Femme Fatale

a Hard Bodies novel by Cindy Dees

He has three days to turn her into a sex goddess…

Former teen star Olivia Harper has a problem. If she can’t shake her girl-next-door image and become the femme fatale her latest role requires, her career will flop. But with her squeaky-clean reputation, Liv’s hardly been kissed, let alone had her world rocked between the sheets. There’s no way she’ll ask her playboy co-star for pointers, so she turns to the sexy new military consultant for some discreet…guidance.

Major Blake Ramsey is stuck babysitting actors who can’t even lace their combat boots until his boss can deal with the fallout from his last mission. When Liv propositions him, he can’t decide whether she’s the naïve girl she claims to be or a bombshell looking for another conquest. Getting involved with the actress could blow his cover, but as the lessons heat up, Blake can’t deny how badly he wants to stay in her bed—permanently. But catching the eye of the paparazzi might jeopardize both their lives…

 

Information:

Title: Femme Fatale (Hard Bodies, #1)
Author: Cindy Dees
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 257 pages
Release Date: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-62266-703-1
Imprint: Brazen

Excerpt:

© 2013 Cindy Dees

Chapter One

“OMG, who’s the man candy?” Olivia Harper blurted. The perfection she’d spotted out the window of the make-up trailer oozed raw sex appeal from a hundred feet away.

Her make-up artist, Tyrone, answered appreciatively, “New military consultant for the film. Yummy, isn’t he?”

“What happened to the old one?”

“Jeremy got him canned. Said the guy was picking on him,” Tyrone added under his breath. “If you ask me, he couldn’t handle the boot camp the first consultant set up. ‘Bout time someone picked on McDumbass—”

Olivia grinned, which made Tyrone squawk. He was in the middle of attaching a fake wound to her right cheek. She was scheduled to spend a good chunk of the big budget action-adventure movie in uncomfortable prosthetics of one kind or another. But being an up-and-comer in the movie industry meant taking the oddball roles whether she liked them or not. Especially if she wanted to be branded Hollywood’s newest badass chick: a female version of the man standing ramrod straight at the far edge of the sound stage looking impatient.

Her co-star, McDumbass, aka Jeremy McDaniels, came into the trailer just then, breaking her train of thought. “You look like shit, Harper.”

“That would be the point,” she replied dryly. In today’s first scene, she was fighting a zombification infection while the hero raced to find a cure for it. She angled her chin up so the wound could be extended down onto her neck. She asked without moving her jaw, “What’s the name of the new consultant?”

“Which one?” Jeremy cast his bored gaze across the set.

Jerk. “The gorgeous one in the khaki slacks and navy polo shirt.”

“You mean the old guy?”

Olivia snorted. If that was old, sign her up for the geriatric ward. “Yeah. The hot grandpa.”

“Blake something. He’s military.”

“Which branch of service?”

“How the hell should I know? The kind that shoots at stuff.”

“Wow, Jeremy. You really did your homework for your part. I’m so glad you embrace portraying a soldier with such dedication.”

“Fuck you, Harper.”

She stuck her tongue out at his retreating back, and Tyrone rolled his eyes. It was the first day of filming, and this was already turning into a long, miserable shoot. On the TV series she’d come from, the cast and crew had been one big happy family. She’d hoped for something similar on her first real movie job.

Thankfully, Tyrone pronounced her fabulicious and let her out of his chair of torture. She stretched out the kinks and strolled toward Mr. Consultant. Up close, he was even hotter.

Smoking hot.

He wasn’t pretty like Jeremy or Hollywood’s other leading men. This guy’s face was rugged and tanned, his pale eyes hard. Like they’d seen plenty of life. And death. Her belly fluttered at the danger lurking in those baby blues. His shoulders were wide, his waist narrow and trim.

It took no effort to picture this man naked, and she caught herself breathing a little faster. Something about this one made her body tighten in eager anticipation.

When she put on the sex kitten stroll she’d struggled to perfect, he frowned. “You looking for someone?” she purred. “Can I help?”

“Could you point me to the director—Adrian Turnow?”

“He’s probably on set with the lighting and camera guys.”

“Where would that be, ma’am?”

Despite his formality, his gruff voice prickled awareness along her skin and curled low in her belly. She replied, “Don’t ma’am me. I’m Olivia Harper. Call me Olivia or Liv.” She held out her hand and gasped as his big, callused palm swallowed hers in a firm grip.

