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Entangled Spotlight: Talking Dirty With the Player: Jackie Ashenden

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Up-and-coming photographer Judith Ashton is pretty sure she has everything in her life under control. That is, until a blast from the past comes back to taunt her, in the shape of Caleb Steele, her older brother's best friend...and the man who broke her heart eight years ago. Their chemistry is combustible, but she's been fooled once by this player, and she's not going there again. To pro rugby player Caleb, Judith has always been his Kryptonite. But his former playboy lifestyle is the last thing she wants to be involved in. In the midst of her brother's threats to back off, and the deal of his career sending him far away from her, he knows he's playing with fire. And this is one game he's going to lose.

Excerpt: Chapter One
© 2013 Jackie Ashenden
Judith Ashton crept around a corner clutching her laser gun to her chest. She couldn’t see a thing. The dim lighting of the room was designed for effect rather than illumination, and the curls of dry ice that swirled around her feet only made the visibility worse.
Laser tag. At a wedding. What was Christie thinking? Jude’s new sister-in-law was a doll, but really, having the conference room of the hotel where her wedding reception was being held laid out like a level on one of her beloved computer games was surely a step too far.
Judith blew out an irritated breath and rested against a handy pillar, squinting into the darkness.
She knew Christie had meant well by encouraging her to give the laser tag a go, but this was not her definition of fun. This was her definition of stupid. Organizing and taking the wedding photos? Now that was fun.
The dry ice swirled and a large shape seemed to loom in the darkness ahead of her.  Was that—?
All at once the vest she wore vibrated and made a horribly loud noise, and the light in her gun died out.
“You’re dead, Judith my darling,” a deep voice said from behind her.
Oh, great. Caleb.
She gave a long suffering sigh. “I should have known. Only you would shoot someone in the back.”
“Hey, an opportunity’s an opportunity.”
She turned around and sure enough, Caleb Steele, her older brother Joseph’s best friend, stepped out of the darkness. Winning as usual, and smug about it. Also as usual.
The lights of his vest flashed jauntily as he flourished his laser at her. Dry ice eddied around his legs, snaking up powerful thighs and twining about lean hips. Then it dissipated, revealing him in all his magnetic glory like a rock star taking the stage. Typical Caleb. He always did know how to make an entrance.
“You know that vest looks ridiculous, right?” Judith pointed out. And over the top of his tuxedo, it certainly did.
Caleb grinned. “I think this is the first time you’ve actually deigned to speak to me all evening,” he said in his deep, husky voice. “Been avoiding me, babycakes?”
Ah yes, he liked to call her babycakes. How she’d missed that while he’d been away in England playing rugby for the clubs. Not.
“I wasn’t avoiding you,” she said calmly, waving her laser for emphasis. “I just had other, more important stuff to do.”
Caleb’s smile flashed in the darkness. “What’s more important than saying hello to an old pal you haven’t seen for at least a couple of years?”
“A couple of years? Has it been that long? Well, well, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? And also, I’m not sure we were ever pals.” She let a delicate emphasis rest on the last word.
His smile widened and Judith had to remind herself that she was now immune to its lethal charm. Completely immune. “Oh don’t be like that,” he said. “You missed me. Admit it.”
“Yeah. Like I miss gonorrhea.”
One dark brow rose. “You’ve had gonorrhea?”
Judith sighed. He was all about the witty comeback. If that’s what you called wit. “Oh, shut up, Caleb.”
“See, this is what I’ve missed while I’ve been away. I say something, then you say something, then I say something back and you end with ‘shut up, Caleb’. We always have such great, in-depth conversations.”
Still the same old Caleb. Patronizing, arrogant, and cocky as hell. They’d been friends once, a long time ago. And then more than friends. Until he’d broken her poor little teenage heart. She’d forgiven him for that, though; it had been years and years since their affair, after all.
Eight years to be exact.
Nevertheless, a familiar feeling began to creep up on her. An antsy, irritated feeling. Like she’d brushed up against poison ivy. Okay, so she may have forgiven him. That didn’t mean he didn’t bug her on occasion.
