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Show Me

Jaci Burton

  eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

  512 Forest Lake Drive

  Warner Robins, Georgia 31093

  Show Me

  Copyright (c) 2007 by Jaci Burton

  Cover by Scott Carpenter

  ISBN: 1-59998-526-8

  All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: July 2007

  Show Me

  Sneak Peek

  Jaci Burton


  To my friend and critique partner Shelley Bradley, who slaps me good and hard when I need it. Thanks babe.

  To Shan, who appreciates a good restaurant scene. Heh.

  To Angie and Crissy. Thank you for this.

  And as always, to Charlie, for the constant inspiration. Love you.

  Sneak Peek: Show Me

  Chapter One

  "Quit fidgeting," Melinda said, tapping at Janine's hand.

  "I wasn't fidgeting." Janine removed her fingers from the hem of her skirt and clasped her hands together. "I would like to know where we're going."

  "Someplace fun." Susan batted her lashes in a very mysterious way.

  "A place for you to unwind, let your hair down. You are going to love this."

  Terri and Melinda exchanged winks, which was never a good sign.

  Her friends were always the mischief makers, while Janine had been the standin-the-background-and-out-of-harm's-way part of the foursome.

  She'd known better than to get involved in their wild and crazy schemes.

  If there was trouble to be found, they could find it, and Janine wanted no part of fun and games that could lead to scandal. She had too much to lose.

  Especially now, when everything she did was under such tight scrutiny.

  Janine Bartolino had turned thirty today, and her girlfriends were bound and determined to see that she celebrated in a major way. Though she much preferred a nice dinner at one of her favorite trendy Los Angeles restaurants, then back to her place for cocktails, the girls weren't having any of that. Susan, Terri and Melinda said they had a surprise for her. They were taking her out tonight for something special.

  She hated surprises.

  They'd had dinner at a nice restaurant, which had been quite enjoyable. She never saw enough of her friends, so getting together was always a treat. She'd known them since college, and though they tried to 5

  Jaci Burton

  get together often, they were all busy with their careers, so trying to plan an outing at a time when everyone was available was a lesson in frustration.

  They'd managed to clear their schedules for her birthday, though, and she was grateful for that. She loved catching up. But she was nervous about tonight. What in the world did they have planned?

  They'd shocked the hell out of her by picking her up in a limo--a true slice of heaven, there. The champagne had been flowing freely since seven o'clock that night. Good thing she'd eaten a decent dinner or she'd be toast by now. Champagne went to her head fast, the bubbles tickled her nose, and she was already dizzy.

  "Almost there. Breathe, Janine."

  She resisted the urge to stick out her tongue at Terri. Too juvenile.

  And she was thirty now.

  Thirty. Ugh. It seemed old. She felt old. And so tired of all the responsibility heaped onto her shoulders. Maybe she should take her friends' advice and relax a little, just kick back and not worry what everyone thought.

  Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.

  She'd been so preoccupied with her own thoughts, she hadn't noticed the limo heading into the Hollywood Hills.

  "Where are we going?"

  "You already asked that question," Susan said. "A hundred times or more."

  Janine rolled her eyes. "You're exaggerating. I did not."

  "Fifty times, then. Quit asking. We're not telling. But trust us, you're going to love this."

  She highly doubted it. While she enjoyed getting together with the girls to catch up, they didn't run in the same social circles at all. Susan 6

  Sneak Peek: Show Me

  was a writer, Terri an actress and Melinda a model. They were all gorgeous, well-dressed and comfortable in their own skin.

  Janine was...she didn't know what she was.

  Other than thirty.

  Quit reminding yourself.

  She was also independently wealthy. And in charge of her family's fortune, with a ton of responsibility weighing on her head.

  "Almost there," Terri said. "Look out the window. You can see the house now."

  Janine leaned forward. House? They were going to a house?

  Whose house?

  It was amazing, looming up out of the hillside, all white in a sea of green. The limo pulled up in front of the well lit two story. The house screamed class and sophistication, instantly transporting Janine to another era. Subtle lighting showcased the place perfectly, from the gleaming stucco walls to the red bougainvillea draping over the porch.

  "Okay, where the hell are we?"

  The driver opened their door. "You'll see," Melinda said, tossing an enigmatic smile over her shoulder. She slid one elegant leg out the door.

  "Come on."

  If this was some kind of surprise party, she was going to be really irritated. She'd made it clear she wanted nothing of the sort. The girls had promised. But since the others had already piled out of the limo, she had no choice but to follow suit.

  They'd made her dress up, and not in going-out-to-dinner clothes, either, but in a slinky cocktail dress that hugged her body way too intimately for her own comfort. Black, skintight and revealing a dangerous amount of cleavage, Janine felt underdressed and overexposed. Of course her friends were dressed similarly, not that it 7

  Jaci Burton

  bothered any of them in the least. Then again, they had the bodies for it.

  Janine always carried that extra five pounds she couldn't seem to get rid of, while the others were tabloid-magazine ready for whatever paparazzi happened to be lurking.

