/ Language: English / Genre:love_erotica

Out of Her Dreams

Fran Lee

She's a best-selling erotic romance writer. Her fans adore her. She's making excellent money. All by writing about a man she dreamed up many years ago. Her hero is handsome, virile, sexy, strong, sensitive and a complete gentleman. He's a hot-headed, sex-on-the-hoof pro wrestler. He has a reputation for being the hottest, nastiest man on the mats. The fact that his face and body are plastered all over a bunch of mushy romance novels written by a woman with a death wish doesn't sit well on those massive shoulders. His agent's demanding monetary retribution from the woman who's dared to use his image on her covers but he has another form of retribution in mind…and it has nothing to do with money. She was his the moment he touched her. He came out of her dreams to claim her, and she wants every hot, throbbing inch of that delicious man. He wants her, naked, at his mercy. One hot, orgasmic night wasn't nearly enough. She ran…but he'll find her.

Fran Lee

Out of Her Dreams

Out of Her Dreams Copyright © 2009 Fran Lee

To John, David and Christina.

You have been my inspiration all your lives. Thanks for all your love and support.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to my wonderful editor, Helen Woodall, for her patience and perseverance in attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Trademarks Acknowledgement

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

Armani: GA Modefine S.A. Corporation

Embassy Suites: HLT Domestic IP LLC Ltd. Liab. Co.

Hummer: General Motors Corporation

Hilton: Hilton Hotels Corporation

Nike: Nike Inc.

Pilates: Joseph Hubertus Pilates

Science Channel: Discovery Communications, LLC

Sharpie: Sanford L.P., A Newell Rubbermaid Company

Sheraton: Sheraton Hotels, Starwood Hotels and Resorts

SportTix: SportTix, Wordpress Entries Inc.

Superman: DC Comics.

Teflon: DuPont Corp.

TV Guide: TV Guide

Twilight Zone: CBS TV

UFC: Ultimate Fighting Championship, Zuffa LLC

Chapter One

“I can’t even begin to imagine how you came up with this hero you’ve put into your books, Ms. Hastings! The man is incredibly sexy, sensitive and wonderful!” the woman standing before the book signing table gushed as Samantha signed her book with a flourish and handed it back to her with a smile.

Sam was used to this comment. She smiled mysteriously and said, “I dream. He is right out of my dreams.” And how. “Thanks so much for buying my novels.”

“You must have some pretty hot dreams,” the woman sighed, moving away so that Sam could sign the next book.

Another book, another buck. So far today she had signed over two hundred books. Not a bad day for a book signing. She glanced up at the girl standing in front of her and took the open novel from her hands, poising her Sharpie over the flyleaf page. “Hi. What’s your name?”

“Angie. Just say something like, ‘Dear Angie, friends forever, love Samantha Hastings’.” The blonde was biting her bottom lip as she waited eagerly for her wish to be granted. At times Sam felt like she’d just popped from an old bottle in a puff of smoke. Granting wishes was her forte. One more wish coming right up. Too bad she wasn’t so good at getting her own wishes granted. But then, you couldn’t have everything you wanted in life. Right? And Samantha Hastings had some pretty graphic wishes she’d love to see come true.

Sam smiled and wrote exactly what the young woman had asked her to write and handed back her purchase, giving the girl a brilliant, genuine smile. “Thanks for buying my book.” Her face ached from smiling for hours but who was she to complain? She was making money here. And she truly was grateful to the women who bought her books. A little pain was worth it at times. And she was no stranger to pain, was she?

She reached for her water glass and took a desperately needed sip, before flexing her fingers and reaching out to take the next book dangling in front of her from its owner’s hands. Her fingers collided head-on with warm skin and she winced. “Sorry.”

She could just read the tabloid headlines now-Author of Lurid Romance Books Attacks and Wounds Customer at Book Signing.

Boy. She needed a break and soon. She was as tired as hell and her wrist and hand ached. But this was just another part of the job. You wrote books, you helped sell them at book signing parties. For the past two years there had been no time to rest. It felt as if she’d been sitting here for five days instead of five hours. After checking her nails for possible blood from her customer, she pasted on another big smile as she opened the book to its pristine flyleaf and asked, “What’s your name?”

“You tell me, Ms. Hastings.”

The voice was husky. Deep enough to send some pretty gnarly tingles along every nerve she possessed. She blinked at the lean, masculine hand resting on the table and bit the corner of her lower lip. Her eyes moved appreciatively upward toward the face of the person whose book she was about to sign-and her mouth went suddenly dry.

Her eyes had to travel a considerable distance up the front of a massive, tall frame, over a powerful, Armani-clad chest that would have been hell to stretch a shirt across, to the face she had seen in her dreams for so many years. The same face, with the same night-dark eyes and high cheekbones and chiseled mouth. The very same crookedly sexy smile with the exact same amazingly white, beautiful teeth that flashed as he slowly smiled down at her. Oh. My. God!

She was hallucinating. She had to be.

Nope. No giant, intensely sexy hallucination, that. The fingers that had collided with hers were warm. Warm and very solid. She felt a shot of primal heat reverberate though her belly. She couldn’t quite get her breath. Her head felt oddly light and she realized numbly that everyone was looking from her white, shocked face to the giant of a man who stood before her, intently waiting for her to speak.

“It’s him!” a voice squeaked somewhere to one side and Sam swallowed hard.

“My God, that’s got to be him!” another voice gasped. An excited murmur arose all through the store and she was dazedly aware of people pressing closer.

It was suddenly claustrophobic. Mingled perfumes from a hundred female pulse points almost overwhelmed her senses but not quite enough to cut out the hot, clean scent of man. The tangy, heady essence that lightly tickled her nostrils and tongue as fantasies of licking that massive chest danced through her wildly heated thoughts. Memories of dreams left unfinished, needs left unsated, and fantasies left unfulfilled stormed her mind and left her body in absolute turmoil. And in the middle of her search for something-anything-to say, one of the pressing bodies lifted an open book to the apparition and squealed excitedly as she bounced on the balls of her feet.

“Can we have your autograph too, Chance?” Another woman to the left of the table suddenly held her book up to the man as well but his eyes never left Sam’s white face. Obsidian eyes. Hot, hungry eyes that burned into her and made her breathlessly aware of the heat pooling between her legs and the odd little fluttery threads of lust unfurling inside her belly as she sat glued to her chair. The tips of her fingers still tingled from his brief touch. Every sense was heightened. Every thought was sizzlingly unrepeatable. And she realized with a start that he was reading those X-rated thoughts loud and clear when his gaze dropped to her mouth as she wet her lips nervously.

With a superhuman effort, Sam attempted to clear her suddenly tight throat and scrambled to gather her thoughts as she placed the tip of the Sharpie on the flyleaf and quickly wrote,

To the man of my dreams.

Samantha Hastings

She handed him back the book then rose stiffly from her seat and excused herself, unable to believe she had just written that. Run, Sam, run!

“Sam, what’s wrong?” her business manager, Phyllis Sharples, asked with a worried look as she brushed past her to hurry wordlessly to the stockroom, where she could try to catch her breath and check her sanity. She could feel Phyllis’ confused gaze on her back as she retreated.

What’s wrong? What’s wrong? There was really a man out there who looked exactly like the hero in her series of best-selling romance novels, that’s what was wrong!

“Nothing.” She croaked the strangled one-word response as she picked up speed.

She managed to get all the way to the privacy of the stockroom before she grabbed the wall and leaned heavily, closing her eyes and dragging in deep breaths of air to keep herself from fainting. Dear God. Even the fans out there had seen it. The similarity. The incredible, uncanny likeness to the imaginary dream man she had sketched for the artist who had designed the cover art for her novels. She put her shaking hand over her mouth and tried to imagine how on earth it had happened. Had she maybe seen him somewhere, not realizing it, and had begun to fantasize about him?

No. Impossible. She would never forget seeing that man.

But he was right there in the bookstore, as big as life. Bigger. Her thoughts grew hot and wild as she pictured that humongous, muscular body in her fevered mind. Could there possibly be another man on the face of this earth who could be her dream lover’s exact twin? Right down to that incredible, sexily crooked smile?

She shook her head and wondered what on earth she should do next. Dear Lord, she was in deep shit here. Obviously, he had come to see who the woman was who had plastered his likeness over every newsstand and bookstore in the known world.

He was probably going to hit her with some massive lawsuit. Or maybe a massive fist.

Phyllis hurried into the stockroom, chirping excitedly, “My God, girl. This has got to be the best advertising hook I’ve ever seen! Everyone’s asking him to sign your books too. I had no idea he was real. Did you plan this all along, you wicked thing, you?”

Sam lifted her eyes to the woman’s face and she shook her head. “Honestly, Phyllis, I’ve never laid eyes on that man until just now.” Except in some very hot, very naughty, very personal wet dreams.

“Oh come on, it’s me, remember? Everyone knows the man from your novel covers. I want his photo on our latest advertising campaign. He’s even more gorgeous in the flesh than in your sketches. You little devil. You sure know how to pull an ace out of your sleeve!” Phyllis rubbed her hands together as she imagined the ad campaign.

But Sam wasn’t paying attention to her business manager. Her eyes were glued to the shadowy figure standing outlined in the doorway to the stockroom. He seemed to fill the entire doorway. She bit her lower lip and put her hands on her hot cheeks, waiting for the explosion. Phyllis followed her gaze and turned to extend a hand to the man, who simply took it and nodded, his dark eyes never leaving Sam’s red face.

“I can’t believe you two cooked up this fabulous surprise. I have got to get your bio so we can push this. This is utterly amazing!” Phyllis was still clutching his hand as she babbled almost incoherently, her eyes drinking in this incredibly gorgeous man.

Sam tapped her business manager’s shoulder and said in a strangled tone, “Phyllis, enough. Can you give us a few minutes? Alone?”

The woman blinked in shock at the urgency in her star writer’s voice and she allowed Sam to shove her unceremoniously from the room as the man moved quietly inside. Once the door was closed, Sam leaned back against it, her eyes hesitantly lifting to the man’s face. “I am so very sorry. I have no idea how this happened. I certainly didn’t expect there to be a real person. I mean I didn’t… I never…”

“How did you do it?” The voice was softly menacing, interrupting her panic attack.

She stopped struggling to speak and stared up at him. “Excuse me?”

Those amazing dark eyes seemed to pierce her thoughts. “It’s okay. Free advertising for me. In fact, it’s even a bit flattering. But I only want to know one thing.”

She swallowed hard and managed to squeak, “What thing?”

“How did you find out all that stuff?” His voice was enough to curl her toes. “Nobody knows the stuff you wrote about me. No one.”

Sam stared up at him. Every cell screamed for her to reach out and touch that massive, solid-looking body. To run her fingertips over the cotton shirt and see if he felt as delicious as he looked. The things that flitted through her heated mind made her cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. She shook herself back to sanity with difficulty and drew a calming breath.

“I don’t understand. I have no idea at all who you are. I’ve never seen you before in my life.” Her lips quivered with mortification. “I simply made up this character for my books. I sketched the face from my own imagination. It nearly blew me away seeing you standing out there. Honestly!”

She felt a sense of panic as he loomed closer and even huger. He seemed to take half the space in the room and all of the air. Heat sizzled between their bodies. Heat that made her insides tighten with need and her pulse accelerate so much she was sure that he would hear her heart pounding.

“You say you’ve never seen me before? Never heard of me? You could have fooled me.” His voice was barely a whisper. His warm breath fanned the hairs that clung to her sweat-beaded forehead and she felt a wave of weakness flood her with the need to reach out her hands to see if all that rippling, masculine flesh were real or a figment of her overworked imagination.

Fighting for control of her thoughts, she leaned harder back against the solid safety of the door. Swallowing the tight knot in her throat, she barely managed to force herself to look up, past that powerfully corded neck in its crisp collar and tie, past that strong chin with its sinfully sexy cleft, past those temptingly chiseled lips to those hot, dangerous eyes. They hit her like a fist in her gut.

He was huge. She found herself wondering how huge he would be in other departments before she once again shook herself back to reality. She had to strain her neck to look up at him as she forced herself to speak.

“I have no idea who you are. I don’t even know your name. Maybe you could enlighten me, since you obviously know who I am.” Sarcasm usually worked. But for some reason, she felt that it had fallen short of its mark.

Feeling completely breathless, she wondered what he would do if she simply leaned in an inch, raised herself onto her tiptoes and ran her tongue over that chiseled mouth. What he would do if she shoved that expensive Armani suit jacket off those hard shoulders and unbuttoned his shirt to run her palms over his bare flesh. Oh good grief. What the hell was she thinking? Be a little bit more cautious here, girl. This man was dangerous-and not just to her checkbook.

If looks could kill, she would be toast!

The look in those black eyes chilled her to the core as he seemed to debate with himself. “You’re serious?”

Sam nodded. She bit her lip nervously. His eyes followed the movement and she blushed hotly. “Are you famous?”

“That depends.” His eyes moved back up to hers, sending a trickle of something needful-hot-through her body.

“On what?” Her voice sounded strangled even to her.

“On whether you follow the Federation of Pro Wrestling. I guess I forget that not everyone is a pro wrestling enthusiast.” He seemed to be waiting for a reaction.

She swallowed convulsively. “You’re…a professional wrestler?” Her frightened eyes dropped down over that massive frame which was less than a comfortable distance from hers and she barely subdued a shiver. “You aren’t thinking about twisting my head off, are you?”

“Not until you just now brought it up.” His eyes moved over her slim throat thoughtfully before returning to her flushed face once more. He waited.

Shaking herself out of her trance, Sam wet her lips and said with an almost convincing measure of asperity, “Look, I have never watched professional wrestling in my life. My tastes in sports lean to swimming and tennis.” She tried to sidle away from his way-too-close body but he planted one large hand on the door, effectively blocking her escape.

The brush of his massive arm against her ribs set off all sorts of alarms inside her and not all of them were from fear. The heat sizzling off his body seemed to melt her bones. The warm, delicious smell of his skin made her mouth water. Never in her life had she been so damn close to a man who was a walking wet dream and her body wanted a sample so badly, she didn’t know if she could keep from taking a bite. She was lost in her mental molestation of the man when his voice shook her back to reality.

“Then how did you know all of that stuff?” Again his breath brushed her skin.

Shivering with a reaction straight out of one of her books, Sam fought back the urge to run her lips over his jaw. “Please enlighten me further. All of what stuff?”

“Your hero-who just happens to look like me-amazingly seems to have been patterned after other things about me as well, and I want to know where you got personal information that I have never willingly shared with anyone in my entire life.” His voice was a sexy, threatening rumble close above her ear. She could hardly frame a lucid thought as that powerful body brushed against hers and she gave a little whimper of awareness. Oh Lord. She felt just like a dog that chases cars, barking furiously. She wanted desperately to catch him but then what the hell would she do with him once she had him?

Panic began to rise into her throat. She fought to remain lucid. She had to get away from him, far enough away to be able to think straight. She tried to sidle the other way but a very large, strong hand caught the back of her neck and she felt his fingers tighten slowly as he forced her face up to look into his eyes again. Fear tinged her voice. “I swear to you I know absolutely nothing about you. I don’t even know who the hell you are!”

He smiled crookedly. “My name is David Chance.” His eyes sought some kind of reaction. He got one.

She yelped in shock. She shook her head fiercely. Her heart bounded madly inside her chest, like some animal trying hard to leap free of a cage. “No. I don’t believe you!”

The hand behind her neck slipped down her nape to her back then moved back up slowly to tangle itself into her hair.

“Why not? Because your hero’s name just happens to be Chance Davis?” She closed her eyes with reaction as his hot breath brushed her cheek.

She shook her head again and fought to calm the dizziness his nearness was causing. “That’s totally impossible,” she whispered.

“Want to see my driver’s license?” Her chin was dragged back up and she unwillingly opened her eyes to stare at him in pained disbelief. She tried to get control over her chaotic thoughts. How the hell had this happened? She must have seen him. A photo, maybe. Or maybe she’d seen his face on TV?

No. She had seen his face in a dream. This man just happened to look a lot like her dream. Did that make sense? No. She licked her upper lip and shook her head again.

Expecting to hear the Twilight Zone theme song wafting through the air of the stockroom, Sam swallowed hard. “I know you will never believe this, Mr. Chance, but I have been dreaming about your face for the past twelve years. And the name Chance just popped into my mind when I was trying to find an appropriate name for a man who lived his life on the edge. Believe me or not. If you want to sue me for using your likeness on my book covers, that’s fine. But until today, I had never seen you. I wouldn’t have forgotten you if I had.”

She winced at her own words. He would certainly think her nuts. Good God. She sounded so pathetically ridiculous. This was not going well at all.

Chapter Two

David Chance had been shocked as hell when his manager had tossed a hardcover book onto his dressing table a few weeks back and frowned. “You could sue her for that, you know. She’s using you for her book covers, and that’s not the only one. There’s a series of five so far. She’s even using your name. Sort of. A fan mailed this in to ask if you’d autograph it for her.”

The sight of his own dark eyes staring up from the glossy dust cover of a romance novel had floored him at first. Christ almighty. It was him. He’d been so pissed off at the idea of someone blatantly using his fame and his face to sell some crappy mush-filled novel, he had almost called his lawyer on the spot. But then he’d turned the book over and had stared down at the photo of the author and he’d drawn a deep breath. The eyes that met his as he gazed at her photo on the back cover held something that had grabbed his gut and twisted. Made his cock jerk and come to life.

He hadn’t called his lawyer.

Instead, he had taken the book home with him and he’d opened it in curiosity, reading the fast-paced, steamily erotic novel in one night. And he’d found himself tied up in sexual knots like some fucking teenager reading a porn magazine he’d found in his dad’s closet. The woman could write. And she damn well wrote like she knew him inside and out. Knew what made him tick. Knew exactly how he felt and thought and reacted. How the hell could she possibly know all this? It was just too fucking hard to believe it was simple coincidence.

He’d kept looking back at her photo over and over, trying to place her face, with no success. He’d even torn the dust jacket in half and placed her photo next to the amazingly sexy cover where that uncanny spitting image of him was stripped to the waist, with a gorgeous, half-naked woman clinging to his leg and reaching her hand up over his groin to touch his six-pack.

Now there was something that could put a guy in a lather.

It brought to mind pictures of the book’s author, gazing up at him with those sexy eyes, her slim hands clinging to his leg and reaching for his damn fly. Opening it with those delicate fingers. Reaching inside to cradle him and…

He had gone out the next day and bought all five books, signed and gave the fan’s book back to Frank for mailing, and then he’d read the other four just as quickly, horrified to see himself laid out so embarrassingly in print. Amazed at the potent sensuality of the books and, realizing she wrote like a man who knew what a man felt, he wondered about the woman who had written those books. It was as if she had known him-his life-intimately. It was as if she had somehow gotten inside him.

He’d mulled over the irking “coincidences” for weeks, deciding how to handle this. He had been traveling back from a pay-per-view tour on the East Coast and had picked up a paper while in Cleveland, waiting for his next flight. It contained a bookstore ad for a book signing. Hers.

Frustrated and angry, he’d switched his ticket and had laid over in Cleveland another day. He was damn well going to the bookstore to see the woman who had bared his soul to the world. And he was planning to scare the hell out of her and find out her sources. Find out how she knew him. At least, that had been the plan. Until he’d gotten here. Until he’d seen her.

He had entered the bookstore at the rear of a milling crowd and picked up a book from an open carton by the counter. He paid for his book, handing over twenty dollars to an older man who took his money and put the book into a bag without even glancing at him. He’d covertly watched from the shadows of a narrow aisle between tall bookshelves as that long line of women, all eager to meet their beloved author, patiently waited.

He’d watched the way she responded to her fans-that dimpled, sexy little grin, the flash of brilliant green eyes. With every laugh, his groin had tightened like it had a damn mind of its own. With every flick of her tongue over those lush lips, he had found his breath catching in his throat and his heart amping up. And as he watched, he’d found himself imagining how fucking good she would feel as he dragged off her prim clothes and rode her with slow, hot strokes, skin sliding over sweat-dampened skin.

He’d stood watching for well over an hour. Fantasizing. Aching. Wanting. What the fuck? Women just didn’t have this kind of effect on him. He’d never before seen a woman he’d felt such an instant, hot attraction to. He was like some horny kid chasing after his first piece of ass. Get a grip, man.

Unable to stand it any longer, he’d stepped out of the shadows and had butted into the line, smiling down at the startled woman behind him and asking her to just let him sneak in front for a moment. An odd glazed look had come over the woman’s face and she’d simply nodded jerkily as he thanked her and waited for the young woman ahead of him to finish.

But it was when she had taken the book and her slim fingers had tangled with his and she had flashed those gorgeous eyes up at him, that he’d felt as if he had been slugged in the gut with a fist. And then he’d spoken to her and he had seen the amazed, almost shocked look that came over her face, and he had wanted to drag her up out of that damn little chair and across that table to kiss her. To do one hell of a lot more than just kiss her. His groin was so fucking tight, he could barely think straight.

And now, as he held her captive less than an inch away and he stared down into those stunning, wet-dream-provoking eyes, with her lush curves soft against his hot, raging body, all he wanted was to drag her clothes off and make hot love to her on top of that dusty old desk in the back corner of the stockroom.

He tilted her face up to his and couldn’t stop himself. He leaned possessively into her slender body and bent to devour those lush, sensational lips as she weakly protested his accusations.

He had never tasted anything so fucking good in his life. He felt her sweetly tantalizing mouth open beneath his and he took instant advantage, deepening the kiss and drinking in the honeyed taste of her, his tongue sweeping hungrily into her mouth as his hands molded the delicious little body that was so carefully hidden under that high-necked, long-sleeved blouse and that trim wool skirt.

He heard her gasp of shock and then a whimper of enjoyment as he slanted his mouth across hers to get even closer. His tongue drove between her lips urgently and he inhaled her sexy-sweet scent, his cock suddenly harder than hell as their tongues tangled in an erotic dance that made him want to shed their clothes and get down to business. Heat surged through him, an intense, wanting heat that made him forget where he was and why he was there.

How the hell had this happened?

He was beginning to believe that she had dreamed him, because he sure as hell had dreamed her. But in his own fevered, heady dreams, she had been a nebulous wraith whose kiss and touch had brought him awake dragging in deep breaths of air and shaking from the surreality of making love to her. From sinking his cock hard and deep into a body made for sin. From the feel of a sweet, wet sheath cradling his flesh and milking him as he came so damn hard inside her. The delicious smell of her was straight out of his dreams. The taste of her mouth. The pounding of that heart against his chest. And all he wanted was to experience that dream again. And again.

He barely heard the muffled pounding at the door of the stockroom. It somehow made its way into his fevered brain. He realized that he wasn’t thinking clearly. He realized that he was on the very edge of doing something incredibly stupid here. He realized with a groan that he was certainly not supposed to be kissing this woman, who had basically stolen his life and displayed it for millions of horny, panting female readers. He had to stop what he was doing and drag her into court and get his share of the income from those books. Make her regret using his face and name without his permission. Make her sorry.

But for the life of him, he couldn’t take his hands or his mouth from her. He felt her slender, lushly curved body arching into his, her fingers dragging over his sensitive nipples where she had burrowed under his shirt to touch his naked skin. Her hands, sweetly wicked, moving over his quaking body to drive him mad for her as she too seemed totally lost in the moment. Lost in the scintillating, sexual heat that swept over them both in a tsunami of pure lust.

Sam was shocked that he was kissing her instead of strangling her but she was even more shocked at her own depraved, humiliating need to touch his body. To feel the rippling muscles under that silk suit jacket. She had frantically dragged his shirt out of the waistband of his slacks and had burrowed under the soft Egyptian cotton with trembling hands, seeking the hot, hard muscles of his ribs and chest and back, as she whimpered and allowed him complete freedom to plunder her mouth.

It didn’t occur to her to protest as she felt him drag her own blouse out of the waistband of her skirt to imitate her eager exploration. It was her dream all over again. And it was even better with a real, live man. And then common sense began to kick back in.

Whoa. She shouldn’t be kissing this man. She should be calling her lawyer and asking for legal advice. She should be covering her ass legally and professionally but all she could do was wrap herself around him, doing her damnedest to undress him in the stockroom of the mall bookstore!

Stupid. Stupid. STUPID!

But her body had taken over, leaving her fevered brain in the dust. He was so decadently delicious. He tasted of heat and mint and espresso with heavy cream. He tasted of melted chocolate and incredible man. Oh, the man had such a talented tongue. She shivered as she thought of it on other places on her trembling body. Running over her skin and dipping into-

The pounding on the door didn’t quite make it through to her as she wrapped one leg around his rock-hard thigh and pressed her throbbing center to the heavy ridge of muscle below his hip. Her right hand slid down into his slacks to follow the equally hard ridge of his straining cock. She heard the groan of pleasure that erupted from his throat. Heard the whimper of need that came from her own. Never in her entire life had she done anything remotely this outrageous. This completely wanton. His cock seemed to grow larger, harder, filling her hand as he dragged her hips against his leg and cupped her ass with both hands.

If Phyllis hadn’t managed to shove the door open against their combined weights a couple of inches to groan, “What the hell is going on in there, Sam? You have to get back out here. There’s going to be a riot if these women don’t get to see you and him!” she might have succeeded in forcing herself on the man right on the spot. Oh but he was so hard, heavenly and hot!

“Sam. Open this damn door!”

She managed to return from outer space and shove shakily away from him with a sharp gasp for breath, putting her foot back on solid ground as his hands slid off her butt and went instantly to adjust his mangled tie.

“Okay. Hold your horses. Just another minute,” she rasped, as they both recovered from their momentary meltdown and rapidly tucked and smoothed disarranged clothing like two kids caught playing doctor in the hayloft. Holy shit. She felt her face go bright red with mortification as she realized what the hell she had just been doing and she nervously chewed the corner of her lip as she smoothed her hair back with trembling fingers.

Dazed, David stared down into eyes that could so damn easily control his body and mind. He felt his fevered body still clamoring for her. Felt his cock still hot and hard with need as he cleared his throat and ran his hands around his belt, shoving his shirt back where it belonged as she imitated his actions with her own clothing.

What a fucking rush. Whatever the hell had just happened, it had happened to both of them.

It had been incredibly arousing to feel her pressing her hot pussy against him like a mindless nymphomaniac as his own body had virtually exploded with an unbelievable charge of white-hot lust that had nearly put him into orbit.

Who the hell drove the oversized truck that had just hit his libido smack on and plowed him ten feet under? He’d just given the damn woman grounds to take him to court for sexual harassment, for hell’s sake!

He was just getting his breathing back to normal as she said, “I have no idea on earth where that just came from. I am so sorry. I was out of line completely. I sincerely hope you don’t plan to include molestation in your lawsuit.” She looked pink and flustered and completely adorable as she blinked up at him with those wide, emerald eyes.

Staring down into her red face in shock, he fought to calm the incredible stiffness of his damn cock. Then he found himself bursting into laughter. The startled look in those incredible green eyes was enough to make him want to pick her up and make for that desk in the back corner but he managed to control himself. He saw the confusion on her face and he shook his head in amazement.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever had a woman apologize for me groping her, Ms. Hastings.” His eyes filled with heat as she blushed even more beautifully. “I wouldn’t worry about me suing you for that. But if you refuse my offer of dinner and a drink, I think that would definitely qualify as breach of promise.”

Sam was stunned by his amusement. She watched as a heart-stopping grin spread over that handsome face and she put a hand to her throat to calm her pounding heart. He was making fun of her. He might think it was funny but she knew it wasn’t. She needed to salvage this moment and cover her ass.

“I truly, truly am so sorry for any inconvenience or embarrassment my books have caused for you, Mr. Chance. You’ve got to believe that. I can have the unsold ones pulled and new covers made.” Her voice was breathless and small.

“Call me David, since you appear to know me so damn well. And I think I should call you Samantha.” His voice held a deep rasp of something hot and distracting.

“Sam.” She felt hot and distracted.

“Sam?”

“My friends call me Sam. I was sort of a tomboy growing up. Samantha didn’t fit.” She blushed as she realized she had just given him way too much information about herself. Stop babbling, Sam.

He smiled wickedly down at her, those oh-so-sexy lips curling into an expression that sent her blood racing like she’d just run ten miles. “No self-respecting tomboy would kiss a man like you just did, Sam. But then, no fantasy hero who called himself a gentleman would kiss a woman like I just did, either. So I guess that makes us about even.”

His dark eyes and devastating smile left her body reeling with what she could only describe as pure, unadulterated lust. At least, what pure, unadulterated lust seemed like to someone who’d never actually felt it before. Not in the flesh, anyway. She drew a shaky breath and exhaled loudly, trying to clear her mind and calm her raging pulse. She pointed at the door and shoved her hair back from her hot face.

“Um… I have to go back out there and finish the book signing. You can sneak out the rear door to avoid the ladies. Look, here’s my card.” She patted her slim hips, seeking the pocket her card case was in. “You have to let me know what I can do to make this awful mistake up to you. Or I can have my attorney call you. Whichever.” She stopped patting her sides and then blushed again. She felt like a total ass. She had left her jacket with her business cards in the bookstore at the signing table. “Uh, I’ll call you if you give me your card. Mine are in there.” She gestured with her head toward the other side of the door.

David watched the blush flow so deliciously over her face again and again. He was totally fascinated by the way her eyes lit up with emotion then darted away to hide her soul from him. This woman was a wild ride-in more ways than one. He pulled his wallet out of the back pocket of his slacks and drew out a card and held it just out of her reach, his dark eyes searching her face.

“If your lawyer calls instead of you, there will be a lawsuit.” His words came out more like a feral growl than a simple sentence. His eyes noted the shock in her expression. “I expect a call from you the minute you are done here. Understand? Oh and don’t forget my book. I paid for it. I expect you to bring it to me when you meet me for dinner and a drink.” He lowered the card and she took it with shaking fingers.

He pulled open the door to face the agitated and flushed business manager and he said with a sexily crooked smile, “I’ll just go out the back way. Sorry about upsetting the ladies. I promise I’ll make it up to them sometime.” He touched the woman’s cheek with one long, lean finger and turned on the full charm package.

Phyllis just nodded, obviously overwhelmed by the sheer size and magnificence of the man who had just smiled so beautifully down at her. She stared after him until he had vanished out the back door of the store and then she turned back to Sam, who was smoothing her hair with shaking hands.

“My God, Sam. I just found out who that man is. I had no idea you knew any professional wrestlers. What a hunk! How on earth did you get him to let us use his image and name?”

The look on her star writer’s face made her blink and groan. She stared in horror as understanding dawned. “Oh Sam. I hope to hell he likes you enough not to take every bit of the profit we’ve made on this damn series. I’ll go belly up! What the hell possessed you to take that liberty without getting written permission?”

Sam shrugged defensively and her eyes looked glazed. “I could not even begin to explain this mess to you, or anyone else, Phyllis. I have never met that man before today.”

“And yet you used his name and used his face and body on the cover of your books? My God, Sam. That’s professional suicide.”

“You don’t understand!” Sam shoved her hair from her face with a shaky hand. “I never even saw him before today. I didn’t just see some hot man I drooled over and slap his face into print. I’m not that friggin’ stupid. I can’t even begin to imagine how it happened.” She paced back and forth in agitation. “I had a wild, crazy wet dream when I was just fourteen and it starred that man. I genuinely didn’t know he existed outside my dreams and imagination. I doubt anyone even knew who he was back then. I don’t know, maybe I’m a closet psychic and got some vibes or something. I just don’t know!”

Phyllis stared at her as if she were completely insane. “Nobody on earth would buy that ridiculous story. They might buy your fantasy romance novels but no judge will buy that wild explanation.”

“I hope it won’t have to go that far. He wants to see me later for dinner. Maybe I can get him to settle out of court. And I won’t commit any money of yours. Just my own. Don’t worry…I can always sell everything I own to pay what he feels it’s worth.” Sam drew a shaking breath. If I survive dinner.

“I have no idea what to tell those women out there, Sam. They are absolutely rabid to get his signature on their books.”

“Well, they’re just going to have to settle for mine. Providing they still want to buy my books.” She straightened her skirt and strode past her friend and business associate. “Lord protect me from my own stupidity.”

The women who had seen him were disappointed that he hadn’t stayed to sign their books and let them feast their eyes on him. Sam found the book that she had signed for him and she tucked it covertly into her shoulder bag, along with his card. As she fingered the edge of the white business card, she had to force down the wave of sheer heat that the memory of their minutes in the stockroom conjured up. She had really gotten herself into a pickle now. And saints preserve her, she desperately wanted to be right back in that damn stockroom with him right now.

* * * * *

The rest of the afternoon went fairly quickly as another two hundred and forty books were whisked off the shelves and out of just-opened boxes and brought for her to sign. As the afternoon progressed, and news circulated that the cover model who had posed for her books had actually been none other than a real live professional wrestler with biceps the size of footballs and a body to die for, she found herself under a barrage of questions…and she had no honest answers.

She found herself avoiding answering questions about how she had met the infamous “bad boy” of the wrestling world. Most of these women had never even seen or heard of the man, just like her, but now they all seemed to know who he was and that he was allegedly the hidden inspiration for her larger-than-life hero, Chance Davis.

There were even a few die-hard wrestling fans standing in line for her novel by the end of the day and when the supply of new books was exhausted, they stripped the shelves of her older books, the earlier parts of the series. It amazed her that gossip travelled faster than the speed of sound.

She lifted her eyes to the face of a young man with rings through his nose and lip, who was grinning down at her. “You’re a fan of my romance novels?” she asked with a look of surprise.

The youth wagged his brows at her and grinned. “Nope but I’m a big fan of Chance Braza!” He indicated the face of her hero on the cover. “I bought the book for my girlfriend but I get to hang the cover on my wall.”

Chance Braza? So that was his pro wrestling name. She smiled wryly and signed the flyleaf, “To Chance’s biggest fan. Samantha Hastings”. He crowed and yelled back over the line to someone standing by the door, “I got it!”