Judith swallowed her irritation and maintained her usual calm-and-in-control expression. The one that seemed to exasperate him as much as his teasing arrogance exasperated her.
“Did you have something special you wanted to say?” she asked him in bored tones. “Or are you just here to be annoying?”
“Actually, I’m here to shoot you. Though, being annoying is always an added bonus.”
“Well, you shot me. Okay?” Judith pushed away from the pillar, looking for the exit. She’d had enough of this supposed “fun”.
“Aw, don’t spoil my good times.”
“I don’t care about your good times, Caleb. You know that thing I said about having more important stuff to do? Well, that.”
Out of the darkness, she suddenly spotted the exit sign. Thank God.
“Come on Jude, lighten up. It’s a wedding. You’re a bridesmaid, I’m the best man…”
“I’m a best woman, actually.” She turned toward the sign. “And you’re…well, you’re a man, I guess.”
Much to her irritation, he laughed. Then, even more irritatingly, fell into step beside her as she began to head toward the exit. “Good to see things haven’t changed. This whole getting-on-like-a-house-on-fire thing we have going on with each other.”
“We have nothing going on with each other.”
“Sure, darling. Keep telling yourself that.”
“Any particular reason you’re following me?”
“The sheer pleasure of your company.”
“Oh sure. Like I believe that. You’re doing it to be a pain in the butt.”
“True. Being a pain in the butt is always fun. But as it happens,” his voice altered, becoming deeper and much more suggestive, “I’m actually here to proposition you.”
Judith almost missed a step. Then her brain caught up. “No.”
“You haven’t heard what I have to say yet.”
“I don’t need to. Whatever it is, the answer’s going to be no.” Because no was pretty much her standard response when it came to Caleb Steele.
“You’re not even curious?”
“Do I look curious?”
Caleb paused beside her and the strange, antsy prickling feeling intensified as his gaze ran over her. “Bit difficult to tell in the dark, but yeah, you do. You also look cute in that bridesmaid dress.”
She snorted. Perhaps if she was a little bitty girly who was impressed with being told she looked cute by the world-famous rugby player, she may have had a small heart palpitation. Jude wasn’t a little bitty girly. Not anymore. She was a twenty-six-year-old woman with a successful photography business and a healthy contempt for charmers and fakes.
“I’m sure it’s very interesting. Sadly, I’d rather cut my lawn with nail scissors before accepting any proposition from you.”
“Hey, no problem. I’ll get you the scissors.”
“Which part of no didn’t you understand?”
“Gee, that’s a real shame.” He lifted his laser gun and began to examine it in some detail. “I guess me, Joe, and Luke will have to find some other photographer to help out with my awesome fundraising idea, then.”
Since he’d become one of the world’s most sought-after rugby players, he’d also become a big fish splashing in the shallow pool of money, rugby groupies, media attention, and sponsorship deals. A player in all senses of the word. Charity and good works? Only if his PR person thought it necessary. Photography? When his publicist needed a picture and column time in the gossip mags.
“Fundraising idea? You? Forgive me if I smirk quietly to myself.”
A fleeting expression of annoyance flashed over his face, but it was gone before she could be sure. He shrugged. “Oh well, I guess if you’re not interested…”
“Not today. Not tomorrow. And I’d even go so far as to say not in this lifetime.”
At that moment, a shape appeared suddenly in front of them, gun pointed. Judith’s vest activated with a whine, only to erupt again in another burst of static as she was shot. Caleb’s vest made the same sound a moment later.
“You both are soooo dead!” Christie said triumphantly. In her white wedding gown with its fifties Hollywood glamour, the lights glittering off the Swarovski crystals that decorated her silver Doc Martens—a wedding present from Joseph—she presented a startling picture. Especially with the laser tag vest over the top of everything.
Caleb gave her a courtly bow. “Dead we most certainly are. You should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie, Christie sweetheart.”
Christie grinned at him, cocking her gun at her hip and looking radiant. “I know, right? This is such a blast.”
