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Authors: Anne Calhoun

Liberating Lacey

BOOK: Liberating Lacey
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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication

www.ellorascave.com

Liberating Lacey

ISBN 9781419920486

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Liberating Lacey Copyright © 2009 Anne Calhoun

Edited by Meghan Conrad

Photography and cover art by Les Byerley

Electronic book Publication May 2009

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

LIBERATING LACEY

Anne Calhoun

Dedication

With everlasting gratitude to the members of Prairieland Romance Writers. Special thanks goes to Robin ll. Rotham, for reading, recommending and lunches at Applebees; and B, who loves Hunter as much as I do and called me out when I was holding back.

Thank you for helping me make this book the best it could be!

Undying thanks (and a supply of sock yarn) to my editor, Meghan Conrad, who gave me the time the story needed. Hugs to two friends worth their weight in gold—

Kristi, who reads everything, and Liz, who said, “Of course you’re a writer!” when I didn’t think I was or ever would be.

Finally, I can never repay the debt of gratitude I owe to the men in my life. Lacey finds happiness in being loved just as she is. I dedicate this book to two people who give me the same joy—my husband and son.

Trademarks Acknowledgement

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: 7-UP: The Seven-Up Company

Advil: Wyeth Corporation

BlackBerry: Research in Motion Limited

BMW: Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft Corporation Boys & Girls Club: Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Inc Burberry: Burberry Limited Corporation

Burger King: Burger King Brands, Inc.

Coke: The Coca-Cola Company

Corona: Cerveceria Modela, S.A. de C.V.

Dial: Dial Brands, Inc.

Doc Martens: Dr. Martens International Trading Gmb Dodge Charger: Daimlerchrysler Corp.

Fortune 500: Time, Inc.

Frisbee: Wham-O, Inc.

Glock: Glock, Inc.

Google: Google, Inc.

Great Harvest: Great Harvest Franchising, Inc.

Harley: H-D Michigan, Inc.

iPod: Apple Inc.

Knight Rider: Universal City Studios, Inc.

MacBook Air: Apple Inc.

Mace: Mace Security International, Inc.

Matchbox: Mattel, Inc.

Mercedes: Daimler Chrysler AG Corporation

NASCAR: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.

Oscar de la Renta: Oscar de la Renta, Ltd

Powerpoint: Microsoft Corporation

Rēvos: Coopervision, Inc.

Sam Adams: Boston Beer Company

Starbucks: Starbucks U.S. Brands

Talbots: The Talbots Group

Taser: Taser International, Inc.

Tiffany & Co: Tiffany & Co Corporation

Velcro: Velcro Industries

Wedgewood: Wedgewood Limited Corporation

Whole Foods: Whole Foods Market, Inc.

Whopper: Burger King Corporation

Anne Calhoun

Chapter One

She didn’t belong here.

Distractingly arrhythmic strobe lights flashed in Lacey Meyers’ eyes as she looked around the unfamiliar nightclub. Near the end of the bar, a pack of boisterous young men parted for a woman wearing sultry make-up and a black dress as sleek and short as her spiky hair. She offered a flirtatious nod of thanks as she strutted up to the bar to order a drink. The player with the courage to step up and pay for the drink, however, got a come-hither smile that left no doubt of her gratitude. Her breasts artfully framed by the opening in her zip-front dress, the woman spoke a few words to her attentive new friend while Lacey sipped her Chardonnay to disguise her interest. She hadn’t been that bold, or that confident, even when she was that young.

She’d chosen Buff for her first outing to a nightclub because a recent poll of newspaper readers awarded the trendy bar-slash-dance club first prize for “Best Place to Meet Someone New”. She desperately needed to meet someone new.
Different.
Her few post-divorce dates had all been with friends or acquaintances, mostly men she’d had over to the house for the large cocktail parties orchestrated to help her ex-husband, Davis, make partner in his law firm.

The same men, the same restaurants, the same conversations…the same physical reactions, or lack thereof. Definitely time for someone
different
, a sentiment she hoped a man in this bar shared, because she surely didn’t belong here.

This isn’t an anthropological study, Lace. Stop observing and start interacting.

The words of her best friend, Claire, echoed in her mind. Unlike Lacey, Claire had been determinedly single until her thirty-third birthday, when her biological clock went off. In short order, she fell in love, married and had two children in two years. Prior to her tumble into domesticity Claire spent her weekends drinking, dancing and sleeping with whoever caught her eye. Lacey married Davis, her college sweetheart and only lover, at twenty-one. Best friends since kindergarten, she’d vicariously lived Claire’s single-girl lifestyle through Sunday brunches, phone calls and texting and felt not the slightest twinge of envy.

Now Claire mothered a colicky newborn and a jealous toddler, while Lacey, single after fifteen years, was suddenly faced with the road not taken. She’d never met a stranger in a bar and taken him home. While married, she didn’t regret walking the straight and narrow, but now…now she wanted the experience.

Just once.

“’Scuse me.”