Her day ended an hour and a half after the store had closed its doors for the afternoon. That was how long it took to clear out the crowd of waiting customers who had bought her books. After the last person had vacated the store, she sank back and massaged her aching hand and gratefully took the pair of painkillers Phyllis held out to her with a fresh glass of cool water.

“Well, that seemed like something straight out of the Twilight Zone.” She tried not to sound completely exhausted as she picked up her bag and jacket and shrugged into the sleeves.

“So, where are you going to meet him? You want me to go with you?” The woman’s hopeful eyes searched her face. “For moral support, I mean?”

Sam shook her head and pulled his card out of her bag, frowning at it as she pulled out her cell phone. “No. It’ll be all right. I think he just wants me to grovel a bit more. And I’ll happily grovel. Just pray he doesn’t decide to twist my head off.”

“You sure you want to go alone?” Phyllis asked.

Sam grinned at her and nodded. “I’ll be fine. After all, what the hell can the man do to me in the middle of a restaurant? All he can do is threaten and then call his lawyer, right? I doubt he’ll commit murder in front of a few dozen witnesses.” Besides, she wanted to see him again and she certainly didn’t want Phyllis there to stare and drool.

She dialed the number on the card and after several rings, the line clicked but there was no voice. Assuming his voicemail had picked up, Sam sighed with relief. Thank God! She would just leave him a message and maybe delay the meeting until she had time to consult with her attorney. “This is Sam Hastings, Mr. Chance. Sorry I missed you-”

“You didn’t miss me.” His deep, husky tone interrupted her speech.

“Oh. I thought I’d reached your voicemail.” Her pulse accelerated alarmingly. What a wuss. How pathetic could she be?

“I just finished up here and it’s a lot later than I expected, so maybe we can set an appointment for lunch tomorrow.” She bit her lip.

“No. Dinner. Tonight. Park Regency Hotel. Nine thirty sharp. Ask for me at the desk.” His line went dead and she bit her lower lip a bit nervously. She pressed the end button and put the phone away, meeting her business manager’s questioning eyes. She fought to conceal the flush of anticipation his words had sent racing through her.

“If I don’t call you by eleven, file for my insurance. And I want to be buried at sea. And don’t forget to feed my cat.” She figured a flip attitude might work here. At least she wouldn’t sound so desperately needy.

Phyllis made a wry face. “You think he might hurt you?”

“Only my pride and my bank balance. I was just joking.”

“Well, just try hard to make him see reason, okay? And if that fails, try a blowjob.”

Sam gave a short laugh of shock as she stared at the woman. “Phyllis!”

“Or tell him I will. Just call me and I’ll be there in a jiffy.”

“I don’t believe you just said that, you wicked, wicked woman.” Sam shook her head and grinned at her as she shouldered her bag. “See you tomorrow at the gym.”

“And I want all the gory details.”

So do I. Sam’s thoughts were hectic and hot, just like her body felt. Man, she had to get her brain back into gear here. She couldn’t afford to behave like she had in the stockroom. She had to maintain a businesslike facade of professional pride. Yeah. Sure. And remember not to drool all down his nice suit.

She glanced at her watch as she hailed a taxi. It was nearly eight. She had just enough time to go change into a decent dinner dress. The Park Regency boasted a four-star restaurant and she didn’t want to go all rumpled and bedraggled. She gave her address to the cabbie and as she sank back into the comfortable rear seat, she watched the traffic pouring past, her thoughts wandering treacherously back to those marvelous few minutes in the stockroom of the bookstore when she had actually relived her recurring dreams with a living, breathing, hotter-than-hell man who hadn’t seemed to mind one bit that she’d been mindlessly feeling him up.

Her cheeks burned at the memory of his calloused hands on her body, slipping up under her blouse to cup and gently squeeze her breast through the satin and lace of her bra. Cupping her ass cheeks as he’d pulled her against his thigh while she attempted to hump his leg like a horny puppy. Oh God. How completely embarrassing!

Her apartment was not far from the Park Regency. She probably could walk it in less than half an hour. She paid the cab driver and hurried up the steps to the front doors and swiped her card key to get inside. It took her less than twenty minutes to grab a quick shower and don fresh attire suitable for dinner. She looked at her hair and frowned. Her coppery red hair was so aggravating in its insistence on flying about her head like a wild thing. She brushed it smooth and dragged it into a conservative twist at the back of her head, securing the knot neatly with two Japanese carved faux-ivory chopsticks that she had bought because they looked like expensive Oriental hair pins.

A careful application of muted bronze lipstick minimized the size of her too-wide, too-full lips. She slipped her feet into a pair of four-inch heels so that she wouldn’t have to crane her neck to look him in the face again and she tucked her keys, some cash and the book he had bought into a smaller shoulder bag.

She glanced at her watch. Opting for a taxi again because walking in spike heels was a pain in the ass-and the feet-she left her cozy, safe apartment and headed for the elevator. She breathed a quick prayer to any deity or saint who might be listening to help her get through the next couple of hours with as little financial damage as possible, while keeping her head firmly attached to her shoulders and her feet firmly on the floor.

Chapter Three

David glanced at his reflection in the cheval mirror over the dresser and ran one hand distractedly through his close-cropped dark hair. He didn’t know why he was so damn worried about his appearance. He shouldn’t care less if the woman thought he was attractive or not. He didn’t need to impress her.

He simply wanted to find out who had leaked the information to her that she had put in her books. Right? Right. Luckily, no one but he and a few other people close to him knew that her uncertain, mistake-making, mushy hero was none other than the tough, nasty Chance Braza. A few years younger and a lot less wise. And far less knowledgeable about love and life. He certainly didn’t like the idea of anyone knowing that was him.

He hadn’t realized until his manager had shown him the book what had caused the unusual recent surge of interest in him, from a hell of a lot of folks who didn’t usually go in for pro wrestling entertainment. He was even more in demand because of it, so that wasn’t what truly bothered him. But it bothered him beyond reason to know she was inside his head. He wanted to know how she had gotten there.

And just maybe, he wanted to know what it felt like to be inside Samantha Hastings. Yeah. That was definitely something he wanted to discover. So much so that his cock was at full attention just thinking of seeing her again.

His room phone rang and he lifted the receiver. “Yeah?”

“Your business associate has arrived, sir,” the front desk clerk said quietly, his eyes circumspectly averted from the woman in front of his desk. “Yes, sir.” He hung up and smiled at her. “Michael will show you to Mr. Braza’s suite.”

Sam blinked. “His suite? He isn’t going to meet me in the restaurant?”

The man behind the front desk smiled reassuringly. “Perhaps he isn’t quite ready yet. I’m sure the proper reservations have been made.”

As the woman followed the bellhop toward the elevators, the front desk clerk pursed his lips and let out a slow whistle. Some men had it all. And the call girls were looking even younger and more innocent. But it wasn’t his business. What a guest did in the privacy of a two-thousand-dollar-a-night room was none of his business. He cleared his throat and went back to work.

Sam preceded the bellhop into the suite and thanked him as he bowed and closed the double doors behind him, leaving her standing in the high-ceilinged sitting room of the frightfully expensive suite at the top of the hotel. She looked about nervously, clasping her bag tightly. Oh brother. Was this a bit like jumping from the frying pan into the fire?

“Hello? Mr. Chance? David?” she called out.

She walked slowly across the luxuriously thick carpet to the supper table set up before the fireplace and looked about the decadently fabulous room. Obviously he had planned on a very private meal. She touched the bottle of champagne and swallowed hard. Dear Lord. She didn’t know if she could manage being alone with him again. She didn’t realize she wasn’t alone now until his voice made her turn with a little gasp.

“You have my book?” The sight of him standing in the doorway of the luxurious sitting room made her breath leave her in a startled whoosh.

Control yourself, Sam. It is not polite to stare and drool.

She nodded jerkily, opening the bag and taking out the hardback copy. “Of course. You paid for it.”

She held it out as he walked across the room to stop a couple of feet from her. He looked awe-inspiring in a beautifully tailored silk shirt that was open to show his corded neck and a pair of trim Armani slacks. The material sleekly covered but didn’t hide the massively muscled body beneath it and her mouth went dry again. God but that man had a walk-predatory and sexy as hell.

She had no idea real live men could look so utterly marvelous and perfect. Dream men could, but certainly not real ones. Heat pooled and swirled in the area somewhere below her navel, trickling into the suddenly damp center of her body as the man stalked toward her like some big cat on the prowl. She watched those dark eyes moving down her body to her feet before returning slowly to her red face. A shot of something honeyed and hot surged through her at that look and she knew exactly what was on his mind-because the exact same thing was running through hers.

He took the book from her hand slowly and opened it to the flyleaf, his dark eyes touching the page for a long moment before returning to her face again.

“You were serious about that dream bit?” His voice was quiet. A small smile curved his lips.

Oh. My. God. That mouth.

She swallowed and nodded. “Yes.”

The sight of her standing beside the intimate little table for two sent a jolt of lust knifing through him almost painfully. David could almost taste her delicate floral perfume, along with the delicious scent of a woman who craved what she saw. She stood bravely erect in an incredible blue silk dress that hugged every lush curve she possessed. The warmth of her body and the need in those green eyes fired his blood and made his groin swell and come alive with a vengeance. He found himself staring like an idiot. A horny idiot.

It was suddenly hard to remember why he had asked her to come. Was it to discuss the books, or was it simply to see her again? To take her and slowly strip her and taste her soft skin with his lips and tongue until she begged him to bury his cock inside her and finish it up right? Okay. That sounded good. Damn good.

He wondered what her hands would feel like moving over his naked body. What she would think if he just tossed the damn book and dragged her against him to let her feel how rock hard he was and how much he craved her? And as he opened the book to stare again at the autograph she had scrawled over the flyleaf page, he knew that she was not leaving here tonight until he had tasted every inch of that creamy skin.

He closed the book slowly and set it on the end table beside the sofa. He watched her as she twisted her slim fingers together and watched him warily, as if she sensed his desire and didn’t quite know how to handle it. He intended to show her just how to handle it. And if it got much harder, it was going to rip right through his slacks and say hello.

He rubbed the side of his nose thoughtfully, shoving his other hand firmly into his slacks pocket, and he noted that she inhaled deeply at the mannerism she had written into her books. His dark eyes met hers and he asked softly, “Where do you know me from?” He fought to see into her thoughts. “You have my personality and my guts spread out inside those books of yours but I can’t remember ever meeting or even seeing you before, so who the hell fed you this information?”

She took an unconscious step back as he advanced one step and her hand lifted to her throat in that oddly defensive gesture that bothered him greatly-as if she expected him to reach out suddenly and throttle her. His dark eyes slid over that creamy throat and he barely managed to suppress a growl. He advanced another step and watched as she maneuvered back again, warily attempting to place the coffee table between them.

Sam swallowed hard and shook her head. “I told you, I had no idea I was writing about a living, breathing person. I know you will never believe me but I only knew what I dreamed.”

He let his gaze slip down over her body in that sinfully sexy creation she had chosen to wear and he savored the hot jolt of lust that flared in his body. Yes. He was going to enjoy seeing that dress slither off that delicious body and pool about her ankles. He would take her slow and hard-

He had to force his mind away. Think. You need answers!

“You still say that I appeared to you in a dream when you were fourteen and you learned everything about me from that one dream?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Sounds like a bad movie plot.”

She flushed hotly and lowered her gaze to his shoulder, as if she was unable to keep looking into his eyes. “Um. No.” Her voice shook. “The dream repeated itself. Over and over.”

She had to realize just how completely ridiculous that sounded. She moved her eyes to the opening in his silk shirt and he instantly felt a ribbon of need flicker along his nerves at the sight of her eyes darkening. She swallowed hard and seemed to shake herself back to what she’d been saying.

He watched as irritation surged. Her defenses kicked in. “Oh, never mind. You don’t believe me. Just lay it on me. How much money do you want to salve your injured pride and your pocketbook?”

David took another forward step as she retreated once again. He drew a deep breath as he noted the way her eyes darted to his chest. She was far from immune to him. She wanted him. And she damn well knew he wanted her. The urgency of the bulge in his slacks was more than obvious, even if her eyesight was lousy. He watched her take another step back. She was running out of space to keep backing away.

When her legs came up hard against the edge of the sofa, she wobbled precariously and fought to right herself, her hand shooting forward to balance herself and landing squarely in the middle of his chest. He saw the darkening of her eyes as she gasped and instantly withdrew her hand but it was too late. Way too late. The little whimper of need that escaped her lips fired him to a fever pitch.

His body hit autopilot mode and he reached out and jerked her to him so quickly she didn’t have time to think. Or struggle. Or evade his mouth as he caught hers and plundered the hot, sweet softness inside and the small tongue that tangled so deliciously with his.

How could any woman taste so decadent and delicious?

Sam could not believe it was happening all over again. He had simply grabbed her and had bypassed her resistance without so much as a “May I?” and here she was, turning into a blob of putty with no brain. And to top it all off, she was groping him again. She seemed to have no control whatsoever over her treacherous hands as they slid over the silk of his shirt and brushed the taut nipples she could feel under the material. Her body ached to taste this man.

She was not exactly sure but she thought she heard a deep growl of enjoyment. But she was most definitely sure that she felt the stiff pressure of his cock as he dragged her so close, there was no way to mistake his excitement. Oh, the man was absolutely the most scrumptious piece of male flesh she had ever seen. Or felt. Or tasted.

His large hands splayed across the silk of her dress and she felt the material inching upward. She realized that she was completely alone with him in his hotel suite. No dozens of witnesses. No one to stop him if he decided to choke the life out of her. Oh Lord. What a pickle she had gotten herself into.

And then her wicked subconscious added, no one to stop her from taking gross advantage of that magnificent body. Which thought was the scariest? She wasn’t completely sure but she would figure it out as she went.

Her mouth was like a narcotic, driving David mindless with need, with a heady desire so thick he could taste it. He closed his eyes and growled as he felt her small, inquisitive hands caressing his chest, teasing his sensitive nipples. He fiercely wanted to be rid of the shirt that kept her hands from his flesh and he wanted that silk thing she was wearing to be on the floor. And he wanted her legs wrapped around him as she rode him into said floor all night long.

What the hell was it about this woman that made him so fucking needy?

Women were a commonplace thing in his life. He could have a dozen a night if he just crooked his finger at them. Women loved him. Chased him. Damn near tore his clothes off him. What the hell was it about this particular one that turned him into a brainless mass of horny goo? He lifted his mouth from hers and dragged in several calming breaths as he stared down into her glazed green eyes. He reached up and drew the long ivory pins from her hair, releasing the red glory of it to fall about her face and shoulders. To curl about his fingers. To tickle his lips as he kissed her again. He was amazed by her, enthralled by her. He needed to know. Wanted to play this out.

“What happens in these dreams?” he breathed raggedly against her lips.

Sam shivered at the sensation of his hands sliding down her throat to gently cup her breasts. Her voice was thick with desire as she closed her eyes and whispered shakily, “I’m lost. I am walking alone, looking for something, someone. I see a deserted house with broken windows. It looks lonely and empty.” She gasped and arched into his hands. “I walk in and then I’m standing in a room-like this one-and I find myself being pulled against a man’s body. Like now.” Her body quivered with reaction as she felt his mouth dragging over her jaw and seeking the pulse at the side of her throat.

“And then?” His voice sounded thick and his breath was hot on her cheek.

“And then he kisses me and makes me feel so beautiful and so desirable,” she whispered huskily, embarrassed that she was actually telling someone about her secret dream. She shuddered as his mouth dragged across her collarbone.

“And?” His lips trailed over her skin and she shivered as his tongue sought the hollow between her breasts.

“And I tell him that I’ve never done anything like this before,” she whimpered as he kissed and nibbled his way back up to the line of her jaw, his hands slowly caressing her ribs and the curve of her breasts. “But he tells me he knows. And he still wants me.”

The feel of his large palms so gently cupping her aching, suddenly heavy breasts made it nearly impossible to speak for a moment.

“What happens next in your dreams?” His voice was a whisper of desire as he gently felt the back of the silken dress for the zipper.

Sam felt the top of the zipper slide down until she could feel cool air on her bare skin. “You-he-undresses me and I undress him,” she whispered hoarsely as the soft silk of her dress slid off her body into a pool at her ankles. His eyes moved over her nearly nonexistent lace bra and he lowered his mouth to the shadowy vee between her breasts once again. The filmy lace bra was gone and she closed her eyes as his mouth traveled so hungrily over her flesh, lingering to give her a moment of deep, shuddering pleasure on each taut, budded nipple.

“Like this?” he breathed raggedly, his thumbs hooking the waistband of her satin panties and shoving them sensuously off her. She could barely control a shudder of pleasure as his fingers skimmed down her outer thighs and returned up the soft, inner flesh of her legs.

“I- Oh yes,” she gasped as his large hands caressed her hips and back. His hand slipped down through the vee of her red-gold curls to the wetness between her legs and she whimpered with need.

“And then you undress him?” His voice was thick with desire.

She opened her eyes and stared into those night black ones, seeing the fire that she had started in their depths. Panic rose in her throat. “But it wasn’t real then.” She felt numb as he drew her trembling hands to his shirt buttons.

“Humor me.” His voice was a warm breath against the hair at her temple. She stared up into eyes that left her hot and shivery, left her body throbbing with need and want. His lean hands worked magic on her body as she obeyed the unspoken need in those eyes.

Her fingers moved down the buttons of his shirt front until it fell open to reveal a rippling expanse of chest and abdomen that made her want desperately to nibble, lick and bite her way down to that heavy, marvelous bulge in his slacks. She touched his chest with shaking hands and then shoved the silk shirt back and off his shoulders. He was watching her face through half-closed, intense eyes and she blushed hotly.

“And then?” He drew her hands to the buckle of his belt as he bent to drag his mouth across her forehead.

“I feel like such an idiot doing this,” she whispered in sudden embarrassment, her head drooping until her forehead touched his scratchy chin.

“Don’t stop now. Please don’t stop now.” His muffled voice was husky with need. She lifted her face and his lips caressed hers gently, his tongue sweeping into her mouth with hungry insistence. The dream rushed back in on her. The hesitant, breathless moment when he had asked her to touch him, to make love to him. Dear Lord. This was so completely familiar in every way.

Her fingertips worked the buckle then the zipper, and she gasped as she felt his cock burst free of his expensive slacks and his naked flesh pressed hot and hard against her soft skin. His deep growl of pleasure lanced through her. Her hands sought him, curled around him, stroked him gently as he caught her mouth and kissed her almost savagely and then he was shifting away, and she watched, mesmerized, as he reached back and drew a golden packet from his rear pocket. His eyes held hers as he shifted both hands to his task.

Oh. My. God. This was really getting serious now. She stared as he stroked the sheer latex over his cock, and she thought her chest was going to explode. And then he was lifting her from the floor, pulling her thighs about his hips slowly as she felt his cock nudging gently against her entrance.

“Please don’t tell me no,” he breathed against her mouth as he shifted her and angled her body to accommodate his. His long fingers slid into her cleft and he actually growled with satisfaction as he felt how wet she was for him. She was shocked at how ready she was.

“And if I said no?” she whispered as she closed her eyes and felt him beginning a slow, hesitant penetration of her body. His cock was barely an inch inside her wet center as he hesitated and held her still, his black eyes locked with hers when she opened them again.

“Then this won’t happen,” he replied in a husky tone, and he waited.

The feel of all his raw power waiting to fill her left her stunned and breathless with something she had never experienced before. Made her want. Made her hungry. Made her body ache to feel him buried there, deep inside her where no man had ever touched her before. The fear she thought she would feel was not there. There was only this trembling, heated need. This sharp aching. This throbbing desire to know what his body felt like moving deep inside hers.

She swallowed the knot in her throat and inhaled slowly, lifting her eyes to see the desire in his. And as she had a thousand times before, she whispered huskily, “Yes. Oh please, yes!”

David heard those incredibly sweet words and he groaned as he pulled her gently down over his throbbing cock, slowly inching in deeper then even deeper until he was buried to his root inside her. He watched the look of amazement on her face. As if she had expected something else. He couldn’t quite believe it himself. He hoped he didn’t look as shocked as she did. The heavenly feel of being inside this woman’s hot, wet body was nearly enough to make him lose control of his legs. He barely stopped the shout of deep pleasure that threatened to tear from his throat, instead pressing his mouth against the sweetly scented flesh of her throat.

“I didn’t think I could do it,” she breathed, catching her breath and moaning as he slowly lifted then lowered her body so deliciously. Did she have any idea what those sexy little moans and gasps did to a man? He watched the expressions chase each other across her beautiful face as she closed her eyes and moaned with delight.

He could barely manage to keep his legs from buckling at the heady feel of her body cradling his. He bit his lower lip and dragged in a deep breath. He had no difficulty handling her slender weight as he moved her to pleasure himself. But the way she showed him that she was being equally pleasured made his heart race and his mind turn to hot mush.

It was incredibly erotic to see the pleasure on her face as he drove his body into hers, with every slow, deep thrust. To feel the full length of his cock surrounded by hot, tight woman, her clenching channel taking every inch of him as he drove deep again and again, was the most pleasure he had ever known.

He felt her hips move to match his thrusts. It was so incredibly sexy, feeling her take in everything he had to give and watching her breathtaking enjoyment of his size and length. It was the biggest turn-on he had ever had. And he wanted to remain buried deep inside this woman forever. But he knew that he couldn’t hold out much longer as his body throbbed and burned with pleasure and he wanted to feel her come for him before he finished.

Sam was shocked that she had managed to accommodate that huge cock. She had expected to feel some pain, or worse yet, nothing at all. But as he had driven his thick, hard shaft so slowly and carefully into her body, acting as if he feared hurting her, all she could feel was a surging, throbbing pressure that made her gasp and arch against his body. No pain, no numbness, just a sensual, throbbing fullness that made her dizzy.

Once she had grown accustomed to the size and the heavy pressure of his body inside hers, she had closed her eyes and savored the slow, deep thrill of feeling him sliding in and out of her, the flanged head teasing her G-spot, the pleasure of his mouth on hers. And when he drew back to stare into her eyes in amazement, his face damp with perspiration and his eyes alight with pleasure, she pulled her muscles tighter around him. The resulting pleasure was almost too much to take. Wow. Who knew that Kegels in the middle of hot sex could be so stimulating?

As she stared into his perspiring face, she realized that he was trying to hold back until she orgasmed. She whispered that it was okay that she hadn’t come. No one expected something totally marvelous on the first try.

He shook his head slowly, those black eyes burning into hers as he caught her lips again and urged her so seductively to join him. She felt the trembling rise of her body, felt the matching shudder of his as he breathed huskily against her mouth, “Come with me, Sam. Take it. It’s all for you, love.”

He lifted her up slightly higher against his hard body and bent to draw a swollen nipple into his mouth hungrily, sucking deeply. She threw back her head with a muffled cry of sheer pleasure and threaded her fingers into his dark hair. Dear God. Now there was something that could definitely blow a woman’s mind. Just that little added something to set her off like a rocket into her first-ever male-induced orgasm. And, oh my God, what a way to go!

She gasped and arched and clutched his head to her breast like a demon as he urged her to one, then another mind-blowing, breathless orgasm before he stiffened and released. He closed his eyes and groaned and gasped and she felt him empty into her.

Her thoughts were so scattered she could barely realize that she had just been given the most precious, marvelous gift she had ever received. She felt hot tears slide down her cheeks as she kissed him slowly, feeling his body shuddering with his own climax as he devoured her like a starving man.

They remained locked in each other’s arms, his body still buried inside hers, for several minutes as he caught his breath and calmed his body and she kept her face buried in the solid muscle of his shoulder until she could breathe again.

He had brought her dream to smoldering life. And he had given her the marvelously heady orgasms that she had thought she would never feel. He had made her feel beautiful, desired, needed. Amazing.

When she lifted her face and looked into his black gaze, she whispered huskily, “And then he simply vanishes into thin air and the dream ends.” Her eyes drooped closed. She placed her lips against the strength of his shoulder, expecting him to lower her to her feet and end the moment.

His rumbling, sexy laugh made her open her eyes and stare into his face. He was smiling at her with a wicked gleam in those eyes. A searing look that left her breathless.

“What?” she whispered huskily.

“It isn’t gonna be that easy to get rid of me, you incredible little witch.” And with a deep groan of satisfaction, he slowly rocked deep into her body again, rekindling the flame that still burned slow and hot within both of them. “Come with me again.”

* * * * *

David lay awake, his thoughts and his body too keyed up to rest. He gently shifted Sam’s limp form to a more comfortable position on his, not wanting to move away from her and the incredibly completed feeling she gave him. He gazed down at her sleeping face and his eyes moved down her delicious body beneath the sheet he had drawn over them.

She was so completely delectable. She had fallen into an exhausted sleep after having given him enough sexual pleasure to last any normal man a month. He couldn’t move if he tried. The hours spent in her arms had drained him of energy far worse than any match he’d ever fought. But there was no residual pain, no bruising and no aching body. Just an amazing, deep feeling of sated contentment. He could so handle that any day.

He had been shocked and then thrilled to learn that the woman draped over him seemed to instinctively sense his every need and desire. The incredulity of hearing that she had dreamed of him so long ago had grown into a certainty. No woman could know a man that completely if she had not been intimately involved with him time and again.

How it had happened would remain a mystery forever. She knew nothing about him, yet she had written of the pain and ugliness he had suffered as a young man and had narrated the sad years of his early life with a storyteller’s loving hand, leading him to realize that every bad thing that had ever happened in his life had strengthened him for his future.

Would he fall asleep sometime before the dawn and awake to find she had been nothing but a wet dream? He didn’t want to tempt fate. He wanted to be awake when she opened her eyes. He shifted and drew her soft skin against his cock and sighed with pleasure as she wriggled and moaned. Oh yeah. He could seriously deal with this.

* * * * *

David held the phone away from his ear as his furious manager exploded on the other end of the line.

“Where the hell are you? They had to cancel all your matches here in Milwaukee. They threw in a double diva tag team match to cover for your sorry ass. The least you could do is tell me when you’re off with some floozy and too tired to travel!”

Frank James’ tone was livid. David rubbed his forehead and said softly, “Sorry. I’ll make up the money somewhere else along the road. Tell them I was transported to another galaxy by aliens and won’t be back until they’ve finished testing me.”

“What the hell are you doing? You go chasing after that book broad? You get yourself tossed into the slammer?”

“Yes and no. I can’t explain right now, Frankie, but you’ll be the very first to know.”

As he hung up the phone and rubbed his unshaven jaw and stretched slowly, her voice asked softly, “Are you in a lot of trouble with your boss?”

He jerked his head around to see her standing in the hallway, dressed in that sinful piece of blue silk she had retrieved at some point, her eyes concerned and her coppery hair mussed from lovemaking. He rose from the sofa and moved across the room, watching the way her wide green eyes darkened at the sight of him, shirtless and wearing only a pair of unzipped jeans he’d dragged out of his suitcase when he’d gone to answer the phone.

“He’s not my boss. Just my manager. And he makes enough money from me. I don’t jump when he calls.” His voice was husky and low. God, how he wanted to pick her up and slide his cock back inside her once again.

His hands slipped around her small body and he bent to catch her mouth hungrily, ignoring her breathless protest. He felt her sag against him, heard her little moan and the deep sigh of pleasure and he swung her from the floor into his arms. He wanted this woman. He wanted her now. He wanted her under him. On top of him. Bent over the bed. Sitting on the countertop spread wide for his enjoyment. He wanted to do so many things to and with her, he ached. He didn’t realize she was struggling until he was halfway to the bedroom.

“David. Stop. We can’t stay here fooling around all day. I have commitments and so do you.”

He cut off her protest with a searing kiss but after a few moments she wriggled out of his embrace, forcing him to set her on her feet again. Her face was pink and her eyes sparkled with pleasure. He groaned and put his hands on his lean hips, fighting to get his body back in line.

“So last night was just a one-time deal then?” He watched her face and the play of emotions flowing through it. “That’s all you wanted?” His body throbbed with need and she wanted to skip out on him? He couldn’t believe it. It had never happened to him before.

She swallowed hard, as if finding what she had to say very difficult. “David, last night was incredible. Last night was my dream come true. I think you must know that. But dreams don’t stay wonderful and satisfying if you bury yourself in them and exclude the other things in your life. Believe me, I would love to spend the whole day in your bed but I have people who are counting on me. And so do you.” She gazed up into his face and turned to the entryway mirror to fix her messy hair.

He stared down at her as she ran her fingers through her coppery red curls and she stuffed the ivory pins back in to secure a quick knot. He ran his fingertips slowly along the curve of her neck and she shivered and closed her eyes. “I can’t walk away from you when you do that.”

“Then don’t walk away.” His voice was thick with need.

She turned and met his gaze and a sad little smile curved her lips.

“What?” he growled, frowning at her.

“Usually this goes the other way, you know.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Usually the woman clutches the man’s arm and begs him to stay and he says, ‘sorry, babe, but I have things to do, places to be’.” She sighed softly as her fingers trailed over his whiskery cheek.

He stared down into her face, unsure what she was trying to say, until she stood on tiptoes and brushed his mouth with hers. “You will always be my dream lover, David Chance, no matter where you go. No matter where your future takes you. I will never be able to forget you. But you will forget me. That is a certainty.”

He felt like she’d just slugged him in the gut. He couldn’t seem to get his breath. She couldn’t be fucking serious?

She backed away and smiled up into his confused dark eyes. “I’ll put another face on my next novel and I will see to it that you get a full model’s session pay and royalties on the first five books I wrote. I think that’s only fair. I hope that’s enough. And I’ll end the series about Chance Davis with number six. Chance Davis died last night. And Chance Braza goes on without having to worry about the world knowing his secrets. No one will know but you and me. And I can promise you that your secrets are safe in my heart.”

She touched his rough cheek gently with a hand that trembled. He caught the hand and turned the smooth palm to his mouth. “So this is it? You just leave and I go on to Milwaukee and we never meet again?” He sounded almost angry.

Sam wanted so terribly to pull him to her and kiss him but if she did, she would be making him stay when he needed to be cut free and let go again. A sort of romantic catch and release.

He had brought magic into her life last night. But it would be the most unrealistic thing in the world for her to ask him to stay. The exquisite night spent together had done something amazing for both of them. David Chance would benefit from it, just as she had. But he had his own life, while she had hers. And they couldn’t possibly be further apart. She had to keep her head tacked on. This was her dream. That’s all it was. But it was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, walking away. Or at least, that’s the way it always ended in books. “Two ships passing in the night” and all that. Trite, but true.

“Thank you so much for last night, David. You were everything I ever dreamed you were.” She reached for her bag and smiled brilliantly up into his eyes. “Go catch that plane to Milwaukee and I’ll see that your money reaches your business manager.” And then she was gone.

He stared at the door for some time after she’d vanished through it. His body was throbbing with need. His mind was rebelling.

What the fuck?

Had he just been dissed by a woman half his size? Had she really just fucked him and walked out of his life like he was some fucking gigolo?

By the time his brain kicked back in and his indignation forced his feet to move, she was gone. And by the time he stormed into the lobby, his feet bare and his fly hanging half open, to demand if the front desk clerk had seen her leave, he realized that about twenty women were staring at him like he’d just served himself up for breakfast on a silver platter. He flexed his massive shoulders and rolled his head, then backed into the safety of the elevator just as they began to rush forward.

He rode the elevator back up and stalked into the penthouse suite in a towering fury. No way. No fucking way was some half-pint redheaded writer going to screw him half to death and then dump his sorry ass. He threw his suitcase onto his bed and tossed his things into it. If it was a war she wanted, he’d fucking well give her one. And when he got her alone next time, she wasn’t going anywhere.

He jammed his feet into his shoes with a muffled curse. And he barely caught sight of his naked chest in the hall mirror before he headed out the door half-naked and still in a lather. He snatched a shirt from the mess in his suitcase. Damn her. Damn all women to hell. No. Just her. Yeah. He had a better punishment in mind for her.

Chapter Four

Phyllis was on the stair machine when Sam arrived at the gym and the curious, avid look the woman gave her made her blush. “It’s okay, Phyllis. He isn’t going to sue. But I agreed to stop using the name and the face. The series ends with the one currently in edits.”

The woman pursed her lips and asked thoughtfully, “And what else did you give him for his kindness?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Just dinner and a drink.” Her face turned a darker pink.

“You are a lousy liar,” Phyl snorted, shaking her head.

She sure as hell was. She had gone back to her apartment this morning in a mental and physical haze, too confused and dazed to think straight. The amazing night she’d spent in his bed, on his floor, in his shower and other places that she blushed to recall had left her virtually exhausted, in more ways than just one. She swallowed hard and licked her dry lips, trying to appear casually calm. But the calm fizzled as she stared at the console in front of her and tried to focus on a climbing routine.

“He was my dream come true…” Sam’s soft voice died off as a tear slid down her cheek.

And what a dream. She could never have imagined what it would feel like to be in such strong arms, moving in sensuous rhythm with a body that far surpassed even her most heated dreams. To feel the hot, deep movement of his body inside hers as he made her forget everything except his touch, his mouth, his hands, his marvelous ability to make every delicious little dream come to life. What a pathetic ninny she was.

Phyllis stared at her and then said quietly, “You are madly in love with the man and you only met him yesterday.”

Shaking herself back to the moment, she shook her head. “Wrong. I met him when I was fourteen and terrified of life after the accident. He kept me happy for the last twelve years and I owe him my life and my success. That man was my lifeline and he wasn’t even aware that I existed.” She started moving and almost tripped over her own feet.

Her business manager just stared at her. “So, where is your lifeline now?”

“Probably disembarking in Milwaukee, getting ready for a show.” She shrugged and focused on her program. “I left him in his hotel suite this morning.” And she was still berating herself mentally for doing that.

“You walked away from that gorgeous hunk? Are you out of your pea-pickin’ mind? You let that man just walk away?” Her business manager stared at her as if she’d just gone bonkers.

