About the Author
Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. She’s had top-selling books for Amazon, Waldenbooks and the BGI Group. For more about Lori, visit her Web site at www.lorifoster.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
JUST LOOKING AT HER MADE HIM SWEAT.
And in the damned tux for his brother's reception, sweat-ing was more than a little uncomfortable. Even the air-con-ditioning didn't help. He should look away, but he couldn't seem to drag his gaze from her. The sensuous way she moved, her deep black hair swaying to the music, looking almost liquid it was so silky, her husky laugh, all worked to make him crazy and put a stranglehold on his attention. Morgan loosened the tie around his throat and undid the top two buttons of his white shirt. But that didn't help the restriction of his pants, and he just knew if he started loosening them up, his new sister-in-law would have a fit. And he'd sooner kick his own ass than upset Honey.
"If you stare any harder, you're liable to set her on fire." Morgan jerked, then turned to glare at Sawyer. "Aren't you supposed to be with your bride?"
"Jordan's dancing with her."
Great. Just great. After meeting Misty that first day on the front porch, Morgan had done his best to avoid her. Hell, he'd almost seduced his new sister-in-law's sister. And worse, she'd egged him on. What kind of woman did a thing like that?
He felt infuriated every time he thought about it. All his lauded control seemed to be paper-thin these days, espe-cially with the way Jordan and Gabe adored the woman. They doted on Misty, every bit as fascinated as Morgan had been by her sensual looks and careless smile, only they seemed genuinely interested in her, and that really put a crimp in his mood.
Morgan didn't particularly like her. She was so brazen, so sassy and unrestrained, it was almost impossible not to be drawn to her on a sexual level. But where her sister was discreet and gentle, Misty was bold and outgoing. It was no wonder he hadn't figured out who she was on the spot; he'd expected the sister to be more like Honey, not the exact opposite.
With her come-on lines and lack of inhibitions, Misty could put any male on edge, and that wasn't at all the type of woman he was determined to be interested in these days. No, he wanted a woman like Honey, one he could settle down with, one that was as interested in becoming domestic as he was. Not that he wouldn't indulge in a little dalliance here and there before he found the wife, just not with Honey's sis-ter. No way. That would be crossing the familial line.
Trying to sound disinterested rather than disgruntled, Morgan said, "I'm surprised Jordan could pull himself away from Misty. He and Gabe have been crowding her all night." Then he shook his head. "Hell, they've both been dogging her heels like lovesick puppies all week."
"And that bothers you, does it?"
Morgan snorted. "Hell, no. Except that she's a far cry from Honey and I don't want to see them get stuck in an awkward situation."
That made Sawyer laugh out loud. "Jordan and Gabe? I hate to break it to you, Morgan, but they're grown men and they've been handling their fair share of female com-panionship for some time now. Hell, Gabe started earlier than you did."
Sawyer laughed again. "Nope, I caught him at it, out in the barn that first time, so I know exactly how old he was."
Diverted for the moment, Morgan turned to Sawyer with a grin. "You're kidding?" "Don't I wish. I think that's what started him on the path of debauchery."
Morgan chuckled at that. The youngest brother was a regular Lothario, to the delight of the female population of Buckhorn. "Details?"
Shrugging, Sawyer said, "The girl was four years older than him, and since then, it's like he's irresistible to women."
"Honey resisted him."
Sawyer's grin was very smug. "Yeah. I was glad to see it. Good for his ego."
"'Course, he wasn't really giving it his all, seeing as you'd already staked a claim." Before Sawyer could object to that, Morgan turned to Misty. "Does it amaze you how two sis-ters can be so damned different? I mean, Honey is just so kindhearted and innocent."
Sawyer had just taken a sip of his champagne, and he choked, but when Morgan gave him a suspicious look, he just raised his brows, as if encouraging Morgan to continue.
"Misty is, "
"What?" Sawyer seemed intent on digging in. "Sexy?"
"Hell, yeah, she's sexy. But then so is Honey."
Sawyer blinked at that, then frowned ferociously. "I'm not at all sure I like"
"Oh, give it a rest, Sawyer. I'm not blind. And I just ap-preciate the fact she's so sexyfor you."
