Under fire, p.1

Under Fire, page 1

 

Under Fire
 


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Under Fire


  “It’ll never work, Jana,”

  Ben said with renewed confidence.

  “Yes, it will.”

  Her strictly professional argument crumbled like dust the instant he dipped his head to nuzzle her ear. He slid his mouth over hers and kissed her deeply. She issued a sexy little moan and wrapped her arms around his neck. Victory had never tasted sweeter.

  “Couldn’t this be construed as sexual harassment?” Jana whispered.

  “Nope, you kissed me back.”

  “I admit working together won’t be easy,” she said. “But I won’t reassign the case. Business and pleasure can’t mix—that much is obvious. Once I file my report, we’ll see what happens. Agreed?”

  “Agreed.” He knew business and pleasure shouldn’t coexist, but no way was he going to wait until she concluded her investigation to have her in his bed. In fact, Ben believed that once he proved his point—that work was nowhere near as gratifying as their mutual satisfaction—she’d wing the case off to another investigator pronto.

  His smile widened at the thought of all the tantalizing possibilities and pleasures ahead.

  Dear Reader,

  When I started writing the SOME LIKE IT HOT trilogy I couldn’t help but wonder if I should have my head examined. Could I really handle such a daunting task? For months I would be living with these characters and no others. By the time this month’s sexy installment was near completion, I was deeply saddened to see these people leave. The Perry brothers had been with me for such a long time and were such an integral part of my writing life, it was almost impossible to say goodbye to Cale, Drew and Ben.

  This month I give you Under Fire, and our final hero, Ben, in my sexiest Temptation novel to date. Not only do Ben and Jana heat up the pages, but Ben has definitely met his match when he’s faced with someone even more strong willed than himself—the woman he learns a little too late is about to change his life.

  I hope you’ll join me again in December for my first novella in a very special Harlequin Blaze release, Stroke of Midnight (#114), a supersexy anthology with talented friends and fellow Blaze authors Carrie Alexander and Nancy Warren.

  I would love to hear from you and know what you thought of the SOME LIKE IT HOT books. Please write to me at jamie@jamiedenton.net or P.O. Box 224, Mohall, ND 58761.

  Happy holidays,

  Jamie Denton

  Books by Jamie Denton

  HARLEQUIN TEMPTATION

  942—SLOW BURN*

  946—HEATWAVE*

  JAMIE DENTON

  UNDER FIRE

  For Melissa

  The joy you bring our family is truly a treasure.

  You will always hold a special place in our hearts.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  1

  “YOU’VE NEVER had a what?”

  Jana Linney sank lower in her chair. What was the big deal? It wasn’t as if she’d told her two closest friends she was a virgin, for crying out loud.

  She glanced toward the back of the bar, praying the drop-dead gorgeous hunks seated around the table in the far corner of the Ivory Turtle hadn’t heard Chloe Montgomery’s astonished outburst. “I don’t think they heard you over at the pool tables,” Jana muttered.

  She should have known better than to order something other than her usual glass of white wine. Bucking tradition wasn’t her style, but the new case she’d been assigned prior to leaving the office for the weekend had her as tense as a bowstring. Under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t sweat the assignment, but on the heels of her recent promotion, the stakes had been raised.

  One glass of wine and she easily maintained and enjoyed the barest hint of a buzz. One Screaming Orgasm with an overdose of vodka and she might as well have shot herself full of sodium Pentothal. Whenever she opened her mouth tonight, just about anything came out…very personal anythings, too.

  “Oh, forget the crowd at the pool tables,” Lauren Hudson, a voice-over actress, chided with a dismissive wave of her perfectly manicured hand. “I want to know how you’ve managed never to experience an orgasm?”

  Not for lack of trying.

  “I just had one.” Jana giggled at her own joke. “A screaming one, too.”

  Lauren rolled her eyes. “Eighty-proof,” she said, tapping a hot-pink, dragon-lady fingernail on the rim of Jana’s glass, “does not count.”

