Alyssa Summers is not the kind of girl who cheats. Sure, she isn't in love with her fiancé, Ryan Knight, but she has no use for silly ideas like love or passion. She needs someone who can keep her from destroying herself. She needs Ryan. She's sure of it.
Then she meets Luke Lawrence.
He's handsome. And he's bold—he thinks nothing of flirting with her in front of Ryan. And he's smart, and articulate, and interested in what she has to say.
But she should be able to stop thinking about him.
So what if his big, brown eyes light up when he smiles? So what if his laugh completely disarms her? So what if his touch-- even his fingertips grazing her back-- makes her body hum?
She shouldn't feel so tempted. She shouldn't feel so desperate to know him. Luke is Ryan's business partner, for God's sake. She should be able to resist him.
But she can't. She wants Luke more than she's ever wanted anything.
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Luke stretches his arms above his head, his white T-shirt sliding up his torso, revealing a sliver of skin above his jeans. His body is taut. Perfect abs. And those v-lines, those perfect v-lines, going from his hips to his... I try to pull my gaze away from his crotch, but I only manage to get as far as the soft, black hairs below his bellybutton.
Fuck. I shouldn't think about anything below his bellybutton. I shouldn't picture him slipping off his shirt over his head, revealing the rest of his strong, lean body. I certainly shouldn't picture him unzipping his jeans and sliding them off his hips.
He rouses my attention with a dramatic, “Ahem.” I finally pull my gaze back to his eyes.
“Sorry,” I say, my cheeks flushing.
“You can look all you want. I work out for a reason.”
“And what's that?”
“To look great naked.”
I will not picture him naked. I will not picture him naked. I will not picture him naked.
I swear I won't.
“So, what's your favorite movie?” I ask, in a lame attempt to occupy my thoughts long enough they won't create an image of Luke naked.
“Is that really the best you can do?” he asks.
“What do you mean?”
“Let's just say I'm not convinced you're actually thinking about movies.”
“I'm not...” I barely manage to get it out. I clear my throat. I take a bite of my dinner and wash it down with the last of my tequila. This has to be enough time to come up with some kind of articulate response. I can't let him think I want to see him naked. Even if I do.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” he says. “But I have a special soft spot for Law and Order.”
“It's the reason I became a lawyer. That and my father made it clear he'd never speak to me again if I didn't go to law school.” He shakes his head. “Fuck, I guess it's Lawrence family drama night.”
“Really? I thought it was interrogate Alyssa night.”
He smiles. “Have you seen it?”
“I'm an unemployed actor. What do you think I do all afternoon?”
“Then you know it's brilliant. The cops figure out who did it. But the lawyers figure out why they did it.”
“Why he did it,” I correct him.
“Miss Summers,” he says. “This is a friendly dinner. But if you're going to correct my grammar, I don't know if I'll be able to keep things platonic.”
Is he kidding or is he really going to... Jesus. I shouldn’t even entertain the thought of Luke making the next move. Kissing me. Or touching me. Or pushing me against the wall and sliding his hand between my legs.
Fuck. I need to get ahold of myself.
“Your turn,” he says. “What's your favorite movie?”
“You're going to make fun of me.”
“I'm going to make fun of you no matter what.”
“It used to be Casablanca, but...”
“You realized it's bullshit?”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“What's so great about putting duty before love?”
“Better to let the Germans win World War Two?”
“Say you're Victor Laszlo. Do you really want your wife to stay with you because the other man convinces her it's the right thing to do?”
“No,” I say.
“Exactly. You want her to stay with you because she loves you more. Because she wants you more. What good is it being with someone if you're the second choice?”
“So you think they'd be better off if she stayed with Rick?”
“No,” he says. “Rick doesn't respect her. He patronizes her like she's some child who doesn't understand morality.”
“Or maybe he helps her see the light.”
“No. He decides she should do the 'right thing.' That isn't love.”
“Victor Laszlo letting her choose if she wants to be with him or with Rick.”
“So, in the end, isn't she better off with Victor? If he respects her and loves her and Rick doesn't?”
“Yes,” he says. “But that isn't the message, is it? The message is a bunch of bullshit about putting duty ahead of love. But nothing is more important than love.”
Crystal Kaswell is the author of Rouse Me, coming August 2014. She is a voracious reader, typically consuming books in only two or three days. When not reading or writing, she is typically playing board games, drinking tea, or riding her beach cruiser around Los Angeles.
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