Monday, February 27, 2012

Free Excerpt : Under Bonded Contract


A competition spirals into a tantalizing game of bondage and seduction… Camri Burns, an ambitious real-estate agent, blindsides the rival she's secretly desired for a long time. When she's offered an all-expenses-paid trip, opportunity opens the playing field. As the biggest earner with the most notches on his bedpost, too-sexy Jackson Pratt is determined the redheaded beauty won't prevail. When the two-some enter into a partnership, they must distract each other in order to win. After Jackson took credit on a past partnership, Camri isn't letting him off the hook. In order to ultimately succeed, they'll need to follow the rules of Under Bonded Contract. Soon she is tied in his presence. Is it love, or simply a game of sex?


CHAPTER ONE

"I bet she won't"

"I bet she will."

"You never know."

"Put your money where your mouth is then."

Camri Burns' eyebrows rose in question to the comments. Loud laughs bellowed from the office next to hers. She wiggled in her seat in irritation. She'd never get any work done with the ‘boys’ next door whooping it up every five minutes.

Her teeth chattered as she froze her assets off. She stretched the black, suit jacket tighter around her curvy frame. The cold temperature permeating the air notched up her annoyance.

A mishap with the building's heater earlier that morning made the atmosphere icy. Her nipples were hard as rocks, rubbing against the lace of her bra. The material aggravated the peaks. Maybe she should switch from dryer sheets to liquid fabric softener.

Camri prayed the repairman would show already. She'd tried shutting the door earlier, to block out the snickers in the next office. The cold in the room had grown too intense. Between the frosty air and the men, her concentration suffered a meltdown.

She would love to walk into the next room and zip their pesky mouths shut with a few well-chosen words. Given who the office belonged to, her words would likely fall on deaf ears. That scenario, entirely too likely, truth be told.

When in the hell would that heat and air guy show? She wondered with growing agitation.

A cracked windowpane in her office had never been replaced. The fissure let the Washington State, arctic-chill seep through. The industrial sized space heater plugged into a socket in the hallway, barely kept the blood in her toes moving.

A new, manly chuckle floated through the useless air vent. Camri's body froze completely when she realized from whom the deep, lusty laugh echoed out of.

Jackson Pratt.

But he shouldn’t be back from vacation for another few days.

"Oh really?"

Amusement colored his tone. His voice joined in the conversation over the mysterious question. Camri wasn't sure where their conversation headed, but she hoped it got there soon. Their bantering got old, fast.

The men laughed again. Jackson's enjoyment had a deeper flavor as it rumbled from his chest. She'd recognize his smooth, liquid sound anywhere. His sexy voice had a way of warming her blood.

Heat rose in her cheeks, making her fan a piece of paper briskly in front of her face. She recalled in detail their last conversation.

He'd caught her off guard in the copy room. She'd just finished loading a rather lengthy contract when he entered the small room.

Jackson stood entirely too close for her comfort, practically breathing down her neck. "You're looking well, Camri." He'd purred her name.

She ignored the thrill and the compliment he gave. "I'm tying up the copier for a bit, Jackson. You might want to come back later."

"I can wait. I'm in no hurry, unless, you want me to leave. Do I make you uncomfortable? I could understand how a woman in your position might feel ... after everything."

He carved her out of a very lucrative sale last year, after she concluded most of the effort and contract negotiations. She longed for a way to take him down a peg.

She gave him her back. "Why should I be uncomfortable? I'm fine with it. It's certainly not the first time I got screwed." Let him decided if she meant in business or more.

Damn him. Being in such tight quarters with him topped her list of things to avoid. Camri believed he knew that fact and purposely hung out, attempting to push her buttons. Well, she'd let him discover how well she could hack it.

The third time he brushed her body "accidentally", she reciprocated by stepping onto his toe with her stiletto. At the time, his grimace of pain provided a genuine pleasure to behold.