Sam shook her head. “He was my dream. You can’t hold onto a dream. You have to let it go, or it will just fade into nothing.” I think. Too late now. The die had been cast and he was gone forever. Stupid.

Phyllis stared at her with her mouth hanging open then seemed to decide to keep silent. “There went one hell of an impressive ad campaign,” she murmured.

* * * * *

“About time you decided to honor us with your presence, Braza!” Frank exploded when David stepped into his manager’s hotel room at the Milwaukee Hilton later that afternoon.

He was in no fucking mood to listen to another tirade about how he owed his manager his very existence. It was getting old. Way old. “I don’t expect you to understand, so I won’t bother to explain.” David shrugged and walked to stare out the window at the traffic below.

“How’d it go with that broad? She kick out some money?”

“Yeah but I’m not going to accept any of it.” David turned back from the window and shoved his hands into his jeans pockets.

“You’re shitting me, right?” Frank’s jaw dropped.

David shook his head and his eyes met the faded blue gaze of the older man. “No, I’m not. We had a long talk and she agreed to stop using my face and my name. I got a lot of free publicity out of those books. Just let me handle it.” It was a lie but he had no intention of confiding his real plans to Frank. His plans for Samantha Hastings had nothing to do with forgetting about anything. He planned on full vengeance. But not for the fucking books.

Frank stared in open shock at his star client, his jaw working soundlessly. When he finally managed to form a coherent sentence, he shouted, “Are you crazy? You let that broad get under your goddamn skin in just one night?” Black eyes seriously challenged his tone and he cleared his throat, suddenly conciliatory. “Look, you’ll forget her in a week. You’ll get your head together and you’ll decide you want that money.”

David stared at the older man without comment on his thoughts for the future. Forget Samantha Hastings? Fat chance of that-double entendre intended. Green eyes flashed in his thoughts. Her long, slim legs wrapped around his body as she let him know exactly how well pleased she was with his every touch. No faked response there. Forget her? Frank had no friggin’ idea what the hell he was talking about.

It left a sour taste in his mouth to think that she had played him for a jackass, using that incredible little Mata Hari body and that sweetly innocent smile to make a fucking sap out of him. And he had fallen for it. Settle with her? For money? No, it wasn’t her money he wanted. He wanted far more than money.

David just shrugged and sauntered out of his manager’s room without another word to find his own suite. Let Frank think that. He knew exactly what he wanted. He would flush her out and drag her back if it took every damn dirty trick he knew. He wasn’t going to let her get away with using him, then dumping his ass. No way.

* * * * *

Phyllis was sitting at her desk when Sam stepped into the office. She raised her eyes from the pile of paperwork and smiled broadly. “Well, the book sale receipts for March are in and you and I are both a whole lot richer.” She stretched her arms over her head and kicked her feet up onto the edge of her desk. “So, what is our next project, since you don’t plan to continue with the series?”

Sam returned her smile guiltily. Not being able to write more in the series about her dream man was seriously cramping her style. Book six in the series was in edits, but there would be no book seven. She had seriously tried to write a totally different hero. It had so far been fruitless. She hadn’t managed to put ten words on paper since that night in his hotel room.

Every time she tried to think up a new hero for a new book, she would be assailed by the memory of dark, slumberous eyes that could almost see through her soul. Hands that cupped and teased and heated her body until she almost orgasmed just thinking about them. A hard, sensuous body moving over hers in an erotic dance that melted her body and mind into putty, and lips that left her breathlessly aching for still more wicked pleasure.

“I’m sorta up against a brick wall here, Phyl. I’ve genuinely tried to work up another hero and build other plots. I’m just…stuck!” She twisted her hands irritably into the hem of her sweater, frustration eating at her. “I seriously can’t write another book right now.”

Phyllis’ jaw dropped and her face went pale. “You can’t be serious. I have advance sales posting on book six, and we owe your publisher another book before end of year. I don’t care what the hell you write about. Just write, for Pete’s sake! You can’t dump your career just because you can’t write about one guy!”

Sam sighed and sank into the big chair opposite Phyllis’ desk. “I’ve tried for the past ten days. I just keep drawing a blank. Or I start writing about Chance again and I can’t do that. I promised.”

Oh yes, she had promised. And like an idiot, she had walked out and decided to never see the man again. And now she would have to live with that utterly asinine decision. Try as she might, she couldn’t get him out of her mind, out of her system or out of her fevered dreams. She was so damn pathetic. One night with a hot body and she was a complete basket case. How disgusting.

Phyllis’ voice brought her back to earth. “You damn well better pick up that phone and call him, or I will.”

“Call him for what?” Sam frowned. She hated it when Phyllis was right about things. She had wanted to call the damn man for the past week but she had made her decision and she would stick by it, come hell or high water. Besides, he hadn’t called her either.

“To get his damn ass back here and give you back your inspiration. You are about to throw away a multimillion-dollar writing career because of your damn pride!”

Sam sighed and shrugged. Phyllis was going to be no help at all, she could see. Every damn time she closed her eyes, she was back in David’s arms. She had to get her head screwed on straight again even if that meant she had to buy a one-way ticket to Mars.

And Council Bluffs might as well be Mars…

“It’s about time I took a long vacation, Phyllis. I’ve already made reservations and the ticket is paid for, so don’t try to talk me out of it. I’ll keep in touch and of course I will try to formulate some other characters, but I don’t plan on being back in Cleveland for at least ninety days.” She needed time to get him out of her system for good.

The older woman’s mouth worked soundlessly and Sam patted her hand gently. “Oh, and make sure you pay David Chance that money I promised to send to him. Unless you want a lawsuit of biblical proportions.”

“You can’t just walk off when I’m sitting on the damn hot seat!” Phyllis’ mouth was working like a guppy out of water.

“Oh yes, I can. Watch me. Here I go.” Sam rose from the chair and turned to walk to the door. “You’ll survive. Just give me some room to breathe for the first time in the past two years. I’ve pumped out five best sellers for you and I’m damn tired. I love you, Phyl, but I can’t do this anymore until I get my head screwed back on straight.”

* * * * *

Council Bluffs had been her hometown a long time ago and it held many fond memories for her. It would be a comfortable place to lounge around and take long walks in familiar parks. Of course, nobody lived there who remembered her anymore. Not since her mom had died. But it did feel like home, to some degree. Sort of. Okay, not really. But it was far enough away from Cleveland to make her feel comfortable. Nothing here reminded her of her career or of a breathless night spent living her fantasies. In fact, nothing here even smacked of a fantasy.

She had traveled cheap and fast.

The hotel room was anything but luxurious but it would serve her needs nicely. It had an internet connection and cable TV, so she was set. She didn’t need luxury.

She had only stayed in one four-star hotel in her life and it had been the one night she would never be able to forget. A night spent with a man who had taken her, body and soul, into a world she had only seen in dreams. Into a realm where even a plain, scarred woman could imagine she was somebody special, beautiful, desirable. And, oh my God, had he ever made her feel totally desirable! She shook away the memories and swore at her own inability to get her mind off him. She had to!

If she was lucky, she would get to sleep in until noon and be a lazy slob, letting the maid clean up after her. Eating out and not having to worry about dishes. She owed herself the rest. She owed herself the vacation. She owed herself the time to be alone and think.

She opened the wire door of the small pet carrier to allow her fluffy white cat to step out and check out the locale. She unfolded one of the disposable litter boxes she had bought, fitting a plastic liner in and dumping in a container of deodorized litter. She felt in her bag for the can opener and opened dinner for the cat, which sank down on the floor beside the bed and gobbled hungrily, purring loudly. Pulling the small water bowl from her stuffed purse, she filled it at the bathroom sink, setting it beside the food. Finally, she unpacked her clothes and picked up the TV Guide. She planned to do nothing but veg out in front of a TV for a week or so and then she would figure out what she wanted to do. No commitments. No deadlines. No pressure. No listening to Phyllis harangue her about her writer’s block.

Too bad she couldn’t escape her dreams. Maybe sleeping pills. She stroked the cat’s soft fur gently then flopped onto the bed, where she flipped through the TV Guide and sighed. So many cable stations, so little time.

She watched a tennis match then some polo before fixing her own supper from the little store of junk food she had brought with her. Tomorrow she would go out and have a real meal but for now, she just wanted to kick back. Go barefoot. Enjoy being free of commitments for a few days. And avoid reading romance books.

She was flipping through channels when she came across a UFC match on one of the less well-known cable channels and she watched for a while, wincing when one of the men bloodied the other or got the other guy in a nasty hold. Barbaric. She was about to switch channels when a commercial break came on and she heard an excited man saying, “And stay tuned for the FPW cage match coming up next on CBYN! The Wolfman is gonna take on FPW’s bad boy Chance Braza for the FPW heavyweight Championship! Nine thirty Eastern, eight thirty Central.”

Her hand went numb. She couldn’t press the button. She stared at the face on her TV screen and swallowed hard. It was him. Dear God. Just her luck to land on this channel. She frowned and put her thumb over the red button and bit the corner of her lip.

Come on, just push the frigging button. Okay. Don’t push it.

Okay. So would it hurt just to watch a few minutes? Just a teensy amount of time to ogle that gorgeous body again from a safe distance? Like through a TV set? She glanced at her watch and saw that the UFC matches would end in about twenty minutes. Decisions, decisions.

No. She wouldn’t watch. Pro wrestling was a complete farce. A lot of stunt work and choreographed fighting for the benefit of a screaming crowd who didn’t know the difference between real wrestling and phony wrestling. She’d heard all about it. She started to turn off the TV once more and found herself sitting there like a lost puppy, still unable to force her finger to press the damn red button.

Wuss. She threw the remote on the floor and found a large pillow and wrapped herself around it to protect herself from the sudden need to cry. So it was silly. So what? Okay. This is what the man did for a living. She would force herself to watch, just this once. Then she would know what pro wrestling was like and she could forget about it. Forget about him. Forget about a night spent with a man who had rocked her world in a way that she had never dreamed possible.

Oh, who the hell was she trying to kid? She just wanted to see him again, even if it was on a TV screen. Pathetic. Totally pathetic.

She hid her face during the remainder of the UFC match, unable to stand the brutality, and she was glad that pro wrestling was just acting and pretending. No one really hurt anyone. It was supposed to be a choreographed act. She could handle that. Fake blood. No broken bones. No huge bruises. No eyes swollen shut and bloody. At least…that’s what she figured. She was pretty sure minor injuries did occur, but she hated to even think about that. She shuddered.

She steadied her breathing as the FPW announcer came on and a few warm-up matches were played out by lesser celebrities in the wresting world. Men who yelled and pointed and played like tough guys and made total idiots of themselves with their antics. She drew a deep breath and nodded. Okay. She could handle the phony stuff. So far, so good. One blond man broke a flimsy chair over a brunet’s back and it bent in half like it was made of tinfoil. Fake prop chair. Okay. No problem.

About thirty minutes into the program and after six commercials, the announcer put on his excited voice again to introduce the main event. She wondered if she should go get some popcorn. But she didn’t, sticking to her perch on the bed, her pillow clutched to her chest protectively.

Then the crowd was on its feet, shrieking and yelling, and she watched an incredible pyrotechnic lead-in as one huge, utterly scary-looking man jogged down the ramp into the arena, his face contorted with what appeared to be maniacal rage as he approached the ring and hopped up the metal stairs at one corner. The monster had to weigh over three hundred pounds. He was about seven feet tall and he shouted obscenities at people in the crowd who booed him.

He was announced as the Wolfman and Sam’s heart dropped to her feet as she realized this was the brute David was going to have to fight. But in the next breath, the crowd was roaring even louder and she saw the tall, massively powerful figure of her dream lover stepping out of the entrance and coming down the ramp at a jog as another light show and explosions roared through the arena.

Oh. My. God.

He was as gorgeous as she remembered and she ached at the sight of him.

She couldn’t take her eyes from him. He was dressed in snug-fitting black and silver spandex that left absolutely nothing to the viewer’s imagination, and matching ring boots. His body was gleaming in the light, as if he’d oiled those rippling muscles for effect. As if he needed oil smoothed over that body to make women hot and shivery. Hah!

Her mouth went dry as she recalled how she had enjoyed that marvelous body so thoroughly just a couple of weeks ago. His bronzed, delicious body had been damp with a sheen of sweat. His muscles had rolled like velvet steel against her body as they lost themselves in the sheer pleasure of a night of nonstop lovemaking. Seeing him half-naked was enough to bring that night back with a clarity she certainly didn’t want or need at this moment.

He also wore the same heavy gold chain around his neck that she had felt pressed into her breasts when he had driven her mindless with pleasure. The ornate cross that hung from it rode over his breastbone and the memories flooded back, making her close her eyes in reaction. Oh Lord. She shivered with each memory that assailed her. And when she found herself touching her own body intimately, she blushed hotly and clutched the damn pillow in a death grip.

She opened her eyes as the announcer told the audience that they were about to lower the cage. A massive metal cage descended on chains from the ceiling, blocking any possible escape from the ring, and she swallowed as she watched David Chance leap onto the corner ropes, raise one fist and shout to the crowd, “Who’s the best?”

They shouted and chanted his stage name and as he turned to face his opponent, the wild look on his handsome face was as scary as that on the face of the hulking brute who was charging him in an attempt to surprise him. She gasped and covered her mouth with her hands as she watched the behemoth slam into him and then pick him up and slam him onto the mat onto his back. David’s handsome face contorted with pain and as the giant sought to win the match by grabbing him behind his knees and rolling him up onto his shoulders, he suddenly slammed his leg into the man’s face and rolled away and onto his feet as quickly as a cat.

She shook her head. This wasn’t the same. Those other men had seemed to be play-fighting. But that huge monster was going all out to kill his opponent. The fake fighting seemed to have vanished. She cringed as David floored the behemoth and strained to hold him immobile while the ref clapped a hand on the floor. The giant with the vicious sneer elbowed him in the face-hard. She covered her eyes and gave a strangled moan, then looked to see if he was still alive.

The crowd was roaring and screaming as the bigger man once again attempted the move that had landed David on his back. But this time, David made a flying leap and his legs were somehow around the giant’s neck. Both men slammed to the mat, with David rolling clear and wheeling around to fling himself onto the bigger man’s chest with a crunching downward elbow that caught the giant across the throat as the crowd came to its feet and raised the roof. Cool move. Okay, this was much better.

A split second later, David was climbing the ropes onto the corner post and she gasped as he launched his body at the other man in a flying leap that was obviously intended to crush the other man into the mat. But the bigger man rolled away and David hit the mat hard, with a sound that made her stomach roll. She put her hands over her eyes and moaned, then peeped between her fingers to see David being held aloft and slammed to the mat once again, his face a grimace of agony as the man wheeled and dragged him up a third time. She caught sight of the blood on the side of his head and she gave a little cry of shock.

That beast was going to kill him!

But this time, when he was poised over the man’s head, he suddenly swung his body outward and the bigger man went crashing down sideways like a fallen log. She watched in shock as David returned to his feet by flipping himself up and then leaped into the air to slam a knee down onto his opponent’s massive chest.

The crowd was absolutely rabid as they screamed and yelled and then the match climaxed with David hoisting the massive body of his opponent over his own head with a Herculean effort and falling backward to drop the huge man with a resounding crash to the mat. Then it was over as David rolled him up instantly and pinned his huge shoulders to the mat for a three count. The steel cage was raised from the ring.

She fell back against the pillows and calmed her ragged breathing as the man she had spent the most amazingly romantic night of her life with leaped onto the ropes and raised his fists as the crowd went wild.

“Who’s the best?” he roared. His body was gleaming with real perspiration and she saw the bulging blood vessels on his neck and arms as he bared his teeth like a savage beast and his eyes widened to look like he was berserk.

“You are,” she breathed softly, staring at the not-so-fake blood that was freely running down his face onto his perspiring chest. He ran the back on his hand across the blood on his cheek and held the bloody fist up again as he crossed the ring to jump onto the other ropes.

She didn’t want to see any more. She had seen all she could bear. She closed her eyes and buried her face in the pillow and wept softly. She had seen him do what he did and she had seen the very real blood. She realized that he must be amazingly athletic to do it, but even a man as powerful and vicious in the ring as her dream lover appeared to be at risk of injury. And she couldn’t watch as someone hurt him. Not for all the money in the world.

Then she heard his voice.

“This is for you, Samantha Hastings!”

She jerked the pillow off her head and sat up with a jolt. He was hoisting a very heavy-looking, ornate belt with a huge oval metal center. His eyes were directly on her face, or so it seemed as he looked straight into the camera.

She swallowed hard as he lowered his voice and said almost in a purr, “You can run but you can’t hide from me forever. I’ll find you again and next time it won’t be so easy for you to walk away.”

The crowd roared as her photo suddenly appeared on the screen.

The photo from the back of the dust cover on her novels? She stared in shock as his scowl was superimposed over the empty space next to her smiling face and his eyes seemed to burn into the camera, into her.

“You won’t get away next time. You just met your match.”

She swallowed hard and shut off the TV with an unladylike groan of frustration. Great. Now the whole world would think her books were based on him. He had said he didn’t want that. What the hell had changed his mind? She pulled the pillow over her head and sank down into the mattress with a moan.

She had no idea how long she lay on the bed, her thoughts muddled and her pulse racing as she recalled every shocking, terribly frightening moment of that wrestling match but it was the plaintive mewing of her cat that brought her back to the real world, as he rubbed his head under the drooping palm of her hand. She sniffed and smiled shakily at the animal and scratched his head, listening to his motorboat purr as she felt the tension drain from her body.

“Thanks, Snowball, sweetie. You always bring me back to earth. What would I do without you?” She hugged the cat to her chest and rolled up from the bed, padding over to pour a dollop of milk into the now empty cat food can from a small container she had bought at a fast food place. She rested her chin in her hands, elbows propped on the bed as she watched the cat drink happily.

“What am I gonna do, sweetie? I have the worst case of writer’s block in the whole world, I’m mad for a violent guy who makes his living smashing the faces of other violent guys and all I can manage to do is moon over losing him like some stupid jerk.” She sighed and rested her chin on her forearms, staring at the cat for a long time.

But had she lost him? Tonight, on cable TV, he had virtually let the whole world know he was on the hunt to find her. Of course, that might well have been just a publicity push to give his popularity an even greater boost. She drew a shaking breath. No. He really wanted to see her again.

If she had made the same impression on David Chance that he had made on her, she knew that he would want a repeat of that amazing night. Of course he would look for her, because he had certainly enjoyed their night together too. But if she let herself be found, what would happen next?

Her insecurities kicked into high gear again. He would probably get tired of her after a few days or weeks or months. He would realize that she wasn’t the amazing sex partner he had found that one night in his hotel room. She would become passé. And Sam didn’t think she could handle becoming passé. She wasn’t sure enough of her appeal to believe that a man like David Chance would find her interesting for more than just a short fling. It must be the fact that she had left him, instead of the other way around. Some guys had a problem with that.

Men like David Chance didn’t settle for one woman and give up the smörgåsbord. She had managed to capture his interest. She blushed to recall how she had done so. He must have been utterly captivated by her insatiable need to have sex in every possible position for an entire night. He had been amazingly willing to let her have her way with him. Who wouldn’t have enjoyed something like that? She blushed hotly at the memory of her wanton behavior. But then, she had known that there wouldn’t likely be a repeat, so why not take full advantage?

What if he found her? It might not be so bad. It might even last a few months. But she had no illusions. She had watched her own father walk away from her mother and find himself a younger and prettier woman. Phyllis’ ex had left her for his secretary. Good-looking men just never seemed capable of being monogamous. There was always another beautiful face and body that would distract them. And Sam had no illusions about her own face and body. She was not exactly a femme fatale in that department. Nice eyes but her mouth was too big. And her hair was a complete fright. It was wild and untamable. Her breasts were too small for most men’s taste and her body was built more on the lines of a gazelle, when most men preferred nice curves and something to hang onto. She would never be the dream woman men drooled over.

And then there were the scars. She swallowed hard and closed her eyes.

She bit her lower lip. That was why she had turned to writing. She could create a fantasy man who met all her needs. She could create him, name him and dream him to her heart’s content, with absolutely no ill consequences. Except that her dream lover was actually a very real man. One who had stepped out of her dreams and into her arms. One who had just announced to the wrestling world that he was on her trail with a vengeance. She didn’t know whether to feel flattered or frightened.

She got up and undressed and pulled on her pajamas. Tomorrow she would call Phyllis. If he was really looking for her, Phyllis would know it. All she had to do now was get through the night.

He slid his palms down her bare arms slowly, gently leading her trembling hands to his naked flesh. His mouth held her captive as he swept his tongue against hers with a growl of possessive enjoyment. She slid her hands over his hard, satin-smooth cock and listened to the deep groan of need that rumbled against her mouth. “I want to taste every inch of your body, to feel your mouth on me…”

The sound of her cell phone brought Sam up out of a near-orgasmic dream, gasping for air and trembling. She rolled up to sit in the middle of the bed in a rumpled pool of tangled sheets, her thoughts as hot as her body. Morning sunlight poured into her hotel room, bathing her in its warmth as she shoved her tumbled hair from her eyes and fumbled for her phone on the bedside table.

“What!” Her uncharacteristic bark made her flush with regret.

“Well, you sure as hell left me in the middle of a mess, girl. You’ve had your damn phone shut off. I’ve been trying to get you for the past day. Where the hell are you?” Phyllis’ voice sounded agitated.

“What mess?” Sam asked warily.

“I just got another call from Chance Braza’s business manager. His client wants to find you in the worst possible way. It appears that Mr. Braza has put a price on your head.” Her voice sounded dry.

“What?” Sam’s throat went tight. “You’re joking, I hope.”

“Do I sound like I’m joking? But stop panicking. It isn’t ‘dead or alive’. He definitely wants you alive.” Phyllis growled irritably. “What the hell happened between the two of you that night, girl? That man is positively not taking no for an answer.”

Sam swallowed hard. “Well, he’s gonna have to. I have no intention of letting him find me.” She swung her legs out of bed and padded over to pull the drapes closed so she could stop squinting.

“Doesn’t it flatter you just a little to know that you have one of the world’s most gorgeous, magnificent, sexy brutes drooling over you? His manager says that if I don’t tell him where to find you, he’s going to sic his attorney on me-and your publisher too. I thought you said he’d settled with you?”

“Oh Phyllis. I’m so sorry. I thought that’s all he wanted.” Sam closed her eyes and rubbed her temples.

“Well, it appears he’s changed his damn mind about what he wants. And like it or not, the man wants you. Nothing less will satisfy him.”

Sam swallowed hard. She had similar feelings about him. “Where is he now?”

“I believe his manager said he was on his way back to Chicago for a two-night engagement at the Sports Arena. He said to tell you that you still have his cell phone number and he expects you to call him within the next twenty-four hours. And girl, if you don’t, I stand to lose everything I own.”

“He can’t do that, can he?” She swallowed.

“He most certainly can. And he most certainly will. Just do both of us a damn huge favor and dump that miserable pride of yours. I have no idea what happened between you and I don’t really want to know but if you care at all about me as a friend and as your loyal business manager, you will call the man. No maybes.”

Sam pressed the end button and stared numbly at the cat, who sat on the arm of her chair, cleaning his long white fur. “Oh Snowball. What the hell am I gonna do?”

The cat looked up at her and twitched his fluffy tail with a plaintive meow.

“You think I should stuff my pride and call too?”

The cat purred and returned to cleaning, splaying the claws of one paw as his raspy pink tongue licked around the pads gently.

“You’re probably right but I don’t know how I can face him again. He thinks I’m some sex-starved nympho and I have no idea what he wants at this point.” And he was right.

The cat turned his luminous blue eyes on her and meowed again, then almost twisted himself in half to reach the fur at the base of his hind leg.

“Okay, so I do know what he wants but I’m terrified that’s all he’ll ever want from me.” But would that be so damn bad? That was exactly what she wanted from him at the moment.

The cat rose and stretched and yawned and padded down from the arm of the chair to coil up in her lap and purr.

“You’re right. I won’t know unless I talk to him again.” And maybe seduce him again.

David picked up his phone after five rings. She sat there silently, trying to think of something to say but she couldn’t. She was about to hang up, but he seemed to know who was on the phone.

“Is that you, Sam?” His voice alone was enough to send her into orbit. She cleared her throat but said nothing. When she couldn’t form a coherent response, he asked, “Where are you?”

“Um, I’m in my hotel room. What do you want, David?” She managed to get the words out. The sound of his voice was enough to bring a night’s worth of incredible memories flooding in and she shivered.

“What do I want? I don’t think you really need me to answer that, do you?” The disembodied voice was low and rough and it caressed her body like an unseen hand. She chewed her lip nervously. Sam’s stomach felt like it was going to race away.

“You said you weren’t going to sue. Now you’re threatening my business manager?” She did her best to sound indignant but only succeeded in sounding breathless.

“If that’s the only thing you care about enough to jog you out of hiding, then I’m guilty as charged.”

She felt hot color fill her face. “You can have whatever amount of money you want. But please don’t involve my friend. She hasn’t done anything to you. I’m the one you want to sue.”

“We’ll see.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Take a wild guess.”

She swallowed hard. Just considering the possibilities was enough to make her shamefully pre-orgasmic. Play it cool, Sam. Play like you aren’t all trembly and horny. “Let me think about it?” Lame. So lame.

“You know where I am. I expect you to be here by tomorrow night. I have a lease in the Embassy Suites on NW Forty-fifth. Just ask at the desk. If you don’t show, I will bankrupt you and your business manager.”

He hung up without another word and she sat there for a moment before hitting the end button. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply to calm her rapid pulse. The cat meowed and shifted into a more comfortable position.

“You think so, Snowball? Well, I’m not as sure about that as you seem to be. What if he’s just pissed off and changed his mind about more money for the books?” But even as she said it, she didn’t believe a word. He was waiting for her. He wanted her. With a vengeance. And as that thought sank in, a thrill of fear slid down her spine. Oh God. What the hell had she gotten herself into? She shuddered to think what he might want to do to her. Vengeance could be pretty damn scary.

As she sat there, gathering her courage, she closed her eyes and whimpered as heat pooled between her legs and her body shivered with what she realized was anticipation. Would it be the same? Had she built that one experience up to a fever pitch in her damn dreams? Would he feel the same way once he had her in his clutches again?

Oh, who the hell cared? One more night spent with that man would be worth it, no matter what he intended. Let him strangle her afterward. She intended to enjoy the hell out of him before he did.

Sam glanced at her watch. Then she called the travel service she and Phyllis had a contract with.

“When’s the next flight from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Chicago, Illinois?”

* * * * *

She sank back in the seat, her thoughts a confused jumble as she stared out the window of the jumbo jet. She had managed to find a seat on a flight the following day and had checked out of her hotel with flushed cheeks and hammering heart. She hadn’t had much to pack and it had been a simple thing to catch a cab to the airport.

Snowball was safely sleeping in the pet compartment with two other cats and one French poodle and she was free to close her eyes for a short nap. The flight from Council Bluffs to Chicago was not a terribly long one. She would step off the plane at four thirty and be in a taxi on her way to the hotel by five.

She had just shifted into a more comfy position once the plane had taken off and she was about to drop off into a relaxing nap when a voice came from behind and above her.

“You’re that woman. The one Chance Braza is looking for. Ohmygod. You are!”

Sam looked up over her shoulder into the excited face of a handsome young man sporting a stiff black Mohawk and several facial piercings, who was leaning over her seat from the next row back. She blinked up at his excited face and frowned. “And you are?”

“Joe. Joe Garcia. Wow! I knew it was you the minute you got on the plane. Me and my friends are on our way up to Chicago for the show. We got tickets a couple of months ago. Is that where you’re headed?” The guy talked almost faster than she could listen.

Sam sighed and sat back up. “Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to converse if you weren’t hanging over the seat like a vulture?” She patted the empty seat beside hers and the young man looked like he was going to have a heart attack before giving a whoop and saying excitedly to his pals, “She wants me to sit by her!”

As he moved to the seat next to hers, four more youthful male faces popped over and around the backs of their seats and she said, “Hello. Are you all going to the FPW show?”

Joe seemed to speak for the whole bunch as he nodded and said, “Yeah. And we got pretty good tickets too. I waited for two days at the SportTix office to be first in line when they opened the sales. I got us all seats in the third row back at ringside. They cost a lot but it was worth it. I think Braza is the best but Greg really thinks Wolfman will take him out tonight.” He ran out of breath and stared at her. “You really are gorgeous. You and Chance got a thing going, don’t you?”

Sam blushed slightly and cleared her throat, noticing that several other passengers were standing to look over their seats to get a glimpse of her. “Chance is a really great guy but no, we haven’t got a ‘thing’ going.” She shrugged. “That’s all hype. Just a lot of fun publicity.” The lie slipped smoothly from her tongue. “I write novels and he let me use his face on the covers. Sort of a mutually lucrative publicity thing.”

“I watched Chance’s interview before last week’s pay-per-view and he said different. He said he hadn’t ever met a woman like you and he wouldn’t stop looking ’til he found you again. Sounds like he’s really got it bad for you,” Joe’s friend behind her said excitedly.

Great. This was all she needed. “Of course. He’s a great actor. It’s just part of the show, guys. Do I look like the kind of girl Chance Braza would drool over?” She grinned wryly up at the young man.

The kid nodded and said, “You sure do, Ms. Hastings. I bought your last book just for the photo of you on the back cover.”

She blinked and blushed warmly. Now that was an unexpected statement. “Well, thank you for that lovely compliment. Now I really hoped to get a nap before the plane gets to Chicago, guys, so if you don’t mind?”

Joe stuck his hand out and she shook it, then she shook the hands of the others before Joe climbed back into his own row and the guys continued their lively discussion. But once she was alone again, the curious glances from the other passengers in the row across from her made it too uncomfortable to go to sleep. She didn’t want someone telling the world that Samantha Hastings snored.

Chapter Five

“Ms. Hastings!”

She was waiting on the airport curb for her cab when Joe Garcia hurried up beside her, shoving her latest novel in front of her with a pen. “We just pooled our spending money and bought this in the airport gift shop. Could you sign it for us?”

She grinned at the hulking group of young men surrounding her and she wrote a few lines then signed her name. She handed the book back to Joe, who held it up to read it.

“Wow. That’s some autograph, Ms. Hastings. Thanks!”

“Let me see!”

“Keep your paws off. You’ll get it dirty!”

“What’d she write?”

Sam smiled at them and said softly, “I wrote, ‘To a great bunch of guys, especially you, Joe, who is such a great fan of Chance’s. Your friend, Samantha Hastings’.”

She was about to move to the cab that had pulled up when one of the guys said, “You gonna be at the event tonight, Ms. Hastings? You can go with us.”

“I don’t have a ticket, boys. But thanks for the offer,” she smiled, as the cabbie started loading her bags into the trunk while she juggled the cat carrier and her bag.

“Hey, we can let her use Jim’s. He couldn’t get the cash together for the plane ticket.”

Joe fished in his camouflage jacket pocket and came up with a handful of tickets. He looked them over and then handed her one. “We were gonna try to sell it to get the cash back but Greg’s right. You can go with us, Ms. Hastings.”

Sam blinked at them as they waited eagerly for her answer. “Wow. That’s so sweet of you. But I really can’t take the ticket unless you let me pay for it.”

Joe flushed and shrugged. “If you really wanna. It was kinda expensive.”

“When does the event start?”

“Seven. We were gonna sit around the arena until it’s time to go in. We have some cash left for hot dogs and stuff,” one of the other boys piped up.

“Well, how about this. Since you were kind enough to invite me to join you tonight, how about I pay you for the ticket now and meet you all at the arena tonight?” She handed them three twenties, which they crowed over excitedly, and she waved as they headed for the shuttle area while she climbed into her cab.

* * * * *

The front desk clerk ran his finger down the list. “I have you listed as Mr. Braza’s guest, Ms. Hastings, in his suite.”

Sam blinked. “But I reserved a single of my own…”

“The hotel reservation was changed when Mr. Braza came down earlier.” He gazed at her, waiting. Sam sighed and shrugged. She might as well enjoy the free stay. She would sort out the sleeping accommodations later.

“That will be fine. I have my cat with me.”

“No problem at all, Ms. Hastings.” The man signaled a bellhop and she was whisked into the elevator with her luggage and her cat carrier as if she were royalty.

She tried to tip the bellhop as he left, but the man smiled and shook his head. “That’s all been taken care of, Ms. Hastings. Enjoy your stay.”

Once Snowball was nicely settled into the large bathroom with his food dish, water bowl, litter box and a few minutes of loving, she made her way back to the bedroom and tossed her largest case onto the king-sized bed. She searched for the proper attire for her excursion. She wasn’t sure what would be best to wear to the event, so she chose a pair of designer jeans and a tank top worn under a light cardigan sweater. She dragged her unruly mop up into a ponytail and pulled on her western boots. That should, hopefully, be casual enough to sit in a shrieking crowd of wrestling fans.

She glanced at her watch as she emerged from the bedroom into the sitting room. She explored his marvelous luxury apartment, hovering with a smile over a bowl of fruit on the glass-topped dining table. There was time for a meal, but since she wasn’t terribly hungry she opted for an apple and a huge orange rather than trying to find ingredients and fix anything more substantial to eat.

He lived in decadent luxury. Who’d have thought that high-class hotels had apartments for permanent residents? She sighed and munched the apple she’d chosen as she poked her head into the guest bedroom. She had an hour before she had to leave for the arena. She decided to move her stuff into the smaller bedroom, so Snowball could wander a bit and not be stuck in the marble-tiled bathroom.

By the time her things were neatly stacked in the guestroom and Snowball was curled up on her queen-sized bed, it was time to call for a taxi again. And despite her misgivings about being in a crowd of thousand of screaming people, she was actually looking forward to going. Besides, she would have her own bodyguards. A phalanx of strapping, tattooed, pierced and otherwise menacing-looking young guys who would see that she came to no harm. Right?

