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Authors: Madeleine Oh

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Trick or Treat

Madeleine Oh

 

Katie Fairfax jokingly asks her cousin for “a gorgeous,exciting, bedworthy man to make all my wildest dreams come true,” not expectingto be taken at her word. When she first meets Jud Carlton, she finds the manpushy and overbearing. But as Jud bulldozes into her life, she finds hisspecial way of loving is what she’s always longed for.

An Ellora’s Cave RomanticaPublication

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

Trick or Treat

 

ISBN 9781419926334

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Trick or Treat Copyright © 2003 Madeleine Oh

 

Cover art by Syneca

 

Electronic book publication 2003

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’sCave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may notbe reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without writtenpermission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 HomeAvenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of thiscopyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded ordistributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, withoutthe publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, includinginfringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and ispunishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or printeditions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy ofcopyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. Thecharacters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Trick or TreatMadeleine Oh

 

Chapter One

 

“But I told Andrew you would, darling. He’s counting onyou.”

Katie Fairfax took a deep breath. “Mother, did it ever occurto you to ask? What if I happened to be going away that weekend?”

She pictured her mother’s raised eyebrows. “You’re not, areyou, dear?”

Katie sighed. ‘Yes, I am’ entailed lying to her mother, ‘No,of course not’ meant she got stuck cat sitting. What a choice! Pity shecouldn’t plead allergies. “Tell Andrew, I’ll keep his cat.”

“I think it will have to be in his house, dear. Moving Elisewill upset her, she’s expecting.”

Sheesh, her sister, her cousin, and now the cat. At leastMother hadn’t started on, ‘Isn’t it time you found a nice young man Katie’.

“Okay, Mom. Tell Andrew I’m game. But he darn well owes me!”

“I knew you would dear, now don’t forget Sally and Tim’sshower. You do have a gift don’t you?”

Yet another cousin getting hitched-not that she’d haveSally’s Tim if he came gift-wrapped, “Not yet, Mom, but I will. See you therethen. Bye, I love you.”

Katie hung up the phone with a sigh. One of these days she’dtoughen up and learn how to tell her mother ‘no’. Meanwhile, she was committedto spend a weekend in her favorite cousin, Andrew’s, almost obscenely luxurioushouse, and possibly midwifing a cat. That was in two weeks. More pressing wasgetting a shower gift for Sally and her intended. A quick trip to the mall oneafternoon after work would take care of that. As for the cat, she’d manage. IfAndrew had asked, she’d have agreed like a shot, but when her mother asked, shefelt honor-bound to push a bit. Mind you, Andrew never nagged her about stillbeing single, and didn’t ask prying questions about her social life.

He did however, call her the next day. “So your mom and mineput the screws on you. I didn’t mean them to shanghai you.”

“What did you intend?” Just curious of course…

“I asked my mother if she knew anyone who’d house and catsit while I was away. I’m driving down to Atlanta to pick up Sophie.” Sophiewas Andrew’s sophisticated, but quite agreeable, intended.

“No prob, Andrew, but you owe me!”

“Forever!” he agreed. “What can I get you?

“A gorgeous, exciting, bedworthy man to make all my wildestdreams come true.” Good luck Andrew! She’d not managed it herself intwenty-seven years.

“That’s a tall order!”

She chuckled. If her mother knew what she’d asked, she’dpitch a hissy fit. “Too hard?”

“No way! Give me time!”

“Never mind, Andrew, if you can’t, I’ll settle for pizza.”

“I think I can find the man for you.” He gave a teasinglaugh. “Tell you what, you come help me shop for a gift for Sally and Tim, andI’ll take you to the new brick oven pizza place at Five Points.”

“Sounds great. Shall we stop by the mall?”

“How about the Rose and Leather Boutique?”

The new, kinky sex shop out in Rosewood that certain citycounselors had been trying to close. “I thought I’d get them scented candles orperfumed massage oil.”

“They have oil, and scented candles, and other stuff. It’llhelp broaden your horizons. Pick you up at seven, tomorrow.”

Mom and Andrew seemed to be taking over her life. She'dsuspect them of being in cahoots-but the kinky boutique was not, she was certain,her mother’s idea. Still it might be fun. She had been curious about it, withAndrew she’d not get hit on by perverts looking for entertainment, and it wouldup her street cred with the twenty-year-olds at work.

