Damn, Shelby hated to interrupt the massage, but she knew Denise would need to act on the message right away. She knocked quietly on the closed door and heard a low murmur from the room.Denise opened the door an inch and peered out. “What’s up?”“I’m sorry, but I’ve got a message for you that’s urgent.”“No problem.” Denise called over her shoulder, “Shane? I’m sorry. I have to take this call, but I’ll be right back.” A low male voice answered before she left the room and closed the door behind her, then moved to the desk. “So who called?”“Sorry, but it’s the man in your life. I’m afraid he’s broken his leg.” Shelby waited for the worried explosion sure to follow. Denise was fanatical about her man.“Oh my God! Cupcake! What happened? Was that my mother?”“Yeah. Your mom said he must have gotten loose somehow and ran out of the yard. A car driving at the speed limit hit him, so he’s not too roughed up. I know you’ll want to see how he’s doing. Why don’t you go, and I’ll finish up your client?”Denise had tears in her eyes. Cupcake meant the world to her. A scrawny mutt she’d picked up at the pound, he’d been with her through thick and thin. “Are you sure?” Denise wiped her eyes.Shelby handed Denise her car keys from the desk and nodded. “Go on home. Give me a call later and let me know how he’s doing.”Denise flew out the door, and Shelby shook her head. She prayed, for Denise’s peace of mind, that the dog would make it.Realizing she now had a client to pacify, she quickly moved into the bathroom to wash her hands and returned to her room. She entered to the soothing sounds of new age music and the slight aroma of jasmine from the burning candles in the corner. Dim yet peaceful, the room radiated serenity and relaxation.“I’m sorry about the interruption,” she said quietly to the man lying on his stomach with his head down and resting in the doughnut-shaped pillow, which allowed for ease of breathing. He appeared almost asleep, his back rising and falling evenly, but he mumbled something she couldn’t quite hear. Before she could say anything more, he turned his head to the side, his eyes still closed.Shelby barely contained her dismay. Upon her table lay the half-naked form of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Rude from that morning. His upper body was bare, a sheet draped over his lower back, buttocks, and legs. She glanced at the clothing rack on the wall to confirm his identity. The same black jacket and dark trousers hung from a hook, along with a blue shirt.She stared back down at him and resisted the urge to lean into his ear and yell at him to get the hell out of her clinic. That would scare the impoliteness out of him. But her professionalism wouldn’t let her. Word of mouth traveled fast, and this guy already didn’t like her. She frowned at the thought of him telling people bad things about her business and could almost see the dollar signs flying away.Grimacing at his unfairly handsome face, she wondered why he’d ventured into her place. Seattle had more than fifty massage clinics open at any given time, yet Mr. Rude managed to pick hers. Some cosmic joke at work, surely. She swore under her breath.“I’m going to turn your head so you don’t strain your neck.” She turned his face back into the doughnut-shaped pillow. Frowning at the feel of his skin under her palms, she felt uncomfortable with the heat that raced up her arms. She shook off the strangeness and focused on the rest of the massage.As she continued to work on his back, she couldn’t help noticing the smooth muscles and power in his build. He had a very nice body, she thought with objectivity. As a person comfortable and familiar with human physiology, she was a good judge of such things. And a person would need to be blind and plain oblivious not to see that this man kept in very good shape. He had wonderful tone and definition. Working on him was actually very easy due to his fluidity.As she brought clinical detachment to the forefront of her thoughts, she scrambled to bury the needy woman inside her screaming to see how his ass might feel under her hands.“Does that feel all right?” she asked softly. She didn’t want him to know she wasn’t Denise. He needed to get his money’s worth and at the same time think positively about Bodyworks. If she gave him a great massage, he’d be too relaxed to be angry with her when he paid her at the session’s end and recognized her. She hoped.“Mmm,” he mumbled. “That feels great.”The sexy rasp of his voice made her belly flutter. Her massage wasn’t in the least bit sexual, but she couldn’t help feeling arousal at contact with his body. God, I am not getting turned on by this guy. He’s a lump of clay, something I can mold into healthy muscles.She continued to work on his back. Then she changed position to work on his legs, keeping the sheet in place over his firm, tight ass. Buttocks, not ass. Ass is sexy. Buttocks is professional. She felt like a mental patient at odds with herself. Not the best time for slutty Shelby to make an appearance.“I need to move the sheet so I can get to your legs.” Even as she said it she hesitated, waiting for his assent, half hoping he’d insist he didn’t need any more of her time, half wishing he’d tell her to get rid of the sheet and hop on.“Go ahead,” he rumbled. “I’m half asleep as it is.”Shelby gritted her teeth and moved the sheet. Then she worked on the muscles of his legs, moving over his hamstrings and calves. They were rock hard and incredibly sexy—firm, athletic. Not sexy. Clients were never sexy. Rule number one of massage.“Are you a runner?” she couldn’t help but ask.“Mmm, hmm. Every day I can.”“Your legs are very toned.” She worked a rough section of his hamstrings. Smoothing over the fascia, the connective tissue covering the muscle, she released a build-up of toxins in his body. He sighed, and she moved down toward his calves, then to his feet.He shifted a bit, and she stopped.“Does it tickle?”He mumbled a yes, and she grinned. Maybe she could torture him by tying him down and tickling his feet, demanding an apology for her ruined coffee. Or better yet, she could tie him up and blindfold him, then have her wicked way with him with none the wiser.Oh hell. Her sexual hiatus had come to a crashing halt. For some stupid reason, this jerk had jumped her libido but good. She hadn’t been able to get him out of her mind all day, and she’d tried. Now, after touching him… She glanced down at her nipples, horrified to see them through her shirt, standing at attention.She’d blame her obvious arousal on the air conditioner if she had to. She might be able to ignore that, but the tingling between her legs and her racing pulse? Not so much.Why did Mr. Rude have to have the best ass she’d ever not seen, the sexiest legs she’d ever felt, and the smoothest muscle she’d ever touched?She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, calling on every ounce of professionalism and neutrality she could muster. It really wouldn’t do to have her client catch her ogling his body. She could lose her license for less.Shelby opened her eyes and reined in her crazy impulses, determined to give him what he paid for. But she needed him to turn over to finish. Good God, she could all too easily imagine giving him a “happy ending” and turning into the cliché from hell.Let it go, woman. Finish the massage, then go find a man.“Okay Shane. Now I need you to turn over so I can do your front.” Ignore the innuendo. Ignore the innuendo.He visibly tensed, and she held her breath, praying.
by Marie Harte
part of the book bundle,