A faint smile crept over Judith’s face. Okay, so laser tag wasn’t her thing but being snarky about it was impossible when faced with Christie’s infectious enthusiasm. “Don’t tell me—you’re winning, right?”
“Of course I’m winning.” Christie abruptly narrowed her eyes, looking behind Judith and Caleb. “Ah-ha! There he is, the sneaky bastard. You can run but you can’t hide, husband mine.” She darted away in a swirl of dry ice and a sparkle of crystal.
“Well,” said Caleb conversationally. “Since we’re both dead…”
“The answer is still no, Caleb.”
They reached the exit. With ostentatious gallantry, Caleb pulled open the door for her and grinned. The same charming, outrageous grin that had been plastered all over Auckland’s billboards for the past month in his latest advertising campaign. This month it was underwear.
“Ah, sweetheart,” he said, “you don’t know what you’re passing up.”
Immune, remember?
Oh yes, she was. Completely immune. As an impressionable eighteen-year-old she’d fallen for his particular brand of lethal bad-boy charm. It had been a brief, intense fever that, once passed, had inoculated her against him forever.
The light and noise from the reception in the hotel ballroom flooded in as they stepped out of the laser tag room. Caleb shrugged out of his vest and handed it to a waiting attendant, and Judith gave him her coolest smile in return. “Don’t tell me: sexy calendar, right?”
His grin faltered. “How did—”
She held up a hand, cutting him off. “Hey, it’s obvious. A fundraising idea that requires a portrait photographer? Coming from your brain? I’m thinking it’s probably a beefcake one for the ladies with nakedness and coyly placed props over the important bits.” She folded her arms. “Am I getting warm?”
Caleb’s dark eyes narrowed. “And pretty bloody patronizing.”
“Just returning the favor.”
“So I guess the answer’s still no?”
“Caleb, please. Do I look like the kind of photographer who does pornographic calendars?”
Slowly, that annoyingly cocky grin began to reassert its presence. “Pornographic. Do you even know what that means?”
A flush worked its way up her neck. “Don’t be stupid. Of course I know what it means.”
“Uh-huh.” Unexpectedly, he stepped a little closer to her.
And she found herself having to look up at him. Way up at him. An insidious and wholly unwelcome heat began to gather inside her.
In the darkness of the laser tag room, it had been easy to ignore his physical appearance. But out here in the light, with him bare inches away? Not so much.
Minus the vest on his six-foot-five length of long, lean muscle encased in the tuxedo, he was pretty much the perfect male specimen. With cropped black hair and eyes the color of the darkest espresso, smooth tawny skin he’d inherited from a Maori ancestor, and the powerful shoulders that made him one of New Zealand’s best rugby players, he had most of the country’s female population swooning. Even those who didn’t like rugby.
Not you, though. Immune, remember?
His grin deepened as if he’d seen something on her face he liked and the heat inside her gathered a little tighter. “Perhaps I forgot to mention that you’ll be photographing me?”
Caleb, naked in her studio, reclining on the—
Okay, stop right there. Don’t think about that. Think about his unbelievable arrogance. His massive ego. His bad-boy reputation. Think of how he came to your door eight years ago, after that night you had with him, to tell you that was all he’d get from you. Because you were too young and he wasn’t into relationships. That his career was more important than you …
Judith cleared her oddly constricted throat. “Sorry, but that makes agreeing to your stupid idea even less likely. I do tasteful portrait photography. Not wet jock shots.” Like his current ad campaign for instance. Caleb’s half-naked torso, water dripping off muscled abs, his head thrown back, a pair of tight black boxers molding to lean, hard buttocks… No. Not thinking about that. She took a breath. “Could you stop looming? It’s very irritating.”
“I’ll have you know I never loom.” There was a smug expression on his face, though God only knew what had put it there. “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to find some other photographer. There must be someone who’s dying to get some free exposure.” He raised a brow at her. “Perhaps you could send me some names?”
“Don’t you have some minion who can do that for you?”
