You don’t have to be an established book reviewer; you just need to have an opinion! I would like YOU to help me create the perfect suspense romance novel.

The working title is Who Are You? The novel will be a stand alone sequel to Hearts On the Run and will focus around Max, an assistant district attorney who is seduced by his dream woman – who then disappears on him without a trace. When he finally discovers who she is, he’s in for another surprise. It seems someone else is after her as well, and will use any means necessary to get her. Even if that means killing Max to get him out of the way.

Intrigued? There's more: I’ll even publish your name at the end of the book under a section titled, “My Opinion Mattered.” (You may stay anonymous if you would like.) If this sounds like fun, then this is how you can critique the novel every step of the way:

Every couple of days, I will post a small section of the book. After reading it, comment on what you liked, what you didn't like, how the dialogue flowed, character traits, how well edited the section was, and whatever else you can think of while reading. I will then revise the section based on your suggestions. Names published under the "My Opinion Mattered" section will be listed in order of number of comments contributed, so comment often! For those just joining us, please check out the blog archives to start the book from the beginning.

There is also an area to vote on how well you think the novel is progressing. You will be able to change your vote as the novel progresses to best reflect how you feel at any given time along the journey to a completed novel.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Delay in responding to comments

I apologize for my responses being a little behind.  My daughter had surgery with some unexpected complications.  I hope to be back to making regular posts in a day or two!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Part 10 of Who Are You?

Chapter 11

Okay, he hadn’t expected the night to go this way but Max certainly wasn’t complaining.  Yeah, they still needed to talk but damn, what an ice breaker!  He crawled in next to her luscious body and kissed her as he pulled her close.  Her body was even sexier than he remembered and he had a great memory.  Her breasts seemed fuller, more round, and her skin had a brighter glow to it than before.
            “You are gorgeous,” he said as he nuzzled her neck.
            “I thought we were going to talk,” she purred as she wrapped her leg around his.
            “Talking is overrated.”
            “I agree.”  Lauren rolled him onto his back, putting herself on top of him.  Kissing her way down his body, she reminded him that she had many, many talents.  For the next glorious few hours, they relived Halloween in intimate detail.
            When they were both too exhausted to move, Max whispered in her ear as he pulled her close, “I would really appreciate it if you were still here in the morning.”
            She snuggled up closer to him laying her head on his chest.  “I’m not going anywhere this time,” she promised.
            True to her word, Max awoke to a beautiful head of strawberry blond hair on the other pillow.  He couldn’t help grinning when he remembered the night they had.  The woman looked like an angel but she definitely had the body for sin.  And she knew how to use it.  He had never been with a woman who made him feel that good.  Ever.  And all this time he had thought all she did in bed was read.  He wondered what else he had been wrong about.  One thing he knew for sure - he wanted to find out.
            She must have sensed him watching her because she opened one sleepy eye.  “Good morning.”
            “Yes, it is,” Max grinned.
            “Well, don’t you look like the cat that ate the canary,” she smiled as she stretched.
            “Oh, I did much more than that.  And I’m pretty sure the canary enjoyed it.”
            She laughed.  “You know, modesty is not one of your better qualities.”
            He shrugged.  “No, not really.”  He leaned over and kissed her.  “Thank you for staying this time.”  And then he kissed her deeper and the rest of his body was ready to show her how happy he was that she stayed.
            After a moment, Lauren pushed against his chest.  “Mmm,” she mumbled against his mouth breaking the kiss and pushing him away.  “I’m going to be sick,” she said as she threw the covers back and rushed to the bathroom with her hand over her mouth.
            What the hell?  Max got out of bed and knocked on the bathroom door.  “Lauren, are you okay?”
            “I will be,” she rasped followed by the sounds of gagging.
            Max grimaced and tried to keep his own bile from rising to his throat.  “Can I get you anything?”
            It took her a moment to respond.  “A toothbrush?”
            “There should be a new one on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet.  I just bought it and haven’t opened it yet,” he added not wanting her to think he kept a spare on hand in case a woman spent the night. 
            There was nothing for him to do but wait.  He pulled on a pair of boxers and sat on the edge of the bed with his arms on his knees.  After a few minutes, Lauren came out of the bathroom looking a little pale but other than that she seemed much better.
            “Are you sick?” he asked.
            She bit her lip and shook her head.  Even though he had kissed every part of her body the night before, she looked uncomfortable standing there naked. “Can I borrow one of your t-shirts?”
            “Sure.”  Max got up and opened his drawer of t-shirts and handed her a dark blue one.  Since she was almost as tall as he was, it didn’t hang down quite as far as she had probably hoped it would.  He didn’t mind at all.  Thinking that probably made him a pig, he offered her his robe, which she accepted.
            Lauren sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her hands that were fiddling with the edge of the robe.  Finally, she looked up at him with an expression he couldn’t read.  “I’m pregnant.”
            Max was sure he didn’t hear her correctly.  “What?”
            “I’m pregnant.”
            He needed to sit down.  He sat at the foot of the bed not facing her.  “How pregnant?”
            “About a month.”
            “And you’re telling me this because…”  He couldn’t finish the sentence.
            “Because I’ve only had sex with one person in the last year,” she said quietly.
            Max’s mind went completely blank.  Almost as if it was refusing to process the information she was giving him.  After what seemed like a decade of silence, Lauren stood up.  “I should go.”
            That was enough to wake Max up out of his stupor.  He turned to look at her.  “What?  No.  You can’t drop a bombshell like that on me and then just leave.”
            “You’re right,” she said softly and she sat back down on the bed.  She looked as lost as Max felt.
            “How?” he asked.  “We used condoms.  Every time.”  Well, except last night, but that didn’t matter now.
            “Apparently, they’re not a hundred percent effective and we fell into the percentage who they didn’t work for,” she said nervously.
            Max’s mind still didn’t want to grasp the whole idea.  “You’re absolutely sure?”
            Lauren nodded.  “I took two tests.”
            “They could be wrong, couldn’t they?” he asked in vain.  She shook her head, refusing to meet his gaze.
            God, she looked so sad and lost sitting there.  This wasn’t any more her fault than it was his; but she was the one dealing with the physical reality of pregnancy as her trip to the bathroom just proved.  The last thing she needed was him being an ass about it all.  Getting off the bed, he knelt before her and took her hands in his.  “We’ll figure this out, okay?  We’ll make it work.”  Then a thought crossed his mind.  “You are going to have the baby, right?”
            Defensively, she said, “Yes, of course.”
            “Good,” he hurried to reassure her.  “That’s what I wanted you to say.”
            She studied his face for a moment.  “Really?”
            “Yes.”  He squeezed her hands for emphasis.  “I’m thrown as hell right now and I’ll probably end up saying or doing all the wrong things, but I want this baby to be born.  And I’m going to be there for you.”