The disturbing part, Camri admitted only to herself, she craved his touch again. Jackson explored his way around women's curves like an artist trying to perfect his canvas. His skill warranted the title of master.

Once, they'd mixed business and pleasure. The results still fanned her temper and her passion. She learned her lesson. Never again would she be subject to the whims of Jackson Pratt or his dubious ethics.

Still, that throaty laugh and sexy baritone voice caused her thighs to burn and her breasts to ache. Even if she despised the high handed, chauvinistic, back stabbing, son-of-a-bitch.

The three men busted with hardy chuckles, followed by a few claps. "This is great." He dragged the words out.

Drawn in by the voice, she wanted suddenly to know what he referred to. A business venture, some choice property he had a lead on? If Camri could get the inside track on what Jackson planned, maybe his come-uppance circled near.

Curious, she stood from her leather office chair. She placed one high-heeled foot in the seat and stretched for the vent to hear more. With her short stature, the chair became inadequate. It wobbled beneath her shoe. She needed higher ground.

She stepped onto the desk. Camri braced upon the hard surface, before rising onto tiptoe. She pressed an ear to the wall and strained to hear what the three men found so amusing.

Squinting in concentration, Camri attempted to ascertain who Jackson had in there with him. One man certain to be Russell Patterson, a guy her friend Mia dated recently. The other, Sean Harbison from the legal department she believed.

"I bet she won't go through with this." Sounded like Sean. He coughed and laughed.

"Oh, I know she will. She never turns down a challenge. This is one she won't be able to resist." Jackson's deep voice flowed through the vent – sending smooth flutters of goose bumps over her skin. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the men's banter.

"Ask her today."

"Ask her now."

"All right gentlemen, I'll ask her today. She won't refuse this assignment. It's one she wouldn't want to miss out on. And then there's this," silence fell on the other side of the wall. "...this is interesting."

Camri listened harder. A stray curl fell over one eye. She blew the strand of auburn bangs from her forehead.

"I can't wait to see her blue eyes ablaze when I ask." His voice paused. "Oh, damn. I need to go soon."

There were sounds of papers shuffling and a briefcase snapping shut. "Where's she at by the way?"

Heat flushed over her body with the sound of his speech. Her breasts tightened beneath her low cut, green shirt in response to Jackson's impatience, a trait she found irresistible in bed.

He represented a man always in command of himself and his surroundings. Other men deferred to him without realizing it. Women, well, each flavor of the month acted like Jackson existed above mortal men. Jackson Pratt might be an arrogant ass, but he remained one dreamy, arrogant ass.

Camri rankled at the idea of his worship, but understood it too well. She had once been a card-carrying member of the Jackson Pratt fan club herself. Before he showed his true colors and stole her deal out from under her.

Looping a finger over the neckline of the cotton shirt, she fanned briskly with her free hand. Whether it pissed her off or secretly turned her on, he always set her blood to boil. Camri needed to cool down and control her breathing.

She crouched and braced her hands on the wooden desktop. Sliding her legs over the edge, she landed firmly on the blue carpet before sitting heavily in the leather chair once more. She sighed deeply, pushing uncomfortable thoughts of Jackson away. Work now, plan his downfall later.

She sifted through emails for potential clients who might be interested in the Hodge's house. Real estate sales slowed when the recession hit. The sub-prime mortgage fiasco had taken its toll. She'd become inventive when it came to marketing for clients.

Camri had designed a web page of her own and linked it to Country Homes Real Estate's page. She hosted virtual open house events with a chat for questions and comments. Gone were the days when a realtor could rest on their laurels and wait for the buyers to come to them.

Businesses slowed their expansions also. Buyers were more choosey with their investment capital and large loans were hard to come by. Tighter lending regulations were being enacted everywhere.

The trio laughed again.

Camri exhaled while rolling tense shoulders. The three office clowns displayed such childish behaviors. They were always making bets and keeping scores. Jackson, the worst of them all. His bedposts looked like yardsticks, she assumed.

