LUV U MADLY
Harlequin Blaze
Red Letter Nights Mini Series
ISBN 0373792174
November 2005

Steamy invites for romantic holiday nights…

‘Tis the season to be delightfully naughty. Oui? At least, that’s the plan according to the sexy singles living tantalizingly close in New Orleans’ ultra-chic town house complex Court du Chaud. Why not write the ultimate secret red-hot love note to kick off the holidays?

All it takes is quickly slipping a sexy red-letter invitation under the door and suddenly three bold women—driven Claire, caring Chloe and blossoming Josie—are sighing with pleasure…and it has nothing to do with Chloe’s scrumptious homemade beignets. But everything to do with three sexy men.

No strings. No questions. Who knew delivering a Secret Santa challenge would lead to a sizzling gift that keeps on giving…and giving?

Read an Excerpt

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BOOKLIST

The Comfort of Favorite Things - Bliss and the Art of Forever - The Sweetness of Honey - Beneath the Patchwork Moon - Boots Under Her Bed - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock(Digital Edition) - Unforgettable - The Second Chance Café - Unbreakable - Undeniable - Holiday Kisses/This Time Next Year - Twenty-One Hours/SEAL of My Dreams - At His Mercy - Playing Love's Odds (Digital Edition) - Love Me Tender (Digital Edition) - Love In Bloom - (Digital Edition) - The Icing On The Cake - With Extreme Pleasure - One Good Man - No Limits - A Long, Hard Ride - Maximum Exposure - Kiss & Tell - Deep Trouble - In Danger - At Risk - Tex Appeal - The Perfect Stranger - Beyond A Shadow - Infatuation - The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Erotic Romance - Deep Breath - Goes Down Easy - Red Letter Nights - Totally Charmed - Kiss & Makeup - Undressed - Larger Than Life - Sara Smiles/Beach Blanket Bad Boys - The McKenzie Artifact - The Beach Alibi - The Samms Agenda - The Shaughnessey Accord - The Bane Affair - Mother, Please! - Indiscreet - Wicked Games - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock - Striptease - The Sweetest Taboo - Bound To Happen - No Strings Attached - Roped Into Romance - All Tied Up - Love In Bloom - Four Men & A Lady - Love Me Tender - The Badge And The Baby - The Grinch Makes Good - The Heartbreak Kid - Call Me - Playing Love's Odds

He brought his own glass to his mouth, maintaining eye contact as he swallowed. And then, ignoring the basic rules she’d set, asked her the one question he was most curious to have her answer.

“Why me?”

“Do you want me to be honest?” she responded even though he wasn’t sticking to the deal upon which she’d insisted. Then again, neither was she. “Or do you want me to be nice?”

He stared at her for one long moment, then laughed.

She saw it begin in his eyes; tiny laugh lines appeared, barely visible in the glow from the fan’s light above him. She saw it next in the dimples that bracketed his lips.

But it was the sound he let go, a great gust of amusement, a severing of the tension around which they’d been dancing, that grabbed hold of her heart and squeezed.

Yes. Her heart. The very organ she’d determined to keep out of his bed.

>From an emotional standpoint, this encounter was not going the way she’d wanted. His fault for the laugh. Her fault for being susceptible.

Physically, however, she held out great hope that the sparks between them had only just begun to fly. “I’ll take that to mean honesty works for you?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said and raised his glass in a toast.

She settled into the closest chair, pretending to relax as she crossed her legs, as she slowly let her dangling foot swing. “I like the way you look.”

“Well, that’s certainly honest,” he replied, taking the chair opposite hers, leaning back, stretching out his legs and crossing his ankles.

“Too much so?” she asked, running her index finger around the rim of her glass and adding, “Would you prefer I be subtle? That I approach you in a bar? Or offer to buy you a cup of coffee at Café Eros? We could flirt and make small talk. You could wonder about my intent. I could pretend to think about letting you take me home.”

He’d set his wineglass on the table while she talked, and now held it in place with two fingers threaded around the stem, his palm flat on the base.

She studied the dark hair dusting his wrist and the far edge of his hand. Then she wondered how close the crystal was to breaking; he was so very rigid, his body so very hard and still.

“That all seems like such a waste of time,” he finally said, to which she replied, “I agree.”

And then she waited, her heart beating hard, and watched him nod, watched him pick up his wineglass and drink, watched him watch her all the while.

It was a strange sort of cat and mouse they were playing, a game that if done right meant two winners, a game that if done perfectly would mean no regrets, no heartache.

No heartbreak.

She’d served the ball into his court. The next move was his, and he made it by asking her, “So, Claire, where do we go from here?”

Of course he would know her name, she mused. He didn’t look to be the sort of man who overlooked details—especially those that gave him the upper hand.

“Since I haven’t had the pleasure . . .”

“Randy,” he said, inclining his head.