Head tilted, he appraised her and, holy crap, continued to hold her hand. Her gut wound even tighter. He reached out with his left hand and her breath caught in her throat. Despite his brief touch on her jaw where the prosthetic wound turned downward to her neck, the warmth from his fingers streaked to her core.

“There’s no bone,” he murmured.

No shit, Sherlock. The scent of him—man and musk—had just melted her entire skeleton into hot, liquid lust. Had he not held her hand like that, she’d probably have collapsed into a puddle right then and there.

“I’m Blake Ramsey, by the way. Nice to meet you. You’re even prettier in person. More grown up. Except, of course, for that hole in your face.”

She beamed up at him. He knew who she was? How cool was that? After years on a teen ensemble drama pretending to be nearly a decade younger than she was, it was gratifying that he perceived her as an adult.

Of course, her agent would blow a gasket if she saw Liv ogling some technical consultant as if she were a silly, love-struck teenager. She was being positioned and marketed as the next kick-ass Hollywood megastar. Emphasis on kick-ass. Edgy. Savvy. At ease handling men like Blake Ramsey.

In Hollywood, image was everything. Her agent had warned that she wasn’t even allowed to have lunch with anyone who wasn’t on the A-list.

“You need some bone,” he announced.

She choked at the bluntness of his come on. “Are you offering to do the job?”

He looked startled for an instant, and then his mouth turned down cynically. “I meant that a wound that deep would expose the jawbone. Tell the make-up folks to give you some bone where that wound crosses your jaw.”

“And you know this how?”

“Seen it for real,” he bit out.

Yikes. To lighten the abruptly serious mood, she asked, “Been through a zombie apocalypse, have you?”

He didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he studied her intently for a moment more and then released her hand abruptly as if he’d measured her and found her wanting.

Dismay fluttered through her. She pointed off to her right. “Set’s over there. That’s probably where you’ll find Adrian.”

Crap. She was an actress. She knew how to keep disappointment out of her voice better than that. He nodded and strode off in the direction she’d pointed.

Jeremy’s amused voice rang out behind her. “Grandpa didn’t fall for the sexiest babe in Hollywood, huh? You’re losing your mojo, Harper.”

She glared at her co-star and silently called him the foulest name she could think of as she returned to the make-up trailer. “Hey, Tyrone. Mr. Ramsey says I need bone at this spot on my jaw where the wound hits it.”

The make-up artist groused, “I told Adrian I’m not a special effects guy. I’m in the business of making women look great, not half-dead.”

She sank into the chair and caught a glimpse of her expression in the mirror. Bleak. Yep, that worked for zombies. Not so much for seduction. Jeremy didn’t know how right he was about her lack of mojo. She had none at all when it came to men. Although he would figure that out for himself soon enough.

This movie had not one, but two steamy love scenes. And in her PG television career, she’d barely been allowed a chaste peck on the cheek with a boy, let alone a full-blown love scene.

Olivia wasn’t at all sure she was femme fatale material.

Her movie career might be over before it began.

If Blake Ramsey had been banished to this loony bin, it meant he could kiss his life as a Marine officer good-bye. He scowled as he headed the way the actress had indicated.

His boss said the move was temporary. The Russian spy agency was trying to pressure its American counterpart into releasing Carmen in a prisoner trade, and their latest tactic was to harass and threaten him. His boss wanted him out of Washington D.C. until the negotiation with the Russians was concluded. It was annoying, but better than a bullet in the back of the head, he supposed. Hell, after the debacle with Carmen, the double-agent bitch from hell, he supposed he was lucky his own government didn’t plan to execute him.

Blake scanned the chaotic spaghetti of taped-down wires, cameras, light stands, and head phoned crew poking at tablet computers. He had never seen such a disorganized gaggle in his life. He felt like a damned alien in the midst of it all.

“Can I help you?” some kid in jeans and a black T-shirt shot at him, clearly with no intent at all to help him.

He reverted to the command voice he used to whip snot-nosed eighteen-year-olds into line. “Where’s Adrian Turnow?”

“Umm, over there.” The kid scuttled away, looking a little less self-important.

He marched to the cluster of video monitors and the harassed-looking man hunched over them. As Blake approached, he heard the guy reeling off a continuous stream of instructions about angles and zooms and light values. It might as well be Greek, for all the sense it made to him.

