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Authors: Gina L. Maxwell

Tags: #Category, #tattoo, #bad boy, #gina maxwell, #series, #Contemporary, #brazen, #Romance, #ugly duckling, #erotic, #mixed martial arts, #tortured hero, #entangled, #best friend’s little sister, #sexy, #best friend’s older brother, #MMA, #transformation, #fighter

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BOOK: Seducing Cinderella
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“Where’s your bathing suit? I want you to put it on so we can see your body and not the clothes you choose to hide it with.”

“I’m not putting on a bathing suit.”

“That’s okay,” he said crossing his arms. “Bra and panties’ll work too.”

Her jaw dropped. Was he serious? She studied the hard glint in his hazel eyes.
Shit
. “I’ll get my suit,” she mumbled on her way to the large dresser along the wall.

“Excellent idea. I’ll wait out in the hall while you change. But Luce…” She paused midrummage through her top drawer and looked over her shoulder at him. “If you’re longer than three minutes, I’m going to assume you’ve chickened out and I’m coming in.”

She narrowed her eyes behind her glasses. “Do you always threaten people until they bend to your every whim?”

“Of course not. I’ve never had to resort to threats until you,” he said with a cover model smile. “Ticktock.”

She grabbed a handful of rolled-up socks from the drawer and threw them at his head. Unfortunately he did his bob-and-weave thing—holding his injured shoulder and
laughing
—and managed to avoid all three cotton missiles just before he closed the door behind him.

Chapter Four

 

Lucie tried to be annoyed with her new roommate but found herself grinning like an idiot instead. “Pompous ass.” Same old Reid. She shook her head and returned to her search for the elusive bathing suit. “Aha! Found you, you little stinker.” Holding up the suit Vanessa had made her buy for their vacation, Lucie winced.
Wasn’t there more to it than this?

She did love the blue-gray color with the aqua swirly patterns, but she wished the sides weren’t so high cut. They hitched up past her hip bones. Vanessa claimed it emphasized her waist more, and the plunging neckline supposedly created the illusion of a bigger bust. She’d nodded dutifully to her best friend’s fashion advice, but had seriously doubted something could be made from nothing. Their vacation had been canceled at the last minute when one of Vanessa’s cases went to court suddenly, so thankfully she’d never had to wear the suit.

She sighed and changed. At least it was a one-piece, which is more than she could say for anything Vanessa wore in the vicinity of a pool or beach. A minute later she stood before her tall mirror, closed her eyes, and tried to ignore the blood rushing in her ears as she called out for Reid.

The door opened with a quiet
snick
, but he didn’t make a sound as he moved across the floor. The utter silence made her mouth dry and her fingers twitch by her side. Where was he? Was he trying not to laugh? Oh God, why on earth did she let him talk her into this?

Suddenly she felt his body heat radiating into her back. He was close. Very close. His breath feathered the drying strands tucked around her ear, and when he spoke, the vibrations from his voice rippled along her neck. “Open your eyes, sweetheart.”

With deliberate slowness Lucie fluttered her lids open until she was once again staring at the mirror image of herself with Reid standing behind her. His frame made her look slight in comparison. She knew all of his measurements from watching his fights. Six foot three, two hundred and five pounds, a little more when he didn’t need to cut weight for a fight, with a seventy-six inch reach. The tops of her shoulders barely came up to his armpits, and if she let her head fall back, it would rest comfortably in the crook of his neck.

“Now,” he said, bringing her out of her dreamy observations. “Tell me what you see.”

“Strong shoulders. Solid chest. Forearms roped in muscle with just the right amount of veins to make them supersexy…”

He grinned at her in the mirror and his voice became a low rumble that shot straight to her nipples. “You think my forearms are sexy, Lu?”

“Mmm-hmmm.” Why did it look like she had a dopey grin on her face? Surely that wasn’t what she really looked like.

“Thank you. I can honestly say no one has ever said that to me before.”

Well that was a damn shame. She was about to tell him so when he rudely interrupted her train of thought. “I meant, tell me what you see of yourself.”

