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She’d worked her way into a few different jobs until she found her niche as a medical records coordinator. While she’d been doing it for the past eight years and enjoyed it, it was tough work. Hence the reason her body rebelled at getting out of the car and walking the distance to her apartment. There would definitely be no trip to the mailbox tonight.
Several minutes later, she finally managed to make it to her door, only to stop dead in her tracks. There was something taped there. Upon closer inspection, she realized it was something Valentine’s Day themed. Figuring that Kari was the culprit behind the frilly envelope, she shook her head as she removed it.
After opening her door, she stepped inside of her apartment. She placed her purse, work bag and the card on the table in the foyer. The first thing on her mind was to take a hot relaxing shower, then grab a little dinner, lastly she would read whatever it was that Kari had left on her door.
She made her way through her apartment in tired fashion, taking off her clothes as she went. It was times like these that she was glad that her job paid her well enough to allow her to occupy a one bedroom apartment without the hassle of having to rely on a roommate to meet the cost of rent. Fortunately, she’d lucked out on an apartment that was nice, yet in expensive and in a decent neighborhood. The one downside was that it was located less than a mile from the San Diego State College campus, so that meant that some nights she had to put up with rowdy college students.
Thankfully she had weekends off, so the nights when they usually were loud, she didn’t have to get up and work the next day. It also helped that most of the time the students headed back to campus for the nearby frat parties. She’d attended a few with Kari, when Kari had attended SDSU. They’d been eye-opening to say the least. Even to this day, some of the things she’d seen still amazed her. While she’d partied with the best of them, she’d done it in wise fashion and kept her debauchery at a respectable level.
She flipped the light on in the bathroom as entered it. Half an hour later, she was clean from her bath and full from the food she’d eaten. Now she just had to see what her friend was up to. She picked up the Valentine’s Day themed envelope with a grimace and opened it. Inside the card simply read Be Mine Valentine and was signed “Secret Admirer.”
But there was a folded piece of paper inside as well. She unfolded it. Once she did, she frowned. She’d known Kari for ten years and her friend’s handwriting had never been as legible as what was on the paper in front of her. She began to read as she attempted to figure out what was going on.
I’m sure this card and letter probably caught you by surprise. On one hand, that is my intent. On the other, it is also meant to reassure you. I’m sure you want to know who I am and you’ll find out, but not until this Friday.
What I want to tell you know is how I feel about you. You’re the sort of woman who inspires a man to love. From the moment I met you, you overloaded all of my senses. When you’re near, I take a deep breath and inhale you. I want to touch you. Taste you. I see my unborn children in your eyes and know that my heart has at last found a home.
I started to fall for you some time ago, but I’ve kept my distance because I knew you were at a point in your life where you needed it. I’ve tried my best to be someone worth your time. I hope once I reveal my identity you’ll be willing to share a little of it with me.
With that said, Vania, will you be my Valentine?
If you say yes, be prepared to depart your apartment at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 14, 2014. Dress comfortable and be prepared to be pampered.
If you decide you’re not ready yet, just simply tell the driver that will arrive to pick you up and no questions will be asked.
Taking a deep breath, she put her best smile in place. She stepped inside the restaurant and walked over to the host stand.
“Good evening. Welcome to Oceana. Do you have a reservation?”
“I’m not quite sure. I sort of have a blind date. My name is Qiana Fields.”
The hostess looked down and browsed the list in front of her. “Ah, yes. The other half of your party is already here. Right this way”
Qiana followed the young lady around the corner and to what looked to be a private section of the restaurant.
“Here we are.”
Qiana couldn’t find the words to say thank you. She was in shock. The man that stood to greet her was the last she’d expected to find.
“Linc?” she whispered then mentally shook herself for slipping into a state of familiarity no longer okay.
“Qiana. Would you like to have a seat?”
She shook her head. “I’m not sure I should. What’s going on?”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” He handed a single red rose to her. She accepted it on autopilot.
“Seriously, Lincoln. What is this?”
“I’m your secret admirer,” he replied.
Her eyes widened. “You can’t be.”
He frowned. “Why not?”
Qiana was speechless. She couldn’t believe it. He was the one responsible for all this? So many emotions began swamping her she couldn’t think straight. She had to get some fresh air.
“I have to go, Lincoln.”
She placed the flower on the table and raced from the restaurant. By the time her feet touched the pavement, her chest heaved and she struggled to stay upright. She was so confused she didn’t know what to do.
She looked up as Lincoln exited the restaurant. “I can’t. I just—”
“Please just calm down. Breathe deeply. Slowly. You look as if you’re going to keel over.”
“I feel like I am. I never expected this. You broke up me! You told me I was interfering with your career!” She rubbed her forehead. “This must be some sort of cruel prank.”
His mouth fell open. “Are you serious? Do you really think I would go through all of this as some sort of joke?”
“What the hell am I supposed to think? I’m completely blindsided here. Not to mention you flat out told me you didn’t want me. To know it’s you behind all of this. I just don’t know what to say.”
She held her hand up, cutting him off. “No, I need some time to think. I’m so confused right now I don’t know what to do. You’re a person I used to think I knew, but three years ago, you showed me I didn’t.”
“I’m the same guy you’ve always known. The same man you’ve shared yourself with for six years.”
“No, you’re not!” She took a step away from him. “I’m not sure who you are. The only thing I know is I need to leave.”
“No, Lincoln. Now is not the time to talk. You don’t get to ask anything of me! Not after what you did. Not after you broke my heart in such a hurtful way.”
Shaking her head, she took a steadying breath and turned away from him. She couldn’t believe it. Her secret admirer was Lincoln West of all people—her heartless, bastard of an ex. The fact that he actually thought she’d be willing to have dinner and rekindle things with him. He had to be out of his everlasting mind. But she had to admit that he still looked good.
She stalked toward her car in disbelief. If someone had told her that this was how her evening would end, she would have laughed in their face. She knew she’d never gotten over Lincoln. But to see him in person tonight after so much time had passed brought so many emotions to the surface she couldn’t name them all.
After he’d called off their relationship, she’d done her best to remove anything that reminded her of him from her life. It was too bad she couldn’t erase the memories of him. All of the exact ones that seemed to be rushing back at an overwhelming rate.
To have him here doing whatever the hell it was that he called himself trying to accomplish was unacceptable.
She ignored his request. A moment later his hand briefly touched her arms before she stopped, jerking away.
“No! You don’t get to touch me. You lost that right a long time ago.”