When the man stopped to draw a breath, Blake interjected politely, “Mr. Turnow? I’m Major Blake Ramsey. Per your request, the Marine Corps sent me to consult with you.”

“God, that’s good. ‘Per your request.’ Sheila, write that down.” The director, who didn’t look much older than Blake, looked him up and down and continued dictating to his assistant, “Sunburn on leathery skin at the back of the neck. Hair not quite buzzed on the sides. Starched and creased slacks. No scuffs on the shoes. Jeez, you’re beautiful, Ramsey.”

Blake frowned. He’d prefer tough. Focused. Dangerous.

“Did Franky S. tell you what I need?”
Franky who? Did Turnow mean his boss, Colonel Franklin Santerros? “Only in the most general of terms, sir.”

The director hooted. “That’s rich. Call me sir, again. I love it.”

What the hell? Blake’s neck—leathery sunburn included—suddenly felt damned stiff. His gaze narrowed. If this guy was laughing at him, Franky S. could find himself another Marine to do this job, his safety be damned.

“I don’t want any cheesy stunt explosions in my film, Major Ramsey—you know, all fireball and no power. I need real concussion, real dust, real debris, and I need you to make that happen.”

California under a full-scale zombie assault. Real. Right. “I’m sure your stunt coordinators are fully checked out at explosives—”

“Yeah, but none of them have seen recent combat up close and personal like you have. I also need you to teach my lead actor how to be a Marine. A real one.”

“Then you should send him through boot camp.”

Turnow shook his head. “I tried. His insurance company flipped out when he pulled some muscles, and they called off his training. The studio balked after that. They were afraid you types would break him.”

Blake allowed himself a single wry twitch of the lips. “We probably would have, sir.”

“Call me Adrian. You’ll sit beside me when we’re filming. Point out anything that’s not completely accurate. ‘Kay?”

It sounded easy enough. Until a handsome kid strolled over wearing ACU’s—the Army Combat Uniform—trousers not belted, combat boots unlaced, and his blouse unbuttoned halfway to his waist with no regulation T-shirt under it.

Adrian announced, “This is Jeremy McDaniels. Star of Zombie Apocalypse.”

“The one I’m supposed to turn into a Marine?”

“Yup, that’s me. Good to meet you, dude,” the actor drawled around a wad of pink bubblegum. “Let’s blow some shit up together.”

Blake wouldn’t let this yutz within a hundred feet of a block of C-4 if he had anything to say about it.

“What’s on the agenda today, Adrian?” Jeremy asked. “We gonna kill us some bad guys?”

“You’ve had the shooting schedule for a month,” the director snapped.

Blake did a double take as Jeremy slunk away. There might be some hope for Turnow controlling this chaos, yet.

“If you could pop over to Wardrobe and give the extras a quick once over, that would be great,” Turnow said, his attention already turning back to his video monitors.

Colonel Santerros’s final warning rang in Blake’s ears as he hastened toward the big tent Turnow’s assistant pointed out.

Don’t screw this up if you want to stay a Marine, Ramsey. Keep your head down. Stay out of sight. Don’t draw any attention to yourself. Be invisible, just until this mess with Carmen is sorted out.

Unfortunately, with this ragtag ensemble of actors as military wannabes, he stuck out like a private who’d forgotten to wear his camos.

Blake felt like a parent dressing a bunch of four-year-olds as he tucked in shirts, buttoned buttons, and pulled up pants. He thought he’d finished until a sultry female voice murmured from behind him, tickling his spine like a lover’s fingers. “Aren’t you going to inspect me?”

His heart clenched at the sweet sound, and he braced for the burn of acidic pain that always followed. It had been nearly a year since he discovered Carmen’s betrayal, but it still hurt.

He turned slowly. Gold-on-green-on-brown cat eyes glinted up at him sidelong. He’d heard that women in Hollywood were too beautiful to believe, but no one had warned him that their sex appeal would leap out and grab him by the throat. Or other places… Olivia Harper’s eyes ought to be registered as lethal weapons.

Yet again, her striking resemblance to the woman who’d all but wrecked his life punched him in the gut. Carmen had been a little shorter, her eyes browner. A little heavier. Bottle blond whereas Olivia’s hair was a sun-streaked honey brown. But they were both head-turning bombshells who oozed sex appeal. Instant distrust churned in his gut.