Andrew was there on the dot, complete with his sportyMercedes and a smile. Pity he was her cousin, and taken already. On the otherhand, did she really want to hook up with someone she’d played kidnap and 'tieup the princess' to his dragon, when they were kids?

“I might have another client for you,” he said as his carpurred away from the curb. “I gave your name to a man at work for his sister.”

“Great! What does she want?”

“Not too sure. She’s a writer. Just sold a book, and decidedshe needs a web site. I’ve got her card in the glove box.”

Not a name that rang any bells, but if she’d just sold afirst book, it wouldn’t. “Thanks,”

“Have to help keep my little coz solvent.”

“I’m two days older than you!” They’d had this argument adozen times. It was about the only edge she’d ever had.

He glanced away from the road and grinned. “Maybe, but I’vegot a bigger one than yours!”

She spluttered. What next? “I’ve managed very nicely withoutone for twenty-seven years.”

“That’s not what you told me on the phone last night.”

She’d live to regret that little confidence. “Maybe, but canyou provide one?” She was sorely tempted to slug him one and wipe the smirk offhis face. But he was driving, and a major collision would delay getting pizza.

 

Marvelous pizza it was too—pesto and assagio with shrimp,piping hot from the brick oven. The tiny restaurant was cozy from the warmth ofcooking. The air redolent of garlic and cheese.

“Thanks for the referral about the website,” Katie said asshe chewed on a particularly toothsome mouthful of shrimp. “Every one helps.”

“How are things going?

“Not bad really. I may even end up making a profit thisyear.”

“Wonderful!”

“Not a massive profit you understand-about a hundred, if I’mlucky, but it’s way better than a loss, and I can tell my mother that FairfaxWeb Design has had a profitable year.”

“She’s still giving you a hard time over it?”

“Pretty much. I think I’m a major disappointment to her.Susie is a tax accountant, properly married, and producing grandchildren, whileI’m single, eking out an existence with a retail job, and playing withcomputers in spare time that would be better spent finding a husband.”

“Quit acting like a sad sack! You’ll be the successful one.Your web sites are marvelous. Each one is different, not cookie cutter sitesfrom templates.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I can’t convinceMother.”

“My mother adds her fuel to the fire. I’d better warn you,they have both decided you need a ‘nice young man’. They’ve seconded me to findone.”

She’d been joking, sort of. Her mother and Aunt Maryweren’t. “Darn them!” She reached for a second slice. Pizza momentarilysatisfied a lot of needs.

“How’s your love life?”

From him it didn’t sound like a cliche. “According to mymother, unsatisfactory. I’m too particular. I need a man made to measure. Afterall Sally is getting married and she’s two years younger than me! I should begetting worried.” It was enough to make a saint cuss.

“Are you too particular?” He grinned. “Don’t throw thatslice at me! The cheese will fall off. Just wondered. After all you’ve hadplenty of dates over the years.”

Katie shrugged. She’d never admit this to Mom, but afterall, Andrew was the closest thing to a brother. They’d shared confidences andsecrets since they were kids. “I’ve met some nice ones, yes. A couple Mom thoughtperfect.”

“But you didn’t?”

She shook her head. “No one who lit my fire.”

He looked at her a long minute. “What was wrong with them?”

“Nothing really! They were nice men, but…”

“The sex just wasn’t right?”

“Yeah.” She chuckled. “You can just hear me telling Momthat, can’t you?”

“I’ll find you someone. I think I know the perfect man foryou.”

“I’m pretty picky, you know.”

“But I know you, Katie. Remember when we were kids and I’dkidnap you and carry you off to the dungeon?”

“Yeah! And remember when you tried to kidnap Sally and sheran screaming to Aunt Jenna?”

“God, yes! I had to apologize for scaring her. She was awhiny brat.” And hadn’t changed much, only now it was her fiancé she gripedabout. “You never complained.”

“Just planned on punching you when I’d had enough!”

“I don’t remember you ever punching me.”

“Neither do I.”

He went very thoughtful, looking at her in a way that sentan odd shiver down her back. It wasn’t sexual. Couldn’t be. Heck, she andAndrew had had diapers changed together. Attraction wasn’t anywhere in thedeal.“

They finished the pizza in companionable silence, sharingthe last slice. Andrew eyed the empty platter. “That was worth the trip downhere, now shopping, right? It’s why we came, wasn’t it?”

