Georgie Flynn slipped out from beneath the sleeping male in her bed and reached for her camera. Ordinarily she didn’t sleep with clients, and she certainly did not do beefcake photos. But screw the rules. Here, in her bed, was the winner of yesterday’s hunk parade. Because he had made her laugh.
He lay on his stomach, his tanned skin in stark contrast to the snowy white sheets. His dark head was turned away from her, his features lost in the plumpness of a pillow. He snored lightly, just enough to assure her that he was oblivious to her lens. Vulnerable yet vividly alive. One long muscular leg stretched out fully atop the sheets. The other was tangled in the bedding, drawn up at a right angle to offer tantalizing shadowy glimpses of his impressive equipment.
Sexual energy zapped Georgia in her most vulnerable places with a reminder of how well his parts and hers had fit together not once but three times during the night.
His was a body that could sell underwear, swimwear, body spray, or a romance novel. Yet she wasn’t after slick, overproduced advertising snapshots. She moved around the bed, trying to capture the intimacy of the moment.
After a few shots from the foot of the bed, she moved to open the shades so that the morning light slatted in and across the bed. She loved to play with light and shadow. The indentation of his spine became a dark mysterious valley while the high plains of his shoulder blades rippled up and over into the contours of his shoulders and arms. Hard to say which part of him was her favorite.
Who was she kidding?
It was his butt. She snapped a few tentative shots from the side of the bed. Those taut twin curves were the sexiest thing she’d ever seen. Muscular and perfectly formed, they were a testament to the raw male power this man possessed even in sleep.
She was in lust for the man in her bed. A man she wasn’t ever going to see again because, well, because. She had behaved very unprofessionally. It went against all her personal rules about relationships. And because she was pretty certain that her actions had been motivated in part by the very bad week she’d had that preceded her arrival at Harmonie Kennels.
She had a stalker. Well, not a stalker exactly, but a pretty intense secret admirer. He’d been e-mailing her through her blog for two years. It was to be expected. Everyone who had a regular audience had at least one overeager fanboy or -girl. This fan, who called himself Secret Admirer—how original—seemed to know when and where every photo she’d ever gotten published was. He knew more than she did, running down reprints from sources across the world. Part of her was flattered, part of her creeped out. But lately he’d become more intense, especially after she lost out on a Pulitzer photo award she had been shortlisted for. Fanboy had gone berserk, saying that she had been robbed and deserved picture of the year, then lashing out at the winner on every online forum available. And that wasn’t all. His last series of comments sounded vaguely threatening, as if he thought he could secure for her the “shot of her career.”
It was true, she wanted to win a Pulitzer the way a singer wants a Grammy or an actor an Oscar. She was a serious photojournalist by profession. So she wasn’t happy to be doing beefcake photos of hunky men with oiled biceps and mischievous smirks this weekend. But a promise to a friend was a promise. And Yardley Summers had a way of making her friends do things they would not ordinarily do.
Still, that didn’t explain the man in her bed. Or why she was stealthily photographing him with the intensity of a chance meeting with a snow leopard in the wild.
“Georgie, Georgie.” She was muttering to herself. She had so not planned for this to happen. And now she didn’t know what she was going to do about it. Do, specifically, about him.
He even had sexy feet. They were big and long, but with elegant curving arches she had the sudden insane desire to bend down and lick.
The soft click of her shutter was the only sound as she moved like a dancer around her subject, dipping and bending, searching for the perfect angle.
She had spent the previous day surrounded by hard-bodied men in various states of undress. And, for the most part, they weren’t a lot happier to be photographed, all oiled pecs and abs, than she was to be the one taking the photos. That was because they were not professional models but real men with serious jobs such as policemen, firemen, deputies, and such. All were K-9 officers for their various departments. Only Yardley Summers could persuade all of them to come out and reveal nearly all in the name of charity.
The men who had “volunteered” were most worried about being posed in ways that made them look girly or too slick or just cheesy.
Georgie tried her best to get the money shots quickly. She made her living photographing the D.C. scene, politicians, and other newsworthy events. Trying to get men to loosen up while staring at their half-dressed hard bodies was not the pleasure it might seem.
