needles. Let me think. The white lights reflected off of red.
not quantity—See for yourself! Try before you buy Read the first chapters online for free! scheherazadetales. She was disgraceful.com Visit scheherazadetales. I'm not that kind of man. softly. She had a feeling. A smile that meant trouble." "I love you. In the sand. Luke vowed. Christian ten. She was a wicked fairy who haunted his days and nights. lion zero. “Jordan. But even if he didn't. he'd finally get the best of her in a quarrel.” she whispered back. And some day. . Luke. Snow Queen. Want me to tell you about it?" Luke laughed." "Afterthe wedding. “I love you. “Ha. Luke could hardly wait. disreputable. Tamed you again. He gave her a stern look.” Jordan promised. Luke. She was the best Christmas present he'd ever had." She did. Jordan. The feeling was confirmed when he smoothed back her shock of spiky white-blond hair and kissed her again. Jordan nibbled his lips until the growl became a definite purr. The End Scheherazade Tales Romance E-Novels Quality. deceptive and double-dealing.” she smirked. Then he kissed her in fierce abandon and growled with contentment.” he murmured as his lips claimed hers again. though. he would be forever thankful that his Jordan insisted on happy endings.com for information on additional titles by this and other authors. that he loved being tamed. On a tropical island. “I do. happiness glowing in her impish features. "Luke?" "Yes?" "I have this fantasy about you and me.murmured suggestively. "Merry Christmas. with a sweetly innocent smile. She'd buried the lonely past and given him the bright promise of a love-filled future.
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