“I’ve got my Visa card ready.”

 

He hadn’t been joking about the Rose and Leather Boutique.The black leather bikini and fishnet stockings on the model in the window, setthe mood. The whip in her plastic hand left little doubt that this was not youreveryday gift shop.

But despite her misgivings, Katie was fascinated, andcouldn’t help noticing Andrew seemed right at home as he went over to the cashregister and bought a gift certificate. That would be an easy way out, but shecaught sight of a row of costumes. All grown-up sizes, for Halloween, shesupposed. She was looking at a pirate outfit complete with black breeches,spotted kerchief and a white shirt with flowing sleeves, when a young womanclerk came over.

“Looking for a costume?”

“Just looking, thanks.”

Andrew came up behind her. “Found something you like?”

“I don’t dress up for Halloween.” She spent her energies andmoney handing out candy to the children in the neighborhood.

“They’re not for Halloween.”

Katie looked from Andrew to the young woman. “Fancy dress?”

She shook her head. “Acting out fantasies.” She pulled out acouple of hangers. “The French maid and the nurse are popular.”

The idea was preposterous, and utterly fascinating. Thenurse and maid did nothing for Katie, but the empire line Jane Austen styledress the clerk now held was lovely. Apart from the slits up to the high waist.

“Like it?” Andrew asked, as the clerk wandered off to talkto another customer.

“I do rather, but it’s revealing.”

“That’s the whole point.”

“You could get arrested walking down the street in that.”

“Sweet coz, it’s not meant to be worn walking down thestreet. It’s for acting out your fantasies in the privacy of your boudoir.”

For when the pirate came and carried you off… It took herback to their old games of make believe as kids. “You’ve got a pirate one?”

“Not the pirate.” He chuckled. “I go for the black leatherlook myself.” He looked up at a model suspended against the wall. “Like that.”

‘That’, was skin-tight, black leather pants with a vest thatshowed pretty much all of the model’s wide chest. “I can’t see you wearing thatfor Sunday lunch with your parents.”

That sent him off in a great peal of laughter. “I’ll let youinto a secret, only Sophie has seen me in it.”

Perfectly understandable. Or was it? What was she doinghere? Fascinated to tell the truth. The price tag on the Jane Austen dress wasreasonable enough, but when would she every wear it?

“You like it don’t you?” Andrew asked.

“Yes, but I came to get a shower gift, not fancy dress.” Butshe spared a final glance for the Pirate. It even had a leather eye patchdangling from the hanger. Enough! She turned and all but knocked over a tableof whips and riding crops. She stepped back, but not before noticing one madeof royal blue suede. Fascinated, she reached for the smooth handle, and ran herfingers through the soft tresses, until she noticed the price tag, and put itdown very carefully. Way above her price level.

“Like it?” Andrew asked. “It’s a nice piece of workmanship:French. They make very nice quality things over there.”

“They make the best crystallized fruit too.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “Marrons Glacés to you too,Katie me girl. Never thought I’d find you with a flogger in your hands.”

This was getting too much. “Let up, Andrew. I need to find agift for Sally.”

“I’ve paid for mine. You’re the one playing with themerchandise.”

Undeniable, but… “You brought me here.

“Yes, I did!”

“Why?”

“Just curious, Katie, and I do so love yanking your chain.”He rattled a set of manacles and chains hanging from a display case.

There was no point denying her fascination. Andrew read hertoo well, but the shop was more crowded than a few minutes earlier. What if oneof her clients walked in, or someone she knew? Time to beat a fast retreat. Shegrabbed the nearest article that wasn’t leather or metal: a pair of red velvet,fur-lined handcuffs, and made for the check out.

If the pimply youth at the cash register dared any smart asscomments… He barely glanced at them, just scanned the tag and took her plastic.Why not? If customers regularly bought chains, whips, and the odd-lookingleather swing hanging in the window, a pair of handcuffs were pretty banal.

“Do you gift wrap?” She wasn’t sure what made her ask that,but…

“Sure,” he indicated a roll of paper behind him. It was shinyblack with tiny gold and silver handcuffs.

“Never mind.” She’d drop by the card shop later and pick upsomething with flowers or wedding bells. Much safer.

