His training didn't cover how to win back a woman's trust...
Jaimee Turner spent most of her life trying to be an unassuming pillar of virtue and submissive wife to a man who demanded nothing of her--especially physically. A year after his unexpected death, she's finally finding her own footing, only to find herself thrown completely off balance by Lucas, a man who awakens desires she never knew she had.
FBI agent Lucas Grayson is relentless in his quest to bring down those who prey on the innocent. The Turner case is unlike anything he's dealt with before, and so is the widow Turner. One thing's for sure: Brent Turner was blind to think he could outsmart the Collective. And blind to the fact Jaimee was a gift he threw away.
The Collective has dirty fingers in all sorts of bad pies, and the FBI suspects Brent's "accident" was anything but. Jaimee knows more than she thinks she does. Lucas would sell his soul to extract that information and keep her safe. But he can't save her from the devastating betrayal she'll have to face.
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June 29, 2009
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Excerpt from Rude Awakening by Veronica Chadwick
"Okay, go ahead and get it out of your system so I can go back to my workout." She tried for cool anger as she scowled up at him, hoping he didn't notice the thread of pain in her voice. Damn, he was pretty. In spite of her fury and mortification, her fingers itched to reach out and touch him.
"Whoa! Calm down." His voice was so deep and dark. It rumbled through her and gave her goose bumps.
"Calm down?" Her eyes narrowed.
He frowned back at her. "Look, your technique is excellent. I just came over here to ask who was training you and..."
The indignity made her grit her teeth in frustration. "No, you look. I don't have a trainer. I don't want a trainer. I just want to work out without some moosehead coming over to tell the fat girl what she's doing wrong."
There went that slow smile again. He arched a brow, folded his big sinewy arms over his bare chest and silently stared down at her--with condescension, no doubt.
"What is it with you guys anyway? You big muscle-bound oafs think you're all God's gift to women." She couldn't seem to stop herself as she pointed up at him now, barely resisting the urge to poke him in his well-defined, rock-hard, pierced-nippled chest. "You think every woman, especially us full-figured ladies, are just praying you'll come give us a pathetic second of your precious time to instruct us on how we can be more appealing to you. Well let me tell you something, mister. I didn't ask for your attention, nor do I want it. You don't buy my club membership, my meals, or anything else for that matter, so I don't see how my workout choices or the size of my ass are any of your damn business."
He just stood there with that arrogant smile on his face, watching her, as if she were an amusing puppy.
"Why are you just standing there smiling at me like that? Why don't you scurry back to your rat hole and leave me alone?"
"I'm smiling because I find it humorous that you're all hot and bothered over your preconceived notions that I think a certain way about you based on your outward appearance. When all the while you've judged and sentenced me on the basis of my own."
She stared at him for a moment and bit her lip. She had gotten carried away and it irritated her that he was right, and worse, he knew she knew he was right. She could see it in his rich brown gaze that was once again traveling over her body. Much to her surprise he reached out and gripped the bottom of her baggy sweatshirt and yanked it over her head in one smooth move. There she stood, with her mouth hanging open, in her sweaty purple leotard that clung to her body. Her full breasts were flattened to her chest and spilling over the low neckline, her hard nipples obvious against the damp cotton/spandex material, baggy sweatpants rolled down over her wide hips, revealing her pooch stomach and her round hips. Heat crawled up her neck and she balled her hands into fists, then quickly crossed her arms over her breasts.
"Much better." His murmur was almost a moan. His smile spread into a toothy grin then he winked at her, turned and walked away with her shirt and disappeared into the men's locker room.
Nearly everyone had paused or stopped what they were doing to watch. The two Barbie-like blondes on the stepping machines whispered to each other and giggled. Her first instinct was to hightail it out of there but she refused to give in to it. There was no way in hell she was going to let that man, the Barbies or anyone else screw with her newfound confidence or her workout. With steely determination she took a deep breath, lifted her chin and went back to working on her upper thighs.
An hour later she was pulling on her jeans and baggy blue Tigger T-shirt. She blow-dried her hair and pulled the unruly mass up into a banana clip. Guilt pricked her at the way she let the stud have it. He had certainly put her in her place, which for some reason she found thrilling. That wasn't setting well with her either, and she just wanted to forget about it.
The whole weekend stretched out ahead of her and she had a lot to get accomplished before it was over. Lesson plans, however, would wait until Sunday night. Tonight she wanted to get home, have dinner and crawl into bed with a good book. Which in a way was sad, considering it was only five something on a Friday night. Times like this were when she really missed Brent, even though were he still alive they would probably just watch a movie on TV. She missed the companionship, the comfort of having someone else in the house. Tennis shoes tied, sweaty workout clothes stuffed in the duffle, she headed out of the locker room with a heavy sigh.
The beat of the workout music thumped through the building and the gym was crowded. Thankfully, she was on her way out. Lana, the bouncy aerobics instructor smiled and waved as she walked by the wide window and Jaimee waved back. Her smile was still in place as she pushed open the glass door and walked out into the warm night.
"Nice smile." There he was, the stud, propped up against a column, exuding virility like he was posing for a centerfold. He'd changed into light blue jeans that hugged his narrow hips and clung to the healthy bulge behind the fly as if he were poured into them. The jewel tone blue shirt worked beautifully with his bronze skin, especially with the sleeves rolled up and the two top buttons left open to reveal his throat. He was hot, and that voice of his had a way of reaching out and touching her in all her private areas.