“I use my minions for more important tasks, like getting me invited to parties.” His eyes gleamed with unholy amusement, the way they always did when he teased her. “Sure you’re not interested? Not even a flicker? No? Ah, don’t worry about it. I’ll find someone myself.” He turned toward the ballroom where the rest of the reception was in full swing. “See you around, darling. If you change your mind, you know how to get hold of me. Though, don’t wait too long. The opportunity won’t be around forever.”
Judith watched him go, realizing she’d been holding her breath like a diver about to leap off the highest platform. She let it out with a huff. Her heartbeat seemed strangely accelerated, her muscles tight. Nothing to do with him, of course. She never let him get to her, not anymore.
Forcing a smile that probably looked as tight as the back end of a cat, she handed her vest and gun to the attendant, adjusted the green silk of her best-woman dress, and reflexively checked the bun the hairdresser had put her hair up into. Still messy, damn it.
A burst of laughter made her turn to see Christie and Joseph come out of the laser tag room. Christie’s face was flushed, and Joseph was surreptitiously wiping lipstick off the side of his jaw.
“Hey,” Chris yelled as she spotted Judith. “Did you have fun? Didn’t I tell you it was great?”
“Sure, it was awesome,” Judith said, hopefully sounding completely genuine.
Joseph came up behind his new wife, sliding an arm around her waist. “Did Cal tell you about his fundraising idea? I told him you might be interested.”
Judith tried for diplomatic. “The calendar? Oh, yes, but it’s not really my thing, Joe.”
“No, it’s different. You could use different.”
An eye roll was tempting but she ignored it. “A sexy calendar? Different? Doesn’t every fire department and police station in the country do stuff like that? No, it’s kind of unoriginal and I’m not really—”
“It’s for charity. Not the Turner Prize.”
Great, now her brother was making her feel like a selfish bitch. “I’m not talking about art awards. I mean, come on, studio portraits aren’t exactly high art. I just…” She stopped, realizing that her objections to Caleb’s idea had less to do with the subject and more to do with Caleb himself.
“Just what?” His blue eyes glinted. “I know you and Caleb don’t get on—”
“We get on fine,” she interrupted, ignoring Christie’s eye roll.
“In that case, why not listen to what he has to say?”
“Because I’m busy. The wedding photos aren’t going to take themselves, you know.”
“Avoidance much?”
Judith opened her mouth to protest. Then shut it.
Just what are your objections anyway?
Actually, she wasn’t entirely sure. Okay, so she and Caleb had an uncomfortable history, a history she’d never told anyone else about. But that was all H20 under the harbor bridge these days. Certainly he didn’t seem to care, not given the number of groupies he always surrounded himself with.
So he was an arrogant, cocky playboy only interested in rugby, fame, and women. Those weren’t good enough reasons to say no. Especially when it came to charity.
“Okay, fine,” she said on a long breath. “What’s it all about anyway?”
Joseph’s smile was suspiciously similar to his friend’s. Smug. “I’ll let him explain that to you himself. I’m too impatient to dance with my lovely wife here.”
Ignoring Christie’s groan at the word “dance”, Joseph dragged her off toward the ballroom, leaving Judith twitching with irritation.
She glared at her brother’s retreating back, smoothing her green silk dress down again.
All right, so if Caleb wanted to talk about his silly idea, she’d listen. And that was all.
It had been years since he’d dumped her. Years and years. And she was over it. She totally was. She could even be pleasant if the occasion demanded.
So she ignored the hard little lump of hurt that rested uncomfortably inside her like grit in an oyster. Told herself she didn’t feel it.
If she said it enough times, one of these days it would actually be true.
Caleb folded his arms and leaned against one of the pillars that dotted the hotel ballroom, trying his best to at least pretend he was listening to whatever Christie’s friend Marisa was talking about. Luckily she didn’t seem to require much in the way of input so he was able to watch Judith Ashton’s progress across the ballroom without appearing like he wasn’t paying attention.
Damn, he’d thought she might have mellowed in the two years he’d been away playing in the UK, but no. She was still just as coolly sarcastic and self-possessed as she’d always been. Still just as determined to treat him as beneath her notice.
