Pushing the Limits
A novella by Nancy Fraser
When a case of mistaken identity puts Cade Tucker in the wrong place at the right time, he can’t believe his luck. Drawn to the beautiful Julia McCormack, he flirts his way into her bed, and they welcome the New Year together.
Though they agreed their time together was no-strings-attached sex only, Julia’s having a hard time letting go of the best sex she ever had. She dives into work at her corporate law firm, hoping to get her mind off the man who rocked her world. But then Julia finds out the senior partner has appointed a new attorney to work with her on her biggest case, and her co-counsel will be Cade Tucker. Her plans to make partner are in serious jeopardy when she and Cade disagree on the best legal strategy for their case, but what will happen when they can no longer fight their desire, and the company’s strict non-fraternization policy threatens both of their jobs?
Pushing the Limits
by Nancy Fraser
Copyright © 2013 by Nancy Fraser. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Cade Tucker stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse offices of Montgomery and McQuade, Attorneys at Law. All around him people came and went, yet his arrival barely registered. He surveyed the large, well-appointed lobby, his attention drawn to the reception desk. Or, more precisely, to the young and beautiful woman who stood behind the desk.
“Are you out of your mind?” the woman asked, pressing the cordless phone to her cheek with one shoulder while she scanned the room, waving frantically at the half-dozen employees standing off to the side. “I apologize for the misunderstanding, and I promise you we will get to the bottom of the mix-up, but we can’t possibly meet those ridiculous demands two days before Christmas. Everyone with half a life has already left town for the holidays.”
Some of the employees held file folders, others sheets of paper. One by one, they approached the desk, handing her whatever information they had to help solve the problem she faced. The moment she accepted the papers or files, they backed away and left her to handle the call. She quickly scanned the documents in front of her, all the while listening to the person on the other end of the phone.
Had she not been so unbelievably beautiful, Cade might have been distracted by her raised voice and her command of an obviously touchy situation. Instead, his fingers itched with the urge to reach out and remove the two silver combs holding a mass of red curls at bay.
“I understand your dilemma, Jerry. That’s why I took the phone call, rather than have someone else take a message. Tell your client to keep his pants on until after the holidays,” she said sharply. “I’ll make sure Mr. Montgomery gets back to him personally.”
She certainly had control of her place in the office. Cade thought of Edith, the receptionist at his last firm, and realized this woman would probably frighten the older Edith to death. When the gorgeous redhead was done with the caller, she pushed the off button on the phone with exaggerated emphasis, laid it back on the desk, and turned in his direction.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes,” Cade began, “I’m here to see Mr. Montgomery. I’ve been sent by—”
“Finally,” she said, interrupting him. “Mr. Montgomery had to leave suddenly but the party’s still on. Just follow the hallway straight ahead to the third door on your left. Paula is in there prepping everything, and she’ll get you set up.” She eyed him up and down, her expression somewhat skeptical. “You’re definitely not what I was expecting.”
“I’m not?” he asked. Given that he wasn’t originally due to arrive until after the holidays, how could she or anyone for that matter be expecting him?
“No matter. We’ll be starting in thirty minutes and you need to get ready.”
Ready for what, he wondered. Cade was about to ask just that when she snatched up the ringing phone and said sweetly, “Happy Holidays from Montgomery and McQuade. How may I help you?”
Julia McCormack stood off to one side of the boardroom, her back to the wall, her fingers clutching a glass of wine she had no intention of drinking. All around her the firm’s employees were enjoying the fine trappings of a successful business. The usually staid room was decorated to the nines, a large, well-lit tree holding court in the far corner. The buffet was sumptuous, the drinks abundant. Off to the side, an elegant string quartet played classical music and carols.
She only wished she were having as much fun as the rest of the staff. She should have never accepted that last call when the receptionist had offered her the phone. Still, Mr. Montgomery had left her in charge and so she’d taken the phone from Paula’s grasp, mustered up her formal attorney demeanor, and handled the complaint from a very angry client. Her day had been going so well up until then.
“Can I get you another?”
She looked up and met the warm brown-eyed gaze of Santa Claus, or at least the man they’d hired to play Santa for the evening. Even dressed in costume, he looked as if he’d just stepped off the cover of the cowboy version of GQ.
