I finally did it! I’ve had this super-sexy contemporary romance on the back-burner long enough and finally brought it to market! You can read the entire first chapter below…***warning, includes a lot of hotness, so be prepared!!!
And here’s the fab cover designed by Carol Webb at Bella Media Management!
A SEDUCTIVE PROPOSITION
When I first started thinking about the book that became A SEDUCTIVE PROPOSITION, I knew I wanted to set it in the red-rock buttes and hills of Sedona, Arizona. Having lived in Arizona for over twenty years, and visited Sedona many times, I thought the unique geography and lifestyle of the Sedona high country would make a fascinating backdrop for a contemporary romance.
A SEDUCTIVE PROPOSITION follows the owner of Jumpin’ Jeep Tours, Carly Grayson, as she strives to fend off handsome Quint Barron’s bid to acquire her family’s winery. She takes him up 2000 feet to the Mogollon Rim on one of her famous tours, but when she drives the Jeep back down the hill, he takes her to bed!!!
And now for the essentials of the story!
Quint Barron sees a chance to gain a winery and takes it. But in making use of his considerable arsenal of strategies, bargaining, and takeovers, Quint leaves himself vulnerable to something he never thought he’d feel – his surprising love for a woman whose company he’s targeted for acquisition! But will his competitive, win-at-all-costs nature cost him the one thing he ends up needing and desiring the most?
SHE KEPT HER TENDER, BATTERED HEART AT AT A DISTANCE, UNTIL HIS PLOYS WORE DOWN HER RESOLVE…
Carly had given up on love. Her last relationship had asked too much of her. But three years is a long time not to be dating, not to even have a toe in the game, so when Quint Barron shows up on one of her tours, she takes him home for a night of extraordinary but never-to-be-repeated love. Stunned that he later returns determined to get her family’s winery, she’s certain that both her heart and her will are strong enough to withstand his seductions. What she doesn’t count on is how often her body willingly betrays her perfect resolve or the proposition that might just change her life forever…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you ever have a chance to visit Sedona, I highly recommend a Jeep tour, especially one that will take you all the way to the Rim. You’ll see amazing back canyon country and hear lots of great information about our unique Arizona landscape.
I hope you enjoy Carly and Quint’s journey as they face up to the demands of an all-consuming passion, complicated by his determination to steal Carly’s winery from her and her efforts to hold him at bay!
And here’s the promised excerpt! Enjoy!!!
A Seductive Proposition
A CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
“You want me to do what?” Carly Grayson slapped her rust suede gloves against the palm of her hand. She owned Jumpin’ Jeep Tours and was ready for her next tour, but she wasn’t sure she’d heard her office manager right. “You’re saying you want me to hit on one of the tourists.”
“He’s the man for you,” Tina responded, clacking away at the computer. She paused then smiled. “I get feelings about this kind of thing. That’s why I made certain he’d be on your tour.”
Carly glanced out the glass doors of the lobby but the holding line for the tourists was just far enough away that she didn’t see the man Tina referred to. There were at least twenty people ready to hop into Jeeps and have a look at some of Arizona’s amazing red rock country, her last tour of the day.
She shook her head. “A tourist. You want me to go out with a tourist.”
“Were you thinking I meant someone permanent? Heck, no. He’s just supposed to be your next hook-up.”
Carly blushed. She hadn’t meant to, but Tina often said the most outrageous things. She glanced behind her, but fortunately the Jumpin’ Jeep Tours lobby was empty. “My next hook-up? You know I don’t have one-night stands.”
Tina Clark faced the world with the subtlety of a firecracker. She had short spiky blond hair and fiery green eyes. When she wasn’t sitting on a tall stool, she stood on a wood box behind the counter to make up for her lack of height.
She leaned back in her tall swivel stool behind the counter. “Carly, you need to get back in the game. If you mope around here one more day–”
“I do not mope,” Carly interjected.
“All right, maybe mope is too strong a word, but I see the way you sometimes sit at your desk and stare out the window.”
“I have a view of some of the most magnificent red buttes in the world. Why wouldn’t I be looking out the window?”
Tina gave her a squinched-up look that meant she didn’t believe her for a second.
Carly rolled her eyes. “All right, so sometimes I long for a man. What single woman doesn’t?”
“Well, you don’t have to long one more day because he’s here on your tour, and if you take my advice you’ll ask him to strip for you.” Speaking out of the side of her mouth, she added, “If I weren’t married, I’d have the pants off him quicker than a flash of monsoon lightning.”
Carly popped her hat down on her head and tucked her gloves into her belt. “Any other advice, Dalai Lama?”
