Undercover Lover: Take Me, Lover Book 4, page 1
Hardwired for all kinds of action…
Take Me, Lover, Book 2
When Anne Parker yanks open her front door, she’s armed and ready to aim cold fury at her ex. Instead, she finds herself staring up at Pete Crenshaw, a man as disarming as he is dangerous to her battered defenses. A man whose touch sends her I-remember-sex hormones soaring into the red zone.
Those hormones sure have picked a hell of a time to surge, though—with New Year’s around the corner and the ex suddenly making noises about worming his way back into her life.
Pete’s been biding his time. More accurately, lying in wait for precisely the right moment to take their relationship from friends to lovers. He’s aware of Anne’s trust issues, but it’s time to make a move before she has a chance to do what she does best—overthink it.
Her ex isn’t just back to make another play, though. He’s after secrets Pete and his partner hide under the cover of their garage business. Pete finds his heart caught between Anne’s safety and the secrets he’s sworn to keep—unless he can find a way to preserve both…
Warning: This friends-to-lovers tale contains graphic and explicit episodes of mattress dancing, caveman sex, jeopardy (not the game show), Bad Words, Ninjas, ex-husbands and a happy ending.
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
Copyright © 2009 by Charlene Teglia
Edited by Laurie M. Rauch
Cover by Angela Waters
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: December 2009
For my hero, who gets woken up by mad typing in the wee hours of the night and never complains about it.
When Anne Parker swung open her front door with a fussing baby clutched to her chest and cold fury in her heart to match the bite in the winter air, the sight of Pete Crenshaw brought her to a halt.
He filled the porch. Pete was tall and broad and solid, dressed in jeans at the worn-soft stage and a matching denim shirt. His work boots were visible below the hem of the jeans. The denim shirt was buttoned almost to the top, but open at the collar, so Anne found herself at eye level with his throat and had to tilt her head back to take in his face, which wore the usual expression of bland good humor. The expression was at odds with the aggressive shaved head.
“The little guy giving you a hard time?” Pete plucked Joey out of her unresisting grip and settled her son on his shoulder. One big hand cradled the five-month-old boy. The other performed a rhythmic pat on his back that made Joey’s wail trail off into a sigh.
“Not exactly,” Anne said.
“Somebody else? Who were you expecting when you opened the door?”
“My ex-husband,” Anne admitted.
Something dangerous flickered in Pete’s blue eyes and then vanished so fast Anne wondered if she’d imagined it. She didn’t have time to think about it, though, because he was in motion, one hand closing on the curve of her waist, turning her, pulling her simultaneously into his side and back through the door, which he closed behind them.
Pete had never touched her before. It had been long enough since any man had touched her that the sensation felt both alien and familiar at the same time. The warmth of his hand on her waist felt surprisingly good through the thin knit of her silk sweater. The parts of her now pressed against him had some hardwired female reaction to contact with six-plus feet of solid, muscled male that told her the rest of him would feel even better.
Anne stood there for a minute, thinking her hormones had picked a hell of a time to wake up. She felt as brightly lit as the Christmas tree that stood in the corner.
“Has he been bothering you? What does he want?”
Pete asked the questions in an even tone, but something in his voice sent a little shiver up her spine. “Yes, and I have no idea. He doesn’t want me, and he definitely doesn’t want Joey. He didn’t even try to get visitation rights in the divorce.”
“Maybe he’s changed his mind.”
Anne shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“I take it he’s responsible for the decapitated flowers on your porch?”
“Only indirectly. He brought the flowers. I ripped the heads off. I probably should have thrown them in the trash instead of throwing them at him.”
The rumble of Pete’s laugh made something inside her relax and made her feel more reluctant to put some space between them.
“I think you got your point across.”
“I hope so.” The fury that had drained away at the sight of Pete stirred and Anne realized it wasn’t entirely gone. She wasn’t even sure why Brad made her see red. She didn’t love him anymore. Maybe she never really had. It was more indignation that he thought he could just show up with flowers months later and she’d welcome him with open arms. As if something that trivial could make her overlook the way he’d left her while she was pregnant and in labor. She’d had to get herself to the hospital.
Her sister Maggie had come home to help. Since that reunited her with Pete’s partner, Adam, they all owed Brad a thank-you for taking off.
Maggie and Adam were disgustingly happy. Anne and Joey were doing just fine, and they were better off without a selfish, shallow figurehead of a male in their little family.
Although, Pete had somehow become a fixture in her home over the last few months. The realization made Anne look with opened eyes at the way Joey cuddled up to the big man who currently held them both with a sort of quiet competence. The balance of her inner world seemed to shift on its foundations.
“Adam and Maggie aren’t here,” Anne blurted out, suddenly very conscious of that fact. Along with the fact that her body was still pressed to his and liked it that way.
