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The Brat Next Door

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Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 42,021
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Tessa Randall has loved playing practical jokes on her brother's best friend, Trace Samuels, for as long as she can remember. But when she pushes him too far one day, she finds herself getting her long-overdue comeuppance over his lap. When Trace follows this treatment with a kiss, Tessa's confused emotions take an unexpected twist. Has she been menacing the boy next door her whole life, just to get closer to him? Has it been her motive all along to simply get his attention? And if so, where does she go now that she unquestionably has it?

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Upstairs in her bedroom, Tessa paced the floor in front of her window, her slender arms hugging her shivering chest.

Below her in the yard beneath her room, she could hear Aaron and Trace arguing. Trace's voice was irritatingly calm, even while her brother's was low and dangerous. Good, Tessa thought pettishly, Let Aaron beat the hell out of Trace. He deserves it.

Almost immediately, a scarlet flush spread liberally over her face and she repented the impulsive wish. Trace wasn't entirely to blame for what had happened; she had to be honest with herself about that, at least. She'd instigated the whole affair and, truth be known, she'd enjoyed that first kiss he'd given her. It was only as the second one began to get more physical that her fears had taken over and she had backed away.

God, why couldn't she stop shivering? It was still seventy-some degrees and yet her teeth were nearly chattering! She refused to think of any other possible reason except the weather. She pulled a pair of jeans shorts out of a drawer and snagged a tee-shirt from the pile of clean clothes on top of her dresser. The damp swimsuit sailed over her head into the laundry hamper, and she bent to step into a pair of panties ... only to catch a glimpse of her pink bottom in the full-length mirror standing behind her.

Wondering at herself all the while, but unable to stop nonetheless, Tessa stood with her back to the mirror and craned her neck over one shoulder to look at the damage Trace had done to her backside. In truth, it wasn't much damage at all--though she still had some warmth and a few dominant hand-shaped prints in petal pink. She reached back and touched one of the handprints he had left and a strange heaviness filled her womb, as warmth seemed to flow sweetly through her veins. She blushed at her reaction, and turned quickly away to finish dressing.

But once she had the jeans and tee shirt on, the warmth seemed only all the more intensified, as if being trapped inside the fabric helped keep it burning. And as she sunk down onto her bed, cuddling her old teddy bear in her arms, she noticed that her nipples were hard as pebbles, and the ache between her legs was still there.

How silly, she thought with a little frown.

And how confusing.

The last time she had felt anything this sensual, it had been very different, though of course she recognized the same responses. It had been a long time, though. And in that time, she had thought she'd succeeded in erecting the walls she needed to protect herself from any man's charms. She wasn't about to take any chances and wind up in the same situation as the last time...

* * * *

Tessa had been seventeen when she had met Billy Keane. He was older than her, twenty-one in fact, which she loved and Aaron hated. He was rough around the edges, to say the least, and had spent some time in jail, though the real reason why was unknown. There were lots of rumors, though.

Tessa hadn't been afraid of him, though. She enjoyed the thrill of dating an older man who drove a loud motorcycle, was usually gloomily quiet, and reminded her of James Dean. What she liked most about him, though, was that both Aaron and Trace hated him.

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