She was ready to beat a fast exit. Where was Andrew? Over bythe books and videos, talking to a tall, dark-haired man. A sumptuous-lookingdark-haired man. Okay, a kinky dark haired man, given he spent his eveningshere, but on the other hand, maybe his cousin had dragged him here too.

At that moment, Andrew looked her way. “Ready?”

“Yes!”

He-and the scrumptious other-walked over.

“Katie, this is Jud Carlton. Jud, Katie Fairfax.”

“Hi, Jud” He had a lovely firm handshake, and his eyescrinkled at the corners when he smiled.

“My pleasure.” His voice was warm and confident. Yikes! Whata sexy smile, did the man have any idea what he did to any woman over puberty?“You’re with Andrew?”

“He’s my cousin. We’re shopping.” Sheesh! That soundedtwerpy and now Jud was eyeing the black shopping bag in her hand.

“I dropped in to look around, too. You never know whatyou’ll find here. Or,” he paused, “who you’ll meet.”

“We’re done, Jud,” Andrew said. “On our way for coffee. Wantto join us?”

It was the first she’d heard about coffee, but caffeinewouldn’t go amiss. She had a web site to work on when she got home.

She ended up in a booth next to Jud, while Andrew went offto pick up three lattes, and to make sure hers was hi-test.

“Planning on staying up all night?” Jud asked.

“With a bit of luck.” He nodded expectantly and she went on.“I have a web design business on the side.”

“So you stay up all night working?”

“Not every night. Just when I have someone paying extra fora rush job. I wasn’t about to say ‘no’.”

“Do you ever say ‘no’?”

How was she supposed to take that? His dark eyes didn’t lookas if he were hitting on her, but hell if she knew. “When it’s in myself-interest, yes. What about you?”

“Me? I believe in self-indulgence and discipline.”

“Aren’t they contradictory?”

Jud shook his head, and a lock of dark hair fell over hishigh forehead. “Not in the least. Doesn’t one need both in any venture? Howwould your business on the side be without discipline on your part?”

“It wouldn’t be, and yes, my mother considers itself-indulgent.”

“Proves my point!” She wasn’t sure it did, but… “So, Katie,what do you do when you’re not building web sites, or shopping for kinky toys?”

“I wasn’t shopping for…” Hell, she had been. “For a ‘dayjob’ I work retail. It pays the rent, and gives me health insurance.”

“Retail? Hmmm… Not at the Rose and Leather?”

“No way! I’d never even been there before.”

“Big bad cousin leading you astray?” His eyes twinkled.“Tell me what did you buy?”

“Handcuffs.”

“Ever had them used on yourself?”

“Good grief, no!” That sounded ridiculously prim. “They’refor my cousin, as a gag gift for her shower.”

“If it’s a ‘gag’ gift why not get her a gag?”

“They sell gags? What for?” Dumb question.

“Same reason as handcuffs, chains or ropes: to restrain alover.” Had to be something about his voice, but her throat went tight and shefelt the bag beside her crackle as her fingers gripped the top. ”You think yourcousin would like that?”

Highly unlikely! “It’s just for fun. She'll never really usethem.” It was actually hard to even imagine prim Sally making out, but…

“Why not? People do, you know. It adds to the excitement andpleasure.”

“Being made helpless?” This was approaching incredible, andfascinating.

Jud nodded. Three seconds later, Andrew arrived with a trayand three mugs. She almost hugged him. Jud was making her nervous, but on theother hand if they now started talking basketball, or football…

They talked about cats, or specifically, Andrew’s pregnantone.

“Katie’s holding the fort for me while I’m away. She can begodmother to the kittens if she likes.”

She didn’t really like. “I’m going to will that cat to waituntil you get back.”

“Don’t sweat it,” Jud said. “If you need help delivering,just give me a call. My mother bred dogs, cats can’t be that different.”

“I might just call you to come over so you can worry forme.”

He’d obviously been waiting for that. He produced a printedbusiness card, and wrote a number on the back. “Here’s my cell phone.”

“You make house calls?”

“Any time.”

This was getting out of hand! Trouble was, she wanted thisJud she barely knew to make a house call… and stay the night. She was nuts! Sheknew nothing about him, other than he was one of Andrew’s friends-or maybe justan acquaintance. “I’ll remember that, Jud.” She slipped the card in her jacketpocket, finished her latte, and reminded Andrew she had to get home.