Tina laughed. “No, but there is one more thing you need to know.” She picked up a piece of paper and glanced at it. “A guy from Hunter Enterprises called about fifteen minutes ago asking for ‘the owner of Jumpin’ Jeep Tours’. You were working through the new medical plan so I said you weren’t in. You know, I don’t think he even knew your name. Anyway, he said he’d give you a shout tomorrow morning. Apparently, he’s in town for a couple of days and wants to meet with you about the winery.”
Carly stared at Tina. “I thought I already made it clear to them that I’m not interested in selling.” She had inherited Red Canyon Vineyards less than a year ago and had spent a fortune over the last ten months refurbishing the whole property.
Tina shrugged. She clacked on the keys a little more.
“Did he leave a name?”
Tina grimaced. “Sorry. I had three lines blinking and I had to deal with an email. His cell broke up and I didn’t catch it. Harry something or maybe it was Blooker.”
Tina shrugged. “Sorry, but the phones and emails have been crazy this morning.”
Carly’s temper soared. “Well, why didn’t you tell him I didn’t want to see him?”
“Hey, what are you yelling at me for?” Tina wouldn’t take that kind of nonsense from anyone, not even her boss.
Carly drew in a deep breath. “Sorry. I’m just edgy. This hasn’t exactly been my week.” She’d learned three days ago that her ex-fiance had not only remarried but had spawned a beautiful baby boy.
“You thinking about Jeff?”
She huffed a sigh. “Yeah.” Three years of her life wasted.
“Please don’t tell me you’re worrying that you made a mistake. He had nothing on his mind but what he wanted.” She glanced at her computer screen, read through a couple of lines then reverted her attention to Carly. “Wait a minute. Is Jeff the reason you haven’t been dating all this time? You can’t still be in love with that jerk.”
“He wasn’t a jerk.” Carly lifted a hand to keep Tina from arguing the point, then continued, “But no, I’m not still in love with him, not even a little.” And she meant it. “I think it’s more that I stopped trusting myself where men are concerned. I thought Jeff had it all and look how wrong I was.”
Tina nodded, her hands now on her lap, the keyboard quiet, her attention focused on Carly. “He was a hiccough, nothing more. Get over it.”
“Well, that hiccough lasted three years.”
Tina leaned forward and grabbed her wrist. “And I for one am glad it wasn’t a second longer. You deserve someone so much better than Jeff. Yes, I know we differ in our opinions about his character, but I stand by my belief that he wasn’t worthy of you. Now, it’s time for you to get back in the game and the starting quarterback is about as hot as they come. So, go and, you know, tackle him.”
Carly rolled her eyes again. Maybe it was time to get serious about dating, but she felt like a player with no uniform, no turf time, and she’d forgotten all the calls.
She straightened her shoulders. One thing she did know, however, was how to give a good tour. She grabbed her clipboard from the counter then headed to the door.
At least grinding a Jeep up Schnebly Hill Road to the Mogollon Rim would help settle her nerves.
She opened the door but paused as the wall of late June heat hit her hard. She loved her life in the beautiful red canyon country of Sedona, but the summers were hot with a capital H. She crossed the pavement to the Jeep bay.
She glanced at the roster. Four Japanese names and two others, Brad Hansen and Quint Barron. One or the other of those sounded familiar. Oh, yeah, Hansen-Barron. Harry Blooker? She smiled.
She looked up from the clipboard. Then she saw the man Tina had been talking about and Tina had so not been kidding. She had never thought a man could be better looking than Jeff, but here he was.
Sweet merciful God.
He stood over six feet and his eyes were as blue as the high-country sky above. She couldn’t breathe very well as her gaze slid over broad shoulders that tapered to a narrow waist. He wore fine tailored navy slacks and a short-sleeved maroon shirt that partially revealed powerful tanned biceps. His arms were corded with strength. There was no doubt he worked out, a lot. She couldn’t say why, but she had a sudden impression of a mountain lion, lean, powerful, a predator.
He talked with his friend and didn’t see her right away. Her heart fluttered in her chest. He was the kind of man that should be bottled and sold in grocery stores to starved females.
He ran a hand through his thick wavy black hair. He laughed at something else his friend said, who in turn murmured words that sent the man shifting to look in her direction. His lips parted. He seemed surprised as he met her gaze.
Something primal struck deep into her abdomen. Desire, wanton and profound gripped her. Where was this coming from?
She struggled to draw breath as a slow, understanding smile drifted over his lips.
She tore her gaze from his and glanced down once more at the roster.