“Qiana, if you would just give me a chance to explain—”
“Why in the world would I do that when you didn’t give me one? Do you remember what you said to me that night? Do you recall the insane accusations you made? Well I do and I will never forget. You made the decision to end what we had. I didn’t! You don’t get to come back here after all this time and think we can just pick up where we left off. The military always was your first love and as far as I’m concerned, she can have you!”
She did an about face and continued toward the parking lot. A few steps later she reached her car. It wasn’t until she was inside that she realized that Lincoln still stood in the same spot with his hands tucked into his pockets.
This was the first time she’d seen him in three years and he was still too damned handsome for his own good. Yep. It was best for her to stay as far away from him as possible. The only thing was she remembered just how persistent Lincoln could be when he wanted something, and if his expression was anything to go by, he wanted her.
She jumped as lightening lit up her apartment followed by a loud crack of thunder. Brody needed to hurry the hell up so he could finish up and be on his way. Yes, she was grateful he’d volunteered, but spending time alone with him made her nervous. She still remembered the heated kiss they’d shared Sunday night after dinner at her parents. Being around him was dangerous.
As if her mental ramblings about him finally summoned him, there was a knock on her door. She stood and wiped her sweaty palms on the front of her jeans. When she opened the door, the sight that greeted her made her gasp. A very wet Brody stood before her.
“Oh, my goodness! You’re soaked to the skin. Come in and get warm.”
He gave her a wry grin. “I guess I should have paid more attention to the weather report.”
She bit her tongue to taper back her instinctive response. Right now she was mighty glad he hadn’t. The blue cotton shirt clung to his broad shoulders, highlighting his firm chest and abdomen. She wouldn’t check him out from the waist down because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to control herself.
Instead, she stepped back and ushered him inside. “Come in. I’ll show you to the bathroom. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything for you to change into, but while you take a shower, I’ll throw your things in the dryer. Take your time and they’ll be done by the time you get out.”
She led him down the hallway, toward the guest bathroom. When she’d decided to move into this place several years back, she’d opted for a two bedroom, two bath apartment. Between Jon and Rebecca, one of them was always over to her place and she wanted to have space for them in case they needed to spend the night. The guest bedroom had been well used.
But never in her wildest dreams had she imagined she’d be escorting Brody back to use her guest bathroom. It was strange to say this was the first time he’d ever been in her apartment. In the back of her mind she wondered what he thought of it.
Arriving at the door that led to the bathroom, she pushed it open then reached inside and flipped the light and the heating fan on.
“I’ll grab you some towels. There should be an unopened bar of soap on the counter.”
“Thanks, Elyse. I appreciate it. I didn’t expect the skies to open up like they did.”
“It’s no problem. I know you’d do the same for me. I’ll be right back with the towels.”
She closed the door behind her and took a deep breath before moving toward the hall linen closet. She grabbed two large drying towels and a washcloth before heading back to the bathroom. The water hadn’t started so that was a good sign. She didn’t think she’d be able to handle an unclothed Brody. Her imagination was already in overdrive just thinking about him being naked in her shower.
Taking another steadying breath, she knocked on the door. Brody opened it immediately, and thankfully, he was still fully clothed. “Here are the towels. Once you get undressed, just toss your clothes out here in the hallway, give a yell and I’ll put them into the dryer.”
The corners of his mouth curved upward into that heart-stopping grin of his. “Thanks again, Elyse.”
“You’re welcome.” She turned and headed down the hallway to her living room, doing her best not to break into a sprint. It would be in her best interest to get as far away from Brody before she gave into her baser instincts. She’d heard women hit their sexual peak in their thirties, but this was insane.
She stood by the couch with her eyes closed, waiting for him to call her. There was no way she could sit because at this point her legs were so shaky she wouldn’t be able to get back up.
Just as she drew in her next breath, the bathroom door opened and she could tell Brody stuck his head out by how clear his words were.
“I’m putting my clothes in the hallway now.”
“Okay,” she responded.
She waited until the door closed again before she headed down the hallway. He’d been nice enough to fold and stack his clothes as neatly as possible, even though they were wet. The simple act made her heart turn over and made her even more tempted to say to the hell with everything, knock on the door and offer to wash his back. But she couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be right.
So instead, she stooped down, collected his clothes and took them to her washroom. It didn’t take her long to start the dryer.
Without knowing what to do with herself, she looked at the clock over her stove. It was a little earlier than she usually put dinner on, but needed something to preoccupy her mind. Plus she would need to feed Brody. She’d already planned to feed Jon for helping her. Her brother would never pass up a home cooked meal and neither would Brody.
Only now, she’d wished she’d chosen something more time consuming than the shrimp Alfredo, salad and garlic bread menu. It would probably take her thirty minutes tops to get everything done, and something told her that wouldn’t be enough time to keep her fully distracted.
She’d just reached for the handle on the refrigerator when the hairs on the back of her neck stood. Sure enough, when she looked toward the doorway Brody stood there looking so delicious she was positive her womb stood up and saluted.
For the life of her, she couldn’t find her voice. All she could do was take in the gorgeous vision before her. Brody stood there with the towel wrapped around his waist. Water glistened on the rippled muscles adorning his chest. Water droplets fell to his shoulder from his still wet hair. She should say something, anything, but the only thing she could think about was how bad she wanted to lick every drop of water off of him then start all over.
That thought was just what she needed to jump start her common sense.
“Brody, did you need something?” She almost couldn’t believe the husky tone she’d just heard was coming from her.
“Yes.” He left the doorway and started toward her. “You.”
They both looked up as the DJ announced he was about to play the last song before the New Year countdown began.
“Would you like to dance?”
“I’d love to,” she responded without hesitation.
She finished off the last of her wine before taking the hand Armando extended. He led her to the floor, which had definitely grown more crowded. The moment he pulled her into his embrace, she almost melted into a puddle. Being in his arms was almost more than she could take.
Dancing with him made her realize just how much taller he was than her. Her head fit perfectly against the indention in his chest, above his heart. While he was only six feet tall, it was the ideal height in comparison.
She pulled back and peered up at him as the music died away. In the background, she heard the crowd start the New Year’s countdown from ten. She whispered the number one with everyone else and their mouths touched.
His lips captured hers, his tongue plunged deep, stroking and coaxing until her surprise fled and she joined him. Her tongue tangled and delved and tasted, and she gave as good as she got.
Her toes curled, her nerves came alive, and a sizzling heat swept through her, starting where his lips touched hers and spreading outward in a search and destroy mission and she all but melted in his arms.
Her hands snaked around his neck, pulling him closer. She leaned into him and fit her hips to his. His cock pressed rock-hard against her sex. Her aching breasts pushed against the soft material of her dress, desperate to get free and feel the heat of the man in her arms. And he burned so hot.