They didn’t talk much on the way back. She sensed he waswaiting for her to say something-about Jud perhaps. She didn’t. Not having anyidea what to say, and wasn’t sure she wanted to talk about him. He ratherunnerved her.

“See you at the shower,” Andrew said as he dropped her ather front door and drove away.

Chapter Two

 

Aunt Sarah’s house was packed when Katie arrived.

“Katie! I’m so happy you’re here. Come in and get somewine.” Sally was glowing with joy, as she hustled Katie into the kitchen where,Tim, her intended, was dispensing jug wine, and talking to Mary, her cousinJason’s very-pregnant wife. Yes, the family was increasing.

Katie took the offered wine, and Mary grabbed a can of popbefore they both elbowed their way towards the living room. As Katie noticedand waved at her also pregnant sister, Susie across the room, Uncle Jimmy,Sally’s father, called from the doorway. “Okay! Everyone in the living room andget a seat. Time to open the goodies! Part the crowd please and let Sally andTim through!”

Balancing her wine, Katie moved sideways. Mary followedturning her belly as best she could.

“Excuse, me,” a voice said behind them. Katie turned andstared. Jud smiled. “I thought it was you, Katie.” He smiled at Mary. “I thinkin your condition, you deserve a chair. With a courtly bow, he stood andoffered her his.

Mary was no fool, eight months gone and swollen ankles. Shesank into the wing chair with a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

“My pleasure,” Jud said, and closed his hand over Katie’sand eased them both away.

Smooth mover was an understatement. They were squashed in acorner, and as more people moved into the room, she found herself penned inbehind the sofa.

“Didn’t expect to see you here. You know Sally and Tim?”

“No. Sophie’s out of town, so Andrew brought me instead.”

She couldn’t help laughing. “Think anyone noticed thedifference?”

He nodded with mock seriousness. “I suspect so, but threebottles of good Merlot helped ease the way.”

“Is this sort of affair your idea of an evening out?” Shewas here half on sufferance. She’d have heard about it from her mother untilChristmas if she hadn’t put in an appearance.

“I understood you’d be here.”

He was direct. “I might not be staying.”

“You see a way out?”

Short of climbing over the back of the sofa and stepping onthe four people occupying it-no. “This wasn’t accidental, was it?”

“Not much that I do is accidental.”

Sheesh, what had she ended up with? Besides a voice likewarm Kahlua, and looks to stop traffic or change the weather. “Planned it allout did you?”

“Yes.” She was tempted to shove him for his arrogance, butelbow space was at a premium right now. “After I got home Thursday, I calledAndrew right away, and he said you’d be here. I came. Waiting for you to callwas too iffy. I was afraid you’d chicken out.“

She almost spluttered red wine all over Aunt Mildred’s newhairdo. Jud offered her a handkerchief. It was perfectly ironed, hemstitchedlinen, darn good thing she didn’t really need it.

“Thanks.” As she handed it back, their fingers brushed, hisdark eyes watching her intently. His gaze bothered her, or more precisely,excited her. She turned away, making a point of looking intently at the stackof wrapped and ribboned gifts. “They should start opening them soon.”

“Can’t wait to see them open your present,” Jud said, “andto watch your reaction.”

“My reaction?” It was what the entire family would say whenSusie opened it that was bothering Katie. And heaven help her! Her mother wasnow standing by Susan, and at a nudge from Susan, Mother looked across theroom. She waved, her eyes all but popping out on stalks when she noticed Jud.Katie groaned inwardly, she was headed for the maternal inquisition now. “Hi,Mom, Susie!”

They both waved back, eyeing Jud as if he were the first manthey’d seen in twenty years. And he, drat the man, nodded politely and smiled!Susie simpered in reply. Darn it, her sister was married with two andseven-ninths children, she had no right ogling her man. Hey, wait! Jud wasn’thers. He was just the man imprisoning her in the corner behind a rather nice,chintz-covered sofa.

“Your mother?” Jud whispered, his breath warm in her ear.

She nodded. “And my sister.”

“Am I the only person present who isn’t a blood relative orin-law?”

“Yes.”

“That gives me an edge, I hope.”

“I don’t think it gives you anything!”