She’d expected something more highbrow, a name with a Roman numeral at the end. Randy was so All-American approachable, so boy-next-door. Exactly what he was, she thought with a smile—a smile that he mirrored, and the tension returned.

“You haven’t answered my question,” he reminded her.

“I’m pretty sure the ground rules made clear that I wouldn’t be answering anything.”

He returned his glass to the table, slowly lifted his gaze to meet hers. “The first was just an exception then? Exercising your female prerogative?”

She stared down into her wine colored like winter sunshine. “That would imply that I’d changed my mind.”

“And you haven’t.”

She shook her head.

“About anything.”

This time, before she did, she looked up and made him wait until the pulse at his temple pounded.

“Good,” he said and held out a hand. “Then come over here and kiss me.”

Awareness of the space between them, the very short distance she’d have to cross to do as he wanted—as she wanted--stirred in her belly, more potent than the alcohol already settling there.

She uncrossed her legs, set her glass on the balcony’s surface, letting the neck of her dress gape to reveal the sheer cups of her bra. Then she got to her feet and reached out, touching her fingertips to his.

He refused the simple contact, enclosing her wrist in the circle of his fingers and thumb, pulling her forward to stand between his spread legs before pulling her down.

She settled her weight lightly on his thigh, but he wasn’t having any of that either. No. He tugged her into his body, forced her into the crook of his elbow.

She had no choice. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on.

He didn’t lower his mouth as she’d expected. Instead, he used his free hand to caress her cheekbones, her jaw, the length of her throat to the hollow where she felt the telltale beat of her heart, the curves of her breasts beneath the tank’s ribbed cotton.

Her breath caught and her nipples hardened. And beneath her thighs she felt his reaction that was unmistakably thick and hard.

“Did you know that you have great eyes?”

“Bausch and Lomb,” she said in response.

He shook his head. “Not the color. The clarity. The sparkle. Your eyes are . . . rich.”

“Rich. Hmm. I think that’s the best come-on I’ve ever heard.”

Even so, she couldn’t help but think back to last night, to the way they’d connected, to the need for him she’d felt that left her unable to sleep, that made her past experiences with men seem like time spent in a child’s sandbox.

He touched the pad of his thumb to her lower lip in a way that was all grown-up. “I thought we’d skipped the come-on step.”

He was right. They had. They’d skipped a lot of other steps between here and there, too. Steps she’d always thought so necessarily yet so incredibly dull.

“We did,” she said, threading her fingers into the hair that just brushed his nape, feeling a shudder in the hand that still caressed her. “I’m just not good with compliments.”

“With accepting them? Or believing them?”

Sigh. What was she doing, telling him personal details, letting him worm his way beneath the surface of this encounter?

She’d wanted anonymity. Two bodies doing that thing that two bodies do, nothing more than the pleasure of that. And so she finally answered him in the only way she could.

She pulled his mouth to hers.

His chuckle tickled her but only for a moment because his laughter quickly dissolved into a groan that rolled up from his gut. She felt it in his thighs where she sat in his lap. She felt it in his arms that held her.

But more than in his limbs, she felt it in his lips pressed to hers, his tongue seeking entrance. He tasted like the wine they’d drank, like the metallic charge of electricity, like she wanted him.

He caught at her lips, nibbled, sucked, slid his tongue over hers to play. She held his head and played too, stroking her fingers over his ear, her tongue over his teeth. The fan overhead did nothing to quell the temperature rising between them like a helium balloon.

He shifted beneath her, adjusting his erection, slipping his hand between their bodies to cover her breast. Her whimper filled his mouth, and he kissed her harder, rolled her nipple with his finger and thumb.

Her body was on fire. Her skin burned. Her breath scorched a path up her throat. Flames licked and toyed between her legs. And this was only a kiss. Getting naked with this man was going to kill her.

She started to pull away to tell him just that, to ask him how he felt about calling things off—or at least taking it inside to prevent the fan from scattering her ashes—but he beat her to the punch.

He left his hand where it was and lifted his head, staring down into her eyes he thought so rich. His were green, almost pine, darker than jade, his lashes the color of deep fertile soil.

And then he smiled. “I could use another drink.”

“So could I.” She started to push up, but he held her.

“And I’m serious about that new set of rules.”

By now, she was curious enough to throw her convictions to the wind and ask. “What did you have in mind?”

“Before I leave tonight, I’ll ask you one question.” His eyes sparkled with mischief. “When I see you tomorrow night, you’ll answer.”

Tomorrow night. Interesting that he was already thinking ahead. Even more interesting that she was falling for that look in his eyes and giving in. “Quid pro quo?”

He offered a nod of concession. “If you’d like.”

“I think it’s only fair.”

At that, the corner of his mouth quirked upward. “You believe all is fair in love and war?”

“Especially in war.” She straightened in his lap, got to her feet, waited until he’d done the same then offered her hand. “Deal?”

He took it, shook it. “Deal.”

Now all she could do was hope she didn’t regret what she was about to do. “Then what do you want to know?"