The skin of his neck seemed to flare to life beneath her touch. Everywhere she stroked, caressed, a prickling sensation almost overwhelmed her, as if his body alive and humming. The sensation stirred her nerves and set them to spinning until she felt as charged, as vibrant, as the man touching her.
He splayed one hand at the base of her spine, pressing her closer while his other slid his hand around to cup her bottom and knead the soft flesh. He kissed and fondled her until she knew beyond a doubt he did, indeed, want her as much as she wanted him.
That he meant to have her.
He was all hard muscle and hot skin and she wanted him so much.
More than she wanted her next breath.
When loud, boisterous cheers when up, they jerked apart, the spell broken. Armando stared down at her, looking as shell-shocked as she was.
“Happy New Year, Priya,” he finally whispered.
She couldn’t even find the words to respond for her New Year had just started off with a bang.
It took everything she had not to smile. He’d given her the perfect segue way into her plan and he had no idea.
“I can’t say I do. For all I know these could be props from a costume store.”
His eyebrows rose so high on his forehead she almost burst out laughing.
“You can’t be serious,” he replied.
“Oh, but I am,” she murmured as she ran a finger over the handcuffs before picking them up. She had to tread carefully or this could backfire on her. Testing the weight of them, she looked over at him. “I think a demonstration would help.”
His brows furrowed together. “You want me to cuff you?”
She held the metal restraints out to him. “No, I want you to show me how you would handle an arrest.”
The incredulous look on his face let her know he was buying into her rouse. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Okay then, but first tell me one thing.”
“What’s your last name?” he asked as he took the handcuffs from her.
One corner of her mouth curved upward. “Davidson.”
“Thank you,” he replied. “Now turn around and face the wall.”
She did as he asked, a shiver of anticipation racing down her spine.
“Jerica Davidson,” he began as he gripped one of her wrist and pulled in behind her back, “you are under arrest. Anything you say can and will be held against you in the court of law.” One metal clasp clicked around her wrist before he reached for the other. “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one can be appointed to you.” He secured her other wrist. “Do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?”
She was turned on by his simple actions she didn’t realize he actually expected her to respond.
“Ms. Davidson, do you understand your rights?”
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“Good. Now before I take you down to the station are carrying any weapons or any paraphernalia that can be harmful to me or you? Unfortunately, a female officer is not present so I’m going to have to break protocol, but I’m sure you understand.”
“Yes, I do, Officer Heaton. I have no problem with you searching me. Feel free to be as thorough as you need.”
She followed his instructions, taking a seat on the edge of the couch. He returned a short time later with the radio in his hands, sitting it on the coffee table. She watched him fumble with it for a few moments until clear reception came through on the radio. She turned her attention to the decorations of the living room.
“In case I didn’t say it before, you have a beautiful home.”
He looked up at her and smiled. “Thank you.”
Just then the weather report came on. The news was still grim. The blizzard showed no signs of slowing. They wouldn’t be surprised if the snow fell well above two feet, maybe closer to three.
Whatever the end result, they were in for a wild ride. She could hear the wind howling outside as it was. She began to worry when she thought about her parents. They would be safe because they were used to this weather. Her parents knew to stay inside, but if they tried to reach her and couldn’t, they would panic. The further she got along in her pregnancy, the more they worried about her being on her own. She hated not having a way to contact them, to let them know she was okay.
“What is it?”
She rubbed her stomach. “My parents are going to be worried sick about me and Kaitlin.”
He gave her a reassuring smile. “I’m sure your parents know you are smart enough to remain safe.”
“No,” she scoffed. “I’m not smart in the least. My parents don’t even know I’m here. They aren’t expecting me till next weekend. They were supposed to come get me because they didn’t want me making the drive by myself. With the impending storm, I thought it best for me to go ahead and come this weekend instead of waiting. I didn’t want to take a chance on getting stuck in Billings and not being home for Christmas. I also didn’t want to delay this move any more than I already have. Since I’m not far from my due date they call me every day to check in. I spoke with them earlier today before my phone died, but if they call again and I don’t answer, they’ll worry.”
He walked over to the fireplace and began working on restarting the fire. “Try not to worry. We’ll contact them as soon as this storm is over.”
She knew he was right. There was no use in stressing over it now. At least not right now. The way things sounded, they were going to be stranded together for a while. She might as well make herself comfortable.
“Are you hungry?”
She shook her head, surprised that she wasn’t. Normally she couldn’t wait to eat. She couldn’t believe she’d stayed within the recommended pregnancy weight. Yes, she ate healthy for the most part, but she still ate a lot.
She looked around his living room, a photograph on the wall catching her attention. Easing her round body off the edge of the couch, she stood. She winced when a sharp pain made its way through her again. Clutching her stomach, she bit her lip and tried to focus on breathing. When the pain released its grip, she straightened. If this was what false labor felt like, she didn’t want to think about what real labor would be like. She planned to be as drugged as possible. Sighing, she continued towards the photo, only to stop in mid-stride when she felt a gush of liquid from between her legs.
“Oh my God!”
Hugh looked up in concern from his stooped position in front of the fireplace. “What is it?”
Kiara looked at him with full-fledged panic. “My water just broke.”
Zander looked down at his watch and frowned. How late did the woman plan to work? More importantly how often did she pull these late hours? Yes, the gym had only closed an hour ago, but it was eleven o’clock at night.
Just as he’d resolved to go up and knock on the locked doors, they swung open and Yves stepped out. She was bundled up in a heavy coat, but he recognized her instantly.
“It really isn’t safe for you to walk out by yourself this late at night,” he stated.
The woman before him let out a started shriek and jumped a little. He reached out to steady her as she went to slip. She jerked away from him as she composed herself.
“For goodness sake! You scared the hell out of me!” Yves practically shouted.
He did his best to hide his amusement. Yep, he’d definitely gotten to her earlier.
“That wasn’t my intention,” he replied.
Her brows arched high on her forehead. “You didn’t? Really now? Because what in world do you think happens when you lurk in the darkness, waiting for someone to happen upon you, only to speak out when least expected?”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “Well, when you put it like that, I guess you do have a point.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this. It’s late, I’m hungry and I have a lot of things to tomorrow. Besides, didn’t I tell you not to bother me ever again?”
“No, you actually stated you didn’t want me to bother you again before the Christmas party. However, I figured you might be under a lot of stress and prone to say things you don’t mean.”
A gasp exploded from her and her mouth fell open. He forged ahead before she could respond.
“So, I thought I would extend a peace offering to you. I purchased dinner for you.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, it was clear that wasn’t what she expected to hear.
“I said I brought you dinner. I hope you like Italian.”