* * * * *

Stepping out of the taxi, she was instantly surrounded by the guys who had been watching for her arrival. She took the soft pink cylinders that Joe handed her and frowned. “What are these for?”

“Ear plugs. It’s gonna be real noisy in the arena. No acoustics in there. Just a lot of noise. You’ll be deaf after a couple of hours of that. We always bring them.”

“Thanks.” She tucked the earplugs into her jeans pocket and said, “Okay, entourage, it’s time to rumble.”

The arena was packed from top to bottom with twenty-five thousand roaring, yelling fans and she pressed the pink plugs into her ears gratefully as she followed the five young men down a long stairway from the mezzanine entrance to the seats blocked out at ringside. As she sank onto the chair they pointed out to her, between Greg and Joe, she was completely amazed by the number of people who were holding up colorful homemade signs and blowing horns and making all sorts of racket in a frenzied carnival atmosphere. Good Lord, it was wilder than New Orleans at Mardi Gras!

She shook her head. This was the kind of notoriety he knew. This screaming, raucous mob of frenzied wrestling fans who idolized him. One purple-haired woman had his likeness actually tattooed on her cheek. Others swore skimpy T-shirts with his black eyes glaring out of them. More than one girl of about thirteen was holding up a banner that read, “CB, will you marry me?”

Sam had never seen anything like it. She hadn’t exactly lived a sheltered existence but this type of adulation was surreal. When the ring announcer at last climbed the steps at the corner of the ring and bent to enter, the place went even wilder, if that were at all possible.

“Welcome, Chicago! We at the FPW are thrilled to be back with you once again. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy our main events tonight. We have two world championship diva matches for your enjoyment!” A roar went up. “And three FPW challenge events to see who gets a shot at FPW bad boy Chance Braza and his world title. The winners of all three matches will join up in a three-against-one free-for-all. Watch out, Braza, they’re coming after your title!”

Another couple of minutes of screaming and yelling and then it started with a few warm-up matches between those in the FPW who were still working their way up the steep road to mega-stardom, just to get the arena worked up for the main events. As Sam watched the antics in the ring, she wondered what on earth would possess grown men to behave in such a macho, embarrassing manner. There was enough testosterone running rampant in that ring to sink a battleship. Muscular, sweating bodies-totally denuded of body hair-and grunts of exertion and rage that would rival a herd of fighting bulls running the streets of Madrid before the corrida.

But when the divas climbed into the ring, Sam couldn’t believe what she saw. The women had enough raw silicone on board to make the guys’ tongues hang out and they were dressed in some pretty skimpy bits of clothing, which pleased the guys seated around her as they shouted for their favorites and gave bawdy advice to the women. If these were the females who worked arm in arm with David Chance, what the hell was he doing chasing her sorry ass? She had never seen so many stunningly gorgeous women in one place outside Hollywood.

Even so, Sam felt a grudging admiration for the women in that ring. The matches may have been choreographed but the girls were taking some damn serious hits. She could see the mat scrapes on knees and elbows and one of the blondes really gave it to a small brunette as she came flying off the ropes. Sam knew enough about martial arts and momentum to know that the brunette was really gasping for breath after a slam to the mat.

After the diva matches came the elimination matches for the right to join forces against David. Sam winced and closed her eyes several times and nearly jumped out of her skin when one of the hapless wrestlers came flying out of the ring and landed smack in the row of seats two rows ahead as spectators ran for safety. She realized numbly that all five of the young men were on their feet, ready to catch any flying bodies that appeared to be coming too close. She grinned as she realized they were taking their jobs as bodyguards very seriously.

When the match between the towering, menacing Wolfman and another heavyweight with a bald head and a big belly began, Greg was on his feet like a madman, cheering on the Wolfman. Sam recognized the giant from the match she’d seen on TV in Council Bluffs and she held her hands over her mouth as she watched. He was seriously huge. The Wolfman made fast work of his unfortunate opponent, throwing him over the ropes and into the front row on the far side of the ring, where the man lay groaning and acting as if he couldn’t move.

At closer quarters, Sam could see that most of the slamming blows she’d thought were terrifically hard were, in reality, quite gentle, considering the size and weight and sheer animal power of these huge men. But “gentle” was only a relative term, because if any of those men hit a normal person that hard, it would knock them for a loop. She grimaced as she thought about what damage David Chance could do to her if she angered him. She gave a little shudder and hoped he was in a really good mood tonight.

When the Wolfman picked up and body slammed his opponent, she realized that the mat absorbed about fifty percent of the slam as it recoiled and bounced back. “Way to go, Wolfman!” Greg shouted at the top of his lungs, but she was sure there was far too much noise for the man to have heard him.

The huge wrestler held his opponent up against the ropes and slugged him in the head five times in quick succession, but she could see that he was not applying full force. He was pulling his punches and allowing his half-curled hand to close so that it looked like he was really slamming the guy in the head hard.

”That’s gotta hurt!” Greg was swinging air punches and howling.

After the eliminations ended, another match gave the big guys a breather and then the place went crazy as the Wolfman, another hulking bald-headed giant and one totally huge Japanese sumo-looking wrestler all entered the ring to greet their nemesis, Chance Braza.

Oh. My. God. The sight of those three waiting for her dream lover left her trembling in genuine fear for his life, despite the fact that this was all supposed to be a well-rehearsed act. The pyrotechnic display was enough to scare the hell out of the local fire marshal as the crowd rose to its feet with a roar and Joe pulled her up with him. “It’s Chance!”

She wasn’t tall enough to see over the heads of the two rows of jumping, shouting fans that separated her from the aisle and so she sat back down. But Joe and Greg dragged her back off the seat and hoisted her by the waist high enough for her to see him walking down the long ramp to the ring, wearing that ornate championship belt about his massive body. The sight of him was enough to set off all her inner alarms and make her wonder if she had a damn brain in her head to agree to come here and give him another shot at her screaming libido. She swallowed hard and, as he mounted the metal steps to the ring, they lowered her back to her feet.

“Thanks, guys.” Her voice was shaky. Like her legs. And her body.

“No problem, Ms. Hastings,” Joe grinned.

She watched as Chance jumped onto the ropes and held up his fists and shouted and the fans went crazy. Then he was standing on the ropes on her side of the ring and she bent her head and put her hand over her face, suddenly afraid that he might see and recognize her.

“Who’s the best?”

His deep voice boomed out over the audience and everyone around her was screaming “Chance Braza!” at the top of their lungs. Joe grinned down at her and nudged her in the side with a teasing elbow.

“What’re you hiding for? I’d be up letting him know I was here.”

“No thanks. I’d rather not.” She blushed hotly.

Then the announcer gave the rules for the match. There was only one rule-when a man was knocked out of the ring, he had one minute to get back in or forfeit. The last man standing in the ring would own the ornate championship belt that David was now hoisting over his head as he turned in a slow circle in the center of the ring.

Her eyes drank in the hot, rippling body that she remembered so intimately and she put her hands to her cheeks to cool them. What if he got hurt? What would she do? Would she faint? No. She’d probably go up there and beat the crap out of the guy who hurt him. She bit her lip and tried to remember that he was a big man, with a great deal of physical power and that he had been doing this stuff for a very long time.

When the match began, the four big men taunted and circled, until the big sumo-looking wrestler slammed a fist into David’s gut and Wolfman tried to toss the bald-headed giant over the ropes to eliminate the third challenger. After that, they seemed to pair off in twos, with the Wolfman still going after the hulking giant and the huge sumo-looking guy charging David, head down.

While the other two slammed each other, threw each other and slugged each other, David had his hands full with the four-hundred-pound sumo. He was about two hundred pounds lighter than his opponent, who seemed to be oblivious to the hardest blows to body or head. He got a hold of David and hoisted him over his head, flinging him into the other pair of men, which resulted in those two ganging up on David while he was down on the mat, as well.

Sam whimpered and covered her face several times but Joe kept saying, “He’s okay. He’s back up.”

She tried to not look at the ring and instead let her eyes wander around the crowded arena and it was only then that she realized the event was being televised. Cameras were rolling from the back of the arena, from the area just behind the floor seats and from ringside.

And then Joe was pointing at the huge screens that were fifty feet in the air above the ring, so that the fans in the upper reaches could get close-ups of the action-and she followed his gaze to see her own face as she sat, her hands covering her mouth, looking stricken.

Holy shit!

“Oh no!” she gasped, ducking down and hiding behind the people in the seats in front of them.

The cameraman on her side of the ring had apparently been alerted by someone that the woman Chance Braza was searching for was in the arena, sitting at ringside. From the videos being shown overhead, it was obvious that he had been moving closer and closer until he’d gotten a good, clear shot of her face in the reflected light from the spots on the ring, and had been recording her face and reactions. They were cycling her shocked looks and wide eyes onscreen whenever David took a particularly hard slam or blow.

After she ducked, the cameraman turned his camera back to the ring but the video footage they already had kept playing again and again at appropriate moments.

She imagined that David had to be aware of her presence by now. The whole damn arena was aware of her presence. She noted heads craning to see her and she groaned as Joe nudged her again with that sharp elbow. But David seemed to be too hard pressed by three opponents to acknowledge her in any way.

She returned her attention to the ring just as all hell broke loose around her and David came flying over the ropes as if launched from a catapult. People in the two rows in front all scattered as his heavy body slammed into the chairs right in front of her with a sickening crash.

Joe and Greg were on their feet as David struggled up from the bent and broken chairs and turned toward her. The pain on his face was very real but when his eyes met hers, a crooked grin replaced the grimace of pain as he flung two chairs aside and towered over her, much to the rabid, screaming delight of twenty-five-thousand wrestling fans.

Joe gave a whoop and shoved her to her feet and before she could blink or move out of David’s way, she was being dragged into his arms, against his perspiring, blood-spattered body and being kissed silly in front of the entire wrestling world.

Oh, how good he tasted. How good he felt. Her body melted as he dragged her against him, letting her feel every hard, rippling muscle from chest to thighs. He was sweaty and hot and the veins stood out on his face and body like rivers on a map. He was totally amazing. Totally beautiful. And he wanted her, Sam Hastings.

Her mind deserted her. Her glands took over again and she wrapped her arms and legs about him and kissed him back, taking the initiative as she swept her tongue into his hot mouth, seeking his. She heard the deep, rumbling groan that shook his chest, felt it in her mouth as he devoured her like a starving sailor trapped on a desert island without food or water. His large hands slid down to drag her ass closer to his hips and she whimpered.

It didn’t matter that she was on TV. It didn’t matter at all that the guys were shouting encouragement to David. All that mattered for that one, marvelous moment was that he was kissing her again like she had been kissed in her dreams, in his bed.

And then all hell broke loose again.

Powerful arms snaked around her from behind and she was dragged painfully away from him as he was dragged away from her by two of his opponents, who had apparently followed him out of the ring. She realized that the man holding her in midair and laughing was none other than the Wolfman, because the other two were dragging David back to the ring and flinging him back under the ropes.

Struggling to regain a footing as she was being held tightly in a pair of massive steel arms, she was too shocked to think lucidly-until she felt the wrestler’s hand give her left breast a familiar squeeze. A deep laugh and hot breath close behind her ear galvanized her into action. “Nice. Real nice.”

“Put me down, you jerk!” she yelled as she kicked backward. The heels of her boots found his shins and ankles and she slammed her head back into his face. She felt cartilage snapping and she was released instantly to fall on the floor as the huge wrestler put his hands to his face and gave a muffled curse.

The crowd roared as she was dragged up by her young bodyguards and she turned to see that she had broken the Wolfman’s nose. Blood was running between his ham-sized hands and she gasped, “Sorry. But you should know better than to grab someone’s breast!”

The enraged look on that bloody face made her give a little shriek of fear and she bolted through the mangled chairs toward the ring, nearly knocking the cameraman off his feet as the roaring wrestler behind her gave chase, flinging chairs every which way as he pursued her.

“Dear God, how the hell do I get myself into these messes?” she gasped as she dodged around the ring. He followed her, his eyes narrowed with anticipation. He would tear her head off. The second time around the ring, she dashed up the metal steps, flinging herself under the ropes and clambering to her feet, her eyes on the man who was now climbing the steps slowly, his face contorted into a blood-smeared, leering grin as he bent to step between the ropes.

She whirled around to see David being held down on the mat by the sumo guy while the other giant was climbing the corner ropes. Horrified, she wasn’t exactly considering that this was all just an elaborate act. She simply reacted instinctively and charged the huge man balancing on the ropes for a dive onto David’s body. She caught him at thigh level with her palms and shoved him backward as hard as she could, sending him sprawling into the outer area where he landed with a resounding crash on the announcers’ table, as both of those men bolted with yells of shock.

She shrieked as she was grabbed from behind again and she struggled helplessly as she was hoisted bodily over the sumo guy’s head by the seat of her pants and the back of her tank top and sweater. She gave a cry of shock and closed her eyes, expecting to be flung from the ring to land on top of the man who was trying to climb out of the mangled table.

But instead of flying out of the ring, she felt him turn toward the center and she looked wildly around to see David rising from the mat after having taken down the bleeding Wolfman. He shot her a quick, unreadable look, dragged the Wolfman up from the mat and, hoisting him overhead with a Herculean effort, flung the wrestler from the ring onto the floor, where the man lay moaning.

As David turned to face the gigantic man who was holding her over his head, she realized that he actually looked alarmed. She saw that he was shouting but couldn’t hear what he was saying over the roar of the crowd and her earplugs. She felt the man pull back to throw her and she automatically drew herself into a defensive ball as she felt her body being launched.

She screamed as she flew through the air in what seemed to be slow motion-until she slammed into a solid object that seemed to absorb most of the momentum of her flight and then she was rolling across the mat, miraculously unhurt.

She scrambled to her feet and turned to see the huge sumo guy go flying out of the ring to land on the staggering Wolfman, who had regained his feet just in time to catch the flying sumo. She saw David wheel around to face her across the ring and she realized he was saying something to her. She dragged the earplugs out and shouted above the roar of the arena, “What? I didn’t hear you!”

“I said, what the hell were you thinking?” He was bleeding from a cut above his left eye as he stalked across the mat toward her like some jungle cat after its prey. His face was oddly pale and his eyes were furious. “When you jump into the ring, you’re fair game. You’re goddamn lucky I caught you!”

She swallowed hard, taking a shaky step backward. “What? Didn’t you see that big jerk chase me up here?” Her voice was shaking as she backed away another step.

“He wouldn’t have hurt you. He was just playing the heel.” His dark eyes slid over her rumpled, disarranged top that had been dragged up to bare a large section of her midriff.

“Well, he didn’t look like he was gonna hug me after I broke his nose!” she yelled, taking another step back as he took another step forward. She tugged her top down jerkily.

“You did what?” His face changed from a black scowl to an amazed grin.

“He grabbed me where he had no business putting his damn hands and I head-butted him in the face.” She glared at him. “And it’s not all that funny!”

David stopped where he was and grinned broadly at her. “Maybe you should be the one who gets the belt.” He planted his hands on his hips and shook his head. “And what the hell are you doing here? I figured you’d be safely tucked away in the apartment.”

“Well, I got a ticket from some pals of mine and I decided to come see you in action.” She noted his forward movement and backed off again.

“And what did you think of the action?” Another step closer.

“I think every damn one of you is completely insane!” she snapped, and tensed as he moved closer. “You keep away from me!” She jabbed her forefinger toward him warningly.

“You do realize that we are having this discussion in front of twenty-five-thousand fans and a TV audience of millions more?” His eyes were gleaming with laughter as hers widened and she bit the corner of that lush lower lip.

“I don’t give a damn. You just stay over there. I’m going now. Don’t you even try to stop me!” She held up one hand as if to hold him back by sheer willpower.

She backed to the ropes and bent to climb between them, her wary eyes on his face. Once on the outside of the ring, she made her way around to the metal steps, hurried down and, as she turned to face the screaming, roaring crowd, she swallowed hard and looked around nervously for her five companions. She spotted Greg and Joe leaning over the barrier of the aisle and she started toward them.

“You gonna let her get away again, Chance?” voices shouted.

“Hell no!” His voice was right behind her and she gave a little shriek of shock as he swung her bodily from the floor and flung her unceremoniously over one broad shoulder and walked briskly up the ramp to the entrance, amid the cheers and screams of the crowd.

Of all the damn nerve! His hand was planted possessively on her ass as he carried her like a sack of potatoes past cheering spectators who were urging him to make sure she didn’t get away this time. She kicked and squirmed and pounded his hard back with her fists, her face bright red with humiliation.

“Put. Me. Down!” She could feel his hand clamping even more possessively over her butt as he ignored her.

Joe and the guys were shoving through the crowd toward the top of the ramp and she saw them outside the railing as her captor carried her toward the curtains. “Help me! You’re supposed to be my bodyguards, dammit!” she yelled in frustration.

“No way, Ms. Hastings. He won you fair and square!” Joe laughed, holding both hands up in helpless surrender.

David paused to glance at the young men who were grinning at her. “You’re the pals who gave her the ticket?”

Greg nodded.

“I owe you one. Come on!”

Chapter Six

When they were out of sight of the arena crowd and heading back toward the dressing rooms, he dropped her onto her feet and caught her by the waist to keep her from bolting. He ignored her angry attempt to shrug him off and he shook his head slowly. “That was one hell of a performance, Sam. You really should have warned me you were coming to the event tonight.”

She scowled, ineffectually trying to peel his hands off her. Her eyes slid to her excited gaggle of young bodyguards. “A lot of good you guys were. You should have stopped that guy from grabbing me!” It was hard to stay angry with David’s strong hands sliding over her body.

“Stopped the Wolfman? You gotta be joking, Ms. Hastings. We’d be nothing but bloody mush right now if we’d tried.” Greg shook his head. “Besides, we knew they were just making a big show of it. He wouldn’t have hurt you.”

Sam started to disagree hotly but Greg’s suddenly huge eyes and the sound of a deep laugh behind her made her turn her head sharply.

“You’re one tough little gal, you know that?” a deep, gravelly voice said and she looked up to see the bleeding Wolfman grinning at her from his seven-foot height. He was using his fingers to squeeze the bridge of his nose to slow the still oozing nosebleed.

She blushed hotly and swallowed. “I- I’m terribly sorry about that, Mr. Wolfman. You grabbed me somewhere personal. I reacted badly.”

The huge man laughed and held up one hand as if to ward off another attack. “My apologies, dollface. It ain’t often I get to cop a feel off a classy broad. Thought you were part of the show. They usually put someone who knows the ropes out in the audience. Most of the time, I end up with a couple of the divas piling on me.”

Sam tried hard not to smile, still breathlessly aware of David’s hands wrapping even more possessively around her waist as she turned to face the taller man. “From the look of those divas, I’d say you should be thrilled about that.”

“You bet, honey. And he’s damn lucky we don’t take it personally when he says we aren’t classy broads.” The tall blonde who had won the match earlier was walking out of her dressing room, wearing artfully torn jeans and a tight pullover sweater that showed her augmented body to perfection. She reached out to shake Sam’s hand and she gave her a smile. “Nice to meet the woman who finally roped and saddled this asshole.” She gestured with her head toward David. “He’s one of the few remaining virgins in the FPW.”

“Virgins?” Sam blinked, her eyes moving from the statuesque blonde to David’s face. Now there was a word she would never have attached to David Chance-at least since the age of consent.

“Never-married males, honey. He’s managed to evade every noose tossed at him, until now.” The diva grinned at her, waved at the drooling guys and walked off with a sensuous grace, out the door to the street.

David glanced at the guys and he said quietly, “Can you keep her from running off until I go get dressed?”

“You bet!” Greg grinned.

“Traitors!” She frowned as David slowly released her and Joe took her elbow gently.

“It’s worth free front row tickets to the next event here at the arena.” David’s voice floated back over his broad shoulder.

When he was out of sight, Joe released her wrist and said quietly, “Look, if you don’t wanna stay, we’ll get you back to the hotel.”

She rubbed her ribs where she knew bruises were forming. She smiled at him and shook her head. “No, it’s okay. Thanks for the offer. But it’s a brave guy who’s willing to stand up to Chance Braza for a lady’s honor.”

The small brunette diva named Heidi was walking toward them, wearing knee-high spike-heeled boots and skin-tight jeans. She gave the guys the eye then grinned at Sam. “Got yourself a harem, huh? Wanna share the wealth?”

Sam smiled and shook her head. “You took some pretty solid hits out there. I admire you.”

The woman was obviously older than she’d looked in the ring but she was still gorgeous enough to give Sam a pang of envy. She tilted her head and grinned. “One of the hazards of the job. I heard you handed out some nasty shit to the guys. Good for you. These guys get to thinking that women are the weaker sex. You showed them!”

“Yeah.” Sam made a wry face. “I showed them by getting myself thrown around like a rag doll,” she grinned, shaking her head and rubbing her bruised ribs gently.

“But look who caught you, honey.” The dark eyes of the woman were slightly sad. “A lot of us would give our right arm to have him catch us.”

Sam watched the woman walk seductively down the corridor and out to the street and she drew a deep breath. She wondered how many other women had fallen head over heels for David Chance and ended up being left in the dust as he moved on to the next woman who caught his eye. That one most probably had. She wondered how long it would take before he decided Sam Hastings wasn’t what he wanted either. Could she handle that rejection when it finally came? She shuddered and shook herself back to rational thought.

It only took about fifteen minutes for David to reappear in the corridor, dressed in dress slacks, boots and a lush Egyptian cotton shirt. Someone had placed a neat little butterfly bandage over the cut on his face and he looked none the worse for wear. She couldn’t help but stare as he moved toward where they waited in a tight knot in the corridor outside the dressing rooms. He seemed to know exactly how he affected her, as he smiled wickedly and sent a wave of sexual heat streaking along every nerve in her skinny, unsexy, silicone-free body.

“You guys need a ride somewhere?” he asked as they turned to face him, surrounding her protectively.

“We’re staying at the Friendly Motel a few blocks down.” Joe’s dark eyes moved from the wrestler’s face to Sam’s. Her eyes shifted to David’s and she hoped he wasn’t going to rip her young bodyguard’s head from his shoulders.

“No problem.” David didn’t miss a beat and, as he led the way out the street door to where a large crowd had gathered, he caught her elbow and pulled her tightly against his side. As they left the glass doors, he leaned in close and breathed in above her ear, “Got yourself a fan club, I see.”

But before she could make any response to his teasing murmur, they were mobbed by what seemed to be hundreds of fans who waited outside the exit, waving autograph books and various pieces of FPW merchandise, hoping for an autograph. David laughed softly and entered the melee. Security staff kept them moving toward the limo that waited as David paused every other step to laugh and joke and sign and grin at his fans.

“Chance! Sign my shirt!”

A middle-aged woman stuck her ample breasts in front of him and he took her felt-tip pen and said softly, “Hold still now so it won’t smear, okay?” as he scrawled his autograph across the top of her breasts. When he had finished, she grabbed him around the neck and dragged his head down so she could plant a kiss on his smiling mouth. “I love you, Chance!” she shrieked, as a security team member efficiently dragged her away.

“It’s wild!” one of her young companions said as they were escorted slowly through the jostling crowd of autograph seekers, a number of whom attempted to get an autograph from Sam as well but were not allowed to do so.

Once in the safe shelter of the stretch limo that waited at the curb, the young men began to talk all at once, asking David about the FPW stars and if they could get some autographs from the others. He grinned at them and said quietly, “You boys gonna be here for the second show tomorrow night?”

“Nah. We have to fly back to Council Bluffs on the ten fifteen plane.” Joe shook his head and looked disheartened.

“Well, I owe you. Stick around. You’re officially my guests for the event tomorrow night. Backstage passes. And I’ll pay your ticket change fees so you can fly out after the event. You can join the autograph party beforehand and talk to all the guys and gals.”

“Holy shit!” Joe whooped, as all of them started dialing their cell phones to call the airlines.

Sam was oddly touched by his consideration for her new friends and also by the way he had handled the buxom middle-aged lady who asked for his autograph. He was a wild man in that ring but once outside it, he was a totally different person. She found herself leaning into his body as he relaxed back against the leather upholstery of the limo and his arms drew her gently closer. It felt as if she belonged in his arms. The feel of his heart beating behind her shoulder seemed to soothe the deepest part of her soul, even as the feel of that hard, hot body left her insides shivering in anticipation of the coming night.

When the guys had been unloaded at their motel, she couldn’t help but snuggle into his muscular side and lay her cheek against his shoulder.

“That was kind of you. Most celebrities would have signed an autograph and shooed them off,” she whispered softly.

His white grin flashed just before he dipped his head to capture her lips in a brief but scintillating kiss that reminded her just how helpless she was to resist him. Sam blushed and shoved at him. “Which reminds me. Why did you cancel my reservation at the hotel?”

“I canceled yours because I figured you’d be a bit more accessible in my apartment. More cozy that way. I wanted a private place to discuss our business where you can’t just take off on me again.” His eyes slid over her pink face hungrily, leaving her breathless and extremely wet between her legs.

“You’re a very determined man. And a pretty damn pushy one.” She frowned. She needed to let him know he wasn’t all that sexy. Hah!

“I’ve learned that I have to be from time to time. Especially when I want something badly enough.” His lips trailed along the curve of her jaw, sending frissons of need through her. So much for letting him know he wasn’t sexy.

Keep it cool and light, Sam. Cool and light!

David watched the slight blush that tinged her skin and he tugged her closer against him, drawing a deep breath of satisfaction. “Right now, I want a rare steak and a hot woman.”

His voice was so low and soft. She rested her cheek against the rise and fall of his chest, listening to the cadence of his heartbeat. “Sometimes you don’t get everything you want.” She sighed and closed her eyes and inhaled the warm scent of the spiced soap he had used in the shower. And sometimes you definitely do.

“Okay. Then I’ll just settle for the hot woman. The steak can wait.”

“You wish,” she murmured against the delicious velvety cotton of his shirt.

“You telling me you aren’t interested?” His voice was wickedly low.

“Can I think about it?” she murmured sleepily, enjoying the scent of the man who held her.

David settled back into the corner of the seat, resting his chin on the top of her soft red hair as he settled her more snugly against him. “Sure. As long as you don’t say no.”

Sam was feeling particularly languid as his warmth soaked into her and she felt the aches and twinges of her abused body. Her ribs still ached from being grabbed by the Wolfman and she was going to have some gnarly bruises after surviving that full power toss across the ring. She flexed her body slightly and found a more comfy position and murmured wearily, “I reserve the right to say no if I want to.”

“And I reserve the right to ignore your no,” he teased against her hair. He growled softly as she shifted again. “Don’t wiggle too much, or I’m gonna shock the hell out of the driver and heaven help him if he tries to save you from the consequences.”

Sam heard the tone he used and she realized he was not teasing now. He was telling. She sensed that he was about half an inch away from his body taking over, so she pushed away gently and kept a small space between them. It was just too damn easy to forget that this man was not her dream man in all respects. Where her novels’ hero had limitless willpower and high respect for women, this one seemed to run on a shorter fuse and had a far lower melting point. And despite what she told herself, that fact excited the hell out of her.

They left the limo in the underground parking garage of the hotel and took an elevator to the penthouse apartment.

As she heard the door close quietly behind them, she turned to face him and she clasped her hands tightly in front of herself. “All right, David. I’m here. Talk.” Don’t bother talking, kiss me, please.

His black eyes slid over her and he smiled slowly. “Body language tells a lot about a person, Sam. Want me to tell you what yours is saying to me?” He walked slowly into the hallway, crowding her to back toward the open bedroom door.

She swallowed the knot at the back of her throat and let her hands drop to her sides. “Okay, so I’m intimidated. So I’m defensive. I know that already. So tell me how much this is gonna cost me, so I can go somewhere and cry.” What the hell are you waiting for, David Chance? Make me forget my own name, already!

He shook his head slowly and reached out to gently move a tendril of coppery red back behind her left ear with his fingertips. “Your eyes tell me what your voice won’t. You have a little pulse in your throat that tells me that you’re excited, yet you don’t want me to see that. Your breathing is quick and nervous, which tells me that you’re anticipating something happening. Your nipples are at full attention, which tells me you are definitely thinking about sex. Want me to go on?”

“You jerk,” she breathed in shock. “You aren’t supposed to be looking at my nipples. You’re supposed to be discussing business.” She tried hard to look angry and insulted but she didn’t think he believed it.

“Your nipples are hard to ignore.” His voice was a soft purr.

She crossed her arms over her chest defensively and glared up at him. “I should have realized you were a pervert.”

His grin made her nearly swallow her tongue as he caught her right hand and drew it to his own chest. “You like mine. So doesn’t that make you a pervert too?” He pressed her palm over the taut nipple beneath his shirt. He slowly moved her palm over his body and his eyes darkened to coals.

“Okay, so I’m a damn pervert. At least I can admit it,” she snapped, trying not to feel the languid heat seeping along every nerve in her body. Trying not to melt into a puddle at his feet.

“Your legs are shaking and you can’t get a breath. That means you want me.”

“No, that means I am a normal, red-blooded human woman but it doesn’t necessarily mean I want you!” She scowled. His touch was making her lightheaded and shaky.

“Is there somebody else you want?” His breath was warm on her cheek as he moved so close she could feel his body heat.

Oh, he’s so damn inviting.

“Joe’s sorta hunky, in a gangly, skinny way,” she breathed, closing her eyes and enjoying the feel of him beneath her palm.

“It would take all five of them to make you feel what I make you feel, and you know it.” His mouth moved across her forehead and down to her jawline.

“Well, maybe I want all five of them!” She gasped as his hands moved over her body so delightfully. “You don’t play fair, David.” Her eyes drooped shut and she actually whimpered. “You know I’m a damn sucker for big muscles. I think I showed you that in the stockroom.”

He drew her hand to his buttons. “I like your hands on me without clothes between us.”

His hands tugged her cardigan sweater and tank top up and over her head.

“You are one horny man.” Her eyes widened as he reached for his own belt, too impatient to wait for her to undress him.

“Guilty as charged. And I want you naked.”

“After you.” Had she actually said that? And she’d just called him horny.

His clothes were on the floor beside them in a pile before she could blink and she was being pushed slowly backward toward the king-size bed behind her, as his hands unfastened her bra and he flung it aside. She inhaled sharply as he unbuckled her belt, opened her zipper and shoved her jeans down to her boot tops. Then he simply picked her up, dropped her onto the bed and grabbed her boots, tugging them both off with one jerk. Then her jeans went flying. And as he crawled over her and urged her back into the center of the now mussed comforter, he dragged her lace panties off and dropped them onto the carpet, his hands exploring her with slow, evident enjoyment.

“Damn you, David. I have the willpower of a flea with you and you know it.” She gasped as he bent to slowly kiss her belly, dragged his tongue over the shivery flesh of her naked hip and lowered his sights to the coppery triangle of damp curls between her thighs. “Oh my God!”

He ran his strong tongue over her inner thigh, and then trailed his fingers and mouth to her core. He slowly spread her folds and she arched upward with a gasp and a little cry, her fingers clenching into his close-cropped hair.

His mouth was the most incredibly sexy thing as he stroked her wet heat with his tongue and swirled it around her throbbing clit in a way that made her whimper and arch upward to give him full access. He pressed his mouth to her pussy and she came with a muffled cry of amazement, and as he continued to drive her body from orgasm to mind-blowing orgasm, she threw her head back and clutched his hair like a mad woman. Could sex kill you?

David’s thoughts went a little crazy as he took her with his mouth, feeling her body throbbing and arching to him like she was made for his pleasure. God, she tasted so fucking good.

He used every skill he possessed to drive her to distraction as he felt her body shudder and tighten, riding the waves of pleasure he was giving her, thrilling to her eager enjoyment of him. He slipped two long, strong fingers deep into her pussy as she lifted her hips and shuddered and he knew she was panting to feel his hard cock buried deep inside her.

He heard her gasp his name as she convulsed once more into a climax that clenched her hot channel tightly about his fingers. The feel of her passionate response nearly made him lose it right on the sheet but he clenched his teeth and calmed himself. He needed to be inside her when he came. He reached for one of the condoms that he’d dumped in the bedside table’s little drawer, and hardly missed a beat as he shredded the packet and rolled the ultrathin latex over his throbbing cock.

Running his mouth and tongue up her belly again to her breasts, he tortured her for several more minutes as he taught her what it meant to feel completely aroused and horny.

David moved up her trembling body slowly, dragging his hungry mouth over her shoulder and throat before claiming her lips once again, his tongue tangling with hers in a heady, sensual kiss that made her feel like she might orgasm again just feeling his lips so wicked upon hers. His hand cupped the wet curls between her legs and she gasped against his mouth as he slid two fingers deep into her soaking cleft. She moaned and met his hand with lifted hips, her body aflame.

“You are so damn ready for me,” he growled against her mouth.

And then he was gently shoving her thighs apart to fit his lean hips between them, guiding his solid cock into her welcoming body. He placed one large hand on her cheek as he filled her with a slow, deep thrust and he rasped huskily, “Am I hurting you?”

She arched hungrily into every slow, devastating thrust, gasping with delight as he filled every empty crevice and valley with his hard, thrilling body. He was so big and she could feel his thickness and length moving deliciously inside her.

“Only when you touch my bruises,” she panted as he drove into her again and again, filling her senses as he filled her hungry body. Pleasure threaded itself through her veins as she matched his ferocity and dragged him even closer.

His mouth sought hers, slanting across her lips with a hunger that sank into her bones as his hips moved perfectly to thrust himself deep into her with every wonderful movement. Her hands clamped over his taut buttocks as he buried himself inside her again and again, until both of them were completely delirious with the sheer pleasure of their mingled bodies.

“Oh David,” she whimpered as she felt the most marvelous orgasm rip along every nerve and through every inch of her trembling body as her senses were shredded.

He lifted her hips and moved like a wild thing, needing to be inside her more than he needed breath itself. As his own climax erupted to fill her, he gave a muffled shout against the curve of her throat and nipped her sweetly scented flesh gently, praying that he wasn’t being too rough with her.

