Daphne Raine sat in her car outside of the Tres Lobos Dry Cleaners and stared at the red velvet dress clutched in her hands.
No one would ever believe how she’d ruined it, and that was fine with her. As far as she was concerned, no one would ever know how the blood on her dress got there.
Bad enough her most favorite dress ever had been ruined, but her dignity and her business’s future had been destroyed right along with it. Oh yeah, her disasters always came in threes.
Her sexual fantasy.
Her fledgling business.
All done in at the same time in a screw-up of epic proportions.
Served her right. Who did she think she was? Wasn’t one fantasy enough? No, she had to get greedy. She was a down-to-earth businesswoman with a love for great food. Eating. Creating. Sharing. And hey, maybe she loved it just a tad too much, but it had given her the ways and means to fulfill her business fantasy of opening her own restaurant.
A business was one thing, but her sexual fantasy? Going for that had been just plain foolish.
Glancing across the parking lot and through the tinted storefront windows, she watched as the door opened and a customer left. No way would she go in while someone else was there. Catching only shapes and movement, she couldn’t tell which of his brothers worked behind the counter today, but she was sure the store was empty of other customers.
Thank God, she’d come in on Antonio’s day off. Facing him with the evidence of her failure would be too much to handle. He was the reason for the whole disaster. She’d been fantasizing about him and flirting with him for the last four months, but to no avail. All she knew about him was his name, that he was one of three brothers who owned the cleaners, and that when she looked at him, her female body parts went all achy and throbbing.
Dark hair, dark eyes, and those adorable retro eyeglasses. She loved the way they slid down his nose as he looked over the clothing she’d bring in, scanning them, checking for stains and tears, and the way he’d push his glasses up with his middle finger. So precise, yet so masculine. Then he’d smile at her and assure her in his deep sexy voice that he’d make it all right.
She wanted him to make her feel all right. To make the aching in her pussy and the throbbing of her breasts rise to unbearable heights and then explode in the best orgasm of her life. The one that had always been just out of reach. The one they described in the romance novels she read.
The one no man had yet to give her.
Daphne fingered the lush velvet and ran her hand over the blood-stiffened peaks of fabric that had covered her breasts, and inspected the broken button on the halter neck. That would be easy to fix. But getting blood out?
She should have done something about it right away, but she’d been so upset by the “incident,” as she’d come to refer to it, that she’d left the dress lying in a pile on the floor of her bedroom for a week.
Truthfully, she held very little hope she could salvage the dress, but if any place could get it cleaned, it was Tres Lobos Dry Cleaning. Everyone in Sleeping Dog—the small East Texas town she’d moved to just a year ago—sang their praises, and she knew from her own experience they were the best cleaners she’d ever used, bar none. So good, she’d given them the cleaning contract for her new restaurant, Big Mama’s Pizza, before Diego Lobos—one of the brothers and the cleaners’ sales manager—had even approached her.
Tres Lobos had the most handsome owners she’d ever laid eyes on. Each of the three brothers had his own merits, but the one who set her body trembling was the youngest, Antonio. She’d made it a point to bring her personal cleaning in only on his days to work in hopes that he’d ask her out.
But he hadn’t. Maybe he didn’t want to get involved with someone who had a business contract with them.
Maybe he didn’t like brunettes.
Or, most likely, he didn’t like full-figured women.
She preferred to use “Rubenesque” to describe herself, but for so many people these days it didn’t bring to mind those luscious, beautiful women the painter Rubens had made famous. Men ogled her ample breasts and round ass secretly, as if there were a law against it, but she’d caught them at it. She knew her body would rate as those men’s guilty pleasure, yet only a few brave souls had ever pursued her.
Not even Antonio. She’d never caught him looking, even when she’d tried to get him to notice her. Nope, he was all business, right down to the controlled way he acted, spoke, and dressed. And even that turned her on.
She wanted to make him lose control. To take off those glasses and pin her against the wall, maybe the large window of the shop, with her ass pressed against the cool plate glass, on display for everyone to see. Or bend her over the counter and take her from behind. He’d ravish her.