Since he'd been on vacation the past two weeks, she'd enjoyed a break from their verbal sparring. It had also given her time to push ahead of the competition, namely Jackson.

Day and night she'd scouted every potential client within a two hundred mile radius. Quite a few filtered through at the end of her initial search. Emails and phone calls arrived almost daily from clients who needed to sell their homes.

Camri had the good fortune of landing a local bank whose foreclosure list proved extensive. Though she hated people losing their homes, often guilt plagued in her part in selling of lost property, she tried to focus on the positives of helping qualified buyers secure the home of their dreams.

She did her best to help her clients find homes they could afford. She directed them to reputable lenders for the loans. She could envision a big, fat check in her hands very soon. As for Jackson, she hoped to leave him behind in her dust. Now, she just needed to find the right buyers.

She reclined back in the chair with forearms folded behind her head and closed her eyes. A satisfied smile curved the corner of her mouth.

A knock at the open office door, startled her from pleasant fantasies about the corporate coup. Her best friend Mia stood there expectantly.

"Can you believe all the dumb luck?" Mia ran her hands quickly over her arms for friction.

Camri cleared desire from her throat. "Jackson?"

"No, the heater breaking."

"Oh, yeah, I know this is bad. I'm freezing. I could use a cup of coffee to warm up." A little voice inside her head teased in a singsong kind of way, Jackson's voice did a better job.

She stood and hurried toward Mia, pointing in the direction of the break room. "Come with me?"

"Sure." Mia gave Camri a questioning look. Her dark eyes searched Camri's face. "So you know Jackson is back, huh?"

"I know. Devastating, isn't it?"

A male voice intruded.

Camri's body jumped when his deep baritone brimmed around the doorway. Speak of the devil and he will appear.

Jackson leaned casually against the doorframe of the neighboring office.

His tall, athletic body appeared dangerously relaxed against the metal entrance. The expensive cut of his charcoal suit only accentuated the lean fitness of his torso and long legs. His arms were folded across his broad chest, with ankles crossed in a nonchalant pose. Jackson appeared every bit the composed and collected businessman.

The image of a big cat, camouflaged in the tall grass, poised to pounce floated through Camri's brain. Jackson camouflaged in Armani. She knew that as well as she knew her own name.

"What's the matter, Camri? Surely you won't break my heart by saying you never noticed I was gone?"

His raw, husky tones trailed over her spine in undiscovered pleasures. She wanted nothing more but to cover her ears and run away. The arrogant ass! She shivered, blaming the sensation on the cold seeping through her suit.

"Speculating on non-existent property is a felony, Jackson."

"Is that your way of implying I'm heartless?" A frown turned the corners of his sensual mouth to the floor. His jet-black brows drew down and together.

If she didn't know him better, his expression seemed genuinely hurt. The momentary look quickly disappeared behind the polished veneer of Jackson, the mega-man. The smooth smile returned.

Camri dragged Mia forward. The women hurried past the open office door where Jackson relaxed. His two offices cronies stayed perched behind him like buzzards. They waited for the lion to be done with the gazelle that they might feast on the remains.

An urge she dare not give into beckoned. She wanted to search in his crystal blues for the split-second glimpse she had seen the moment before. She feared she might drown in them if she tried.

Camri couldn't let Mia know she had a thing for Jackson even after he stole their last partnership deal. Her best friend knew more than a few gory details about the relationship between them. She would rush Camri to the nearest psycho ward if she went down that road again.

Don't do it, she told herself mentally.

She shouldn't have and knew better, but she couldn't help herself. Her gaze skimmed his tall, wide frame. His raven hair gleamed with natural blue highlights under the florescent office lights, the way only true black hair could.

He twisted his head lazily to look at Camri, giving a lecherous wink. Her heart thumped irregularly. Her hands became sweaty.

Jackson looked cool as a cucumber. His seductive smile drew her in. Camri's gaze pulled to other points of interest. Her stare roamed the planes of his taut, broad body, and then settled on his large hands.