            Tears were flooding her eyes.  “You don’t need to be there for me, just the baby.”
            “I want to be there for both of you.  I think we should get married.”  The words tumbled out of his mouth before he even had a chance to think about them.  But that’s what he was supposed to say, right?  Even if getting married had been the farthest thing from his mind ten minutes ago.  Hell, five minutes ago.
            Lauren’s eyes widened.  “No!” she said.
            Max was taken aback.  Okay, that wasn’t the answer he expected.  Granted, he hadn’t really thought the idea through, but her adamant refusal still felt like a slap to the face.  “Why not?  Wouldn’t it be best for the baby if its parents were married?”  Why couldn’t he shut up about it and be glad she didn’t accept his knee jerk proposal?  Apparently, his male pride had a mouth of its own.
            “Because we don’t even really know each other!  Up until recently, you hated me, despite what happened last night.  And after dropping this on you, you probably still do.  Anyway, you certainly don’t love me.  I’m not going to go into a marriage with a man who’s only doing it because of a baby!”  Tears started to flow down her cheek as she spoke.
            Max put his hands on either side of her face and used his thumbs to wipe her tears.  “You’re right,” he acknowledged finally getting control over his ego.  “We need to get to know each other better.  At least we know we’re compatible in bed,” he teased softly eliciting a small smile from her.
            “True,” she whispered between her tears.  “I’m sorry I keep crying.  I think it’s the hormones because I never cry this easily.”
            “It’s okay.”  Max pulled her into a tight hug but pulled back not wanting to put pressure on her stomach.  “Are you feeling okay?  Are you still sick?” he asked touching her stomach lightly.
            She shook her head.  “The morning sickness passed.  I feel fine.”
            “Breakfast, we haven’t eaten.  Are you hungry?” he asked as he stood up.  He felt like he had to do something to prove he meant what he said; even if the magnitude of the situation hadn’t really sunk into his brain yet.  “You should eat something.”
            “No, I want to let my stomach settle a bit more.”
            Max looked at her doubtfully.  “Are you sure you feel better?”
            “Physically, I’m fine,” she assured him.  “Emotionally I’m a mess, though.”
            Pulling her to her feet, he hugged her again.  “Me, too.  We’ll work on that together, okay?”  When she didn’t respond he pulled back so he could look at her face.  “You will let me be a part of this, right?”
            “I just don’t want to force you to be with me if you don’t want to,” she said sadly.  “You can be a part of the baby’s life as much as you want.  I don’t have to be part of the package.”  She shook her head and looked away.  “You were expecting Bat Girl and you wound up with me instead.  Pregnant me.  I’m sorry.”
            Max frowned as he cupped her chin and brought her eyes back to him.  “You do remember me asking you to dinner last night, right?  I thought it was pretty clear that I was already interested in getting to know you better and seeing where things led.  And from last night, I think I’ve let you know how attracted I am to you.  Whether you’re wearing a mask or not.  Why would you not believe that now?”  He kissed her lips gently and pushed a stray strand of hair off her cheek.  “You know, Jack Pierce claimed a while back that I had such a hard time working with you because I had the hots for you.  He was right.”
            Lauren looked like she wanted to believe him but she obviously wasn’t convinced.  “You certainly didn’t act like it.”
            Max chuckled.  “I guess I’m like the first grader who pulls the girl’s hair because he likes her.  Remember, I’m a jackass.”
            She gave him a real smile now.  “So you keep saying.”
            “Spend the day with me?” he asked.
            Lauren considered it for a moment and finally said, “Okay.  But I need to go home for a bit.  I don’t have anything to wear except that dress.”
            Max smiled wickedly.  “I’m okay with that.  Or you could skip clothes all together.”
            Lauren laughed as she wiped at her eyes.  “I think I’d like to have something to put on in case we decide to leave the bedroom.  Besides, I live with my grandmother and she’s probably worried sick.”
            “Can I meet her?” Max asked.  Damn, where had that come from?  He had never wanted to meet a woman’s family before.  But then again, he’d never gotten anyone pregnant before, either.  He wanted to meet the people who would be a part of this child’s life.  God, a baby.  He was going to be a father.  He felt like his life had leapt ahead a few chapters overnight.  Actually, it had.  There was nothing left to do now but make the best of it.
            Lauren shook her head adamantly.  “Not yet, please.  I’m going to need time to gather up the courage to tell her about all of this.  I just figured it out last night right before the gala.”
            “And then I come along and make you feel even worse.  Sorry about that,” he said sheepishly.  Then he added, “I can be there with you when you tell her.”  He didn’t want to be but he’d do it.  Lauren was going to have a lot to deal with both physically and emotionally, the least he could do was be a shoulder for her to lean on if she needed it.  He was amazed at how easy the idea of becoming a father and a family man was falling into place.  He could just be shell-shocked.  Or maybe it was the woman standing in front of him that made it easier to accept.  There was definitely something about her that elicited strong reactions from him.
            She shook her head again and made a face.  “No, I should do it alone.  She might try to kill you.”
            “One of the guys on the force would probably lend me their flak jacket,” he teased.
            “I appreciate the thought, but she’d probably try to kill you with her bare hands, so it wouldn’t do any good.  She’s a feisty old woman.”
            “Okay, I’ll let you handle this however you want, and I’ll give you a ride home so you can get some clothes.”  He pushed a strand of hair back from her face and kissed her lightly.  “Bring some clothes for tomorrow, too.  I’d like it if you spent the night again.”  Words kept tumbling out of his mouth like a dam that broke free.  He was usually eager for a woman to go home after he slept with her, but not this time.  Even without the pregnancy curve ball, he would have wanted Lauren to stay.  He hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind since he visited the Second Chance Ranch.  Finding out she was his Bat Girl had only compounded the feelings that had already taken root in the back of his mind.
Lauren nodded hesitantly.  He wasn’t sure if she had agreed or if she just didn’t want to argue about it right now.  Kissing her softly again, he finally let her go so they could both get dressed.
            Max dropped Lauren off at her grandmother’s house half an hour later.  He felt like an ass just dropping her off and skulking away so her grandmother didn’t see him.  But, he had agreed to let Lauren do this her way and he was going to stick to that.  After making sure she made it into the house, he backed out of the driveway.  Instead of turning left for home, he turned right.  Lauren was meeting him back at his house in an hour but there was a stop he needed to make first.
            As soon as Jack opened the door, Max blurted out, “She’s pregnant!”
            Looking genuinely confused, Jack asked, “Who?  Abby?”
            “No, Lauren.”  Max pushed past him and walked into the living room to flop down on the couch with his head back and his eyes closed.
            “Lauren Stevens?” Jack asked closing the door and following him into the living room.  He sat down in the recliner across from the couch and leaned forward with his arms on his knees.
            “And you’re here telling me this because…”  Jack let the question hang out there just like Max had earlier.
