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Lone Star Baby Scandal

By:Lauren Canan

One

When Clay Everett approached, extending his arm in a silent invitation to dance, Sophie Prescott immediately shook her head in embarrassed refusal. Clay was her boss. Her employer. It was a job she valued highly. There should be no mixing business with pleasure even if Clay was the best-looking man at the charity ball. His deep emerald eyes gleamed, framed by dark lashes that matched his ebony hair. His dark tan, five-o’clock shadow and the scar on one side of his face from the rodeo accident that had almost taken his life made his very presence dark and menacing. He didn’t need the air of mystery the masquerade ball offered. Since the accident, he presented the persona of a man who was hard and unforgiving, who ate any competition for lunch.

Actually, he had a beautiful smile, perfect white teeth. But he rarely smiled. In his five-thousand-dollar hand-tailored suits and white silk shirts, he gave the impression of the consummate businessman. A man of great wealth who was used to the world of glamour in which he lived.

But when he wore the glove-soft faded jeans, scuffed boots and thin T-shirt that highlighted his six-pack abs and the muscles in his shoulders and arms, it was equally unsettling. That was the Clay she knew. He’d come into their office a couple of times in his Western getup and it was a look she much preferred. Like the raging stallions he trained, like the wild bulls he’d ridden to superstardom in his youth, he was a man unlike anyone else.

Refusing to take no for an answer, he grabbed her hand, pulled her up from her seat and led her toward the center of the Grand Ballroom of the new Bellamy Hotel. Her heart rate tripled. Content to watch the antics of the idle rich from the back of the ballroom, Sophie never expected her boss to find her and propel her into the center of the action. She was a secretary, for crying out loud, a woman who had grown up on a farm in the rust belt of America. She had no business being here, rubbing elbows with the elite of Royal, Texas.

“Breathe,” Clay said in his deep, rusty voice, while a glint of amusement sparkled in his green eyes behind the dark mask. “You look as though you’re about to pass out. I thought I remembered hearing you say you loved to dance.”

“I do. Just not here.” And not with him, the president and founder of a billion-dollar corporation and Royal’s most eligible bachelor. With those broad shoulders and incredibly handsome tanned features, his presence alone was enough to make everyone sit up and take notice. And not in the midst of people dressed in tuxedos and the latest designer originals, adorned to the hilt with jewels no doubt worth a king’s ransom. A few of the other guests smiled at her sincerely, while others smirked in that condescending manner that only someone in her position could recognize and understand. Wasn’t Clay being kind to his poor little secretary? How thoughtful of him. Sophie could read their minds without much effort at all.

“And what’s wrong with here?”

“If you don’t know, I won’t waste my breath trying to explain it to you.”

He chuckled, a deep, sexy sound that drew more looks from the women within hearing distance. Instead of allowing them to negatively affect her mood, she stopped arguing, closed her eyes and let herself be swept into the music. The band was playing a ballad, one of her favorites. With Clay’s arms around her, they danced to the slow rhythm. He smelled so good. A mix of spicy cologne and essence of pure male. The combination was intoxicating. His silken tux jacket felt smooth against her cheek. At some point the song ended and Sophie moved to return to the small table in the back of the great hall.

“No,” he said, his warm breath on her ear. And before she could argue, the band struck up another song. He dropped her hand, held her with both arms around her waist, pulled her closer until she could feel every movement, every pulse inside a hard body laden with muscles. More muscles than she’d ever felt on a guy. She didn’t know what he did in his spare time, or if such a thing existed for him, but she doubted he sat around knitting sweaters.

One thing was clear: she had his attention and his body hinted at his response. With every slow step, side to side, she felt him move against her belly, driving her crazy. A fog of heat enveloped her as her own body reacted to his. Her hands clutched his broad shoulders and she drifted into a dream world of his making.

Clay was a cowboy through and through. It was in his stride, his way of talking. It was in those deep emerald eyes, so piercing, as though they could see into her very soul. , In those full lips just waiting to cover hers and savor the heat that would surely flare between them. Even the years away from the rodeo arena couldn’t weaken that persona. Since the two-ton bull had turned an evening at the rodeo into the nightmare from hell almost ending his life.