She scrambled to get air into her lungs. Her vision blurred as she scanned the list of names. She shook her head and eight years of experience took over as she moved to stand in front of the group of six men. She introduced herself as their tour guide. She called out each name and checked them off her roster. The mountain lion was called Quint Barron.
She liked the feel of his name on her lips.
“You’ve chosen the right tour,” she said, trying not to stare at him. “Sunset on the Mogollon Rim might just change your life.” She gestured toward her Jeep. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll put this beast on the trail.”
The gorgeous man caught up with her. His scent assaulted her, rich earth mingled with citrus, but she couldn’t tell if it was a cologne or just him. She had to open her mouth to catch a breath. Whatever the source, his rugged scent thrust images deep into her mind of tangled sheets, grasping limbs and panting bodies. Dizziness slid through her head and her knees threatened to disappear.
Who was this man?
No wonder Tina had been so enthusiastic.
She flipped the passenger seat back to allow the tour to hop in. Quint–already she thought of him on a first name basis–yes, Quint allowed his friend and the four Japanese tourists to climb aboard the roomy, open-air, U-shaped seat.
She shifted to pull the seat forward, but he was before her. He curled around her body and grasped the seat himself. “God, you smell good,” he whispered. His eyes closed and his nostrils flared.
Ah. The scent-enjoyment-thing was mutual.
When he opened his eyes, his gaze caught hers and held tight.
She drew in a sharp breath and only at the last second refrained from putting her hand on his chest. Her gaze dropped and stayed for way too long on his oh-so-sensual lips. “You’ll like riding shotgun,” she said at last. Her words came out crushed.
He lowered his voice about an octave. “Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”
Her heart rate skyrocketed as she met his clear blue eyes once more. She released a breath, which skipped out of her throat. Her lips parted. He touched her hand. Sparks flew off his fingers and pierced her skin.
He smiled and nodded, a single slow dip of his chin.
Desire pooled between her legs. She had one regret at this moment, that there were five other tour guests, all buckled up in the back seat, ready to be driven to the Rim.
If Quint had been alone, she would have driven him straight to her house.
Damn, Carly. Get a grip.
She drew her hand from beneath his fiery fingers and took the long way around the back of the vehicle so that she could calm down.
What was she thinking?
Oh, she knew what she was thinking—his body, her bed.
But she never had one-night stands.
As she took her seat behind the wheel, she worked her gloves on and spoke in her tour-guide voice. She told everyone that the first mile or so would take them back through town but after that they’d hit an oil-pan-gouging road, littered with boulders and bouncing would be the order of the day. “We’ll be climbing two thousand feet and seeing some of the most amazing buttes and rock formations in the world.”
She glanced at Quint. “Hold on.”
He drew in a deep breath, nodded and smiled. He set his gaze in front of him. His eyes had grown half-lidded, a mountain lion basking in the sun, satisfied with his command of his world, perhaps in his belief he would command her.
She pressed her suede hat down on her head a little farther. She turned the key and brought the engine to life. She put the Jeep in motion.
June had never been so full of danger.
* * * * * * * * *
Let’s put this beast on the trail.
Had the tour guide actually said that?
She made a few shifting turns through town, drove the Jeep by a Spanish looking upscale village called Tlaquepaque, took another turn heading north and pretty soon a rough-hewn road appeared so rock laden that he started to laugh.
“Well you did say oil-pan-gouging…” he said.
“Yes I did. Hold on.”
He wanted to hold on and then some.
And what was her name? Oh, yeah, Carly.
Quint let her name roll over his tongue a few times. His nostrils flared…again. Right now, he was a beast and he was on her trail.
He took a slow breath. Her scent drifted into his brain. What was that? Something like salty ocean and exotic flowers, a strange combination for desert high-country. Whatever it was, the sweet, sage-like smell tightened his abdomen.
He loped after her now, behind her, sniffing and chuffing. He growled. He ran faster.
He wanted to bring her down, to pull her under him, to be inside the promise of her scent.
He crossed his arms over his chest trying to contain the powerful sensations. He stared through the windshield and forced his body to relax. He had a job to do in Sedona that didn’t include seducing a Jeep driver. The owner of Jumpin’ Jeep Tours had a winery he intended to wrest from her any way he could. A one-nighter with one of her drivers could affect his bargaining position if the driver chose to confide in her boss.
Her scent once more caught him low across his groin. He gripped the door jamb and looked up the side of the hill at cactus, ancient junipers and manzanita. He took deep breaths.
He hadn’t been this susceptible to a woman in years. Maybe never. Damn. He wanted her the way a man crawling through the desert would give his eyesight for a drop of water. He had to have her, damn the consequences. Just once.