            Max opened one eye with a raised brow.  “Why do you think?”
            “You.  And Lauren Stevens.  The woman you so gentlemanly refer to as The Shrew.”
            “She’s not a shrew,” Max growled.
            Jack held his hands up in front of him.  “I never thought she was.  Those were your words, not mine.  When did all this happen?”
            Max sighed.  “Remember Bat Girl?”
            Jack laughed loudly.  “Lauren was your Bat Girl?  I’d only been kidding when I suggested that.  I never expected it to be true.”
            “Yeah, well, I should have listened to you anyways.”
            “How did she end up pregnant?” Jack asked.
            Max gave him a dirty look as he sat up.  “The usual way.”
            Jack shook his head in frustration.  “I mean, didn’t you use birth control that night?”
            “Yes, condoms.  Every time.  Apparently, one of them didn’t do its job,” Max grumbled.
            “How do things stand between the two of you?”
            “I asked her out before I figured out who she was so that’s a point in my favor, but she won’t marry me,” Max griped.
            “You asked her to marry you?” Jack asked in surprise.
            “Max, you’re getting married?!” Abby squealed in excitement as she entered the room before he had a chance to respond to Jack’s question.
            Max groaned.  He had been hoping to avoid Abby.  “No, she turned me down.”
            “Who? And why would she turn you down?” Abby asked as she sat down on the couch next to him and curled her legs underneath her as she faced him.
            “Lauren Stevens,” Jack told her.
            “The defense attorney?  I thought he hated her?”
            Jack shrugged.  “Apparently not.”
            “You actually asked her to marry you?” Abby asked Max in amazement.  “You mean you’ve been in love with her all this time and you didn’t tell us?  Were you just trying to throw us off the trail because Jane and I kept trying to butt into your dating life?”
            “I’m not in love with her,” Max had to admit.  “She’s pregnant.”
            Abby scowled at him and slapped his shoulder.  “Well, no wonder she said no, then.  Women don’t marry a guy any more just because they’re pregnant.  Pregnant women want their husbands to love them just as much as any other woman does.”
            Max sighed.  “So she said.” Standing up, he said, “I need to go.  She’s meeting me back at my house in about half an hour.  I just had to tell someone.  But can you both just keep this to yourselves right now?  She and I haven’t discussed who we’re going to tell yet.”
            Both Jack and Abby agreed and Jack walked Max to the door.  “Hey,” Jack said as Max stepped out onto the porch.  “I know you’re still in shock over this but congratulations anyway.”
            Max nodded in appreciation.  “Thanks, man.”  Then he walked to his car and drove home to wait for Lauren.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Part 9 of Who Are You?

Chapter 9

Max walked through the crowd back to Lauren.  For the last three weeks he had been trying to figure out why he kissed her.  Granted, she looked damn good that day.  Tonight she was an absolute knock out.  But there was something more.  He hated to admit it, but Jack was probably right.  Maybe deep down he had always had the hots for her.  That’s why he’d asked her to dinner, to test the waters.     
Lauren was standing with her friend David now but as soon as he saw Max, he walked away.  Good.  “Did I scare him off?” Max asked as he handed her a glass of punch.
            “No,” Lauren lied poorly.  “He’s off schmoozing the crowd.”
            “Great, then I have you all to myself.”
            “Hmm, are you sure you really want to spend time with The Shrew?” she asked with a wicked smile.
            Oh.  Shit.  With a guilty grimace, Max said, “You know about that, huh?”
            “I think everybody knows about that,” she laughed.  “You don’t exactly keep your favorite nickname for me to yourself.”
            There wasn’t a whole lot Max could say to that.  With a resigned sigh, he raised his glass to her.  “I apologize.  I’m a jackass.  Always have been, probably always will be.”  Then he added, “If I promise not to ever call you that again will you still have dinner with me?”
            “I don’t know, you did just tell me that you would always be a jackass,” she teased.
            “Then how about another dance so I can try to convince you I’m still likable even if I am a jackass.”  He took her punch glass and added it and his champagne flute to the tray of a passing waiter.  He grasped her hand in his before she could refuse and led her to the dance floor.  He wrapped his arm around her again and held her close enjoying the feeling of his hand on her bare back.  Damn, he enjoyed the feel of her breasts against his chest even more.  Unfortunately, so did other parts of him, so he was careful not to hold her too closely.
            “Did I happen to mention how much I like that dress you’re wearing?”
            She laughed throatily.  “I believe you may have mentioned it.”
            “You know, if you wore something like that to court, you’d win against me every time.  I’d be too dazed to speak.”
            Lauren rolled her eyes.  “I prefer to win on merit, not sex appeal.”
            “Is that why you dress the way you do at work?” he couldn’t help asking.
            “What do you mean?”
            Damn it, I just screwed myself, he thought.  Trying to backpedal, he said, “You dress very well, don’t get me wrong.  You just don’t really dress in a flattering way.”  Crap, that didn’t come out right either.
            “Thanks a lot.”   
Great, now he’d really pissed her off.  “Remember about two minutes ago when I said I was a jackass?  Well, now I’m a jackass with his foot in his mouth, so I’m just going to come out and say it.  It seems like when you’re dressed for work, you’re trying to go out of your way not to be attractive.”
            “Thanks again.”
            “Can we just forget that I said anything?” Max begged desperate to get off the subject.
            “I think that would be a good idea,” Lauren said tersely.
            They danced in silence for a couple of minutes.  How the hell was he going to dig his way out of this?  Putting on his best humble face, he bent his head to whisper in her ear, “I guess I blew any shot of getting a kiss during this dance, didn’t I?”
            Lauren stared at him for a minute before her features softened and her lips began to curl upwards.  “Maybe not,” she said softly.
            Max hadn’t expected her to acquiesce so quickly but he didn’t need any more encouragement than that.  He dipped his mouth to hers and kissed her as they continued to move to the music.  He groaned softly when she opened her mouth to him and allowed him in.  Their tongues met and played and she teased his in a way that drove him crazy.  God, the woman knew how to kiss!  He didn’t even care if they were making a spectacle of themselves as they made out on the dance floor.  There was no way he was going to pull away from a kiss as sexy as this one.  Her kisses were almost sinful.  In a way that only one other woman’s had been.  Holy shit!  Max tore his lips from hers and stopped in the middle of the dance floor.  No, she couldn’t be.  She hadn’t given him any clue that she was her.  But she kissed exactly like her.  How could that be a coincidence?  Grabbing her arm, he pulled her off the dance floor.
            “Max, what’s wrong?” she asked as she almost stumbled to keep up with him as he pulled her out of the ballroom.  He saw a somewhat secluded area behind some large potted plants about twenty feet from the entrance.  He didn’t stop until he reached it and then he leaned her against the wall with both hands on either side of her so she couldn’t escape this time. 