“Well, let’s see now,” he drawled low and deep as he looked Olivia up and down. “You got your boots on the correct feet. That’s a start.”

Her lush lips curved upward, and his male parts gave a lurch. Down, Tonto.

He strolled around behind her. Damn, she turned an ugly field uniform into fashion so sexy it shouldn’t be legal. “Your pants are too tight across your tush. First time you have to duck down fast, you’re gonna split a seam and show everyone your lace panties.”

“Sorry. No panties,” she replied breezily. “I thought commando was more appropriate given the subject matter of the film.”

His gaze shot back down to her curvaceous rear end, cupped snugly by gray digital camo cloth. Unlike many starlets who had no ass at all, hers would fill his hands nicely as he pulled her snug against him—

He cleared his throat and said gruffly, “Your hair’s not regulation.” Wisps of it trailed out of her loose bun, down the long line of her neck, to curve around her shirt collar.

“I’m not supposed to be in the military. My character’s clothes have been destroyed in the previous scene, and I’m borrowing a uniform.”

He leaned in close from behind to murmur over her shoulder, “Then why don’t you leave your hair down? Guys in the audience will fantasize about wrapping it in their fists and pulling your head back so they can suck your neck.”

The fair skin visible below her earlobe took on a pinkish cast that was utterly charming. A blusher? Her breasts probably turned that same rosy shade as arousal overtook her—

Dammit. He was doing it again. He was diving in head first around a hot female without checking for landmines. Had he learned nothing from Carmen? Steeling himself, he moved around in front of Olivia and reached for her shirt’s top button. She gasped lightly as his fingers brushed against the upper curves of her bosom. He slipped the luckiest button on earth free of its mooring nestled between her breasts and pulled her shirt wider open. Was there even a bra under there?

Surely all that sexy lift and jiggle was not natural. But the softness and rebound of her breasts didn’t feel like silicone against the back of his fingers. Her breath-stealing display was real? He said a brief, fervent prayer of thanks to whatever god of genetics had fashioned this exquisite body. A driving need to get inside her shirt and examine its contents pounded through him.

“What are you doing?” she asked breathily.

“Men will be the primary audience demographic for this film, right?”

She nodded, her cat eyes huge and dark.

“Then they’re going to want cleavage.”

She blinked up at him rapidly. “Yeah. Sure.” Lord, she looked as off-balance as he felt.

Pushing back a strand of her tawny hair that had slipped free and tucking it gently behind her delicate, and entirely edible, ear, he said quietly, “There. You’re perfect.”

He could swear she stumbled a little as she turned toward the voice calling her to the set on a megaphone. He shamelessly relished the view of her booty twitching away from him.

Sexy young things like her were Trouble. Capital T. But that didn’t make them any less tempting. Carmen already had his life on hold until further notice. He was not going there again.

But no panties? ?

Hell, he was already in Trouble.

 

 

Chapter Two

Olivia was hot and exhausted as the sun beat down mercilessly on the California desert. It was the third take of a scene that had her and Jeremy darting across the frame while explosive squibs—fake bullets—exploded around their feet. She ducked under an umbrella while Blake helped lay yet another line of squibs for the next take. His biceps flexed as he efficiently armed charges, squatting on powerful legs.

“For God’s sake, get it right this time, Jeremy!” Adrian shouted.

Jeremy was the one who’d skidded to a stop shy of the foxhole in the first take to peer down into it before hopping in like a girl. On the second take, he’d copped a feel while they pranced across the shot and gotten yelled at for it. He was still sulking about his stifled creative juices. He was lucky Olivia hadn’t cold-cocked him in the name of her own creative juices.

She was near tears but the last thing she needed was a reputation for being a wimp on set. Not if she wanted to keep doing big action thrillers.

A deep, smooth voice rumbled in front of her. “Nobody can run for squat holding hands. It’s why lovers skip through the daisies.”

The loafers were dusty and scuffed now but the crease in the slacks, in her field of view, was still crisp. She took a steadying breath and looked up. The bronze V of skin in the neck of his shirt glistened with perspiration, but it was Blake’s only concession to the heat. He looked infuriatingly at ease in this freaking oven.

“What do you suggest?” she asked.

