Authors: Clarice Wynter
Naughty in November
copyright 2013, Clarice Wynter
Cover art by Niina Cord
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, brands, media and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
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All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
With special thanks once again to: JB Lynn, Jean Cooper and Niina Cord without whom this series would not have been possible.
Danielle Lennox hitched up her skirt and crossed her legs at the knee, letting one of her stiletto-heeled suede boots dangle impatiently. She glanced at her watch,
and then transferred her gaze to her handsome companion.
He rolled his dark eyes in sympathy.
“How long does it take to find a fuse?” she asked, nodding toward the door that separated their rehearsal space, the back room of the music store on West Denton Avenue, from a small, adjacent storage room.
“Apparently longer than ten minutes.” Taylor Croft didn’t look at this own watch. He just leaned back in the folding chair in which he sat behind his electric keyboard and laced his long fingers behind his head.
If Dani hadn’t been so impatient to get back to their evening rehearsal, she would have taken more time to appreciate the play of muscles under Taylor’s tight blue T-shirt and the way a day’s growth of stubble shadowed his chiseled jawline. But she’d been doing enough daydreaming about her new band mate lately, and the way she was going to get through the rest of this rehearsal would be to keep her mind on their objective, to practice songs for their Friday night gig at Colette’s Pub down the street.
That plan had been working passably well until ten minutes ago, when the other two members of Love Notes, singer Claudia G
alvin and their “manager,” guitarist Owen DeWitt, had discovered a faulty fuse in an amplifier. The two had gone into the storage room to find a replacement, and they hadn’t been seen since.
“Shouldn’t we check on them?” Dani crossed her arms over her chest and bounced her foot in time to her growing irritation. She certainly didn’t begrudge the newly forged lovers some sneaky alone time
. In fact, she thought it was really quite romantic and much better than watching them make goo-goo eyes at each other through every sappy love song they played. What bothered her more was, in the month since Owen had invited her to join their after-hours band, she’d been sending very clear signals to Taylor that she was up for some sneaky alone time with
, and he still remained charmingly, maddeningly clueless.
“I could play the wedding march. That might give them a hint.” Taylor smirked, and Dani’s pulse jumped. Dr. Croft
, D.V.M. was Spring River Valley’s resident veterinarian by day and the star of her lusty fantasies by night. Ever since she’d first seen him perform with Owen and Claudia at Colette’s, she’d been dying to get to know him better.
She loved to sing, so auditioning for Love Notes, the band Owen had named after the music store he managed, had given her the perfect chance to meet Taylor. She just hadn’t yet figured out the best way to seduce him.
Cooling her heels while Claudia and Owen got it on in the storeroom was not helping, mostly because it didn’t seem to be giving Taylor any romantic ideas.
“Why don’t we just knock on the door and tell them to keep their hands to themselves and get out here?”
“I have an idea.” Taylor pumped up the volume on his own amplifier, stretched his skillful fingers over the keyboard and coaxed a few bars of the
theme song out of the instrument.
There was some noise from the
storeroom in response, and a second later the door finally opened.
Claudia emerged first, her dark
, wavy hair in disarray. Owen followed, surreptitiously tucking the tails of his button-down shirt back into his pants.
Now Dani rolled her eyes. It just wasn’t fair. “Did you two find that spare fuse?” she asked, in wide-eyed innocence.
Owen glanced at Claudia, who at least had the decency to look contrite. “Um…no. We don’t have a spare,” he said.
“Unless there’s one way back in the—”
“We could go check again,” Owen interrupted Claudia.
Dani rose and planted her boots firmly on the linoleum. “That’s okay. It’s getting late anyway. I was going to suggest we call it a night.”
The two lovebirds looked relieved, and they grinned slyly at each other. Dani would have loved to suggest they get a room, but they probably already had one. She plucked her coat from the back of her own chair and shifted her gaze back to Taylor. “I’m going to get some air. Buy a girl a cuppa coffee?” That was a start. Maybe she needed to warm up her cool bachelor from the inside out.
Her heart stuttered when he nodded. “I could use some caffeine, actually. I’ve got some files to go over before I call it a night.”
She smiled indulgently at Claudia and Owen and slipped on her coat. “I’ll meet you outside, then,” she said before letting herself out of the back room. If getting Taylor to agree to late-night coffee was first base, then making him forget all about his paperwork was a home run, one that she planned to score before the evening was over.
* * * *
“I’m sorry about those two,” Taylor said when he met Dani on the sidewalk in front of the music store. “They’re still in that ‘no boundaries’ phase of their relationship.”
“It’s okay. Actually, I think it’s sweet. It was no secret they were hot for each other. I’m glad they worked everything out. It’s just—”
“What?” The hesitation in her voice caught him by surprise. Since he’d met the vivacious redhead a few weeks ago, he’d found her to be anything but shy or reluctant to speak her feelings. But he supposed watching Owen’s and Claudia’s blatant romantic fervor in action had to be a bit awkward, especially for someone who didn’t know the couple as well as he did.