“Max, what’s going on?” she asked.
            “I have only been kissed like that by one other woman,” he growled.  “Maybe you didn’t realize that your kisses were so distinctive, but they are.  Just like they were on Halloween.”
            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered but the guilt on her face was all the proof he needed.
            “What was the plan?  Drive me crazy, make me lust after you like a puppy dog and then make a fool of me when you told everyone?”  He had never been this angry.  He wanted to throttle her.  And kiss her at the same time.  Which made him even angrier.
            “It – it wasn’t like that,” she said with tears threatening to brim over in her eyes.
            “Then what was it like?” he demanded harshly.  “Because the only thing I can think of is that it was some sort of revenge for the whole shrew thing.”
            His anger started to dissolve as the first tear began to make a path down her cheek.  “Dammit!” he said looking away from her for a moment trying to calm himself down.  Turning back to her, he asked, “Why?”
            Straightening her shoulders, she met his gaze with hers.  “Because I wanted to spend the night with you and it was the only way I could think of to do it.”  Obviously embarrassed by what she had said if the rush of color to cheeks meant anything, she didn’t back down.  He had to give her credit for that.
            “Then why didn’t you just ask me out?”
            “And you would have said yes?  I don’t think so.  You nicknamed me The Shrew!  And just five minutes ago you admitted that you think I’m unattractive when I’m dressed for work.”  
She looked angry now.  Good.  He preferred angry to embarrassed and crying.  He could keep his anger fueled by hers.  Because he had no intention of letting her off the hook until she told him what her game plan had really been.  “Then why didn’t you tell me that night?  It was pretty obvious that I found you attractive then.”
            “And have you think of me as some desperate woman who could only get you into bed by tricking you?  So you could take pity on me and maybe take me out to dinner once or twice before dumping me?  No thank you.”
            “So instead you seduce me and then dump me,” he growled.  “That’s such a nicer plan.  Definitely makes you the better person in all of this.”
            “I didn’t think it would matter to you!” she spat.
            Max took a step back, dropping his hands back to his sides.  “And why is that?”
            “Because you sleep around all the time.  What was one more woman in your bed?  Especially one that didn’t put any demands on you to call her afterwards!”  Her tears were flowing now but Max was too stunned to pay attention.
            “If that’s what you think of me, then why did you agree to go to dinner with me?”
            “I don’t know.  I thought maybe…,” she whispered through her tears but she wasn’t able to finish her sentence.
            “Lauren, what’s going on?” an angry voice asked from behind Max.  David.  Great, just what this conversation needed – a jealous ex.  Max didn’t even bother to turn around.  He wasn’t done with this conversation yet.  David could go to hell for all he cared.
            Lauren wiped at her makeup with her fingers, trying to fix the what her tears had smeared.  “We’re just talking, David.  It’s alright.”
            “No, it’s not alright.  I saw him drag you out of the ballroom and now you’re crying.  What did this asshole do to you?” David demanded.
            Max turned towards the glowering man and was about to say something when Lauren cut him off.  “It’s not what he did to me; it’s what I did to him.”
            Both he and David turned back towards her with mouths agape.  David found his voice first.  “If you did something to him, then why are you crying?”
            “Because I’m embarrassed and ashamed and I would really like to get out of here.  I’m going to go wash my face and then take a cab home,” she said as she pushed away from the wall.
            Max put his hand out to stop her.  “You don’t need to take a cab.  I’ll give you a ride home.”
            He thought she was going to say no, considering how upset they both were, but after considering him for a moment, she nodded her head.  “Okay.”  Then, with her head down to hide her tears, she walked quickly to the ladies room.
            David’s face turned ugly when Lauren was out of sight.  “If you did something to hurt her, I’m going to kill you.”
            “I’ll let her explain if she cares to.  Right now, I’m going to send for my car.  Will you please ask her to meet me at the valet stand?”  Max left the man staring after him.  He needed a bit of fresh air to clear his head before he saw Lauren again.  Maybe offering her a ride home wasn’t the best idea considering his current mood. 
He just couldn’t buy her story of secret attraction.  If it was true, then she must be one hell of an actress to spend a night like that with him and then act as if nothing had happened.  It certainly couldn’t have been as great for her as it had been for him.  That cut him deeper than he wanted to admit.  He’d been going out of his mind since that night thinking he was never going to see his Bat Girl again.  And she’d been right under his nose the whole time.  God, he wanted to hit something.  And then throttle her.  Some of that must have shown on his face because the valets gave him a wide berth as he waited for his car.
            Five minutes later, she came through the glass doors of the hotel with a clean face but with puffy eyes from crying.  Which made him feel like an even bigger ass when the valets gave him dirty looks.  He wanted to tell them that it was all her fault that she was crying, but he couldn’t.  Had what she said been a lie?  He did have a reputation for sleeping around.  He had even been proud of it.  And what had Jack said?  Calling women the next day just to tell them he didn’t think they should see each other again didn’t make him any less of a jerk than if he hadn’t called at all.  Dealing with Lauren’s disappearing act tore him up enough.  If she had called him the day after Halloween and told him they shouldn’t see each other again, he would have been crushed.  As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Jack had been right.
            But why had she been so determined to spend the night with him?  And how the hell did she completely change her personality and become Bat Girl?  Or had he just completely misread her personality?  He had a hell of a lot more questions than he did answers.  But he was going to get them.  Tonight. 
            The valet pulled up in the car and Max opened the passenger door for Lauren, being careful of her long dress as he closed the door.  He gave the valet a larger tip than he would have normally and slid in behind the driver’s seat and put the car in drive.
            As he pulled away from the hotel, Lauren started to give him directions to her house but he cut her off.  “We’re going to my house.”  No way was he letting her out of his sight until they sorted all this out.
            “What?  Why?”
            “Because we still have a lot to talk about and it might as well be at the scene of the crime,” he said.  Lauren looked like she wanted to say something but she chewed on her bottom lip and nodded instead.  They drove the rest of the way to his house in an uncomfortable silence.

 Chapter 10

As much as Lauren didn’t want to have the conversation they were about to have, she was relieved not to be going home.  She didn’t want to explain to her grandmother why she came home so early.  Or why she’d been crying.  She definitely didn’t want to think about how to tell her she was pregnant.  Or how to tell Max.  There seemed to be a lot of looming conversations she didn’t want to have.  She needed to deal with them one at a time.  No sense in adding fuel to the fire quite yet.  Or she was just a coward.  Probably that.
            Max pulled into the driveway of the house she remembered all too well from the night she waited for him on his porch.  She had never been so nervous in her life and had almost left three times by the time he arrived.  And she had only been waiting for five minutes.  Looking over at his tense face, she was even more nervous this time.  At least before she had had the comfort of anonymity.  But even angry with her, he remained the most attractive man she had ever met.  Too bad she had screwed up any possibility of anything developing between them.
