STRIPTEASE
Harlequin Blaze
www.girl-gear . . .
ISBN 0373791038
August 2003

She'll bare her body . . .

Melanie Craine knows romance isn't in the cards for her. She's ambitious, and has no time for a man in her busy life. With all of the other women at the funky gIRL-gEAR.com Web site meeting Mr. Right, someone has to keep things afloat! Then, when hot videographer Jacob Faulkner films her behavior at her friend's wedding, she's livid. Determined to make him see what's beneath her attitude, she tapes herself doing a steamy striptease . . . for Jacob's eyes only.


He'll want her soul . . .

Jacob never expected Melanie to retaliate the way she did when he sent that tape! Watching her slowly remove each item of clothing from her body is the most erotic thing he's ever seen. Now that he's on board to film the gIRL-gEAR group for a documentary on successful businesswomen, there's no way he can keep things "professional." And it can't get any better when he finds out she doesn't want anything more than a sexual relationship. But will it be enough in the end?

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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

Deep breath, Mel. You’re only going for a swim. Funny, but she already felt as if she were drowning. Anticipation made it so very hard to breathe.

At the end of the second floor hallway, the guest bedroom’s door stood ajar. She’d left her larger beach tote on the bed when she’d first arrived. So, now she would simply take her suit into the adjoining bathroom and change. Jacob was more likely than not finished; she’d catch up with him at the pool. End of nervous breakdown.

Except when she pushed the door wide open, she found that Jacob wasn’t close to being finished at all. He was standing at the foot of the bed, his duffel open as he dug inside for his trunks. He was standing there, and he was wearing nothing but his sandals and his unbuttoned denim shorts. When he realized she was there, he looked up.

She’d known from the fit of his clothes that his body was sculpted and buff. But she’d never expected to have her breath sucked away. She was stronger than that; she wasn’t taken in by beefcake and bullshit. She knew better than to think a gorgeous body meant anything. But knowing, it seemed, worked better in theory than in practice.

He was absolutely beautiful, his shoulders broad and rounded with muscle, his biceps and triceps equally defined, his chest and abdomen dusted with dark hair. She stepped fully into the room, pushed the bedroom door closed and leaned back against it. The beat of her heart rapidly became a full-body flutter.

“I thought you’d be finished dressing by now.”

“Is that why you shut the door?” He slowly unfolded his bright orange hibiscus print trunks, draped them over his duffel, moved his hands to his hips while she watched. “So I could finish?”

She inclined her head; her fingers flexed so tightly into the cloth of her shorts she expected to find permanent wrinkles in her permanent press. “If you don’t want the privacy, I can open it back up.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “Well, you being here sorta limits the privacy I do have.”

“I’ll go then,” she said though the longer she stood here unmoving, the harder it was going to be to ever put one foot in front of the other again. “Is that what you want me to do?”

“You could do that.” He left his trunks where they were and moved towards her, his body seeming so much larger in the flesh than she’d ever imagined when he’d been fully clothed. His dark eyes flashed. “Or you could stay.”

Her heart beat painfully hard. “You want me to stay?”

“I’m not sure I can tell you what I want without getting graphic.” He stood less than three feet away. So close she could feel waves of heat rolling from his body. So close she could think of nothing but sex.

The hardest thing she’d ever done was not reach for him then. She lifted a brow. “More graphic than the recording I just listened to?”

His mouth quirked. “At least as graphic as your dance.”

“I didn’t watch the tape before I sent it.” She glanced away, breathed, looked back. “I knew things had gotten out of hand, but until I saw it just now . . .”

“I’d say you took things in hand quite nicely.”

She pictured shadowed hands pinching at shadowed nipples and wanted to disappear into the wood grain of the door. “It sounded as if you did the same.”

Another step closer. “You made for great inspiration.”

“So did you,” she admitted, and her chin came up.

A chuckle sounded low in his throat. “I can’t say I’ve been anyone’s inspiration before. Don’t women look for that in their sexy novels?”

“You mean the same way men look for theirs in Playboy?”

He grinned like the devil he was. “I prefer Maxim. Except when I can have the real deal.”

She feigned ignorance and managed to find enough voice to ask, “The real deal?”