“Oh.” Studying her reflection all she saw was a woman in a girl’s body trying like hell to pull off a look far beyond the realm of possibilities. “Um. I see…” What did he expect her to say? “This is stupid, Reid. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

As she turned to walk away he gripped her hips and held her in place. “I’ll tell you what I see. I see a beautiful woman who hides behind insecurities that have no business living in her head.” She lowered her head to gaze at the floor, but strong fingers guided her chin back up. “I see a body with flawless olive skin and subtle curves that tempt a man to close his eyes as he traces each of them like a sculptor traces his subject.”

“You do?” she squeaked.

“Absolutely.” Reid closed his eyes and placed his hands on her outer thighs, then slid them up in a painfully slow motion. The callouses on his palms softly abraded her skin, infusing each tiny nerve with a jolt of energy she’d never known the likes of before. “Before a sculptor can duplicate the elegance of his subject, he has to memorize her with the power of touch, instead of depending on the laziness of sight.”

Lucie’s lips parted as her breathing came faster and her heart pounded twice as fast. Maybe more. Reid’s hands continued their exploration, spanning her waist and traveling up her sides with a firm touch that spoke of a man in control. A man who knew what he wanted, and took it without remorse.

“As his hands move over every dip, every curve, every valley…the woman’s body is formed in his mind, embedded in his muscle memory, so he can recreate her even if he were to go blind.”

She thought the barrier of her suit was a reprieve from the sensory overload of the skin-on-skin contact…but then they slid around to her belly and any sense of relief she’d had was shot straight to hell. Hands as large as his, when placed down the center of her body, easily spanned her entire torso.

She wasn’t sure if it was the wine or the fact that Reid Andrews, superhot friend of her brother and the guy she’d crushed on as a teenager, was touching her so intimately that was causing the surreal out-of-body experience. From a distance she watched as the pinky on his left hand grazed the top of her mound, just high enough to be considered innocent, but low enough to cause a clenching in her womb that had her squeezing her thighs together and biting her lip to prevent the moans that wanted to be heard. And if that wasn’t enough, his right thumb was caressing a path between her breasts.

Burying his face in her hair, he inhaled deeply and let out a mix between a moan and a growl, which was quite possibly the most erotic sound she’d ever heard. “Goddamn you smell good.”

Her knees trembled. The strength to stand was waning. A thick fog had blown through her mind, making clear thoughts impossible. Letting go of the last thread she had on her inhibitions, she let her head fall back and to the side as his hot breath fanned over the shell of her ear.

His hands began to clench, his fingers digging into the softness of her body. She spoke his name on a moan…

And everything stopped.

With a muttered curse Reid took hold of her arms to steady her as he stepped away. Once assured she wasn’t about to face-plant into the mirror, he scrubbed his palms down his face, then winced and held his bad shoulder. “I’m really sorry, Lucie. I— Shit, I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t mean for any of that to happen.”

Bam!
Oh, goodie. Reality was back. She waved a hand in the air and gave him a carefree
pshh
that sounded more like a horse blowing air through loose lips since she couldn’t feel hers worth a damn. “Don’t even give it a second thought. I’m more than tipsy so my judgment is shot, and you had your eyes closed, so you can’t be faulted for your libido imagining I was someone else.” Willing herself not to fall and make a further ass of herself, she walked over to retrieve her pajamas from where she’d left them on the floor.

“Lu…”

Plastering on a smile, she finally turned. There was a brief moment where she may or may not have threatened her eyeballs with a painful gouging from their sockets if they so much as strayed from his face to take in the hard-body scenery below. She may be drunk and seriously lacking in shame, but there was only so much her pride could take. “Honestly, Reid, it’s no big deal. I’m just really tired. It’s been a long week.”

Again with the forward palm-brushing thing before he placed both hands on his hips and studied her for what felt like an eternity. “Okay, yeah, I guess we should both hit the sack. I mean go to bed. Sleep! Shit.”

Yep. He sucked at this word-choice game thing. She’d have to remember never to be partners with him when playing
Taboo!
or
Catch Phrase
. “Good night, Reid.”

“Night, Luce.”