            “I’ll get the door,” Max said when she reached for the handle.  She felt silly sitting there while he walked around the car and opened it for her, but tonight would be about picking her battles carefully.  Stepping out of the car, she followed him up the wooden steps to the front door.  Her feet felt like lead as every step brought her closer to the inevitable.  Him telling her he never wanted to see her, or the baby, ever again. 
Max unlocked the door and gestured for her to go first.  “Would you like something to drink?” he asked as he threw his keys into a bowl on the small table in the hall.
            “No, thank you,” she said softly.
            “I’m going to grab a beer.”  He disappeared down the hall to the kitchen, leaving Lauren desperately wanting to walk back out the door and pretend this horrible evening had never happened.  Maybe she could convince herself it had all been a bad dream if she went home and crawled under her covers.  But she didn’t leave.  She had never run away from her troubles.  She had always faced them head on and this time would be no different.  Regardless of the result.
            Too nervous to sit down, Lauren studied Max’s CD collection against the far wall of the living room without reading a single title.  How was she going to explain her actions without sounding either sleazy or desperate?  Or both?
            “Would you like to put something in?” Max asked from behind her, startling her.  She turned around too quickly and tripped on her dress falling into him.  Why was she always so clumsy around him?  Max put his hands on her waist to steady her. 
            Lauren didn’t mean to do it.  But being so close to him without a roomful of people made her mind shut off and her hormones start doing her thinking.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and caught his mouth with hers.  He made a small noise of surprise but then his arms were pulling her closer and he was kissing her with the same passion he had on Halloween.
            As their hips met, Lauren could feel his arousal.  She rubbed against him suggestively and he groaned as he kissed her deeper.  His hand moved to her breast and it was her turn to moan.
            Frustrated with the material hindering him, Max found the knot at her neck that held the bodice of her dress up and untied it.  The top of her dress fell away as he kissed a trail from her lips to her breasts.  The feel of his tongue as it glided over her nipple made it pebble instantly.  She arched her back as his mouth wrapped around it and he tugged gently with his teeth.
            Feeling for the buttons of his tuxedo jacket, she unbuttoned it and pushed it to the floor.  His shirt followed soon after as he suckled her other breast.  God, the feel of his mouth on her body was heaven as she stroked the hard, smooth muscles of his chest and back.  Memories of the night they spent together flooded her mind and her body reacted even more fiercely, eliciting a satisfied growl from him.  He found the hidden zipper that held the bottom half of her dress in place and it fell to the floor.
            “My God, you’re beautiful,” Max murmured as he knelt before her.  He kissed and licked his way from her breasts to her thong panties.  Lauren’s fingers curled in his dark hair when his tongue touched her through her through the pink silk.  Hooking a finger around the panties, he slid them over her hips and to the floor.  When he brought his mouth back to her, her knees almost buckled.  Grasping her thighs to hold her up, he let his tongue taste her and tease her with long, sensuous strokes.  He brought her to the edge and kept her there stroke after stroke.  Oh god, she needed more.  She needed to find the release her body yearned for.  She let him know that with her hands and her body and he chuckled at her impatience.  But he didn’t keep her waiting any longer.  His strokes became faster and harder in just the right spot.  Within moments, the world shattered around her while his tongue milked every last spasm from her. 
            Then he stood up and backed her up against the wall as he kissed her.  She loved the taste of herself on his lips.  Her fingers worked furiously to get his pants undone and pushed out of the way.  She needed him inside her.  Finally free of his clothes, Max grasped her thighs and lifted her until he was able to slide smoothly inside of her, never taking his mouth from hers.  She wrapped her legs around his back and took as much of him as she could.  His thrusts were hard and deep and she matched his rhythm with her hips.  She couldn’t get enough of him, just as it had been on Halloween.  She savored every second of his body joined with hers, bringing her to highs she had never experienced before.  She felt the pressure building again.  She grasped his back tighter, kissed him harder.  She was lost in the feel of him moving in and out of her, stroking her.  He held her with one arm and his other hand found her breast again, stroking her nipple with his thumb.  It was enough to send her tumbling over the edge a second time.  She cried out against his mouth as she felt herself clench against him, again and again.  Riding the waves of pleasure, she felt him find his own release as he whispered ‘Oh God, Lauren’ against her lips.  They stayed united until every last spasm died down.  Only then did they break the kiss.
            Breathing heavily as he leaned his forehead against hers, he said between breaths, “I really had meant for us to talk.”
            “I know,” she said between her own shallow breaths.  Her heart still pounded in her chest as her body continued to feel tiny aftershocks of pleasure.
            Kissing her gently, Max lowered her so her feet could touch the floor.  “I have a nice warm bed upstairs where we could finish this conversation,” he murmured against her neck as he kissed his way to the spot he knew from their last time together that drove her crazy.
            Lauren smiled when he leaned back and looked at her with an inferno burning in his eyes.  Her body flushed with heat knowing he wanted her so badly.  “I’m not sure we’re going to get much talking done if we go upstairs.”
            “We’re not getting a lot of talking done down here, either.”
            He had a point and now that they weren’t frantically making love, she was starting to get cold.  At least that was the excuse she gave herself to follow him to his bed almost guilt-free.  “Okay.”
            Max adjusted his pants that had fallen around his ankles so he could walk.  He picked his tuxedo jacket up from the floor, wrapping it around her.  Then he entangled his fingers with hers and led her upstairs to his bedroom.  He pulled back the covers on the bed and she crawled in, dropping his jacket to the floor.  After ridding himself of his own clothes again, he joined her.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pregnant or not pregnant?

Let me know your opinion as the book goes on.  Should she be pregnant, or do you think the story would flow better without that added piece.  Vote on the left!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Part 8 of Who Are You?

Chapter 8

Monday morning started right away with client meetings, one right after another.  Before Lauren knew it, it was noon and her stomach was rumbling.  Skipping breakfast in lieu of an extra few minutes of sleep didn’t usually bother her, but today her stomach was protesting its emptiness.  Picking up her phone to call Audrey to see if she was free for lunch, she didn’t notice she had a visitor until she heard a knock on her open door.  She looked up, surprised to see Max standing there.
            “I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said.  He looked fantastic in his dark blue suit, white shirt and blue and red striped tie.  So good it took her a moment to respond.
            “Um, no,” she finally said.  “What can I do for you?”
            “I brought you this.”  Coming into her office, he set an envelope on her desk.  Which, of course, triggered the thought of him putting her on the desk and having his way with her.  She tried to shut down that mental image before her hormones made her do something stupid.  She was acting like a moon-eyed teenager and she didn’t like it.  “It’s the recommendation for Marshawn Devereaux to go to the Second Chance Ranch until he’s eighteen.  I spoke with Mr. Schwartz and he agreed with you.  He’s known Marshawn for a long time and was surprised as anyone that he had taken such a wrong turn.  Mr. Schwartz would like to give him a second chance as well.”