“No, thank you,” she said. “One is enough for me.” When he nodded and smiled, she couldn’t help but wonder what the temp agency had been thinking. In addition to his heart-stopping gaze and confident demeanor, he exuded charm. In two short hours, he’d managed to send nearly every one of the firm’s female staff into fits of giggles. They’d literally shoved their way in line for the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap.
Santa was supposed to be a portly, jolly old man with a white beard, not a six-foot-plus hottie with a fit body and killer smile.
Still, he did look good in the red suit.
“How much longer do you think this party is going to last?” he asked.
She stifled a laugh when he tugged at the edge of the fake beard and rubbed his hand across his forehead, dislodging the white wig and bright red hat.
“Not much longer. The partners are leaving as we speak. The rest will make their escape shortly afterward.”
“How about you?”
“I’m here for the duration,” she said. “Mr. Montgomery, our senior partner, usually oversees the party himself but he was called away on a family emergency and left me in charge.”
“I could stay and help, if you’d like,” he suggested. “After all, what kind of a Santa would I be if I didn’t come to the aid of a beautiful woman?”
She shook her head, pushing his compliment aside. “What kind indeed?”
As Julia predicted, the staff of Montgomery and McQuade were gone within the hour, leaving behind a sea of wrapping paper, bonus envelopes minus the enclosed checks, and half-eaten plates of food.
She surveyed the empty room before covering a china plate with cold shrimp and tangy sauce, then sank into a nearby chair. She slipped out of her Jimmy Choos and wiggled her toes in an effort to jump-start the circulation in her feet. It felt good to just kick back and relax, to enjoy the solitude and rehash her day.
She’d no sooner put the first bite of shrimp in her mouth when the world’s sexiest Santa rounded the corner, the red suit gone, replaced by his sport coat and dark shirt tucked into jeans so tight they should have come with a warning sign. He’d discarded the beard. The red hat with the fuzzy white trim dangled haphazardly from his long, slim fingers.
Unbidden, her heartbeat picked up speed. Beneath the surface of her skin, her pulse raced. Her reaction surprised her. Surely it hadn’t been that long since she’d been in the company of a handsome and sexy man.
She’d watched him over the course of the past few hours as he’d moved effortlessly from group to group. From time to time, she could have sworn she’d caught him watching her. The very notion had raised goose bumps on the surface of her skin.
“Ah, now you eat,” he said as he approached.
She swallowed the bite of shrimp and dabbed her lips with a napkin. “Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding the food table all night in hopes they’d eat the shrimp. They’re my weakness.”
He dropped down onto the seat beside her and stretched out his long legs, then looked around. “Do you have to take care of this mess?”
“No, thank goodness. The catering company will be back for their dishes around ten and the cleaning crew comes in sometime after midnight.”
“That’s a relief. I’d offer to help, but this place is a disaster.” He raised his hand and twirled the red and white hat on the end of one long finger. “Do you think it would be okay if I kept the hat?”
“Why do you want to keep it?” she asked, sneaking a quick bite of shrimp while she waited for his answer.
He shrugged, the simple motion drawing her attention to his broad shoulders. “Call it a souvenir.”
“A souvenir of what?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a souvenir of the night we met.”
Julia smiled. “I didn’t realize Santa was such a smooth talker.”
When he returned her smile and winked, the flirty gesture set the trip switch on her pulse.
“Santa could be a lot of things. Provided, of course, you’ve been a good girl.”
Julia slipped her feet back into her heels and stood. “Something tells me, Santa, you’re trying to get more than coal into my stockings.”
He looked down at her legs then and wagged his eyebrows for comic effect. “Looks to Santa like you’re not wearing any stockings.” He shifted on the chair, his gaze assessing her from head to toe. “I’ve been watching you all evening,” he admitted.
Julia swallowed past the sudden dryness in her throat. “You have?”
He nodded. “You seem wound a bit tight. Perhaps some uncomplicated fun would help you relax.”
Fun. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had fun of any sort. “Really?”
He stood, bringing them face to face. “I’d be happy to offer my assistance.”