As soon as her door was shut, she beat the land-speed record for changing clothes while intoxicated and slid under the covers. Thankfully she’d brushed her teeth after her shower earlier because leaving her room to use the only bathroom in the apartment and taking the chance of continuing their Awkward Tango was
so
out of the question.


 

Reid focused on the sound of his feet hitting the belt of the treadmill, the rhythmic pounding a therapeutic soundtrack to the punishment he gave his body.

Though he’d told Lucie he planned on going to sleep, there was no way he could actually do that until he expelled the pent up energy he’d gained from Lucie’s first-lesson-gone-bad. He’d lost count of how many times the scene replayed itself in his head like a DVD stuck on repeat with no damn off button.

His eyes had been closed the whole time, but he hadn’t been lying when he said that his hands would create their image in his mind. It’d been over a decade since his hands had touched any sort of sculpting medium, but they hadn’t forgotten how to memorize every detail of a subject. Not by a fucking long shot.

As sweat poured down his body in a cathartic release, he tried to determine the exact moment it ceased to be a lesson and turned into something that was more about passion than anything else. Hell, if he was being honest with himself, it was probably from the moment he stepped in the room to see her in that sexy one-piece, eyes closed, and waiting on him.

She’d never been one to accentuate her body like other girls. She’d been more of a bookworm and seemed content to stand in the shadows of those who preferred the spotlight, like her brother. Growing up, she’d been like Reid’s younger sister, too, considering how much time he spent at the Maris residence.

So why the hell did brotherly love suddenly feel a lot more like a lover’s lust?
Shit!
He had to figure out what to do about these lessons he promised to give her or he was going to be in for a couple of hellacious months. Glancing at the odometer on the digital display, he checked his distance just as it clicked over mile number ten and brought himself down to a walk for a short cool down.

Distance. That was it.
He needed to keep his distance when teaching her how to be the new her. Maybe he’d take a professorial lecturing approach next time. He could stand across the room and she could sit on the couch and take notes. Reid laughed out loud as he pictured the ridiculous scenario. Until the Lucie in said ridiculous scenario was suddenly wearing the Britney Spears version of a school uniform and asking for a hands-on lesson in Seduction 101.

“Fuck!”

Reid punched the STOP button and hopped off the machine. Breathing fast and heavy, he let his head fall back on his shoulders and squeezed his eyes shut, but decided better of it when the haunting image returned. Looked like it was going to be a cold shower before he turned in for the night. And starting tomorrow, all lessons were going to be purely hands-
off
and at least arm’s length for good measure.

Chapter Five

 

“Absolutely not.”

Reid chuckled from his seat on the couch outside the department-store dressing room where Lucie was currently balking at the fifth outfit in a row. After their morning therapy session and his lame-as-hell one-armed workout, they’d gone out for lunch. Watching her act in public had been torture. She reacted to life rather than participated, or even instigated. When spoken to, she responded. When given something, she accepted. But when the world wasn’t interacting with her, it was like she was in a bubble. She didn’t even look at the people around the restaurant.

For whatever reason, Lucie acted as though it was her place not to create any more ripples in life’s pool than necessary. As for Reid? He preferred the cannonball approach, but he knew that wasn’t for everyone. If she wanted that asshat of a doctor to notice her, though, she needed to at least make a small splash. To do that, he’d start with changes on the outside and work his way in.

As they finished their lunch he’d told her of his plan to take her shopping for new clothes. She had of course told him under no circumstance was she clothes shopping with him, but when he threatened to burn every last boring stitch in her wardrobe she reluctantly had a change of heart.

He’d been surprised to find not one flattering piece in her closet. It was clear she had issues with her body, though for the life of him he couldn’t understand why. She was slender and fit. Her breasts were on the small side which he supposed could make a girl self-conscious if she thought every man alive wanted a couple of Dolly Partons to play with. But she was a highly intelligent woman, so she would know that was ridiculous. Wouldn’t she?

“Come on, Lucie. Let’s see it.” The lady assisting them had picked outfits that hugged Lucie’s body rather than hid it. He’d approved of everything she’d tried on. From low-rise jeans to summer shorts, fitted button-downs to slimline tanks, she’d looked great in everything she tried on.