            Lauren knew her mouth was hanging open, but she was in shock, she couldn’t help it.  “Who are you and what did you do with Max Canter?” she asked.
            With a heart-stopping smile, Max said, “Yeah, I guess I deserved that.  I do give you a hard time and honestly, I don’t know why.  Maybe I just enjoy sparring with you,”           Lauren couldn’t help but smile in return.  “I think I do my own share of needling you as well.  Maybe we could call a truce?”
            Max nodded.  “I’d like that.” 
He looked like he was about to say something else when Audrey came into her office.  “Hey, Lauren, can you look at this?” she said without looking up until she almost bumped into Max.  “Oh,” she said in surprise, “excuse me.  I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“That’s alright, I was just leaving.  Let me know if you run into any trouble with that,” he said to Lauren and then he was gone.
Lauren stared after him for a moment remembering the night they spent together.  God, she wished he knew and more than that, she wished he wanted to repeat it.  But she would never have the courage to tell him and apparently, he hadn’t figured it out.  And other than that adrenaline induced kiss on Saturday, he didn’t seem the least bit attracted to her as she really was.  Not some sex starved vixen out for seduction.
Audrey got in her line of vision.  “Hello?  I asked what he wanted.”
“Oh, sorry, um, he just wanted to drop something off.”
“Couldn’t he just messenger it over?”
Lauren shrugged.  “Maybe he was coming down here for something else.”  The DA’s offices and the court appointed defense attorneys were in the same building but were separated by several floors. 
Audrey snorted.  “Yeah, probably to hit on someone.”
Ouch.  That stung, especially since it wasn’t her.  That made her want to change the subject quickly before she started imaging who Max was talking to now.  “Want to get some lunch?  I’m starved.”
“Yeah, let me grab my purse.  I can show you this later.”  Audrey took the file she had in her hands with her and went back to her own office to get her purse.  They made it a quick lunch and thankfully, Audrey didn’t mention Max again the entire time.
Later that afternoon as Lauren went through the things her assistant had brought in and set on her desk, one envelope in particular caught her eye.  It was addressed to her and marked personal, but it had no return address on it.  Tearing it open she found a small piece of paper with a typed note.  It read, ‘It’s almost time for you to be mine.  I count the days and the hours until we belong to each other.’  Stunned, she let the note fall to the desk.
Picking up the phone, she called Audrey’s office.  When she picked up, she said, “Will you please come down here?  I have to show you something.”  She could hear the slight panic in her voice.
“Sure, I’ll be right there.”  Audrey’s office was only a couple of doors down from Lauren’s.  It only took her a moment to walk over.  “What’s up?  You sounded strange on the phone.”
Lauren held the note out to her with a shaking hand. The flowers were annoying but this had her rattled.  An escalation in behavior like this couldn’t be a good thing.   
Audrey took the note and read it.  With eyes like saucers, she asked, “What do you think that means?”
            “I don’t know.”  A slight tremor in Lauren’s voice gave away her growing fear. 
            Brows furrowed in worry lines, Audrey handed the note back.  “Maybe David’s right, maybe you should report it to the police.”
            Lauren groaned and put her head in her hands.  “I don’t know.  It’s not like whoever is doing this is threatening me.  There’s not much the police can do.”
            Audrey sat in the chair across from Lauren’s desk and sighed.  “Yeah, I guess not.  It’s still kind of creepy, though.”
            “Tell me about it.” Lauren raised her head to look at her.  “I just hope whoever this is gets tired of messing with me soon.”
            “Me, too.  It’s getting too personal now.”  Standing back up, Audrey said, “Hey, it’s late.  Let’s get out of her and go for a drink.  You could use it.” 
Lauren nodded in agreement and gathered her stuff with hands that wouldn’t stop shaking.  She tucked the note in her top desk drawer and tried to forget about it.  Easier said than done.
            She stopped at her assistant’s desk as she waited for Audrey to get her things from her office.  “Tim, did you get a chance to type up that affidavit from this morning?”
            “I sure did,” he said pulling a file from the stack on the corner of his desk.  Lauren was happy to see it not only had the affidavit but all the copies needed ready to be signed.  Tim was almost anally organized which was in slight contrast to his often unkempt appearance.  Lauren suspected he usually stayed up late playing the role playing game on his computer that he talked about sometimes, getting very little sleep.  He was sweet, though, and an excellent paralegal.
            “Great.  Could you set up a time with the witness to proof it and get it signed?  Tomorrow if possible.”
            “It’s already set for tomorrow at ten.”
            Lauren laughed.  “I should have figured.  What would I do without you?”
            A proud smile touched his lips.  “Crumble under a pile of unanswered messages and untyped briefs.”
            “Yeah, I probably would,” she agreed.  “I’m heading out for the night.  Why don’t you take off, too?”
            “I just have one more thing I want to get done and then I will.”
            “Okay, don’t stay too late,” she admonished.  She suspected he was often here later than he needed to be.  She appreciated his dedication but didn’t want to overwork him.
            “Ready?” Audrey asked carrying her purse and jacket.
            “Yes.  Goodnight, Tim,” she said over her shoulder as she and Audrey started walking to the elevator.
            When they were out of earshot, Audrey said, “I still think it’s a little weird that your assistant is a guy.  Don’t you?”
            Lauren shrugged.  “Not really.  He’s great at what he does.”
            “He doesn’t give you a hard time because you’re a woman?”
            Lauren made a face.  “Why would he?  And when did you become so provincial?”
            “I don’t know, it just seems like some guys would still have a hard time with it.  Or maybe develop a crush on you.”
            “Well, Tim hasn’t shown any signs of either,” Lauren said firmly.  Audrey let the subject drop as the elevator doors opened and they stepped on with several other people. 
            Unfortunately, the following week Lauren received an identical letter to the first one.  The same cryptic message on a plain white piece of paper.  With resignation, she knew she couldn’t ignore it any longer.  Pulling the previous letter out of her desk drawer, she took both letters down the hall and knocked on Ben’s door.  Ben Johnson, the head of the department, was always a level minded guy.  He’d be able to tell her if she was overreacting or not.
            “Hey, Lauren, what can I do for you?”
            She stepped into his office and put the letters on his desk.  “I’ve received these here at work and I’ve been getting flowers for weeks both here and at home.  I’m starting to get nervous.”
            Ben picked up the letters and frowned as he read them.  “I can see how this would upset you.  Do you have any idea who could be sending them?”
            Shaking her head, she said, “No.  At first I thought it might be a friend of mine but now I don’t think so.  I’m afraid it might be a previous client.  What do you think I should do?  Should I go to the police?”