“I didn’t come to see Maggie and if I want to see Adam, I can go back to work.” Pete didn’t let her go. Instead, he maneuvered them to the nearby rocking chair and pulled both woman and child into his lap. “Tell me more about Brad.”
“Brad is history.” And history wasn’t nearly as interesting as the present feel of Pete’s thighs under her butt. His muscles shifted and flexed as he rocked back. Muscles deep inside her tightened in reaction.
“Those who do not learn from history repeat it,” Pete intoned.
“I’ve learned.” Anne scowled as the happy, tingly sensations she’d just been reintroduced to washed away. Her ex wasn’t a topic that meshed with I-remember-sex hormones.
“The flowers say you don’t want Brad repeating his visit, but has Brad learned?” Pete tapped her nose with his fingertip. The gesture should have seemed infantile. Instead, it felt, well, sweet. Anne wondered what it would feel like if he let it trail down to press against her lips.
“Brad is not a fast learner,” Anne admitted.
“Maybe I should explain a few things to him.”
“Maybe you should explain a few things to me. Why am I sitting on your lap?”
“Don’t you like it?”
“That’s not the point,” Anne mumbled, feeling ridiculous. She wasn’t a gawky, inexperienced teen on the breathless edge of making out for the first time. She was a grown woman. She was a mother. She should be able to handle landing in the lap of a muscular man who felt too good and seemed too sure of himself, as if he knew she was feeling that zing that said we aren’t just friends anymore.
Maybe they’d never been just friends. Maybe something more had always been underneath the surface. All the times they’d been thrown together, paired up alongside Adam and Maggie, suddenly seemed less like coincidence and more like a planned effort.
That unsettled Anne more than Brad’s unexpected and unwanted return. “You’ve been lying in wait,” she accused Pete.
“I think of it as biding my time.” The finger she’d half-hoped he’d touch to her lips skated up to caress her cheek and spear into her hair. “It’s crass to hit on a new mother. Especially when she’s been busy divorcing the baby’s father. I was waiting for the right moment.”
“And this is it?” Anne stared at him, caught on the breathless edge after all.
“This is it.” Pete settled Joey in the bassinet that was in easy reach from the rocking chair, and adjusted the angle of her head to his liking. His fingers massaged her scalp as the palm of his hand cradled her face.
“You can’t just kiss me like this, out of the blue.” But she didn’t pull away.
“If I asked you on a date first, you’d overthink it.”
That was true.
Pete bent his head and brushed his lips over hers in a side-to-side slide, as if introducing their mouths so they could get familiar before settling in to get serious about the kiss. Then Anne discovered that Pete getting serious packed a solid punch aimed straight at her libido.
He tasted like rich coffee and healthy male. He tasted her as if he wanted to savor her for hours and discover every way their lips could meet. Hard, soft, heated, tantalizing. He kissed her again and again, every time subtly different from the last, until her lips felt swollen and her whole body felt pliant and aching and her tongue curled with his in open-mouthed abandon.
When he finally lifted his head, Anne had to rest hers on his shoulder while she tried to catch her breath. Her heart pounded and the room seemed unseasonably warm for the last week of December. Pete’s arms wrapped around her and squeezed, a movement that pressed their torsos closer together.
“I want you,” Pete said in the calm, matter-of-fact way he might say he wanted a pizza.
“You can’t,” Anne stuttered through kiss-swollen, uncooperative lips. “I’m almost your partner’s sister-in-law. If we dated and broke up, it would be so awkward.”
She felt his massive shoulders move in a careless shrug. “Don’t break up with me.”
The very idea of having something permanent with this man panicked her into grasping at desperate straws. “I can’t date you. I can’t date anybody. I’m a mom. Everybody knows men don’t want single mothers.”
“I don’t see you as single,” Pete said, rocking her world further off its axis. “I see us as a couple.” His hands smoothed over her back and hips, up her sides to cup her breasts, and Anne let out a squeak of surprise that ended as a moan. “I think you see us as a couple too.”
Couple meant companionship, doing things together, including domestic tasks. By that definition, they’d been a couple practically since Joey’s birth. It also had another meaning, one her body seemed to crave as much as the rest of her wanted to flee.
Coupling. Sex. Naked bodies pressed together. Legs tangling. Pete, hard and thick, deep inside her.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” Anne said. It came out a lot more uncertain than she liked. She sounded vulnerable, dammit. And after Brad, vulnerable was not how she wanted to feel.
“I can wait.” Pete rubbed his chin against the top of her head.
“You might get tired of waiting.”
“Anne.” Amusement threaded his voice, making her look up. The warmth in his eyes made her hold her breath, because it wasn’t just the heat of desire. It was affection. “Do you really think I’ll get impatient and find somebody else who’s less work to get horizontal? What I want, I want from you. And I want it for keeps.”