Since Robbie, Sally’s brother called for quiet just then,Jud was saved the trouble of replying. Everyone settled expectantly to watchSally open her gifts.

But first they had to divide into three teams and blow upcondoms until they burst. Since everyone else was suitably impressed at Jud’scondom bursting ability, she pretty much had to be. Fair enough, he did bursttheir team to victory.

“That was interesting,” Jud whispered “Do that often atfamily gatherings do you? Some sort of fertility rite?”

She not only stopped herself from laughing, she even managedto look him in the eye and reply, “Yes. It’s a family custom.”

“Hmmm.” He raised his dark eyebrows and the corner of hismouth twitched. “I can think of much better uses for them.”

“If they pop that readily I’m not sure I’d ever trust onearound you!”

“I’ll get super strength ones.”

And Mom was smiling benignly in their direction. If she hadhalf a notion what he’d just said, she’d have a conniption. “Think you’ll needthem?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t want to get you pregnant, untilyou’re certain you want to have my baby.”

She asked for that one! But, she had to admit, she’d neverhad so much entertainment at a family gathering in her life. And she’d be upthere with the angels, if she didn’t get a charge out of all the admiring andcurious glances cast their way. She was spared from answering by the start ofthe grand gift opening.

“I like the black lace one,” Jud whispered as Sally openedyet another tap pants and camisole set.

Keeping her eyes fixed on Sally and Tim surrounded bywrapping paper and gifts, Katie shook her head. “I prefer the red satin one.”

“It’ll look good on you, but even more, I’ll enjoy taking itoff.”

Sheesh, try to be ornery and the man took it as come on.“Dream on!”

“Oh, I do, Katie. Don’t you? Imagining you has kept me awakethe past couple of nights.”

“That explains it, you’re sleep-deprived.”

“It’s not sleeping I plan.”

Across the room, she caught her mother’s encouraging smile.Mom wouldn’t be quite so complacent if she knew what Jud was saying-or wouldshe? After their last, ‘Katie, do you think your attitude might be putting menoff? You should try harder!’ She wondered, Right now, it was Jud who wastrying-in every sense of the word!

“After this, I’m going home to sleep-alone!”

“Good. That means I don’t have competition!”

He got a punch in the ribs for that.

His hand caught hers. Very gently, he opened her hand, andstroked one finger across her palm. Quite against her will, her body broke outin goose bumps. He dropped her hand before she had a chance to pull it away.

“You’re pushing your luck, Charlie!”

“It’s Jud, and I’m looking forward to pushing more thanthat.”

“You flatter yourself that you even have a chance.”

“I know I do, Katie, and so do you. If you were reallyannoyed you’d have moved away. You’re enjoying wondering what outrageous thingI’ll say next.”

She was sorely tempted to deny that soundly. But lying was asin, so she settled for a glare, suspecting it wouldn’t have the slightesteffect, and darn it, he was right! She was enjoying his company. This was onefamily get together she’d remember for the rest of her natural born days.

“Alright, Katie?” Jud asked after they watched in silencewhile Sally opened a gift basket of massage cream and scented candles, and Timopened an electric can opener. Obviously Aunt Anita and Uncle Joe hadn’tapproved of the idea of a ‘honeymoon’ shower.

Katie looked at Jud. His dark eyes were serious, not a glintof amusement or tease. He looked worried, unless he was very good at acting.“Why wouldn’t it be alright?”

He smiled. “Shh, they’re opening your present now.”

Damn it! They were. What had seemed fun in the shop wasn’tquite the same with her mother and aunts and uncles looking on. But Sally seemedhappy enough. “Just what I need when Tim gets out of line!” she announced to achorus of ribald laughter. “Thanks, Katie,” Tim added. “Let me know if you needto borrow them!”

More laughter all around, then thankfully they moved on toHelen and Jimmy’s gift ofThe Joy of Sex.

“You know,” Jud whispered, as everyone gave their attentionto a long package wrapped in silver paper, “when you look at those cuffs, yourbreath catches, and your heart beats faster.”

A denial rose to her lips, but the words never came out.“You imagine it!”

He shook his head. “I noticed that evening in the coffeebar, and in the Rose and Leather. The thought of handcuffs and manacles excitesyou.”

Talking about it was a bad idea. “Jud…” she began

“I do understand, you know. They excite me too. Kidnap,hostage, princess in the tower, fair maiden in the dungeon are fun games toplay.”