She stared at him for a few seconds, then shook her head and turned to walk away.
“You’re clearly out of your mind. Good night, Mayor Corwin.”
He fell in line beside her, intent on seeing her to her car. It was the gentlemanly thing to do. Once she realized his plan she grumbled under her breath the entire way to her vehicle. He was pretty certain she called him a few unsavory names, but he refused to ask her to speak up. His intent was to show her he was serious about pursuing her. If Yves hadn’t shown any interest in him, he’d walk away no questions asked. But that wasn’t the case.
What he really wanted to know was why she was so determined to deny her attraction to him. His gut told him they would be good together, and not just inside the bedroom. She had the ability to keep him on his toes and he liked that. He wanted a strong woman by his side that knew when to give in to his demands and to challenge him when it was required.
They finally made it to their vehicles. He’d parked his truck next to her SUV. When she went to get into her car, he stopped her.
“Hang on a second. I really did bring you dinner. It’s a little cold by now, but nothing a quick reheat won’t fix.”
“Let me guess, you expect an invite to my home to join me in eating it.”
He shook his head. “No, it is a dinner for one. Despite what you think, there were no nefarious plans involved when I brought you dinner.”
“Not very likely,” she grumbled in response.
His brows furrowed together. “Why do you find it so easy to think the worst of me when you don’t know me?”
“Why do you find it so hard to believe I don’t want to get to know you?”
“Because we both know that’s not true,” he responded with no hesitation. “I see the way you look at me when you think I’m not looking. I’ve observed the way you go out of your way to avoid being alone with me. Not because you fear me, but because you’re afraid of what I make you feel.”
“Has anyone ever told you how full of yourself you are?” she asked heatedly.
“Only you, but I have a feel that’s because you haven’t really gotten to know me.”
Yves exhaled heavily. “Look, Zander, I’m sure you’re a nice guy and I’m positive there’s a woman out there for you, but it isn’t me.”
“How are you so certain?”
“How have you come to the conclusion we are not compatible when we haven’t been on a date? We haven’t spent any time together outside of planning the annual Christmas party. We haven’t even kissed. So how do you know you aren’t the woman for me?”
Her shoulders sagged. “What do you want from me, Zander?”
“I want an opportunity to prove you wrong. To show you we are compatible. That if you give us a chance we could be good together.”
Her eyes widened slightly as he stepped closer to her and trapped her against her vehicle.
“From the moment I met you I’ve kept wondering how you’d taste.” He didn’t stop to ask for permission, or even gauge her reaction, beyond the widened eyes and parted lips of shocked disbelief.
He intended to take full advantage of those lips.
He leaned forward and cupped her chin, refusing to even think about how stupid this was. Her nearness, her scent. The sight of that damn mouth was driving him crazy. He’d probably guarantee himself another sleepless night kissing her like this, but at the moment he really didn’t care.
Trinity made her way back over to the punch bowl. She’d sworn she wouldn’t have anything else to drink, but after her stunt with the man from the North Pole, she needed something to calm her nerves. However, she wouldn’t get more than half a cup or she might end up on her face.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up again, and the sensation of being watched struck her. She knew who it was without even looking up. Taking a sip of her fresh drink, she continued on through the spacious room, waving and smiling at people she knew and a few she didn’t.
Finally, she stopped. She couldn’t ignore the hunky shadow any longer. Releasing a pent up breath, she slowly turned around. “Are you going to follow me all night?”
One corner of Ean’s mouth curved upward. “If necessary. You seem hell bent on getting intoxicated. With that being the case I feel the gentlemanly thing for me to do is to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay.”
“I don’t need a babysitter,” she grumbled.
“I agree, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye. However, I’ll try to be less obvious.”
Trinity chuckled. “Impossible. In case you haven’t noticed, you aren’t the smallest guy in the room. I’m five-foot-eight and you tower over me. What are you, six-foot-two?”
“Exactly my point. You don’t do stealthy well.”
The other corner of his mouth curled upward. “I do it better than you think.”
She had no desire to even try to figure out what his cryptic statement meant. Her brain was fuzzy from alcohol she’d consumed. Instead she took the time to study Ean West. He truly was a gorgeous specimen of a man. While he might be young, he didn’t have a baby face. No, he had a square jaw line that almost gave him what she would consider to be a stubborn look. He could probably model if he desired to.
As she studied him, she tried to figure out why she hadn’t noticed him before now. Even with the slight age gap, she wanted get to know him better. That scared her because she didn’t know if it was the alcohol talking or not. What she did know was she wanted to find out. If she still wanted him around when she was sober, then that was saying something.
“Tell you what. If I allow you to escort me for the evening, will you be inconspicuous?”
His mouth twitched as if he were struggling to hold in his amusement. “As much as I can be.”
She tilted her head to the side as she studied him. “Okay, I’ll take that for now.”
Ean chuckled then offered her his elbow. “Then your companion awaits.”
Trinity couldn’t deny the jolt that traveled through her body the moment they touched. She had a feeling she was getting in over her head, but she couldn’t help herself. Ean had feelings coursing through her she hadn’t felt in a while. It was quite mind-boggling to be honest. She hadn’t dated or been physically intimate with anyone in some time.
“I hope you don’t mind my saying, but I think the holiday committee did an awesome job this year. It looks like everyone is having a great time.”
Trinity looked around and a sense of pride surged through her. They had done well. The community center looked festive. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Yes, the past several months of stressing over the small details had been worth it.
“Would you like something to eat? Might help balance out the alcoholic contents of the punch.”
“Actually, I am a little hungry, so, yes, let’s grab a bite.”
When they reached the food table, Trinity was a little saddened at the fact they would have to break physical contact in order to fix their plates. She shook her head at the strange thought. Why was her attraction so strong to a man she’d just really noticed? She usually dated men older than her. At the age of thirty-two, she didn’t have time to play games and fool around casually.
After she piled her plate with a much food as she could get on it, she made her way over to a small table. It sat four, but hopefully no one would see fit to join them. As soon as they sat, she blessed her food then looked across the table at Ean. He looked completely at ease. Perhaps she was wrong. Maybe he wasn’t as young as she thought and it wouldn’t be an issue to get involved with him.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
He shook his head. “Not at all. Ask away.”
“How old are you?”
She did the best she could to keep her shoulders from slumping. Her earlier guess had been right. He was younger than her. Not as much as she thought, but it was enough of an age gap to make her nervous. Twenty-four-year-olds typically weren’t looking to get into serious relationships. They weren’t ready to get married in a few years and add a child or two to the mix. Nope. This was a complete disaster. She’d caught the attention of a man she knew she couldn’t develop anything with.
