When a drunk driver leaves the beautiful and talented Claudia Peters, hairdresser to the stars, deprived of both her lucrative profession and her sense of self-worth, her husband Andre fears the worst. Claudia's sinking into a vortex of depression.
Then Dante appears. The handsome physical therapist needs a place to live -- and Andre and Claudia need his combination of tough love and Machiavellian cajolery to revive their spirits. But Dante wants more than just a job -- he's falling in love -- with both of them!
Is there room in Andre's heart for more than just Claudia? Dante will have to convince them both. Challenge accepted.
Room to Play
An Authorized Excerpt
Copyright ©2013 Lena Austin
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There was something slightly erotic about having a strange man rub her tits with a towel, and Claudia felt her nipples crinkle. She wanted desperately to grab a handful of that long blond hair and press his face right to one aching nub.
"Are you cold, Claudia?" Dante asked. He looked pointedly at her nipples. "That champagne was probably freezing."
"Um," Claudia began. "Am I? I can't tell."
Dante stood in one fluid motion. He caught the corner of Andre's towel, where Andre was still diligently trying to sop up the puddle in her lap.
"Andre, let's get Claudia upstairs to change. I'm afraid this is hopeless. The dry cleaner is just going to have to hate us," Dante suggested.
Claudia watched as the kneeling Andre looked up at Dante and let the suggestion seep past the champagne-soaked brain cells. Now, why did Dante stare at Andre and bite his lip? Something was familiar about that expression, but she couldn't remember what.
Andre handed over the towel. "Sounds like a plan, old chum. Help me up, will you?"
Dante stepped around Claudia's feet and lifted Andre as easily as if he were a child, not a six-foot tall grown man. They were almost eye-to-eye once Andre was upright. Dante held Andre's shoulders until Andre stopped swaying. Blue denim contrasted with black silk. Sun blond and shadow dark, broad shouldered barbarian and sleek, panther-like sophisticate.
"God, you both are so pretty," Claudia said, engaging mouth before brain was in gear. Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oops. Sorry."
Both men turned. "I'll take that as a compliment. Won't you, Andre?"
"I'll take any compliments Dee chooses to dish out. Even if I have to share with a liberal Democrat like you."
"Flattery will get you everywhere."
"Doesn't even know when he's being insulted," Andre commented to Claudia. "Come on baby. Let's get you upstairs."
"I'll be the donk and do the lifting, Andre," Dante offered. "You lead the way to open doors and turn on lights."
Dante scooped Claudia up and followed Andre up the stairs. Claudia wound her arms around Dante's neck for balance. Her face was half buried in his silky mane.
"Oooo! Pretty blond hair, Dante!" Claudia said. "You should have been a girl. Then I could tell you blonde jokes, and you wouldn't remember them."
Dante remarked, "Well, I've heard my share of them over the years." He was not even breathing hard as they made their way ponderously up the stairs, but his heart was pounding as he felt Claudia's breath against his cheek.
"Yes," Andre agreed. "What is a blonde's mating call?" he asked.
Dante spoke in a squeaky falsetto, "I'm sooo drunk!" Then, in his normal voice, he asked, "What is the brunette's mating call?"
Andre contrived to look haughty. "Has that damn blonde left yet?"
All three giggled.
Andre sniggered and looked at Claudia's red hair. "And what is the redhead's mating call?" he prompted.
Claudia laughed and exclaimed, "Fleet's in!"
Andre swayed a moment on the landing, impeding their progress. "And you have a whole fleet to yourself tonight, baby. Dante is an ex-sailor, too." He turned and began to climb again.
"Well, that's convenient, isn't it?" Claudia remarked, not knowing what to say next.
Dante put her down in the bedroom while Andre wove to a bedside lamp. Light flared, blinding her. "Bright light, bright light!" Claudia complained in the squeaky voice of a movie character from her childhood. The light went back out.
In the dark, with just moonlight filtering through the curtains, Dante fumbled with the clasp at the back of her dress while Andre came over and stood in front to assist. The dress lifted over her head, revealing just her black panties. All she'd been wearing underneath was the panties, heels, and perfume.
"Whoa," was Dante's soft comment.
"Yeah," was Andre's awed response.
"Uh, do you need a shower, Claudia?" asked Dante, in a slightly strangled voice.
Andre swayed. "Shower, hell, can we lick you clean?"
Claudia knew it was now or never to get her fantasy fulfilled. All she had to do was agree. She held up her arms to both men. "Why not?" she laughed.