6

Liberating Lacey

She flicked a glance over her shoulder and saw a broad expanse of chest testing the seams of a black t-shirt before her gaze flashed up to close-cropped dark brown hair, green eyes, angular cheekbones and a mouth set in a firm line. Off-balance in her spike heels, Lacey moved to her right to let the man up to the bar, but he moved the same way.

“I’m sorry,” she said, apologizing automatically as she moved to the left at the same time he did. So close she could feel the heat of his body radiating against her naked back, he put his hands on the exposed skin just above the low-cut, hip hugging waistband of her skinny jeans. An electric shock coursed through her and she gasped.

Hello, different
.

Without a word, he shifted her back to the right, then slid to her left to lean against the bar. Heart pounding, her cheeks flushed from the brief contact, Lacey watched out of the corner of her eye as he gave a sharp nod to obtain the bartender’s attention, then ordered a Sam Adams.

A surreptitious glance at his left hand showed a bare ring finger, but surely a man who could generate an electric current with one touch was taken, out with his girlfriend for a night of drinking and dancing, even meeting someone for a first date.

Disappointed, she treated herself to a long look as he paid for the drink, then tipped back his beer bottle. As he swallowed, the muscles in his throat contracted smoothly under a dark five o’clock shadow. Surrounded by suits on weekdays and business casual on weekends, she couldn’t take her gaze from the breadth of his shoulders and the bunch and release of sculpted muscles in his arms. His jeans-clad hips shifted enticingly as he propped a scuffed black motorcycle boot on the brass rail under the bar.

To her surprise, he leaned toward her. “Like what you see?” he asked.

Healthy male musk under the scent of a clean, woodsy cologne remained when he moved back, his green eyes assessing as he waited for her reaction. Despite the potentially cocky words, she didn’t sense arrogance behind them, but rather a challenge.
Babe in the woods
and
swimming with sharks
were Claire’s favorite phrases for Lacey’s plan to get a taste of what she’d been missing all these years, but this man had a presence that made her body sit up and take notice. For him, she’d risk a bite or two.

“Yes,” she said, putting into her smile some of the confidence that served her so well in the cutthroat brokerage world. “But you must hear that all the time.”

“Not from a woman like you,” he said and tipped back his beer bottle again.

Could be a compliment, could be an evasion. “Which means?” He took her innocent question as an invitation to return her appraisal, his eyes sliding over her with a thoroughness now equal parts evaluation and interest. The swell of her breasts under her backless green silk halter top, the curve of her hips and the length of her legs all received the same heated look. Her nipples tightened in response.

She watched his face as he looked her over head to toe and back up again, so she didn’t miss his pause at the now visible buds thrusting against her top. She must have passed inspection, because his forest green eyes now held only unapologetic, frank interest.

7

Anne Calhoun

“You’re not like all the other girls in here,” he said, his voice just a little rougher.

And here they were, already at the deal breaker. “That’s because I’m older than any other woman in this bar.” Ten minutes of observation made that clear, so there was no point in lying about her age.

He pursed his lips. “Early thirties?”

She smiled, suspecting politeness rather than accuracy in his guess, as he didn’t seem to miss much. “You’re very kind, but I’m thirty-six. And you’re…late twenties?” His stern expression and the stubble led her to believe he might be about her age, but with closer inspection she was mentally revising her estimate…in the wrong direction.
Please, please, let him be at least thirty. Mid-thirties would be better. Mid-thirties
would feel less awkward.

“Twenty-eight,” he said.

Oh dear God
.

“I’m still thirty-six,” she said, not bothering to explain that her birthday was just two weeks before, because she fully expected him to push away from the bar with a casual “See ya” and disappear into the Saturday night throng.

“I’m Hunter,” he said, surprising her.

“Lacey,” she replied and held out her hand.

He shook it with a firm, calloused grip, then said, “What brings you to Buff, Lacey?”

There was no point in wasting his time if he laughed at the thought of doing more than talking to a woman closer to forty than thirty. She tucked her hair behind her ear and said, “I’m looking for someone to take home.”

“What’s a class act like you doing here, looking to hook up?” He asked his questions like he expected to be answered, with a hint of suggestiveness under the matter-of-fact tone.

This was not good. Surely barely-there jeans and half a top masked twelve years of private school and a classics degree from a women’s college. “Class act?”

“Honey, you can’t hide class under those fuck-me clothes,” he said.

She finished her wine in an effort to hide her chagrin. “I’m new to this kind of place, this
scene
,” she admitted. “I didn’t think anyone would look beyond the clothes.”

“It’s the way you hold yourself,” he said. “Straight back, direct gaze to cover the nerves. You’re checking things out, seeing how they work, getting a feel for the scene, but you’re not desperate. Some women come in here and make fools out of themselves trying to score a guy. Any guy. You know exactly what you want and you’ll go home alone if you don’t find it.”

Sixteen years of private education kept her jaw from dropping, but only just. “You give me more credit than I deserve.”