Okay. That helped.
Then he’d get the winery and get the hell out of Sedona.
An uneasy sensation stole through him, maybe the change in altitude. He glanced at Carly. She had her right gloved hand on the stick and her eyes glued to the road. She slowed through a rocky patch. The Jeep bounced like a pogo stick, but she kept the vehicle under tight control. One slide of rocks to the left and they’d go over the cliff.
He’d never met a woman like her before. Maybe that accounted for the way his ribs felt squeezed tight.
When she glanced at him and smiled he had the strangest impulse to offer to drive the rest of the way up the hill for her.
He laughed at himself. What the hell was wrong with him? Next, he’d be asking her on dates and buying her a ring.
Like that would ever happen. He had long ago made peace with his inner-bachelor. He had as much interest in happily-ever-after as a grizzly did a fur coat.
He was the independent sort and always would be. He’d watched his father battle his way through four marriages. He’d kept the last one but only because he dulled his senses with a six-pack every night.
Marriage made no sense to Quint, maybe because it was so normal. Very little of his childhood had been normal and the poverty he’d grown up with had shaped his beliefs as well as his drive.
No one knew the truth, not even Brad, that he’d been a hair’s breadth away from homelessness, ten months out of twelve from infancy. He’d lived without running water, without heat, without electricity most of his early life. He’d lost his mother to pneumonia in the midst of moving yet again, just after he’d started sixth grade.
But his determination had been born of the chaos, a furnace to his drive to do everything he could to build solid companies and provide excellent wages for as many people as he could. That was his mission, not setting up house and making babies.
Besides, he enjoyed his single life.
But with ocean and flowers humming in his brain, he could understand why some men committed. The way he felt right now made him think of building a house, locking Carly inside and keeping her there forever.
He smiled at the image. He could lose the forever part, but the idea of locking her up had a certain appeal.
He glanced at her again. His gaze slid over her body. She wore snug blue jeans that clung to just the right curves.
He could tell she liked what she did. She radiated that kind of confidence and enjoyment. Damn, she was beautiful, large brown eyes, delicate features, high graceful cheekbones, arched brows, the faintest indentation at her chin. Her dark brown hair, covered in a rust-colored hat, hung past her shoulders. Despite the dry, sunny climate, her complexion looked like she bathed in cream. He’d like to see her bathing in cream.
He cleared his throat and fixed his gaze elsewhere.
He hadn’t expected this on a Jeep tour in Sedona at the hind end of June. He hadn’t even wanted to take a tour. Trekking up to the Rim had been Brad’s idea.
Now he thought Brad might just be some kind of genius.
But he needed his thoughts elsewhere. He had a critical reason for obtaining the winery. In a little over a month, he had prospective clients out of the Napa Valley wine country coming into town. He’d been working the contact for the past eighteen months and had secured a commitment from three couples to visit Arizona at his invitation. Their combined investment portfolios amounted to just over two hundred million, even after the ups and downs on Wall-Street in recent years. Red Canyon Vineyards would provide the best environment to bring the deal home. He knew it in his gut the way he knew summer storms brought lightning.
Tomorrow he’d secure a meeting with the owner of Jumpin’ Jeep Tours and make an offer way beyond her expectations.
His executive assistant, Sheila, had already had a proposal rejected about a month ago, which had told him the direction he needed to go. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s initial refusal. A first ‘no’ meant nothing.
Sheila had since collected some general data on the owner. He had the file in his trunk but hadn’t looked at it yet. He would tonight then he’d put the finishing touches on his offer.
Although, as he glanced at Carly, he thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t get to that file until much later tonight.
Who would have thought?
Something so extraordinary in Sedona.
And she drove a Jeep.
He fixed his eyes on the road.
“You take this trip every day?” he asked.
“Five days a week, four times a day.”
“Do your teeth ever rattle?”
“Five days a week, four times a day.”
“Hold on,” she called out.
He wanted to hold on and then some.
* * * * * * * * *
Carly shifted and urged her Jeep up the winding, gutted road. She told the tour that dynamite had forged the route in the early nineteen hundreds. Those were the days when ordinary citizens could just light up stick after stick, blast away at a hillside, and make a road. Who could do that today?
Schnebly Hill pointed the way to Flagstaff, which in turn had been a lumber town that purchased the fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Sedona. Flagstaff now housed a university and supported the trucking industry along Interstate 40.
The Japanese tourists chattered in quick bursts. Quint turned around and addressed them in their language. He spoke for some time. Carly saw in her rear-view mirror that the foreign tourists now smiled and nodded.