“I can’t—” Her feeble protest halted when he leaned forward, stopping just short of actually pressing his lips to hers. His breath fanned across her cheek, sending a shiver down her back.
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve seen in a long time, and I’d like nothing more than to get to know you better.” A slow, sexy smile spread across his face. “If you know what I mean.”
Julia knew exactly what he meant and, for the briefest of moments, she was tempted.
Are you crazy? You don’t even know this man!
She pushed her inner voice aside. “Sorry. As enticing an offer as it seems, I’m going to have to decline.”
He shrugged, clearly not offended by her refusal. “How about we go for a coffee? I’m new in town and would enjoy some conversation before I head back to my empty apartment.”
“Just coffee?” When he nodded, she admitted, “I don’t have any plans for the rest of the evening. I suppose we could go to the Starbucks just down the street. They’re usually open until midnight.”
“Lead the way,” he said. But when she started forward, he caught hold of her wrist and held her back. “Wait. I don’t even know your name.”
“Julia.” She turned to face him. “And yours? I can’t call you Santa forever.”
He grinned, his thousand-watt smile making her heart pound. “It’s Cade.”
“Cade what?” she asked.
“Just Cade. That way, we keep things simple.”
In a nearly empty Starbucks, Julia took the chair Cade pulled out for her at the corner table and waited while he went to the counter and placed their order. Once he returned with their coffees and took his seat, she asked, “So, Cade, you said you were new in town. Are you here for work?”
“I’m here to provide information about my former employer in a civil court case and to find myself a new job.”
It was obvious he was holding something back by the way he fidgeted in his chair. “And?” she prompted.
“Okay, up front and honest. I wasn’t at Montgomery and McQuade to be the Santa Claus for your party.”
A tightness settled in the center of her chest. Visions of corporate spying ran full speed through her thoughts. “You weren’t?”
“No. Actually, I’d come to see Mr. Montgomery.”
“Really? For what reason?”
He shook his head. “Can’t say. Attorney-client privilege and all.”
Julia took a sip of her coffee and nodded her understanding. “Yes, of course.” She paused briefly, and then asked, “Why didn’t you say something? I mean, rather than pretend to be our hired Santa.”
He chuckled. “I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, especially after that young girl told me to take off my clothes.”
Julia nearly choked on the sip of coffee she’d taken, the sudden image of the impressionable Paula ordering Cade out of his pants making her breath catch. “You could have said something, anything, especially given you were obviously there to do business with Mr. Montgomery.”
Cade leaned back in his chair, his broad shoulders dropping on a relaxed sigh. “It was no big deal and kind of fun actually. How about instead of discussing my short stint as Father Christmas, you tell me a bit about Dallas?”
“What would you like to know?”
“How’s the nightlife? I’ve heard they have some great entertainment in the downtown district.”
“I wouldn’t know. It’s been ages since I’ve been out on the town.”
“Perhaps we could rectify that, once I get the lay of the land and settled in.” He shot her a devilish grin, the kind that made most women’s pulses race.
Not wanting to admit even to herself how appealing his suggestion sounded, she said simply, “Perhaps.”
They talked for nearly an hour, mostly about the weather in Dallas in January and February, the horrible finish to the football season, and even the rising price of oil. As curious as she was about Cade’s reason for coming to Dallas, she was just as relieved to have something else to think about other than her current case load.
“I suppose you’d like to get going,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve had a long day and still have the holiday to contend with.”
Julia raised her gaze from where she’d been nursing the last dregs of coffee in her cup and drew a breath to steady her sudden attack of nerves. Before she could change her mind, she said, “Given that you’re new in town, the least I can do is invite you to dinner on Christmas Eve, assuming you have no previous plans and that you’re interested, of course.”
He shook his head slowly, as if contemplating her invitation. “Nope, no other plans. I never turn down a home-cooked meal and especially not a holiday meal. However, I don’t want to impose.”
“I haven’t made any concrete plans either, so it wouldn’t be an imposition.”
“Then, yes, I’d love to come to dinner on Christmas Eve.”
She wrote down her address and the directions from the closest main streets on the back of a napkin and slid it across the table. “Six o’clock.”
Cade stood and held out his hand to draw her to her feet. “Six o’clock. I’ll bring wine.”
