Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Negotiation Tactics by Lori Ryan @loriryanauthor


Explaining this to Chad wouldn’t be fun. How do you explain that you had to run from guard dogs with half your clothes missing because they snuck up on you when you were skinny dipping in some guy’s pool? When Jennie had been running from the dogs, she was laughing. When she’d climbed the fence and run through a stranger’s backyard to get away, it had still been kind of funny. When she discovered she couldn’t find anyone other than Chad to come out and get her, she’d stopped laughing.

Kelly or Jill would have laughed with her. Even Jack or Andrew probably would have laughed a little. Chad? Not so much. He wouldn’t be amused and he wouldn’t hesitate to lecture her. And, lecture her. And, lecture her.

Jennie spotted Chad’s black F350 as he turned onto Cliff Street. She stood and walked to the road to wait for him to pull over. She had to force herself to stand still and keep her head raised. If she fidgeted, he’s see it as a sign of weakness and that would only make things worse.

Jennie twisted her long hair, squeezing the excess water from it. What a sight she must be. Her hair was wet, she was missing her shoes and her bra, and her T-shirt was torn and dirty. And if he noticed her limping, he’d probably drag her off to the hospital. Chad was nothing, if not overprotective.

And, there’s the scowl.

Jennie wished, for once, he wouldn’t look so damned sexy. She didn’t know how it was possible for someone to look so good and still have such an angry expression, but he looked gorgeous no matter what he was doing. Maybe it was the dangerous edge he presented. Anyone who knew Chad knew he was a sweet teddy bear on the inside, but on the outside he looked like he could do some serious damage.

On a sigh, Jennie opened the door and climbed up into the large cab of Chad’s truck. She knew he’d picked his truck to fit himself comfortably. Unfortunately, it dwarfed everyone else, making it a project for Jennie to get in and out. She shimmied up and plopped into the passenger seat.

Settling herself, Jennie buckled her seatbelt and raised her face to Chad’s. She tilted her head to the side and took in Chad’s brooding gaze. A shiver of awareness went through her body as she felt his damn eyes on her.

Down, girl.

As usual, Jennie’s body refused to listen to her when it came to Chad. It ran amuck, responding to every look, every whisper, and every grumble that came from those sexy lips in that low, controlled tone of his. Oh, what she wouldn’t do to see him lose that control. 

No! I don’t want that. It’s only my stupid, traitorous body that wants that.

“Hey, Tiny. I’d offer to buy you breakfast, but with no shoes, I’m afraid we couldn’t get in anywhere respectable.”

She put on her best cheeky grin and hoped he would ignore the embarrassing state of her clothing. Or, lack thereof.

Chad was apparently of a different mind and let his eyes roam from her face down her body and back up again. Of course, his gaze felt like hands grazing her body and that lit her up from the inside. Somehow, she knew his hands would feel even more amazing on her. Caressing, roaming freely, she knew they would set her ablaze.

Stupid body.

He kept his eyes on hers as he reached over and turned off the ignition with a short, economic movement. Then, he sat. Waited.

Great. He’s in interrogation mode. Jennie rolled her eyes at Chad.

“Really?” she asked.

Without blinking, Chad watched her.

“Really.” His was a statement not a question and she realized that, yes, he really was going to wait until she spilled the story. She sighed heavily, hoping he would give up.

Damn. The man’s got military training and I’ve got diddly.

“You realize I’m an adult, right? I don’t actually need to tell you what I was doing. You get that, right?”

Jennie could have sworn she saw the side of his mouth twitch and wondered for a split second if he was tempted to smile. No. Not Chad.

“I can always let you out and just go home, Jennie. I don’t actually need to drive you home. You get that, right?” he mimicked her words.

Jennie narrowed her eyes at him. “You wouldn’t…” she said.

Chad shrugged as if he really might consider leaving Jennie there. They both knew he wouldn’t.

“I was jogging. All right? I jog out here every morning,” Jennie said. She laid her hands in her lap as if that answered everything and then looked back at Chad with what she hoped was her best wide-eyed and innocent gaze. Oh, why did her belly feel like a hundred can-can girls were practicing in there in their puffy can-can skirts?

One tanned, muscled arm rested on the steering wheel of the truck, the other lay between him and Jennie on the seat. Jennie tried not to notice the muscles rippling under his T-shirt or how good he smelled. He had clearly been sleeping when she called him. He’d probably just rolled out of bed, thrown on sweats – and he somehow managed to look like walking sex and smell spicy and woodsy… She licked her lips.

Chad, who’d been studying her face, looked pointedly down at Jennie’s bare feet, then flicked his eyes back up to hers and waited. That earned him another eye roll and a huff of frustration.

“Fine. I jog out here every morning. There’s a house on Prospect Court that has a pool. The guy is never home. He travels a lot,” Jennie explained in clipped tones.

“You know this, how?” Chad asked, but made no move to start the truck.

Jennie could see the small tick in his jaw that sometimes struck when she was really needling him. Sometimes, she could turn the tick into a smile, if she worked hard at it. She wondered if she’d be able to do that now, but wasn’t sure she could risk it. If she pushed too hard at the wrong time, things might go in the other direction and she’d be in for a lecture.

“My friend dated him for a while,” Jennie shrugged. “Can we go now?”

Chad raised an eyebrow but stayed silent.

A frustrated sigh burst past Jennie’s lips, as she shook her head at him. “Anyway, I jog here, let myself in through the back gate, go for a swim, and then jog home. It’s my morning routine. I always peek to see if his car’s in the garage. If it is, I skip my swim. He must have realized someone’s been in his yard. I had just gotten in the pool when I heard barking. The next thing I know, there are two big dogs blasting out of a doggy door and heading my way. They were on the side of the yard with the gate, so I had to go over the back of the fence instead and cut through the neighbor’s yard. I grabbed what I could and ran. My shoes weren’t in the pile of stuff I grabbed.”

Jennie drew her spine up straight and laced her fingers together in her lap. It wasn’t easy to look dignified in the state she was in, but she could damn well try.

Chad stared at Jennie for a few more long seconds. The tick in his jaw continued as his eyes burned into her with an intensity that almost stole her breath. She raised her chin and resisted the very strong urge to squirm.

“Neither was your bra, apparently,” Chad said dryly as he reached for the keys and started the truck. Chad shoved the gear into place and pulled away from the curb as Jennie laughed, wrapping her arms firmly in place over her chest.



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Genre –  Romantic Suspense

Rating – R

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