Every woman loves a man with baggage. And now, sadly, our dear Brad Pitt has just that--the man we still measure all other men up against. Some of us have been doing this for twenty plus years. I still remember wondering "WHO THE F IS THAT" when I saw him in Thelma and Louise. With his sunny smile and nice guy attitude, he is a winner with most ladies--so I gave him a little nod in my newest novel, The Demon Duchess.
In this scene the beautiful and very vain Baroness has just been dumped by her longtime lover, Trevor Barrington, The Devil Duke. She desires a one-night-stand rebound with her sexy horse trainer, Jack Johnson, the surly and plain-spoken American. Much to her surprise and dismay, he is putting up a fight.
He crossed his arms over that broad chest and looked down at her like she was a child and he the patient parent. “What has your panties in such a bunch, Baroness?”
“We call them knickers here!” she exploded, liking the new experience of hollering. “And they’re in a bloody bunch because I’ve been passed over for a street urchin!”
Oh my, had she just said that out loud? Whisky certainly caused one to expel every word one was thinking. And she had not only hollered, she had shouted.
Jack Johnson gave a shrug. “You got dumped, big deal. It happens to the best of us.”
“Well, it doesn’t happen to me. I was supposed to be his duchess.”
“He’s already got a duchess.”
“Precisely my point,” Abigail frothed.
“I get it—you’re pissed because you blew your chance for a title upgrade. Well, don’t have a tantrum. I’m sure there is an earl or maybe even a marquess you can slam over the head with a stiff saddle and drag off to your bat-infested lair. ”
He was actually grinning at her, grinning with straight white teeth—making sport of her in her hour of need, kicking her when she was already down.
“It’s true, I could have any man. An earl, a marquess—Sir Brad bloody Pitt if I wanted to, and I assure you Mr. Johnson I wouldn’t have to drag them anywhere, I could simply wiggle my pinky finger. I’m the most sought-after woman in Western Europe, you know.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“That’s what Trevor said just before he bloody ‘dumped’ me, as you so eloquently put it.” She stuck her nose in the air. “Yes, I’ve been jilted. Still, I could have my pick of men—but I wanted him.”
“And his title no doubt—something tells me you wouldn’t feel the same way about him if he operated a shoeshine box in Harlem.”
“It wasn’t about the title or the money, you unbearable braying donkey—I have my own money. I was in love with him.”
He snorted just like a donkey then, more like a great heaving stallion really (though she hated to admit it).
“You people fall in love?”
“Of…of course,” she stammered, not really knowing if it was true. At that moment, she couldn’t name a single couple in her social set who were in love.
“Why can’t you just leave them be? Stop stirring up trouble. It’s no wonder you lost your man.”
“You don’t know anything about it. Now get out of my way, will you?”
He ignored her curt request. “I’ve been here for two weeks, working with your horse. I’ve observed a thing or two. I see how you behave. You should bow out gracefully and let them do their thing.”
“Now you’re giving me relationship advice. That really is the limit, Mr. Johnson.”
They were almost nose to nose. Her homicidal footwear raised her to his eye level. She was 5’10” without shoes, which meant she was over six feet tall in these particular back-breakers. He was as tall as Trevor, but much broader, and well…more muscular. Trevor was a lean whip—this man was something entirely different. The Baroness had been an admirer of men’s physiques ever since she could remember and this man’s was nothing short of stellar. His tailored-but-simple clothes accentuated his tight body, narrow in all the right places and wide in others. He wore an interesting coat made of fine plaid wool that fell past his lean hips, thrown open over a neat button-down which was tucked into a pair of close-fitting khakis. His boots were quite interesting as well. Flat-heeled, not Western style—mahogany brown and polished to a gleam. He certainly didn’t dress like a hayseed, nor did he dress like a gentleman. He dressed very simply like his own man.
Who was this man anyway—this man from America, who had the gall to talk down to her—and the nerve to grab her, or stand this close, laugh at her even? Whoever he was, he was a very good-looking man. Now that she really took him in, there was no denying it. His face matched his body, rugged yet chiseled with a square jaw and lean high cheeks—full dark brows to go with his rich dark hair. Ironic grooves outlined his wide mouth. She couldn’t quite tell his age, there was something youthful in his twinkly eyes and his unruly locks, but his dark skin had seen a lot of sun and was prematurely aged ever so slightly, just enough to add to his sex appeal. She’d been so consumed with Trevor of late that she hadn’t noticed how attractive this man was.