Julia made one last check of her appearance in the entryway mirror prior to turning the knob on the front door of her cozy apartment. When Cade had pressed the buzzer for admittance a minute earlier, she’d experienced a fleeting moment of panic. It had been ages since she’d entertained a man in her apartment, and even longer with a man was as appealing as Cade.
“Hello,” she said, pulling the door open to greet her guest. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“Like I said, I never turn down a home-cooked meal, especially when the cook is so beautiful.”
A warning light went off in her head, yet she covered her concern with a light laugh. “So, that deadly charm wasn’t Santa after all.”
He shook his head, adding one of his broad, devastating smiles for good measure. “Nope, the charm is all me.”
“Just so you’re not disappointed, I’m not a great cook. Actually, I’m not even a very good cook. However, I’m hoping for the best.”
A laugh escaped, which he smothered quickly. “I’m sure it’ll be fine, Julia.”
Well, at least they hadn’t gotten sick. Cade stood at her side, a cotton dishtowel in hand, drying the dishes as quickly as she could wash them.
“The ham turned out okay,” she said, handing him the wet serving platter.
“Yes, and the sweet potatoes were perfect.”
She let his compliment, warranted or not, sink into her senses. “The wine was delicious.”
He glanced in the general direction of the table. “I believe there’s a little left. If you’d like, I can pour us some.”
“Two is usually my limit. If you’d like another, though, it’s fine with me.”
Cade reached out and pulled her hands from the dishwater, drying them carefully before setting the dishtowel on the countertop. Taking her by the hand, he led her across the narrow width of her efficiency kitchen. “How about we take a break? We can finish off the wine and…”
Feeling especially daring, Julia raised herself up onto her tiptoes and pressed her lips to Cade’s. He tasted of cinnamon and wine. Spicy, yet sweet. “Nice,” she mumbled before kissing him again.
He returned her kiss with an even longer one and then raised his head and met her gaze. “I was going to ask about dessert, but this is good.”
Cade drew her into his arms and buried his face beneath the curtain of her loose curls, nuzzling her neck and pressing soft kisses to her throat. Her heart beat frantically inside her chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him even closer, her daring rewarded when he groaned and returned his mouth to hers for another scorching-hot kiss.
When he raised his hand from her waist and laid it against the side of her breast, she pushed herself forward until her could cup her completely. He lifted his other hand from her hip and toyed with the buttons at the front of her silk blouse, flicking them between his thumb and forefinger, yet not attempting to set them free of their holes.
He dusted the side of her throat with his lips and then slid his tongue across her jaw. Against her ear, he responded lazily with, “Hmm?”
“The buttons aren’t real. The blouse just slips over my head.”
He tilted his head back until he could look into her eyes. “Are you sure?”
His question, combined with the expression of surprise on his face, drew her laugh. “Am I sure about what? That the buttons are fake, or that I’m giving you permission to take my blouse off?”
“The latter. Definitely the latter.”
Julia reached for the hem of her blouse and pulled it over her head, as surprised by her daring as Cade seemed to be.
A shrill wolf-whistle rent the air between them. He traced the lacy edge of her bra with his fingertip. “Now that’s what I call a sexy piece of fluff.”
“Then you’ll be happy to know that the panties match perfectly.”
Cade reached for his own shirt, shaking his head even as he fumbled with the buttons. “I’m going to need to see that for myself, just to be sure.”
Once he’d tossed his shirt aside, Julia leaned into him, pressing her breasts to the toned muscles of chest, the light sprinkling of hair tickling her skin, drawing a warm flush of desire everywhere they touched.
Cade scooped her up in his arms and followed where she pointed, heading to the bedroom. Once there, he laid her in the middle of the bed and then stood over her, his warm gaze assessing her from head to toe.
Very briefly, she wondered if she’d made the right decision. It had been ages since she’d given in so easily. Yet, there was something about Cade that had gotten past her usual reserve with barely more than a kiss.
“Are you going to stand there forever?”
Her question made him smile. “I was just trying to decide whose clothes to remove first—yours or mine.”
She smiled up at him and then raised her hips, offering him an easy answer to his dilemma. He grasped the waistband of her skirt and tugged, drawing it across her hips and down her legs, leaving her in nothing but her bra and panties.
