Excerpt: Paws Up for Love

Excerpt: Paws Up for Love

Book 3: Canine Cupids

“You want to kiss me?” She sounded more than little surprised, and Evan immediately cursed and took a step back.

Oops. He had so not meant for her to realize that. “No. Of course not.” Total lie.

She pursed her lips. “Wow. You really were.”

“I was thinking about Buddy,” he growled. It was close to the truth. He should have been thinking about Buddy, his long-lost brother who apparently loved the woman standing in front of him, despite the fact Josie was apparently more than slightly disenamored of Buddy. Honestly, knowing Buddy, Evan was pretty sure she had a good reason to be not-so-delighted to be associated with his brother, but that didn’t change the fact that Buddy loved her, which meant hands off for Evan.

“I wasn’t thinking about Buddy. I was thinking about you kissing me,” she said.

“Stop it.” God, the idea was far too tempting.

“Don’t worry. I’m not interested in you.” She sounded just a little too forceful, and he contemplated proving to her that she actually did want him. Just drop a kiss on her and…  

Think about Buddy. “Those poems about you are in Buddy’s hand writing, which means you were involved with him.”

“And…what’s your point?”

“That’s it.” He closed the distance between them, stopping when he was only six inches away. Interesting, but the air actually felt warmer over here. And he could sense the faint scent of roses. He leaned forward. “Is that you?”

“Is what me?” She leaned back.

“Roses.”

“Um…” She frowned. “Yeah. It’s my body lotion.”

“I bet Buddy liked it.” Had his brother had the chance to bask in that glorious scent? Damn. How had his brother not done everything possible not to lose Josie? She was entrancing as hell.

She lifted her chin. “Buddy didn’t like it, and it doesn’t matter what he thought of it!”

He grinned at the fire in her eyes. Feisty even after her life had tumbled down around her? She was a fighter, and he liked that. It was a trait he’d like in his own woman… someday. Not now, and not Josie.

Josie was Buddy’s.

End of story.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I think Buddy was wrong. That scent is perfect for you. It’d be enough to make any man tremble.” Crap. Had he really just said that? He had to pull himself together, and fast.

Her bluster faded, and she peered up at him as if he were a little strange. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

Seduce her? Damn. He liked that idea. A lot. Or he would, under other circumstances. “No. Of course not. No chance.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Good.”

Yeah, it was time to change the subject. “So? Shall we pack up your stuff and take it downstairs? I have an SUV that should fit a lot of the boxes,” he said.

She held up a hand. “Wait a sec. You didn’t apologize for calling me a liar that he stole my money, my car and my waffle iron.”

Ah, she would have noticed that. “That’s because I don’t think he did it.”

“So, I’m a liar.”

This was sort of like that age-old question of whether a pair of pants made your woman look fat. No safe answer.

“Evan?”

“I think there may be other interpretations of the situation which you haven’t fully considered.”

She rolled her eyes and levered herself off the counter, no doubt intending to storm right past him and dismiss his offer.

He couldn’t that happen.

He had to keep her around until he located his missing brother. So, he didn’t fight the instinct to stop her. His hand shot out, wrapped around her waist and hauled her up against him.

Her hips against his hips, her eyes wide, her breath hot on his chin. “You have a thing for trapping beautiful woman against your body, don’t you?” she asked.

“You think you’re beautiful?”

A faint pink colored her cheeks. “Self-affirmation.”

“Well, you’re right.”

“Shut up. You can’t flatter me into forgiving you.” She squirmed against him, her body rubbing against his in all sorts of interesting ways.

“I suggest you remain still if you don’t want that seduction talk to become a reality.” It was all Evan could do to keep from growling the words, and Josie stilled immediately.

But her cheeks were still flushed and her eyes had morphed into a swirling palette of blues and green. “I have no interest in moving into your house, especially with you there.”

“What other choice do you have?” He bent his head, tempting himself with her nearness. He needed a good knee to the groin right now. Not much else was going to be sufficient to stop his mind from going straight to the gutter, regardless of whether Buddy loved her or not.

“None.” Her voice was almost throaty. “I just dislike you intensely. Sleeping in the same house as you would give me far too many opportunities to try to kill you.” She swallowed. “And I have an aversion to prison.”

“Lying awake at night in a warm bed, resisting the urge to murder me, is worse than sleeping on a park bench?” Yeah, he knew that she blamed Buddy for the fact she was about to become homeless, so it probably wasn’t the best tactic, but it seemed like the one most likely to get her to agree.

“It’s summer, you know. The nights are warm.” She shifted ever so slightly. “I could sleep naked and not get cold if I lived on the street.”

