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Dare to Love

Jaci Burton

Chapter One

How could a man of the twenty-first century think he could arrange a marriage for his daughter? Was he insane? Then again, it was her father she was talking about, and

Raymond Fairchild was in a league all his own.

“Certifiable, that’s what he is. My father has completely lost it. Thinking he can marry me off like this is the freakin’ eighteenth century or something.” Lucy Fairchild

stormed the sidewalk with her relentless pace, kicking at the rocks in her path.

She knew

she was talking to herself, but didn’t care. Not that anyone could hear her with all the

noisy construction going on.

She ignored the sounds of jackhammers and maneuvering cranes. Coupled with the

daily mix of trolley cars and traffic forever permeating San Francisco’s financial district,

the sounds were just more white noise in an ever-busy city. Besides, her mind still whirled from the argument she’d just had with her father. Raymond Fairchild may be the

president of one of the city’s most prestigious law firms, but that didn’t give him the right

to control her life.

Right. Like that had ever stopped him from trying to control and otherwise lead her

around as if she were too stupid to make her own decisions. She’d always gone along

with him before. One, because he was her father and she loved him, and two, sometimes

it was easier to do as he asked so he’d quit hounding her. Typically his machinations

were harmless.

But marriage to a man of his choice? That’s where she drew the line. The entire notion was positively medieval. She’d pick her own damn husband. Some day.

When she

was ready.

“Careful, darlin’, you might trip and break one of those pretty legs.” She halted at the voice shouting at her, her ire rising by the second. Lifting her head,

she spotted a group of men loitering near a construction trailer, smiling in her direction.

This she did not need today.

“You lost, honey? I can help you find your way.”

She should just walk past, ignore them. But their catcalling made her feel more like a

piece of meat than her father’s ludicrous statement that he’d just found the perfect

husband for her.

Ignoring the clumps of dirt scuffing her black suede pumps, she stomped over to the

group of five men, leveling her best courtroom glare.

“Do you know how insulting it is to be spoken to that way?” One of the men, surely old enough to know better, grinned at her. “We’re just bein’


“Those are not compliments.” She shook her finger at his nose. His eyes widened and he backed up a step as she closed in on him. She heard the laughter of the other men,

but ignored them. If necessary, she’d deal with them all, one at a time. “They’re demeaning, harassing, and I have half a mind to report you to your boss.”

“Report away. I’m right here.”

She turned at the sound of the deep, resonant voice behind her and watched him stroll toward her. Obviously, the boss. Darn fine looking one, too. Mid thirties, she’d

guess, with dark hair that ruffled lightly in the late afternoon wind. His dusty jeans and

work shirt couldn’t hide the muscular physique that was most likely due to hours working

on a construction site.

“Call off your dogs,” Lucy said. For a moment, she’d been so mesmerized by the man heading toward her that she’d forgotten all about her irritation at the cavemen who

worked for him. His smirk brought all her frustration back.

“They’re just playing with you, having a little fun.” He turned to the group still loitering and hooked a thumb at the gigantic steel structure across the street.


over. Back to work.”

With a great amount of laughter, elbow jabbing and mumbling, all obviously at her

expense, they turned and headed toward the building.

A red haze of fury blinded her. “Can’t you do something about your men? Every day

I walk this way to get coffee, and every day they whistle and call out to me.” He shrugged. “They think you’re good looking. Is that a crime? Believe me, they’re harmless.”

What a Neanderthal attitude. Were all men this dense? “Not to me they aren’t.” He raised a dark brow and pulled off his sunglasses, giving her a knock-her-to-the-floor gander at his warm, whiskey-colored eyes. Eyes a woman could get lost in.


bet they’d probably turn a molten amber when filled with passion.

Okay, where had that come from? She tamped down the thought and focused on what he was saying.

“—and if you weren’t so uptight about it, you’d just let it go.”

“Excuse me? Uptight?”

“Yeah. Uptight. You know, like those pointy-toed shoes that I’ll bet are pinching your feet right now. And that skinny skirt that’s probably cutting off your breath.


me to spell it out for you?”

She followed his gaze to her designer shoes that were squeezing her toes, and tried

not to agree that the mid-calf skirt was a little more than uncomfortable. The man was

beyond irritating. Coupled with her father’s treatment of her, she’d just about had it.

“Look. I don’t have the time to stand here and argue with you. Just keep your animals on

a leash in the future.”

With a swift turn of her heel on the gravel, she made to leave, but her foot slipped on

the rocks and she went crashing into his arms.

Nothing like hitting a rock-hard chest to knock the breath out of a girl. At least she could focus on her breathing instead of the horrendous embarrassment flooding through


“You okay?” he asked, his minty breath ruffling the side of her hair.

“Yeah. I think so.” What a klutz. He should be laughing at her right now. All full of righteous indignation the moment before she almost fell on her butt.

He still held her, much too close. And she was way too aware of how good it felt, which irritated her more than the catcalls from his crew. Then she made the mistake of

making eye contact and saw the amusement crinkling the corner of his eyes.

“Are you sure?”

Even his tone spoke of laughter. At her expense.

She wrenched her arms away. “I’m fine.”

He dropped his hands and

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