“Did you just translate for me?” she asked.
He said, “Sure,” just like that.
Her mind fired up in several directions all at once. What kind of man knew Japanese? Where had he learned it? When?
She spoke French un petit peu, but he had translated words like dynamite and produce. She didn’t even know plate and rug in French. That he knew Japanese did something to her.
She shifted and coaxed the vehicle over one of the many boulders that jutted from the road. She shifted again and hurried through another low patch. She knew every rut, bump and boulder of the road by heart. As she worked her gears, she talked about the ancient junipers and Ponderosa pines. Quint offered a few words to the group in back.
“How do you know what ‘juniper’ is in Japanese?” she asked.
“I lived in Tokyo for a year.”
Carly felt a little dizzy…again. Quint had been places, had adventures, had the drive to strike out and accomplish the extraordinary. Needful sensations moved through her, powering her desire, beating at her resistance. She admired him. She envied him. Not that she felt discontent with her life in Sedona, au contraire, but he had moved out into the world.
She pulled over to give the tourists a chance to take pictures of the red towering buttes. Camcorders and cameras filled her rear-view. Even Brad Hansen lifted a digital and took some shots.
Quint appeared to have little interest in photography. She felt his hand settle on her arm. Her gaze shot back to him. He leaned so close that her lungs ceased working.
“Problem?” he asked, his eyes half-lidded. He glanced down at his hand and gave her arm a squeeze.
Ooo, that mountain lion appeared again.
She scrambled another breath. He stroked her arm and her gaze fell to his lips and his half-smile. Desire tightened within. She struggled to find a protest but instead shook her head.
“Good,” he murmured.
How was this in any way wise?
His lips twitched. He searched her eyes for a long moment. When Brad’s laughter floated forward, Quint released her arm and sat back in his seat.
Carly focused on the road ahead as she once more stepped on the gas. Too many thoughts jammed her mind to do much more than recite a few pieces of trivia about javelinas and their penchant for eating prickly-pear cactus.
She pulled over several times on the jolting drive up the hill to allow for pictures. Quint took possession of her arm each time and still she couldn’t find a protest with which to rebuke his sudden ownership. Instead, she found herself searching for new places to pull over.
What was she thinking?
Tina’s wicked encouragement had taken hold of her mind.
When she pulled over again, his hand slipped off her arm and drifted in lazy circles over her stomach. Her bra felt too tight and her jeans chafed her. Her skin prickled like she had a mild sunburn. Now she really couldn’t breathe.
If they’d been alone, she would have started pulling her clothes off and begging.
At last on the Rim, she had thought to remain by the Jeep. Maybe she could cool off. Maybe there was still a chance she could be rid of these overwhelming sensations. However, Quint, who had taken several steps from the vehicle turned back and waved her forward.
Her feet moved without one hint of reservation, a pair of traitors.
When she reached him, he took her right arm and wrapped it around his, then, as he held her gaze, he pulled her right glove off. He slipped the glove over his belt then took her bare hand in his. He smiled.
Damn. He had so just claimed her.
He led her away from the rest of the group and took her to the edge. He never let go of her hand, but laced his fingers through hers.
He shifted his gaze to the view beyond. She heard a deep murmur of approval as he scanned the beauty rolling for miles and miles to the distant horizon.
She knew the view, every bold, magnificent butte and the layers of peaks unfolding one after the other. This time of day the sun sat low in the west and cast a violet haze over the back-and-forth of the canyon below. It was a primeval land of soaring red, mountainous outcrops, of tall Ponderosa pines climbing the steep canyon walls, of terrain that bore the unique stamp of ancient seas that once covered this part of the world.
The view never failed to thrust her out of her life and demand more of her. Her heart swelled.
How unexpected to be sharing this with Quint, a stranger who held her hand.
“Everything seems possible up here,” she said.
He looked down at her. She turned to look up at him and smiled. He squeezed her hand. “I love possibilities. My favorite thing.”
A man who loved possibilities.
Inordinate desire and longing swamped her again. The beauty of nature, possibilities, and a mountain lion tore through her spirit and rearranged all her thoughts. He squeezed her hand once more. She wanted to fly, straight into the wind, and ease along the drifts and eddies that traveled Oak Creek Canyon.
Fearing she might be lost forever, she shifted her gaze back to the sunset, which now added a fading orange-violet palette to the canyon.
After a few minutes, Quint turned into her, caught her gaze and asked, “You live in Sedona?”
She nodded. “Not far from Jumpin’ Jeep Tours.”
Oh, God, was she going to do this? Did she even know the rules? Was she risking something she didn’t understand?