8

Liberating Lacey

He gave her a knowing look. “I’m not that far off. Lawyer?” he asked as he signaled the bartender for a second glass of wine for her.

“Commercial mortgage broker,” she said absently. “What do you do that makes you so observant?”

“I’m a cop.”

Her eyes swept over his body again, taking in the way he held his ground at the bar without effort. Heat spread through her as she flashed back to his firm grip, how he easily controlled her body.

“Thank you,” she said when the bartender set the glass of wine in front of her.

“That must be an interesting job.”

“Ninety-five percent routine, five percent pure adrenaline rush,” he replied.

“You don’t shoot people regularly like television cops?”

“Too much paperwork,” he said.

His off-hand delivery startled a laugh out of her. “Of course, the paperwork,” she agreed with an arch smile and earned herself a slight lift at the corners of his mouth.

“So, Lacey, what are you looking for in a hook-up?” This was familiar, the negotiations dance. The trick was to know when to reveal your hand and when to hold back. Against all odds, this extremely fine man was hanging around when the bar was full of younger, more flirtatious women. If he’d checked out every woman who walked by, she’d know he was just marking time until a better prospect came along, but his gaze was all over her, striking sparks with each quick glance.

Time to lay her cards on the table. She copied his attentive stance, leaning in to speak into his ear rather than shouting over the driving beat of dance music. “Someone who can show me what I’ve been missing for the last decade. I’m recently divorced and spent my marriage having sex in the missionary position once a week. I want to broaden my horizons.”

He pulled back and looked at her, his green eyes slumberous. “What do you have against the missionary position? It’s one of my favorites.” She frowned, refusing to get distracted by
one of his favorites
. “Oh? Why is that?” It was his turn to lean in. Each warm breath riffled the hair at her temple and tantalizing heat radiated from his body. “Because there’s nothing like the feel of a woman’s body under mine, all tight and hot and wet as she slowly comes apart.” In fifteen years of marriage, not once had she ever “slowly come apart” under her husband. She stared at him as her heart knocked hard against her ribs, stopped for a moment, then restarted at a rabbit’s pace. His eyes, moss-dark and blatantly sensual now, held her gaze with a bold challenge and she couldn’t look away.

“But you don’t want missionary, so we’ll think of something else. What
do
you want?”

9

Anne Calhoun

Words failed her. Hunter’s assessment of her standards was dead-on. She knew exactly what she wanted—
him
—but she simply couldn’t articulate the unfamiliar ache throbbing just below the button of her jeans.

Hunter’s eyebrows lifted almost imperceptibly. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s dance.”

“I haven’t danced in ages,” she said with a panicked glance at the dance floor. That was a fib. She’d never danced in a club and years of ballet lessons didn’t provide adequate training for the current hip-hop moves.

“It’s like riding a bike. You’ll be fine,” he said. Without waiting for an answer he left his half-full bottle of beer on the bar and took her hand. The firm grip of his fingers, warm and dry and calloused around the sensitive edge of her hand, felt remarkably possessive for someone she’d met less than thirty minutes before.

He led her to the packed dance floor, finding space in the far, back corner. All around them, couples danced with or at each other, the slow, driving beat of the song inspiring downright dirty gyrations. Hesitant and awkward on her higher-than-usual heels, she stepped close to him to avoid other dancers and lifted her hands, then stopped, unsure where to put them. He slid his knee between hers and set both hands on her hips, his long fingers almost meeting at the back seam of her jeans, his thumbs pressing into the soft, bare skin of her exposed hipbones. His confident move solved the problem of what to do with her hands. They naturally curved around his neck, her fingers brushing the bristly edge of his hair.

Between the heels and the unexpected shock of being so close to a man other than her ex-husband, she felt a little off-balance, but for the first song they simply rocked to the steady beat, nothing fancy, nothing overtly sexual or provocative. He kept an inch or two of space between their pelvises, one hand on her hip, the other resting on the middle of her bare back. She gained confidence in her balance and took her gaze off his broad chest, her eyes flickering up to catch him staring at her parted lips. When he met her gaze, the stark male intent in his look stroked over her skin as physically as the rhythmic caress of his thumb at her waist.

She wasn’t the only feeling the connection between them.

With increasing frequency, her zipper made fleeting contact with his hipbone, a tantalizing pressure echoed when her own hip brushed against his solid erection. They were dancing, yes, but by the time the third song blended seamlessly into the fourth, he’d brought her closer, pelvis to pelvis, his strong thigh between her legs, her unrestrained breasts swaying against his hard chest. The motion teased the tips into aching points and the silk that felt so smooth and fine at home became a subtle torture device. She arched against him, seeking relief for the need throbbing inside her, but when she pulled away the chafing resumed, redoubling the ache.

If he’d intended for the dance to seduce her, it was working. This was foreplay, amazing, prolonged, heated foreplay, the brush of his thigh between hers, the rock and retreat of their hips, looking up into his eyes. He kept his hands well within the bounds 10

BOOK: Liberating Lacey
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