He couldn’t believe her, couldn’t believe how delicious and sexy she was in his arms, under his trembling body. His own dream.

He couldn’t move for a long moment as he lay on her, his legs entangled with hers, his massive weight resting on his elbows to keep from crushing her. He heard her soft little moan of satisfaction as he dragged his tongue along the curve of her throat and reclaimed her mouth for a long, searing kiss, before withdrawing from her to roll onto his side.

He felt her small palms on his perspiring flesh as he drew deep, calming breaths and he pulled her into the curve of his body, burying his face against her fragrant hair. “That was amazing,” he rasped against her damp hair.

He could get too damn used to this really fast, if he wasn’t very careful.

They lay in a sated heap of tangled arms and legs, with her body lying half across his chest. He lay against the pile of pillows in the center of the bed, grinning wickedly as she ran one slim hand over his chest to toy with his nipple. “You trying to get me hot again?”

“Not necessarily. I’m just enjoying touching you.” Liar. Make love to me again.

“Touching me like that will get you another hour of hot and heavy fooling around, so watch your step,” he growled against her copper hair.

“I like hot and heavy.” She snuggled down against his side and ran her fingertips slowly over his chest and the livid bruise left by the sumo’s elbow. “But I don’t like seeing this, and this.” Her fingers trailed over the puffy swelling on his face, below the butterfly bandage on his eyebrow ridge.

“Hazards of the job.” He shifted his body to a more comfortable position and pulled her tighter against him.

His calm statement made her rise up and point to the black and blue marks on her own ribs, below her breasts, and she frowned. “Well, I’m not in the business, so I don’t enjoy these. And there are lots more than just these.”

David gently pushed her down against the pillows and bent to caress the bruises on her ribs with his mouth and tongue, causing her to bite her lip and close her eyes. “That’s much better.”

His mouth moved over the bruise on her shoulder and brushed the one on her hip. “I gave you this one,” he breathed as he kissed a livid bruise on her side, under the swell of her right breast. “I caught you off balance. Your side hit my shoulder.”

“Serves me right for overreacting. I forgot that it was just a show when that behemoth was about to launch himself onto you from the ropes. I didn’t relish the idea of having to scrape you up with a sponge.”

“You were worried about me?” he asked, grinning down into her flushed face.

“Yeah. Why else would I have attacked a seven-foot, three-hundred-pound monster and knocked his ass off the ropes and into the announcers’ table?” She frowned up at him irritably. “You sure missed a lot of the action while you were down there rolling around the mat with sumo-boy.”

“You knocked him off the ropes? What do you weigh? A hundred five?” His eyes were alight with laughter.

She shoved him back and sat up. “I weigh a hundred and fifteen. And if you wanna know what happened, just watch the tapes. I’m sure you’ll be royally entertained.”

“You sure have one nasty temper.” His grin was enough to start her breathing heavily again. “But I would have loved seeing you dump that fathead on his ass. Unfortunately, I was trying to keep Kuruko from grinding me through the mat at that moment. Now I can see why ’Ruko was trying to throw you over the ropes. When I saw him pick you up, I figured you were toast. He loses his mind when he gets mad.”

“What made him turn around and throw me at you?” she frowned.

“I shouted at him and told him if he hurt you, he was a dead man.” He shrugged.

“Well, then, I have you to thank for my continued existence. I suppose that will cost me a few thousand extra when you get finished taking me to the cleaners.” She bit the corner of her lip at the change in his expression when those words left her mouth and she winced inside.

David tilted his head slightly and breathed, “You think all I want is money?”

She flushed. No. But she couldn’t find any way to back down now. “You threatened to sue Phyllis.”

“So you only flew here to save your friend’s ass from financial ruin?” His eyes were quietly thoughtful. There was no amusement in his expression.

Oops. She was treading on thin ice here. Keep your mouth shut, why dontcha?

“Partly.” She shrugged, hoping he would just forget her thoughtless statement. He didn’t.

“And what part of you, if any, wanted to come to be with me again?” His voice was dangerously soft. She noted the tenseness in those broad shoulders.

Sam pulled the sheet up around her body, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “I wouldn’t have come at all if it hadn’t been for your threat.” It was getting so easy to lie. Every damn part of her had screamed to see him again!

He drew a deep breath and nodded. “So, you falling into the sack with me tonight is just to help out your business manager?”

She was getting in deeper with every word. Her defense mechanisms kicked in, hard. “David, you’re being ridiculous. I didn’t come here to fall into the sack with anyone. I came expecting to negotiate some sort of financial agreement.” Anyway, that’s what she’d told herself.

“So what you’re basically telling me is if I’m willing to let you pay me off with great sex, you’d be willing to stick around for a while?”

She frowned in frustration and shook her head, then started to scoot off the bed but he dragged her backward and she found herself flat on her back again, staring up at him as he easily pinned her to the mattress. Her mouth went dry at the look in his eyes. “You aren’t gonna go all crazy on me, are you?”

“No. I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

“What offer?” Her breath was ragged as his powerful body gently pressed hers into the mattress.

“If money is all that concerns you, let’s get a deal on the table, shall we?”

“Deal?” Her eyes widened in worry. This was deteriorating fast.

“I will agree not to sue you and your good friend, on one condition.”

Sam bit her lower lip, feeling breathless and hot. “And what is that?”

“I own you for the next six months.”

Chapter Seven

Sam stared up into his face, waiting for him to grin and tell her he was just joking. He did neither. She swallowed hard but the knot in her throat didn’t budge. “What exactly do you mean, you’ll ‘own’ me?” She held her breath.

“I mean that you’ll be completely mine for the next six months. You travel with me. You keep me company. You do anything I want you to do, no questions asked. And your pal gets off scot-free.” He didn’t move or blink. A small tic in his jaw was the only sign that he was alive and not some stone statue.

“You expect me to be your…plaything…for six months?” she squeaked.

“If that’s what you want to call yourself, that’s okay by me. I would prefer to call you a close, intimate companion.”

Sam felt dizzy and faint from the inability to draw a good breath of air. “That’s friggin’ extortion!”

“Yep. You might even call it blackmail. But that’s what it’s gonna cost you to keep both you and your pal out of court and off the soup line. Unless you didn’t really mean what you said about paying off whatever I thought you owed me.”

Her heart was pounding. Had the man actually just dropped a six-month offer on the table without even blinking? Six months of hot, lusty, mouth-watering sex? Oh. My. God. And if he had, was she up to it?

Oh yeah. She was so up to it, it scared her. She drew a deep breath and frowned at him thoughtfully.

“And if I agree, what assurance do I have that you will keep your end of the bargain?”

David drew a slow breath. “Are you agreeing?”

Sam closed her eyes and savored the way his hard body molded hers to the mattress. Staying with this man would be no hardship at all. Leaving him afterward would be the real problem. She wriggled to get some blood into her legs and felt the instant reaction in his body.

“Don’t do that unless you want what will come next,” he whispered huskily against her temple.

“Does it matter what I want? If I agree to stay, all that will matter is what you want, I would think.” She frowned. The deal was on the table. Now they were down to haggling.

David stared down at her. “Is that a yes?”

“No.”

“It didn’t sound like a ‘go to hell’ to me.”

“I need to think about it.”

“Fine. You think. I’ll enjoy myself.” He lowered his mouth to taste hers again and her thighs drifted open for him without the slightest hesitation. This man was too good to be true. She bit her lip as she watched him strip off the used condom and reach for another. God, even that looked sexy.

As he found her hot, wet center and slid into her body with a soft growl of delight, she knew that her answer would be yes. She’d already planned on taking a few months off to rest. As for the six-month offer, she would give anything to have more time with this man. But she hardly believed it would last any longer than three. He would lose interest. He would let her off the hook. But did she want to be let off the hook?

He was sprawled across the bed, his heavy arm and one massive leg draped across her body, preventing her from slipping out of the bed to go to the bathroom. She shoved at his leg until he roused slightly and said gruffly, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To the bathroom, unless you prefer a wet bed.” She made a wry face.

“Go ahead.” He rolled onto his other side and, despite her need to exit the bed, she felt suddenly bereft at the loss of his body wrapped around hers.

She slid from the bed and padded into the smaller bedroom, where Snowball yawned and uncoiled from a furry white ball on top of the bed and welcomed her. “Hello, love. I promise I’ll play with you and pet you in the morning, sweetie.” She used the bathroom and scratched his ears, before washing her hands and brushing her teeth.

She stood and gazed at her slim body in the makeup lights and winced at the sight of the huge, nasty bruises that had blossomed on her skin.

It hurt to move. It brought back long-buried memories of the pain she had suffered after the accident.

What on earth did he see in her? Her body was hardly what she would have called sexy. She was trim and had good muscle tone but that was about it. And yet when he looked at her and touched her, his eyes were filled with a dark fire that took her breath away. She splashed cold water on her flushed face. There was no accounting for what some people thought was attractive.

Her eyes moved over the faded white scars that marred the smooth skin of her abdomen and right hip. She reached for a towel and pulled it around her naked body, tucking the ends over to hold the towel securely about her. She frowned into the mirror. The scars were so faint now, she could barely see them. Plastic surgery had worked wonders with the ones across her face. But there was still a fairly visible one on her jawline and another one across her left shoulder. She had thought that no man would find her attractive with those scars.

Her fears had kept her a virgin all these years. And the man who had moved so amazingly through her dreams since she was fourteen didn’t seem to notice the lack of perfection at all. Maybe he just wasn’t very perceptive.

Yes, she wanted to stay with him, even if he tossed her out in a few months and never looked at her again. But she had the feeling that if she acted too damn needy, she would quickly lose her appeal. How could she agree to his demands without making it seem that she was desperate to be around him? Even if she was?

She brushed her hair absently, head down. It was only when she felt his mouth on her shoulder that she jerked back to reality and stared at him in the mirror.

“Would it be an invasion of your privacy to ask how you got this?” he murmured softly, as his hands and arms slipped about her and drew her back against his body. His lips traced the thin white scar.

She swallowed. “There are a lot more of them. You just didn’t notice them before. Do they bother you?” she asked, afraid of what his answer would be.

“You don’t seem to be bothered by mine.” His smile was slow and sexy. He turned his head to show her the scars that marred the side of his neck and shoulder. “And there are a lot more of them.”

Sam bit her lower lip. “Men tend to look rougher and sexier with visible scars. I haven’t ever heard some guy say, ‘Wow, that scar on your jaw makes you look real sexy, honey’.” Her cheeks turned pink.

David traced the line of her throat slowly with his mouth and watched her face in the mirror. She closed her eyes and gasped softly.

“I got mine from being hit with several chairs, a couple of tables, a prop ladder-and this one was from a seven-inch blade that some asshole tried to carve me up with.” He took her slim hand and lifted it to the side of his jaw, where a fine white scar trailed roughly three inches along the beard-roughened skin. Her eyes opened as she frowned at it for a moment, before turning to kiss it gently. “We sort of match.” His eyes met hers in the mirror.

”Gonna tell me how you got yours?”

Sam turned slowly in his arms and trailed her fingertips over the scars on his face and neck as she drew a long breath. “Nothing quite as impressive as yours. I was in a car accident about twelve years back.” Her eyes did not meet his.

Strong fingers lifted her chin and he breathed quietly, “I’m sorry. You don’t have to talk about it if you prefer not to.”

She shrugged. “I don’t mind. Sometimes it seems to bottle up inside me and I end up crying. Talking about it helps a little, I think.”

He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “What happened to you?”

She just let him hold her close for a long moment before speaking. “I was caught in my seat belt when the passenger side of the car was crushed under a semi. I was the passenger.”

He swallowed hard. “I’m surprised you’re still alive.”

“So were my doctors. They had me under the knife over a dozen times in two years. I would barely heal from one surgery and they were doing another. I sort of resemble a patchwork quilt on an x-ray,” she smiled and sighed against his shoulder. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk. They didn’t expect me to recover. But I don’t like to back away from challenges.”

“Was I a challenge?” His question caught her off guard.

She lifted her cheek from his body and gazed at him thoughtfully. “No. You were incredibly easy.”

He grinned at her and dragged her back into his embrace to kiss her quite satisfyingly. “I was pretty shocked at how easy I was myself. What the hell is it about you that turns me to mush?”

Sam swallowed and enjoyed the way his hands moved over her body. “I guess I could ask you the same thing. Usually I keep my head screwed on straight but when you touch me, I go berserk.” She ran her palms over his naked chest, her breath catching at the sheer beauty of him.

“Then your answer is yes?”

“What are you going to do with me, David? Keep me tied to the bed for the next few months?” Her eyes were incredibly green and vulnerable.

He swallowed hard. “I hadn’t thought about that, until you just mentioned it. Sounds sexy as hell. But I think I would prefer having to seduce you every time. It’s one hell of a lot more fun.”

She ran her palms down the sides of his knotted shoulder muscles. “You seem to think I’m sort of special now, David, but a few months will change your mind. By then, you’ll realize that I’m just a very plain, extremely ordinary female with no figure and no personality and you’ll regret having forced this situation. Can’t we simply settle for an obscene sum of money and go our separate ways? You’ll be far happier in the long run. And you won’t have to deal with a nasty-tempered, violent, shrewish woman who tests your patience at every turn and makes you wish you could simply strangle her instead of putting up with her.”

David stared at her intently. “You and your friend don’t have the kind of money it would take if you don’t agree to do this.”

Sam’s face was hot. “Then I guess I have no choice. But don’t expect me to just roll over any time the mood strikes you. I will stay with you but I won’t make it easy for you.” She knew she was lying to herself, because there was no way on earth she would be able to resist the way he made her feel. She would be a complete doormat. A willing, wimpy slave to his every need and desire. She hated herself for her weakness but she was not foolish enough to believe her own bravado. And from the flare of dark fire in his eyes, neither was he.

David drew a deep, calming breath. He had just hit her in her most vulnerable spot. He felt like a bastard, but nothing mattered except keeping her. Deep inside his conscience railed at him. But he couldn’t stop now. He wanted desperately to tell her he would never harm her. But if he did, she might change her mind.

She was going to do it. But she wanted him to believe she wasn’t willing. In a pig’s eye. He could feel the trembling of her body as she tried so valiantly to face him down. He knew that she wanted him as desperately as he wanted her but she would try to make herself and him believe she didn’t.

That was okay by him. If she resisted him, he would enjoy it even more. But then he realized that in six months, she would be able to simply walk out of his life forever and he would have absolutely no hold over her.

Well, like she’d just said, six months was a long time. A lot of things could happen in six months. “I’ll have it put into writing. That way, neither of us can back out.”

“I’d prefer a gentleman’s agreement. Can’t we simply shake hands?”

“A gentleman’s agreement won’t work if one of the agreeing parties is not a gentleman.”

“You have a point there.” Her soft sigh made him fight the smile that wanted to spread over his face. “I suppose we should try to get some sleep. You have a big day ahead of you and I have my own arrangements to make. I hope that you realize you are completely turning my life upside down.”

“Then we’re even.” Hadn’t she already done that to his life?

He was sleeping soundly, his face pressed against her throat, with his heavy arm draped across her body. She sighed and shifted to a more comfortable position, not wanting to wake him. She had lain awake for the past hour, just gazing at him as he slept. It was impossible to believe that she had actually dreamed this face, dreamed this body, years before she had ever known about him. She had dreamed the sensual, delicious way he made love to her. She had written about it in her novels. She swallowed hard. He was too gorgeous to be real. If she blinked, he might fade away into her dream.

She remembered her mother’s voice, so long ago, when she had smiled at her young daughter and had said softly, “Sometimes dreams are nothing more than other spirits trying to touch ours.”

She closed her eyes and tried to picture him in her dreams. It was definitely him. Something from this man had reached out to her from across the miles and years and had touched her dreams. She could believe him capable of that kind of will. Then she drew a deep breath and willed herself to sleep. She was going to be a wreck in the morning.

* * * * *

“Yeah, we all saw you on TV last night!” Phyllis’ voice seemed so very far away. Sam inhaled deeply and licked her lips.

“It was all part of the hype. The fans ate it up.” Sam was really getting good at fibbing.

“Well, they weren’t the only ones, girl. If that magnificent hunk kissed me like that, I don’t think I would have survived. What on earth was all that? Were you part of the act? The fans who saw you are absolutely raving about how brave you were, taking on that giant to save your lover. Book sales have gone through the roof again. We’re ordering a reprint and the book’s only been out for a month!”

Sam cleared her throat and interrupted her business manager. “Look, Phyllis, I didn’t call to ask if you watched TV last night. I called to tell you that I won’t be back to Cleveland after ninety days. It might even be more like six months.”

What? What the hell do you expect me to do here, Sam? Book six is scheduled for release in five months. I sure as hell hope you’re writing up a storm, on something totally new here because if you aren’t I will have my ass in a wringer.”

Sam winced at the woman’s tone. “Look, Phyl, if I don’t stay, you may damn well end up losing one hell of a lot more than just your ass. Like you said, he won’t settle for less.” There was no sound from the other end of the line. “You still there?”

“My God, Sam. I had no idea he would go so far.”

“Well, he has. So don’t count on seeing me for the next several months, unless it’s on TV.”

She hung up and chewed the corner of her lip. Okay, that wasn’t as bad as she’d expected. Now all she had to do was go slowly and gently and not blow it. If she messed up this deal, she would have to staple a sign on her forehead that read, “I am a complete washout”. And maybe walk around in sackcloth and ashes for a few years.

She let her mind wander to the last ten hours of her life and she blushed hotly as she recalled exactly how wicked and wanton she had been. She had let herself be used shamelessly and, of course, she had done a bit of shameless using herself. A wicked smile curved her lips. And she had another few months of shameless, wanton activity ahead. She could so handle that.

* * * * *

Joe and the guys stepped out of the limo in the underground entrance of the arena to find the place thronged with fans. They moved shoulder-to-shoulder in a phalanx as Sam stepped out behind them and then David. Sam hurried along behind them as they made a path to the arena entrance. David followed more slowly, grinning and signing autographs and shirts, posing for candids with some of the fans who had brought cameras.

They were escorted into the pre-show party area where the backstage visitors were circulating, talking to the divas and the wrestlers. Greg was beside himself when Wolfman came up to him and clamped his huge hand on his thin shoulder and said, “I hear you wanted my autograph, boy. How about we give you something better than a signature on a piece of paper?”

“You shittin’ me? Wow. Sure!” Greg followed the giant wrestler instantly.

An entire battalion of cameramen was shooting as the huge wrestler grabbed one of the microphones and asked Greg what his name was. Then Sam and the others watched as the Wolfman introduced Greg as his “practice partner” and demonstrated a variety of holds, locks and overhead slams-without dropping him-as the TV cameras caught it all. Greg was red and excited when it was all over but when the cameraman handed him the video they had just made of him for his family and friends, he nearly fainted. “You mean this is mine?”

Wolfman posed for a few shots and made sure that Greg and the guys were given copies. Joe was shaking his head and saying how he envied Greg when the tall blonde diva tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey cutie, you wanna be my practice partner?”

Joe flushed and stuttered but allowed the statuesque blonde to cajole him into posing for some publicity photos with her and the other divas. He especially enjoyed the one where all five divas were holding him to the mat with five spike-heeled shoes on his back, while he was pretending to scream in pain. But when all five of them grabbed him and picked him up over their heads, he was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. The other boys were invited to do similar things and by the time David had come into the room, they were all having a wild time. Sam was watching them, her eyes alight and a smile on her face.

“Okay, Chance, you wanna give us a few publicity shots with the lovely lady there?” one of the cameramen asked quickly.

“No photos, fellas. I think you got enough last night, if I’m not mistaken,” he grinned, shaking his head.

“Aw, come on, Chance. Just a couple of poses.”

“Okay, just a minute.” He looked around until he found the boys and called them all over. He explained what he wanted them to do and then he turned to the photographers. “We’re ready.”

All five of the guys jumped on David, trying to drag him to the floor, and the photographers were snapping away, getting shots that had Sam laughing and pointing at them as Joe slid down one leg and tried to drag his foot out from under him. He had two of them in headlocks, one under each arm, and he was still holding himself upright despite their best efforts. Then the small dark haired diva jumped on Joe’s back and was pretending to bite his neck and Sam shouted out advice as he tried to dislodge her. Sam was laughing so hard, she could barely stand up, doubling over and guffawing as the young man everyone called Mouse jumped on the tall diva and got her in a headlock. The diva flipped him over her shoulder and pinned him on the floor, sitting on him and tickling him until he shouted for mercy.

The whole place was in an uproar for the next twenty minutes or so, until David allowed the guys to pin him and he shouted to Sam for help. She managed to gather her wits enough to drag one boy off, then another, until David lay there on the mat, his face dripping perspiration and his arm shading his eyes. He didn’t move and she frowned.

“Are you hurt or just faking it?” she asked, standing over him.

She saw the flash of movement but was helpless to stop herself from tumbling headfirst as he reached out and tripped her. But she didn’t hit the floor. He was amazingly fast as he caught her and rolled her on top of his body, coming to rest plastered to him as the cameras clicked madly.

She was laughing breathlessly when he caught the back of her neck and pulled her down to devour her lips, his tongue driving into her mouth with such hunger and ferocity, she couldn’t help but respond for a breathless moment. He tasted so damn good, felt so damn good, she lost track of everything but his kiss, his body, the way his hands moved over her so deliciously, scattering her thoughts and shredding her resistance to the winds.

Wolf whistles filled the room and after she realized what was happening and struggled to free herself, he allowed her to scramble to her feet and then, with one amazingly fluid movement, he had flipped up to his feet and was facing her as she stood there, breathing raggedly and ready to smack him upside the head.

“I wouldn’t, if I was you,” he breathed softly, his eyes aglow with laughter and something else.

“What will you do, beat me up in front of everyone?” she whispered, her eyes sparkling angrily.

“No but a good spanking might settle that temper of yours. It was all in fun. You’re the only one taking it wrong.” His eyes were dark and unreadable.

She swallowed and drew a deep breath. “I suppose I just can’t handle having you make a spectacle of me for the cameras. If you want to kiss me, David, do it in private.”

“That’s easier said than done. You’re very kissable.”

She glared at him, trying to remain angry, but her sense of humor won and she grinned slowly. “I can see I’m going to have to learn to deal with being notorious.”

“If I can do it, you can. The first lesson in dealing with fame is to never be afraid to be bad. Being bad gets you places, Sam. And you are the main squeeze of the baddest boy in wrestling, so deal with it.” Hearing him say it aloud was enough to make her blush hotly, and several others close to them heard it as well. She flashed him a threatening glare and he just grinned broadly. “Promises, Sam?”

“I’ll deal with you later, Chance Braza.” Her use of his ring name made him laugh and she said softly, “And you can take that as a threat.”

* * * * *

They were seated at ringside and Sam had the feeling that every pair of eyes in the arena was on her. The cameramen panned her often and her picture appeared on the huge overhead screen too much for her comfort as she tried to concentrate on the action on the mat. The guys were enjoying seeing their own faces on the huge TV and they grinned and made the victory sign for the folks at home. Joe was grinning and she knew why. One of the younger divas had given him her phone number and her e-mail address. He was riding the top of the waves tonight.

The warm-up matches between the middleweights and the tag teams had the crowd screaming and yelling. And when the divas came out, Joe was cheering his pretty little brunette as she took on one of the bigger blondes. The girl was good. When she won, she pulled off her see-through tank top to reveal a very sexy lace bustier and she tossed the tank to Joe, who caught it and blushed hotly as she gave him a broad wink and a come-hither smile that would have melted most older men. He pumped his fists in the air and shouted, “Way to go, Heather!”

Wolfman and the sumo guy faced off for a cage match and Greg was on his feet yelling encouragement at his hero, even though Wolfman lost that one when the sumo knocked him out with a chair that someone slipped under the cage bars to him.

Then a ten-man free-for-all was announced and Sam watched as her very own bad boy climbed into the ring to join the melee. There were no rules. If you got thrown out of the ring, it was over. The last man standing in the ring won. She knew that David would most likely get tossed out because it was part of the program. It made the fans roar when the “heels” dumped one of the popular “faces”. But it was obvious from the start of the free-for-all that David was not going to let himself get tossed easily. The heel who was supposed to toss him ended up flying over the ropes and landing right in front of her and Sam gasped and did what came naturally to her. She helped him to his feet and asked him if he was okay.

The wrestler shook his head to clear it, glared up at his nemesis and then shouted, “Braza. This your woman?” in a deep, heavily accented voice.

David had just heaved another man over the ropes and he turned to glare at the tall blond man. The man reached out and dragged Sam against his sweat-sheathed body as she shoved at him in vain. It was like trying to get free of a slick vise grip.

“You have a death wish or something?” she gasped as the man pulled her close and then she couldn’t say a thing-because he had cut off her protest with a wet French kiss that made it nearly impossible to breathe. She kicked his ankles and slugged his shoulders but he was like a frigging brick.

David was livid that Van Burghe had suddenly decided to use Sam as a tool to get him out of the ring, but something truly snapped when the tall, buff wrestler from Germany also took the liberty of kissing her. He jumped onto the ropes and the crowd went nuts, knowing what was coming next.

“Take your hands off her, Van Burghe!” his voice boomed across the seats at ringside, much to the delight of the screaming audience.

Sam couldn’t breathe, he was holding her so tightly, so she did the only thing she could think of. Her knee came up hard and fast and the tall German gave a grunt of pain, loosening his hold on her. Even his cup couldn’t prevent that from hurting, she was sure.

“You little bitch,” he muttered foully as she struggled to get away from him.

“Let me go, dammit,” she gasped, as he reasserted his grip on her and she felt as if he were crushing her. Boy, he was sure pissed now.

Joe and the others were on their feet, which distracted the wrestler for a moment. He seemed startled by the five young men who were yelling at him to turn her loose. It gave her just a split second to grab his little finger and peel it back as hard as she could, causing him to loosen his grip on her again.

And then the man was suddenly gone.

She was released so fast, she had to grab Greg around the neck to keep from falling on her face. She whirled around to see the hapless German on the floor of the area outside the ring, struggling to rise. The figure looming over him as he managed to stagger to his feet was not in a good mood. A fist to the stomach made the man grunt and double over and then he was on the floor again when David hit him in the chest with his massive shoulder and the man went flying backward, stunned.

He held up both hands in surrender as David stepped toward him again. “Hey, man! It was just a joke! I’m sorry.”

“You’d damn well better be.” David’s voice was a rasp of fury. He returned to Sam and his hand came up to gently touch her cheek. “He hurt you?”

She swallowed hard. Unable to speak, she shook her head. He growled and glanced at the guys. “Get her out of here, will you? The show’s over for her.”

The guys didn’t question him. They were too shocked to protest having to leave the show. They escorted her out of the arena to the shouts and cheers of the crowd. Once outside they made their way to the backstage area, where security was waiting for them. They remained there, every now and then asking Sam if she was okay. She nodded each time but inside, she was a trembling wad of nerves. The way she had been treated by the big German wrestler had been bad enough but when she had seen the violent reaction from David, it had been even more frightening than the German’s assault.

He had been ready and willing to completely destroy the man, over nothing more than a rather insulting stolen kiss. She drew a deep breath and smiled up at the security man who had brought her a hot cup of coffee.

“Thanks.” Her grateful smile was only momentary.

And then the event was over and the performers were coming out of their dressing rooms, most of them grinning and waving at the boys. The young diva who had tossed her tank top to Joe stopped by and flirted a little more before she left with the taller blonde she had defeated earlier in the evening. Wolfman came over to say goodbye to the guys and he nodded briefly to Sam, as if he didn’t want to end up with Chance Braza taking his head off. She smiled and told him it was nice to have met him.

He glanced at her and grinned. “I hear you’ll be touring with us. So it ain’t exactly goodbye, is it?”

It was the first time the guys had heard about her continuing on with David and they all teased her. “So, you ain’t got a ‘thing’ with Chance Braza, huh?” Joe grinned at her and pretended to punch her arm gently.

She smiled nervously and shook her head. “I think it’s great publicity for the books to be seen with him and vice versa.”

“Sure. I believe that,” Greg laughed.

Mouse grinned at her and added a jibe. “For a guy who ain’t nuts about you, he sure didn’t handle the bit with Van Burghe and you kissing real well.”

She flushed warmly and said, “I wasn’t kissing him. He grabbed me. He was the one doing the kissing. And it wasn’t all that great, either, so don’t bother to ask.”

And then David was there, looking rather grim and uncommunicative. No one talked to him as he caught hold of her elbow and herded her out to the limo. They all sort of avoided his dark glare. Even Joe and the guys didn’t attempt to talk while in his presence. She remained calm as the driver dropped the guys off at their motel, but after they arrived at the Embassy Suites, Sam couldn’t stand the silent treatment any longer and she hung back. David stopped and glanced at her questioningly.

“If you are going to be like a bear with a sore paw, I think I’ll stay down here and get myself a drink.”

He seemed to grow inches taller as he drew in a deep breath and then he turned toward the lounge. “I’ll have a drink too.”

“You can’t have a drink. You’re supposed to be a healthy person. No drugs, No alcohol.”

“Beer doesn’t count as alcohol as far as I’m concerned. And don’t try to mother me, Sam. I’m still pissed off about Van Burghe and I don’t want to take it out on you.” His snarled words startled her.

“Well, you’ve been doing that since coming out of your damn dressing room. Why stop now?” Her green eyes challenged him.

He looked dangerous for just a moment and then his face relaxed and he shook his head. “You’re right. I’m being a jerk. Sorry. But when he kissed you, I wanted to take his fucking head off and stick it on a flagpole.”

She stared at him in shock for a moment, before breathing shakily, “David, aside from the appalling language, that is the sweetest thing any man has said to me in my whole life.” He blinked and his astonished look made her smile. “Thank you for being protective of me. I don’t recall anyone ever trying to protect me before.”

He stared down into her flushed face and she watched his anger dissolve. “You think I was trying to protect you? I thought I was being possessive and overly jealous.”

“Same thing.”

“Not quite.”

“I’m flattered that you were jealous. It’s not often a woman has such a magnificent champion.

You think so?”

“I definitely think so.”

“You flirting with me?”

“I’m not exactly sure. I’ve never flirted before. I’m no expert.”

“You ever been carried off by a magnificent champion and been made love to in a public restroom?”

Sam realized he was pulling her toward the men’s room. “That’s not exactly my choice of a romantic trysting place.”

“Romance is where you find it. And I could make love to you standing right here but I think you’d prefer a little privacy.” He drew her hand to his mouth and she shivered as his lips caressed her fingertips slowly.

“That looks good.” Her voice was shaky.

The restroom had four large enclosed toilets and a row of latrines along the wall. David backed her slowly up against the wall in one of the stalls, locking the door. He wasted precious little time or effort on clothing, simply unzipping, grinning down into her face as he dragged a condom out and let her do the honors. Sam blushed as she shakily opened the flimsy packet and barely managed to smooth it over his velvety-hard cock before he dragged her jeans off her, leaving her blouse alone.

“David!” she moaned, as he lifted her right leg up to curve around his hip, fitting his cock into her wet center without waiting for an invitation. And he didn’t need one. She was so ready. She drove her tongue eagerly between his lips and clutched his ass with both hands, urging him to fill her with every straining thrust of his hips against hers. Dear God! Was she really having mind-blowing sex in the men’s bathroom? Her thoughts shattered and it didn’t matter where the hell she was, as her body splintered and rational thought was completely wiped out.

Afterward, she clung to him as he stood trembling in the stall, holding her tightly to his straining body as he regained his breath. Her tumultuous orgasm still thrummed through her shivering body and the feel of his still-solid cock buried deep in her body was a heady, completely erotic sensation.

“Has anyone ever told you how amazingly sexy you are?” His voice was a growl of breathless sensuality against her ear.

“No.”

“Well, I’m telling you now. And if you play your cards right, you might get a rematch.”

“Is that a promise?” Her voice was husky with desire.

“It is. Are you interested in another go?”

“Do you have to ask?” she purred wickedly.

She gasped as he moved to pleasure her again. He lifted her slowly and drew her down over his shaft, pulling her body tight against his as he inhaled sharply and caught her mouth hungrily, driving his tongue between her lips to move against hers, stroking with each slow, heady stroke of his cock. She moaned and gasped against his mouth, “Oh David, you are so marvelous.”

“It’s nice to know I’m appreciated.” His voice was a muffled rasp of desire as he began to regain his momentum.

“Oh my Lord but you are appreciated, David Chance. My God.” She threw back her head and arched into his body as she climaxed again. “Please, oh please don’t stop,” she moaned against his throat.

“I have no intention of stopping.” His growl was deep and breathy against her temple as he obliged her desperate need to be filled.

“You are my magnificent, wonderful, amazing champion,” she whispered against his ear and he seemed to find yet more energy in his flagging reserves.

The feel of her sweet, hot body claiming his with every deep, needy stroke left him breathless and eager for her climax, which would clamp her sweet, tight pussy around his cock and drive him over the edge into oblivion. And when she came apart in his arms and nipped his neck in her delirious orgasm, he drove himself deep and released, panting as he nearly lost the ability to stand.

God, how he wanted this woman, how he loved the feel of her desire for him. He would have to go slowly and not scare the hell out of her.

Chapter Eight

They took the guys to the airport the following morning and David handed each of them a thick envelope jammed full of stills and candids from the two days in Chicago, along with his e-mail address and signed copies of Sam’s latest book.

Sam gave Joe her cell phone number and told him to keep in touch. She had really enjoyed his company.

David watched her as she hugged the young man and kissed his cheek and gave him the paper with her number on it. When she turned back to him and sighed, he noted the sad look in her eyes. “You still have the hots for that kid?” he asked softly.

Her eyes widened and she lifted her chin a little as she replied coolly, “That kid is a sweet guy. And I never had the hots for him.”

“You gave him your number.”

“You gave him your e-mail address. Have you got the hots for him?” She glowered up into his face as his frown changed to a slow grin.

“Maybe. He’s sort of a hunk in a gangly, skinny sort of way.” He mimicked her tone.

