Drew Lawrence knew his day of reckoning had come. No longer could he avoid doing the Cupid Stupid dance all because he joined in with his brothers and agreed to the bet. But he never dreamed they would lose and the idea of dancing naked around the statue to meet love was ridiculous.
Who believed this crazy superstition.
Now, here he stood in the town square, in the buff, waiting for the church clock to strike midnight, waiting to fulfill his part of the wager he made with his future brother-in-law and childhood friend, Cody. Thank goodness, a park surrounded the God of Love, giving cover from the main street in Cupid, Texas.
"Are you ready?" his friend asked.
"I'm naked, aren't I?" Drew replied, his hands over his privates. The weather had warmed enough, he didn't have to worry about frostbite, but still, this was certifiable. As an attorney, the penalties of being caught were high.
"Remember, three laps around chanting, 'Oh Cupid statue, find me my true love.’"
"Really?" he asked, looking at his friend. "You believe this sculpture brought you and my sister together?"
"Scout's honor," Cody said.
No one could have been better for Kelsey than Cody, but he'd been told tales about the statue for years and still didn't accept a boy in a diaper managed to shoot your heart with love. Frankly, he didn't want the emotion.
"Jim and Kyle warned me you left them without clothing. Are you going to steal my stuff?" Drew asked.
A grin spread across Cody's face. "Nah, it wouldn't work a second time."
"Well, just in case. I'm prepared." Holding up his hand, he displayed his readiness. "Car keys in hand and a pair of jeans and a shirt await me inside my car. Cell phone in the car. Remember, I'm a lawyer who tries to think of all the angles."
Drew had his older brother on standby ready to race to the rescue.
"I didn't force you to make the bet. The way I recall, you guys didn't believe your little sister would fall for me."
With a shake of his head, he turned to Cody. "Like my brothers, I'm going to keep my part of the wager. Three laps and I'm out of here. To make certain the sheriff is busy, Mrs. Raffensperger's cat is once again fighting in the alley."
"Good, he'll be occupied." Cody glanced at his watch as the bells began to chime. "Time to go."
Growling at the absurdness of this humiliation because that's all it was, he took off, a ball cap covering his junk, his keys in the other hand.
"Oh, Cupid statue find me my true love, so I can put my clothes back on," Drew said, laughing.
With a sputter, the lights that normally lit up the sculpture went dark. That was odd. Drew continued running, hoping to get this over.
During his second lap, a rustling noise caused him to glance back over his shoulder as he came around the corner and slammed into a body. A female body with breasts smashed against his chest, his head snapped around.
Startled, he recognized Chloe Kilian, the preacher's daughter.
"What the hell?"
"Oh no," she screeched trying to hide all her very nice curves that she obviously had kept hidden away all these years.
"What are you doing here?" he asked stunned.
With her arm across her nipples and her hand over her privates, she glared at him. "The same thing you're doing."
Chloe would believe he was running to find a lover, not to pay off a gamble. And if the superstition could possibly be true, she would be his love. That thought had him laughing out loud.
He was the last person in town who needed to do the Cupid dance. Women were drawn to him like fish to a worm. Hook, line, and sinker.
"This is not funny," she said with a hiss.
Just then he heard Cody's voice louder than normal. "Good evening, Officer Ryan. What brings you out tonight?"
"Someone called in a fake problem with Mrs. Raffensperger's cat. That pussy lost all nine lives a week ago. So, someone must be trying to keep me occupied while they dance around Cupid. Whose clothes are those?"
Drew cursed quietly. Ryan Jones, the sheriff, stood on the other side of that sculptured granite waiting to arrest whoever came around.
Even in the darkness, he saw Chloe’s eyes widen with fright as she identified the sheriff's voice. Grabbing her by the arm, he mouthed the words. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Cody's stall tactics wouldn't work for long, they had to run barefoot through the wooded area.
She didn't resist as he pulled her along. They ran through the bushes, picking up scratches. Drew prayed there were no teenagers necking with their girlfriend on the swings, something he experienced as a young man learning about sexual desire. Nothing like two au naturel people streaking by to startle a kid and scar him for life.
"Where are we going," she gasped.
"If we go around the park, we'll come out close to my car."
"Forget the garments," he said. "At least for now."
Running behind him, he couldn't see much of her in the shadows which was a damn disappointment after what he witnessed near the God of Love.
The preacher's daughter's curves would be like driving a Corvette on a mountain switchback - full and exciting, rounded and dangerous.
* * *
Chloe's heart pounded in her chest as she gasped for breath, her long blonde hair blew in her face and she pushed it out of the way. Why in the hell had she succumbed to her curiosity and done the Cupid dance?
