"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Norris,"Tomas Ruiz said formally, clasping her hand.

"Pardon?" Blinking, she looked up at him again. "Oh. Of course. And please call me Seraphina."

"Thank you. I'd like that. Tomorrow, Seraphina," he said softly, caressing each syllable, "I'll start asking around town about work for you. With the building surge in town, there's bound to be an opening somewhere."

She hung onto his palm, reluctant to let go. "Thank you. That's very sexy of you."

He grinned. "You're welcome. And thank you for the compliment."

What compliment?

She thought backwards, flushing when she recalled yet another slip in her speech. "I misspoke. Again. I meant to say that's very solicitous of you."

"I'm crushed. And here I work so hard at sexy, too. Ainít I at least muy suave?"

She rolled her eyes.

He dimpled. "Aw, c'mon! Give me smooth, at least."

Sighing, Seraphina withdrew her hand.

She doubted Tomas Ruiz had to work all that hard at anything, certainly not at sexy or smooth or muy suave. Sure he cultivated his attributes with posturing and enhanced his bad-boy image with a black T-shirt and jeans wardrobe, but the man oozed natural charisma.

Some men had animal magnetism. Other men had integrity. Few men possessed both, as the first quality invariably corrupted the second.

"How's this?" he asked. "Not only will I find you another full-time job other than teaching, I'll also find you another place to live."

"That isn't the kind of help I need." Before she said more, something she'd later regret, she walked away.

"Hold up!"

Turning, she saw a pink something wave at her from between two brown fingers.

She frowned. "What's that?"

"Ordinarily, my business card. In this instance, an employment referral to the manager at The Flamingo. I'll tell Lou Franco to expect your arrival at two oíclock, and thatís sharp, to discuss part-time work."

His smile dazzled, a tease lurked in his voice. "If that appointment is convenient for you, naturally."

Retracing her steps, she lifted the card from between his fingers and read the fine print beneath the practically pornographic logo. ďIíll get my legs waxed. Those feathers donít hide much.Ē

His sexy lips trembled at the corners. "Know how to lap dance?"

"No. Should I sign up for an accelerated class?"

Tomas washed both hands over his face. "We've both had our fun. Give the card here." He wiggled his fingers. "I'll do nothing of the sort!" She slipped the delicate pink rectangle into the pocket of her navy-blue skirt. "I'm going."

"Wait a minute! You canít strip! You're a nice woman."

"Oh, please. Spare me the outrage. You are not the keeper of my values. Believe it or not, nice woman isnít tattooed on my rear end,Ē she said defiantly. ďNow, about those pink feathers -- would a wealthy man like you push a hundred-dollar bill down my cleavage for a few extra grunts and grinds?Ē

Based on past experience, she already knew the answer.


She didn't inspire lust in men. Even if she took it all off, including the feathers, even if she strutted her stuff on that stage as naked as the day she was born, no one would notice or care.

Though -- Tomas did seem to like her breasts. She'd caught him eyeing them more than once when he thought she wasn't looking. Real breasts must be novelty items in his circles, she thought, chuckling to herself.

Tomas cocked a dark brow at her. "What's so funny?"


She couldnít believe it. He actually blushed!

"Breasts ainít funny, ma'am. Breasts are serious business."

"My goodness. We've stumbled on a subject upon which we both agree." She slanted him an arched look. "Though, we agree for different reasons, I'm sure. In my opinion, the purpose of a woman's breasts is for the nurturing of babies. But more and more, society views breasts as...well...decorative, their sole value relegated to a cup size. That trivializes their importance."

"Like I said, breasts are serious business."

"And you seriously enjoy looking at mine."

Tomas, the sexy man of the bad reputation, looked bashfully away. "Ease up, woman. A Latino male never discusses such things with a lady."

"Oh, go on. Admit it! You ogle my breasts when you think I won't notice."

"Admitted," he said, looking anywhere but at them, now that they were out in the open, so to speak.

"So, answer my question -- would you push a hundred-dollar bill down my cleavage for a few extra grunts and grinds?"

Tomas Ruiz raced for the door. "Ask for Lou. Two o'clock sharp."