Excerpt from Rebel Charm

     
     His assistant's lab notebook clipped him on the ear, bounced off his shoulder, and struck the human skeleton hanging from a rack behind him, rattling its bones. TJ McCloud sighed and caught the skeleton stand before it toppled.
     "Take your damned bones to bed with you then. That's the only relationship you'll ever know." Leona stalked out of the shabby inner office, disappearing into the even shabbier outer one.
     TJ heard the front door slam behind her. As he leaned over to retrieve the scattered pages of the notebook, a gentle clapping broke the silence.
     TJ's head jerked up, almost slamming into the counter. Bent over, he could only see a shapely ankle accented by red high-heeled mules. Straightening slowly, he absorbed the magnificent apparition magically appearing in his doorway.
     The high heels emphasized the curving perfection of long tanned legs, capped by a tight red miniskirt. Eyes popping, TJ looked higher, to a breathtaking figure that could have graced the pages of Playboy. Aware of his gaze, the genie posed seductively against the institutional green of his office door.
     Damn, was he hallucinating? He should have heard her enter.
     Hell, her looks should have screamed her entrance. That red spandex top revealed far more than it concealed, even with the silky transparent shirt thrown over it. Removing his glasses, TJ massaged the bridge of his nose.
     He was surprised at himself—he never noticed what women wore. Had a covey of angels alighted, he might have noticed they wore a lot of white before returning to work. His ex-fiancée had pointed that out to him on numerous occasions.
     TJ raised his gaze from that distracting body, only to be captured by more fascinating phenomena. Whipped-cream-and-lemon-pie-colored curls bobbed from an impossible heap atop a tan face of delicate angles. Slanted green eyes watched him with amusement as she crossed her arms under her bounteous bosom. Her taunting smile and turned-up nose alone could have halted a rampaging grizzly and morphed it into a drooling teddy bear. The rest of her could roll dead men in their graves and kill live ones in the sheer ecstasy of testosterone overdose.
     Why did she look familiar? Startled at that reaction, TJ absently polished his glasses while applying his analytical mind to the puzzle.
     "I applaud your ability to defy temptation," she purred, swiveling her hips as she moved toward him, watching him through eyes gleaming with interest.
     Where had he seen her before? She was beautiful enough to be a movie starlet, but he didn't watch movies, so that couldn't be the answer.
     "I don't have time for this," he said aloud, returning his reading glasses to his nose. "Tourist information is down the street." He swung around on his stool, presenting her with his back.
     "Did all that youthful energy bouncing out of here wear you out?" she asked with a hint of humor. This close, her subtle cologne drifted temptingly between the sharper odors of ammonia and formaldehyde.
     Awareness crept across TJ's skin, irritating him far more than Leona's senseless departure. "This is a private office. I'll thank you to state your business or depart."
     "Timid Timothy," she teased. "That much hasn't changed."
     She ran a fingernail down his lab coat, and the part of him with no brain reacted instantly. He broke his pencil lead and cursed.
     She laughed, a low, knowing chuckle. "Want a hint? Or shall I just fling something at you and flounce out like the last one?"
     "Flounce, please," he answered mildly. "Without throwing anything breakable, if you could arrange it."
     The sexy vibration of her laugh shot straight to his groin.
     "I see the years have taught you flattery and charm," she teased. "I suppose there have been so many women in your life, they all look alike to you these days."
     The second statement was as much mockery as the first, although TJ wasn't certain she knew it. He was certifiably charmless, and the only women in his life threw things at him.
     Pointed jabs at open wounds didn't improve his humor. "The women I know have more brains than boobs, so their appearance is irrelevant," he replied, reaching for another slide.
     "Oh, I'll get even with you for that one, Tim, just see if I don't." Her velvet voice slid into a dangerous undertone.
     He couldn't concentrate on the slide under his microscope while inhaling an exotic scent with more mind-bending effect than pure opium. Was there something familiar in that warning? "If you're done threatening me, close the door behind you as you leave."
     The air almost buzzed with her reaction, but her reply was bright and cheerful. "Your wish is my command, TJ."
     He sensed more than heard her quiet departure. He couldn't know her, he swore. He'd certainly remember anyone that stunningly sexy if he'd met them. "Stunning" and "sexy" were not words to describe the women he'd dated these last years.
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