“What is this, Ean?”
His eyes furrowed together. “What do you mean?”
“Well, from the moment I spotted you across the room earlier, it’s clear there’s some mutual attraction. I’m just trying to figure out what you want from me.”
“That’s easy. I want everything.”
Julian sat back in his chair, the expression on his face blank. “Wow. I can’t say that’s something I ever expected to hear coming from you.”
“Now that you have, what do you think?”
“I need a minute to process this.”
She sat there for a few moments, waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t her nerves took over. “Julian, I don’t want you to think any differently of me for asking this of you.”
One corner of his mouth tilted upward. “Ottavia, you can parade around my office in the nude and I wouldn’t think any different of you. You are a respectable woman. Nothing will ever change that. What you do behind closed doors with your lover is nobody’s business but the two of yours.”
He pushed his chair back from the desk and stood. He moved around the desk, his movements fluid and confident. When he extended a hand to her, she took it, allowing him to assist her in standing. The moment she felt the touch of his palm against hers she had to stifle a sigh. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feel.
Her eyes jerked opened and she realized he’d been speaking. Embarrassment raced through her and she saw the corners of his mouth twitching.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what you said.”
“I said I have to decline your offer. While the gift you propose is the most tempting thing I’ve ever faced, I can’t do it.”
Her mouth fell open. She was being rejected by him. For the life of her she couldn’t figure out why. She was certain he’d say yes. How could he say no to a willing woman if he found her suggestion appealing?
“You’re not being completely honest with yourself.”
“What do you mean? I just came in here and put it all on the line. It took a lot for me to say what I just did to your face.”
He pulled her close, his hand coming up to grip the back of her neck again in that seductive hold. Her thoughts scattered and her tongue swelled in her mouth. His thumb began a sensual stroke at the top of her nape and it took everything she had to remain upright.
“I know it did. I won’t dispute that. However, you’re not willing to talk about what you need from me outside of the bedroom.”
She leaned back into his touch, struggling to find the words to respond. “What do you mean?”
“Give me some credit, Ottavia. I’m a very observant man. I’ve noticed you even when you thought I didn’t. The slight changes you’ve made to your wardrobe are nice. I think it suits you, but it doesn’t change the woman you are. I’ve kept my distance from you because you aren’t the sort of woman who goes for casual relationships. We both know that’s what I excel at.”
His other hand came up and grasped her hip, pulling her closer to him. The hem of her skirt rose and he situated his firm thigh in between her legs. If he kept this up, she would soon be a puddle on the floor.
“But you make me want to try for more because you deserve nothing less. While it scares me in one aspect, it intrigues me in another. What I can’t do in good conscious is allow you to do something you aren’t ready for.”
“How do you know I’m not ready?” she asked.
“Believe me, I trust my instincts on this. You aren’t being completely truthful. Until you are, we can’t go any further.”
The fog in her brain began to clear a little when she realized what he was saying.
“Are you calling me a liar, Julian?”
“In not so many words, yes.”
She was pretty sure a smart-ass comment was materializing in her subconscious, working its way to the surface, but then he kissed her, and there were no more thoughts, sarcastic or otherwise.
Only his lips, firm and hot, better than she’d imagined, and his tongue, tickling her mouth, coaxing it open, then stroking her from the inside. Crazy, whirling sensations formed in her belly and traveled to the aching spot between her legs where her womanly parts met Julian’s hard thigh.
Ottavia breathed him in, tasted him, and when he let go of her arms, she laced them around his waist, holding on for dear life to all his hardness and strength, feeling a little as though she was clinging to the back of a charging stallion. She had no control over where he went or what he did. She could only hang on for the ride.
She’d reached the place where she didn’t have to make decisions, where her great instincts didn’t matter anymore. The always-rational voice in her head was drowned out by the hum of desperate desire that coursed through her now. All she could hear was the sound of wanting more.
Then he pulled back and looked at her with half-lidded eyes. His breath tickled her upper lip. “You want me, too, don’t you? This is more than about us just getting into bed together.”
Well, duh. But she wasn’t just going to give him the answer he wanted that easily.
“No, Julian. We are complete opposites. I think we’re both smart enough to know that anything between us outside of the bedroom is doomed to fail. I just want you to seduce me inside the bedroom, one time. Then I’ll walk away.”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to? Are you positive that’s all you want?”
Ottavia squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head as he struck at the heart of the internal battle she’d been having ever since she’d come up with this crazy idea.
“I can’t afford to give you more, Julian.”
“Then it seems that we are at a crossroads, Ottavia, because I can’t give you any less.”
“This kind of feels like old times, doesn’t it?”
“Somewhat, Serafina, but there is a small difference.”
Her eyes furrowed together in puzzlement. “What would that be?”
“The fact we would be in the living room finishing our drinks with me distracting you with my kisses until we retired upstairs for the night.”
Her nipples began to harden under the sundress in response. His eyes lowered briefly. She tried to force her body to relax, regretting that she hadn’t worn a bra. Unfortunately, she hadn’t seen any need to—until now. It was one of the things Renato had always loved about her. She closed her eyes, trying to fight the memories of some of the things he’d done with easy access.
Her eyes jerked open when Renato cleared his throat. His expression made it hard for her to meet his eyes, and she began to fidget full of nerves.
“Um…it’s getting late, and I need to get ready for tomorrow.”
He stood up, his brows bunched together. She knew that his puzzlement stemmed from the fact that it was still early. Serafina’s eyes widened as he came toward her, instead of heading out of the kitchen. She saw him struggling to contain a smile as she moved away from him. Every step he took forward, she took one backward, until he had her tucked neatly into a corner.
“Why are you running away from me, tesoro mio?”
She closed her eyes briefly before answering. “I’m not running.”
The only reason she was able to say it with a straight face was because she wasn’t running, at least not technically. She was retreating in a very organized fashion.
The smile he gave her could only be described as wicked. “No? Then tell me what it’s called.”
She answered with a straight face. “Strategic maneuvering.”
He laughed. “So I guess I need to do a little strategic maneuvering of my own.”
Before she could ask him what it would be, he lowered his mouth to hers. Serafina moaned. It was all the invitation he needed. He slid his tongue inside of her hot yet sweet mouth. Her hands came up, grasping at his chest as she swayed toward him. As reluctant as she stated she was about his touch, she didn’t move away from it. She never had. She never would. Her body became so aroused it ached. He ran his hands up her body slowly, not stopping until they came to rest beneath her breasts. She whimpered with need against his mouth. His fingertips rubbed her erect nipples, turning her whimper into a moan of pleasure. He seemed intent on torturing her, and she could only hope she survived.