“Don’t hold hands. When you reach the hole, have Jeremy put his hand on your back like this.” He stepped around beside her and placed a protective hand on the small of her back. Her pulse jumped as he murmured, “He can propel you forward into the foxhole and safety. And you can elbow him in the gut if he gets fresh with you again.”

She broke into a grin. “I like the way you think.”

He shrugged. “A lady’s got to look out for herself.”

“Places, everyone!” the assistant director bellowed.

Olivia cast a grateful glance at Blake, who nodded back encouragingly.

As Jeremy reached for her hand, she said, “Why don’t we try this one running side by side? You can put your hand on my waist when we get ready to jump. I’ll hang back out of your shot a bit. It would put you more center screen, but—”

“Done,” Jeremy interrupted.

Smiling to herself, she took off running on cue. Dodging and weaving as the squibs exploded around them like firecrackers on steroids, she sprinted for all she was worth toward the foxhole. Jeremy shoved her in and took a flying leap after her. She crashed onto a pile of soft foam mats and rolled out of her co-star’s way.

Jeremy must have rolled over, too, because his front pressed against her back from shoulder blades to ankles and his arm flopped over her. No shock, his hand commenced wandering up toward her chest. She jerked her elbow back sharp and hard, and her co-star swore loudly and rolled away.

“Cut!” Adrian shouted from somewhere above.

Another hand appeared before her face. A large, tanned hand with hard calluses and capable fingers. “Nice shot,” Blake commented. It sounded like he meant her elbow and not the mad dash to the foxhole. She traded smiles with him.

“Jesus, Harper. You broke my damned rib!” Jeremy complained loudly.

“Little poke like that made you cry?” Blake asked dismissively. “We’re gonna have to toughen you up if we’re going to make a Marine out of you.”

“I don’t want to be a Marine,” the actor whined.

“Too bad,” Blake sighed and hopped into the foxhole. “Civilians don’t get to play with the good toys. And the Corps has given me permission to bring some of our latest weaponry onto set.”

Jeremy climbed out and stalked away, grumbling under his breath.

“Need a boost?” Blake asked her. His hands went around Olivia’s waist, and before she knew it, she was standing beside the hip-deep hole. The strength behind his easy lift shocked her. He jumped out as light as a cat to join her, so tall beside her that she felt small and feminine.

As camera booms and light stands were rolled in every direction to prepare for the next scene, he asked, “Now what?”

“It’ll take the crew a couple of hours to set up the night shot. And, of course, the sun has to go down.” He frowned. “Didn’t they give you a shooting script and filming schedule?” she asked.

“Nope. I just got a call yesterday from my boss telling me to get to Palm Springs, California, ASAP to consult on a movie.”

“Come to my trailer and I’ll show you my script and schedule. Plus, I get better food than the catering table for the crew. You can eat with me.”

“The crew’s chow will be fine. I’d lay odds it’s better than what I get in the field,” he replied.

“Blake Ramsey. Are you telling me a big bad Marine like you is afraid of having supper with a helpless little thing like me?”

One light brown eyebrow arched over those penetrating eyes of his. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I am afraid of a few things in this world. But darlin’, women are nowhere on that list.”

“Come on, then. I dare you.” Using her perfected sashay, she headed for her trailer without waiting for him to fall in beside her. She wasn’t even sure he’d followed until his hand reached past her to open the trailer door for her and the heat of him stroked her back.

She stepped into the blessed cool of the RV bus. It wasn’t outfitted expensively like a rock star’s but was nice enough for her. Plus, it had a real shower that didn’t rain all over the toilet, and a king-sized bed.

Olivia surveyed past the small side table overflowing with the massive stack of bills that never got smaller and surveyed today’s fare on the miniature kitchen counter—a plate of fresh fruits, cheeses, European cold cuts, a bowl of salad, and chocolate chip cookies. She peeked in the oven and spied lasagna with gooey cheese overflowing the ceramic dish.

Working in companionable silence, they had the meal on the table in a few minutes.

Being in such close proximity to him and doing something so intimately domestic, made her more nervous than her first big audition. He was just a guy. Right? Then why was she reacting to him like he was a freaking superhero?

“How old are you?” Blake asked.

“Nearly twenty-six,” she replied. “But my agent will kill you if you tell the press that. They think I’m barely twenty-two.”

“Why lie about it?”