            Ben pursed his lips for a moment.  “As horrible as this sounds, there’s not a whole lot the police can do at this point.  It doesn’t sound like this person has threatened you at all.  It seems more like a secret admirer than anything more sinister.  At best, if the police could figure out who was sending them, the person could possibly be charged with harassment, but that would be a hard sell.”  That was not the answer she wanted, but it made sense. 
            Handing the letters back to her, Ben said, “Keep me apprised of the situation.  If there’s any more escalation, I’ll bring it to the police myself.”
            “Alright.”  Lauren took the letters and walked back to her office, more frustrated now than she was before.  She had hoped Ben would have a better answer that.
Thanksgiving came and went with just a small gathering of friends and family.   Lauren received the same letter each week and they all said the same thing.  Nothing more, nothing less.  But she took comfort in the fact that it hadn’t gotten worse.
She hadn’t spoken to Max since that Monday when he came to her office, and she couldn’t help feeling disappointed.  Her hopes had risen when he brought the recommendation over himself, thinking it may be an indication that he was interested in her, but apparently not.  That stung but she was the one who had made certain it would only be a one night stand.  And he would never know with who.  Max hadn’t done anything except not be as attracted to her as she was to him, just like it had always been.  It was absurd to feel hurt over that. 
            The night of the gala for Second Chance Ranch had arrived and she was looking forward to wearing the gorgeous dress she had bought last month - a tea rose colored floor length gown with a plunging heart shaped neckline and no back.  The slit up her left thigh could almost be considered indecent.   She had no idea what had made her buy it.  It was so different than the more modest gown she had been planning to buy.  Maybe the Bat Girl outfit had given her the courage to be a little more daring without the mask.
            As she slipped into the gown, it became obvious it didn’t fit quite the way it had when she first bought it.  Her breasts were in danger of falling out if she turned too quickly and where it had loosely draped over her curves before, it now hugged them tightly.  She hadn’t noticed that she was eating more; she actually thought she had been eating less since she had been so busy, but she must have put on a few pounds.  The dress still fell into the realm of respectability, but just barely.
            “Lord have mercy!” her grandmother exclaimed when Lauren came out of her room.  “Where is the rest of that dress?!”
            Already feeling a little self-conscious, she asked, “Is it really that bad?”
            “Not if you want every man and his brother not having to guess what you look like without that flimsy piece of material on!” her grandmother sniped.  “You don’t even have a bra on!”
            Lauren sighed as she looked down at her dress.  “Grandma, it’s okay for women to go without bras sometimes.  But the dress is a little tighter than when I bought it.  If I had another gown, I’d change.”
            Her grandmother pursed her lips.  “It does look like you’ve put on a couple of pounds in certain places.  Lord knows how since you eat like a bird.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were pregnant.”  Laughing at the ridiculousness of the notion, she turned to open the door for David who had just rung the bell.
            Lauren felt all the color drain from her face.  No!  She couldn’t be.  The only time she’d had sex in the last year was with Max and they had used a condom every time!  Oh God, she was going to be sick.  She hurried back down the hall to the bathroom just in time.
            “Lolo?  Are you all right in there?” her grandmother asked a moment later.
            Turning on the water, she tried to keep her voice calm as she said through the locked door, “Yes, please tell David I’ll be out in a moment.”
            Lauren leaned her forehead against the cool mirror as she tried to remember the last time she had her period.  She wasn’t always regular so she didn’t usually worry about it.  But now that she was thinking about it, she hadn’t had one since before Halloween.  Just the thought of that made her queasy again.
            The feeling passed after a minute.  Straightening up, she brushed her teeth.  She fixed her lipstick and touched up her make up but she still looked pale and a little nauseated.  Taking a deep calming breath that didn’t work at all, she opened the door and walked with leaden feet to the living room.  The next few hours now stretched out before her as torture.  She couldn’t wait until after the gala.  She needed to know now.
            David’s eyebrows practically touched his hairline when he saw her.  “Wow.  You look beautiful.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you wear anything quite so, um, obvious before, though.”
            Lauren sighed.  That was a backhanded compliment if she ever heard one.  David preferred his women to be more demure, not flashy.  Too bad for him, she thought, I’m not his date anyway.  He just offered me a ride.  With a thin smile, she slipped into her wrap.  She kissed her grandmother good bye and followed David out to his car.
            “Do you mind if we stop at the drug store?” Lauren asked as they started driving.
            David scowled.  “That could make us late.  Is it really necessary?”
            Lauren snorted.  “Oh, yeah.”
            David looked at her questioningly until she said, “Women’s stuff.”
            Looking slightly uncomfortable, David kept his attention on the road until they found a drug store that was on the way.  Lauren asked him to wait in the car and he didn’t argue.  In the store, Lauren quickly found the aisle with pregnancy tests but she was overwhelmed by the number available.  Finally deciding on one that swore to be foolproof and included a second test just to be sure, she brought it up to the register.  The young guy with the lip rings and blue hair behind the counter didn’t bat an eye over the tests but he seemed to enjoy her dress a great deal.
            Swinging her long curly hair in front of her to cover up as much of her cleavage as possible, Lauren asked as he rang up the tests, “Do you mind throwing away the box for me?  It won’t fit in my purse.”
            “No problem,” the young guy said, his eyes never leaving her breasts.
            Lauren tore open the box and pulled out the tests and the instructions shoving both of them into her clutch.  After shoving her change in after them, she snapped the clutch closed and hurried out to the car.
            “Get what you needed?” David asked with just a hint of impatience in his voice.
            “Yes,” Lauren said trying not to sound like she was hiding two pregnancy tests in her purse.  My god, she felt like a teenager!  She was a grown woman with a career, and if she happened to be pregnant, then she’d deal with it.  She closed her eyes as she imagined telling Max.  No, no way was she going to do that.  Admit to not only seducing him but then ending up pregnant as well?  He’d probably think she did it on purpose and she wouldn’t blame him.  If she was pregnant, she’d raise the baby on her own.  There was no reason at all for him to know.  But guilt nagged at the back of her mind.  She didn’t know if she could really do that.  Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to worry about it.
            “You’re awfully quiet tonight,” David remarked as they pulled into the circular drive of the downtown hotel where the gala was being held.  “Something wrong?”
            “You seem kind of down.  It doesn’t have anything to do with that lawyer you were kissing, does it?” he pressed.
            Lauren sighed loudly.  “David, I already told you, that was just an adrenaline thing.  I’m not dating him.”
            “Alright,” he said defensively, “I was just asking.”
            “Please stop asking,” Lauren said as they pulled up to the valet stand.  She didn’t wait for the valet to open the door for her.  She got out into the cold night air and walked briskly into the hotel lobby.
            “In a hurry?” David asked when he caught up to her.  When she didn’t respond right away, he laid his hand on her arm.  “Lauren, I’m sorry.  Please don’t be sore with me.  I know it’s none of my business and I’ll stop asking you about your love life.  I promise.”