She swallowed at the remembered caresses they'd delivered almost a year before. Camri's gaze zipped up. His stare called to her, pulled her to him.

Her body leaned forward on its own accord. A tickling line smoldered from her belly to settle deep between her thighs, hotter than summertime asphalt. Stunned, she remained blindsided by the attraction that still raged within.

She didn't want Mia or the others to witness, her standing dumbstruck like a teenage groupie.

"What is it, Camri? Is there something I can help you with? Do for you, maybe?" The innuendo plainly spoken. A dark brow rose with the last remark as he licked his lips.

Mia cleared her throat loudly. The spell broke and Camri had her wits again. Her cheeks heated with the embarrassment of being caught under Jackson's spell.

The other two men sprung like a pair of bungee cords, eagerly moving toward the conversation. They peered over Jackson's shoulders to get a peek.

Camri stared the three men down with narrowed eyes before turning away. She stalked toward the break room with Mia in tow.

"What was that all about?" Her friend knew about the incident between Camri and Jackson in the office supply room, or at least Camri thought Mia knew. She didn't share everything, even with her best friend. Camri had been raised not to share every thought that passed through her mind.

"Nothing. They get on my nerves. That's all." She practically marched to the break room. Her strides resonated even on the carpeted floors.

"I think it's kind of cute how they act."

Mia would, too. She'd dated Russell several times.

Camri couldn't be sure of course, but she believed it had been Russell that instigated the bet this morning. The thought rolled over her skin like prickly cactus. She inhaled a deep breath, controlling an urge to scream.

She had a sneaking suspicion that Jackson and his playmates were up to no good. She wouldn't hazard a guess at what they planned to achieve. Men's minds were a mystery. Camri couldn't fathom their thought processes.

All the same, she would keep tabs on their behavior. If for no other reason than to be sure she stayed out of the direction the men were taking their next game. If shit rolled down hill, she didn't want to be standing in the valley.

"Did you enter your sales totals for the Panama Cruise yet?"

The corporate office of Country Homes held an annual vacation trip giveaway for the realtor with the top sales. The contest ended in mid-February.

"No. Damn, I keep forgetting. I'll have to do that today." She wanted to beat Jackson so badly. That he had won the trip to Maui last year off of her hard work still chapped her ass daily.

They entered the break room and went straight for the caffeine supply. Camri added a healthy dose of sweetener and French Vanilla creamer to her cup. She took a satisfying sip of the hot liquid.

A new thought entered her mind. She needed reconnaissance on Jackson and his boys. "How many times have you and Russell gone out now?"

"Three and we..." Interrupted by a silken voice, Mia turned to look.

"–Camri?" her name floated down the hall after them, disrupting the bonding time with her best friend and her equilibrium.

Camri turned to find her nemesis had followed a pace behind. He stood just outside the room, hands braced on the casing of the metal door. He leaned forward, poking his head in the room, his smile expectant.

"Great," she mumbled under her breath.

"I want to speak with you. Can I have a minute of your time?" Jackson rarely asked. He tended to take. He must want something from her badly to turn on his charm.

"My time is valuable, Jackson. What do you want?"

"Follow me to your office."

"Just a minute please."

Arrogant! Arrogant! Arrogant!

Ordering her around like an employee rather than competition. She straightened her spine and lifted her chin, irritated. She didn't want to go back to the cold office. She wanted to be in the break room drinking hot coffee with Mia.

Camri wanted to talk with her about their second annual, anti-love fest, a girls-only, Valentine's Day sleep over. They would watch sappy romance movies, eat hot buttered popcorn and drink tequila. Maybe she could put her friend up to a little detective work into Jackson's plans through Russell.

She turned away, taking a rather large drink of the hot liquid. She hissed when the coffee scalded her throat. The sudden intake of air caused Camri to suck in more of the stuff. She coughed and choked.

"Have I missed something between the two of you?" Mia placed her hands on her hips, her stance accusatory.