* * * *
Renato pulled away from Serafina, wanting to see her face—needing to see it. The passion he read on her face kicked his desire for her up another notch. He had to have her. “You’re so beautiful.”
She blinked slowly, and he wondered if she’d comprehended what he just said. If she hadn’t, he planned to show her. Moving his hand around to her back, he reached for the zipper on her dress. The motion seemed to pull her from her passion-filled haze for a moment, and she pulled away from him slightly.
“We aren’t going to. Trust me we aren’t, but I need to do something for you.”
She didn’t respond verbally, but when she relaxed against him, he knew he had his answer. Renato slipped the thin straps over her shoulders, getting his first glimpse of her perfect breasts. She moaned as he arched her backward over his arm and ran his tongue across one hardened tip. The sound was cut off by her own gasp as he began to suckle her. He lifted his mouth briefly.
“You taste so sweet.”
Instead of replying, she grasped his head and brought it back to her breast. He lavished attention on her until she was writhing uncontrollably. Serafina needed him just as badly as he needed her. Only she wasn’t ready to admit it yet. He lifted his head again, and she groaned in protest.
“Do you want me, Serafina?”
She bit her lower lip before nodding. “Yes.”
“Do you want my touch?”
She closed her eyes. “You’re already touching me, or at least you were until you stopped to talk.”
He held back a smile at the sound of her irritation. “Yes, I am, but do you want my touch?”
She hesitated slightly, finally understanding the importance of his question. “Yes, I do.”
He smiled. “Good. Then you will have it.”
She looked perplexed when he pulled the straps of her dress back up on her shoulders.
“It just won’t be tonight.”
Marcella growled with frustration. Serious annoyance rose at whomever it was pounding on her hotel door at this awful hour in the morning. Groaning in aggravation, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and half walked, half stumbled to the door. She didn’t bother with the peephole because her eyes were so bleary she wouldn’t be able to see out of it anyway. Opening the door a crack she saw a cheerful Quinton standing on the other side.
Her eyes widened at his attempt at Italian. Profanity poured from her mouth, but Quinton only smiled.
“I assume that wasn’t hello or good morning in return was it?”
She scowled at his cheerful disposition.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” she asked crossly.
“It's a few minutes before seven.”
Hearing the time aloud made her feel even worse. She was up two hours before she had to be, two whole hours. Closing her eyes, she spoke to Quinton as calmly as she could. “Is the electricity out again?”
She paused. “Is the hotel on fire?”
He chuckled. “No.”
She sighed. “Flooded?”
Marcella felt her teeth clench as her eyes reopened. “Then why the hell are you standing here at my room so early?
Quinton smiled at her. “Because I want to have breakfast with you, and Tiziano told me you need at least an hour to get ready.”
Her eyes closed again and counted to ten before she said something else inhospitable.
“Did my brother also happen to tell you I’m not a morning person?”
“Yes, he did, but he didn’t say you were this bad.”
Her eyes flew open in outrage. “This bad!”
The only thing keeping her from saying more was the fact he stood there looking at her with open curiosity, making her wonder how bad she was. His expression also told her he wasn’t going anywhere. Sighing heavily, she opened the door to let him in.
“Come on in.”
She turned and walked back into her room, not waiting to see if he followed her or not. A whimper fought its way up from her throat, but she held it back as she walked past the bed. It was calling her name. It took everything she had not to crawl back into it. Instead she went over to a chair and collapsed into it, closing her eyes. After a long moment of silence she reopened them to find Quinton nearing her. The expression on his face was indescribable. She could only imagine why he was staring at her the way he way.
“What is it?”
He remained silent for another moment before speaking. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”
She rolled her eyes. “Trust me, I have seen what I look like in the morning when I first wake up. You don’t have to sweet talk me.”
He reached out and touched a loose tendril of her hair. “If it is one thing I don’t do it’s lie. You are beautiful, whether you see it or not. You don’t need any make-up and fancy stuff to impress me.”
She gave him an exasperated look. “Who says I’m trying to impress you?”
His self-assured expression reminded her so much of Tiziano’s she shook her head.
“Your body does. Your eyes do.”
Denial lay upon her lips, but it would be a lie and both of them knew it. He reached out and pulled her upward until she was standing. She knew he had to be delusional. If he’d been Desi, she wouldn’t have allowed him into the hotel room until she was presentable. That would include make-up and fancy stuff as Quinton put it. It was somewhat of an unspoken rule that she always looked her best around Desi. If she didn’t, Desi hadn’t hesitated to tell her so.
There had been so many times when she'd taken extra care with her appearance only for him to wrinkle up his nose in disapproval. Desi was a self-centered bastard. How she'd managed to stay with him as long as she had was beyond her. Had she truly been so desperate? Evidently, she had or she wouldn’t have nursed a broken heart for two years. Quinton touched the sided of her face, bringing her out of her thoughts.
She shivered at the way he enunciated her name. He said it like no one else ever had, like no one else ever could.
“Yes?” she whispered.
“I want to know if you taste as sweet as you look,” he stated softly.
“Can I kiss you, Marcella,” he asked as he drew her nearer.
She knew she should say no. Instead she found herself stretching up to meet him halfway. The first touch of their lips was feathery, but it was enough. In the next instant his mouth covered hers, hot and demanding. His kiss commanded everything of her, forcing aside the docile and compliant Marcella that Desi would have expected. The thought spurred her on, and she pressed her body closer to his, wanting the contact, craving it. Quinton feasted on her lips as if he needed nourishment. She was more than happy to provide it. She needed to feel more of his touch. Feel her skin against his.
As if he heard her request, he slid his hand under her cotton pajama top, encountering smooth skin. She moaned, pushing her body closer to his, needing the contact. His hand slid higher until it found one of her breasts. She knew she wasn’t a large woman, but she fit into the cup of his palm perfectly.
It only made her want him more, just as badly as he seemed to want her, yet, she found the strength to pull away from his hand and mouth simultaneously. He groaned at the loss, reaching for her again but she evaded his hands.
“No, Quinton. We have to stop. My family is expecting us at breakfast. Thanks to you, no less.”
He exhaled heavily. She studied him, taking all of him in, knowing she probably appeared just as sexually frustrated as he did. She could feel her nipples straining against her night top in arousal. Not to mention she stood there breathing just as hard as he did from his kiss.
“We could call and say we changed our minds.”
“Only if you want your limbs separated from your body. Trust me, it wouldn’t take long for them to figure out what we are doing, then they would show up to dismember you.”
Just a Little Fling - Book #1 of 6 in Wicked Seduction Series
Luciano smiled as he watched Nia nervously lick her lips. He wondered if she had any idea how beautiful she looked.