Thankfully, her twenty-one-year-old assistant, Zoey, a college student, had been doing the prep work: keeping track of the order of the men for the photo shoot, checking for strategic shaving needs, and spraying them with an oily mist so that their admirable torsos and ripped backs and arms would catch and reflect the light for the lens.
It was only after their dogs were added into the mix that the men relaxed and gave Georgie the easy smiles and cocky poses she’d been trying to coax from them in the warm-up shots. Man and dog. Powerful combination.
And then Philip Dexter arrived.
“Oh my gawd! Who’s that?”
Georgia hadn’t bothered to glance up from her camera at Zoey’s exclamation. Zoey’s jaw had dropped so often during the workday that Georgie no longer trusted her judgment of exceptional.
But then she did have to look up.
She liked strong noses. The man standing nearby had a bold and blunt nose, in perfect balance with his broad brow and strong jaw. Thickly lashed hazel eyes in dark olive skin. Damn! He had the eyes, the lips, the height, and the biceps. It was as if the Greek god of beauty had ransacked the gorgeous aisle of some celestial Macy’s and gifted him with all the best deals. He was tacky with attractiveness, and she couldn’t look away.
“Hi. I’m Philip Dexter. What do you need me to do?”
Georgie couldn’t believe the X-rated thoughts rushing into her head. It was so unlike her, so unprofessional. She’d photographed presidents and heads of state. Even a couple of A-list movie stars. Why did looking at—Philip?—unglue her brain?
“Check with Zoey.” She pointed and walked away before she made a fool of herself by drooling.
Georgie usually smiled at her subjects to put them at ease. Even the most confident person sometimes needed reassurance when being stared at down the barrel of a photo lens. But there was no need to reassure Philip about anything.
When his turn came he seemed perfectly at ease in his half-nakedness. At home in his fireman gear. And a perfect counterpoint to the gorgeous yellow Labrador retriever named Zander he held on a leash. Two beautifully proportioned animals that put the pheromone in phenomenal.
Unlike the other men who, after their shoots, escaped to pull on a shirt and accept the usual rude comments of their friends, this man had come right up to her. “Hi. Great session. This is Zander.”
Embarrassed by the intensity of his gaze, Georgie had reluctantly taken the hand he held out. “Hi. I’m—” Her gaze dropped to his feet. “Boots.”
“Nickname.” Holy samoly. Where had that come from?
“Interesting. You want to tell me how you got that name over a drink later?”
Boy, did she ever! Once she thought of an answer. But Georgie didn’t mix business and pleasure. So she asked a question instead.
“What does Zander do?”
“He’s got a great nose for search and rescue.”
She took a few shots of just the dog, then dropped to one knee and waited for Zander to sniff her. When satisfied, the dog gave her a bump with his head, permission to pet.
Georgia did so, then rubbed each velvety ear with her fingers. “What a gorgeous animal you are.”
“Thank you. Zander’s handsome, too, don’t you think?”
The audacity of his reply jerked her gaze up to his. Hazel, with a lot of tortoiseshell highlights. Gorgeous. Absolutely.
“About that drink.” He wasn’t going to give up easily.
She rose to her feet and leveled a glance at him that usually got her message across without the actual brush-off words. “I’m pretty busy. Lots of others waiting for their turn before the camera. Let’s see how the rest of the shoot goes.”
He had stared at her for a second, those honey-caramel eyes assessing something, then he nodded. “Right.”
Now, in the early morning light, Georgie lowered her camera to stare with her vulnerable gaze at the sleeping man she’d invited to her place and into her body.
She’d had that drink with him, and several more. But that was not the reason he had gotten into her bed, and was still there.
It was the way he had looked at her all evening, as if she was the most important thing in the room. No man had ever looked at her with such single-minded intensity. Georgie knew she was attractive in a curly redhead, freckle-face way. But there were other more attractive women present, for instance her friend and their host, Yardley Summers. Summers, owner of Harmonie Kennels, was strikingly female. Tall and lean with cliff-hanger cheekbones, long red-mahogany tresses, and coal-black eyes, Yardley made every man who saw her look twice. Yet Philip hadn’t seemed to notice Yardley was present.
