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When the Sun Goes DownPLAYMATES (Also released as UNZIPPED)

Harlequin Blaze #121
February 2004
ISBN: 0373791259

"Am I too hot for you to handle?" she asked.

Sean McIntyre's libido roars into overdrive when Fiona Cruz saunters into Stellar Public Relations, flaunting her luscious curves, slinging her sexy double entendres and her take-no-prisoners attitude. Clearly this new PR rep on the scene is a barracuda in the field--and man, what a turn on that is! As Fiona continues to tease him in the office, a hot-and-bothered Sean decides a few rounds in the bedroom are in order.

No woman has ever stirred Sean's fierce competitive streak--or his jaded heart--like Fiona. Especially when she ups the stakes by betting they could embark on a steamy one-month sexual fling--without her getting attached.

But what will happen wen one of them puts a new spin on their rules of sexual play? A new spin that just happens to be called love....

UnzippedBuy PLAYMATES Online: Amazon | iBooks | Powell's Bookstore | Barnes & Noble

Buy UNZIPPED Online: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Excerpt from PLAYMATES/UNZIPPED

Fiona shook her head. “You think I’m going to hop right into the sack with you.”

“You haven’t thought about it?”

The crimson light from a vintage beer sign fizzed on, suffusing Mac’s steady gaze. A second later, it blinked off, as if too weary to put out the effort.

She pressed her breasts against the table, rubbing a little, watching the undisguised hunger of his posture: his wide shoulders arched forward, arm muscles straining against the white of his rolled-up shirt sleeves. Poised like a predator. Practiced and ready.

“Mac,” she said, “let’s stop circling each other and be direct. I like men. I like those ridges right above the hipbones. I like kissing my way down a hard chest until I get to the bellybutton, where I can feel the ab muscles clench with each touch of my lips. I like the feel of a man’s back as his shoulders bunch and flex.” She paused. “But there are also things I don’t like. Pretty words designed to get me into bed. Speedos at the beach. Commitment.”

Maybe he was still recovering from the first part of her diatribe, the section about kissing bellies. But he didn’t say anything for a moment. Instead, he ran a finger around the rim of his glass, still watching her.

She tried not to think about what that finger could be doing to her body within the next hour.

Finally, he spoke. “I don’t wear Speedos.”

“Not many American men make that mistake.”

“And I’m wondering how we’re going to manage the boss man when he finds out that I made you purr tonight.”

Oh.

“Are you assuming that you’re going to have the chance?”

He lifted his drink, toasted her. “I’m banking on it.”

Cocky. God, she liked that in a man.

As he swigged his whisky, she suggestively ran a finger along the stem of her own martini glass. “Just so we have an understanding, we wouldn’t talk about our…extracurricular activities…inside the office. If it were to happen.”

He pushed his glass away, though it still had plenty in it. “Discretion is the better part of fooling around.”

She couldn’t believe they were sitting here, talking about this so calmly, not yet tearing each other’s clothes off and rolling over the intimate, scarred table. But the verbal foreplay was nice, making her swollen, wet, in need of release.

She wiggled in her seat a bit, said, “So I can count on you to keep this mum?”

“As long as we know what to expect of each other, I think we’ll do fine.”

Expectations. Back when she’d been in love with Ted, she’d cherished a lot of those. Fidelity, everlasting love. Things you saw in romantic movies. Things fairy tales trained young girls to require in a relationship.

She had no expectations now. None except secrecy and lack of commitment.

“If we’re laying down some ground rules, here, what do you want from me?” she asked.

He reached across the table, positioning a long finger over the one she was using to fondle the martini glass’s stem.

“From you?” A graveled chuckle. “Don’t worry, Fiona. I’m not the house-in-the-suburbs, two-point-three children and an SUV-in-the-garage type. I’d want to love you for the moment, but nothing beyond that.”

The words dug into her, left her hollow. Though she’d been encouraging him to tell her he didn’t want anything serious, some tiny, princess-hopeful cell in her body longed to be romanced, valued in the long run.

Maybe even loved.

But she was beyond that. Love was in the cards for some people--they were meant for marriage, babies. Fiona Cruz was the exception, the yin to normalcy’s yang.

“I appreciate your honesty,” she said, forcing some moxy into her tone.

He took both of her hands, and she sat up. Here it went, the seduction. The part where he sketched patterns over her skin, warmed her palms with temporary affection.

Good. As always, the predictable contact would take away the sting. Would help her refocus on physical pleasure, pure and simple.

