Tattoo artist Keelie Jessup can handle that someone else has claimed the man of her dreams. She’s just not pleased with her remaining options…
Keelie doesn’t believe in the “perfect man.” But the men who are worth the trouble are usually taken—like her business partner Zach Barnes. After a string of bad luck and the lost chance with Zach, Keelie decides that maybe flying solo—and living with suppressed desires—is the key to happiness.
As a photographer, Zane Barnes has an eye for the human form, and his eyes can’t get enough of Keelie’s curves. Unfortunately, Keelie is like most women—always fawning over his little brother, Zach. Zane is about ready to give up, but then a few stolen moments at his brother’s wedding have him thinking maybe there’s a chance there after all. Now he just has to prove that the perfect man does exist…for her.
“He’s where he belongs.”
Swinging her head up, she met Zane’s level gaze. Blood rushed up to stain her cheeks. Well, hell. Of course Zane knew. Zach and his brothers were tight, but there was no denying he was closest to his older brother. “Oh, I know that.” She had the urge to pull away, find a dark corner and just hide until it was polite to leave. The reception had only been going on for forty five minutes. They hadn’t cut the cake. Too early to leave yet.
Besides, she wasn’t about to make a habit of cutting and running just because she was uncomfortable. It wasn’t an easy habit to break, after all.
Mentally bracing herself, she met Zane’s stare. “Trust me, I’m well aware of that. That I didn’t figure it out earlier just means I’m an idiot. But then again, I wasn’t blind to it for what…fifteen or twenty years?”
“Give or take.” Zane smiled a little. “When something is always there, it’s easy to overlook it.”
She blew out a sigh. “I guess.”
“So you’re okay with…”
His words trailed off.
Blushing, she focused on his throat. It was easier to do that than look at him now. She took a deep, slow breath and then wished she hadn’t, because suddenly she was aware of something almost painfully intense—Zane Barnes smelled really, really good. “Okay? Yeah. It’s not like I have much say in it.” She darted a look up at him. “I’m going to make a startling observation here and just say I assume you know I kissed him. It was stupid. But I figured something out almost right away—even if those two somehow decided they weren’t right for each other, it wouldn’t matter. Kissing Zach was like kissing Javi. There’s nothing there. If I felt what I thought I felt, there should be something there, right?”
It took more restraint than he thought he had not to pull her closer.
Zane didn’t think he had that kind of self-control. He’d been doing just fine up until she’d him a quick, almost nervous glance under her lashes and he felt something arc between them.
He knew that sensation, all too well.
He’d been feeling it burn on his side almost from the first time he’d seen her.
Need. Lust. Plenty of it.
But she was oblivious.
Suddenly, though, she wasn’t quite as unaware.
Of course, it would happen as his little brother’s wedding.
And it would happen now—when they were talking about that kiss that caused the first real fight between Zach and Abby.
“Something there,” he murmured, splaying his fingers out wide across her slender back, feeling the smooth, elegant line of her spine under his palm. Her dress, the same pale blue as her left eye, stopped three inches above her knees and clung to her slight curves like a lover, rising high on her chest, the sleeves long and tight. It was smooth under his hands and all he could think of was peeling it away and tasting the skin underneath.
Of course, he’d had those fantasies about Keelie for a long time.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding, like he wasn’t thinking about seeing her naked. Having her under him. Over him. Kneeling before him. Sweat started to bead along the back of his neck. “I guess there would have been.”
Hunger. Heat. Kind of like what he was feeling now.
“You okay?” Keelie cocked her head. “You look kind of hot.”
“Yeah.” He needed to get away from her—probably for the rest of the night, he decided.
“Me, too. Wanna go outside?” She’d broken away, although her left hand was still gripped by his. “They’ll cut the cake soon, but I need to get away from the noise for a few minutes anyway.”
Not a good idea.
But he wasn’t about to say no.
The French doors spilled golden light outside and they moved into the warm night, leaving the noise and the laughter behind them. Keelie didn’t go to one of the tables set up near the doors, though. She let go of his hand and kept right on walking, down the steps and into the night-dark garden.
The hotel set up on the outskirts of town was an old, elegant sprawl, the gardens designed for a desert climate. Zane moved in her wake, trying not to stare at her ass, but he was having a hard time with it.
“That’s better,” she muttered, finding a bench and dropping down on it, her moves all easy, boneless grace. She stretched out her legs and rotated one ankle.
He dragged a hand down his face.
He should have stayed the hell inside.
“I haven’t worn heels in months. You’d think I’d remember how torturous there are. I don’t know why we put ourselves through this,” she said, eying the glittery, sparkling spikes on her feet with acute dislike.
“Well, whatever the reason, please know that men across the world appreciate it.”
The words escaped him before he realized he was going to say them.
She shot him a look and then she started to laugh.
“Yeah. Y’all wear them a while and then maybe that will mean a little more.”
“Hell, no.” He moved in restless circles around the small, semi-private square, listening the distant sound of music, keenly aware of the woman so very close.
“How long are you in town?”
He shot her a look. “A few days.”
He checked his watch. “I should go in soon. They plan on doing the cake around 7:10. I’ve got to get pictures.”
“Oh. Crap. Right.” Keelie stood up. “I forgot you were handling that.”
He shrugged. “I’ve already gotten a lot and they left the party packs out for the guests to get some. Abby already fussed at me to make sure I have fun, too. A twenty minute break isn’t going to hurt me.” Standing out here staring at Keelie was going to do him a lot more damage, though. He wouldn’t sleep without seeing her in that dress, without dreaming about peeling it off.
She passed by him and another jolt of her scent went straight to his head.
His cock tightened. Just once…
A yelp of pain jerked him, and his dick, back to planet Earth. He caught Keelie right as she would have toppled.
She crashed into his chest.
Five feet nine inches of sleek, strong woman. Automatically, he braced her weight with his arm around her chest.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice rough. His heart started to race. She was so close.
“Ah…” She licked her lips.
His gaze dropped, tracing the damp path her tongue had just taken.
A groan ripped out of him.