Camri unclogged the uneasiness from her throat. "No. I would have told you if there was something."

Her friend wore a doubtful expression. "Don't try and fool me, Camri Burns."

"Finish your coffee. I'll catch up with you in a moment. I need to see what he wants." Mia knew she avoided the subject. Just as she knew Mia would revisit the topic with her later.

"Okay." Mia shook her head negatively. Her eyes rolled heavenward.

Camri inhaled a deep breath, squaring her shoulders for battle. Her heart hammered. Her equilibrium had yet to return from before and here Jackson came again. She had to keep control and not let on that he affected her.

She turned again toward Jackson, his lips twisted into a bright charming – daring smile. She held strong.

Her strides measured while approaching him. "What do you want, Jackson? You're interrupting my coffee break with Mia."

Jackson lifted his chin to stare down over his straight lined nose. "I have a proposition for you."

Camri raised a brow and snorted with derision. "I've heard that before, try again."

"Please, Camri." Had hell froze over and she missed the memo? Jackson had said ‘please’.

Camri glanced down the hall, back to where Russell and Sean stood. Her eyes narrowed

Sean sucked his bottom lip inwards. His shoulders were twitching.

Russell looked at her through turned down lashes, face turning red. At least he possessed the grace to blush. They both had heads bowed toward the floor. This would be interesting.

Camri marched forward, past the peanut gallery, to her own office door. Jackson's long strides carried him to the portal a moment before her. He made a debonair gesture, bending from the waist, sweeping his hand to usher her into the room.

The move, while suave, hindered her entry. His broad shoulders were blocking the way.

"Excuse me."

"Yes ma'am."

He stepped aside with hands up in the air. Camri despised when Jackson tried to act like a gentleman. She knew him better than that.

They entered her office and he shut the door. She plopped in the chair behind the desk, and hugged her body against the chill. Panama looked better and better every moment.

He stood in front of her oak desk, hands on hips. They studied each other for the longest time.

"What, Jackson? Tell me." She drummed lacquered nails impatiently.

Now that he held her undivided attention, he seemed reluctant to begin. He sighed.

"My vacation this past week was a working vacation. I spent some time in the company of a very inventive and savvy business man, Noah Hawthorne."

The name didn't ring any bells. "So what does that have to do with me?"

"Noah is looking to expand his business. He's interested in commercial resort properties near popular vacation areas, Florida, Texas, Nevada, California and New Jersey for starters. He's talking about large tracks of land so he can bank on the exclusivity of location. He offered me his account, to be his real estate agent." He flashed a straight-lined toothy smile.

Camri did the math. Resort area property, depending on the location of course, could be worth millions. The commission on that kind of sale could easily have five zeros in it, a virtual gold mine with Jackson sitting pretty, again.

"I repeat, what does that have to do with me?"

"I figured I would let you in on the deal."

Camri almost choked. Jackson wanted to share? She didn't buy it.

"And tell me why you want to offer me such a gracious gift?"

Jackson sat, settling slowly in the chair in front of her. He lowered his face and stared into his lap. He took a deep breath and held it.

Finally, heaving a sigh, he gave her a shameful look. "Because, I feel bad about taking the Chandler deal away from you."

Her eyes bulged. She remembered clearly the smile Jackson wore when Henry Tate, their mutual boss, had pumped his hand in congratulations. The golden boy of the hour at the company dinner, he'd laughed and grinned the whole time while accepting “his due”. Camri had suffered in a silence bitter as gall, unable to denounce him without proof.

Jackson now sat in front of her looking contrite. She noted he failed to use the words 'I'm sorry' or offer to correct the mistake by confessing to Harry. He stated only that he felt bad. Didn't matter anyway, she wouldn't forgive him if the words poured from his lips like wine.

"What do you say?" He waved tentatively in her direction, "about partnering up again."