After downing the rest of his champagne in one gulp, Sawyer demanded, "Your point?"
Sawyer was being damn entertaining again, but Morgan couldn't take advantage of it because he couldn't pull his gaze away from Misty. Gabe had just swept her up into a new dance. She complained for just a moment about her feet, and Gabe, the rascal, merely went down on one knee and pulled her shoes off, tossing them aside. Misty seemed charmed, and they began a rather heated, intimate dance. The floor cleared to give them room, and Misty behaved to-tally uninhibited. Gabe was no better, showing off, making the women cheer, but that was his damned brother and he wasn't interested in looking at Gabe.
Misty was something altogether different.
Morgan had to grind his teeth together. "Will you just look at her?"
"I'd rather look at you looking at her. More amusing that way."
"It's like, Honey is so sweet and gentle, and Misty's all spice and fire. What is it with her, anyway? Does she think she has to seduce every guy around her?"
"She's not seducing, she's dancing."
Morgan snorted. "The way she dances, it's the same damn thing."
Sawyer snickered. "For you, at least."
Just then, Jordan interrupted Gabe and stole Misty away. She laughed, as willing to partner him as Gabe, and Mor-gan nearly ground his teeth into powder. "It's not right, I'm telling you. She's playing with them both."
Deliberately adding oil to the fire, Sawyer said, "It seems to be a game they're enjoying." Then he clapped Morgan on the shoulder. "Relax, will you? She's just dancing, nothing more. Oops. Here comes Honey, so I better get this out quick. She's concerned because you're avoiding Misty. I was supposed to tell you to go dance with her."
"Ha." Morgan was positively appalled by that idea, but not for the reasons his brother would likely assume. "I'm not getting near her." He was afraid if he did, he'd explode. He couldn't recall ever wanting a woman quite the way he wanted this one.
She was staying with them at the house, so he saw her at breakfast, looking all sleepy but still full of smiles for his brothers. He saw her at bedtime, wishing everyonebut hima good night's sleep. He even saw her in the after-noon, though he did his best to avoid it. She would be paint-ing her toenails right out on the back patio, or puttering around the kitchen, giving the illusion of being domestic when he'd be willing to bet she didn't have a domestic bone
It didn't matter what she did, he liked ita little too much. And she knew it, which was why she avoided him as much as he did her. They were far too sexually aware of each other for comfort.
But it was all physical, and a fast, easy, physical relation-ship with his sister-in-law's sister would never do. Sawyer, damn him, had made the woman a relative with his mar-riage, and that put her off-limits for every single thing Morgan would like to do with her. And the things he'd like to do,
He almost groaned out loud. The vivid images of him and Misty together, naked, overheated, carnal, would amuse his brothers and shock the hell out of Honey. She was overprotective of Mistywhy, he couldn't fathom. He had a feeling his sexual thoughts wouldn't shock Misty at all. He had the taunting suspicion she'd be with him every step of the way.
"Damn." Morgan felt the start of an erection and had to fight to control himself. Not easy to do when Misty was laugh-ing and looking flushed from all that dancing. Jordan whirled her in a wide circle, and Morgan wanted to flatten him.
"Damn is right. You're in for it now."
Morgan turned to see what Sawyer was blathering on about and was met with Honey instead. She looked in-credibly beautiful in her white wedding gown, her long blond hair loose and her face glowing. Morgan smiled at her. "Have I kissed the bride yet?"
"About a dozen times, I think." She grinned at him, and twin dimples decorated her cheeks.
"Morgan, " Sawyer's beleaguered tone didn't bother Morgan one whit. Annoying each other was the brothers' favorite pastime. And Sawyer, love-struck from day one though he fought it pretty damn hard, had made himself a prime target.
Honey laughed and patted her husband's chest. "Oh, Sawyer, relax. Your brother is just a big pushover."
Sawyer choked again.
Morgan, amused by her insistent misconceptions of him, grinned. Not another soul in Buckhorn, male or female, thought of him as a pushoverpretty much the opposite, in fact.
His grin fell flat with her next words. "I want you to dance with Misty." "Ah, " "Morgan, it almost seems like you've been avoiding her. She told me just this morning at breakfast that you didn't like her."