She really was acting like a loon standing there gawking at her trainer. She had to get back to the task at hand. This ill-fated night called for a reckless ride. Good-looking or not, this wall of a man better move aside or she would sink her spike heel into his ankle.
The Baroness didn’t go for the saddle again, but snatched a riding crop off the wall. “Step aside. I want to get to my horse.”
He cocked a brow at her. “You’re planning on riding bareback? Maybe you’re not planning on riding at all, just beating the animal into submission with your little whip.”
“Whatever bloody works,” she groused. “I can’t fail at everything tonight.”
“Relationships don’t usually succeed without fidelity, Baroness.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Your boyfriend was running around with other gals—the entire world knew it. I’m sure you were carrying on with a few other fellas as well.”
Sometimes she swore he was speaking a different language.
“He always came back to me.”
“Well, he’s not coming back this time—he’s found someone real, someone who finally caught his fancy for good.”
It was as if he had thrown a dart right into her belly. She nearly doubled over. Instead, she did something she’d never done in her life. She slammed her hands into the man’s chest, pushing him as hard as she could in an attempt to get past him and make it to the stall. He didn’t budge (of course) but took her by the wrists.
“Aren’t you tired of falling off? You can’t force your will on this animal. You’ll get hurt.”
“Maybe I want to get hurt.”
“You need to learn how to let things go, Baroness. Let him go and let this goddamned horse go too. This is another thing you aren’t going to get your way with.”
“Any animal can be broken.”
“Not this one. This one will break you first. It’s a lost cause.”
“No,” she denied, pushing at his chest, this time without so much force, but just enough so that she wobbled on her high heels once again and he had to catch her in an awkward embrace. As soon as he’d righted her, he held her away from him and dropped his hands from her bare shoulders. She feigned a lack of balance and leaned toward him.
Strange as it was, she was compelled to touch him a second time. There was something satisfying in the feel of his big hard body beneath her hands. She’d never touched a body like that before, teeming with life, so virile and utterly male. Trevor was slim and cool to the touch. The feel of this man was an entirely new sensation for her. She wanted to pound her fists against him, yes—but she also wanted to fall into a weak stupor against that warm wall of heat and sort of melt away there. Or at the very least, she wanted to investigate the planes of his fine form further, with her hands and with her own body, preferably with no clothing between them. She didn’t know what she wanted anymore, to strike him or press up against him. She loathed him a moment ago and now she fought the urge to stroke him.
Abigail felt heat rising in her face. It must be the whisky making her think such lurid thoughts. Was she actually blushing? She hadn’t blushed in years.
His next words were like a bucket of ice water.
“The best thing you could do is put her down. You’ll never ride her and no one likes to see a beautiful animal fade away into obscurity.”
Abigail’s hot blood ran cold. Was he drawing a cruel comparison? She knew all too well that she was meant for grander things. Now she and her former glory would fade away in this old house as age and anonymity overtook her. And yes, she’d wither—wither away to an old lonely crone with scraggly hair and a droopy figure. She and Sir Brad bloody Pitt.
A strangled sound escaped her. “Are you making a crack about my age? You pitiless bastard!”
She raised the crop and sliced it through the air with a resounding snap. The edge of the stiff leather caught him right across the cheek, breaking the skin. He hardly flinched, just raised a finger to the blood seeping from the cut as Abigail stared in dismay at what she’d done.
He came for her, ripping the crop out of her hands and snapping the wood handle across his knee before flinging it aside. “Why you kinky bitch,” he said low. “You want to play rough, do you?”
She didn’t cower. She raised her chin defiantly. She was frightened, frightened in a way she’d never been before, but she was also excited. She was alone late at night in a barn with a strange man—possibly a dangerous man, a man whom she knew very little about. She should run away from him, but didn’t. Something in the way he breathed heavily and looked at her caused the fiery flush in her system to re-ignite and spread to all sorts of curious places. Her mouth went dry even as her sex went wet.
His use of the word “kinky” opened new and exhilarating possibilities. Would he touch her again? Would he shake her, push her? Her heart raced, not with fear but with anticipation. Her eyes dropped to his big hands. What would it feel like to have those hands on her naked breasts, her breasts that now swelled and puckered beneath the silky scrim of her gown. Why were her emotions and thoughts so erratic tonight? She’d had her heart broken and an excess of alcohol was compounding the problem, but that wasn’t the only reason why. The sight of her mark on him was like an aphrodisiac.
Abigail sailed forward in a breathy rush, placing her hands on his lapels. Her fingers spread wide, testing the hard surface of his pectoral muscles. “What if I do, want to play rough, I mean…”
A slow smirk lifted one corner of his mouth. He grabbed her by the wrists again, but it was only to fling them away. “I’m not interested.”