“Tell me your plan, Nia.”
"Um…I’m just…just going to take a…a bath.”
He smiled as she stammered horribly. Stepping closer to her, he aligned his body with hers. His legs touched hers, and the strong image of those legs being wrapped tightly around his waist as he gave her pleasure roared through his brain. Groaning inwardly, he tried to kick his level of arousal down a notch. As much as he wanted her, he needed to make sure she knew it was more than a physical attraction.
“And what did you plan to do during your bath?”
She didn’t respond immediately, averting her gaze, but not before he saw the embarrassment in her expression. What did she have to uncomfortable about? Desire surged through him when he realized just what she probably planned to do once in the bathtub. To know she wasn’t afraid to pleasure herself turned him on in a way he never imagined. The idea that she probably had to do so because of her thoughts about him made him wanting to throw all caution to the wind and pull her a few feet toward the bed. Instead, he decided to give her the next best thing.
“Have you been told how stunning you are tonight?”
She blinked before swallowing deeply, and he was pleased by how much she struggled with her desire as much as he did. Clearly, she hadn’t expected the question. Shaking her head, she cleared her throat.
“Yes, you did...earlier...but you can tell me again if you like.”
The corner of his mouth tilted up in amusement, and he leaned closer to her. “I would rather show you just beautiful you are.”
Before she could respond, his lips found hers. Once again, his mouth found hers in a delicious yet dangerous kiss. She whimpered against his mouth, and her hips tilted toward his, letting him know what she needed. One of his hands slid from the wall and came to rest on her hip—a nice, curvy hip. Her shape appealed to him on many levels. She had a fuller figure than most of the women he dated in the past. He looked forward to seeing all of it, even though it wouldn’t be tonight. His hand slid lower until it found the smooth skin of her thigh. She shuddered at his touch, and he lifted the hem of the dress until he found the elastic of her panties.
His touch told him they were made of lace and silk. As bad as he wanted to see them, he didn’t risk taking his mouth away from hers.
He wanted her with him all the way. The way her arms came up and encircled his neck said she was. He slipped his hands inside of her panties and found what he was looking for. He encountered her wetness and he moaned, the sound quickly swallowed up by her gasp. Damp did not begin to describe how she felt. She definitely wanted him as much as he desired her. He moved his hand back a little until his finger found her ready for the pleasure he offered. She whimpered low in her throat at his touch, but it wasn’t good enough for him. Earlier, she stated she kept a tight rein on her control all of her life, and this was her opportunity to let loose. He pulled his mouth away from hers a little, his lips not leaving hers entirely.
“You don’t have to hold back with me, Nia.”
She didn’t respond as he lowered his lips back to hers, but he felt as if she struggled to keep herself check, and for a moment, he wondered if she heard him. Just as he started to interrupt their kiss again, she made her first real sound. Her moan of pleasure filled the room in spite of his mouth being sealed to hers, and she trembled against him. The sounds that followed nearly drove him insane with need.
He gathered her close when her felt her legs tremble, knowing she reached the point where she would need his assistance to remain standing. It made him want to lay her on the bed, but nothing would make him interrupt her pleasure. Shifting his hand again, he changed tempo, and a moment later, she ripped her mouth from his. Her cry of release reached his ears.
He watched her as she experienced the throes of passion, and he kept stroking her, pushing her higher. She shrieked, and her eyes flew open as her body came off the wall. Her mouth fell open as she began to pant, and he never stopped moving his fingers. He wanted to make sure she was completely satisfied. Suddenly, she bucked against him, and his name fell from her lips on a loud moan. He kept stroking until her body collapsed against him and he heard her sigh in his ear.
Some Like it Hot - Book #2 of 2 in The One Hot Summer Anthology
Sterling was grateful he’d held off on taking a sip of water. No way would he have gotten it down without practically choking to death. He had to be dreaming. His imagination was running wild and he would wake up any moment.
He blinked slowly. “Yes?”
“Do you want to go?”
His hand trembled slightly as he sat the bottle down before turning his attention to the breathtaking woman sitting across from him. “Do you remind repeating yourself?”
Naja laughed. “I know you’re not hard of hearing.”
“You’re right. But I’m pretty positive I’m still in my bed asleep so I’m just trying to draw it out a little longer.”
Her head tilted to the side as her grin widened. “Dreaming, huh? Well, I definitely want you to have the experience of waking up with a smile on your face, so let me make sure it’s worth your while.”
Before he could say anything else, she stood and stepped closer to him. She cupped his face between her soft palms. “Now,” she whispered, lowering her head toward his. “Let’s make this real good.”
She brushed her lips over his in a soft kiss that sent shivers racing down his spine. In the next instant, she captured his mouth in a nerve tingling kiss that seemed to steal the very breath from him. He let his arms drift upward to wrap around her lower back as he drew her between the vee of his legs.
The kiss was pure bliss. It was passion thrumming, then coiling, low and hot, deep within him. The kiss tasted of sugar and strawberries. Her thighs were crushed with an enticing, sensual pain to his solid erection as she returned the angry kiss in total abandon.
This kiss should never end. He definitely didn’t want it to. Neither did Naja for she raised her head a fraction of an inch to draw in a quick breath, then slanted her mouth over his again in the opposite direction, sweeping him under the spell of another passionate kiss.
His mind ceased to function. This kiss was spectacular, surreal, so sincere and real. She constantly surprised and delighted him in a way that somewhat frightened him. She was a unique individual, special, rare, like no woman he had met before. And he wanted her with an intensity that had him on the verge of combustion. Along with the insistent need was another emotion he couldn’t name. Even as her kiss consumed him, he felt revived.
Finally, Naja ended the kiss unhurriedly. Her heavily lidded eyes told him she was just as affected by the kiss as he was. Unhurriedly she retook her seat. “Are you still hoping this is a dream you will wake up from?”
He shook his head. “No, now I’m wondering if things could get any hotter between us.”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to take a chance to find out.”
He interlaced his finger and leaned forward. “Are you sure about that?”
“One hundred percent positive.”
“What changed your mind?”
“I’m not saying I have,” she murmured. “I’m simply stating I find you intriguing. I want to hang out with you, just as casual acquaintances. If it leads to more, great. If not we’ve still had an enjoyable time and can return home with those memories.”
“Yes. Thanks to my sister I realize I’m making this more complicated than it has to be.”
“So, you no longer have any desire to get me into bed.”
The expression on her face became downright sultry. “Oh no, I still have every aspiration to get you into my bed, in the shower, on the couch, kitchen table and possibly even on the beach at night, but for now I’m going to play by your rules and see what comes of it.”