Not that he should have expected anything different. She’d told him she’d forgiven him for the way their little affair had ended years ago and things had never been quite the same since. And he’d always regretted that. They’d never be what they once had been to each other—that boat had sailed long ago—although friends would be nice.
Then stop messing with her, dick.
Yeah, he should. But when it came to Judith Ashton he couldn’t seem to help himself. Even though he knew it was wrong, even though he knew it wouldn’t change things, he just couldn’t seem to leave her alone. He had to keep on needling her like a kid poking at a wasp’s nest just to see what would happen.
So don’t be surprised when you get stung.
He blew out a breath, annoyed at the disappointment he’d felt when she’d refused to help him with the calendar. Not to mention her utter disdain of his idea.
Pornographic calendar? Caleb snorted. He’d lay money on the fact she wouldn’t know pornography if she tripped over an open copy of Penthouse. And as for the whole wet jock shot quip…
Judith had stopped to talk to one of the assistants she’d brought along to help with the wedding photographs. No doubt issuing orders. Running everything with the kind of well-oiled ease reserved for military operations. Cool, calm and always in control, that was Judith.
Except she hadn’t always been like that, had she? He could remember another time when she hadn’t been either cool or calm or particularly in control. When she’d been in his arms, the sweet, familiar scent of her perfume all around him. Like roses, or maybe honeysuckle… The night he’d finally kissed her. Touched her. And felt her shy, hesitant touches in return…
His gaze drifted moodily over the green silk dress she wore. Normally her look was Gothic art-house, glossy black hair bobbed to her shoulders and a fringe Cleopatra would have been proud of. Lots of dark eyeliner and black nails. Not today, though. Today she wore color and her hair was up in a loose knot at the back of her head, revealing the pale vulnerability of her neck and the elegant curve of her back.
Caleb gave a silent curse, shifting against the pillar. So her attitude may piss him off but that didn’t seem to worry his wretched libido. Which was a pity. Because Judith Ashton was out of bounds and always would be
He’d tried a lot of things over the years to forget about that one night they’d shared. Not alcohol, not since his father had drowned himself in the bottom of a vodka bottle, but just about everything else. Nothing really worked.
Not even the warning Joseph had given him.
“I’m only going to say this once, Cal. Stay clear of Jude, okay? Remember the no touching rule. Because if you hurt her, I will hurt you.”
A warning Joseph had given him far too late. Because by then he’d already touched her. More than touched her. Had taken her virginity.
A sudden silence alerted him to the fact that Marisa was still there and was now looking expectantly at him. Caleb tore his thoughts away from Judith and shifted his attention to the lovely blonde standing in front him.
He liked Marisa. She was fun and flirty in a friendly sort of way. Even so, right now he didn’t really feel much like chatting. Or flirting, for that matter.
He gave her his trademark smile.  “Hey, that’s fascinating, Marisa. But man, all this talking is making me thirsty. I could really go for a beer right now.”
Marisa fluttered her eyelashes at him. “Perhaps I could get it for you, honey?”
Caleb grinned. “Would you?”
“Sure. I need a refill myself.” She gave him a wink, swiveled on her sky-high heel, and began heading in the direction of the bar.
“Did you ask Judith?” a masculine voice said from beside him. Luke McNamara, financial genius and third member of the triumvirate formed during daily detention back in high school. Joseph and Caleb had been trouble way back then, and for Luke detention was a way of getting his homework done in peace.
Caleb didn’t turn. “Yeah.”
“What did she say?” Luke asked him.
“What do you think?”
Luke said nothing for a long minute. “I’ll ask her if you like,” he offered eventually.
“No,” Caleb replied, his gaze still fixated on the small green figure that had by now made its way to the head table where Christie and Joseph were sitting.
“Hmmm, I’m surprised,” Luke said. “You mentioned it was for charity, didn’t you?”
“I said it was a fundraising idea.”
“Did you mention the charity?”
Caleb sighed. “I didn’t get a chance what with all the scorn that was being poured.”