Because finding love was like going safari hunting for a Lycaon pictus or African wild dog. Hard to find and capable of taking you down.
They ran through the trees in the plaza, and she dreaded coming out into the light. Oh, she definitely enjoyed watching his buttocks twitch as they sprinted, but still, facing him in the darkness was one thing, but in the glow of lights, frightening. This time she should have listened to her father.
Again, if she had taken his advice, she would have wed a man so self-righteous, a therapist's couch would be a permanent fixture in their marriage. This was her last attempt at finding love and happily ever after.
"Stop," she said, breathing hard.
"We're almost to the car. Ryan could be coming behind us," Drew said halting beside her. "I have a set of clothes in the car."
"Including panties and bra?" Maybe she shouldn't have asked that question. Knowing his reputation, he probably had several sets readily available.
She knew exactly who ran alongside her. Attorney Drew Lawrence drove a red convertible sports car, usually with a hot looking blonde or brunette sitting next to him. Heart breaker, womanizer, ladies’ man. Just the type of male she seemed to attract.
According to the legend, the Cupid statue thought she should fall in love with him. Who needed that kind of bitterness and despair?
"Sorry, you're out of luck there. Besides, how would I know what size you wore."
"How big a jock strap do you need?"
He turned and the shadows revealed his grin. "Big, really big."
Shaking her head, she thought this night could not become any worse. Naked, her clothes lay on a bench where the sheriff waited and she was running through the park with the town of Cupid's bad boy. What next?
"Shh!" Drew said, pulling her down behind a bush.
Two young teenagers walked along a path. They stopped to suck face and Chloe had the most incredible desire to jump up and spook them, but they'd call the cops and orange was not a good color on her, especially looking between metal bars.
Still, two eighteen-year-olds were getting more affection than she'd experienced in forever. Not since Austin, and that had been over a year ago. Right now, that just angered her.
Finally, the teens strolled on, hand in hand, and she wanted to shriek at them - 'get a room or better yet, an education before you take a test drive.'
"Come on," Drew said. "I can see the car."
As he stepped out from behind the shrubs, the sheriff's car pulled into the circle, shining its spotlight in a wide sweep. With a yelp, he yanked her to the ground, covering her with his masculine body.
Her nipples tightened and blood pulsed through her, leaving a blaze of heat as she gazed into his eyes. Skin to skin, they touched. Her breasts to his chest, his penis against her leg as the light panned over the top of the shrub they hid behind. A strong desire to push him off and run almost overwhelmed her.
Staring into his eyes, she felt his heart beat against her bosom, and she realized he was scared as well.
On top of one another lying on the grass and dirt, she felt some kind of bug crawling up her ankle, maybe a huge spider or poisonous snake.
She opened her mouth to shriek. His lips came down on hers, his mouth locking the scream inside. The urge to pound her fists against his back roiled through her, and yet, he tasted nice. Not nice enough to stop her from fighting him off to reach the creepy crawly.
Bringing her knee up, she hit him in the groin and he rolled off her groaning. "Why did you do that," he said with a moan.
"Sorry, there is a bug creeping up my calf and I couldn't shake it off," she said, slapping her skin, hoping it wasn't poisonous and she hadn't been bitten.
"You were going to scream and give our location away."
Of course, he was right, but in the moment, her imagination had that creepy crawler making its way to her private areas.
"Let me think about this. Death versus humiliation. At this point in my life, humiliation wins out, since I'm already having that experience now."
Sitting up, he glanced around and then gingerly stood. "Now that you knocked my balls into next week, let's go. From here, I don't see a patrol car. We've got a few minutes before he comes back around."
"If you brought your loud red sports car, he's probably waiting beside it for us to emerge from the park."
The car was not inconspicuous and everyone in town recognized the sex mobile.
"You like my Ferrari." A deep throaty laugh resounded from him. "Come on. Give me credit. I'm a little smarter than you think. Tonight, I drove my brother’s car."
"Yes, I'm questioning your intelligence. After all, you were doing the Cupid Stupid dance," she said.
"Look who's talking. We're in this together. Let's get out of here."
Who was she to argue? At least in his car there was clothing. There she'd figure out some way to return home. Thank goodness, she rode her bike to the park and locked it so no one could steal her transportation. But her house keys...lay on the bench.
Yet, her blood pulsed through her veins at a rapid clip and she didn't know if it was from their situation or the kiss. That kiss reminded her why she chose to dance around the God of Love. And who was her forever after love?
A groan escaped her. No, just no. It couldn't be true. Surely the statue had made a mistake.
* * *
Drew glanced at the woman sitting beside him, wearing his shirt, jealous of the soft cotton caressing her breasts. While lying on top of her, he quickly deduced the preacher's daughter had a nice set of curves, firm and full and very delightful. If she hadn't kneed him, they might be doing the nasty even now.
