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Saturday, April 27, 2013
Worth The Risk by Charlene Sands
A woman's boots.
They sat on the floor, next to the bed. A fancy curlicue design stitched on
smooth chocolate leather trailed to the top of the zippered knee-highs. Seeing
them brought a smile to Jackson Worth's lips. He lifted his arms quietly,
stretching out while trying not to awaken his sleeping companion. Images invaded
his mind of how sexy she'd looked wearing those boots and how turned on he'd
been sliding them off her coltish legs. Her short skirt and scoop-necked top had
come next, with very little effort on his part, as he recalled.
It didn't make a lick of sense. But he couldn't deny that after taking one
look at his sister-in-law's best friend, Sammie Gold, approaching him at the
hotel bar last night, with her familiar sweet smile, slender hips swaying and
those incredible boots catching the overhead lighting, he'd been thunderstruck
But Jackson Worth was no fool. There'd be hell to pay for what he'd done.
He'd hear it from both his brothers, Clay and Tagg, but the worst of the wrath
would come from Callie. Tagg's wife would take his head off and probably
threaten to disown him.
Bright sunshine seeped in through the drapes and he closed his eyes, trying
to ward off the headache pounding in his skull. The woman beside him on the
king-size bed stirred and the scent of jasmine filled the air. Jackson breathed
it in, and damn if his sated body didn't react, just from the sweetness.
Never before had he mixed business with pleasure, but this time, he'd outdone
Sammie rolled over and her arm flopped onto his chest, her fingers on his
skin, soft and possessive. She murmured something in her sleep that sounded too
much like "boot-scooting boogie."
He glanced at the top of her pixie-cut, brown hair with colors of caramel,
chestnut and rum blending like those of a rare gem. She was cute but not the
kind of woman he usually dated. He winced at how that sounded, even to him.
He hadn't dated her. He'd slept with her.
Yep, Callie wasn't going to be happy when she found out. Without giving
Jackson so much as a verbal warning to be on his best behavior, his
sister-in-law had asked a favor of him, giving him her full trust.
Sammie's had it rough lately. She's lost her father and her business. Take
her under your wing, Jackson. Help her. Please. It means a lot to me.
He'd blown that trust to hell.
Slowly, Sammie lifted her head off the pillow. Disoriented, she peered at him
with deep brown eyes. "Jackson?"
Her gaze darted around the elegant room. She blinked and refocused, then
shook her head to clear it. All the color drained from her face and her eyes
grew round as poker chips. She lifted herself up, the covers falling away from
her unclothed body. Her breasts appeared, small, round and firm. Jackson
silently groaned. If she were any other woman, they'd be halfway to heaven again
With a gasp, she looked down and grabbed the sheets to her chest. "Oh, no!"
She sent him a questioning stare, blinking rapidly. "We didn't."
It wasn't the usual reaction he received from a woman after a night of great
sex. "Apparently, we did."
She made an unfeminine groan and searched the room, looking for some sign of
familiarity. "Where am I?"
She gulped air and her voice squeaked. "France?"
This was worse than he thought. "Las Vegas."
She collapsed against the back of the bed, her head cushioned by a
feather-down pillow that billowed when she landed. She looked up at the ceiling,
clutched the covers to her chin and muttered, "How did this happen?"
He was pretty sure it was a rhetorical question, but Jackson had the need to
answer her anyway. With his head propped in his hand and elbow braced on the
bed, he met her tentative eyes. He gave her the only explanation that would make
Sammie's muddled brain began to clear and through the haze she remembered
coming to Las Vegas for a shoe convention. Her best friend, Callie Worth, had
insisted that, because Jackson was in Las Vegas at the same time, she meet with
him. Jackson had a good head for business. Jackson could help get her out of the
financial mess she was in. Jackson could give her sound advice. Sammie had been
robbed by her last boyfriend, an accountant who'd known how to juggle numbers
and her heart—before absconding with nearly everything she'd owned.
She'd felt like a gullible idiot to have believed his lies.
She still felt that way, only now she had Jackson Worth to contend with, too.
Ever since her father had died a few months ago, Sammie hadn't made good
judgment calls. But this might have been the dumbest thing she'd ever
done…sleeping with her best friend's brother-in-law.
