Natural Born Charmer (Chicago Stars #7)(13)

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The bathroom doorknob turned. She had to be careful how she dealt with Dean for fear he’d leave tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, tact wasn’t her forte.

He came out of the bathroom, a towel looped low around his hips. He looked like a Roman god taking a breather in the middle of an orgy while he waited for the next temple virgin to be sent his way. But as the light hit him, her fingers constricted around her sketchbook. This was no flawless, marble-carved Roman divinity. He had a warrior’s body—highly functional, powerfully built, and ready for battle.

He saw her taking in the trio of thin scars on his shoulder. “Pissedoff husband.”

She didn’t believe that for a minute. “The perils of sin.”

“Speaking of sin…” His lazy smile oozed seduction. “I’ve been thinking…Late night…two lonely strangers…a comfortable bed…I can’t come up with a better way to entertain ourselves than to make use of it.”

He’d abandoned subtlety to make a dash for the goal line. His gorgeous face and athletic fame gave him a sense of entitlement when it came to women. She understood that. But not this woman. He moved closer. She smelled soap and sex. She considered bringing up the gay thing again, but, at this point, why bother? She could plead a headache and flee the room…or she could do what she always did and face up to the challenge. She uncurled from the chair. “Here’s the way it’s going to be, Boo. You don’t mind if I call you ‘Boo,’ do you?”

“As a matter of fact—”

“You’re gorgeous, sexy, and ripped. You’ve got more charm than any man should have. You have great taste in music, and you’re rich—huge bonus points there. You’re also very smart. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. But the thing is, you don’t turn me on.”

His eyebrows slammed together. “I…don’t turn you on?”

She tried to look apologetic. “It’s not you. It’s me.”

He blinked, more than a little stunned. She couldn’t blame him. He’d undoubtedly used that “It’s not you. It’s me” line a thousand times himself, and it must be disconcerting to have it thrown back in his face.

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“The unvarnished truth is that I’m more comfortable with losers like Monty, not that I intend to make that mistake again. If I went to bed with you—and I’ve thought long and hard about this—”

“We only met eight hours ago.”

“I have no boobs, and I’m not pretty. I’d know you were just using me because I’m all that’s available, which would make me feel like crap, which would be the start of another one of my downhill spirals, and frankly, I’ve spent enough time in mental institutions.”

His smile had an edge of calculation. “Anything else?”

She gathered up her sketch pad, along with the beer. “Bottom line, you’re a man who lives to be adored, and I don’t do adoration.”

“Who says you’re not pretty?”

“Oh, it doesn’t bother me. I have so much character that adding beauty to the mix would be greedy. Honestly, until tonight, it hasn’t been an issue. Well, except for Jason Stanhope, but that was seventh grade.”

“I see.” He continued to look amused.

As casually as possible, she made her way to the connecting door and opened it. “You should feel like you’ve dodged a bullet.”

“What I mainly feel is horny.”

“Which is why hotel rooms offer porn.” She quickly closed the door and drew her first clean breath. The trick to staying half a step in front of Dean Robillard was to keep him off balance, but whether she could manage that as far as Kansas City was as problematic as what she’d do once she got there.

The Beav must have stayed up late because she had the drawing ready the next morning. She waited till they’d stopped for a break at a central Kansas truck stop before she set it in front of him. Dean stared down at the finished product. No wonder she was broke.

The Beav suppressed a yawn. “If I’d had more time, I could have done it in pastels.”

Considering how much damage she’d performed with her pencil, it was probably just as well. She’d drawn his face, all right, but with the features seriously out of whack: eyes too close together, his hairline set back a good two inches, and a couple of extra pounds, giving him jowls. Most damaging, she’d reduced the size of his nose just enough to make it look squashed on his face. He was seldom at a loss for words, but the image she’d drawn left him speechless.

She took a bite of her chocolate glazed doughnut. “Fascinating, isn’t it, how easily it could all have gone wrong for you?”

That’s when he realized she’d done this deliberately. But she looked more thoughtful than smug. “I hardly ever get to experiment,” she said. “You were the perfect subject.”

“Glad to be of service,” he said dryly.

“Naturally, I did another one.” She pulled a second drawing from the folder she’d carried into the truck stop and flicked it dismissively onto the table, where it landed next to his uneaten muffin. It showed him lounging on the bed, knee cocked, shirt falling open over his chest, exactly how he’d arranged himself for her. “Predictably gorgeous,” she said, “but boring, don’t you think?”

Not just boring, but a little sleazy, too—his pose too calculated, his expression too cocky. She’d seen right through him, and he didn’t like it. He still found it hard to believe she’d walked out on him last night. Was it possible he’d lost his touch? Or maybe he’d never had one. Since women tended to drop into his lap, he didn’t have a whole lot of experience being the sexual aggressor. He needed to fix that.

Once again, he studied the first drawing, and as he took in his altered face, he began thinking about all the ways his life would have been different if he’d been born with the face the Beav had given him. No lucrative endorsement for End Zone, that was for sure. Even when he was a kid, his looks had given him a lot of free passes. He’d understood that theoretically, but her drawing made it concrete.

The Beav’s face clouded. “You hate it, don’t you? I should have known you wouldn’t get it, but I thought…Never mind.” She reached for the paper.