They'd talked about him? Morgan wanted to ask exactly what had been said, but he didn't want to look too inter-ested. "I don't dislike her."
"Of course you don't! But she thinks you do because you've spent so much time at work since she's been here, and you've barely said two words to her."
Morgan tugged on his ear, beginning to feel uncomfort-able. He wanted to sock Sawyer, who stood behind his bride, smirking. "It's been really busy this week and being that I'm sheriff I can't just, "
"But you're not busy now. And look, she just finished a dance. It's the perfect time for the two of you to talk some more and get better acquainted."
Sawyer, ready to get back a little of his own, said, "Yeah, the timing is perfect. And with your, er, charm, you should be able to put her right at ease." Then he grinned, glancing at his wife. "You'd do that for Honey, wouldn't you, Morgan?"
Honey, playing along, gave him her most endearing smile. He tried, but not a single rebuttal came to mind. "Well, hell." Morgan stomped away, resigned to his fate and un-fortunately, in some ways, pleased to be forced into it. He saw Misty look up from across the room, as if she'd some-how sensed his approach. She did that a lot, seeming to know the second he entered a room. And then she'd get quiet and withdrawnbut only with him.
Her dark blue eyes, so bright and clear they still had the effect of making his heart skip a beat, widened. He saw her soft lips part, saw her cheeks darken with color. She turned, looking, he knew, for an avenue of escape. But she'd al-ready been surrounded by every eligible bachelor in Buck-horn, and they were in no hurry to let her leave.
Morgan stopped right behind her. She didn't turn to face him, but she knew he was there; her shoulders stiffened the tiniest bit and her normally husky voice became a little bit shrill as she asked the men who would dance with her next.
Morgan looked at every man there, and he fashioned a grin. A very hard, unmistakable expression. Several of the men, eyeing him closely, began to back up, quickly making their excuses.
Morgan took advantage of their retreat. "I believe that'd be me, Malone."
She hated it when he called her by her last name. He'd found that out the first day they met. He'd been calling her by Malone ever since, because it helped to maintain the small distance necessary for his sanity.
"I don't think so, Hudson." She reached for Gabe's hand. He was one of the few men who wasn't intimidated by Morgan's darkest stare. In fact, Gabe looked highly enter-tained. He was a gentleman and would have assisted her, if Morgan hadn't beat him to it, reaching around her and snatching her slim fingers in his own before she could get a solid hold on Gabe. The reach brought his chest up flush against her slender back. He could smell her, warm woman and sweet sexiness. Her scent was like an irresistible tonic to him, and like any basic male animal, he reacted strongly to it. Her hair, so silky and luxurious, brushed his chin, and it was like having fire lick down his spine. He caught his breath.
They both froze.
Gabe chuckled. "You two going to stand there doing the statue imitation all night, or do you intend to dance? I have to tell you, Honey is frowning something fierce over the show you're giving the guests, and I think she's about to start this way."
Morgan drew in a deep breath, searching for control. "Get lost, Gabe."
"No way. I don't get to see you this rattled too often."
"I'm not rattled." He stepped back a safe distance but re-tained his hold on Misty. Trying to sound reasonable, rather than rattled, he said, "Your sister wants us to dance."
Misty's pink tongue darted out to lick nervously at her lips, and Morgan wanted to groan. He glanced at Gabe and saw that his brother was every bit as alert and fascinated as he was. Damn. He started backing out to the middle of the dance floor, tugging Misty along with him. Everyone could see she was a reluctant participant, and after the way she'd accepted every other partner, Morgan was peeved. "Come on, Malone. I won't bite you."
"Can I have that in writing?" Gently, she tried to disen-gage her hand. Morgan stared at her, refusing to let go and refusing to respond to her sarcasm.
She sighed. "Look, Morgan, this isn't a good idea." Perversely, he asked, "Why not?" "You don't like me! That was easy enough to figure out from the moment we met."
She was so, lovely, he couldn't help but study her face, the narrow nose, the high cheekbones, her small rounded chin. If he looked any lower, he'd never survive the dance, so he brought his gaze to hers. "I liked you well enough, at first."