  “You’re not a…” A pained expression entered Chloe’s lavender eyes. Today at least her eyes were lavender. Tomorrow they might be green or even a dark chocolate-brown, depending on Chloe’s mood and which shade of colored contacts the corporate attorney chose to wear. “Good Lord, Jana. Please tell me you’re not a virgin.”

  Jana sighed dramatically, then took a very long sip of her drink. She might as well have been, considering her inexperience in the sexual revolution. “I’ve had sex,” she said defensively.

  “Obviously not good sex.” Lauren’s bluntness usually amused Jana. Tonight that honesty irritated her. Especially since her two dearest friends were closing in on a very personal, and way too sensitive subject.

  She and Lauren had been best friends since elementary school, but they hadn’t met Chloe until their first year at Beverly Hills High. Since then, the three of them had formed a tight-knit circle that spanned braces, boys and good ideas gone bad which had often landed them in minor scrapes.

  The sound of male laughter drew Jana’s gaze back to the group of incredibly handsome hunks at the round table near the rear of the bar. One of them stood, the one with raven-black hair, broad shoulders and lean hips. Even from a distance she could see he had the kind of body advertisers clamored for in those abs-of-granite-type commercials.

  Ooh, flex for me, baby!

  He glanced her way, his ice-blue gaze meeting hers for the space of a heartbeat before he said something to his buddies. Her stomach dipped and swirled, and she was pretty sure it had nothing to do with the type of alcohol she’d consumed during her Friday-night happy hour ritual with Chloe and Lauren. Unfortunately, the spell was nowhere near broken when he walked away from the table and headed in her direction.

  Somewhere in the distance, she heard the rattle of Lauren’s bangle bracelets followed by her perfectly pitched voice, but Mr. Tall, Dark and Wonderful had Jana’s full attention as he wound his way around the crowded tables, drawing closer. He wore a dark hunter-green banded-collar shirt which clung to his wide chest, and tapered down to a flat stomach she had no trouble imagining was washboard lean. The rolled-up sleeves emphasized luscious, muscular forearms, causing her to wonder what it’d be like to have him hold her close.

  He strolled past, awarding her with a view of his backside, hugged quite nicely by a pair of tan khakis. She sucked hard on her straw. The man’s rear end was sheer perfection.

  It was the alcohol, she reminded herself. She’d obviously had far too much to drink if she were ogling a man. Except she couldn’t pass off the sudden increase in her pulse rate on a single Screaming Orgasm. She stifled a giggle. At least not from the kind served in a glass by a harried cocktail waitress.

  She made a sound deceptively reminiscent of an unladylike snort. As if I’d know the difference.

  “Earth to Jana.”

  Once Mr. Wonderful disappeared from her view, she turned to face Lauren. “What did you say?”

  “I asked how is it you’ve never had an orgasm?”

  “Is it really
so hard to believe?” Jana set her empty glass on the damp napkin. “One—maybe even both—of you must have had sex without achieving an orgasm at least once.”

  Chloe laughed in that cynical way of hers, a cynicism born of being drawn to the wrong men and having her heart trampled one time too many. “If the guy’s a selfish jerk or just plain lousy in bed, sure. But come on, Jana. Never?”

  “What about when you’re alone?” Lauren asked her.

  “Alone!” She hadn’t meant to sound so shocked. Really, she hadn’t.

  Chloe’s mouth fell open and she exchanged a look with Lauren before turning her attention back to Jana. “You mean you don’t even…?” Her voice faded, as if she couldn’t bear to say the word.

  Jana’s gaze bounced between her two friends, not knowing what to say. Obviously her silence was enough of an answer for Chloe.

  “I guess if you don’t know what you’re missing,” Chloe added with a shrug, “then what’s the point?”

  Lauren thought about that for a minute before nodding in agreement. “You might have something there.”

  Jana considered signaling the waitress for another drink, but decided against it. Who knew what would come out of her mouth if she downed a second Screaming Orgasm?