In one fluid motion, the Baroness released the yellow diamond brooch that held her dress together at one shoulder, letting the diaphanous material unfurl. The bodice of the slinky gown fell to her waist in a pale billow, leaving her naked to the waist. “This isn’t something you’re interested in, Mr. Johnson?
JACK JOHNSON CAST HIS GAZE OVER THE PERFECT SET OF TITS displayed before him then lower to the black and blue bruises that ran down her slender rib cage. The crazy woman had peeled her dress clear down to her pubic bone, exposing her whittled waist and flat stomach. He was more impressed by the nearly foot long mark across her hip, an ugly mottled splattering which marred the otherwise flawless skin of her pale body.
“Little Lord Fauntleroy really has you torn up, doesn’t he? You’ve been beating yourself up bad.”
She blinked at his words. Clearly they were not the words she’d expected. She glanced down at her battered form. “This has nothing to do with him. It’s that troublesome horse.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t break a rib.”
Her immaculate breasts rose and fell as she heaved a huffy sigh. “My ribs are fine, Mr. Johnson. I know the bruises are ghastly but…” She regained her composure, putting herself back on display. “…this isn’t something you’re interested in?”
Jack made a show of tilting his head, as if sizing her up. “You’re a little skinny for my tastes. Where I come from, women have a little more meat on their bones.”
She motioned to her uncommonly fine figure even as she sucked her gut in tighter and pushed her breasts out further. “You can’t be serious. Do you know what kind of deprivation a body like this takes?”
He had to cover his laughter with a cough at her truly comical expression of indignation. “I guess I like my females a little less deprived and a little more…fed. Besides, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
She gave up the pose with a noisy exhale and covered her breasts by clutching them, which only enhanced the creamy globes, shoving them upward in a makeshift bustier. “What bloody rubbish.”
Jack honed in on her face, a face that was as impeccable as that rack. It was an impeccable face, yes, but it was also the face of a calculating aristocratic snob. She was everything he hated in a woman. She was vain, shallow, spoiled and spiteful. Even now those feline eyes of hers were narrowed on him, shooting daggers for failing to fall at her feet.
He despised this breed of woman, “bitches in jodhpurs”, he liked to refer to them. They were quite simply useless. This woman was worse than useless—she was a giant pain in his ass. Along with the narcissism of a wicked-but-beautiful witch in a fairy tale, she possessed the will of Joan of Arc. He’d never seen a woman try so hard at anything. Most women would shudder around the Friesian, not this one. She also used that will of iron to go after her man—a man who had obviously fallen for another. For all her fine pedigree and unparalleled style and glamour, she didn’t have the sense of a goose—a characteristic that both infuriated and fascinated him.
He’d known from day one that she was a bad match for the horse, but he’d hung on nearly two weeks anyway, because as much as he disliked the uppity Baroness, he knew if anyone was going to make it work with that animal, she would. He didn’t know which fine beast was more stubborn, the horse or the lady. If she could stay on, she could ride. She was slender as a bow but fit and strong as any woman he’d seen. Still, he wouldn’t linger another day—two weeks was long enough. Coming here and working for the Duke and his terror of a mistress had been a mistake. He loathed the British equine scene and if he wasn’t plagued by an overpowering desire to always be on the move, he never would have ended up here. He should have left yesterday, apparently, for it seemed his latest and least favorite client had decided to settle for a simple American horse trainer to feed upon instead of an earl or a marquess.
Yes, goddamn it—he should have made his exit because now he found himself standing there wondering how a woman so hateful could be made so finely beneath her clothes. He guessed ice queens really did exist—she was more like an ice carving actually. She looked like a statue in a museum, being inside her would probably freeze his dick off. No, these weren’t his kind of people, or his kind of horses, and this woman sure wasn’t his kind of woman. She wasn’t a woman at all really. She was something in the slithering category.
“Sure, you look good,” he told her. “But you’re a snake. I see how you treat people.”
She didn’t argue with him, which he gave her points for.
“I dwell in a garden of snakes, Mr. Johnson—English society is a virtual den of vipers. A snake is what I must be.”
“So, get out of the garden.”
She searched his face with open interest. “How?”
“Join the Peace Corps, go work in a soup kitchen,” Jack bristled. “I don’t give a shit—how you get out. All I know is what I’ve observed. You people treat each other like chess pieces. It’s no wonder you’re a reptile. Why don’t you try doing something besides dinner parties and dressage? Donate your perfect fucking hair to one of those cancer kids for all I care.”