“I’ll bet it doesn’t take very long to get back down the mountain.” He smiled. The sun dipped into the horizon and his blue eyes turned slate gray.
She shook her head. “Not long at all.”
“Good.” Again, he squeezed her hand.
Beyond his shoulder, she caught sight of his friend, Brad Hansen. He wore a huge smile and waved at her. “You know, your friend laughs a lot.”
Quint turned and growled. “I’ll take care of him.”
Still holding his hand, she leaned forward and pinched the glove at his belt. When she started to pull, his attention reverted to her like a case of whiplash.
“I need my glove back,” she explained.
He held her gaze. His eyes grew dark with passion. He growled again but this time he meant something else.
She smiled. Okay, she was so doing this.
She drew in yet another ragged breath, released his hand then headed back to the Jeep calling to her tour. She worked her glove back on.
Her group was the last to begin the trek back down into civilization.
The shadows had deepened in the failing light. She turned her headlights on. Quint’s hand found her thigh where it remained even as the Jeep bounced and lurched all the way down the hill.
At long last, she drove into the Jeep bay. She bid farewell to the Japanese tourists, shook hands with Brad, cast one succinct smile in Quint’s direction then hurried to the lobby.
She intended to sketch in the experience for her friend, but Tina had the phone to her ear and a tense frown between her brows. She stared at the computer and held up a finger when Carly started to whisper to her.
She glanced out the window at Quint. He leaned against her Jeep, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked like he’d staked a claim on the vehicle as well.
Carly glanced at Tina once more, but her office manager now shaded her eyes with her hand. “I told you, mom, three times. Bob and I are staying in Sedona for the Fourth. Give it up already.”
Carly caught Tina’s eye, nodded to her, then headed back out to the Jeep bay. She tried not to run, but seeing Quint waiting for her put jets on her feet.
She hopped back into the Jeep and gestured for Quint to do the same. He moved almost as fast as she did.
When he’d buckled up, he asked, “You can take the Jeep home?”
“Sure.” But now it was her turn to laugh. “The owner is like family. She always lets me use her Jeeps.” She laughed again.
“I’ll need my car,” he said. “I left it at The Cowboy Club. Okay if I follow you?”
“Of course.” She pushed her way into the touristy traffic then struggled not to floor it the entire very short distance to the restaurant. He directed her to a black convertible BMW.
His car was gorgeous, sleek, charcoal gray, an expensive piece of quick machinery. The top was up because of the summer heat. He moved like a flash of lightning and slid low into his car. The engine purred to life.
She led the way to her house. Thankfully, she lived only a few blocks from the tour office.
She parked and jumped from the Jeep, but waited for him. He walked straight up to her and took her in his arms, no asking for permission, no discretion regarding the neighbors. But she wasn’t surprised, not even a little.
She melted against him right there on the driveway. He was just as she imagined, muscled and perfect as her hands drifted over his shoulders, down his back and up his arms.
“This is crazy,” she said.
“Yeah, but you feel so good.” He crushed his lips against hers.
She felt dizzy and had a sensation of falling backward. She didn’t get far since he snaked an arm around her waist, but he followed her leaning body and his tongue slid into her mouth. She moaned. Oh, the man could kiss.
He drew back and pulled her upright. She had a difficult time opening her eyes. “Inside?” she asked.
“Yes…and yes,” he groaned.
She caught his meaning and her core tightened with need.
She hurried to the front door, unlocked, then pushed it open. The next few seconds became a whirlwind of stripping off useless shirts. One more second and he had her backed up against the inside of her front door.
He kissed her neck like he owned it. She guessed right now he did.
He ran his finger over the swell of her breast. Lightning-like prickles skated over her skin.
She drew in an uneven breath. “Do you feel that?”
“Electricity,” he whispered against her cheek. “I felt it all the way up to the Rim and back.”
“Yes.” Carly closed her eyes.
Quint’s finger continued to trace a line up her chest. Piercing darts of pleasure flew everywhere, to the tips of her fingers, the bottoms of her feet, the tightening coil within.
“Must be the dry air,” he whispered deep into her ear. “All this electricity.”
Delectable shivers raced down her neck. He sunk his tongue. She moaned. The dip inside reminded her of other places his tongue could go. She leaned against him and clutched at his arms.
“You’re like a mountain lion.”
He left her ear, found her lips then kissed her hard. He drove his tongue into her mouth. After a moment, he said, “Mountain lion, huh?” One of his hands became attached to her breast.
“Yes. You’re one of those men, you know the kind that roam the world and take what they want.”