“No. This is too much, Reid. I’m taking it off.”

Since their assistant was off helping someone else, he’d have to assume this must be the “little black dress” she insisted was a necessity in every woman’s wardrobe. “Either you come out, or I’m coming in. Doesn’t matter to me either way.”

A sigh of exasperation preceded grumbling of what sounded like his name in mixed company with some very unfavorable threats against his manhood. And yet he smiled. He couldn’t help it; she was adorable when ornery.

At last she opened the door from the dressing room and strode the few feet to stand in front of him, hands on her hips and glaring at him for all she was worth. “It’s immodest.”

He gave her a slow once over and couldn’t see how it could be considered even remotely immodest. In fact, he was almost disappointed in it. Though the thin material of the dress complemented her body the way a sexy nightgown would, the front of it covered her all the way up to her collarbones and didn’t show any skin until it ended at midthigh.

“That’s not immodest, sweetheart,” he said as he leaned back against the cushions and crossed his arms over his chest. “That’s called dull.”

“Oh really?” Pivoting on the strappy black heels, she gave him her back…and he forgot to breathe.

Where the front of her dress had lacked, the back of it more than compensated. Her entire back was open with the exception of a single spaghetti strap that ran across her shoulder blades connecting the two sides of her dress. The material followed the lines of her back with the right side sweeping over her lower back to gather just above the back of her left hip. “Christ.”

“Like I said…” She walked over to the three-way mirror and let her hands fall at her sides.

Reid moved to stand behind her. His fingers itched to trace the dip of her spine. He couldn’t help but wonder how she’d react during the day, where people could see them, and without the benefit of wine. Would she pull away in shock and embarrassment? Or would she shiver and arch into his touch?

When he realized he was in serious danger of sporting wood despite his convictions from the previous night, he put his sexual thoughts in a mental guillotine hold, hoping to choke the life out of them before they ruined the dry spell he needed to continue where Lucie was concerned.
Knock it off, jackass.

“You’re not exactly giving anyone a T&A peekaboo show, Luce.”

“But—”

“But nothing. Whether you choose to believe it or not, this dress is sexy and classy.” His gaze dropped from hers in the mirror to study the part of her that was open for the world to see. “The back is one of my favorite parts of a woman’s body. I love to trace and lick the shallow line of her spine, from the top and all the way down to the twin dimples at the base of her lower back.” Reid just barely stopped himself from adding that he also loved to watch the movement of his lover’s shoulder blades when he placed her hands above her head to take her from behind.

He looked up to find her eyes narrowed and scrutinizing him. “My point is, Lucie, a woman’s back is graceful. Not shameful.” When all she did was give him a noncommittal
uh-huh
he cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his chest. “What?”

She shook her head slightly as though she wasn’t sure what to make of him. “There’s more to you than meets the eye, isn’t there?”

He grinned and raised a brow. “I’m not a Transformer, if that’s what you mean.”

That at least brought out a light chuckle as she turned to face him. “No, I mean, you’re not just a fighter. You see things differently than most people. There’s a very artistic side to you.”

No one had ever said that to him before. It felt like a lifetime had passed since he’d done anything but fight. Not that he didn’t love his sport, but sometimes he wished it wasn’t all he was. He shrugged. “I was once, I guess. My senior year of high school I tried taking shop class, but a glitch in the system put me in an art class instead. I couldn’t paint worth a damn, but I learned how to sketch and draw fairly well. And then we got to the sculpting…” Reid tensed as his father’s disapproval came flooding back to him. It was hard for him to think about sculpting at all anymore without the memories of his father trashing all of his supplies and the makeshift studio he’d made for himself.

“Reid?” Brought out of his thoughts, his eyes flicked up. “What about the sculpting?”

“Never mind. It’s not important.” Turning around he was about to call the assistant back to help gather the outfits, but Lucie grabbed his hand to stop him, placing herself square in his line of sight again.

“Yes it is. I can see it in your eyes. It’s important to you. Please tell me.”

