Desire doesn’t care how settled your life is.
Jenny Rohm thinks she has it all—a job she loves, an engagement to her high school sweetheart, a future bright with promise. Then she meets attorney Ashley Edwards and discovers desire doesn’t care how settled your life might be.
It starts with a single fantasy. His. Hers. One leads to two, two leads to three, three leads to more. Fantasizing about his wicked mouth or her sinful curves doesn’t satisfy either of them for long, though. The more she gets to know him, the harder Jenny finds it to deny the truths Ashley insists on exposing.
The question remains. Is it worth risking everything she has to quench the cravings? Not even Ashley can answer to that. When it comes to what she wants, only Jenny can make the choice.
Jenny glanced over his shoulder at the crowd of black suits and glittering gowns. She had no idea where Bryan had taken himself off to, though she hoped for his sake that whatever Mr. Portman wanted would work out in the long run. Chatting with a young, flirtatious lawyer probably wasn’t what Bryan had had in mind about her mingling, but Jenny didn’t see the harm in indulging herself. After all, Ashley Edwards might be key in whatever TDC was doing. Being nice to him could both help Bryan and give her a little pleasant distraction at the same time.
“With promises I’ll get in trouble for revealing.” She shifted her attention back to Ashley. “But, hey. At least it’s an excuse for everyone to dress up. There is absolutely nothing wrong about a room full of men in tuxes.”
His eyes sparkled. “I have to say, I support any excuse that allows you to dress up. That dress looks like it was made for you.”
This time, there was no mistaking the appreciation in his gaze. A slow burn crept up the back of Jenny’s neck, a smile curving her mouth as they studied each other. It wasn’t like men didn’t flirt with her; every time a male customer came into the garage, she was the target of their newfound affections. She joked with Otto all the time about being the bait to lure in the new clients, but it wasn’t that far from the truth. Jenny was used to men finding her attractive.
She wasn’t so used to responding to their advances as strongly as she was to Ashley, though. She didn’t just hear his appreciation. She felt it with every inch of her now flaming skin.
“You’re the first person to mention my dress,” Jenny replied. “I was beginning to wonder why I didn’t just come in jeans and a T-shirt.”
Ashley stepped back, his gaze sweeping her body openly. “I think that you could have arrived in jeans and a T-shirt and still outshone everybody in the room.”
She’d asked for it, really. If she hadn’t wanted him to continue the compliments, Jenny knew all she had to do was walk away or cut off the conversation at the knees. But she liked the attention. Even more, she liked him. She liked that he cut straight to the chase, and she liked that he didn’t feel the need to put on an act like the rest of the people at the party. Of course, it didn’t hurt that she could get lost in how brilliant his eyes were, but that was beside the point.
Jenny took a half step closer before she realized what she was doing. “Not everybody can appreciate a pair of good-fitting jeans. And judging from the accent…” She caught her lower lip between her teeth as she contemplated it. “Texas?”
Ashley nodded. “You have a good ear. I’ve been trying to lose that accent since I moved to California.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Oh, it’s been…” He tilted his head. “A little over a decade now. I came out here, fresh from law school.”
“Really?” He was older than she had imagined. With that grin and his youthful appearance, Jenny would have placed him in his mid-to-late twenties. This made him at least six or seven years older than her. “And California sun hasn’t aged you a bit. I have to know that secret.”
Ashley smiled ruefully. “Oh, that one’s easy. If you never leave the office, the sun never has a chance to get you. It saves your skin, but it’s hell on your social life.”
She looked down at his long fingers. No rings. Single, or a married guy who didn’t wear a band. She knew a few who did that.
“There’s no special lady in my life,” Ashley said in response to her unspoken question. “I’m the proverbial asshole married to my job.” He shrugged. “Or I haven’t found the right lady. It’s all the same in the end.”
“I can’t believe that there’s a sane woman in this town who wouldn’t want a guy like you around.”
Ashley winked. “That’s because we’ve only just met.”
Her laughter rang clear in the crowd. “Well, if you’re half as entertaining with other women as you are with me, something’s obviously wrong with them.” Unable to resist, she took another step closer, lowering her voice. “Come on, tell me. What is it you do that drives them all away?”
“I’ll tell you, but only if you let me show you what keeps them coming back.”
He might as well have reached out and touched her. A shiver ran down Jenny’s spine, and her chest constricted as his eyes burned into hers. Sudden images of his lean body pressing hers into a wall filled her head, those warm fingers slipping beneath her dress, that mouth sans smile savaging hers, and it took restraint she didn’t realize she needed not to automatically say, “Hell, yes.” It had been a long time since a physical attraction to a guy she didn’t know had hit her below the belt. That was the surest sign she needed to stop encouraging his flirtation.
The best she could manage was, “In a party with this many people? Not even I’m that crazy.”
Ashley checked his watch. “We don’t have to stick around. I’ve put in my time for the night. We should find somewhere a bit less…crowded.”
For a split second, Jenny considered it. She knew she shouldn’t. Couldn’t. But the temptation to slip away with him surged as hot through her as the unexpected desire. Nobody would have to know, and she’d be back long before Bryan would even realize she’d been gone. But one look at the way Ashley leaned toward her warned Jenny she was about to take a step from which there would be no retreat.
“I don’t think my fiancé would be so happy about that.” There. That should extinguish any hope he might be holding. “Even if it’s the nicest offer I’ve had all night.”
“Your fiancé?” The easy smile was still on his face, as though she hadn’t said anything to dampen his spirits. “Which one is he?”
She moved sideways, scanning the crowd and wishing she could see him amid the sea of black suits. Ashley shifted as well, turning into her side as if to follow her line of sight, and Jenny felt the definite brush of his arm against hers.
“Bryan Gillis.” She shook her head. “I’m not sure where he’s gone off to, but he’s here someplace.”
“Bryan Gillis?” Ashley nodded toward the far corner without stepping away. “He’s over there. Though I can’t imagine why he’d want to be so far away.”
“One of the bosses is making him network.” Her explanation was smooth and easy, but when she saw Bryan’s fair head above so many others, Jenny was embarrassed about not being able to find him on her own. “Wait.” A small frown marred her features as she looked to Ashley. “You know him?”
“We met earlier this week at a luncheon. And, I’ll have to double-check my planner, but I think we’re meeting next Tuesday for drinks.”
“Oh.” Then it was a very good thing she had rebuffed him. The last thing she needed was for anything to get back to Bryan.
“But…” Ashley drew her attention from Bryan and back to him. “I can tell you without looking that I’m not meeting anybody on Monday night.”
Her brows shot up. “I just told you I’m engaged. You’re not seriously asking me to meet you, are you?”
“I was just imparting information that I thought you might be interested in. But if you’re not, I beg your pardon.”
She didn’t know if he was serious or not. Was this lawyer double-talk to cover his ass, or had she misjudged his flirtatious behavior so completely? She’d thought he was a straight shooter, but maybe she’d been wrong. It would hardly be the first time she’d misread one of Bryan’s colleagues.
She needed to cut her losses and get out before she screwed this up even more.
With an ease she didn’t feel, Jenny smiled and stuck out her hand. “It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Edwards. And as much as you’ve been the most interesting person to talk to me all night, I should probably go let my fiancé know I’m still alive.”
Ashley produced his card seemingly out of thin air and pressed it into her palm. “In case you were interested. Or you need a good lawyer.”
She took it, dumbstruck, but as she slipped it into her purse, he smiled at her, that easy grin that made her skin tingle without forewarning. With a small nod, Jenny bolted, already trying to erase the memory of those brilliant blue eyes that lingered for hours after the two of them parted.