When she’d pressed him a bit on the subject of women he’d answered, “What do you call a man on a date with a redhead?”
She had stiffened. Just when she was beginning to like him he turned out to be one of those jokers who thought making fun of her hair color was okay. God. She’d had enough of those jerks by fifth grade.
She started to stand up when he reached for her hand. “You didn’t let me finish. He’s the luckiest bastard in the room. And, if he’s got half a brain, he won’t try to be clever and risk losing her.”
And now he was waking and turning over to reveal the reason she was still humming and quivering after a night of oh-so-happy. Morning hard-on.
She lifted her camera without a thought of anything more than the desire to immortalize his erection in all its glory.
“What are you doing?” His voice was as rough and rumpled as the bedding. The scowl on his face reminded her that he was a serious man with a serious job. Firefighter. K-9 division for search and rescue missions.
She squatted down beside the bed. “Just taking some informal shots.” Her finger never left the shutter button, recording shots reflexively.
“I didn’t agree to this. Not nudies.” And yet he didn’t reach to pull the sheet over his nakedness. Ooh boy. Just reclining there he was messing with her mind.
“What are you planning to do with those?” He pointed to her camera.
Georgiana lowered her camera and tried to think. Of course, she should assure him that she wasn’t just some salacious female who would tweet and Facebook his ass all over the Internet.
“I’m an artist. When someone or something attracts my eye, I photograph it. If I was a painter, I’d have my easel out. Understand?”
He was still scowling. “You’re a professional, award-winning photojournalist. That makes you very competitive where your work is concerned. How do I know those photos won’t show up somewhere public like a gallery?”
“I wouldn’t do that.” How did he know all about her credits? She had asked Yardley to keep her name secret in the Harmonie Kennels promo for the calendar shoot, and she certainly hadn’t told him those details during their date. Of course, she had been shooting law enforcement professionals. These men would have easy access to such information. Maybe word got out anyway. “You have my word.”
He cocked an eyebrow, an expression that defined skeptical.
“Fine.” She sighed and handed him the camera. “Erase them.”
He took it without hesitation.
“If I were you, I’d look at them first. Just so you know what I was doing.”
She watched him click through the photos, the doubt on his face turning to surprise and then a faint smile. When he finally looked up, he raised both eyebrows. “You didn’t take a single shot of my face.”
“Not what I was interested in.”
“So I noticed.” His face caught fire with a grin so lewd she tightened her thighs in a purely female response. “What are you going to do with them?”
“Keepsake.” Dear lord. How lame did that sound coming from a grown woman?
“You do this often?”
“I never do this.”
He set her camera aside then stacked two pillows behind his head before reaching out a hand to her. “Then let’s make some more memories.”
She didn’t need to ask what kind. Stretched out before her was the definition of a male in his prime. Six-pack, check. Ripped and ridged torso and arms, check. Heavy corded thighs and firm swells of calves, yep. As for the eager-to-please erection, oh my. Someone needed to thank his mama for producing the sinfully delectable man in Georgie’s bed.
Lust rushed to her lower regions, feeding an ever-tightening ache at the apex of her thighs. Trouble. She was in a lot of trouble. She really liked this guy. He was cool, calm, totally in control without any of the macho swagger and antics that turned her off from the alpha males who strutted around Capitol Hill.
For the first time she realized that she was naked, too. Squatting down there by the side of the bed, she finally felt the chill of the morning.
“You’re shivering.” He wiggled the fingers of his outstretched hand. She noticed a tender, not predatory, smile on his face. “Come back to bed and let me warm you up.”
She didn’t doubt he could do that. Despite her shivering she was already quite warm in all her intimate places. “I don’t usually do this.”
“It’s okay. Keep the photos. But keep them private.”
“No, I mean I don’t do this.” She came up to her knees, letting the mattress hide her nakedness to just above her nipples. “I don’t sleep around.”
His smile could rearrange the stars. “We didn’t sleep much.”
Okay, she needed to be more specific. “I don’t screw strangers. I don’t pick up men. I don’t do”—she swung an arm out to include the entire bed—“this.”
His frown came back. “Is that why you took photos? Because I’m a stranger? I’m not part of your real world.” He let out a small sound of male disgust. “I’m just a nude man in the bed.”