"Do I look stupid, Jackson? I haven't forgotten the last time we "partnered up"? I think I still have your shoe print on my back from you using me as your stepping stone." Camri glared at him with all the fire of her nature.

"I understand why you feel that way. But, I promise, everything would be under a bonded contract between us."

"I don't know." She straightened in the seat and rummaged over a couple of pens, tidying them to look perfect. She looked at him and quirked an eyebrow, "I'll think about it."

She didn't want to give him the quick answer he desired for several reasons, but mainly to just savor the power of her refusal. Denying him anything tasted sweet indeed.

"There is a time issue involved. I need an answer now."

"If you need an answer now, then the answer is no."

"I see."

Jackson leaned back in the client chair. He crossed his long legs, resting an elbow on one arm of the deep green, plush seat. He stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"I guess Sean pegged you right. He said you wouldn't go for the deal, that females in general weren't risk takers. He thinks a woman doesn't have the guts to play in the big leagues. Personally, I thought you had more balls. Now I will have to pay up."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just, I owe Sean two hundred dollars now. He bet me that you wouldn't take me up on my offer."

"Oh really?" Camri stood quickly from her seat, pushing the chair to the side.

She strolled over to the filing cabinet, making busy in one, half-opened drawer. Fully aware of the powerful male presence in the room, she seethed with anger and confusion.

On one hand, tickled to be costing Jackson two hundred bucks, she wished he'd bet a thousand.

On the other hand, how dare that legalese dweeb imply she couldn't run with the big dogs in the real estate world? Camri itched to wipe the floor with all of them.

She glanced back over her shoulder at Jackson. He rose from the chair slowly, making leave from her domain. Would it surprise him if she agreed?

"Okay, I'll work with you as partners." Her acquiescence tasted bittersweet on her tongue. "That's it. Nothing more, is that understood?"

He paused in his stride for the door. He turned back to face her. A slow smile spread with comprehension of her words. His eyes gleamed with a light of victory.

"Yes ma'am."

His sweet sounding voice rolled off the tip of his tongue. If she were standing close, Camri swore he would have licked her. She barely concealed the shiver created from the thought.

What the hell am I doing?

She couldn't believe she agreed to work with the devil again. Jackson drove her crazy to no end on so many levels. She didn't want to be in the same room with him, much less sharing a business deal.

She turned her attention to the filing cabinet. Doubts and memories cluttered her mind like atomizers on an old lady's dresser. Distracted, she missed the rustling of movement behind her until there he stood.

The warmth of Jackson's body melted away the nippy condition of the room. His breathing upon the nape of her neck more intimate than anything she'd experienced in a long while, sent chills down her body.

"I'm glad you've agreed."

Camri jumped in her shoes, whirling about.

Needing distance to breath properly, she backed away without looking. Her knees hit against the leather office chair. She dropped down into the seat.

Jackson pursued. Placing a hand on either arm of the chair, he leaned in closer to her face. Aqua blue eyes bore into hers.

His stare caused heat to race inside her veins. Her pussy warmed, becoming damp and heavy. She could have melted in a puddle on the spot.

She should push him away and demand he leave her office. She vaguely remembered telling him strictly business between them, nothing more. Words failed and thoughts fled. Camri pooled helpless with the pull of desire Jackson had over her.

"One more thing." His face so close she could discern the first shade of growth of his beard.

"What?"

His gaze roamed freely over her features. His scrutiny lingered on her chest.

Looking down, Camri cringed to note the neckline of her blouse had slipped to reveal a generous amount of cleavage. She snatched the open invitation closed, concealing her underwear.

She met his amused stare. "Have you been drinking?"

"No."

"What's wrong with you?"

He leaned closer if that were possible. "Nothing."

Camri tried to swallow the intense moment between them away, without effect. Her breathing escalated. His spicy scent intrigued her senses. Her mind swirled.

She wanted Jackson to kiss her. No, she didn't. Yes. No. Yes.

He withdrew a black card from his breast pocket. "Ever seen this before?"