  “What you need is a man,” Chloe proclaimed suddenly.

  “She needs a good man.” Lauren punctuated the clarification with soft laughter. “A really good man.”

  Jana straightened and pushed a loose strand of hair from her cheek. “A man is the last thing I need,” she said, giving them both a stern look and hoping they’d take the hint.

  She hadn’t exactly sworn off men, but after the somewhat unpleasant end to her last relationship, she was in no great hurry to leap back inside the dating circle. Not that free-spirited Lauren or use-’em-and-abuse-’em Chloe would understand, but Jana had decided to take advantage of the emotional downtime to focus solely on her career in public administration.

  Her decision had paid off, too, since she’d finally landed a promotion to supervising investigator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Fire Investigation Division. Unfortunately, that meant her next assignment, scheduled to begin Monday morning, would be under close scrutiny. And just her rotten luck, she’d drawn the absolute worst possible case.

  The reminder of the upcoming assignment had her signaling the waitress for another round. She usually enjoyed her job investigating industrial accidents and recommending changes that would keep employees safe from harm. Occasionally, she was called as a trial expert, and while she loved a challenge, she much preferred her work in the field. Still, she’d rather testify as an expert witness in a thousand court trials than be the unlucky OSHA investigator to draw a case involving a fatality, such as the one she’d been handed that afternoon by her supervisor. Not only did she have to face the sadness and heartbreak of a fallen firefighter, but every single OSHA investigator understood that that special brotherhood had a unique bond that was as unbendable as iron. She’d bet the crew of Station 43 would be no different, either. Gathering information surrounding the incident would be difficult under the best of circumstances. With a fatality involved, she’d have an easier time trying to walk uphill in a mud slide.

  “Not a man in the relationship sense,” Lauren said, drawing Jana’s attention. “In the you-need-to-experience-sexual-satisfaction sense.”

  “Forget it.” When Jana was ready, she’d find her own dates. She’d been subjected to Lauren’s blind dates since high school, and she’d had enough to last her a lifetime and beyond. When it came to men, she and Lauren operated on vastly differently levels. “I think I’d rather be celibate.”

  “Since she doesn’t have a man in her life, how do you propose she accomplish this feat?” Chloe asked.

  As if on cue, Mr. Wonderful sauntered into Jana’s line of vision. He stopped at the jukebox, braced his hands on the glass and bent his head to read the selections.

  Like a magnet, he drew her attention and held her prisoner.

  Hello, gorgeous. Care to help me solve a little problem?

  “We’ll find her one,” Lauren announced.

  That got her attention. “Are you out of your mind?”

  “Wait a minute, sweetie. We’re not proposing you go on the hunt for a relationship, just find a guy that knows how to…make a woman happy.”

  “Not we,” Chloe corrected Lauren. “You.”

  Jana didn’t care who came up with the idea, it was still nuts. “A one-night stand?”

  “Sure.” Lauren shrugged carelessly. “Why not?”

  Jana could think of a few reasons. First, it wasn’t her style. Second, it could be dangerous. Third…Her gaze slipped back to the gorgeous specimen still at the jukebox. “I don’t know.”

  She wasn’t really considering Lauren’s crackpot plan, was she?

  Of course not. Despite the stubborn streak that sometimes got them into trouble, Linney women simply did not entertain one-night stands. They were trained in the values of appropriate ladylike behavior practically from the cradle. No wonder she’d never had an orgasm. She and her sisters had probably been sent subliminal messages while in the womb.

  She allowed her gaze to slip over to him again. He remained in front of the jukebox, reading the music choices. Something must have stirred his interest because he slipped a bill into the slot then made a selection. She smiled when the first strains from one of her favorite Alan Jackson songs filtered through the speaker system. What would it be like to make love to a man who appreciated the same soulful music she did? Would he be gentle? Caring? Would he put her needs before his own?

