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Authors: Susan Johnson

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BOOK: French Kiss
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Sixteen

 

 

A
n hour later, the door to the bedroom
opened.

Meeting Johnny’s gaze, Vernie put her finger to her lips, nodded at the two sleeping figures, and motioned him toward the kitchen.

“Everyone was tired,” she said, following him into the small kitchen and shutting the door.

“Including you, I’ll bet,” he said with a smile. “Why don’t I take over now and watch the two sleeping beauties. You rest for a while.”

“Since we’re going out for dinner tonight, I’m going to take you up on your offer.”

Johnny grinned. Vernie never missed a meal, particularly one prepared by a world-class chef, although she was also known to
drive ten miles for a good Coney Island hot dog. “Then, hop to it, babe. We have reservations for eight.”

“At
Le
Troquet?”

“Where else? It’s your favorite.”

She arched one brow. “That’s why you have all the women after you. You know how to charm. Speaking of which, you should think about charming that lovely Miss Nicky. She’s actually normal—with a regular family—unlike most of your other female acquaintances. And you’re not getting any younger. You don’t want to be still dating bimbos when you’re pushing fifty.”

“First, I won’t be pushing fifty for more than a decade. And second, I’ll consider your advice when and if I ever have the inclination to settle down again.”

“You should think of Jordi. Maybe she’d like a woman in the house who is normal.”

“Are you saying you’re not?”

She pointed her finger at him. “You know very well what I mean. I’m not around all the time. Jordi might like to be part of a family again.”

He put up his hand. “Stop already. I’m
way past
the white picket fence fantasy. Jordi and I manage just fine
the way we
are.”

Vernie knew when she’d said enough. One
didn’t survive
in the world of high-powered Hollywood
employers without
understanding the virtue of silence. “I’ll
be taking my
nap, then. And you’re a real good father. It’s just that
Nicky seems—
I don’t know—different

in a nice way,” Vernie couldn’t resist adding with a wink.

Johnny smiled. “It’s obvious she’s nice. But I’ve got too much going on right now to deal with any one woman.”

“Maybe once your ex is settled or at least stable.”

He snorted. “You’re a dreamer if you’re waiting for that. But so long as Lisa doesn’t put Jordi in danger again, I’m good. We’re ou
t
ta here in a day, and after that Lisa can go to hell any way she pleases. Now, go take your nap.”

“Yes, sir.”

He chuckled. “You must want something.”

“Just
think
about taking her out.”

“Nicky?”

“Yes.”

“No. And as far as ‘taking someone out,’ I haven’t done that since high school. Furthermore, how stupid would it be for me to start something with Nicky when she’s building Jordi’s tree house. She’s gonna be around for at least a month. Think how awkward that would be. Most of my relationships are measured in hours.”

“You’re going to end up old and alone.”

“No, I won’t. I’ve got Jordi.”

Seventeen

 

 

J
ohnny found a comfortable chair in the
sitting room, put on his headphones, and listened to some new tracks he’d been working on in his studio before he so precipitously left the Bay Area. Taking notes from time to time, he fine-tuned the sound, the rhythm, the lyrics—some of the words were questionable even to his ultraliberated sensibilities.

The sleepers slept on—both in his line of vision.
So
he took notice when Nicky stirred. Eyes shut, she rolled
over on
her back and kicked off the cashmere throw Vernie had tossed over her. Mumbling something unintelligible, she threw her arms over her head like children did in sleep, and let out a soft sigh.

That particular pose lifted her breasts high. The plump mounds provocatively on show and the shapely woman stretched out on his sofa suddenly took center stage in his brain. His focus on music faded away, short-circuited by one helluva good view. Jeez,
he’d never really noticed her great tits before—the brevity of their acquaintance and recent events no doubt to blame.

Although, now that he had—those were world-class. Not that silicon didn’t offer every woman equal-opportunity tits, but the possibility of checking hers out suddenly crossed his mind.

Not that Vernie would approve. Nicky was normal, she’d said— as in nice normal. As in off-limits for ultracasual sex normal.

He pursed his lips and sof
tl
y sighed. Vernie was right.

Nicole Lesdaux from Black Duck, Minnesota, was normal as apple pie—an all-American girl.

Not his type
—at all.

So why was he looking?