“I always thought you guys liked rolling around the mat with other guys for some darker reason.”

Her frown was adorable and he chucked her under the chin as he bent close to her face. “Come on now. We have an appointment to keep and we have to get all the way downtown.”

“Downtown?”

“That’s where the papers are that we’re gonna sign. Unless you’ve changed your mind.” His dark gaze pinned hers.

Sam shook her head. “No. I haven’t changed my mind. I was just hoping you’d changed yours.”

“Not a chance, Ms. Hastings.”

“I was afraid you would say that.” She climbed back into the limo and David told the driver to take them to an address in the heart of Chicago’s business district.

“How would you like to spend the next three weeks in Barbados?” he asked softly, lifting her hand to kiss it slowly as his thumb massaged her palm.

“Barbados? What’s in Barbados?”

“Beautiful beaches, gorgeous water, warm sun and the Presidential Suite at the Hilton Barbados.” His voice was quiet. His eyes searched her face.

“Sounds more like a honeymoon than a wrestling tour.”

“Exactly.”

She thought she’d heard him right but that last word made her blink and turn to look up into his face with a confused frown. “Excuse me? What do you mean by ‘exactly’?”

David cleared his throat and seemed suddenly nervous. When he spoke again, he said quietly, “This is just a legal agreement, Sam. I had my attorney draw it up. I want to be certain you don’t fly off and leave me high and dry again.”

She wet her lips and gazed at him, almost afraid to ask what he meant. “Enlighten me, David. I hate nasty surprises.”

His lips curved wickedly. “I would hope this surprise wouldn’t be considered ‘nasty’. I…had my attorney draw up a Memorandum of Understanding.”

“A Memorandum of Understanding? Like a legal contract? About me being your sex slave for six months?” Her eyes widened then narrowed.

David coughed and shook his head. “I don’t think that that would hold much water in a court of law, Sam. It has to be a proper Memorandum of Understanding between us.”

One hour later, Sam sat staring numbly at her copy of the agreement that she had just signed in front of a notary at the attorney’s office.

Her mind spun and her heart clenched to think that she had just legally agreed to live with him “for a period not to exceed six months”, at the end of which time either or both parties could decide to end the arrangement without any legal encumbrances or remuneration from the other etc., etc.

In effect, a trial marriage.

The lump that sat in the pit of her stomach should have been a bubble of joy. This agreement insured that neither she nor Phyllis would be liable to a lawsuit at the end of the agreement, no matter how it turned out.

Was she legally married? Hardly. She had agreed to live with David Chance until he grew weary of the arrangement and freed her by signing a release that guaranteed he would allow Samantha Hastings and her publisher the use of his face, body, name and so on and so forth insofar as the six books that were already completed were concerned. The catch was, if she wanted out before the six months were up, he could hit her and her publisher and business manager with the promised lawsuits.

She hadn’t said “I do”, and neither had David. But in effect, it would be damn near the same as being married. David had made the “honeymoon” reservations in Barbados under the names “Mr. and Mrs. David Chance”. As if he owned her. He was behaving like a small boy who’d snagged the last chocolate chip cookie from the jar, and was relishing that first bite.

The problem was, she couldn’t help but feel a little excited as well.

Chapter Nine

The limo driver grinned when David handed him a hundred dollar bill. As he escorted her across the lobby to the elevators, he nodded toward the restroom they had used and asked softly, “You want a quickie before we go up?”

“I want a proper bed tonight. I want to be fed well, and I want to have champagne and strawberries and the whole works.” She gazed at him archly, trying very hard not to sound breathless.

He kissed the tip of her nose and waved to the front desk clerk, who hurried over.

“The lady wants champagne and strawberries.”

“Already in your apartment, Mr. Braza.”

“And the rest?”

“All taken care of, sir.” David shoved a hundred into his hand as well and grinned at him.

“Good work. I might get laid after all.”

Sam blushed and slugged him in the ribs, without even getting him to acknowledge the punch. “You are terrible. I don’t think that poor man will ever stop blushing,” she rasped.

“Never underestimate the power of a blush. I happen to think a woman who blushes is completely sexy.”

He drew her into the elevator as the door closed and he picked her up from the floor again to kiss her hungrily, his body back in the zone.

“There are cameras in the elevators, David!” she gasped as he started to run one hand up under her tank top.

“A bunch of peeping toms, huh?” He grinned up at the small camera lens that was barely visible in the corner and he reached up and jerked it loose, turning the lens toward the roof of the car. “Now, where was I?” he growled.

She was laughing so hard she could barely get her breath by the time the elevator doors opened on the foyer outside the penthouse. Her jeans were unzipped and he had managed to get her bra unhooked in the elevator. “David. You have me half undressed and we haven’t even gotten inside the apartment.”

“Okay. I’ll humor you that far.” He swung her off the floor into his arms and she gasped as he bent his head to kiss her with all the steamy passion he had shown before. He slid his card key in the slot and kicked the doors inward. Before he put her down, he kissed her for several minutes, until she was so eager to have him, she was panting.

“Close the doors,” she gasped as he dragged her tank top off over her head. He obeyed without missing a beat as he tugged her bra the rest of the way off and tossed it onto the crystal chandelier that graced the sitting room. His hands shoved her jeans down her thighs and her panties followed.

“David. Stop that! Think what the maid will say.”

He cupped her breasts in both large hands and bent to draw one turgid pink nipple into his mouth, as she arched and clutched his head with a sharp gasp. “To hell with what the maid says. If she wants me, she’ll have to wait her turn.”

“David!” she yelped as his large hands slipped from her breasts to the triangle of copper curls between her legs and he gently sought the hot, slick folds of her body that led to what they both so desperately needed.

“You don’t like this?”

“Oh Lord. Don’t be stupid. Of course I- Oh!” Strong, lean fingers slid slowly inside her wet center as warm, moist lips caressed her collarbone.

“You do like that.” His voice was a warm rasp as he unsnapped his waistband and finished releasing his tumescent cock.

“Yes.” She kicked out of her jeans and panties and planted her feet wider apart to allow him to tease her. “Oh God, David. You do that so well!”

Her thoughts exploded as he slowly lifted her thigh and moved the tip of his stiffened cock back and forth over her throbbing clit in a slow seduction.

“And what about this?”

“David!” She reached between their bodies to circle his thick cock with trembling hands. She grabbed the proffered wrapper and ripped it apart like a wild woman, biting her lip as she rolled the neon orange latex over his beautifully erect cock. She hissed as he pressed her bare back against the wall and slowly inserted the silken tip into her cleft while she guided him home.

“That good, huh?” he whispered huskily as he felt her body welcome him.

“Oh David.” She arched and wrapped her other leg about his hips as he drove his body deep into hers with a growl of pleasure. The feel of her taking him in was nearly more than he could handle and he had to struggle not to orgasm instantly. He wanted it to go on forever.

“You are so sweet. So delicious. I could do this all night.”

“Oh yes. So could I,” she whimpered.

Sam lay on the carpet of the sitting room, their clothes strewn about them wildly, staring up at his handsome face. “You amaze me, Mr. Chance.” Her breathing was ragged.

“I just amazed myself.” His eyes were dark with desire as he bent to kiss her hungrily once again. Her legs wound about his hips as she arched up to take him in once more, her moan of enjoyment making him smile with satisfaction. He had never dreamed she would be as hungry for him as he was for her. She was amazing.

He was like a wild man. He had been unable to stop making love to her since they had entered the apartment and she had been a woman possessed, urging him onward with eager cries and sensuous caresses, driving him to the heights of passion again and again. Who the hell knew he could keep it up and eager like this? Was it something he’d eaten? Something she’d spiked his water with? Or was it her? Her incredibly hot little body that drove him wild to have her again and again?

He drew a deep breath and held her close as he lifted to his knees and made sure she was securely wrapped about his hips. He rose to his feet and walked slowly toward the bedroom they had shared the past two nights. He grinned as she bit his neck and whispered that she didn’t think she would ever be able to walk straight again.

“I like bow-legged women.” His mouth dragged across her shoulder as he reached the bed and sank backward, scooting his body to the center while she sat astride his hips. He closed his eyes as she leaned forward and surged down over his cock, then again. He cupped her breasts in shaking hands as she rode him hard, her palms moving hungrily over his perspiring chest.

“I think I’m gonna fall off and not be able to get back on again,” she whispered hoarsely as she bit her lip and gave a laugh. “Maybe you should be up here.”

“I want you up where I can see you and I can touch these.” He hissed through clenched teeth as he gently pinched her nipples and she gasped and arched with another marvelous climax.

His strength amazed her. The feel of his silk-over-steel cock amazed her. And the way he made love like a madman amazed her. As he filled her to the stretching point with his body, she threw back her head and reveled in the heady orgasm, crying out with her pleasure. Unable to move or breathe for a moment, she froze, her sheath clenching tight around him, holding him deep.

When she was able to move again, she began to surge against him once more to give him his pleasure and her hands skimmed his skin, raking over his flat nipples. She smiled wickedly down into his face as she pinched his nipples and watched breathlessly while he closed his eyes and shouted with his release, emptying himself into her eager body. She rocked slowly, lovingly on him to milk his pleasure, before she collapsed over him and lay on his sweat-slick, trembling body.

They lay in a weary, sated tangle of arms and legs, with her sprawled across his chest and his arms still wrapped about her body. He groaned as she moved slightly and brushed her lips against the skin of his throat. “Be careful, Sam, or I won’t be able to even crawl out of bed to go take a leak.”

“Did I wear you completely out?”

“Not completely.”

“Then you’d better go take that leak.”

“Why? You want more?”

“Of course. It’s a known fact that once a man is hogtied to a woman, he doesn’t put out nearly as much.” Her grin was buried in his smooth, damp skin.

“You think so?” He chuckled deep in his chest.

“I’ve saw it on the Science Channel.”

“They didn’t know about me then.” He shifted her weight gently on his body.

“Oh? Are you different from most men?”

“You tell me. Am I different from the other men you’ve been with?”

She drew a languid breath, snuggling against him. “Well, since you’re the only man I’ve ever been with, I have no frame of reference.”

David drew a deep breath. “What?”

“I said, go to the bathroom.”

“No, you said something else.”

“I said I saw it on the Science Channel?”

“No. That other thing you said.”

She lifted her eyes to his face and sighed. “That you’re the only man I’ve ever been with?”

“Yeah. That thing.” He stared incredulously at her flushed face. “It was so fantastic the first time. I thought…”

She rolled over onto her side, facing the wall. “I guess you thought I was pretty damn experienced.”

David rose up, leaning over her and searching her face. “You loved it as much as I did. No bleeding. No awkwardness or shyness.” He frowned, as if unable to believe that his breathtaking lover had been a virgin.

“But then, when I went down-”

“Yeah. I’d never had anyone do that before either.” She bit her lip at the memory of the first time he had used his mouth to make love to her. “But I agree. It was fantastic.” Her voice was muffled in her pillow.

He inhaled deeply and his hand slowly moved over her waist and hip.

She closed her eyes and sighed again. Damn. Now he was going to be all weirded out.

Sam felt him dragging her gently onto her back and she gazed up into his face as he just stared at her. “I’m not surprised you didn’t realize it was my first time.” Her face grew warm. She waited for him to laugh. He didn’t.

“Do you hear me complaining?” His eyes were aglow with warmth that left her breathless. “You were the first woman I’d ever known who could take everything I have and still be able to breathe. To let me do what I wanted to do with you as often as I wanted to do it.” He bent to lick her breast slowly.

“You certainly have a way with words, David, but thank you.”

“For what?”

“For enjoying me as much as I enjoyed you that night. I was terrified that a man would not be able to-” She swallowed, unable to say the rest.

“Oh, I can assure you that this man was definitely able to.”

Tears formed in her eyes and she dashed them away. “When you made love to me that first time, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”

He brushed the tears away with gentle fingertips and said softly, “Just the first time? I must be losing my touch.”

She laughed and sniffed back the tears. “Well, now that you mention it, I’ve definitely been there a number of times. You can take me to the stars anytime you like, David. I’m a willing passenger.”

He caught her face in his hands and kissed her hungrily then he breathed huskily, “Star Flight Seven taking off on Runway Two.”

Chapter Ten

“So, how’s Barbados?” Phyllis’ voice crackled over the line.

“Rainy. Hot. I already have a nasty burn from swimming only half an hour. The place is overrated.”

“Okay. You love it. You don’t want me to be madly jealous.”

Sam grinned. “It’s sheer heaven. I hate to think that tomorrow we have to fly back home. David has to be in Los Angeles on Monday for a pay-per-view and I have to make arrangements to sublet my apartment for the next few months.”

“Why bother? It’s only gonna be a few months It’s not like you can’t afford it.”

Sam could have bitten her tongue. “I see no reason to let it sit unoccupied. If I can lease it out for five months that will be better than it sitting empty.”

“Honey, is there something you aren’t telling me?” Phyllis was almost psychic when it came to things bothering her. Sam winced.

“No. But I’m not really sure that a live-in relationship that began barely two weeks after meeting a man will be able to last. I just don’t want to keep all my eggs in the same basket. Not rely too much on Murphy’s Law not kicking in.”

“You sound like you worked pretty hard on that line, Sam.” Phyl sounded unconvinced. “But I won’t push. You’ll drop the bomb on me when you feel it’s time. You enjoy the rest of your vacation and I’ll see you in a week.”

Sam hung up slowly. She lay back on the satin comforter that covered the bed they had shared for the past twenty nights and she closed her eyes. David was in the weight room, not wanting to lose his tone during the weeks he was away from the ring. He was used to hard daily workouts and each of his houses had a huge workout area. He usually returned to their room a little after nine a.m. and he always wanted to shower with her.

To be truthful, she was the cleanest woman in Barbados, taking up to three showers a day and always with a man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. But she enjoyed every moment of his constant attention, thrilling to his body as he taught her every possible way to make love.

She was damn thankful she had phoned her doctor and gotten a prescription for birth control pills, because she far preferred having him inside her body au naturelle. The feel of his naked cock filling her was the most exciting thing she’d ever known. And she loved having his very beautiful, very thick, very delicious cock uncloaked by latex. She had grown used to being thoroughly, wonderfully satisfied in that department. She closed her eyes. Having sex at the drop of a hat-or a bra, or satin panties-had become a habit over the past three weeks. The man was completely insatiable. And she was so damn glad.

But in a couple more days, there would be times when he was working and she couldn’t be with him. No more impromptu sex in the hallway, the living room, the bathroom. No more making up for a lifetime of total celibacy. She realized that. The “honeymoon” was about to come to a screeching halt. And she was going to miss it. Desperately.

He was due in LA in just two days. And she would be in Cleveland. She wouldn’t see him until Friday.

He had warned her that by Friday, he would be a raving sex maniac and he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t haul her into the men’s room in the airport and have his way with her. She smiled weakly at that thought. Just a month ago, she would have thought herself to be a regular prude, except in her novels. But she was living the life of a flagrant sybarite. And she adored it.

She shook herself out of her vivid, sexy daydreams and landed firmly on earth again. Cleveland. Yes. Business. Right.

She was going to see to the sublease of her apartment and then she would move into his apartment in Chicago. The FPW was headquartered there and he was there more than anywhere else.

“Damn, Snowball… I wish you were here!” she frowned. This was the first time she’d gone off and left him for any length of time, and she was longing for his soft fur.

David shook his head and grinned at her from the doorway to the bedroom. “You still missing that cat of yours?”

Sam jerked around and shrugged, her face pink. “Well, sure. He’s a great listener. And sometimes he even has great ideas. I think he’s a little jealous that I spend more time with you than I spend petting him now.”

“Is that why he just stares at me?” He smiled as he sauntered into the room, shrugging out of a bright aqua Hawaiian shirt.

“Yep. It’s feline intimidation. If you blink or look away, he wins. If you don’t, he gets pissed off and pees on your T-shirts.”

He snorted softly. “I’ll have to remember to look away. I thought my shirt smelled weird when you left him with your friend.” He dropped his rumpled outer shirt onto the bed.

She grinned at him. “He’ll get to like you more. Try scratching his belly. He’s a sucker for having his belly and back scratched.”

“Me too. You wanna scratch mine?” He moved slowly closer, peeling his sweat-damp white T-shirt over his head to toss it into the open suitcase.

“Maybe. What’s in it for me?”

“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” His smile was wicked as he bent to kiss her slowly. Oh, the man knew how to kiss.

After a couple of minutes, she drew away and turned him forcibly away from her and before he could say a word, she was running her nails slowly over his back and he was hissing with intense pleasure. “Oh yeah. Lower and over to the right. Oh man. That’s the spot.”

“You need a shower.” She sniffed. Most men smelled terrible after a workout. David smelled as sexy as hell. Hot. Spicy. Musky.

“I know but I like getting my back scratched too.”

“Your back looks like you just had sex with a wildcat.” She grinned at the stripes her nails were leaving on his skin.

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“You’re easy to please.”

“Am I?”

“Umm-hmm.”

“And what would please you right now?”

“Well, you go get that shower and I’ll let you know.”

“I have to be fresh and clean for you to enjoy it?” he asked.

“I’m afraid so. It’s our last night here and I sort of wanted it to be special.”

“Every night with you is special.”

“That was incredibly sweet of you to say.”

David turned to face her, dragging her gently into his arms and bending to kiss her slowly. When he lifted his head and smiled down at her, he whispered huskily, “Do I have to shower alone?”

“When was the last time you showered alone, David?” Her eyes were glowing with amusement.

“You can’t shower with all those clothes on.” His hands slid under the edge of her peasant blouse and she bit her lip as he dragged it up over her head and tossed it onto the bed.

“Have I ever showered with all my clothes on?”

“I can help you get undressed. Wanna help me with my sweats?”

She smiled and reached to tug the tie at his damp waist. Her fingertips slowly slipped down the front of his sweatpants to tease the growing ridge that never failed to entice her.

“You are a horny, horny man.” Her hand slid inside to cup and circle him and he shuddered.

“And you love it when I’m a horny, horny man.” He bent his mouth to hers and kissed her, his tongue slipping slowly over her smiling lips.

“Mmmm. Oh yes, I do love it.” She slid slowly to her knees and dragged his sweats down to his ankles and smiled widely at the sight of his bobbing, thick cock just inches from her face.

David caught his breath as she untied his Nikes and dragged them off, then tossed his pants atop the growing pile on the bed. But when her slender, wonderful hands cupped his balls and his cock, he had to put his hands on her shoulders to keep from sagging to his knees. Her lips caressed the sensitive ridge around the tip, then her tongue licked away the drop of moisture that had gathered and he almost lost it. He bit his lip and groaned as she took him into her mouth and sucked, hard.

“Sam.” His mind whirled and his body trembled as his woman devoured him. He jerked as her tongue swirled around him and her teeth nipped and scraped until he was so fucking hot he couldn’t even breathe. “You’re killing me!”

Sam seemed instinctively to know he was close to coming and she drew back, rose from her knees and took his hand, leading him into the bathroom. She dropped the rest of her clothes on the floor and shoved him against the back wall of the tiles shower stall, then she climbed up his body and wrapped her legs about him hungrily. “I want you.” Her voice was a whisper of need.

“You’ve got me,” he growled as he took her lips and drove himself into her wet body, supporting her buttocks with strong hands as he held her in the perfect position to stroke hard, over and over. Filling her, stroking deep, burying himself again and again and hearing her little gasps and adorable cries as she thrilled to every touch, every thrust, every long, thick inch of him inside her. Yeah, she had him.

And when he felt her come hard, her body clenching tightly around his cock, he fought his own climax, wanting more of her-wanting never to stop this feeling that tore at his guts and heated his blood.

The deliciously warm water cascaded over their bodies as he pressed her shoulders back into the smooth tiles of the shower. She was so going to miss this oversized shower-and the many marvelous orgasms she had received in it from a man who seemed as insatiable for her as she was for him.

David was now on his knees, her legs hooked over his massive shoulders as she clung to his thick black hair and bit her lip with delight. He was the most breathtaking lover she could have ever imagined. And the man had a tongue that he could bronze and sell patented copies of!

He loved giving her oral sex-and she sooo loved receiving it. She bit her lip as he growled with pleasure. God, he knew exactly what to do, the sounds to make, to drive her mad. He stroked her throbbing clit, his tongue swirling and sucking as she whimpered and arched and gave herself up to a particularly intense climax. As he lowered her feet back to the shower floor, she pulled him up to kiss him and reach for his stiff cock, before she slid down his body to sweetly return the favor.

David closed his eyes and bit his lip hard to keep from shouting out his delight as her sweet mouth slid over his swollen, aching cock. He had never known a woman who was so willing to go down on him, to suck him in and drain him like a starving tigress. Women often only did this for men to placate them but his Sam seemed to enjoy the feel and taste of his cock in her mouth as well as inside her body. And that knowledge made him so fucking horny. She wasn’t shy at all when he wanted to taste her body thoroughly with his own mouth. He had just spent the most amazing three weeks of his life, unable to think straight whenever she was within reach.

She was the most sensuous, satisfying sex partner he had ever known. She had virtually ruined him for any other woman. And he didn’t give a damn.

* * * * *

The flight back to Cleveland was long and tedious, especially when David flew west after the plane change in Indianapolis. His flight would be landing in LA about the same time hers had touched down. She picked up the fluff ball from Phyllis then took a taxi to her apartment and aired it out as she packed up her things and let Snowball wander about the place, finding his long-lost catnip mouse and his squeaky toy and dropping them onto the bed next to her open suitcase. He rolled on his back and begged to play.

“Okay, sweetie. I’ve been ignoring you and I’m sorry. You want your tummy rubbed, love?” The cat purred loudly as she ran her fingertips through the long, soft hair on his vibrating chest. She sank down on the bed and closed her eyes just for a few minutes…

She woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.

As she sat up and rubbed her eyes, she glanced at her watch and reached for the phone with a yawn. “Hello?”

“It’s one a.m. in Cleveland. Are you alone?”

She smiled and flopped back onto the bed. “No. I have a handsome man next to me.” She grinned at the cat, who was sleeping rolled up in a ball next to her.

“If he gets white hair on my side of the bed, he’s in deep shit,” he growled.

“Miss me?”

“No. Just called to let you know I just finished up a hot orgy with all five of the divas and a dozen of their friends.”

“And were they utterly fabulous?” Her eyes closed at the sound of his voice. He had the most erotic effect on her.

“A couple of them were okay but not one of them can hold a candle to you.”

She laughed softly. “I was wondering how your match went. I don’t have pay-per-view on my cable here and besides, I’ve been out like a light since I got back to the apartment. Too many late nights when the man of my dreams is around.”

“Catch up on your sleep. You’re gonna need all you can get. Wrestling makes me horny as hell.”

“I’m missing a pair of those terribly sexy undies you made me buy in Barbados.”

“Hmm. You mean these?”

Sam blushed. “Are you wearing them?”

“My ass is way too big to be wearing your undies. Does that answer your question?”

“You aren’t doing anything kinky with my undies, are you?” she grinned.

“Well, let’s just say that they are infinitely sexier than the palm of my hand.”

“David!”

“Brutal honesty. I did warn you.”

“Can’t you even wait a week? You are one spoiled man.”

“If I waited the week, you would be too sore to walk for a long, long time.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

“Fly out to LA. This is the damn pits.” His voice was a low growl.

“Don’t be such a boob. You can handle this. Enjoy my panties.”

* * * * *

David groaned and hung up, flopping back against the pillows and staring at her lace and satin underwear. Just the sound of her voice made him so fucking hot, he thought he’d explode. He closed his eyes and touched the filmy bit of material to his lips, and then he grinned slowly as he decided that it might damn well be worth a try.

He slid the decadent satin over his fevered skin and bit his lower lip. Yeah. That felt damn nice. He stroked the satin scrap over his stiff cock and thought of her body sliding down over him so lushly. He tightened his grip and began to stroke his shaft a bit harder and faster, his mind conjuring the thought of a redheaded seductress riding his cock. He arched his hips up to his hand, swearing savagely that he had sunk to this pathetically unsatisfactory method of getting his rocks off.

“Dammit, Sam,” his voice rasped as he jerked in a spasm of pure erotic pleasure and came so damn hard his eyes rolled back in his head. And as he sank back into the pillows, he panted raggedly and mentally promised his little temptress that he was not going off and leaving her alone again. He grimaced as he stared at the handful of lace and satin that was still clutched around his cock. Next time, he’d be peeling them off her sweet little ass and burying himself inside that incredibly sexy body…

He groaned as he hardened once more and began to stroke fiercely again. This was the fucking pits!

* * * * *

It had been fairly simple to find a bonded agent who would lease the apartment for a nominal management fee monthly and she’d had her stuff professionally packed and put into storage with a five-month advance payment. Phyllis helped her load her luggage into the taxi and waved her off at the airport. As the flight lifted off, she felt as if her old life was ending and a whole new life was beginning.

A new life that would abruptly end in just five more months.

She put on the headphones and watched the in-flight movie that played on the back of the seat in front of hers. The movie was a comedy but she wasn’t paying it any heed. She found herself thinking about what she was going to do when this short-term “trial marriage” of hers ended.

He had said in Barbados that she could continue to write another book in the series. She could use his name. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. One last book about her dream lover. At least that would be something to fill the hours when he wasn’t there. And she was pretty sure there would be a lot of free time once the novelty wore off their lovemaking.

If she did write the final chapter in the series, how would it end? With the hero walking away from his lady love forever, or would he admit he had fallen in love with her and would they live happily ever after? She sighed. Well, at least happily ever after worked out in books.

* * * * *

David was waiting as her plane landed in Chicago. He was as nervous as hell. This was an alien feeling for him. Would she still want him as eagerly after a week’s absence as she had during their dreamlike stay in a tropical paradise? She was so hard to figure out sometimes. He had asked her to fly out to the coast to stay with him and she had brushed him off.

He swallowed hard and frowned at his own stupidity for not insisting she accompany him. He’d be damned if he’d do that again. No more nights sleeping alone in a hotel bed. No more nights reaching for a body that wasn’t there. No more having to use her fucking underwear and his own imagination.

He stood like a stone sentinel, not moving a muscle, oblivious to the avid stares of women who recognized him. Wanted him. He ignored the lustful gazes. He was only interested in one woman wanting him, how one woman would react to him, and the uncertainty was killing him.

Sam stepped from the people mover into the baggage pickup area of the terminal and looked about, her heart pumping madly. Would he be here? Or would he have simply sent a driver to pick her up? Her eyes slid over the happy faces waiting for friends and relatives. He wasn’t here.

Turning dully toward the baggage claim, she heard a woman whispering excitedly to another, just to her left. “Oh God, look at that. I would give my husband’s left nut to get myself a piece of that.”

She lifted her head, noting that nearly every female in her vicinity was craning to see something. And then she saw him, towering head and shoulders above the people moving through the waiting area to the baggage pickups and her throat tightened at the sight of him. When his eyes met hers, she felt a vibrant, breathtaking joy bounding inside her chest that she couldn’t begin to understand.

She couldn’t make her legs move. He was so damn gorgeous. Every woman in the terminal was staring. The sight of him was enough to make her melt into a puddle right where she stood. And when his face slowly broke into a wicked, predatory smile and female voices sighed and squealed and giggled all around her, she realized that she didn’t have to move. He was moving toward her.

He was walking toward her slowly. He moved across the muted gray and green carpeting as bodies gave way before his achingly sexy approach. He walked like he was stalking her, his eyes never leaving hers, holding her prisoner, and when he was less than a yard away, she looked up into those unreadable black eyes and she asked, “Hey, mister. Can I get a ride off you?” The double entendre hung wickedly in the air between them.

She ignored the blatantly envious looks on female faces as he let his eyes slip down her body and back to her face slowly. White teeth flashed as he grinned at her and his low, gravelly voice growled, “You can get one hell of a lot more than just one.”

She inhaled sharply as his arms snaked around her body, hauling her into his possessive embrace. And then she was dangling a foot from the floor, being kissed wickedly senseless in front of a few hundred passengers waiting for their luggage.

God but he tasted good. The feel of his muscular arms dragging her against a chest that had been created for female pleasure left her aching to have him inside her, throbbing to feel his talented hands on her naked flesh, teasing and tantalizing and finally, satisfying. As his tongue swept into her hungry mouth, her hands twined into the thick black hair at the back of his head and she actually whimpered aloud with the jolt of need that made her forget the prying eyes and giggles surrounding them.

It took her several minutes to regain her sanity and her sense of propriety and she whispered against his hungry lips, “Can we find a more private place before you start undressing me this time?”

David smiled wickedly down into her eyes as he lowered her to the floor and kissed the top of her copper mop. “I know just the place.”

* * * * *

The stretch Hummer limo had dark glass and a privacy window between the back and the driver. He wasted no time as the driver pulled into heavy traffic for the hour-long ride home. She was sitting astride his bulging lap on the rear seat, their mouths fused in a smoldering, needful kiss as he slowly shoved her skirt up her thighs and slid aside the thin strip of satin and lace that was all that kept him from her pussy. She gave a thick moan of pleasure as he found her cleft and his wonderful fingers worked utter magic in their gently stroking, dipping quest. Her first climax shuddered through her and he laughed softly against her lips.

She felt his fingers withdraw from her and he slid the thong crotch aside again as he released his cock from his slacks to let it rub tantalizingly against her pussy. He growled in a husky murmur, “Ride me, Sam. Ride me into oblivion. God, I need you.” He lifted her and settled her wet sheath down over his cock as he kissed her with a savage delight that would have shocked her, had she not been just as eager.

“I missed you so damn much,” she whimpered as he slid one hand up under her silk blouse to caress her breast. Her own hands were under his shirt, tantalizing his skin as she moaned and arched with delight. He filled her so completely. The heated, rocking movements of her hips drove him deeper, harder.

“I’ve saved up a whole week’s worth of rides for you, Sam. It’s gonna be one hell of a welcome home party.” His voice was a rasp of pleasure against her temple as his fingers delved into the triangle of curls between their bodies to find and tease her eager clit.

Sam gasped and clung to him as she felt her body come apart in a second exquisite orgasm that took her voice away. Her body convulsed and she swore she could see cartoon stars before her eyes as he worked his wicked magic on her body. When she was able to speak again, she whispered huskily, “I hope you ate plenty of oysters.”

She kissed him so passionately he could barely think straight as she dipped her sweet tongue into his mouth and moaned against his lips.

He came hard inside her tight body, so hard that it took him several minutes to regain his senses and his breath. And when he looked into her eyes, she was smiling at him as if she had no intention of letting him off so easily. He laughed in delight and caught her lips, taking what she offered with a deep growl of enjoyment.

If she thought he was going to simply let her walk out of his life in five months, she had another think coming. No other woman had ever made him feel what Sam Hastings made him feel and he was not willing to give that up for anything-not even a signed Memorandum of Understanding.

* * * * *

She awoke alone in his bed, having very little memory of the arrival at his palatial home in Barrington Hills except for the way he had swept her into his arms and carried her up the curving staircase to his bedroom. She had fully expected to arrive in downtown Chicago and be ensconced in the luxurious hotel apartment he kept. It had been a complete shock to find that the man owned four houses and that amazing apartment! But that particular shock had quickly evaporated under the onslaught of hot lips and hands as everything else became a frenzied blur of touching, kissing, feeling and responding to every delicious thing he did to her for the next many hours. And he had been amazing. Breathtakingly sensuous. Delightfully ardent and eager. He had made her feel…cherished.

She stretched and gave a little groan. She was so sore, she could barely move. She laughed softly. He had warned her. She sat up and shoved her tousled red mop out of her face and looked around the room at their wildly strewn clothing and the lamp he had upset in his haste to remove his own clothes. She slipped from the bed and snatched up her rumpled skirt, pulling it on and reaching for her blouse. The panties had not made it out of the limo.

She was buttoning her blouse when the phone beside the bed rang and she picked it up slowly. “Hello?”

“About time you were out of bed, Ms. Hastings. If you’re looking for your luggage, I had Maria hang your things up in your closet. The set of drawers on the left of the dressing room are yours. Bathroom’s the door on your left as you’re facing the hall. Did I say thanks?” His hot-buttered-rum voice made her shiver with memories of the night spent in his bed.

“Thanks for what?”

“For not falling asleep on me until I collapsed from exhaustion. I desperately needed to feel wanted after a whole week away from you.”

“Oh, you were definitely wanted.” Her blush was hot and she cooled her cheeks with her free hand.

“I’m so damn sore I can barely walk.” His laugh sounded muffled, as if he had swept his hand across his mouth.

“You too?” she chuckled.

“Great sex works muscles that don’t get used much. We’ll have to keep working out. I’d hate to let those muscles atrophy.” He actually seemed to purr. She shivered. She could almost picture a powerful jungle cat purring in satisfaction.

“I seriously doubt that will ever happen, David. In that department, I’m sure you have no problems. Now I’m going to get a shower. Where are you?”

“In the weight room. Working the other muscles.”

“You’d better not overdo.”

“Leave me some hot water.”

“No. If you aren’t fast enough to get up here before I use it all, you’ll have to settle for cold water.”

She hung up with a laugh and found the bathroom easily enough. She found fluffy black towels on a warmed towel rack and a voluminous robe hanging on a clothes horse nearby. She dropped her wrinkled clothes on the rug and turned on the shower, stepping into the smoked-glass enclosure with a sigh of pleasure. Her mind slipped treacherously back to the showers she had shared with David in Barbados. The feel of his rippling, wet body sliding over hers under the delicious hot spray. The feel of his lips moving down her trembling body as he sank to his knees and gently spread her legs and opened her soft folds with his fingers as he leaned in to lave her and then take her clit into his talented mouth.

She was rinsing the shampoo out of her hair when the shower door slid open and she felt the chill air on her skin. Big, calloused hands slid around her from behind and she felt his muscular body pressed against her back. “I have soap in my eyes,” she gasped.

“All the easier for me to take gross advantage of you, my little dove,” David whispered dramatically into her ear. She felt his hands move down her belly to seek the wet curls between her thighs.