He had no business contemplating the image that popped into his head at her remark. “If you slept naked on the street corner, I think you’d discover a large segment of the male population is even more despicable than I am.”

She blinked, and he knew she was more worried about her living situation that she’d showed. Being evicted sucked. He knew it from his youth, and he honestly didn’t want her living in an unsafe situation. So, he kept pressing. “Do you really want to sleep on the street?” He tightened his grip on her to add to the sensation of being trapped… of being out of options… certainly not because having her anchored to him felt so damn right.

“No, I don’t.”

He nodded. She was his. Not his as in his woman but his as in at his mercy. Just to make that clear.

“But… would I be any safer from marauding men at your house?” There was a challenge in her gaze.

He knew it was time for the truth. “I swear I’ll never touch you.”

“In the twenty minutes we’ve been in each other’s presence, you’ve already manhandled me twice for an extended period of time. It seems to be rather a habit with you.”

“It isn’t usually. You seem to bring it out in me.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “Is that good or bad?”

“You tell me.”

“Depends on whether I can close my eyes and pretend the rock hard, hunky body pressed up against mine belongs to someone I actually like. When I can do that, then it’s good.” She cocked her head. “But when I have to look at you, it dispels all chance for fantasy, and then it’s bad.”

“You insult well.”

She nodded. “Thanks.”

“Though I won’t take offense to being told I have a ‘hunky body.'” Damned if she didn’t look so appealing when her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“You would dwell on that comment. Typical male. You were supposed to be so offended that you didn’t notice that part.”

“I should warn you, I actually have enough intelligence to follow an entire discussion without missing any of it.”

“Apparently.”

“But back to the issue,” she said.

“The issue?”

“The fact you can’t keep your hands off me,” she said.

“Of course I can.”

“You’re fondling my butt right now.”

He stopped moving his hand. Damn. He hadn’t even noticed. As if she’d believed that. “Just testing you. My apologies.”

“Apology not accepted.” Except she didn’t look mad. She looked amused. Entertained.

“About the touching.”

“Yes?”

“You’re right. I’ll probably touch you.” Might as well get it out on the table.

Her eyes sparked and he felt like she’d zapped him the gut.

“But I’ll never touch you sexually.” And he’d write it on his bathroom mirror in permanent marker to remind himself. Because he had no doubt he’d be tempted. With her sexy curves and flashes of temper, he might have more than a moment or two when he wanted to forget she was there for his brother.

She brought her lips together in a thoughtful pout. “Okay. Let me get this straight. You still think I’m a liar about how Buddy stole from me and my work, and got me evicted and fired.”

“It’s possible,” he had to admit. Possible that she was telling the truth, and he didn’t like that. He had to find out what really happened.

She raised her brows. “And you have no interest in me sexually.”

“I said I wouldn’t touch you sexually.” Subtle difference.

She raised an eyebrow, but let his remark go. “So, I’m having a little trouble understanding why you’re making this oh-so-generous offer for me to stay with you while I get my life untangled. I can’t quite see it stemming from some deep-seeded selflessness or a need to help society in general.”

“I’m offended. I’m very selfless.”

“Answer the question, Evan. What gives?”

Fine. “I’m doing it for Buddy.”

She narrowed her eyes. “For Buddy?”

Hmm… if he said it was because he believed in his brother’s innocence and he wanted to keep her around until he could find his brother and get them back together again, it might not go over so well. He was sensing a bit of hostility from Josie toward Buddy. “Because my family owes you.”

She didn’t believe him. He could see it on her face, and admiration surged in his soul. He could never admire a gullible woman. “I don’t believe you,” she said.

“I can see that.”

She frowned. “Really? I’ve been working on hiding my emotions.”

“You need to keep working.”

“Apparently.” She shifted, and he was reminded that her belly was still pressed up against the front of his pants. If she kept moving, she’d also become aware of his awareness. Thankfully, she stilled. “However, I do believe that your family owes me. And I also believe you won’t actually hurt me. And I’m in desperate straits which require me to drop what minimal standards I already have for living arrangements.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“More than welcome.”

“So, you’ll move in?”

She took a deep breath. “Yes, I’ll move in.”

Even as he nodded and released her, he felt like he’d just stepped out of a small plane without a parachute. No oxygen, a rush of adrenaline, and a certain crash and burn.

Not that he’d ever give up the ride.

For the first time since college, he had a roommate.

One he couldn’t touch.

“Interesting” didn’t even begin to describe the situation. Especially since the only other furnished bedroom was right next to his.

 

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