He didn’t have an answer. And before he could rationalize a suitable one, she abruptly stretched, arching her back languidly, like a cat in the sun. As if that wasn’t a full-fledged ripe-for-sex image, a moment later, she began moving her hips in a highly suggestive rhythm—half-smiling all the while, as though enjoying a pleasurable dream.

No way was
that
frigging apple pie, the drift of her hips erotic as hell, as were those spectacular upthrust breasts, their lush fullness barely covered by the
t
ight T-shirt stretched over them. Not to mention, the imprint of her nipples was searing his eyeballs. She must be having one helluva good dream with nipples that hard.

Shifting in his chair to accommodate his rising erection, unconsciously reverting to type, he swiftly sized her up from head to foot, his gaze finally coming to rest on target. The tantalizing juncture of her thighs offered a riveting view of her mons in that horizontal pose. Gap chinos never looked so good.

Forcibly wrenching his gaze away a second later, he reminded himself not to deliberately look for trouble. Sex wi
th Nicky Les
daux would compromise Jordi’s tree house—sure as hell.

Especially transient sex.

So seriously, she was off-limits—as in
no way, no how.

Grappling with his rare need for restraint—sexual temperance an oxymoron in his world—he blew out a breath. A vehement, deeply frustrated one.

Nicky’s lashes lifted at the sound, her eyes flaring wide at the sight of Johnny staring at her. Still half-asleep, she scanned the room, trying to come to grips with her unfamiliar surroundings, struggling to make sense of what she saw. Paris—that was it— Johnny Patrick’s hotel suite, Vernie and Jordi; she must have fallen asleep. Oh, Christ, how gauche was that? She opened her mouth to apologize.

Johnny silenced her with an upraised hand, then pointed at his sleeping daughter.

Having cleared away the traffic jam in her mind, all she wanted to do was escape as fast as she could. Falling asleep in Johnny’s suite was so juvenile or worse—like maybe some groupie attempt to hit on him? Quickly rising from the couch, she waved and moved toward the door, hoping he didn’t think she’d intruded purposely. Women were always trying to inveigle their way into Johnny’s life she suspected. The last thing she wanted was for him to think she was hustling him.

A
u contraire.

Johnny was too busy dealing with his own indecision.

Should he or shouldn’t he give chase? he was wondering.

Where exactly did prudence rank in the grand scheme of things?

Or more particularly in terms of tree house construction?

Or let’s be honest—in terms of
his
life?

She was almost to the door. It was
crunch
time.

What the hell. He came to his feet.

Call it lack of restraint.

Or maybe innate male behavior.

Or more likely, a long-standing habit of instant gratification.

Pulling off his headphones, he quickly dropped them and his notes on a side table and caught up to Nicky just as she stepped out into the hall. “Wait,” he said, catching her hand to bring her to a halt. Easing the door shut behind him, he drew her around. “I’d like you to come to dinner with us tonight.” How was that for benign? It was only dinner. No ulterior motive. Or so he told himself. He might have even half meant it.

They were standing very close in the empty corridor.

Too close, Nicky thought.

Not close enough
,
he was thinking when he shouldn’t be thinking anything of the kind. He let her hand drop. “How about it?”

“Sure,” she whispered, trying to find breath to speak when he was looking at her like that, when his last question was open to interpretation.

“Dinner—right?”

Now that was less ambivalent. But she found herself nodding yes anyway, her words caught in her throat with his heated gaze triggering desires she’d been trying real hard to suppress.

“Perfect.”

His smile was boyish and sweet. Like on that
People
cover of the sexiest man alive. Soooo damnably sweet she could no longer resist, and rising on tiptoe she impulsively kissed him.

He tensed.

Shit, shit, shit. Was she a complete imbecile or what? “Sorry,” she muttered, dropping back on her heels, flushing red with embarrassment. As if women throwing themselves at him was anything new; she was probably the ten-thousandth this week.

After a millisecond, he smiled again. “No problem,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do the same thing.”

“Really?”
she said.

He grinned, her breathless disbelief apple-pie charming. “Yeah.” Cupping her shoulders, he bent low so his mouth was only a hair’s breadth from hers. “Really.” His mouth touched hers, curtailing any further speculation she might have apropos of the vast differences in their lives, the warmth of his lips ultralight, as though he liked to take his time.

She shouldn’t have melted against him so willingly. She should have shown more restraint. Yeah, right. When this might be her only chance to kiss the sexiest man alive, she wasn’t about to play coy. Actually, she didn’t know how to play coy. Call her impulsive. It was true.