He nodded. “Flesh and blood. And warm. And willing. Not a glossy magazine page that never breaks a sweat.”

“A sweat?” It wasn’t ignorance that had her mimicking a mynah bird, but anticipation flexing its claws.

“Yeah. A sweat.”

One more step, and he was close enough that she could grab him by the belt loops and tug him forward and into her body. She forced herself to wait. And she waited, because she could tell by his fiery gaze that she was about to sweat like she’d never sweated before.

“I like a woman who isn’t afraid to work up a sweat.” He dropped his gaze to her breasts, then to her belly, and finally brought up a hand, as if he was thinking about touching her. Taking his own sweet time. Torturing her on purpose. Teasing her unmercifully until she begged for what they both wanted.

The heady sense of being pursued made it so hard to stand still, to lean back into the door and pretend her weak knees weren’t on the verge of collapse. He looked back up then, ran a fingertip along her hairline beneath her bangs where perspiration always beaded first.

“Are you the real deal, Melanie?”

“I’m not afraid to sweat, if that’s what you’re asking.” And she wasn’t. Neither was she afraid of what he made her body feel. Her only fear was that if she gave up control to this man she’d never regain any of the discipline she’d worked for her entire life. She loved the challenge, hated the threat.

“Good.” His finger slid behind her ear and down her neck where he wiped the dampness from her nape. “Oh, yeah. Very nice.”

Cocky bastard. Far too pleased with her response. “Thank you. I do aim to please.” How she got out the words she hadn’t a clue. She could barely draw a breath.

This time when he moved, he leaned his head forward, his hand cupping her nape as his lips drew within millimeters of hers. “Melanie?”

“Hmm?” she hummed back, feeling the warmth of his breath and his body, smelling his clean and hot skin, wanting desperately to taste him.

“Can I have you?” he whispered.

She gave an imperceptible nod because she didn’t trust what was left of her voice to get the job done. “As long as I can have you.”

He leaned into her body then, touching her the way she’d wanted to be touched since he’d hovered at her back and beside her that that day in the church. His palms flat on the door above her shoulders, he brushed his lips from her ear to her temple and down her cheekbone.

Her eyelids fluttered shut, and she raised her chin, giving him access to her neck. He took it, nipping lightly at her skin until she finally moved her hands from her back to his, slipping her fingers beneath his waistband and urging him closer.

She felt every tremor of the groan that rolled up his throat. “Melanie?”

“Jacob?” She blew her answering question softly over his ear.

A shudder ripped through him. “You sure this is what you want?”

“I’m sure it’s what I want right now.”

He hesitated, then ground out, “And that’s enough?”

“You tell me,” she answered, her head turning and her open mouth moving toward his throat.

He stood still and let her explore his skin with her tongue, let her nip her way along the resilient flesh of his shoulder, let her leave a trail of tiny damp kisses beneath his collarbone. His skin was salty and wonderfully warm. And she wanted to taste more. To feast. To feed the hunger he’d driven her to feel.

She tingled and ached but not nearly enough. Not completely. Not in the way she wanted, the way his eyes and the sounds he’d made promised to provide. So when he backed away from her mouth and all the fun she was having, it was all she could do not to scream.

“Why did you make that tape?” he growled down at her, his chest heaving.

“Because your tape pissed me off,” she answered, breathing equally hard.

“That wasn’t what I intended.”

She didn’t care that he seemed contrite. “Then your intentions fell short, didn’t they?”

“You say that like you know what they were.”

She didn’t care that he appeared defensive. “Does it matter?”

“I thought so at the time.”

She didn’t care that he looked put out. “And now?”

“Now I don’t want to talk about it.”

All she cared about was getting him out of his clothes. “Why’s that? You can’t talk and screw at the same time?”

He took a moment before he answered, a moment in which Melanie’s frustration reached an unbearable height. A moment in which she panicked, wondering if she’d actually pushed him too far. Goading was so much more palatable than begging, but right now, here and with this man, she wasn’t above getting down on her knees.

He ran a finger from her temple, to her jaw, her chin and down her neck to her chest, where he drew a line back and forth along the scoop of her tank. “Are you sure talking is what you really want me to do with my mouth?”

Finally! “I’d rather you shut up and show me what you can do with your tongue.”