“Welcome to Hollywood, where youth and beauty rule. What about you? How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

“Isn’t that young for an officer of your rank?”

He shrugged. “Not when you’ve been to a bunch of war zones.”

“As in getting shot at?” she blurted, alarmed.

“Same thing.” He stood and cut another slice of the lasagna. “Want more?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Not if I want to fit into my wardrobe tomorrow.”

“What’s with the hearty Italian food? I thought all you Hollywood types eat rabbit food and nibble on twigs.”

“I prefer to eat like a human being and work out a lot. I had to drop about ten pounds for the big screen, but this is going to be a strenuous shoot. I’ll burn the calories.” She shifted subjects abruptly. “Tell me about combat.”

His eyes were miles away. Distant. Cold.

Whoa.

“It sucks,” he said shortly.

“Tell me,” she pressed.

“Which part? The smell of blood? The screams of the wounded? Having to look a man in

the eye as you gut him?”

“You’ve done that?” she gasped.

“Yes.”

She recoiled from the bitterness in his voice.

“Hell, I’m sorry.” He shoved a hand through his short hair. He stood, and she did the same, coming face to face with him in the narrow aisle. His gaze was still dark, but he had returned to the present.

“It’s okay. You can talk to me,” she said quietly.

“You don’t want to hear about that kind of stuff. You have a shiny, happy life. War’s a million miles away from this world.”

“Men like you die to make this life possible for me.” The heat in her reply surprised her. Honestly, it was the first time she’d ever thought of it in those terms. She’d known intellectually that democracy required defense, but it had never had a human face for her until now.

He blinked down at her in surprise. On impulse, she reached up to lay a palm on his cheek, which was rough with blond whisker stubble. “I’m serious, Blake. Tell me about it.”

“The hard part is to forget it, not dredge it up.”

“Then let me help you forget it.”

“A girl like you shouldn’t say things like that to a guy like me.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m just big enough a bastard to take you up on it.”

Her heart leaped. “Glad to hear it, soldier.”

He actually groaned aloud. His hands drifted toward her as if to pull her close against him. His head tilted down slightly, and her gaze riveted on his lips, which looked as tasty as chocolate bonbons with sprinkles on top.

Her lower body was warm and willing. And her breasts throbbed. What was up with that? She and Blake swayed toward each other, drawn like the opposite poles of magnets.

Someone banged on her trailer door and Blake jumped. She headed for the door muttering, “Quit looking so guilty or rumors are going to fly about us.”

“You think inviting me to your trailer for a private dinner isn’t going to do that anyway?”

He was right. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Major Blake Ramsey, no matter how tight he tied her insides in knots, could not be linked to her in the press. Relieved he’d caught onto the game so quickly, she was surprised by the rush of disappointment that followed.

Think Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Chagrined, she threw the door open and said a bright hello to the assistant director. Sure enough, Sheila took a long, suspicious look around the trailer, her gaze falling in disappointment as she spotted the two plates on the table and Blake fully dressed by the sink, his expression as bland as white bread.

“Shall we head back to the set?” Olivia asked Blake formally.

“After you, Miss Harper,” he replied, just as distant.

Thanks to Sheila’s incredibly untimely interruption, Olivia wanted to sneer at everyone as she stomped to her place for the last scene of the day. She was so flooded with frustration that she nailed an argument with Jeremy in one take. Adrian called her delivery inspired. Her co-star seemed miffed that she’d upstaged him, but with half-a-dozen major movies under his belt he could step up his acting if he felt threatened.

She dismissed Jeremy’s whining with a wave of her hand and headed toward her limo, a black town car. Blake stood nearby, looking around in all directions.

“What’s up?” she asked him.

“Someone was supposed to arrange a rental car for me, but I don’t see one anywhere.”

She laughed. “One thing that’s true in both TV and movies: if you want to get something done on set for sure, do it yourself. Are you headed for Palm Springs?” It was the nearest human settlement large enough to have a hotel. At his nod, she responded, “That’s where I’m going. Jump in with me.”

He handed her into the car and climbed in behind her. “I can see the appeal of this lifestyle,” he commented as the spacious vehicle pulled out smoothly.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes with a sigh of pleasure. Cool air blew from the air vents, and quiet music played over the low purr of the engine. “It’s hellishly hard work to get here, and the sacrifices wannabe actors have to make are incredible. But if you can hit the lottery and become a working actor, it has its perks.”