“I’m no fun at all with soap in my eyes!” she yelped, trying to get her face under the spray.

“Oh, in that case…” He moved her forward slightly so that the hot spray rinsed her face. She inhaled deeply as he slipped his hand down her belly once more to the apex of her thighs and his fingertips began to tantalize her again.

She arched back against him and whispered, “Don’t start something you can’t finish, Mr. Chance.”

“When have I ever not finished something I started, Ms. Hastings?”

“Mmmm.” She arched as his fingers slid into her sensitive folds and moved with slow, erotic thrusts. Such talented fingers.

“You like that?” His lips caressed the side of her neck.

“Ooh yeah.” She widened her stance and placed her hands over his as he pleasured her. He obliged her unspoken urging and buried three long fingers deep into her silken sheath. At the sound of her whimpered encouragement, he nibbled the edge of her neck and licked her skin as if he wanted to devour her. His other hand toyed with her throbbing clit and she felt his stiffened cock nudging her ass as he growled and shuddered with need at her back. He slid his fingers from her pussy and took her hand in his, using his fingers to press her own deep inside her body, whispering, “Feel what I feel inside you, Sam.”

Sweet Jesus. The stretching of both their fingers pressing inside her made her wild to have him.

“David, I want you inside me,” she moaned as he lifted her other hand to cup it around her breast.

“Happily.” He eased her slightly forward, bending her so that his cock could access her dripping core. He pressed one hand against her belly as he nudged his cock into her from the rear, his breathing ragged. Her fingers were still inside her and she felt his thick cock against her skin as she drew them out to give him full access to her. He groaned as her fingers caressed him.

She reached beneath her to feel where they were joined and she bit her lip at the sheer, heady pleasure his body could give her. Her fingers slid to the taut sac under his cock as he pressed deeper into her and he groaned, “God, yes!” She gently squeezed his balls and then reached forward to place a hand against the shower tiles for balance, because he had almost lost his with her gentle teasing.

He widened his own stance and bent his knees to be able to drive his cock deeper into her as she placed her other palm on the shower tiles and pressed back hard into each forward thrust of his hips.

“Oh. My. God,” she whimpered as one large hand cupped and squeezed her right breast, while the other slid firmly over her stiff clit in time with every marvelous thrust of his cock.

“You are utterly adorable!” David’s hiss of pleasure was deep and shaky against the back of her shoulder. His teeth gently nipped as he released with a shudder of enjoyment. He shoved deep and hard and held there as he emptied in hard spurts inside her clenching channel.

“Oh Lord!” Her own climax tore through her and she nearly collapsed. If he had not held her upright, she would have slithered to the tile of the shower floor in sheer orgasmic pleasure. And as he flooded her with an incredibly erotic, tingling explosion, they could do little more than remain locked together, panting and shuddering as their joined bodies floated back to earth.

Chapter Eleven

Snowball jumped down from the top of the sofa and stretched luxuriantly, eyeing David coolly as he sauntered out of the living room to check out his bowl of food.

“I don’t think your cat likes me much.”

“He’s warming up to you.” Sam lifted her eyes from the computer monitor and glanced at him. “In another year or so, you’ll be his best pal.” She frowned at the last sentence she had written and deleted it with a sigh.

“How’s the novel coming?” His dark eyes slid over her frustrated expression and he hid a grin as she ran one hand distractedly through her already mussed hair.

“You know, it was a lot easier to write about you when I didn’t know you at all. Now every word I write makes me completely horny. I don’t think I want every woman in the world to know how damn sexy you are, or how good you are in bed.”

Her frown was utterly adorable and he wanted to snatch her off that desk chair and spread her wide on the floor to enjoy like a succulent buffet. He let his gaze slip down her body in anticipation of the moment she would shut that fucking machine off and go to bed with him.

“Well, if they don’t already know from the other books, you aren’t gonna be telling them anything new.” His voice was low and barely audible.

She glanced up and glared at him from across the room. “Writing about a fantasy lover who isn’t real is one thing. But it gets sort of dicey when your fantasy lover is walking around half naked and distracting you all to hell.”

“You want me to leave?”

“No.” Her eyes slid over his ripped chest, trailing down the lean, hard muscles of his six-pack to the dark line of crisp hair that led from his navel into the PJ bottoms. He kept most of the dark hair off his body above his waist because he didn’t like giving his opponents anything to get hold of when he was wrestling. He even kept his hair shorter than the other men in the circuit. No leverage.

“You want me to put some clothes on?” He lifted one dark brow seductively.

“No!” Her eyes snapped back to his shadowed face.

“Then what exactly do you want?” His teeth flashed as he smiled.

She shut off the computer with a little groan of frustration. “I want a long, hot bath and a new brain.”

He rose from the sofa and stretched in a way that made her throat grow tight. “I think I can help you with the first part but I’m afraid you’re on your own for the second part. Come here.” His voice dropped to a sexy purr.

She crossed the room slowly, feeling oddly like a moth moving to its death in a seductive flame. He had showered earlier and was wearing nothing but that pair of black silk pajama bottoms knotted loosely around his lean hips. He reached out as she came within arm’s reach and drew her against his body with a murmur of satisfaction, resting his chin on her head.

She wrapped her arms about all that ohmygod prime hardness and sighed. “I feel so stupid. I can’t seem to get back into the groove. I guess I’ve been living the dream and that makes it hard to try to convert it to something imaginary again.”

“You may just be trying too hard. Give it a rest for a few days. Just leave your work here when you fly to New York with me. You can come to the match and then we can catch a Broadway show, go out dancing. It’ll be a nice change to get you away from that damn keyboard.”

Sam lifted her eyes to his face and sighed again. “You know I hate watching you wrestle. I get too upset. And it gets pretty damn boring sitting in the hotel room alone while you’re off thumping your friends into the mat.”

“I like it when I know you’re out there. It makes me feel like I’m flying.” He dragged his lips over her forehead slowly, enjoying the shiver that went through her.

“Sure and when you do go flying, I nearly have a heart attack. It’s hard enough seeing you come home all covered with bruises and sporting stitches. Having to watch you get them isn’t my favorite pastime.” She closed her eyes at the feel of his mouth caressing her face. God she adored this man.

“If I got down on my knees, would you come to the match in New York?”

She pursed her lips and ran her fingertip around his navel slowly, causing him to shudder with reaction. “If I got down on my knees, would you just forget it and let me stay here?”

His eyes flared with passion. “You little devil. I love it when you talk dirty to me.” He caught her mouth with his and kissed her hungrily, then swept her into his arms. He lifted his head and said roughly, “I love what you do to me with those luscious lips but I won’t trade it for not having you with me for the next ten days. You’re coming to New York as agreed.”

He carried her slowly up the curving stairs to the second landing and into the bedroom they had shared for the past two months. He set her on her feet and kissed her eyelids gently. “I’ll go run that hot bath for you.” His smoldering eyes were full of promise.

She followed him to the bathroom door, and watched as he moved, loving the sight of all that stunning skin stretched over all those rippling muscles. The man had the baddest, tightest, sexiest ass she had ever seen. And when he had filled the marble tub with hot, steamy water and had turned on the whirlpool jets, she lifted one brow and ran a slow finger down his chest to the tie of his silk PJs.

“Too bad you already showered. I’ll miss having you in that tub.”

David smiled slowly as her fingers toyed with the ties of his pajama bottoms. “A man can’t be too clean. I think can handle another bath.”

“You’ll be all pruny,” she warned softly as he dropped his PJs to the floor and shoved her dressing gown back from her shoulders.

“Sometimes a rough texture gives a better orgasm. Don’t you agree?” He picked her up, stepped into the tub and sank down into the steamy, bubbling water.

Sam bit the corner of her lower lip as she sank astride David’s lap and felt his swollen cock slide into her welcoming heat. His dark eyes held hers as he watched her enjoy the length of him filling her. He cupped her ass with both hands and pulled her firmly over his cock and he leaned back against the sloped wall of the tub, breathing raggedly. “You waiting for me to do all the work, sweetheart?” he said in his best Humphrey Bogart imitation.

She laughed as she lifted her body gently and sank over him again, then again, biting her lower lip at the utterly sinful feel of him so hard and huge, filling her with each gasping downward surge of her body. His palms slid slowly over her breasts as he closed his eyes and bared his teeth with each heady shot of delight she gave him. She loved watching him thrill to her lovemaking and she bent forward to lick his throat and enjoy the taut cords beneath her mouth, to feel the ragged breaths that jerked in and out as he squeezed her breasts and arched in pleasure beneath her.

And as she moved her lips from his throat up to his chin, he turned quickly and caught her lips in a searing, lush kiss. He kissed her until both of them were panting, their mouths fused into a tangle of hot, hungry tongues and passionate murmurs as they hit their climaxes together and both shuddered with a deep pleasure that left them sated and limp as the foaming water whirled over their bodies for some time afterward.

All that would possibly make it any better was if he loved her.

* * * * *

Victor Mulvayne was along for the New York trip. The FPW owner was extremely friendly but his wife was not. The nicer he was to Sam, the colder his wife’s ice blue eyes got. There was a decided chill to the air in their first-class pod. Sam recognized it instinctively and decided to try to clear the atmosphere. She leaned over toward the amazon and whispered confidingly, “That man absolutely adores you. When he looks at you, he almost drools.”

Yvonne Mulvayne seemed to come out of her dark state as if a ray of morning sunlight had touched her and a moment later, she was giggling with Sam about some of the things that had happened on their last tour.

David watched with a quiet smile as Sam charmed the “Wicked Bitch of the West”, as the other divas called Yvonne. The six-foot-two-inch amazon was joking and giggling with Sam as if they’d been best friends since kindergarten. He watched as Victor eyed the two women curiously, apparently amazed that they seemed to hit it off so well when his wife was a total bitch to all the other women.

David met Victor’s eyes with a touch of a challenge, letting him know that the little redhead was off limits. The chairman grinned crookedly and lifted his beer cup in salute.

“You got yourself one hell of a gal, Chance. Not many women can get the WBW to let down that guard of hers. Has she ever considered going in the ring? I think she’d be a sensation with that coloring. And after the ratings came in on the Chicago events, it’s plain to see that the fans loved her and want more.”

David leaned back in his seat and shook his head slowly. “Don’t even go there, Vic. I like her the way she is.” He spoke softly but there was an edge to his tone.

“You two would make one hell of a mixed tag team. Hell, you could coach her and show her the ropes.”

“I said no.” The rumbling voice should have warned Victor not to push but the man was a promoter to the core.

“Hell, man, when Y and me were mixed tag team champions, we made so damn much money we were rolling in it.”

“Drop it, Vic.”

Sam was raising her eyes to see what was causing David to use that tone. David glanced at her startled expression but didn’t change his tone. She seemed to realize that he was getting very tense, very quickly. Then she said something that brought his cock to rigid attention. She nudged Yvonne and winked at her and said loudly enough for him and Victor to hear, “Sometimes when we’re out, I get so damn horny. I just look at him and want to drag him into the men’s room and attack him.”

Picking up on the hint, Yvonne winked back. “I wonder how the poor man has survived the past couple of months. Does he eat a lot of oysters?”

David’s dark eyes lifted to Sam’s. He drew a deep breath, momentarily forgetting why he was irritated with Mulvayne. Those green cat eyes seemed to be inviting him and he drew a slow, deep breath. How the fuck could she make him so hot with just one look? The next moment, she was rising from her seat and leaning over him, excusing herself and heading toward a set of curved metal stairs and the jet’s upper-deck bathroom. She cast him a come-hither glance that made his cock sit up like a panting puppy and, heaven help him, he was excusing himself to follow her like a fucking horny hound.

He caught up to her as she reached the door to the toilet and she glanced over her shoulder at him. The invitation in her warm smile and glowing eyes made him as hard as a rock and he slid his hands around her waist and followed her through the narrow door into the cramped space.

He leaned against the door and she turned to face him, her hands moving to his overtaxed zipper as she sank down onto the closed toilet seat. “You shouldn’t get angry with your boss just because he says something you don’t like, David.” She kissed his fly then slid the zipper down. “You catch far more flies with honey.”

“I somehow get the feeling you are manipulating me, Sam.” He drew a sharp breath as she freed him from his suddenly tight slacks and caressed him slowly, before running her tongue up the side of him. He shuddered and inhaled.

“Stop complaining. I’d much rather manipulate you than let that black temper of yours spoil a good working relationship.” Her eyes sparkled up into his flushed face and he closed his eyes and groaned, running his strong fingers through her red curls as she bent to take him into her sweet mouth. He braced against the doorframe, watching her head bent over his fly. He savored the feel of her talented tongue, of her teeth gently scraping his cock as she cupped his balls gently with her other hand. Oh God, yeah. He could deal with this anytime.

He stared down at her hair brushing his belly and thought he would lose his mind as she stroked his cock with that amazing tongue of hers. She sucked him deep and squeezed her slim fingers around his base, beginning a heady, wonderful rhythm as she stroked and sucked so powerfully.

“Oh sweet Jesus. You can manipulate me any time you want to.” His thoughts deserted him as he shook and exploded and he found his body spiraling back to earth.

She gave him a wicked grin as he opened his eyes and tried to regain his breath. He stared down into her face as she gently zipped him back up and rose to kiss him slowly. He could taste himself on her lips and tongue and he growled huskily against her mouth, “I’ll take care of you later. And expect no mercy.”

“Thank you. I won’t.”

* * * * *

The limo that picked up Victor and Yvonne was a wonderful stretch Hummer and when Yvonne leaned out the door and said, “Hey, you two. Aren’t you coming with us? No need to grab a taxi. Load on in.”

Sam glanced at David, who shrugged and grinned. They climbed into the limo, which would have easily held a dozen more people, and Sam gasped aloud and said, “My God. All of the crew could fit in here. Is that a wet bar?”

Victor didn’t say a word but watched his wife’s face instead. With a shake of her blonde head, the WBW rolled down her window and yelled, “If you want a ride, get your asses on board. Last call. The crew can get those bags, Heidi. Let them do their jobs. Come on Wolfie, baby. Don’t be shy!”

And ten minutes later, sixteen laughing, joke-cracking, happily relaxed people were all on their way to the New York Sheraton, while Yvonne sat on Victor’s lap and ran her hands over his still well built chest as he kissed her slowly and with great enjoyment.

To conserve space, Sam perched on David’s lap, Heidi found a pleasant spot on the Wolfman’s knee and the huge sumo was smilingly cuddling his own tiny wife on his lap. Heather held up her plastic champagne flute and said, “To our new friend and one hell of a tough little broad, Sam Hastings. Hear, hear!”

Sam blushed hotly as they all raised cups and glasses and David drew her closer into his chest, running his lips over her throat as he rumbled, “Hear, hear!”

* * * * *

They had the evening free, except for a party with some New York promoters and West Coast entertainment moguls that would start at nine. It was only six fifteen when the limo stopped at the awning-shaded front doors of the hotel and everyone piled out. David didn’t move until the rest were out, except for Victor and Yvonne, and then he said quietly to Vic, “I think I’ll take Sam up for a nap. See you two later.”

Yvonne gave a laugh that brought hot color to Sam’s cheeks and the woman’s ice blue eyes were full of amusement. “You go enjoy your man, Sam, honey, because I sure as hell plan on enjoying mine tonight.”

Victor laughed and grabbed her again and kissed her warmly as David and Sam exited the limo. Once on the red carpet beneath the awning, he bent close to her ear and whispered, “I think you’re gonna be my PR specialist, Sam. I’ve never seen anyone handle those people so easily. And that’s really saying something.”

“They’re all great folks, David. They have hearts of gold under those tough exteriors, just like you.” Her finger trailed over his cheek and then she turned and walked under the awning into the hotel. He caught up to her and slid a possessive arm about her waist.

“Heart of gold? Me? You sure got that one wrong, lover. I’m one of the worst assholes in the sport, or haven’t you been paying attention?”

“Oh, I hear the little speeches you give on TV about who you’re gonna bust in half and whose legs you’re gonna break but when it comes right down to it, Mr. Chance, you are a pussycat inside.” Her green eyes glowed wickedly up at him.

David grinned down at her. “A what?”

“A pussycat.”

“You comparing me to that white ball of fluff you think is a cat?”

“No. Snowball is much tougher to deal with than you. He talks smack.”

“And I don’t?”

“Only in the locker room and in the ring. And you know he’ll be royally pissed off at you when we get home. He hates staying at home with your housekeeper while we’re away. Remember what happened last time?”

“Yeah. I couldn’t get the cat piss out of my favorite shirt. Had to dump it in the trash chute.”

Check-in was managed quickly at the VIP desk where everything had been prearranged for the large group of FWP guests. After grabbing the envelope containing their card keys, David practically dragged her toward the main elevators.

The elevator door opened to admit them and he escorted her inside, punching the button before anyone else could pile in with them. Once the door slid shut, she gasped as he dragged her into his arms and kissed her with so much steamy intent, she couldn’t get her breath. He enjoyed her sweet mouth for a moment, before pulling back and staring down at her.

“I know. Cameras.”

“You know that today is our three-month anniversary?” Her voice was quiet.

“You’re kidding. We’ve been together that long?” His voice was quiet too.

She nodded, not able to say it aloud.

He wasn’t smiling as he brushed her hair out of her face. David hadn’t realized time was rushing by so fast. He inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. That was the one thing he didn’t want to think about. She was sweet and completely adorable and she approached sex like a man did, no coyness or crap thrown up to obstruct the simple pleasurable act. She was like no one he’d ever known before. He was like a kid in a candy shop when she was in his arms.

He had grown used to having her beside him. Under him. On top of him. Doing wonderful, breathtaking stuff to him. He didn’t want to consider what his day-to-day life would be like without her there. He didn’t like thinking about that. He would deal with that day when it came. He slid his big hands around her tiny waist and said with a hungry note in his voice, “Let’s ditch the party tonight. Let’s lock the doors and forget anybody exists but you and me.”

“We can’t ditch the party. Important people are gonna be there and we’ll be letting down Victor and Yvonne.”

His eyes slid over her flushed cheeks, knowing that she really didn’t give a damn about the party. But she did give a damn about his friends. And that made him hate the thought of losing her even more. Not many people liked his friends. He ran his hands up the sides of her body until his thumbs were snugged gently against the soft lower curve of her breasts and he said roughly, “Well, let’s not waste the little time we have before we have to go to the damn party.”

She startled him by flinging her arms about his neck and wrapping her legs about him with the most satisfying urgency, causing him to nearly lose his balance as he took a step back to stop the momentum of their bodies. “Cameras, Sam,” he laughed in delight.

“To hell with them.” Her muffled words against his lips were enough to cause terminal meltdown as he struggled valiantly to maintain his composure until the elevator doors slid open and he stepped out into the empty corridor. He laughed as she moved her mouth to his throat and gooseflesh rose on his body. He shifted her light weight so that he could get to his room key.

“Behave yourself until we get into the room, at least,” he growled as he slid the key card through the slot and shoved the door inward.

“Shut up and take your clothes off!” she whispered huskily as he closed the door.

“You are one very horny woman, Sam.”

“And you still have your clothes on.”

She lay wrapped around his body, her eyes closed and her breathing returning to normal. “You are a bad influence on me, David Chance.” Her voice was still breathless.

He calmed his own heart rate and swallowed hard before he found his voice. “Oh? And what makes you say that?” He let his hands rove slowly over her bare back and ass, enjoying the smooth, soft skin.

“When you were still just a dream, I could park you in my notes and take you out again whenever it suited me. Now I have to look at you and touch you and be around you all the time. I don’t know how much longer my heart can take this kind of frenzied sexual activity.”

“You think a couple of times a day and a few more times at night is ‘frenzied’?” he chuckled as he rested his chin on her rumpled hair.

“Well, if you compare that to rabbits, probably not, but humans normally get past the lust factor after being together a few months. I’ve never known anyone who kept up this stuff this far into a relationship.” She sighed. “I’m amazed that you aren’t bored to death with me yet.”

He grinned at the ceiling as he felt her snuggle against his bare skin. “You must have stored up one hell of a lot of sexual energy over the past twenty-six years of being a virgin, Ms. Hastings.”

“Oh? And what’s your excuse, Mr. Chance?” She licked his flat copper nipple and he inhaled sharply, shuddering pleasantly.

“Do that again and we will miss the party,” he growled.

“That’s not an answer.”

He gently pulled her into his arms more securely and when her head was cradled against his throat, he breathed roughly, “It may surprise you to learn that before you ran roughshod over my libido, I hadn’t taken a woman to bed in over a year.”

Sam lifted her head to stare at him. “You have got to be kidding.”

He sighed and gently pressed her face back against his throat. “I can talk better if you stop looking at me with those damn bedroom eyes.”

“Okay. So talk,” she breathed softly as she ran her fingertips over his collarbone.

“No kidding. If you had any idea how many women shove their room keys into my pockets with notes, you’d know how damn boring it all gets.” His voice sounded tired.

“I suppose you’ve had an awful lot of women.” Her voice was muffled by his warm skin but he could hear the concern.

He shifted again. “You really want the gory details? Trust me, sex is not always what you believe it will be.”

She shrugged and kissed his throat, sending a tremor through his massive frame. “I just wanted to know,” she sighed and stopped talking. He said nothing for a long time and when he spoke again, he spoke quietly.

“I got laid for the first time by a friend’s mom. She taught me all about what women expected from me. She was a good-looking woman and she wore these tight shorts and halter tops out in the yard. I went over to mow her grass and ended up getting paid every week to get laid. That went on for a year. Her husband found us and had a royal cow. That ended that pretty fast.”

Sam swallowed and remained silent. The revelation was shocking but she realized he wanted to get it out in the open. She made a small sound in her throat and listened.

“After Mona, the women were standing in line. Hell, a guy is in seventh heaven when he can get anything he wants just for taking some bored housewife to bed. I had a hell of a time of it when my mother found out what I was doing. She has her own code of ethics and her ethics didn’t include adultery. She raised hell until I finally spent the last half of my senior year at a boarding school in Virginia. Sort of a military academy. No females. It was there that I learned I was damn good at athletics other than sex. I learned a lot about self-discipline. I also gained about sixty pounds and added about eight more inches of height.”

He paused for a few minutes and she simply waited. “After that I went to college in Michigan, played some football and got into collegiate wrestling and swimming. I found I was pretty good at all three but when I didn’t pass muster for a pro football team, I decided to work my way into pro wrestling.” He drew a deep breath. His long fingers twirled a silken strand of her hair as he spoke quietly.

“Women were a real problem. There were always too damn many. I went a little crazy. Then, after a couple of years of total excess and trying to be a super stud, I went completely celibate. It was one hell of a lot easier than dealing with the women who only wanted to see what it was like to have sex with Chance Braza, and one hell of a lot safer. The problem was, the notoriety made it even harder to stay away from sex. If you ever had a few dozen women throwing themselves at you day in and day out, you’d get pretty tired of it.”

She wiggled closer and sighed. “Good thing you bunked in with a woman who has total control of herself. It would be a real turnoff if you had to deal with a roommate who behaved in that kind of depraved manner.”

“I genuinely don’t think I could deal with a sex-mad woman who jumped my bones every time I turned around.” His grin was barely concealed by his serious tone of voice.

“You are so lucky to have found me. Not many women have the willpower I have, David. Why, I’ve actually been lying next to you for the past twenty minutes without so much as forcing myself on you.” She sighed and inhaled the warm scent of his skin.

“Okay. Now that I’ve bared my soul, shut up and take advantage of me while we still have fifteen minutes left.” He rolled her under him and bent to taste her rosy nipples.

“David. I told you, I’m not that kind of girl.” She gasped then arched upward and moaned. His wonderful hands began to find her sensitive zones and she bit her lip as he teased her until she widened her legs again.

“Oh yes you are.” His growl of satisfaction made her shiver with need.

“I guess you’re right about that,” she gasped as he slid slowly into her throbbing pussy once again and began a tantalizing, aching rhythm that drowned out her thoughts and made her forget her own name.

“David!” she cried against his hair as he drove himself to the root and gave a growl of triumph as he came hard. Her own orgasm clenched her tightly around his cock and as they lay gently rocking against one another to savor every tiny drop of pleasure, she whispered hoarsely against his lips, “I think we still have five minutes.”

* * * * *

How she got through the party was a mystery to her. When they arrived, he was beside her every moment, his fingertips brushing her skin seductively as they moved from group to group and conversation to conversation. The gown she wore was low-backed and the shivery feel of his hand on her bare skin left her breathless and giddy.

The buffet was delicious but she barely tasted a bite. She moved in a cloud of desire as she went through the motions but seemed somehow apart from everything in the room. She saw only him, heard only him. She smiled and nodded and conversed with Vic and Yvonne and others but her entire world was standing beside her, his hand on her back, his solid presence warming her side.

And then she heard someone say loudly, “I feel sorry for him. Look at how she hangs all over him like some pathetic groupie.”

She stiffened, blushing warmly despite her outward calm, and realized how she must look to all these people. So pathetically infatuated with a man whose gorgeous face and body made her look like a washed-out rag by comparison. She swallowed her humiliation and realized that she must appear to be so utterly besotted with him, she had no brain of her own. She imperceptibly moved a few inches from him and shivered as she felt his warmth leave her body.

And then he saw someone across the room, and bent to kiss her cheek and say he would be back in a moment. She felt almost as if she had lost hold of a lifeline, feeling completely alone in a crowd of over a hundred people.

Yes. She was pathetic. She forced herself to let him walk across the room without following him hungrily with her eyes. Without constantly glancing around to locate him as she joined a conversation with Heidi and Heather and forced herself to release the tightly stretched need to touch him. And when he returned to her side, she did her best to maintain a distance, evading his hands when they sought to rest on her body or caress her arm. Even when he glanced at her with a quiet frown on his face, she pretended that she didn’t notice. She had to start behaving like an independent, strong woman again. Because a dream couldn’t last.

Chapter Twelve

The week flew by, with the men and divas rehearsing moves and working-out days while the wives and girlfriends shopped and played cards in their hotel suites, or pigged out at the sushi bars that seemed to line every street with neon. And after the evenings’ events, she found herself helplessly entangled with the man of her dreams, making love and thrilling to his body as if every night would be their last together.

She hated knowing that she was so damn madly in love with a man who she worried felt nothing but a momentary heat for her, who would move on with his life after another three months and would never look back. And she knew that others were simply waiting. Waiting and watching for her temporary mate to lose interest and start casting his eye about for the next sexual conquest.

She did have to give him credit on his acting ability, though, because if she was not completely aware of the nature of their relationship, she might have been fooled herself, by his constant, ardent attention and his ability to make her forget her own name in bed. But after six months, he would quietly sign the release documents and she would be alone again.

They lay in bed, wrapped in each other’s exhausted, sweat-slicked bodies as David ran his fingertips slowly over her whisker-burned breast, his eyes closed in sated relaxation. He felt her draw a deep sigh and he murmured huskily, “Spill it, Sam. You’ve wanted to say something since we left the arena. Is something wrong?” His eyes opened and met hers.

She sighed and closed her eyes. “Just thinking about the party Vic wants us to attend tonight. I think I would just prefer to stay here and have room service sent up.” She shivered at the touch of his lips on her erect nipple as he replaced his fingertips with a gentle tug of his warm mouth. “I feel totally drained after a full week of parties and matches and everyone shoving champagne or a cocktail into my hand every time I turn around. You go ahead. I think I’ll try to write a little.”

David drew back, his eyes concerned. “This is a really big deal tonight, Sam. Vic says you have to be there. We can cut it short if you want. But I can’t go without you.”

She gazed up into his dark eyes and wondered what he would say if she blatantly refused to go. But then, her presence here was payback for what he believed was a wrong she’d done to him and her needs and wants were not involved. Another huge sigh lifted her chest and she closed her eyes wearily. “I need to shower. And find something to wear. And I can’t if you’re lying over me like a fur rug.”

David frowned at the tone in her voice. Had he done something wrong? She had seemed to enjoy the time they’d just spent in bed. Was he losing his touch? Or was she getting tired of him? No. She still responded instantly to every caress, every gentle kiss. It must be his imagination.

He was so fucking pathetic the way he followed her around, feeling lost unless he was touching her, feeling her breath warm on his skin, seeing her face at ringside when he had a match. He knew how people were laughing at him but he didn’t give a damn. He only had three more months-three fucking short months-before she would quietly move on with her life and he would just go back to his own pitiful existence. He was like a drowning man. He felt totally lost without her by his side or under him in his bed.

He pressed his mouth over the throbbing vein in her neck and pulled her over his chest to straddle his hips once more, watching her face flush and her eyes darken to a hunter green. He caught her face between his hands as she lifted herself to slide down over his cock, taking him into her channel with a soft moan of pleasure. He panted raggedly as he watched her sinfully curved little body undulate on his, stroking so erotically as she rode him.

He needed to be deeper, buried so deep he would feel her very soul. He shoved his body sideways on the bed until his upper body hung off the mattress and he dragged her legs off to plant her feet on the floor beside his shoulders. She gasped at the feel of him angled so that his cock was pressed against her G-spot. He dug his heels into the mattress and lifted his hips to drive his cock deep and hard, as he pressed her back to rest against his legs.

He pumped upward with hard, gasping strokes. His arms held him up as his cock moved in and out of her body like a jackhammer, driving him closer and closer to ejaculation with every little whimpering moan and every little twitch of her ass against his thighs. He took one hand off the carpet and slid his fingers into the wet curls where his cock was moving in and out of her body. He found her engorged little clit, tweaking it gently between finger and thumb and feeling her sheath clench around his cock in the throes of a massive, screaming orgasm as he pounded into her several more times before releasing and sliding weakly to the carpet, with her sitting impaled on his cock, his calves still resting on the rumpled mattress.

She stared down into his perspiring face, her eyes wide with shock. “My God. That was…different. That was amazing,” she panted.

“That was one hell of a workout.” His teeth flashed in a wicked grin. “I think I’ll incorporate that into my toning exercises from now on.” He was so tired he could barely breathe and when she rose from him to go take her shower, he closed his eyes and almost whimpered as his cock slid from her sheath to flop on his belly. He was so fucking addicted.

* * * * *

The party was in full swing by the time they arrived half an hour later than expected. Victor saw them and called out from across the room, waving them over to the group he was standing with and as he introduced them, he laughed, “I don’t think I have to introduce Chance Braza. His face is plastered all over the known world these days. But I want you to meet the little lady who is responsible for that.” He placed a hand on her nape and grinned down into her flushed face. “Samantha Hastings, I want you to meet Hector Ramirez, president of LABS Broadcasting in Los Angeles, and this is his wife, Juliette.”

She smiled and shook hands with the tall, dark-haired man in his mid-fifties before turning to smile at the wife. The wife was, of course, blonde but petite and with brown eyes and a supercilious smile. She noted the woman’s expensive designer gown and she said, “I envy you. I wish I had the figure to wear that fabulous dress.”

The supercilious smile changed imperceptibly. Dark brown eyes seemed to flicker over her and Juliette Ramirez lifted one golden brow thoughtfully. The woman extended a manicured hand sporting several massive diamond rings and she replied lazily, “And I envy you. I wish I had a man who was as obviously crazy about me as yours is about you.”

Sam blinked and blushed, glancing at the smiling Ramirez, who simply laughed softly at his wife’s outrageous comment. “My lovely wife was quite taken with the way Braza ran you to earth in front of a few million fans. She is a great fan of your novels and is an incurable romantic.”

“I was wondering if you were interested in writing a screenplay for us, Ms. Hastings?” Juliette turned a petulant shoulder to her husband and smiled brilliantly at Sam. Startled by that statement, Sam blinked and floundered for a response.

“Me? Write a screenplay? About what?”

“Well, Hector and I are negotiating with your business manager and publisher for rights to make a film out of your fantasy romance series, The Lost King of Balterra. If they and you decide to accept our offer, you stand to be a wealthier woman by far. And we already have someone in mind to play the male lead.” Her eyes slid to David, who was still deep in conversation with Hector Ramirez.

Sam swallowed, unable to frame an immediate response. When she got control of her tongue, she replied rather breathlessly, “I had no idea my novel would find its way to Hollywood. I’m flattered that you think it’s good enough to make a film of.”

“Good enough? My dear, your first novel sold over half a million copies in less than a year. It was on the New York Times Best Seller list for twenty-four weeks. You do yourself an injustice.” Juliette’s smile was quietly assessing.

“Well, I suppose I’ll have to get in touch with my business manager. I appreciate your interest.” She shook her thoughts back to earth and asked, “So you are in the film-making business with Mr. Ramirez?”

Hector Ramirez laughed softly. “Juliette was already a high-powered movie producer when I first met her, Samantha. Is it permissible for me to call you that?”

Sam drew a slow breath. “Yes, of course.”

“And you must call me Hector, since we will undoubtedly be working together in the future.”

Sam startled the man by turning to Juliette and saying quietly, “I’ll leave that decision to your wife, Mr. Ramirez. If she doesn’t consider it too familiar.”

The blonde laughed outright. “I think I’m going to really like you, Samantha Hastings.” Her eyes danced with deviltry. “Of course you may call him Hector, as long as you don’t keep calling me Mrs. Ramirez. My name is Juliette. My close friends call me Juli. And it looks as if we are to be very close friends.”

She felt David’s hand tighten gently on her shoulder and she glanced up into his face. “Did you know about this, Chance?” She used his ring name.

“Only when Hector approached my manager to see if I might be interested in playing some wild-ass character called Chance Davis.” His dark eyes met hers and she blinked. “I told him I didn’t know if the part would fit my personality.”

Sam pursed her lips. “Well, if you had the right screenwriter and you got some acting lessons, you might just manage.”

He moved closer against her back and she could feel the response to her teasing. She laughed a trifle breathlessly and her eyes moved back to Juliette’s smiling face. “I don’t know if I can work with this man. He is totally impossible to control.”