He trailed his fingertips across her midriff, between her breasts, across the top edge of her bra, and then down the middle. With a deft flick of his fingers, he released the front catch and spread the cups aside, baring her to his heated stare.
When he swallowed hard and then licked his lips, she shivered. He unwrapped her as gently as one might an expensive glass ornament, slipping the straps of her bra from each arm and lifting her gently to pull the scrap of silk and lace away from her body. Just as slowly, he slid his fingertips beneath the edge of her lacy panties and then down her legs.
He stood beside her bed, her bra in one hand and her panties in the other, caressing her with nothing more than his gaze. Her nipples hardened and tiny beads of sensual sweat beaded on her skin.
She’d never been so turned on in her life.
“Damn, but you are one beautiful woman.”
He reached for the waistband of his jeans and let loose the button and the zipper as quickly as his obvious erection would allow. Within seconds, he’d divested himself of his pants and boxer briefs and stood gloriously naked and fully aroused in front of her.
“It’s getting lonely down here,” she told him, motioning toward the empty spot at her side. “Care to join me?”
He stretched out beside her, then drew her into his arms and pressed his mouth to hers in a hot and demanding kiss. When she willingly parted her lips, he deepened the kiss, stealing both her breath and thoughts with one fell swoop of his tongue.
Julia ran her hands across his chest. His heart hammered wildly against her palm and she knew a moment of sheer relief that he was as excited as she was. She pressed her lips to the strong column of his throat, and found his racing pulse. Boldly, she grazed the flat plane of his stomach with her open hand, skimmed across his hip until she found what she was looking for and then enclosed him in her grasp.
“Be careful,” he warned. “We wouldn’t want a premature explosion.”
She was about to respond with a quip of her own when her words caught on the first touch of his hand against her inner thigh, the first brush of his fingertips across the edge of her body. When he slid his finger inside her, all hope of a coherent response was lost.
They traded touches, hers drawing him to the very brink, his sending her over the edge. Certain that she couldn’t wait to have him inside her any longer, she reached for him, her unspoken invitation coaxing him on.
He leaned over the side of the bed and reached for his wallet, withdrawing a tiny foil packet. Within seconds, he was sheathed and ready.
With his first thrust, Julia wrapped her legs around his hips and pulled him even closer, deeper, the rhythm they set escalating quickly, driving her to the very brink. She drew a deep breath and met Cade’s intense gaze. “Oh my,” she gasped, her body trembling from the remnants of her second climax.
Cade withdrew from her and shifted position, rolling onto his back and pulling her on top until she straddled his hips. Tiny beads of sweat glistened on the wiry hairs dusting his chest, and Julia ran her hand through them until her palms were slick. Then, lowering her hips, she took him inside her body.
He grasped her hips, guiding her up and down, coaxing her into a faster pace with nothing more than the touch of his hands. Julia leaned forward and braced herself against the mattress, then raised and lowered her hips in time with Cade’s gentle massage of her bottom.
“That’s it, Julia,” he whispered, “bury me as deep as you can in that hot body of yours.”
His demand excited her to the point that she could barely take in a full, sustaining breath. He raised his head slightly until he could draw the tip of her breast into his mouth, the tug of his lips on her nipple sending her heart into overdrive. Deep within her body, another climax built up, threatening to burst forth at any moment.
Cade released his hold on her breast and pulled back. Grasping her hips more firmly this time, he guided her upward until she could feel the very tip of him teasing her. He lowered her slowly, thoroughly, stroking her with every inch of his length. Her body tingled all over, this orgasm even more intense than the last.
He shifted again, rolling them both over until he lay atop her, his weight balanced on his forearms as he gave her time to recoup. “You were made for this, for pleasure so intense you can barely stand it.” As if to prove his point, he pulled back, retreating almost to the point of withdrawal before pushing forward. “Let go, Julia. Let your body be the boss for a change.”
Julia raised her hips in time with his stroke, drawing him farther into her body. Her hands on his hips, she dug her nails into the taut flesh of his buttocks and buried her heels into the mattress, relinquishing all control.
“That’s it, baby,” he said, picking up his pace. “Just…let…go.”