She read the card. "'The Ark Hotel and Casino ~ Exclusive Adult Pleasure and Adventure'" The words were scrolled in gold letters across the front in fine, feathered print.

She gulped. How did he get the card she trashed?

She possessed no clue how that stupid card got into her purse a few weeks earlier. She had never heard of the place before then. Out of curiosity she had ‘Googled’ the resort.

She'd been shocked at first. It boggled her mind that such a monument to excesses and physical gratification existed. Then it seemed more likely than ever, given the sign of the times.

She and Mia giggled for an hour over what kind of kink they might be tempted to practice and with whom. It had been harmless speculation.

Jackson of course had been on her list of possible, right behind Dean Winchester and the Vampire Diaries, bad boy Damon. She would take that to her grave.

"I don't know where it came from. Where did you get it?" She tilted her chin.

"Pretty, little liar." He narrowed his gaze. "Russell and Sean retrieved it from your waste basket a couple of weeks ago."

A couple of weeks back Camri went to Spokane. She couldn't believe the little buggers actually snooped in her office. How dare them! All three of them needed a lesson in boundaries.

"I'm not lying!"

"So you've never been here, huh?" He wagged the card in front of her face.

"No." Her denial came hot and suffused with high color. This became unreal, the nerve of Jackson. Her hands balled into fists.

"What a shame, it's a great place." He licked his lips.

Her fists loosened. "You've been there?"

No doubt he'd been there. He's sleek, calm and could get any woman in the world if he wanted. He's a sexual god. The thought of Jackson cavorting with multiple bimbos in glorious sexual abandonment did strange things to her blood. The tepid liquid boiled and froze simultaneously.

"Oh yes. You should try it sometime." His voice melted like vanilla ice cream. He remained hovered over her chair, with her imprisoned between strong hands on either armrest.

"No thanks, I'll pass." Her head pushed back into the seat. Any distance between them might give her room to think clearly.

"Why?"

"Because I wouldn't be caught dead there, that's why."

"Well, too late." He slipped the card back inside his breast pocket.

"For what?" Panic shot through her body like needles on the inside.

"We are partners, you agreed. Our client is Noah Hawthorne, owner, designer and creative director of the Ark Hotel. We are invited to visit the hotel next week. Noah wants to discuss what kinds of property he's interested in, locations, budgets, etc. in a few days, here at the real-estate office."

What?

Her mouth gaped. "Excuse me? Did you say we?"

"You like the word, excuse don't you?" His gaze lowered to her lips.

"Answer me."

"You and me, partner." His lips turned into a mouthwatering, crooked smile. Jackson straightened to full height. He wheeled around to the door to leave. He looked over his shoulder with both brows raised high, "I'll tell you the details over lunch tomorrow. I'll have the contract then for you to sign."

Her stare narrowed and she didn't answer him. He must be nuts! She wouldn't dare step foot into that hotel. Never! Camri stood to tell him so. "Not for a million dollars, Jackson."

"Noah offered a hefty bonus if we find and contract for the property he wants by the end of the month. That tidy sum, plus your share of the commission and you might get it." He shrugged in a nonchalant fashion. "If you want to turn your back on that kind of payday because you're feeling a little ... prudish, be my guest."

Ugh! He had to throw the money up in her face, big money, like a gauntlet.

She wrestled with herself and her inner desires. Desire to make a killing in a troubled market. Desire to prove herself to Jackson and his ‘boys’. Desire for the man himself.

There came her real objection. What would happen between them in a sexually charged atmosphere? Could she maintain professional and personal boundaries?

"I'll just go give Sean the two hundred and we can pretend this conversation never happened." His hand turned the knob of her office door.

"You're on." Her voice sounded breathless to own her ears.

"Good girl. I knew you couldn't pass on this." His smile showed self-satisfaction. "I have a feeling we're both going to profit big on this one. In a very short time, we could both have everything we want." He gave her one more accomplished wink and walked out.

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