She needed ravishing.
She exhaled. The store was empty of customers now.
Enough was enough; time to save her dress, at least. There was nothing she could do right now about her business, and there was nothing she could do about making Antonio want her.
She shoved the garment into the plastic bag, got out of her car, strode across the parking lot, and headed to the front door of the cleaners before anyone else showed up.
* * * *
Antonio leaned on the counter and stared at the week’s sales numbers, his mind not on business, but on a certain dark-haired beauty named Daphne Raine. Even her name was sexy as hell.
His cell phone buzzed on the counter next to him, dancing a little to the side. Maximilian.
He picked it up. “Hola
“Hola, Tony. How’s business?”
“Slow. No wonder you like working in the middle of the week.”
“Thanks for swapping with me. So, did she come in yet?”
Tony rolled his eyes. Okay, Max might be the eldest, but did he have to be in everyone’s business like their abuela
? Ever since Max had found his mate, he’d been all over his two brothers like white on rice to get on with their love lives. Diego had found his mate recently, and now all the pressure fell on Tony.
“No, not yet.” He sighed.
“It’s almost closing time,” Max warned.
“I know that.”
“It’s been two weeks.”
“I know that too.” Tony growled. His alpha brother could get Tony’s wolf up faster than anyone, except maybe his other brother Diego.
“I told you, you should have asked her out sooner. She’s probably taking her stuff somewhere else, like where the guys ask for her phone number.” Max chuckled.
“Shut up.” Tony ended the call and tossed the phone on the counter. Spinning like a top, it slid across the new smooth aluminum surface toward the edge before he realized it was going to fly off and hit the floor. “Oh shit!”
The bell over the door jingled, and he glanced up to see the woman of his dreams enter. He gasped just as the phone reached the edge and went airborne.
He lunged, slid along the mirrored surface of the low counter, neared the edge, and realized in that split second he would miss the phone.
And in the next, that he couldn’t fly.
The phone hit the ground mere moments before he did, as the woman he’d been pining over for all these months stood in the doorway, eyes wide open and hand over her mouth, watching him totally klutz out.
“Ooph!” He slammed into the floor, his phone shot apart in three pieces across the storefront. One piece bounced off the window, one danced under the chairs and one, as if he’d aimed it, headed right toward the woman like a missile.
She stopped it with her foot, keeping it from heading out the open door.
“Antonio! You’re here!” she squealed.
“Uh, yeah.” He blinked, trying to focus, but everything blurred.
“Are you okay?” She reached down and picked up a piece of the phone.
“Uh-huh.” That was bright. He sounded as if he were some tongue-tied kid, not a Rice University MBA graduate.
From his vantage point, flat on his back on the floor, he looked up at a Botticelli angel as she leaned over him. Had he died and gone to heaven?
“Nothing broken?” She blinked her green eyes at him as she sucked on her plump bottom lip. Her black sweater plunged in a deep V and molded over her firm, full breasts, now only an arm’s length away. His wolf struggled to the surface.
He shook his head and whimpered.
“Oh my God, you are
hurt. Where does it hurt?” She knelt down next to him and began feeling his arms and legs. “Don’t move. I know CPR.”
“I’m not dead, am I?” Didn’t they only use CPR on dead people? His brain couldn’t think when she touched him. Her hands glided over his chest now, and if she went any lower, he’d prove to her that he wasn’t dead. On the edge of shifting, he needed to gain some control or risk showing her his wolf. He could already feel the first hairs sprouting on his chest.
“No, you’re not dead. Maybe a concussion, though. You hit the floor really hard.”
Tony sat up, rubbing his forehead where a large lump formed like an Icelandic volcano under his hand, as he concentrated on staying human. “My phone…”
“It’s not too bad.” Bending over, she reached under the counter and brought out another piece, then went over to the chairs by the window and claimed the last piece.
Each time, Tony couldn’t keep his eyes off her round ass.