Nevertheless, excitement beat in her chest, lower, where it pooled, boiled, bubbled.

“Is there anything you want from me?” he asked, a glint in his eyes.

She hesitated. “Just your vow that when it’s over, it’s over. No randy winks as you pass my office, no veiled comments to colleagues.”

“Can do.”

All this talking was killing her, but Fiona didn’t want to seem desperate, yanking him out of the bar as if she hadn’t had sex in months. Which she actually hadn’t. After being disgraced in her last job, she’d concentrated on succeeding in a new one, putting sex…and emotions, she supposed…on the back burner.

Now, she’d wait for him to make the first move. After all, there was pride to consider.

Mac threaded his fingers through hers. The gesture touched her, striking her as somewhat tender, testing. Without thinking, she tightened her grip on him, then loosened it, ashamed of being so needy, so easily charmed.

“Letting go so early?” he asked. “That’s a switch.”

“What do you mean?”

He shrugged slightly. “Generally, women like to hold on a little longer.”

“Is that a roundabout way of saying that women can’t get through a liaison without some measure of possessiveness?”

“That’s right.”

“You’re wrong.”

He cocked a golden brow. “Am I?”

“Absolutely.” Fiona pushed away his fingers. “There’re women who can be just as cavalier as men. Not in a relationship necessarily, because, by definition, those are supposed to be based on feelings. But when it comes to sex, females don’t necessarily have to get attached.”

“I’ve never seen evidence of that.” He glanced at her arm, as if he wanted touch it again, but instead, retreated to his corner, lounging. “Every woman I’ve been with has shown some sign of wanting to go beyond sex, even if it’s a hesitation as you kiss good-night.”

“Did you ever take them up on their willingness, subtle as it might be?”

“No.” The word grated out. Then he grinned. “That’s where the liaison ends, when someone gets ideas. Cut it out before they get their heart broken, I say.”

“I agree.” She really did. Absolutely.

“Sounds like you think the rule doesn’t apply to you. That you can escape unscathed after sex.”

“I can.”

“Bull.”

Fiona shook her head. “Poor guy. You operate under some fearful misconceptions.”

“You’re telling me that, after having sex with a man for, say a month, you could leave the affair without…”

“…becoming possessive or territorial? Yes, I can. I have.”

He laughed again, combing a hand through his dark-blond hair, the strands sticking up, ruffled and boyishly attractive, contrasting with the darkness in the center of his irises. “If you hadn’t lost every bet we initiated tonight, I’d wager that, given one month with me, you’d become emotionally attached.”

“Well, that’s damn arrogant.”

“But wouldn’t you love to see me lose?”

Yes, she would, so much she could almost do a victory dance right now. And she could win. No problem. She’d spent the last two years being emotionally distant, if not physically warm and willing, after sex.

“If we embarked on such a philosophical experiment,” she said, “what would the winner get? Wait. I’d love to go to the Caribbean. It’s time for a vacation.”

“Sounds good. A Caribbean get-away of the winner’s choice, all expenses paid by the loser.”

“This is getting interesting.”

He seemed grandly amused, his full mouth tilted at an angle, half-hidden by the scruffy drifter’s stubble surrounding his lips. “You’d be in love with me before you knew it.”

Though his comment came off jokingly, Fiona wasn’t so sure he didn’t mean what he said. Then again, hadn’t he mentioned he ended his affairs before they went too far?

Not that it mattered. Fiona didn’t do love. Wouldn’t happen. She had this wired.

“So,” he said, “how will I know I’ve won the bet?”

She laughed low in her throat, a hint of the purr he’d promised her earlier. “You’ll see it in my eyes, Mac. The fact that you’ve lost, I mean.”

“Then we do this scientific eye check after every time I’ve been inside you?”

She could almost feel him now, filling her, slipping in and out while the sheets got torn off the bed corners. “That’s logical enough.”

Silence, punctuated by another jukebox Door’s song. “The End.”

Which should have told her something.

A wave of yearning stretched Fiona out of the booth, bringing her to her feet. She started to walk away from him, slowly, zinging that extra sway into her stride.

She glanced over her shoulder, discovering his gaze on her derriere. The naked desire in his look turned her blood to steam.

“The bet starts now,” she said, crooking her finger at him in summons. “Game on.”

She turned around, moving away, knowing he was going to follow.

 

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From the book: Playmates
By: Crystal Green
Imprint and Series: Harlequin Blaze
Publication Date: 02/04
ISBN: 0373791259
Copyright: 2004

By: Chris Marie Green
R and TM are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com