The doctors had said he would never walk again, but they didn’t know Clay. He had surprised everyone. Everyone except Sophie, who knew Clay was a man who just didn’t quit. Ever. After the injuries he’d sustained and the months of grueling physical therapy Clay had been through, it was a pure miracle he was here tonight at all. He’d astounded everyone when he put aside his cane and took to the dance floor, ignoring the limp and the pain that accompanied it.

He’d been America’s number-one cowboy, his talent propelling him to superstardom. After he healed enough to be released from the hospital, faced with the fact that he’d never ride rodeo again, he’d found a new outlet for his talents. Today he was a successful cloud-computing entrepreneur, changing his star status from millionaire to billionaire in only five short years. That was just the kind of man he was. If he could imagine it—he could make it materialize. If he wanted it—he got it. And right now, tonight, he wanted her.

Slowly his hands slid down her back, coming to rest above the surge of her hips, pulling her even closer to him. The feel of his muscled body propelled her to an immediate and impulsive response.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said in a voice that sounded more like a growl as the third song ended. Without waiting for a reply, he took her hand and led her through the dancing couples toward the exit.

When he summoned the elevator, the doors opened almost immediately with a muffled ding. Stepping inside, Clay pushed a button that sent the elevator skyrocketing to the penthouse where he was staying during the masquerade ball. Then he lost no time gathering her in his arms.

Sophie had been kissed before but never like this. It was raw, passionate—hungry. His tongue traced the line of her lips, moistening them for penetration. He filled her then, his hand clenching her hair in the back, holding her head exactly where he needed her to be. He was so male. His scars that remained from his accident only served to increase his air of desirability.

He had spent his life dueling with the devil and in spite of impossible odds, he had come out on top. Every time except the last. Even then, Clay had pulled his raw courage from someplace deep inside and survived when any other man would have rolled over and admitted defeat. It was part of that rock-hard determination that she felt now, in his arms, his emerald eyes giving off signals as to just what he intended to do to her when they reached the bedroom. He was going to forever change their relationship, and in spite of any thoughts to the contrary, she knew in that moment, she was going to allow it. Blame it on the cocktails, the music or a weakness within her own heart. She had fantasized about this man for far too long. She would probably hate herself in the morning, but tonight she would sample what heaven was like.

At some point the doors opened with an almost silent swish and they stepped out of the elevator into a vestibule with marble floors and occasional tables laden with huge bouquets of freshly cut flowers. Beyond a black door trimmed with gold paint was the penthouse. He guided her inside with a single-minded purpose. It was in his face, in his eyes. He was going to make love to her.

And she was going to let him.

This is wrong, said the small voice in her head. So very wrong. He was her boss. Their relationship should be kept strictly platonic. But she followed as they walked toward the bedroom and the word no disappeared from her vocabulary.

“Would you care for something to drink?”

She shook her head. If she was really going to do this, she wanted nothing to mar the memory of this night in his arms—a once-in-a-lifetime moment that could never be discussed or thought of again except in her dreams.

He turned a switch and the lights dimmed. He pressed her backward against a wall and his hungry lips again found hers. His shirt and jacket hit the floor before he turned all his attention to her. Leaning over, he kissed her ear, alternately nipping and kissing down her throat until he returned to her mouth, his tongue filling the deep recesses until she couldn’t suppress the moan that emerged from deep in her throat. She knew a moment of freedom from the constraints of her strapless gown as it slid down her body to the floor.

Then she was in his arms as he carried her to the master bedroom, his long strides eating up the carpet. When he put her down, the silken sheets of the bed felt cool against her back as Clay disposed of her panties. Then he was hovering above her, directing her lips to his in the darkness. He kissed her jaw, taking little nips as he went toward her ear. It was seduction of the purest form by the master of the game.

“You are so damned sexy,” he whispered in her ear, causing chills to run over her skin. “I’ve wanted you since the first moment you walked through my door.”

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