  Though she didn't spy any cameras. In fact, no one was out front. It was quiet, the only sounds those of their heels clacking on the walkway and a waterfall in the distance.

  As they approached the front door, it opened for them. Janine heard music. It was dark inside, so she couldn't see, but she stilled, almost afraid to move. Terri and Susan looped their arms with hers and dragged her inside.

  Her first thought as she stepped into the expansive foyer was a mixture of then and now. Very old Hollywood mixed with the sound and sparkle of today. But not at all garish or disco-like. Instead, it was warm and welcoming. A rollicking beat of rhythm and blues pounded in her ears--sexy, making her pulse thrum with excitement.

  But what really got her heart racing was the man walking their way.

  He wore a dark suit, white shirt halfway unbuttoned, revealing a light dusting of chest hair. He looked like he hadn't shaved today, but instead of looking unkempt, he looked...oh my God he looked sexy as hell. As he drew closer, she noticed he was staring right at her. In this sea of gorgeous women, his whiskey brown eyes were targeting
her? And he was smiling. His lips were full and Janine's first thought was of what his mouth could do to a woman.

  "Bon soir, mademoiselles. Welcome to Sneak Peek."

  Holy crap. He had just the hint of a French accent, as if he'd lived in the States for years, but hadn't quite lost the inflection. Why were her panties getting wet? It wasn't like she didn't regularly meet handsome men in her line of work. Good-looking men walked every sidewalk in Los 8

  Sneak Peek: Show Me

  Angeles. You could run into them at the grocery store and down every aisle, since they were as plentiful as apples. But this one--damn--he hit her hot buttons in a major way.

  "I'm Philippe Delacroix, but everyone calls me Del. In fact, if you call me Philippe or, God forbid, Phil, I won't answer you."

  She smiled at that. He so didn't look like a Phil.

  "I'm part owner of this club along with my friend, Alejandro Diaz, who I'm sure you'll see around here tonight. Please, come in and make yourselves comfortable."

  Terri, Melinda and Susan said their hellos and rushed in, heading straight for the bar. In a damn hurry, she noted, all of them casting amused glances at Del and then back at her. She didn't quite know what happened, but it seemed as if they knew where they were going. One minute they were all standing there, the next the other three were gone.

  Janine found herself unable to move, her feet planted in the middle of the lobby like some mute, immobile dimwit. Del, at least, was polite enough to remain there with her so she didn't look like an imbecilic wall flower.

  He cocked his head to the side. "Your friends left you."

  "Seems that way."

  "You look nervous as hell."

  "That obvious, huh?"

  "First time?"

  She swallowed. "First time for what?"

  "To visit the club."

  She shook her head. "I don't even know where I am. My friends dragged me here and didn't tell me where we were going, so I'm sorry to say I have no clue what Sneak Peek is."

  His lips curled in a hint of a smile. "Ah. Nice surprise." 9

  Jaci Burton

  She glared into the pitch black bar area, wondering where her so-called friends had disappeared to. "If you say so." Turning back to him, she realized he owned this club and she had probably just insulted him.

  "No offense. I'm sure this is a very nice place, but I'm not big on surprises."

  "I can tell. Your body is as tense as a coiled-up snake. We need to relax you."

  We? What is this we ? "I'll be fine. I just need to find my friends."

  "You need a drink. How about a tour?"

  She definitely needed the drink. And the tour sounded nice. Anything to keep her away from the throng of bodies undulating in the overcrowded bar. Dancing was so not her thing, and knowing her friends, they'd drag her out there to bump and grind with a bunch of strange guys. Oh, God, there wasn't a male stripper review tonight, was there?

  She could so see Susan, Terri and Melinda thinking that was fun, especially tossing her to the, naked dudes. Sweaty nude men giving her a birthday spanking. She'd die.

  "Come on. You look like you're about to pass out."

  Her gaze drifted up at Del, wondering what he saw when he looked down at her. Had she gone pale? Probably too much thought of Chippendale dancers and birthday spankings. She'd always had a way overactive imagination. He took her arm, and as she walked alongside him, she noted how warm his hand was, how easy he seemed to move, with such fluidity and grace. Like a sleek panther, comfortable in his skin.

  She'd never once been comfortable in hers. She was jealous of people who were at ease in their environment. Del seemed relaxed, casting a genuine smile at people they passed by. He led her through a doorway and into a very casual room with a couple of beige chairs, a sofa and a 10

  Sneak Peek: Show Me

  huge mirror lining one wall. There was a bar off to one side, and the other side had tons of electronic equipment.

  "Part of my office," he said, moving to the bar. "What would you like?"

  "Rum if you have it. On the rocks would be fine."

  He poured two glasses and handed her one. "I respect a woman who likes her liquor hard. Too many are into those fussy wines."

  She snorted and accepted the glass from him. "Wine gives me a vicious headache the next day. Though I can suffer through it for business dinners." She was already regretting the champagne, knowing she'd feel the effects later. But it had served its purpose--it had taken the edge off her nervousness, at least for a little while.

