The Art of Losing
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by Lisa Troy
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Her heart is off limits. She's only looking for fun and sex. Emily Stone is sick of men and their lying, cheating, self-centered ways. A stranger stealing a kiss on New Year's Eve is the last drop. She makes the resolution to turn the tables on the opposite sex and beat them in their own game. But when the stranger turns out to be Blake Edwards, the brother of one of her students, Emily's plans start to go awry. Blake pursues her with a vengeance. He's sexy, has all the right answers and makes her heart flip in her chest with just a smile. But he's also too confident, annoying, not to mention he can end her career with just a word at a time when money is scarcer than shooting stars. Should Emily fight her strong attraction to him or add another name to her date card and pretend Blake's no different than the rest of them?
eBook Publisher: Freya's Bower/Freya's Bower, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: January 2010
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [398 KB]
Reading time: 254-356 min.
"Baby, I love the way you move." He leaned to whisper in my ear, his hand at my back guiding me through the crowd to our table. Rhett probably wouldn't believe me if I told him I'd never danced that way in my life.
Up until a week ago, I wouldn't have done the bump and grind with such enthusiasm and abandon. It wasn't that I thought it improper or anything. I'd always been fascinated by how other women swayed, mystery cloaking them, the seduction they emitted luring men closer. I longed to feel comfortable enough to act the siren too. How many nights did I catch Evan watching the dance floor avidly?
I simply didn't think I had it in me.
Yet tonight, after an initial uneasiness, I fell right into the role. If Rhett's reaction was anything to go by ... man, did I do it right. Perhaps, Evan just didn't bring out the seductress in me.
Someone cut in front of me, and I came to a hard stop, causing Rhett to bump into me. My stop wasn't the only thing hard. A rather impressive erection dug into the small of my back. I sucked in a breath. Rhett didn't back away but pressed himself against me. A satisfied smile teased my lips, and I let myself enjoy the power of being a desirable woman. I'd never aroused Evan publicly. Of course, he hadn't given me that "I want to eat you up" look Rhett gave me as we danced either.
Or the one Blake gave me on New Year's Eve.
I plopped down on my stool and took a sip of my Appletini, the memory of that night souring the fruity taste. I refused to think about Mr. Edwards--or Evan--on my date. Neither one of them deserved me wasting even a second of my life on them.
"I'll be right back." Rhett brushed a kiss on my lips before he left.
I let out a little sigh and watched him go. He was everything I expected him to be, and then some. Wild, sexy, with an alluring dangerous streak, and he made me laugh. Our relationship was easy and fun, without the intensity that led to heartache.
Lost in thought, I played with the napkin and stared into my green drink. When he'd called yesterday to postpone our date, I admit I'd been miffed. I thought he might be trying to give me a polite brush-off. But something really had come up at work, an impromptu photo shoot because the other photographer had fallen sick. Postponing was for the best because I spent all day yesterday thinking about Mr. Edwards anyway. I blamed the two margaritas I downed the moment I got home, because there was no other logical reason for the way he consumed my thoughts.
"You'd be having more fun if you were out with me, kitten."
I jumped at the sound of that deep, bone-melting tone. I glanced over my shoulder, even though I already knew whom I'd see. Sure enough, Blake stood behind me in all his lick-worthy glory. His dark brown hair was mussed as if he'd spent half the night sifting his fingers through the thick strands. Dark jeans hugged his long legs, showcasing them to perfection. He had even rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt to reveal muscled forearms. God, men with dark-looks do look great in white....
What sin had I committed to deserve this?
"Mr. Edwards." I smiled and took delight in the way his lips flattened into a thin line. "How nice to see you again," I lied through my teeth, my tone indicating that.
His eyes narrowed. "This game you insist on playing is getting old."
"I don't know what you're talking about." I looked forward again and took a sip from my drink.
Blake didn't give up. He moved until he was in my line of sight. "I'm talking about you and me on New Year's. You can't deny we shared a connection."
The denial dangled from the tip of my tongue, but I could very well imagine how he would call me on my lie. Too vividly. And the troubling thing was I didn't think I'd resist his kiss.
"Whatever connection we might have shared is beside the point. I don't date my students' parents." I hoped the frost in my voice balanced out the increased temperature of my body.
His smile brightened the dimly lit jazz club despite his irritating "I know something you don't know" expression. "I'm not Amanda's dad, so that's not an issue."
I folded my arms over my chest. "Still, you're her guardian."
"Her very single guardian."
Oh, the eye-candy was so busted. I arched an eyebrow. "Really? And whom were you talking to on the phone on New Year's saying I love you?"
He flicked my nose, an intimate gesture I was too slow to evade. "Amanda. I couldn't take her to the club with me, so we had dinner together, and I left her with a baby-sitter."
"You let her stay up so late?" I asked in an effort to divert his attention to a less dangerous subject.
"No, she insisted on setting the alarm clock and getting up to call me."
"Ah." A clever comeback indeed.
Okay, I now stood a reason short, but I refused to be deterred. I had a New Year's Resolution to keep and a new life to live.
"You're too nice," I blurted out.
I fought back a chuckle at his insulted tone.
"Look at you. Rich, sophisticated, with a respectable job no doubt. You probably want to settle down and have two-point-five kids before you reach thirty-five."
"I have five years left. I'm in no hurry." His face darkened the more I said, and a part of me wanted to take everything back, but this was my way out. I'd just begun learning new things about myself, tapping into my sensuality. I didn't want to fall into the same hole again and focus all my attention on a man.
"Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing, I just happen to want my man rough around the edges."
"And what would a not so nice guy have done on New Year's?" he asked through gritted teeth.
"He would've kissed me to shut me up. Then he would've pushed me up against the wall, and--"
Blake rested an arm on the table and leaned forward, invading my personal space. "And?" The suggestive burr spiked my temperature to a hundred and forty.
Images of Evan screwing his blonde bimbo from behind shielded me from the lust blazing in Blake's green eyes. "If you don't know what happens next, there's no point in me telling you, is there?" I shrugged. The way my heart beat like a crazed tambourine, nonchalance was a far-away oasis to me, but I tried anyway. "You're an Ashley."
His gaze, though puzzled, bore into mine, and cut--I feared--through all the bullshit excuses I gave him. I bit my lip. Would my acting skills be up to the challenge?
Lucky for me, Rhett swaggered toward us, his thumb hooked on the waist of his khakis, a challenging expression on his face. Blake straightened, and the two men sized each other up. Sheesh ... could they act any more macho?
"Rhett, this is Blake Edwards. He's the brother of one of my students. Rhett Gaynor." I babbled the necessary introductions to break the testosterone-laden silence and move things along.
Blake had to go. He had to stop torturing me with his nearness. Sexy, bad-boy Rhett didn't pose any threat to me. Blake and his quiet strength ... that was another story. I stood to lose my heart all over again. The Evan disaster had taught me I was far from a good judge of character when it came to men. I didn't have it in me to take a new leap of faith just yet.