“Well, you need to tell her,” Luke said with his usual maddening logic. “It’s for a good cause. I can’t imagine why she’d say no.”
“Actually what she said was that she only did studio photography, not pornographic calendars.”
“I hope you pointed out that it’s not—”
“Sorry, mate. I don’t care if Joe wanted her to take the pictures or not; I’m not spending all night trying to convince her otherwise.”
The fundraiser for the Save a Life charity, a charity aimed at providing disadvantaged kids with educational and career opportunities, had been Caleb’s idea—after a nudge from his PR person—and although he was totally down with Joseph wanting Jude to do the photos, he didn’t have time to be dicking around with her apparent issue with him. He had a game coming up with the Auckland club he’d returned to New Zealand to play with, and was up to his ears in training. Not to mention having his agent breathing down his neck about next season’s contracts.
There were plenty of other photographers out there who would throw themselves from a speeding car for the chance to do a sexy calendar for New Zealand’s biggest rugby star.
“I thought you were supposed to be good with women?”
Caleb shot his friend an annoyed glance but he knew full well Luke hadn’t said it to mess with him. The guy just didn’t do sarcasm. No, he was logic all the way. “Jude isn’t technically a woman, is she?” he pointed out. “She’s Joe’s little sister.”
Luke’s brow wrinkled. Then after a moment he nodded, acknowledging the universal truth known to every male about little sisters in general. “Like I said. I’ll give it a go. She might listen to me.”
For some reason the offer annoyed Caleb. Probably because he was a competitive bastard and didn’t like being edged out in favor of another contender. Especially when he had the try-line in sight. “Steady on, mate. I’m not conceding defeat.”
“I thought you said—”
“I know what I said. I just haven’t brought out the big guns yet.”
The other man frowned. “Big guns?”
Caleb flashed his friend a grin. “I’m going to appeal to her better nature. I’m sure she’s got one somewhere.” Because why the hell should he let her problem with him get in the way of this fundraiser? This wasn’t about them, it was about the charity.
Whether she liked it or not, Judith Ashton had officially become a challenge.
Luke’s frown deepened, and then a distracted look crossed his face. His hand shot into the pocket of his jacket and he pulled out his phone, glancing down at the screen. No doubt checking on his stock portfolios again. The guy never went ten minutes without checking on what his investments were doing.
“Well,” Luke said without taking his eyes from the screen, “good luck with that. You’re going to need it.”
“Great vote of confidence, mate. Thanks.”
The other man lifted a shoulder. “Calling it like I see it.”
Marisa was walking back through the crowd, a beer in one hand, a glass of some hideously pink liquid in the other. She gave him a flirty smile.
Normally he wouldn’t have thought twice about taking advantage of obvious interest and a bit of flirting, but tonight he just couldn’t seem to muster up the patience.
Across the room some guy had stopped to talk to Judith, bending over her as if taking advantage of the fact she was sitting so he could look down her dress. The tool.
Caleb promptly forgot about Marisa, glowering at the dickhead talking to Judith instead. Perhaps he should head over there right now. Talk some sense into her. Send the tool back to the toolshed. One way or another he’d get her onside. Because if there was one thing he really hated, it was losing.
“Your beer, sir,” Marisa said, stepping in front of him and holding out the bottle.
Caleb wasn’t interested in the beer. The idiot talking to Judith had a shit-eating grin on his face that made Caleb want to punch him. “Hey, thanks, sweetheart,” he said, not taking his eyes off Judith. “But look, I’ve got to go. Luke here could use a drink, though.”
Luke scowled. It had been apparent at the wedding rehearsals the he and Marisa hadn’t gotten along. That really wasn’t Caleb’s problem right now.
His problem was across the room, talking to some fool and ignoring him as if he was nobody special.
Like hell.
Caleb shoved himself away from the pillar and, taking no notice of Marisa’s startled look, began to make his way through the crowd to where Judith sat.