"Where's my shirt?" she asked quietly, not quite achieving the coolness she was going for as her smile faded from her lips.
"I tossed it in the trash." He pushed away from the column and stepped toward her.
"Unbelievable. You owe me a shirt." She stared at him in disbelief. "You had no right to do that." She turned to walk away, then paused and spun around to face him again. "Why did you do that?" Her voice was a bit higher than she had intended it to be but she'd never been so angry.
His brows arched and he leveled her with his piercing gaze. "You were hiding."
For a moment she just stared at him with her mouth open, incredulous at the man's audacity. She couldn't believe her ears. The unmitigated gall!
He took a cautious step toward her. "The sweatshirt was unnecessary. Your face was beet red, you were too hot." His lips curved slightly as he placed one long finger against her chin, closed her mouth, then let it fall away. "And, you were hiding," he repeated softly.
Oh man, that one insignificant touch left her quivering inside. More would probably kill her. What a way to die. Argh! What was she thinking? Focus, Jaimee, she admonished herself.
"So what if I was, and that's a big 'what if', it's none of your business. I don't know you." In order to gather some degree of calm, she took another deep breath. "What did you get out of embarrassing me?"
He stilled, frowning, his brows pulled together over dark eyes. "Embarrassing you wasn't my intention. I..."
"What if I wasn't wearing anything under it?"
For a moment he looked as though he was questioning himself and his actions. "You were wearing something under it."
"But what if I wasn't?"
With a disgusted sigh she shook her head and spun away from him, eager to get to her car.
"Wait." One very tan, very large hand reached out and snagged her wrist, forcing her to halt in her retreat. His fingers circling her wrist were warm and strong, but gentle, as he turned her to face him. His touch was charged with sexual energy. Her entire body reacted and she struggled not to step closer. Instead, she stiffened and focused on his arrogance. "I'm sorry I embarrassed you." He let her go before she could jerk away.
She raised her eyes to meet his gaze but kept her scowl firmly in place.
"I'll replace the shirt." He looked sincere as he offered his hand. "Let me start over. I'm Lucas."
After a long pause, she took it. He had such sexy hands; very warm, long strong fingers. Images of what wondrous delights those hands could be capable of producing flashed through her mind--and body--again.
She cleared her throat. "Jaimee."
He held her hand firmly as she tried to pull away. His palm was warm against hers and his fingers just calloused enough to elicit more imaginative ideas. Her gaze traveled down, pausing to watch the intriguing way his throat worked as he swallowed before gaping at the span of skin exposed by the V of his open collar. The flush to her cheeks was rapid and mortifyingly obvious.
Jaimee licked her lips as she looked up at him. The mischievous smile that curved his mouth and the sparkle in his dark eyes told her just how obvious she'd been.
"Actually I believe I've seen you before, up the street from me. I just moved here from California. I bought a house in Wood Crest, 512 Meridian." He reluctantly freed her hand. Damn, his voice was so deep, and it seemed rougher than before.
He was right; hers was only a few houses up from him, in 507. How did she miss seeing him? Did he take a step closer? He certainly seemed closer. "Oh, well, welcome to the neighborhood."
"Have you had dinner?" he asked slowly, watching her mouth. Had she licked her lips again?
Okay what was he up to? Men like him didn't ask out women like her. It simply wasn't done. "Why?"
Without question, those gorgeous eyes of his darkened even more. One brow lifted and his smile turned just a tad wolfish. "Well, I'm hungry, and from the looks of it, you are too."
"Excuse me?" She narrowed her eyes in disapproval. He chuckled and his eyes took on a predatory gleam that sent hot shivers dancing up and down her body. It was hard not to wiggle and shake them off.
"Have dinner with me."
"No, I don't think so."
If he expected her to just go all fluttery because he showed her attention he was sorely mistaken. Okay, so she was all fluttery, and overheated and dammit...wet and tingly. But she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
"Are you married or dating someone? I didn't see a ring but I guess that doesn't necessarily mean anything anymore. I should have asked earlier."
"Widowed," she interrupted.
"It's okay." And it was. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it was.
He tilted his head and watched her. "But you won't have dinner with me?"
"May I ask why not?"
She met his gaze and wondered at the flames that seemed to flicker in his eyes. Intrigued? Maybe. Tempted? Definitely. Still, she didn't know him or trust him and didn't understand at all why he seemed to be attracted to her. It only added to her frustration that her traitorous body was vibrating with lust from merely looking at him and briefly holding his hand.
"No, you may not," she answered with as much cool indifference as she could muster. She quickly whirled around and walked away before she gave in to her ridiculous little fantasies and hurled herself at him. Though it was very, very difficult, she didn't look back, and oh did she want to. She could practically feel his gaze on her butt. Oh God. Was he looking at her butt? She cringed at the slick, sensual rub of the swollen flesh nestled between her thighs, sensations spiraling through her with each purposeful step away from him.
No, she couldn't have dinner with him, and she couldn't tell him the reason why was that she didn't trust herself. As she reached her car she gave in and glanced back at him. He hadn't moved. He was still standing there, smiling as he watched her walk away. Despite her resolve to remain coolly detached, she returned his smile. Before she could change her mind she got into the car and headed home, wondering if she would see him again.