“It’s just…been a while since I’ve felt that way about anyone. Is it wrong to feel a little bit
So he wasn’t the only one! “Not at all, though I thought you were going to say nauseated.”
She broke into laughter at that. “Yeah, they are a little bit much.”
“I’m going to have a talk with Owen the next time he comes up for air. Maybe they can tone it down for practice nights. Is the coffee shop okay
, or would you rather go to the diner for a bite?” He offered her his arm.
She looped hers through
his. “Coffee shop is fine. We can walk—it’s such a nice night.”
“It’s been a while for me too,” he said once they’d made it across the
quiet street. He wasn’t sure why he suddenly wanted to confess the sad history of his love life to her. Maybe it was because her own admission surprised him. Danielle Lennox was gorgeous, fiery, and talented. He couldn’t imagine her not having men lined up around the block for the chance that she might fall in love with them. He’d certainly be on that line, if he was ready for a new relationship, which he had to keep reminding himself he wasn’t.
“Two years,” she said a little wistfully as they entered the coffee shop. “How long for you?”
Ugh. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything. “Same here,” he muttered, hoping the conversation would get shuffled to the back burner while they ordered coffee and chocolate croissants and found a table in a secluded corner of the café. He really didn’t have any desire to talk about Joyce, the first, last, and only woman who’d made him feel the way Owen obviously felt about Claudia. He also didn’t want to dwell on the fact that it had actually been almost two full years since she’d walked out of the house he’d bought for them and left him reeling. Everyone told him he needed to move on, and he had. He just wasn’t ready to rip open that very slow-healing wound again.
? Hello? Where did you go?” Beguiling amber eyes searched his, and for a second he forgot there wasn’t any room in his heart for someone new.
Then he remembered he hadn’t taken her up on her invitation to coffee because he wanted to date her. It had really been to give Owen and Claudia some space, and to get away from the discomfort caused by watching two people who’d been lucky enough to find each other. He was happy for his friends, and he envied them, but he really wasn’t interested in having a ringside seat for one of their
make-out sessions. “Sorry, I drifted. Just lost in my croissant.”
“She must have been someone very special,” Dani said, completely ignoring his croissant excuse. He could have made hours of small talk about pastry, but deep conversation about broken hearts? Torture.
“Uh…yeah. Then she left, and that was the end of that. You’re not a native New Yorker. I can tell by your accent. What brought you up to the frozen north?”
Good save, Croft, good save.
Her expression told him she recognized his not
-so-subtle hint for what it was, and she respected it. She sipped her coffee, those pretty pink lips pursed on the edge of the cup for a second, serving as a welcome distraction for his now muddled thoughts.
“I grew up in Tallahassee, but when I was sixteen, my family moved to
New Jersey, and I came up here to go to school. I liked it, so I stayed. You’re a…what do they call them around here…a Springer?”
He cringed at the nickname some people had coined for natives of their tiny lakeside town. “Yeah, that makes me sound like a spaniel. I was born and raised her
e, went to school in Iowa, and then came back here to start my own clinic.”
“It’s nice that you have your brother here too. Family is a good reason to settle someplace.”
“Is yours still in New Jersey?”
“Nope. They got tired of the cold and went back to Florida. I think my blood must’ve thickened because I actually like it chilly much better than ninety
-nine in the shade and humid.”
“What made you go into law?”
Another nice segue. He knew Dani worked for Esterhause, Brady and Danziger, one of the premier law firms in the state.
She laughed and placed a delicate hand on her chest. “I’m not a lawyer. I work in personnel at the firm. I’ve been told I’m actually too argumentative to be a lawyer.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“A couple more minutes waiting for the love birds to surface and you’d have seen me in action. I’m very impatient. I really like both of them, but jeez, get a room.”
“Good.” She put her hand over his on the small table between them and met his gaze boldly, a spark of something deliberate and erotic flickering in the dark golden depths of her eyes. “How about
you and I
get a room and give Romeo and Juliet a run for their money?”
Dani could have sworn time stood still immediately after she voiced her bold proposal to Taylor. It was one of those moments that usually occur at
a quarter past the hour when everyone suddenly stops talking, and the person who’s just uttered something absurdly embarrassing becomes the focus of all attention.
Of course, no one but Taylor had actually heard her question, and he was now staring at her, brows raised, lips tight, as if he might have just taken too big a gulp of hot coffee.
“I…uh…forget I said that. I’m just a little…unbalanced. All those hormones at rehearsal sort of—”
“I’m flattered,” he burst out, as though he’d been trying to hold his shocked reaction at bay.
That was the kiss of death. When a guy says he’s flattered after you proposition him, it means he’s either married, gay, committed, or any combination thereof. Or worse, it could mean he was just not interested.