Her words combined with her fingers pressing into the center of his palm was like an infusion of mental cortisone. It wouldn’t fix the problem, but it numbed the pain just enough to get the job done. Taking a deep breath he told her what he’d only ever told Jax. “I enjoyed sculpting. I liked that I could create with the same hands I used to destroy my opponents in the cage. You’re right. I do see things differently. I don’t just see an apple, but I see the individual curves and lines that make up that apple, including the bruise on one side that makes a flat spot roughly the size of a thumbprint.

“But people don’t want to know that about me. They want to know what I’m doing to cut weight, what new routines my trainers are putting me through, and whether or not I think I’m going to come away with my hand raised in my next fight. It’s what I’m good at. It’s who I am.”

“You’re wrong, though,” she said, taking a small step forward. “Who you are isn’t just one thing. It’s everything you’re passionate about. You can be a sculptor, Reid, and still be a fighter if that’s what you want.”

The tenderness in her conviction made him want to hold her in his arms and kiss that heart-shaped freckle at the corner of her soft gray eyes. Eyes that saw remarkably through his bullshit and glimpsed his soul.

“You know what I want? I want to eat.” He caught the attention of their sales lady with a wave of his arm. “Help her with the tags on this one, please. She’s wearing it out of the store. Then we’ll take everything else she tried on. Thanks.”

When he handed over his credit card, Lucie pinned him with a glare. He was glad she wore her contacts today. She looked all hot-librarian in her glasses, but he preferred this unobstructed view of her expressive dove-gray eyes. Even if their current expression said she was clearly pissed off.

“Now what’s wrong?”

She crossed her arms under her breasts and lifted her chin. “I might not be a big-time UFC celebrity like yourself, but I’m far from indigent. I’ll pay for my own clothes.”

Of all the things he’d expected her to say, that wasn’t even in the bunch. Reid wasn’t used to women who insisted on paying for themselves when they were with him. He had more money than he knew what to do with from his fights and product endorsements. That she even wanted to buy the clothes
he
insisted she get in the first place spoke volumes of her character.

“Luce,” he said, pulling her arms down so he could hold her hands, effectively breaking the body language that would remind her of her anger. “I know you can buy your own clothes. You’re a successful, strong, independent woman who doesn’t need anyone to take care of her.”

The fire in her eyes fizzled a little as he worked to break through her guard. “That’s right, I don’t.”

“However, the new wardrobe was my idea, so I’m going to buy you the clothes and then I’m taking you out to dinner.” She was just about to argue—it seemed to be the woman’s favorite past time, for chrissakes—so he placed a finger on her lips and said, “No arguments. I’m going to head over to the men’s store and get something more appropriate than these cargo shorts and polo. And grab some ibuprofen for this damn shoulder. Wait here and I’ll be back to pick you up.”

He removed his finger and turned to leave when he heard, “But—”

With a growl of frustration he grabbed her by the nape and pulled her against him as he planted his lips on hers. She stiffened and a shocked squeak came from somewhere in the back of her throat. But a moment later the squeak became a tiny moan and her body melted into him. Somewhere in the back of his mind his conscience screamed the words “hands-off approach,” but his libido was quick to tackle it to the mat, knocking the wind out of the suddenly unwelcome reminder.

Her lips were warm under his and tasted of her strawberry lip gloss. He bet her tongue would taste just as ripe and sweet, but instinct told him if he crossed that line he might not stop. Before he lost himself to the primal need urging him to push her into the nearest dressing room and show her how good the dress would look on the floor as well, he broke the kiss to see a dazed look on her face. “Damn, woman, do you always have to argue? Just go along with the plan or my next tactic will be public spanking.”

Lucie gasped and stepped away from him as her cheeks flushed to match her ruby just-been-kissed lips. Apparently the idea of his hand on her ass was just the image she needed to scare her into compliance. Or was it? Upon closer inspection he swore he saw glazed lust in her eyes. Could it be that his innocent Lucie had a little devil in her?

Fucking hell.
Just the thought had him hardening behind his fly. He needed to get out of there. Fast. When he spoke, he was surprised by the gravel in his voice. “I won’t be long.” Then he spun on his heel and strode out to find the closest men’s store…and enough time to lose the hard-on he was currently sporting for his friend’s little sister.

BOOK: Seducing Cinderella
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