He grinned, his blue eyes crinkling in the corners. “I’ve rendered you speechless. You want me bad.”
She did. Since he knew it, it saved her the effort of trying to hide it. “You can’t tell me we’re a couple, end of story, and expect it to just happen like that.”
“The sex might be lousy.”
He actually laughed out loud. His assurance made her feel grumpy.
“Well, it might,” she snapped.
“The first time might be a little awkward,” Pete allowed. “We’ll practice. As often and as long as it takes to get it right.”
“You’re counting on chemistry, but we might not be compatible.”
“If my sex drive doesn’t match yours, I’ll make adjustments.”
“I’m not talking about sex.”
“Yes, you are.” Pete hugged her close and kissed the corner of her mouth while he openly fondled her breasts. Her sweater was too thin to be any barrier, but her heavily constructed support bra should have been. “You already know we’re compatible outside of bed, so that’s the only thing you have left to worry about.”
“I’m not worried.” A beat later, honesty made her admit, grudgingly, “Much.”
“A little worry is natural.” Pete’s hands seemed to know exactly how to soothe and stimulate her at the same time, stroking, petting, cupping, massaging. “We’re changing the rules of our relationship. That introduces uncertainty.”
“Not for you, apparently.”
“For me too.” Pete reclined her in his lap and let his hands trail down to the hem of her shirt before they slid under to rest on the bare skin of her tummy. “You might think my penis is too small.”
“You might think my ass is too big.”
“Your ass turns me on. I want to see it naked.”
“Your penis isn’t small,” Anne blurted. She could feel him, thick and ready against her hip.
“You might wish it was a little smaller the first time.” He caressed her stomach. “You’ve had a baby since you last had sex. It might feel a little uncomfortable.”
Anne rolled her eyes. “I know that. I’m a nurse.”
“I thought it might reassure you to know that your lover knows it.”
Her lover. He donned the label as if she’d granted him the right to wear it. Maybe she had. She wasn’t exactly scrambling to get off his lap, or pushing his hands away.
“Are you trying to reassure me?”
“I’m trying to turn you on.” Pete smiled at her, fingers skating along her ribcage and searching out the front clasp of her bra a bare second before he released it. “Sex will be more fun if you’re relaxed.”
“We’re going to have sex?”
“Oh, yeah.” His eyes darkened as his hands closed over her breasts, naked under the thin knit. Her nipples felt distended and swollen against his palm and she sucked in a breath at the intimate contact. “Now’s good for me. Later works too. Tonight. Tomorrow. Next week. Whenever you say the word.”
“If that’s how much time you need to be sure.”
Anne shook her head, undone by the emotional impact of his words as much as the pure seduction of his hands. “How you can be so sure?”
“It’s not that I think I’m irresistible.” He planted a kiss on her mouth that made her heart thud. “I just don’t plan on failure. Success is largely a matter of not giving up. And I’m sure of what I want. I think you are too.”
The knock on the door was like a dash of cold water.
She scrambled to her feet, feeling disoriented. Pete had just looked at her naked breasts. Touched them too. He’d kissed her mindless and without the untimely interruption of the mystery person at the door, he might have done a lot more.
Pete, the male friend who’d become a constant presence in her life, wanted to have sex. With her. Often. And her hormones enthusiastically agreed with the plan.
The knock sounded again, louder. Anne started to stumble towards the door. Pete caught her and then tucked her behind him in a maneuver she didn’t expect, putting himself between her and the door.
“That’s my door,” Anne said to his back before she shifted to one side.
“And you’re my woman.” Pete answered the knock, catching Brad with his hand midair. “Hello, Brad. What can I help you with?”
The question and the man caught her ex off-balance, but he recovered fast. “I want to talk to my—to Anne.”
“I think Anne already said whatever she had to say to you with flowers.”
Somehow she knew without being able to see that Pete delivered that with a straight face. She could see Brad, though, and the moment it clicked that Pete was competition was almost comical. Pete ran a garage. Brad was Ivy League. In Brad’s mind, it was impossible that a woman would prefer a man who got his hands dirty for a living.
Brad stared past Pete at her. “You’re dating him?”
Some inner devil prompted her to say, “We sort of skipped the dating part and went straight to sex.”
He recovered himself with a visible effort. “All right. You’ve moved on. I deserve that. But I still think you owe me a chance to explain.”
Pete’s voice was mild, but something in the way his body shifted sounded a warning. “She doesn’t owe you anything. If she chooses to hear you out, it’s an act of generosity.”
CHARLENE TEGLIA SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Animal AttractionWhen Sparks Fly: Love and RocketsRedline Lover: Take Me, Lover, Book 1
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