“Yes.” His fingers feathered her breast causing her nipple to bead up and grow urgent and hungry.
“Oh, you have the best hands. How do you know how to touch me like that?”
“Touch isn’t anything.” He lowered his mouth to her breast and drew a nipple inside. He suckled.
He straightened up to face her. He slid his hands into her hair. “And why do you drive a Jeep? Are you buried in Sedona?”
“My roots go deep.”
“Mine don’t. Just so we understand one another.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed him, this time driving her tongue into his mouth. A battle of thrusts ensued. He cupped her buttocks and pressed his hips against her…hard.
“You’re not coming back, are you?” she asked, her lips swollen.
“Good. Just so we understand one another.”
“Which way to your bedroom?”
She pointed. He slid one arm around her waist, and with the other dipped down behind her knees and picked her up. When he stood upright, he smiled at her. “Don’t want you to get lost on the way.”
I’m already lost.
He took her to the bed and stripped her belt, shoes, socks and pants off. As he shucked his own shirt and pants, she turned around to pull the bed-covers back, bending as she did so. She heard him groan and before she could turn and face him again, he tackled her from behind.
“Give a guy a chance,” he whispered over her neck. “You should never bend over wearing a thong, especially not this fragile black-lace thing.” She felt his hands and heard the tear. He tugged the remains of her thong out from under her.
She muffled a laugh, her cheek pressed into the sheets. He pinned her flat onto the bed and it felt so good. He smoothed back her hair and kissed the base of her neck. He unhooked her bra and stripped her of this last remnant of her clothes.
His thick shaft stroked between her cheeks. He drifted his hand up and down her back then slid his fingers under her to tease her mound. He moved lower and caressed her opening. “You’re so wet.”
He worked his fingers inside and stroked her.
“Oh, Quint,” she murmured. She squeezed her eyes shut. All that foreplay up the mountain had taken a toll. She wouldn’t last long. “You’ll make me come like this,” she whimpered.
“I won’t be far behind.” He groaned against her neck. He stroked her faster.
She thought she should encourage him. “Maybe you should find your way inside…like now.”
He didn’t hesitate, not even a split-second. He rose up then lifted her hips until she was on her knees.
He positioned himself and pressed inside in one long dive. Her lungs collapsed. She sucked in as much air as she could, but all she could do was pant. Sliding an arm under her to support her, he drove into her depths. He rocked into her in a deep strong rhythm, groaning.
She lifted her head and cried out. “You feel so good.”
He leaned over her and nipped her shoulders. The hint of pain clenched her muscles. She whimpered again. He continued to bite her in short jabs as he drove into her. “I can’t wait,” she whispered, her voice a hoarse cry.
Her orgasm barreled down, a pack of horses at full gallop. She cried out in brisk intervals, the measure of his quick thrusts. His groans merged with hers. Her internal muscles contracted…hard. Her voice filled the room in a sweet agonized cry that went on and on as pleasure stormed through her.
His thrusts gathered speed. Another orgasm took her into the stratosphere.
“Carly,” he moaned over the back of her neck. He mumbled words into her hair she couldn’t make out. His groans accelerated. He arched off of her, pumping hard. He gave a shout as he spent himself within her.
When his motions slowed then stopped, she hooked his arm and gave a tug. He followed her as she collapsed onto the bed. She forgot what the weight of a man felt like. Her heart released a gallon of unexpected euphoria. He put breathless kisses all over the back of her neck and the side of her face. He found her mouth and dipped his tongue inside. He was still connected low and now she suckled on his tongue. She could get used to this.
She opened her eyes just enough to watch his beautiful blue eyes streak with panic. “What?” she asked.
“I forgot the condom.”
She laughed a little more. “On the pill,” she offered.
“Thank God. I’m so sorry. I’m never this irresponsible. I just got caught up in the moment.”
She patted his shoulder with fingers that, given the awkward position, contorted to reach him. “It’s okay. Really.”
“Okay,” he nodded. He still hadn’t caught his breath. He eased from her and rolled onto his back. “That was fantastic.”
“Yes it was.” She remained stretched out on her stomach. She couldn’t move. She didn’t want to.
She wished so many things right this moment; that Quint hadn’t been the most exciting sex she’d ever had, that she was at least a little uncomfortable with him instead of feeling so relaxed and satisfied, and that her heart didn’t ache with the most intense longing.
She scooted closer and nuzzled his arm. His earthy-citrusy scent did her in all over again. Her internal muscles tightened as they had from almost the moment she first saw him. She was hopeless.
She chuckled. “I have a request.”
“Anything,” he said, once more kissing the back of her neck. “God, anything.”