“Children play games! You grow out of it.”

“Some of us never do.”

Jud took her hand again. Lightly. It would take no effort topull her fingers from his. She didn’t.

“I won’t disappoint you,” he promised. For some inexplicablereason, she was wet between her legs.

 

Katie expected her mother to be hovering by the door. Shewas dead right. “Katie, dear,” Mom enthused. “You will introduce me, won’tyou?”

Since saying “Hell, no!” to your mother was not an option,Katie smiled. “Mom, this is Jud Carlton, a friend of Andrew’s. Jud this is myMom, Angie Fairfax.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Fairfax.”

Mom beamed at Jud. “Lovely to meet you! I hope we’ll see youat some other family gatherings.” Not quite an invitation to dinner, but whydid Mom have to act so eager?

A couple of gracious comments from Jud (she had to grant itto him, the man was slick) and they did the last round of good-byes and left.

Together.

She might as well have put an announcement in the morningpaper.

He walked her to her car.

“Can I convince you to come and have a drink? Coffee?”

She shook her head. “I’m not making it up, but I have to gethome and work. I’ve…”

“A client waiting for a rush job?”

“Modifications to the rush job.”

“I’ll accept it’s not an excuse if you meet me for lunchtomorrow.”

Tomorrow was her day for visiting Gran, as much as the oldladies would love the novelty, Katie was not taking Jud. But she didn’t want tobrush him off. Ridiculously she was drawn to him, outrageous comments and all.“Tomorrow lunch is out, a family commitment, but if you’re serious aboutwanting to see me, give me a break from playing kitty doula the weekend afternext.”

“You feel Andrew pulled a fast one on you?”

“To be fair, no, it was my mother.”

Jud had a wonderful laugh, and out of the confines of thehouse, he let it roar in a wonderful rich peal that echoed in the frosty night.Heck, a couple of cousins turned from unlocking cars to listen. “I doubt manypeople refuse her. She gave me a good once over. I half expected to be asked mycareer prospects, and whether there was insanity or feeble-mindedness in mybloodlines.”

It was her turn to laugh. “That will come when you getinvited to lunch.”

“What are my chances of getting an invitation?”

One hundred percent, if she left it up to her mother.“Aren’t you going a bit too fast?”

“Far too fast, but what have I got to lose? I made up mymind that night in the coffee shop. I want to see you again. No, what I reallywant to do is take you home and make love all night… but you have modificationsfor your clients rush job.”

“Jud…” She made the mistake of hesitating.

His knees brushed her thigh as he placed his hands on thecar roof, either side of her shoulders. “Katie,” he whispered, his voice husky,while she stared up at him like a damn rabbit caught in the headlights. Hislips came down, warm and moist in the October night. His mouth closed on herswith a gentle pressure that sent wild desire spiraling through her. Ridiculous!It was only a damn kiss, but his lips caressed, like a warm tide along a smoothbeach. Each pressure on her mouth sent another rush of sensation flooding hermind and body. Wetness gathered between her legs, as he pressed his body againsthers.

Katie vaguely wondered about people passing by or traffic orAunt Mary seeing, until his lips opened hers and her mind shut off. Shecouldn’t think, didn't have a need to. She opened her mouth and welcomed histongue as it gently caressed hers. Blood pounded in her ears. Her heartbeatechoed inside her skull, as she wrapped her arms around Jud Carlton and pulledhim close. Her legs parted at a tipping of his knee. She pressed into him, andhe pinned her to the car with his body. He was hard. She was hot. And hedeepened the kiss. She wanted this kiss to last forever, to spend the rest ofher life locked in his embrace, but in a far corner of her reason, she knewthere was more, much more. This man would take her to undreamed of places, giveher unimagined pleasure, and with that hope, she kissed on.

She was wobbly by the time he broke off.

He too was breathing fast and looking down at her withglazed eyes. “We must stop.”

“Why?”

“Because I say so.” Her heart skittered at his hoarse voice.

“Jud.”

“Not here, Katie. What I want to do to you would get us botharrested, and utterly destroy the wonderful impression I made on your mother. Icould take you home with me but…” The damn web site! She was two hairs fromconsigning her client to the devil but… “Business is business, Katie. You can’tlet a customer down. We can wait. I’ll see you this weekend”

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