“Oh, I think you have no trouble at all controlling him, Samantha. I’m sure he’ll do anything you ask, if you just ask the right way.” Juliette glanced up into David’s dark eyes and slipped her arm through her husband’s crooked elbow. “Let’s go get something to eat, darling. It looks like our friends have forgotten entirely about supper and they both look hungry.”

* * * * *

It was well after midnight before they were able to slip away from the party. Sam had met no less than a dozen producers and directors who all expressed interest in her books. Her head was spinning with all the proposals and business talk. The meal hadn’t settled well and she’d had one too many glasses of wine. She had simply smiled at them when they got into detailed discussions and said sweetly, “You’ll have to discuss that with my business manager, I’m afraid. Here’s her card.”

Victor Mulvayne was in seventh heaven. She could see his mind counting all the cool cash his star performer was going to bring in for him, since he held David’s exclusive contract for the next three years. And Frank James was pleasantly contemplating the hefty commissions he would collect when he negotiated a couple of ultra-sweet movie deals for his client.

She was overwhelmed by all the possibilities thrown under her nose during the evening and by the time David drew her out of the private ballroom and toward the elevator, she truly felt shell-shocked. In fact, she was so bone-tired, she could barely think.

How in God’s name could she manage to write something as complicated as a screenplay, when she’d barely been able to write one damn word in months? It was, indeed, the chance of a lifetime and here she stood, nursing a case of writer’s block from hell. She felt uncertain, out of control and frightened. What the hell was she doing in this circus? On this mad merry-go-round?

She desperately needed to start writing again. To start feeling as if she existed in the real world, instead of some breathless sexual fantasy of David’s. His hands touched her. His body grazed hers deliciously. His eyes followed her. He wanted her. He enjoyed her. But as she wondered if he would ever really love her, she felt a sense of total hopelessness wash over her weary soul.

She wanted the kind of love others seemed to have found.

“Let’s go see what we can find to do upstairs, hmmm?” His voice was a purr of desire and she shivered slightly as she felt his warm breath against her temple.

“You have a wonderful sense of timing, David. But can we just walk for a while?”

“Walk? Walk where? This is New York City, after midnight. No one walks in New York City after midnight, unless they have a death wish.” He gazed at her quizzically.

“Oh well. If New York even scares Chance Braza, I guess we’ll just go upstairs and fool around some more.” She sounded tired.

He frowned down at her. That wasn’t exactly the response he had expected. Although her lips had said the words, he sensed instantly that she didn’t mean them.

She wasn’t interested in going back upstairs to bed and enjoying sex again tonight? He swallowed hard. A sudden sense of foreboding filled him. He’d pushed too damn hard. Had demanded too damn much. But she had enjoyed it too-hadn’t she? Or had he just imagined her responses? He stared down at her bent head and felt as if the floor had just dropped out from under his feet. He pressed the button for the elevator and ground his teeth to keep from cursing aloud.

Here he was, with a hard-on from hell, breathing like a steam locomotive and ready to tear his clothes off and throw her onto the bed. He drew a couple of deep, calming breaths and did his damnedest to get his mind and body back out of the zone. That was way easier said than done but when they finally stepped out of the elevator, he was able to walk the short distance to their suite door and slide his card key through the slot and open the door quietly, allowing her to step into the airy suite before following her.

She moved into the center of the sitting room and sank onto the antique divan, her head in her hands.

“You okay, Sam? What’s wrong?” He stepped up beside her and dropped to his haunches, his face level with hers. He almost didn’t dare to touch her but he gently slid his hand over her slim back and let it rest there without forcing the more sensual caresses his body craved. Needed. Desperately.

Sam swallowed hard. Her mind was a jumble of disjointed thoughts. She hadn’t been able to write a cohesive sentence in months and here she had the opportunity of a lifetime. She had been so damn immersed in the sensual pleasure of David’s desire for her, she had forgotten that living the dream left little room for trying to imagine anything more.

She felt his fingertips on the soft silk of her dress, toying with the zipper at her back, and she closed her eyes. The closeness of his body was enough to make her forget her own needs. The sound of his voice was enough to melt her resolve. And the gentle caress of those strong fingers was enough to send her to the stars. She wanted to turn into his arms and forget everything. But that was all she’d done for months now.

Tonight had made her realize that she was on a wonderful, crazily tilting carousel. One that would stop shortly and leave her in the dust while her emotions were left scattered and tangled in pain and rejection.

She so desperately wanted more than just this marvelous sexual gratification. She wanted so very much more. She wanted him to see her as a woman he could love, could be with forever. But all he saw was the way she responded so pathetically quickly to everything he said and did. He would never see her as anything but a willing, eager bed partner.

He didn’t see the loving, gentle person inside the wild, sex-crazed nymphomaniac in his bed. He saw nothing of the resourceful, independent woman who had forged a great career out of nothing and who had her own life outside his bedroom. He saw a woman who was pathetically willing. And pathetically eager. Pathetically in love.

She had been so damn cowardly to have agreed to this farce. Too cowardly to simply tell him she loved him, afraid that he would feel disgust that she had begun to cling. She should have paid the lawsuit if it took all that she owned. At least she would not now be facing the total collapse of her little bubble of happiness. But she had taken the cowardly way. Now she was stuck in a fruitless situation with no way out except to beg him to let her go.

He had told her that women gravitated to him like bees to a honeypot. He was right about that. They swarmed to him. He would have no trouble whatsoever forgetting about her. But she dreaded the moment when she would walk out that door and never see him again, except on TV or in the movies. For she had fallen desperately in love with her temporary “husband” and the thought of meaning nothing more to him than mindless sex left her hurting and frightened.

She calmed her thoughts with difficulty and raised a face streaming with tears and whispered huskily, “Just hold me, David.”

His gut tightened painfully at the sight of her tear-streaked face and the lost look in those emerald eyes. There was no glittering light of desire in her eyes. There was no vibrant sound of wanting in that sad, trembling voice. Only a complete lack of energy. He had noticed the way she had begun to sag at the party under the constant barrage of business and promises. He should have gotten her out of that fucking party sooner.

“Let me help you out of that dress and get you something to drink. You look frazzled.” His voice was uncertain and quiet.

“Will you just hold me, David? I just want to feel your arms around me. I feel safe in your arms.”

He rose and extended his hand. She took it slowly as she stood up and he gently wrapped his muscular arms around her, burying his face in the softly piled mass of copper atop her head. “Is this better?” he breathed quietly.

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Talk to me, Sam. Is it something I did?” He felt suddenly frightened. Helpless.

“No.” Her voice was muffled against his shirt.

“Is it something I didn’t do?”

“I don’t know.”

He drew a deep breath. “I’ve been too damn possessive. I haven’t given you your space.”

“Shut up and just hold me.”

He obeyed, enfolding her gently in his embrace and closing his eyes as he felt her small hands move so gently and tantalizingly over his back. He swallowed as he felt her lips moving against his throat as she whispered, “Make love to me, David. Like you did that very first time. Make me forget who I am and who you are and take me back to the stars.”

He swung her into his arms and walked into the bedroom and set her gently back on her feet. He kissed her mouth slowly, gently deepening the kiss until she was panting with desire. He shrugged out of his jacket and bent slowly to slide her silken panties from her, before unzipping and gently lifting her and wrapping her thighs about his hips, fitting himself to her entrance with a need that frightened even him.

He lifted her so that he could slip her sweetly delightful body over his hard, aching cock, closing his eyes with ecstasy as he buried himself deep inside her tight, hot sheath.

He struggled to maintain his calm. She was so fucking ready. He felt her body enclosing him, felt her tighten about him as she climaxed with a gasping moan of delight. Yet he held back. He paid exquisite attention to detail as he carefully replayed their first time together, his eyes locking with hers in fevered need as she seemed to be asking him for something. Something he could not fathom. He urged her from climax to climax, knowing her body well and understanding the way she responded.

He lowered his mouth to her breast through the clinging silk and he drew the erect nipple into his mouth, swirling his hot tongue around the taut peak. He felt her body arch and clamp tight about him as she clung to his head and panted with her release. And when he finally allowed himself to empty into her trembling body, he could not stand without leaning against the wall, dragging in deep gasps of air.

He held her to his body for several minutes as they calmed themselves. He said nothing but used his free hand to unzip the silk dress and drag it off over her head. She wore no bra. He swallowed hard as she unbuttoned his dress shirt and shoved it back from his body with slow, loving hands. He held her eyes as she ran her palms over his chest, caressed his nipples and then reached for his belt and released his slacks to drop about his ankles.

He watched the glazed expression of delight in those green eyes and wanted to make her forget about ever leaving him. Make her want him badly enough to stay with him. He bent his head slowly to caress her mouth again, stroking her eager tongue as she closed her eyes and opened to him. He willed her to open her eyes.

He lifted his face from hers and said shakily, “I don’t plan on fading out of this dream anytime soon, Sam.” And he slowly rekindled the fire that still burned hotly within both of them.

He held her close as they slept. She had seemed somehow…distant. Panic welled inside him for the first time in months. Her lovemaking had somehow seemed almost like a goodbye. It was nothing he could put a finger on. She had enjoyed his attentions as she always had. But she acted almost as if she didn’t plan to be around much longer. And that was unacceptable. She had promised him six months. It had only been three. She owed him three more. Right?

But her words, the way she looked at him, the way she had clung to him and sobbed when she thought he was asleep, scared the shit out of him. Had he pushed her too hard? Had he burned her out? Had he made her grow tired of him? He had never felt so lost before. So uncertain. Maybe he needed to stop treating her like she was a blow-up doll and back off a little. Maybe let her have some breathing space?

That thought made him shiver. What if she decided he wasn’t what she wanted? What if she decided she didn’t need him around anymore? Maybe she had gotten tired of him constantly pawing her. Wanting her. Needing her. He was so fucking pathetic.

He buried his mouth in her fragrant copper curls and closed his eyes. No. He had to make her want to stay. And he wouldn’t let her off the hook. No matter what.

Sam lay awake in the tight circle of his arms. She knew she couldn’t go on like this much longer. She was addicted to the man but her addiction was unhealthy for both of them. There was no way she could write another word when all she wanted was to be in his arms, in his bed, every time he looked at her. It had been a mistake to come to New York. She would fly back to Chicago tomorrow, while he was busy. She would figure out what she needed to do when she got there. But she could not-would not-just continue on as his plaything. This was killing her spirit. Killing her heart. No matter how much she wanted to be with him, this couldn’t continue. She was a living, breathing person, not a toy.

Yes. Tomorrow she would leave. She would figure it out as she went. Tonight she had made love as if there was no tomorrow. And there wouldn’t be.

Chapter Thirteen

Phyllis finished reading the rough draft of the final novel in the series and she turned her eyes to Sam’s face. “You have made him so damn real, I almost orgasmed reading this. I am amazed that this only took you nine weeks. You’ve been like a woman possessed.” She sat up and packed the pages back into the manuscript container. Her eyes slid over Sam’s slender body hunched by the window.

“What are you going to do about him?” Her voice was quiet. “I can’t keep putting him off. Sooner or later he’s going to come flying through my door with a battering ram looking to drag you back home. He’s almost a nutcase over you just up and disappearing like that. Anyone can tell he’s crazy over you.”

Sam shrugged, looking out the window of her apartment at the traffic several floors below. Snowball wound his body around her ankles, plaintively asking for the attention that she seldom seemed capable of giving him nowadays. She relented and bent to scoop him from the floor, hugging him to her as he purred contentedly.

She met Phyllis’ gaze and said quietly, “I realized that I had to back away from the dream to make it a reality in print. I had no choice.” She bent to kiss Snowball’s satiny nose. “I genuinely don’t think I’m going to be able to write that screenplay, Phyl. It will mean working with him too closely. I can’t do that.”

“I think he deserves an explanation of why you took off, Sam. Give the man a chance, for God’s sake. Shit. Most women would be running back as fast as their little feet could carry them. He wants you back.”

“It doesn’t matter what he wants. He got everything from me that he wanted. By now he should be as happy as a clam. He has a fat contract to make the first two movies from the series and he’s in negotiations for the rest. My life is my own again. I can actually do things on my own without having him constantly hanging on me. Constantly wanting me in bed.” She swallowed hard.

Phyllis shook her head and put the manuscript down. “You never were a good liar, Sam. You are crazy in love with him. Oh, why the hell won’t you just admit it and go see him again? He’s called nearly every day for the past two months. He only stopped when you told him to leave you alone.” The woman gave a sound of disgust. “If that man wanted me-”

Sam closed her eyes and raised her hand. “Go get him, with my compliments. He is overwhelmingly possessive and unfailingly horny. You will love it for the first little while but after a few months, it wears sort of thin!” Liar!

Phyllis glared at her star writer. “My God, girl. You are the most stubborn, bullheaded, asinine female ever to draw breath!” She reached for her coat and purse and walked to the door. “I’ll send Carl over to pick up the finished draft. And as for the script and the screenplay, you are under no obligation to write it. They only asked you to do it. We haven’t contracted you.”

Sam stared out the window at the traffic far below.

Snowball meowed again. She glanced at him and frowned.

“Not you too? Does everyone but me think he’s the greatest thing since the powdered sugar donut?”

The cat glared at her indignantly and gave a low yowl of irritation.

“I don’t need this from you, as well as from her. If you want to take his side, I’ll gladly ship you off to him in Chicago. I thought you hated him.”

The cat wriggled out of her grasp and hit the floor at a run, leaving her staring after him. “Okay, just be that way. See if I buy you that canned stuff you like so well. It’s dry food for you, you little fur-ball turncoat.”

She sank down onto the armchair beside her and rested her head in her hands. Things were just too damn complicated. After that last night with David, she had put herself on a flight back to Chicago, where she had made arrangements to return to her own apartment in Cleveland. By the time he had returned from the New York trip, she was gone. Completely. Moved-Left-No-Address.

She had written him a long letter. Had left it on his pillow. She grimaced in pain at the thought. She had told him that she couldn’t write while she was with him. That she needed her space. That she didn’t want to hurt him but she just couldn’t stand the sort of relationship he expected of her. She had offered to pay him whatever he wanted to end the sham of their “arrangement”. She had no intention of coming back. Ever. He should not bother to try to find her. She simply wanted to be her own person once again.

The only things she had taken with her were a pair of earrings he had given her and the clothes she had brought from Cleveland. All the other things he had bought for her were left in Chicago.

She had changed her phone to an unlisted number but he had Phyllis’, so he had called her business manager constantly. Threatened. Cajoled. But Phyl, bless her soul, had simply told him she would pass along the messages. She had never given him her address.

The apartment was not under her current legal name. She had leased it under the name Samantha Drake. Drake had been her stepfather’s name. She hadn’t legally changed her name back to Hastings until she had begun writing the series.

He would never find her unless she wanted to be found and, right at the moment, she didn’t.

“What are we gonna do, sweetie?” She rubbed her face with numb hands and shook her head. “I hoped he would learn to love me. He was only interested in a thrilling bed partner. Hell, I shouldn’t be telling you all this. You’re way too young to have to deal with man-woman problems.” She lifted her eyes to see Snowball yawning at her from across the room.

The cat sauntered slowly across the carpet to leap lightly onto her knees and settle down in her lap, purring loudly. Sam smiled at him and rubbed his ears. “Sorry about being nasty, sweetie. I just miss him so damn much.”

The cat gave a capacious yawn and licked his fur carefully. A moment later, he was licking her hand and purring even more loudly. She grinned at him and said softly, “You always know how to talk me out of the doldrums, sweetie.”

But now she had to figure out how to get her life back on track. Alone. Without some sex-crazed hunk dragging her into bed every time she turned around. Damn. She clenched her fists to keep from reaching for the frigging phone for the twentieth time today. What a wuss. Why the hell was it so damn hard to get through a day without a man fix? She felt like a recovering addict.

But recovering from an addiction to David Chance was not going to be easy. He ran through her thoughts and dreams every time she closed her eyes or tried to sleep. At times she could almost feel his lips on her skin, his hands on her body. She would drop off to sleep and come awake a few hours later after having had the most amazingly sensuous dreams-wild, orgasmic dreams that made her crazy to just hear the sound of his voice again. Even after over two months, she could still remember the scent of his flesh, the feel of his smooth, hot skin sliding against hers as he made love to her.

She shook herself back to reality and bit her lip. No. She had to get him out of her system. Out of her dreams.

Fat chance of that.

* * * * *

“When the hell are you gonna just go up there and drag her ass back here?” Victor Mulvayne frowned at him from across the room as he poured himself a large brandy.

“I don’t think she wants to come back. I pretty well blew it.” David’s dark eyes were on the gas log in the large fireplace.

“Have you even talked to her?”

“She changed her cell number. I never knew her address, only that she lives in Cleveland. Can’t find any record of her renting or buying anywhere in Cleveland. Believe me, I’ve had a man looking for her since she left.” His teeth were clenched. “She won’t even answer the fucking phone when her business manager hands it to her. Except once. She told me to take a flying leap and to leave her the fuck alone.” His frown was introspective.

Yvonne turned to him from the window and sauntered over to the side of his chair, placing her long-nailed hand on his shoulder. “You have absolutely got to be the biggest jackass I’ve ever met, except for Vic.”

David jerked his eyes to her face in confusion. “What the hell did I do now?”

She shook her head and exhaled loudly. “Can you draw this asshole a picture, Vic? He is blind and stupid, all rolled up into one!”

David glanced in irritation at Victor and was about to ask what the hell his wife was talking about but Vic cut off his question with a raised hand.

“Y’s right, Chance. We’ve been wanting to talk to you but the schedule’s been so damn hectic and you have been in such a fucking black mood, nobody dared try. It’s been almost three months since she took off and you’ve been wandering around like a grizzly bear with an ingrown toenail. What the hell is wrong with you? You never took no for an answer from anyone else. Why start now? Find her. Break down her business manager’s fucking door and strangle her ’til she tells you what you need to know!” He glared at David.

“She left because she didn’t want to be around me, dammit. She hates my fucking guts!” He took a swallow of his drink.

Vic shook his head and groaned. “Anybody with any brains in their damn thick skull could have told you that Sam Hastings was so gone over you, she could barely think straight when you were turning on that goddamn charm.”

David glared at him malevolently. “What the hell do you know about it? If she was ‘gone’ over me, I would have known it, wouldn’t I?”

Yvonne threw up her hands and gave a strangled little sound of disgust. “Does a goddamn brick have to hit you in that thick skull of yours before you recognize when a woman is in love? Or is it that you just couldn’t love her back? Was that it? So you didn’t bother to follow her and make things right for her?” She almost snarled at him. “Did you even think to offer her marriage?”

David’s eyes widened at her words. He’d offered her himself! Wasn’t that the same fucking thing? Did their Memorandum of Understanding not make her realize he needed her? Wanted her? Yvonne’s angry voice intruded in his thoughts.

“She was willing to jump into a ring and physically attack a man four times her size when she thought you were in danger, you fucking jerk. Didn’t that ring any bells in your fucking head? And whenever you started to make a total jackass of yourself, she always stepped in and turned you back into a human being again.”

She shook her head and stared at him like he was a bug on her carpet. “When I think of all the things that girl did to make you know she adored you, I get sick to my stomach. I have no idea why she ever agreed to live with you, Chance, but you tossed away the most precious thing that ever happened to you and you have nobody to blame but yourself, so pull your head out of your fucking ass and start using it!”

David stared up into her angry face and he was about to deliver a blistering set down, when Sam’s soft voice whispered in the back of his thoughts. I’d much rather manipulate you than let that black temper of yours spoil a good working relationship.

He drew a deep breath and swallowed his anger. Love him? Did Sam really love him? He rose from the chair and stared at his friend’s angry face. “Yvonne, has anyone ever told you you’re beautiful?” And he caught the back of her head and kissed her quickly, startling her.

“I’d start by walking into her business manager’s office and busting heads until they cough her up. It shouldn’t be that much trouble.” Her eyes were a brilliant ice blue. “And if she doesn’t want to come back, get on your goddamn hands and knees and promise her the earth if you have to.”

He placed his empty glass on the coaster and left without another word. The truth in what they had told him hit him in the gut like a fist. He had known she wanted him. That she loved what he did for her in bed. But he had not noticed the other things she seemed to love about him. The way she humored him when he was pissed off and the way she always made him forget to be angry when tensions rose. The way she stood up for him against the press when they made comments she didn’t like. The way she looked at him when she thought he wasn’t aware. The light that came into her green eyes when she saw him after even a short absence. The way she got pissed off at him when he came home battered and the way she gently cared for his cuts and bruises.

She didn’t hate him. So there was hope.

He flagged down a passing taxi and climbed inside, giving his address. The driver watched him for a while until he looked up and met the brown eyes in the rear view mirror. The man waited for him to acknowledge him with a nod and then he said in heavily accented English, “I have not seen your little woman for a long time on the television. She is not ill, I hope. My wife and me, we watch because she is so brave and so pretty. My daughter wants to be just like her someday.”

David drew a deep breath. “I don’t know where she is but I intend to remedy that damn soon.”

“That is the spirit, Mr. Braza. You cannot let her run away from you again. If she was mine, I would find her if I had to go to the ends of the earth.” Then he cleared his throat and said more softly, “But do not tell my wife I said that. She will be very jealous.”

David grinned at him in the mirror. “I promise I won’t breathe a word.”

He sank back into the seat and exhaled heavily. He wondered if he had completely botched the deal by not trying harder to find her. He had told her that he would give her some room, some space. But he had also told her that he would never let her go.

And he had done exactly that.

He had waited for her to come back to him, thinking that after she had her freedom for a while, she would find that she needed him as desperately as he needed her. Would miss him. But he hadn’t counted on that damn pride of hers.

She hadn’t come back. And when he had tried to talk to her, she had refused his calls. The one time Phyllis had managed to get her on the phone, she had been cool and polite but her voice had held none of the delightful depth that it held when she had been with him those wonderful months. It had felt as if he was talking to a stranger. A cold, distant, annoyed stranger.

He swallowed the lump in his throat as remembered once again that he had often wondered if she had just wanted him for the sex. She had never lied to him about the way he affected her. She had also never told him that she wanted more from him than sex alone. She had never said she cared about him. Even after he had begun to question if sex was enough and why he wanted her to admit she wanted more, she had never admitted anything beyond their amazingly sensual bond. But then, he’d never told her how he felt either.

During the past three months, he had been the old, nasty, vicious Chance Braza, terrorizing his fellow wrestlers and behaving in real life like the bastard he’d always pretended to be in the ring. He had reverted to his angry, unrelenting persona with a vengeance, drawing even more notoriety as he had worked his way through a dozen challengers, without allowing anyone a fighting chance to take his championship belt from him. Not after he had told her he’d won it for her. Not after he had shown the world he wanted her and had laid his soul at her damn feet. He had completely ignored his contract and the number of fights he was supposed to let others win to bolster their images. Nobody wanted to get into that ring with him now. Not even the Wolfman.

But what had he given her, besides the constant sexual satisfaction she seemed to crave from him? He thought of the many times they had lain in each other’s arms after making love and although he had wanted to tell her that she was more than just someone to enjoy in his bed, he had not uttered the words. There had been times when he had felt that she expected something more from him. But he had let those times pass. What had he expected from her? He clenched his teeth and swore silently at himself. Fucking idiot!

He had expected her to give up her own existence to serve his needs and wants. He had expected her to leave her home and move in with him. Would another woman have been so willing to give up everything to suit his needs? She had left an independent, self-sufficient life to save a friend from financial ruin. She had agreed to be his personal plaything to make up what she thought was a wrong she had certainly not committed.

And he had let her. He had used her. He was a selfish prick.

He was missing. Something more than her presence in his bed. More than her warmth in the night. More than the way she made him feel like he was Superman incarnate. God, yes.

He groaned softly deep in his throat and closed his eyes. Had he fallen in love with her? He knew the answer to that question without having to think it over. He had fallen under her spell.

He wanted her. His woman. His.

He drew a deep breath. She was still his. And if she thought she could simply dump his ass like some second-rate jerk, she had another think coming.

* * * * *

Sam drew a slow breath, stretching in the chair to ease the muscle cramp that had interrupted her writing. Her hands went to the tight knot in her back and she frowned. Sitting for hours at the keyboard was a royal pain in the ass. As well as the back.

Snowball meowed at her from where he sat on her lap, cleaning his rear half, and she grinned at him. “I appreciate the encouragement, sweetie, but I think I’m about done here. Have to stop sitting like a damn lump and start taking walks again. Maybe get out my old Pilates tapes. Huh? That sound like fun?” Oh sure.

She reached for the keyboard and attempted to type again, then sighed and leaned back, closing her eyes. She was once again at a mental roadblock.

It wasn’t as easy to write a screenplay as it was to write a book. She had gotten some very good software that helped her edit and cut out extraneous material that could never be truly useful in a film or play but she had been forced to cut so much out, it didn’t really make sense to her anymore. She had cut a novel from a thirty-hour read to a three-hour skeleton of what the story was about. It made no sense whatsoever. And still more had to be pared to fit.

She drew a shaking breath and shoved the keyboard away. “Sorry, Snowball, but I have to get up and walk around. And I need food.” She put the cat on the floor and stood, stretching wearily. Her stomach growled. Just as she started into the kitchen for a snack, the doorbell rang and she swore softly.

“What the hell is it now?” she muttered, turning into the living room. She glanced at her watch and frowned. No one she knew would bother her after seven. Unless Phyllis had been in the area and felt the need to check on her progress. She sighed and opened the door, leaving the chain lock in place.

He seemed to fill the entire hallway outside her apartment door and she found herself just staring at him. No sound came from her open mouth as her eyes moved over the well-remembered body that stood before her. Her heart was hammering in her throat. Her pulse was racing.

No. He could not still have this kind of effect on her after nearly three months!

She lifted her gaze to those haunting black eyes and saw uncertainty there. Her eyes drifted down that impossibly muscular frame, hot memories flooding back into her mind and causing reactions throughout her body. She bit the corner of her lip and prayed that he wouldn’t notice her legs shaking.

David swallowed as she opened the door a few inches and her eyes widened in shock at seeing him standing there. He found his pulse racing, his blood roaring in his veins. He tried very hard to remain calm. He felt as if he’d just been body-slammed to the mat as his eyes drifted down her succulent little body clad in sweatpants and a loose-knit sweater. Sweet Jesus. She could wear a fucking gunnysack and still manage to turn him on. He fought not to heave into her chain lock with his shoulder and drag her into his arms and-

“You gonna slam the door in my face, or are you gonna be polite and ask me in?” His voice was tight.

Sam shivered at the sound of that deliciously husky voice and she thought seriously about doing the former. But instead she closed the door, unhooked the chain lock and opened it fully to say, “I just didn’t- I mean you didn’t-” Her eyes narrowed. “How the hell did you find me?”

“Your business manager barely managed to squeak the address out as I was strangling her to death.” He ran a lean hand through his rumpled hair. His eyes were dark, smudged from lack of sleep and thrumming with what appeared to be deep frustration.

She swallowed hard. “Come in, David.” She stood back and watched him walk past her into the center of her living room. The sight of him had taken her breath away and she was unable to say more. She closed the door quietly and motioned to the sofa. “Please sit.”

He was looking around her apartment, his dark gaze sweeping the comfy room with its soft pastel furnishings. “Nice place.” His murmur was soft. He remained on his feet, looking massive and brooding and dangerous and madly sexy.

“We like it.” Her voice was breathy.

David returned his eyes to her pale face and he tensed. “We?”

“Snowball and me.” She saw the look of relief in his eyes.

“Aren’t you gonna offer me a cup of coffee or a sandwich?” His expression was unreadable. He seemed to fill her entire living room with those broad shoulders and that menacing size of his. He was looking at her as if he would happily forgo the sandwich and would prefer to feast on her.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I don’t have a coffeemaker here. I never drink it. But I do have tea. Want some herbal tea?” Why the hell was she so eager to jump to do whatever he wanted? She bit her lip. “Or I might have a soda somewhere buried in the fridge.” God she was pathetic.

“Anything you have for me would be fine.” His eyes were enough to make her swallow her tongue. She sensed the double entendre but chose to ignore it.

“Come on into the kitchen, David. I’ll see what I have in the fridge.”

Snowball was winding his body around David’s ankles and she frowned at him. She was about to tell him to go away but large hands scooped him from the carpeting and carried him up to that marvelous chest, where he scratched the cat’s ears and grinned as the damn little turncoat began to purr loudly. She felt an instant irritation that he had charmed her cat.

“Hello, buddy. You miss me?” David asked the purring cat in obvious surprise. He stroked the soft fur as he followed her into the kitchen.

“I hope you like root beer with your ham sandwiches.”

“Fine by me.” His voice was tight.

She sensed that his eyes were on her as she worked to fix him a thick sandwich and she almost lost hold of the mayonnaise jar. When she carried a plate over to the table and set it in front of him with a glass of ice and the soda, he thanked her politely and poured the root beer into the glass slowly, as he took a huge bite of the sandwich.

“Why did you come all this way, David?” she asked numbly.

“To get a sandwich and a soda. Good sandwich. Thanks. I didn’t stop for anything to eat and the flight didn’t serve a meal.”

She watched him, mesmerized, as he finished the sandwich and drained the glass. And when he sat back and sighed, she nearly lost control of her voice as she asked softly, “You think I’m going to just run back to Chicago with you again? Leave everything? I can’t do that, David. I won’t.”

“I don’t expect you to. Your place works fine for me. I don’t mind making Cleveland my home base.” His eyes were unreadable.

Sam stared at him. “You’re that sure I would invite you to stay with me?”

“No. But I’m hoping.”

She stared into eyes that seemed to devour her. “I can’t go back to just being your sex slave, David. I-” She barely stopped herself from saying it.

He seemed to be suddenly closer than he had been a moment earlier, and as his familiar, large hands slipped around her throat to cup the back of her head, he murmured softly, “Finish.”

“Finish what?” Her voice was a husky whisper.

“Finish what you started to say.” His eyes were on her mouth, making her suddenly dizzy with need.

Sam would have slipped to the floor if he wasn’t holding her upright, his left arm supporting her suddenly limp weight as his right hand cupped her face so gently, she almost cried. “Please…” His single word was enough to undo her resolve not to tell him.

“I love you too much to live like that.”

Further words were impossible as his lips caught hers with sudden savage passion, his tongue sweeping aside her mouth as she opened to him and wrapped her arms tightly around his powerful neck. Who the hell cared if he couldn’t love her back? This could be enough…couldn’t it? He had come after her! He had found her! He wanted her back…

Hands shook and breath caught in throats as they fumbled madly to undress each other. She was practically wild to feel him inside her again as he swung her off her feet and carried her toward the hallway, his mouth still devouring hers. He lifted his head just long enough to ask tersely, “Where’s your bedroom?”

She pointed and caught his head with both hands, dragging him back to her mouth with a mindless little whimper of need. She felt her comforter beneath her bare skin briefly until he rolled on the bed and dragged her on top as he scooted up to rest against her pillows.

He was completely on autopilot as he arched into her downward surge over his hungry, hard-as-fucking-steel cock, desperate to feel the heat and warmth of her sheath cradling him once more. He stared up at her incredible little body undulating on his as if she couldn’t get him deep enough into her. His heart pounded crazily against his ribs and his body slipped into the zone again as he felt her channel clench hard around him. He watched in awe as she came apart in an orgasm that was so beautiful, he couldn’t keep himself from following her, exploding as his cock bathing her with three fucking months of saved-up cum!

As she sank across his perspiring chest to rub her lips over his unshaven chin, he caught her face between shaking hands and lifted it to devour her mouth like a man who’d gone without sustenance for far too long. When he finally came up for air, gasping and swallowing the tight knot that threatened to keep the words buried deep inside, he forced them out. God knew she deserved to hear them. God knew he wanted so fucking badly to tell her.

“Do you think you might want to make our original agreement just a bit more permanent?” Not what he’d intended to spit out, but close.

He watched her eyes widen as she pulled back to stare down into his perspiring face questioningly. “I don’t need any contract to stay with you, David.”

Her words sent a thrill of possessive pleasure through him. “I wasn’t asking for a contract.”

She frowned. “Then what-”

He cut her words off with a finger to her kiss-swollen lips.

“I can’t live without you, Sam. I won’t live without you. Not ever again. I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone before, but…”

Sam blinked down at his adorably confused expression. “Say that again.”

“Say what again?” He seemed even more confused now.

“Oh for God’s sake, David Chance! You can face some frigging behemoth in a ring, but you can’t just tell a girl you love her?”

His dark eyes changed slowly from confused to totally wicked. “Words come easier to you. But you’ll never have reason to doubt that I damn well do love you, Sam Hastings. And if you don’t agree to marry me and make an honest man of me, you won’t get one more minute of hot sex. You got that?”

“Too late,” she whispered huskily as she smiled against his mouth, feeling his cock growing ramrod-hard inside her once more. “But I will marry you, David Chance. If you think I’m giving you a way out of this arrangement, you-”

Her thoughts melted under the onslaught of mouth and plunging cock as he rolled her beneath him and stopped her threat with a lush expertise that wiped the giggling smile from her lips and brought a scream of pleasure in its place.

“Hold that thought.” His voice was a rough growl against her mouth as he made her forget her own name.

About the Author

Fran Lee began writing romance novels at the age of 14. Life intruded on a budding writing career-namely, paying the bills, raising a family and the usual run-of-the-mill things that leave a writer no time to pursue a career as frivolous as authoring romance books. Or so everyone told her. But she never gave up on her childhood dreams of writing.

Other things caught her fancy over the years-horses, eBay, martial arts, not necessarily in that order. Over the years, her childish dreams were set on the back burner over and over again. But the things that caught her fancy blossomed into self-confidence-she achieved her black belt in her chosen martial art, spent a fortune on eBay and had the great pleasure of owning a number of wonderful equine friends.

Now she concentrates on her various fancies by collecting horse statues and figurines, teaching karate to kids, and spending time dragging out those old romance novels and bringing them up to snuff for the 21st century. The dream has come true-and it was well worth the wait.

The author welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website and e-mail address on her author bio page at www.ellorascave.com.

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