“Would you stay just a little while longer and do that again?”
He laughed as well. “Just try to get rid of me any time soon.”
She released a deep sigh. “I need you to work me over, Quint. Can you do that?”
He growled and bit her neck once more, right at the back. Shivers streaked down her spine. She whimpered.
Okay, maybe Tina had been right. Maybe she had needed a man. But yeah, she’d gotten his clothes off and it had been fantastic.
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The next day, Carly went into work addled and sore.
She floated around the tour lobby, straightened rows of stationery, rearranged t-shirts, and hung up a couple of backpacks that had fallen on the floor. All the articles bore the Jumpin’ Jeep Tours logo.
She glanced at Tina who watched her for a moment then tapped away on the computer.
“If I didn’t know better,” Tina called across the shop, “I’d think you got lucky last night.”
Carly felt compelled to speak to her about what happened. She crossed the room and leaned over the counter. She whispered, “I promised myself I would never do what I did last night, ever.”
Tina drew her hands away from the keyboard, her green eyes wide. “You got laid,” she cried.
Carly smiled, remembering. “I think it was a little more than that.” It was so much more. She’d gotten less than four hours of sleep.
Tina worked the computer, arranging schedules, reading emails, taking reservations and responding to them. She shifted her gaze back to the screen and once more began typing. She was one of those remarkable creatures who could multitask. “Well, I must have more information. To whom are you referring? With whom did you tumble in the sheets? About whom are we speaking?”
Carly laughed. “You know who. That guy with the Japanese tourists. I mean he wasn’t with them but he could converse in Japanese. He was tall and had shoulders like this.” She held out her hands trying to approximate the breadth of Quint’s chest and arms and kept moving her hands farther apart. “Anyway, he rode shotgun, black hair, blue eyes?” She sighed. “Blue like the Sedona sky. The one you said was gorgeous? The one you prodded me to pursue?”
She watched Tina’s expression change. The smile disappeared and her complexion paled. Her fingers grew silent and became poised over the keyboard like a pair of claws. She stopped blinking then turned to stare at Carly.
“What?” Carly asked. A terrible sensation stole up her back like a snake slithering over her skin.
“But…that guy, the drop-dead gorgeous one? I know who he is now. I didn’t know when I sent you out with that tour, but I learned while you were taking the Jeep up. Oh, God. I was having an argument with my mom and you left so fast. Oh, no.” She groaned and covered her face with her hands.
“Tina, who is he?” The snake crept up to the base of her neck and crept right on around forming a snug loop.
Carly shook her head. “I know his name. Of course I know his name. He was on the roster.”
She at least knew his name.
“Harry Blooker,” Tina cried. “The CEO of Hunter Enterprises. His name is Quint Barron.”
Carly took a step back. She took another. Her leg collided with the base of one of the chairs she kept in the lobby, perhaps just for moments like these. She fell down into the seat. Hard.
She shook her head. “You must be mistaken. You mean that guy?” The one who had tackled her from behind, the one who had afterward made love to her in every position imaginable for hours and hours, the one who had fallen asleep holding her against the warm masculine curve of his body, the one who hadn’t left until dawn? “You mean Quint Barron heads the company that wants to buy my winery?”
Oh, God, she was going to have to see him again.
Her dazed sated feelings just transformed into a tornado of panic. Once he’d left, she’d given the whole experience a great deal of thought. She’d never been so uninhibited in her life but only because she knew she’d never see him again and now she’d have to see him to do battle with him over her winery. She put her head in her hands and groaned.
“Are you okay?” Tina asked.
“No.” She lowered her hands and looked up. Tina now leaned over the tall counter and scowled down at her. Carly continued, “Not yet, but I will be.” She sucked in air for a good long minute until her heart rate settled down. She’d have to find some way of making certain he didn’t come back to Sedona, at least not to her office.
She gave herself a shake. Tour guests had begun collecting in the loading zone across the alley.
If only she’d known who he was, she would never have taken him home.
She forced herself to draw in a few more deep breaths.
Well, enough with the regrets.
Time to drive.
She would deal with the conundrum of Harry Blooker later…
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I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of A SEDUCTIVE PROPOSITION! I loved writing this full-length story about Carly’s struggles to keep Quint from stealing both her winery and her heart!
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Caris Roane is the author of six paranormal novels for St. Martin’s Press and several indie pubbed novellas. A SEDUCTIVE PROPOSITION is her first Contemporary Romance. Writing as Valerie King, she has published fifty novels and Novellas in Regency Romance. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, really doesn’t like scorpions, and has two cats, Gizzy and Sebastien.
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