“No. I have standards. Rules I live by. This isn’t how I live my life.”
“I broke your rules?” His smile returned. “I never broke a woman’s rules before. So what was the thing I did that made you decide to break a rule?”
She didn’t have a good explanation, or at least one she was willing to share with this outrageously sexy man. Even now, her traitorous gaze was wandering toward the tent pole under the sheet he’d pulled up to crotch level. Talk was so overrated. She really, really just wanted to reach out and touch.
“I’ll erase them.” She reached for her camera but he was faster than she would have thought possible. With a predator’s grace he launched himself from the pillows and grabbed the camera out of her hand.
He lifted the camera to his face and began taking pictures of her, hunkered down and nude beside the bed. After a dozen shots he lowered the camera and offered it back to her. “Keepsakes. So you can remember how you were, too.” He grinned. “Captured: a moment in time to remember.”
It took her a second to catch up. “Are you brushing me off?”
He leaned back and folded both arms behind his head. “Let’s just say we both got what we asked for. And it was … better than that.” He let his gaze slide over her, taking in every inch of bare skin not hidden by her crouch.
“I have to work this morning.”
“I have to leave this morning.”
They spoke at the same time.
“Listen, I’m sure there are sophisticated and clever ways to ease out of these situations. I don’t know them.” Georgie sighed. “Last night was great. Really great. But I’ve recently broken up with someone and I’m not looking.”
“Sounds like we agree. I can’t get any more involved either.”
Her face stiffened. “Married?”
“Only to my job. Still, before we go our separate ways …” He caught her left wrist in his right hand, thumb and forefinger creating a bracelet, and tugged. “Now come back here and let’s say good morning properly. Because you are definitely a do over, lady.”
She crawled in over him. He caught her by the waist and rolled, flipping her under him. As his body settled over hers, his legs slid between hers to force them apart. Immediately his erection sank into the space, nudging her nether curls.
“I like you, Boots.” His grin rasped her cheeks with a day’s growth of beard as he leaned down and kissed the corner of her mouth. “You never explained that nickname.”
There was a very good reason for that. She’d made it up. Didn’t know why. Self-protection in the face of six feet of sexual danger?
“I—oh!” He’d flexed his hips against her, opening her just enough that she had to take a careful breath to keep from begging him to hurry up.
And then he kissed her and the world went away.
“You look like you had a bad night. Was it the chili dogs? I think it was the chili dogs. I ran out of antacids around three.”
Her assistant, Zoey, stood before Georgie wearing a tiny bikini top and cutoff sweats with the hems rolled up to “do me” territory.
Georgie shook her head as she prepared her equipment for the day’s shoot. “Put on a shirt. And unroll the hem of those shorts if you want to work with me today.”
“But it’s Special Ops day. Hear that?”
Both women looked up to see a military helicopter swooping in low on the horizon. Just to show off, the men unfurled ropes and began rappelling out of the chopper one after the other, each with a dog wrapped securely around his neck.
Georgie’s camera was up and she was shooting before she had time to register all the details. “Zoey. Shirt. Now.” She spat the words out even as she continued to record the impressive arrival.
Life for her was what she captured behind her lens. Sometimes it seemed that her photos were more real than anything else in her life. Capture and hold. The camera allowed her to do that. Real life had a way of slipping out of her grasp.
When she finally lowered her camera Yardley was standing beside her. “Did I thank you for this weekend?”
Georgie gave her a sideways glance. “You owe me.”
Yardley laughed, throaty and sexy and carrying in a way that drew the attention of anyone who heard it. She had come out to greet the soldiers, something she had not been able to do for each and every law enforcement officer and firefighter the day before.
At that moment, a man driving a jeep sped past behind them and blew his horn. Yardley frowned. “What was that for?”
Georgie pretended to examine her camera so that Yardley wouldn’t see the blush warming her cheeks. “He was one of my subjects yesterday, remember? He was just saying hello. His name’s Philip Dexter.”
“That’s not Philip Dexter.”
Georgie looked up at her friend. “What do you mean?”
Yardley raised a hand to shield her eyes, watching as the jeep sped away. “The only Philip Dexter I know is piloting that chopper.”
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