            Lauren looked at the hurt on his face and knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep that promise; just like he hadn’t the last hundred times he made it.  “David, I’m not sore with you, I just need to find the ladies room.”
            “Of course, I believe there’s one right over here.”  He took her elbow and steered her in the right direction.
            “Thank you,” she said before slipping into the ladies room.  She needed to run the tests now.  Her heart was pounding in her chest so hard it hurt, and she knew it wouldn’t stop until she knew one way or the other.  Closing the stall door, she took the instructions out of her purse.  Okay, all she had to do was pee on the end of the test.  She could handle that.  Except she would have to juggle a bit if she wanted to do two tests since there wasn’t really anywhere to set them down in the stall.  She knew she was being stupid.  She shouldn’t be doing this here.  But now that the idea was in her mind, she couldn’t help herself.  Taking the tests out of the foil wrappers and taking the plastic end off from each, she sat down to pee.  After being sure that her stream hit both tests, she put the plastic caps back on and sat with the tests in her hands, prepared to wait the three minutes.
            It didn’t longer than a minute for two lines to show up.  On both of them.  Lauren fumbled with the directions trying to find the page that explained what the lines meant, hoping she had misread that part the first time.  Nope, she hadn’t.  Two lines mean pregnant.  Oh God, she wished she could get about five more tests because she really wanted to believe that these two were wrong.  A baby?!  And unmarried.  Her grandmother was going to kill her.  She immediately regretted her impatience because now she had to go out and face David and act like nothing was wrong.  She wished Audrey was here but she had had a previous commitment and couldn’t make it.  That was why she had agreed to ride with David.  So she was stuck.  She wondered how long she could stay in the ladies room before he sent someone in looking for her.  Closing her eyes, she took a moment to try to calm her rapidly beating heart.  It wasn’t cooperating.  Running the tests had done nothing to calm her anxiety.
            As much as she would have liked to hide in the ladies room the rest of the night, Lauren wrapped both tests back in the foil packages.  She put them back in her purse, hiding the evidence.  Finishing up in the stall, her mind was a jumble of thoughts crashing into each other about how she was going to deal with.  But, no matter what she decided, she couldn’t do anything right now.  Now she needed to put on a fake smile and get through the night before she could have an all out melt down.
She found David waiting for her impatiently outside the door.  “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked.  “You look pale.”
            Lauren smiled weakly.  “I’m fine, I’m just really tired.”
            “Well, as the host I don’t want to be late.  Shall we?” he asked holding his arm out to her.  Lauren placed her hand on his arm and let him steer her into the ballroom.  If she hadn’t, she probably would have walked in the opposite direction.  Towards the exit.
            The next hour was torture for her.  She tried to smile pleasantly and participate in the conversations around her, but all she could think about were the two tests sitting in her purse.  She wished she could go home and crawl into bed and have a good long cry before she faced reality, but she had promised David that she would be here tonight.  And she certainly didn’t want to explain to him why she was leaving.  He’d have a coronary.  Instead, she searched for a quiet corner so she could have just a moment of peace.  It didn’t last long.
            “Hiding?” a familiar voice asked.
            Lauren closed her eyes.  This could not be happening.  She hadn’t expected him to come.  If she had, she would have left right after running the tests.  How could she face him now?  She felt like such a fool.  Suddenly, dying of embarrassment and guilt seemed like a real possibility.  Putting on her best smile, she turned around.  “Just taking a breather from the crowd,” she said praying that her voice remained steady.
            “Would it be inappropriate for me to tell you that you look beautiful tonight?” Max asked.
            A real smile spread across her lips now.  “Not at all.”
            “Care to dance or do you not fraternize with the enemy?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
            “As the saying goes, keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” she countered.  This was a stupid, stupid thing to do.  How would she make it through a dance with him without her conscience getting the better of her.
            “Excellent philosophy.”  He held his hand out to her.  After half a second, she took it and followed him onto the dance floor.
            He slipped his arm around her waist sending shivers down her spine. “I didn’t expect you to be here tonight,” she said.
            “Margaret thought it would be a good idea for a representative of the DA’s office to be here and I volunteered,” Max explained with a shrug and a smile.  Margaret was the county District Attorney and Max’s boss.
            “And what made you do that?”
            A sexy grin spread across his face.  “For the opportunity to see you in that dress.”
            Lauren rolled her eyes but laughed.  “I seriously doubt that.”
            “Maybe not, but if I had known you were going to wear it, it certainly would have made the list.”
            She was starting to feel even more self-conscious about her dress now.  Maybe she should have looked a little closer in her closet for something else to wear.  “Thank you for the compliment.”      
“I meant to tell you something in your office the other day, but we were interrupted and our paths haven’t crossed recently at work.  So, I haven’t been able to say this, but I’m sorry about kissing you that day,” Max said as they swayed to the music.
            “Oh.”  Well, that’s embarrassing, Lauren thought.  And she hadn’t thought the night could get any more humiliating.  “You didn’t need to apologize.”
            “Yes, I did.  I was a jerk for taking advantage of the situation and I’m sorry.  I was hoping you’d let me take you to dinner to make up for it.”
            “Oh,” Lauren said again.  She hadn’t expected that.  She suddenly found herself at a loss for coherent words.  “Um, that would be okay, I guess.”
            Max chuckled softly.  “You sound hesitant.  Sure I’m not twisting your arm?”
            Hmm, having dinner with the father of her baby who had no idea that they had even slept together.  Hesitant wasn’t the term she would have used.  Scared to death he would end up hating her and the baby if he ever found out was more like it.  A polite decline was supposed to come out of her mouth, but instead, different words came pouring out.  “I would love to have dinner with you,” she said just as the music stopped.
            Again the sexy smile.  “Wonderful.  I was going to get a glass of champagne.  Can I get you a glass?”
            “That would be great,” she started to say and then remembered that she couldn’t drink any more.  At least not for the next eight months.  “Actually, punch would be better.”
            “One punch coming right up.”  He walked off in the direction of the bar.  Lauren couldn’t help admiring the view of him in his tuxedo as he walked away.  He was the best looking man in the room and the female heads turning towards him as he walked by was proof of that.
            “You look at him differently,” David said behind her, startling her out of her reverie.
            “You seem quite taken with Mr. Canter.  Should I be worried?” he asked with a sad smile.
            “David,” Lauren warned.
            “Actually, I was going to say you two looked lovely together on the dance floor,” he said before she could say anything else.
            She sighed.  “Thank you, but there’s nothing going on with Max and me.  I’m not his type.”
            “I don’t know, he seems to have eyes only for you this evening.  He made a beeline for you as soon as he came in.  And I did find you two enjoying quite the kiss a few weeks ago.  Well, here he comes and I don’t want to intrude.”  David turned on his heel and walked away just as Max approached, leaving a stunned Lauren staring after him.