  He took a long swallow and nodded. "As we all must, on occasion."

  My God, she couldn't get over how gorgeous he was. He smelled good, too, and not rife with cologne. She inhaled as he drew closer. More like soap. She almost laughed at that. He smelled freshly showered and clean, with an earthy undertone she could only describe as utter male scent. Primitive and oh so sexy.

  Where had her mind gone, anyway?

  "So you really have no idea what kind of place Sneak Peek is?" he asked, rimming his fingertip around the edge of the glass.

  She followed his finger. Even that movement was sexy. God, she was pathetic. "No clue."

  "I'm surprised your friends didn't warn you."

  There went that half smile again, like he had a secret. A wicked one.

  Uh-oh. "Warn me?"

  He took her glass and set it on the small table next to his, then drew his arm around her back and turned her toward the mirror. The mirror was long and tall as the wall in front of her. She looked at herself 11

  Jaci Burton

  standing next to Del, at the way his hand casually rested against her hip, the way his thumb stroked over the fabric of her dress.

  She felt what she saw reflected in the mirror--her skin burning up as the thin layer separating her body from his fingers didn't seem like nearly enough armor. She was going up in smoke, on fire from the way he looked at her, the way his eyes went dark, from a light whiskey to a deep brandy.

  She started to turn away, but the slightest pressure of his hand held her in place. She realized, then, that she was alone in a room with a complete stranger. Her friends didn't know where she was. She didn't know where she was. Or who she was with.

  "You're still tense."

  "I'm...I'm sorry." She swept her hand over her hair. One strand had fallen loose, draping over her eye. She smoothed it back into place. "I think I should go find my friends."

  "Your friends are fine. And so are you. Do I make you nervous?"

  He wasn't tense at all, his body completely relaxed next to hers. "A little."

  He moved away, giving her a couple inches of space. "I'm sorry. I can be a bit direct when I'm intrigued with a woman, and I'm used to...a different sort of female who frequents Sneak Peek . I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

  Okay, now she really wanted to know where she was. "I'm not exactly uncomfortable. Just curious."

  He lifted a brow. "How curious?"

  "Tell me about your club." Forewarned was forearmed?

  A knock at the door prevented his answer. "Come in," he said.


  Sneak Peek: Show Me

  A gorgeous man entered, tall and tan and casting a gracious smile in her direction. Dressed similarly to Del, he moved into the room with the same casual grace. "Sorry, Del, I did not know you were occupied."

  "It's all right. This is..." Del turned to Janine. "Damn. I don't even know your name."

  "Janine," she said.

  The man nodded. "Ah, the lovely Janine. Your friends were wondering where you had disappeared to." He walked over, swept her hand in his and pressed a light kiss to it. "I am Alejandro Diaz, one of the co-owners of the club."

  "Oh, yes. Del mentioned you. Very nice to meet you. You said my friends were looking f
or me?"


  "I should go then." She started toward the door, but Alejandro still held her hand. "Totally unnecessary. They were merely worried you had turned tail and left. I believe they said something to the effect of,

  'chickening out'?"

  That made her pause. "Chickened out? Hmph." She lifted her chin, insulted that her friends would think that of her, even if it was true.

  Though she still had no idea what she would be chickening out of. And she'd be damned if she'd let her friends goad her.

  Del snorted. "You can tell them I'm giving Janine a tour and she's in good hands."

  "I'll do that." Alejandro cast a knowing look in Del's direction. "You two have a wonderful evening."

  Janine inclined her head. "It was very nice to meet you."

  Alejandro shut the door behind him. Janine turned back to Del, who wore a very amused expression on his face.

  "What?" 13

  Jaci Burton

  "Your friends thought you'd run."

  She shrugged and took a long swallow of rum. It burned, but it felt good. Courage-inducing. "They're very adventurous. Me? Not so much."

  "So, you're the conservative one in the group?"

  "I'm hardly conservative." Boring, maybe, but not conservative. She led a wicked, sexy, adventurous lifestyle--in her fantasies. Her reality was something entirely different.

  He drained his glass and set it back on the table. "Why do I get the feeling you're trying to convince me of something that's not quite true?"

  "My friends, Susan, Terri and Melinda have fascinating lives. One's an author of mystery books who travels the world researching and doing nationwide book tours. One's an actress and the other's a model. Their careers alone are profoundly more exciting than mine."

  "And what do you do?"

  "I manage my father's estate. He's the late Louis Bartolino."

  "Ah. I've heard of your father. My condolences on his death last year."

  She nodded. "Thank you. I took over the Bartolino Foundation after his death. That's my work."

  Del crossed his arms. "Big job for one person."

  "It can be. I handle it. Nevertheless, it hardly makes me...exciting."

  His lips twitched. "I don't know about that. I find you intriguing."

  It would be rude to snort. "Right. Of course you do."

  Del picked up their glasses and refilled their drinks. "Being exciting has nothing to do with your career, Janine. It's an inner quality, a glow."