He didn’t seem to mind. She was glad
about that. In fact, he
pulled her closer so the imprint of his you-know-what
was
hot against her stomach, and even if she’d wanted
to play coy, it was
pretty much out of the question after that.
He was
hung.
Perhaps
one of the criteria no one ever talked about
in the judging of
the sexiest man alive.

The pressure of his mouth intensified
infinitesimally,
and he added just enough tongue to make her
think of
soft beds and warm bodies as he leisurely savored
her like
maybe she was a Baskin-Robbins flavor of the month.
He knew
what he was doing, she thought as he backed her against
the wall
and leaned in to her. He knew how to make a woman
hot
and bothered in seconds flat.

The feeling was definitely mutual, but in the interest of keeping Vernie happy, he curtailed his carnal impulses, cutting the kiss short before it was too late. Lifting his head, he let go of her hips. “So what about coming to dinner?” he said, giving himself Boy Scout points for his honorable behavior.

As if she could refuse now, she thought, her ideas about coming not confined exclusively to dinner.

“I have to get back; I’m babysitting,” he explained, figuring that was as good an excuse as any. He lifted his hand in the direction of the door, as though she’d never kissed him, nor he, her— as though he didn’t have a hard-on and she hadn’t felt the world momentarily skid off track.

He probably knew no woman of sound mind would say no. Although, if she was rational, she’d refuse—because all things considered, his kiss suggested something more than dinner. Probably something like a one-night stand.

The question was: Did she care to add her name to the very long list of Johnny Patrick’s one-night stands? “I’d love to have dinner with you,” she heard herself saying.

So much for self-control. Then, as though in presage of what was sure to follow this potential one-night stand, Johnny instantly took a step back.

“Sounds good. We’ll pick you up at seven-thirty.” Turning, he walked away, entered his suite, and shut the door.

Left standing in the corridor, Nicky allowed her heartbeat to resume its normal rhythm, while reminding herself that one-night stands weren’t exactly a
complete
novelty for her. She didn’t have to get all bent out of shape about sex. Sex was sex was sex, after all. And on the bright side, this particular occasion might very well rate a sumptuous spread in her fantasy diary of amorous memories.

Although, female that she was, her next, immediate thought was—WHAT would she wear? She hadn’t thought she’d be going out for
dinner in Paris. Okay, duh…
she might have considered the possibility. So she wasn’t perfect. Hadn’t her mother always called her flighty when it came to long-range plans? In this case, she might have to admit her mother had been right because aside from slacks and T-shirts, she had
nothing
to wear. And celebrity-type people always ate at celebrity-type restaurants.

Eeeek and double eeeek.

This called for some quick thinking and quicker shopping. And not Hermes or Chanel shopping. Although how she would find economy shopping in this city of high and higher fashion was anyone’s guess. Also, sometimes she forgot to pay her personal bills—like on time

if she was busy, which was always. She hoped her cards hadn’t been canceled. They always reinstated them, because she actually had money now, but this wouldn’t be a real opportune time to have to argue with some credit card company over the phone from a shop in Paris. Had she brought her debit card? There should be money in her account; her secretary did an automatic deposit for her each w
eek. Worse thought, though…
did she even have her wallet? She tended to be a little disorganized.

No wallet. No purse. Shit.

She’d had her purse at the arcade—which meant it was probably in Johnny’s suite.

So knock on the door and ask for it. Really, he was only an ordinary man.

Right. And Black Duck, Minnesota, is the same as Paris.

Then again, she couldn’t have built a company single-handed if she was faint of heart.

She knocked, and when he came to the door, she whispered, “My purse,” and waved vaguely as though she was sure it was there. Luckily it was. Or she would have been wearing Gap chinos and a T-shirt for dinner.

With another wave, she left, the door closed whisper soft behind her, and after checking her purse for her debit card—eureka— she raced down the hall to the elevator.

Something demure but sexy would be perfect, she thought.

A dress that said class but wasn’t above a suggestion of receptivity in the right circumstances. In her case, that meant anywhere within a mile of Johnny Patrick should he crook a finger in her direction. Although maybe she should play hard to get. Not that she’d given him that impression five minutes ago.

But a woman could always change her mind, couldn’t she?

It was really just a question of moral fortitude—whatever that meant.

On the other hand, she was in France—the land of amour.

Maybe she should just lie back—literally and figuratively— and give in to the prevailing culture.

BOOK: French Kiss
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ads

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