The park had been his boudoir of choice twice before. Once in high school and then again in college. The girl from Delta Gamma, when the urge struck, wanted sex right then and right now. And at that time in his life, he'd been more than happy to oblige.
Glancing at Chloe, he wondered about the person she'd become. The memory of her in school came back to him, and yet, she was different. Way more beautiful, but harder as well. As if her walls could insulate herself from him.
At his law firm, he was the best at reading potential jurors for a sexual assault or a divorce trial. No doubt, she would be one of his picks for the jury. Clearly, a woman who knew her rules and followed them to the letter. Good farm stock is what his grandmother would have said. So why was she here tonight?
“Who was that man talking to the sheriff?”
“That was Cody Graham,” he said.
“Do you think he saw me?” she asked, a worried expression on her face.”
“Don’t know and I’m not going back to ask.” Knowing his friend, he’d probably been sitting back, watching and laughing that the preacher’s daughter and Drew were on a collision course.
He knew Cody must have seen Chloe at some point. She was coming from his direction. And the turd not saying anything before Drew bumped into her didn’t make him happy.
“No,” she said, biting her lip.
Suddenly it dawned on him, she had no keys, no cell phone, nothing. "Are you going to be able to get into your house?"
"Of course, I'm quite capable of breaking and entering," she said.
"You're always welcome to stay at my place," he said with a grin.
"Thanks for the offer. Sleeping over at your house. Every girl's dream for Drew Lawrence to ruin her reputation."
What could he say? So he was known as a man who liked women. Why wouldn't he? Beautiful and so easily manipulated, women adored him until they learned he never intended to marry. Even after doing the Cupid Stupid dance.
"Since I'm staying at the Cupid Inn Love Nest Bed and Breakfast, I hardly think Mabel Underwood would let me bring in women. And most especially not the preacher's daughter."
"You'd have a hard time sneaking someone past that lady," she said with a laugh.
They drove along in silence.
"Thank you for rescuing me. The ladies in my father's congregation would rip me to shreds for dancing around the Cupid sculpture. Particularly, since they're trying to rid the city of the statue."
"Why?" he asked, wondering why anyone would want to destroy the town's history.
With a shake of her golden curls, her brows raised as she glared at him, indignation flashing in her deep blue eyes. "To protect their children. They are prevailing on my father to force the town council to remove Cupid so their kids will never be tempted to dance in the town square in the buff."
"I know Ryan, the sheriff, would like it gone, but everyone else thinks it has magical powers," Drew said, remembering how Cody and his sister insisted the God of Love brought them together. Even his brothers Jim and Kyle were happy, either in wedded bliss or preparing a wedding because of their dance.
Gazing at the scantily clad woman, he realized that according to the legend, she would be his love, but he didn't believe in legends or superstitions. Facts were what he relied on, and it took a lot more than seeing an unclothed lady to make him give up his bachelor ways and settle on just one woman.
The preacher's daughter was not exactly who he imagined himself with. Maybe a model or an actress or a rich socialite.
"Stop here," she said. “This is my place.”
"Do you need help?"
She laughed. "You've been gone a long time, Drew. For two years, I've remodeled houses. I’m capable of finding a way into a house."
"Just wanted to make sure you had a place to spend the night."
"I'm fine." With a toss of her blonde hair, she stared at him. "How many times have you lifted a hammer?"
"I defend the people who commit breaking and entering and find themselves looking between metal bars. So, if you need someone to bail you out of jail, I'm the man you call."
"I'll keep that in mind. In the meantime, with my background, could this be our secret?"
He shrugged. "Tonight I'll consider as attorney client privilege and no one needs to know about what occurred while we danced around the fountain."
If this became public knowledge, they would both suffer consequences he didn't want to explore. Nothing like having the whole town up in arms against him because they believed he'd taken advantage of Chloe.
"Thanks," she said. "Guess I better go. I'll get your shirt back to you."
Nodding, he gave her his best seductive smile. "We'll always have Cupid."
"Oh yes," she said, getting out of the car, a flash of her long silky legs tempting him. "By the way, nice junk."
Laughing, he replied. "Right back at you. Great tits and ass."
And they were. All she had to do was say the word and they would be sharing more than a naked dance around Cupid.
With a slam of the car door, he sadly concluded the evening was over as he watched her make her way up the drive.
Like a gentleman, he waited until the lights came on in the back of the house before he drove off. With more curves than a mountain highway, Chloe Kilian came with a lot of expectations and he wasn't a man who did well with assumptions.
Especially ones that featured a wedding ring.