As Clint—one of Christie’s brother’s smarmy friends—finally took Judith’s “I’m not interested” hint and sidled away to bother someone else, Christie murmured, “Uh-oh. Don’t look now but tall, dark, and dangerous is approaching. Two o’clock.”
Judith didn’t need to look to know who the other woman was talking about. Caleb. Who apparently couldn’t take no for an answer. “Oh great,” she muttered under her breath.
Christie shot her an interested glance. “So what’s the deal with you two?”
Judith’s new sister-in-law had been the best thing that had ever happened to Joseph, and for that Judith would be eternally grateful. Even if her straight-up honesty could sometimes be…startling.
Like just then, for instance.
“Deal?” Judith raised one hand to smooth her hair, then remembered it was up in a messy bun. Still.Curses. “Uh, there’s no deal.”
“Really? Why are you doing that nervous smoothy thing then?”
She dropped her hand and clenched it in her lap to stop it from erasing the non-existent wrinkles in her dress for the fifty millionth time. “I’m not nervous.” From underneath her lashes, she flashed a quick glance across the ballroom. Just to check. The DJ had taken a break so people were milling around chatting to each other but sure enough, there was Caleb, striding purposefully through the crowd with his usual confident grace. Except now Joseph’s father had waylaid him for a bit of back-slapping. Excellent. “And believe me, there is no smoothy thing going on.”
“Huh.” Christie wrinkled her nose. “How long have you known him?”
“Who?”
Her “really?” look was impossible to ignore.
Judith sighed. “Didn’t Joe give you a rundown?”
“Well, yeah. He’s a guy, though, so I only got the facts. I didn’t get all the other juicier stuff.”
Judith sighed again. “Okay, fine. I’ve known Caleb since I was eight. He and Joe met at high school. They used to tease me unmercifully.”
“I can imagine.” Christie grinned, green eyes alight with amusement. “He’s got a wicked look about him.”
The DJ had come back to his station, and people were beginning to step out onto the dance-floor. Luckily Joseph had managed to convince Christie to leave the death metal till later on in the evening, the strains of a slow ballad filling the air instead.
“Still,” Christie went on, gazing in Caleb’s direction. “Wicked or not, he’s pretty damn hot.”
Sure, Caleb was hot. If you liked tall, muscle-bound beefcakes with eyes you could lose yourself in. The kind of smile that made you lose your mind as well as your panties. The magnetic, sexy bad-boy charm that promised all sorts of naughtiness.
Sure. If you liked that kind of thing.
“Doesn’t marriage mean not looking at other men?” Judith shot back. Perhaps she could scoot off to the ladies room before he reached her. That wouldn’t constitute running away. No, of course not. She just really needed to go. “Look, I just need to—”
“Hey, babycakes,” a familiar, irritating masculine voice drawled. “Fancy a turn about the room?”
Damn it.
Quelling the urge to do the “smoothy thing” again, she looked up to find Caleb, who had somehow reached her a lot faster than she’d thought, standing beside her chair.
“Was that a dance request?” she inquired calmly.
“Was it too complicated for you? Hey, Chris.”
“Hey, Caleb.” Christie grinned. “I wouldn’t mind a dance.”
“With the bride? Of course. You’re next on my list, sweetheart, believe me. I’ll come back for you once Jude and I have finished.”



About the Author:



Website/Goodreads/Facebook/Twitter

Jackie has been writing fiction since she was eleven years old. Mild mannered fantasy/SF/pseudo-literary writer by day, obsessive romance writer by night, she used to balance her writing with the more serious job of librarianship until a chance meeting with another romance writer prompted her to throw off the shackles of her day job and devote herself to the true love of her heart – writing romance. She particularly likes to write dark, emotional stories with alpha heroes who've just got the world to their liking only to have it blown wide apart by their kick-ass heroines. 

She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, the inimitable Dr Jax, two kids, two cats and some guppies (possibly dead guppies by the time you read this). When she's not torturing alpha males and their stroppy heroines, she can be found drinking chocolate martinis, reading anything she can lay her hands on, posting random crap on her blog, or being forced to go mountain biking with her husband. 

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