“You seem almost too…nice…for this business. Genuine. Sweet, really.”

“I’m no longer the girl next door from that TV series.” His labels, which he probably considered compliments, stiffened her spine. She couldn’t afford nice or genuine. Hot. Sexy. That’s what made kick-ass action heroines. Not sweet.

She was in trouble if she couldn’t solidify her new image.

“No, you’re definitely not a girl any longer.” His gaze darkened, but the look of interest…hunger, maybe…disappeared so quickly, she wondered if she’d imagined it. “Do you worry about getting devoured by the whole movie star thing?”

“How so?”

“Seems like young actresses spin out of control and ruin themselves more often than not. Does your family approve?”

She laughed painfully. “They didn’t until the first big paycheck came in and then they figured out how lucrative my coattails could be.”

“I’m sorry,” he said soberly.

She studied him carefully. “You’re a really smart guy, aren’t you?”

He barked a laugh. “Not when it comes to women.”

He had no idea how sexy he was. The scent of him wrapped around her, but she checked herself. She couldn’t fall for an unknown, someone totally outside the industry. Fall for a hot, famous actor who would make for beautiful tabloid photos, her agent insisted. The more photogenic a couple, the more coverage they got in the press.

“What are you thinking about, Blake?” Her fingers traced along a hard bicep.

He raised an eyebrow as he poured two drinks from the decanter in the mini-bar and passed her one. She sniffed whiskey and mentally shuddered. Badass, Liv, badass. She took a deep breath and tossed it down just as he commented, “Are you trying to seduce me, Miss Harper?”

She would never know if it was the whiskey or his bold question that made her choke. She ended up yanked across his lap, lungs on fire and head hanging down, while he pounded on her back.

When she could finally breathe again, mortification slammed into her. She was lying across his lap, rear end sticking up in the air like an errant schoolgirl about to get spanked. Darned if his palm didn’t pass lightly over her rear, too, like he was thinking the exact same thing.

And then a finger slipped under the hem of her short skirt, easing it up–

Oh, crap. She’d worn a thong today. His palm passed over the juicy flesh of her rear end, testing the spring and resiliency like he was measuring it for that spanking. Vulnerability ripped through her, followed by the hardest arousal of her entire life.

No man had ever dared to treat her like a woman full-grown, one who would consider or even enjoy something besides fumbling, chaste, missionary position sex in the dark. But this man was boldly fingering her ass. And then, oh, God. His fingertip traced the line of the thong from the sensitive spot at the base of her spine down, down, between her cheeks, over her anus, and lower to places that were suddenly hot, moist, and throbbing. Her thighs softened, opened for him, gave him full access to her most private places. She wanted that finger inside her Wanted to impale herself on it. Wanted him to stroke her to…

To what?

Maybe that was what terrified her into scrambling off his lap, her face burning hotly.

“Note to self,” he commented dryly, “the lady cannot drink whiskey without attempting to breathe it.”

If she were actually the confidant, kick-ass movie star she tried to be, she would tear her clothes off—heck, tear his clothes off—and throw herself at him this very second.

Instead, her intense reaction to being sprawled across his lap with that finger boldly stroking her nether regions stole her voice. She stared at her fingers twining in her lap. Her face must be ten shades of scarlet given the soaring temperature inside the limo.

Blake sipped his own whiskey more temperately, studying her with piercing eyes that missed nothing and gave away less. “What’s the deal, Olivia?”

She looked up. “I-I don’t understand.”

“First you flirt with me on set. Then you invite me to your trailer for supper. And now you offer me a ride back to town and end up across my lap. Are you trying to seduce me?”

Was she? She tried to make sense of her motivation. He so wasn’t what she needed for her Hollywood image.

But her body responded with ferocity to Blake’s interest, and she needed to practice her sex kitten abilities if she were ever to rid her good girl image. Think sex kitten, Liv. Be sex kitten.

She deflected her urge to giggle nervously with a bold reply. “I didn’t mean to confuse you.”

He frowned. “It takes a lot more than that to confuse me, darlin’.” He set his whiskey in the cup holder and leaned forward, drawing close enough to kiss. “And you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?” His warm breath feathering her lips blew away her feeble attempt to act the femme fatale and left her gasping for breath.

“Are you trying to seduce me?”