She spotted her clothes on the floor. They painted a vivid trail of lust to
the bed. Her blouse, her skirt, her bra and her thong panties were strung like
drying clothes on the line, one right after the other. A whimper, bordering on
panic, rose from her throat. "How much champagne did I drink last night?"
She cringed, waiting for his answer.
He seemed to be calculating in his head. "Not that much…maybe two glasses."
Her mouth dropped open. "I—I don't normally drink. It affects me. I get, uh—"
He sent her a knowing look. "Wild and sexy?"
"Oh, no, did I seduce you?"
A smile caught the corners of his mouth. "It was mutual, Sammie. You don't
He'd been helpful, that much she remembered. They'd spoken business for half
the night at the bar and they'd had some laughs, too. Then the champagne had
arrived. After the first glass, she'd been fine, but she should have stopped at
one. Having two glasses of the good stuff, with her sensitivity to alcohol and
her slight frame…well, she should have known better.
Sammie had traveled from Boston a few months ago to attend Callie's wedding
and had met Jackson then. They'd had several conversations and had developed a
cordial friendship. He was devastating to look at. Gorgeous with a capital
G. He was so out of her league that she'd never entertained thoughts of
being anything more than casual friends.
She glanced at the silk sheets, the expensive room and the man who was
probably buck-ass naked under the covers beside her. Somewhere between the
elevator ride up to the room and Jackson peeling off her boots, her mind went a
Oh, boy. "Not really. I don't remember…much." She sighed. "I shouldn't have
had that second glass of champagne."
Jackson stroked her arm, his finger making circles just above her elbow. She
trembled from his touch. A jolt of throbbing heat pulsed between her thighs and
her memory cleared for a second. She remembered something.. .how her body
reacted when he touched her. "It's a little late for that confession."
He was right. Last night at the bar she'd thrown caution to the wind. Tired
of being Miss Goody Two-shoes, the bridesmaid and never the bride, and tired of
denying that Jackson Worth was the sexiest man she'd ever laid eyes on, she'd
done something totally out of character. She'd wrapped herself around Jackson on
the dance floor and kissed him. He must have thought her needy and pathetic.
"Th-that's me, always late to the party."
"Sammie," he said, his rasp deep and low enough to remind her how much she
was missing out on by not remembering last night, "just so we're straight—you
wanted to be at the party."
"I, uh…I know." What woman in her right mind wouldn't want to be?
She squeezed her eyes shut. She should have been more cautious. She blamed
her behavior on losing her father and her business in a short span of time. But
getting real with herself meant facing the truth. Last night she'd needed an ego
boost and broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, sandy-haired hunk Jackson Worth was just
the man to lift her out of the dumps. Not only was he an eyeful, but he'd been
sweet, helpful and attentive. The combination had been irresistible.
Sleeping with Jackson was a stupid move—but not remembering all of it? Now
that was just plain wrong. She was experiencing the guilt without as much as a
hot spicy memory to go along with it. Now, she'd never know. And there would be
no repeats of last night.
Yesterday she'd gone to the annual shoe convention hoping to muster some
interest in her failing business. The economy was slumping and only the stronger
companies were surviving. No one was interested in infusing capital in her
small, unique boutique.
No one…except Jackson Worth.
Then it dawned on her. Her head spun and her eyes widened with realization.
"Oh, my goodness, Jackson. We're… partners.."
Jackson's mouth quirked with a quizzical smile, then he sighed deeply. "We
made a deal before the champagne arrived, darlin'. You signed on the
dotted line. Boot Barrage is now half mine."
Sammie lay in bed, her head cushioned on the pillow, listening to the crank
of the faucet being turned on in the next room. The rush of water filled her
ears and as the shower door opened then closed with a definite click, she didn't
have to imagine what Jackson Worth looked like in the buff. No, five minutes ago
he'd bounded off the bed in his birthday suit, beautifully tan, with the
greatest backside she'd ever seen on a guy, and sauntered toward the bathroom.
"You sure you don't want to go first?" he'd asked.
She'd crawled farther under the sheets, shaking her head.
"No, you go first. I'd rather wait." Now she lay on the bed, her pulse
pounding in her ears. For a girl who'd wanted to make a fresh start on a new
life, she'd really put her foot in it. Among other things.
A tremble erupted throughout her ...