  Jana snagged the Screaming Orgasm before the waitress set it in front of her, then took a long drink. What was she thinking? Not only was the thought of a one-night stand completely foreign to her, she couldn’t remember ever fantasizing about a total stranger…until him. In fact, now that she thought about it, she’d never fantasized about any man.

  “What’s to know?” Chloe slipped the waitress a twenty, then waited until she’d disappeared before continuing. “You find someone you think is attractive, you get his attention, you flirt then you seduce him right out of his B.V.D.s.”

  Jana zeroed in on Mr. Tall, Dark and Hunky again. What good would it do? There was probably something physically wrong with her anyway. Some sexual glitch that prevented her from experiencing the ultimate fulfillment. Or maybe, as her friends had suggested, she’d just been sleeping with the wrong men.

  Oh yeah, that was it, she thought sarcastically as she downed more of her Screaming Orgasm. Although she didn’t necessarily believe in all that glass-slipper propaganda, she wasn’t exactly a card-carrying member of the men-are-pigs-society, either.

  She’d had her share of relationships. Did it really make a difference that she could count them all on one hand, starting with the out-of-character fling she’d had with the local bad boy the summer before she left for college? The best thing she could say about her first sexual experience was that it had been over quickly. She’d been saved the humiliation of having to face Brad Hilliard again when she, Lauren and Chloe had left for Arizona State University two days later.

  She’d even had a serious relationship in college. Although she rated Everett Copeland a two on the knowing-how-to-please-his-woman scale, she probably would have married him if he hadn’t transferred to Florida State his senior year.

  Truth be told, she was great at relationships. She’d never heard a single complaint about her own skills outside of the bedroom. The problem always started when her lover resorted to drastic measures to bring her to orgasm, then blamed her when she didn’t achieve one.

  She didn’t think she was frigid, because she did become aroused. When it came time for the payoff, however, the big bang fizzled faster than a Fourth of July sparkler. Thanks to repeated viewings of When Harry Met Sally she’d learned how to fake it. Meg’s character hadn’t lied; a man really didn’t know when a woman was putting on an act to salvage hi
s sexual self-esteem. At least, her last two boyfriends hadn’t noticed, but they had been self-absorbed types, so they probably didn’t count anyway.

  With her gaze still locked on the delicious-looking backside of Mr. Wonderful, she asked her friends, “How do you know if a man is going to be, you know, unselfish?”

  Lauren laughed. “The size of his hands.”

  With the icy drink still clutched in her own hand, Jana zeroed in on the hands braced on the edge of the jukebox. They were long, lean and deeply tanned.

  “I thought it was his feet,” Chloe added.

  Ladylike or not, Jana’s curiosity got the better of her. She tipped her chair back on two legs and craned her neck to get a look at the size of his feet.

  “Feet?” Lauren exclaimed.

  Jana flinched and nearly toppled backward. Chloe steadied her, saving her from an incredibly embarrassing moment. Nothing like falling at a man’s feet, she thought.

  “No way.” Lauren looked over her shoulder toward the jukebox, then turned to Chloe and smiled. “Terrance wore size-fifteen shoes,” she said. “Trust me, it’s the size of his hands. From the base of his palm to the tip of his middle finger.”

  With a mountain of willpower, Jana refused to look in the direction of the jukebox again, although she was dying to see for herself the length of the man’s hand.

  “I always thought it was in the way he treated a woman,” Jana mused. “You know, kind, gentle and sensitive to a woman’s needs in bed.”

  Chloe lifted an arched eyebrow. “You want a real man in your bed, or Richard Simmons?”

  “At least Richard Simmons would care about your feelings,” Jana muttered, then took one last sip of her drink before setting it aside.

  “Forget feelings,” Chloe told her sagely. “It’s pleasuring your body that counts in a one-night stand.”

  Lauren braced her elbow on the table and propped her chin in her palm. “Some men are just better lovers.”

  “But how do you know?” Jana turned slightly in her chair. “What about him?” she asked, inclining her head slightly in his direction. “Would he be…?”

 
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