She started at his clipped tone and coarse language but she seemed more disturbed by the hair comment. He could tell by the way her slender fingers fluttered to the pale golden strands.
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly. You think my hair is…perfect?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “You never wear it down, how would I know.”
“I do on occasion. When it’s done, that is,” she told him conversationally while she stood there still palming her own mounds. “I have a girl that comes to the house. A professional…” she trailed off, looking a little sheepish. “I have rather problem hair, you see.”
The only “problem” he saw with her hair was that she wore it too tight. It was probably as uncomfortable as hell and contributed to her bad attitude. The hairstyle did show off her long slender neck though.
“What you have is a problem personality.”
She seemed unaffected by his insult. He expected her to toss her head in annoyance or do that thing where she screwed up her forehead and then massaged it afterward. Instead, she stared intently at his mouth.
“I find myself strangely…aroused by you, Mr. Johnson.”
He laughed then—he couldn’t help it. “You’re cracked, lady. You hated me a second ago.”
“That’s true, but I’m not sure when I’ll have another opportunity like this. A good round of meaningless sex might set me straight.”
“Sex?” he repeated the word with raised eyebrows. “We’re talking about sex now?”
“Naturally,” she sighed impatiently. “Why else would I bare my bosom to you? It’s not as though I need to be fitted for a new brassiere.”
“You’re not wearing a brassiere.”
“Well, I’m glad you bloody noticed. Now, you simply must drive Trevor Barrington from my memory with a good tupping.”
“Oh, must I?”
“Yes, if you won’t allow me to ride, that is.”
“Maybe I’ll let you saddle up after all,” he said dryly. “In fact, I’ll let you ride to the moon and back, how does that sound?”
“Oh, do stop playing coy games, Mr. Johnson,” she snapped. “It needn’t be intimate. I just require the searing penetration of your male body. I’m not asking for sweet kisses and caresses. You won’t even have to lay your hands on me. In fact, I don’t want your hands on me.” She wrinkled her nose. “They’re too…hot.”
“Wow, you really know how to sweet talk a guy, Slim.”
There it was. That funny thing she did with her forehead. She scrunched it up tight, so those striking dark brows of hers collided. He would have expected nothing less. She made that expression every time she was thwarted. And he supposed she made the same face when she was offended or angered or when she set her mind to something.
He knew he was in for it when she dropped her hands to her sides and made a start for him. He had just enough time to take a defensive stance before the pale satiny length of her rushed him. He knew she’d hurt herself, crashing against him like that. She’d been hurt enough in the last few weeks falling off that horse, so he let her take him down, stumbling toward the pile of soft hay next to the stall instead of the hard metal door. He gave in because he was tired and going to bed was starting to sound better than standing there taking potshots at her.
And why not let a half-naked beautiful woman topple him to the ground, even if he couldn’t stand her. Part of him wanted to feel the press of her body against his. Was there any heat in her? Or would her sublime tits shatter like frozen crystals against his chest. He’d let her make a drunken fool of herself a little while longer then he’d lift her off him and call it a night.
Jack let out a loud grunt when she pushed him flat with one hand and straddled him with her long legs. She gripped his flanks tight with her thighs as she ripped open his shirt.
“Jesus, you really want to do this, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, I guess if you’re that desperate for sex...”
“I’m not desperate,” she objected. “I could have any man.”
“I guess Sir Pitt wasn’t available on such short notice.”
“You’re convenient is all.”
“I’m so flattered.”
She raked her nails over his bare chest, seeming entranced by what she found there. The muscles of his stomach rippled in response. He loved when women did that—ran their nails across his skin. Especially if they were grinding against him like she was. Her breasts hung over him like tempting teardrops. Jack cursed the dumb animal within him for growing hard.
She purred as his body lengthened and stiffened beneath her. “I see you are not impervious to my charms after all, Mr. Johnson.”
He growled and brought his hands up to cup her breasts. “I don’t find you remotely charming.”
The Baroness brushed his hands aside, then leaned back so she could get at his belt buckle. She yanked the leather strap free with the same ferocity she’d used to shred his shirt. The zip of his fly went down with a jerk. She spread apart his pants and pulled the elastic waist of his briefs low. His dark pubic hair was exposed but the rest of him was not. She made a little sound of annoyance as she tugged. He assisted her by lifting his hips. She gave another tug and the weighty mass of his cock sprang free.
Her eyes widened at the sight of it. He would have laughed again if he hadn’t been so achingly rigid. She looked like a kid in the window of a candy store.