Sterling reached for his water and took a huge gulp before he burst into flames. Wicked images of the words she’d just whispered raced through his mind. It was everything he could do keep from taking her hand and dragging her onto the wood of the porch beachgoers be damned. The woman across from him tested his self-restraint and frankly, he didn’t have much more left.
Closing his eyes, he took a few settling breaths. He had to get himself under control or he would crash and burn. When he felt that he had, he reopened his eyes and found Naja watching him intently. He should say no, but he just couldn’t get his mouth to form the words. Yep, he was in deep trouble.
“What time does the party start?”
Slow Burn - Book #1 of 2 in The One Hot Summer Anthology
“It’s nice to see you again, Ms. Westbrook. Did you enjoy your meal?”
Carson bit back a chuckle of amusement as Imani’s spine stiffened. His sister, Kallie, had informed him the instant Imani stepped into his restaurant. After their first encounter he wasn’t certain he’d ever see her again. Within moments of seeing her, his attraction to her went through the roof.
Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her lovely milk-chocolate face had high cheekbones, a pert nose, full lips that caught his gaze in a mesmerizing hold. He studied her, taking in the outfit she wore. He wondered if the shorts she wore clung to her curvy waist and hips like the pair she’d worn yesterday. There was a mature lushness about her body that made him hard.
While he wanted to eventually hit the sheets with her, he needed to get to know her as well. There seemed to be a permanent frown of concentration on her face and he ached to know why. If there was a chance she did smile, he yearned to be the one to make her do it.
For some reason she was also extremely skittish. Something definitely troubled her deeply and he wanted to distract her from it. She appeared to be too lovely of a person to be so sad.
But the bottom line was he knew she was attracted to him as well. She wouldn’t have come back to the restaurant otherwise. While the food he served tasted great, it wasn’t that good.
Imani glanced up at him out of the corner of her eye. “It was good. Thank you for asking. I’m just waiting on my check so I can pay.”
“It’s on the house.”
Her mouth fell open briefly before she collected herself. “Oh no, that’s not necessary.”
“It’s no trouble at all. It’s not often I have the opportunity to buy a beautiful lady lunch.”
Her eyebrows bunched together. “Do you really expect me to fall for that line?”
One corner of his mouth curved upward. “If it were a line, no I wouldn’t. Do you mind if I join you?”
She opened her mouth, but he sat down across from her before she could say anything. Her mouth snapped shut.
“I guess it didn’t matter I was going to say no since I’m leaving.”
“Do you have pressing plans?”
She put her tote bag aside. “Actually, I do.”
“Then I won’t keep you long. I just saw you come in for lunch today and wanted to say hello.”
“Well, I appreciate your desire to acknowledge my presence. Is that all?” she asked, gathering up her bag.
He reached across the table and placed his hand on top of the one she still had on the table. She quivered and he celebrated silently. Imani wasn’t as immune to him as she would have him believe.
The thought thrilled him. In the five years since he’d moved to Myrtle Beach and opened Baxter’s, he’d casually dated his fair share of women, but none excited him the way Imani did. Something told him she had a lot of passion simmering underneath the surface. She just needed someone to help her tap into it.
He’d moved to Myrtle Beach to start over. After divorcing the woman who’d put him through the ringer, he’d needed to get away. Life had been serene ever since. Peaceful was okay, but it could also be boring. The woman he sat across the table from could definitely spice things up.
“No, that’s not all. Do you have plans for dinner tonight?”
She gaped at him. “Excuse me?”
“I’m asking you if you would like to go to dinner.”
He chuckled. “Because that’s usually what two people who are attracted to each other do.”
“Who says I’m attracted to you?”
He inclined his head toward their hands on the table. She gasped then snatched her hand from underneath his.
“Look, Carson, I know life is all fun and games for you, but I’m actually here in Myrtle for a reason. A very important reason, so I don’t have time to waste. I have a lot to figure out in a short amount of time.”
He leaned back in his chair. “If I insinuated your time is not valuable that definitely wasn’t my intention. I assure you, my schedule is pretty tight as well so I’d never show a lack of appreciation for another person’s.”
She sighed, her shoulders drooping. “I know this may sound cliché, but this just isn’t a good time for me. I’m going through a lot right now. I would love to say more, but it’s personal and I don’t feel comfortable sharing it.”
“I respect your feelings on the subject. However, I have to admit I’m sorely disappointed I won’t have the opportunity to get to know you better. I hope you get your problem worked out. Just know if you ever need an ear to bend, I’m here. Or you ever want to stop in for lunch, you’re welcome to do so anytime and it’s on me.”
The corner of her mouth twitched, the closest he’d ever come to seeing her smile.
“That’s kind of you. I appreciate the offer. Now, I really must be going. Thank you again for lunch.”
Carson winked at her and stood as she gathered her tote bag. “Anytime.”
Imani rushed from the restaurant as if hell hounds were chasing her, but her brisk pace still didn’t tone down the natural sway of her lush hips. She was a walking wet dream and he didn’t think she had the slightest idea.
“Wow, big brother, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman in such a rush to get out of your presence.”
He frowned at his sister as she came strolling up. “You aren’t funny, Kallie.”
“Wasn’t trying to be. What’s the deal with her?”
“I don’t know. I asked, but she didn’t want to tell. I didn’t push.”
His younger sister’s brows rose high on her forehead. “Really?”
“Believe me, after what I went through with Misty, I know what it feels like to not want to talk about something. I gave her an open invite to the restaurant for lunch and to talk. So any time she comes in her meal is always on the house, in the event I’m not here.”
“Do you think she’s going through a bad divorce or breakup?”
“Divorce? No. She doesn’t have a line on her finger indicating she’s ever worn a ring. I can’t be too certain of a breakup, but I don’t think that’s it either.”
“That sucks because she seems really nice.”
“Do you think she’s going to take you up on your offer?”
“Who knows? What matters is I put it out there. The ball’s in her court now.”
One Reckless Night - Book #1 of 4 in The It Happened One Night series
Dane Holden lay in his bed, pretending to be asleep, wondering if he just made the biggest mistake of his life. Instead of spending the evening working on the project for the company he worked for, he had sex with Bayleigh Bishop. He’d love to say he was too intoxicated to know better, but they had only shared a single bottle of wine. One they didn’t even finish. Dane was sober enough to know that sleeping with a co-worker was a bad idea. She was also his best friend, which made this situation even worse.
Inhaling quietly, he caught a whiff her soft scent. It was a fragrance unique to her, an aroma that teased him every time she was near. A loud thump followed by a soft curse brought him out of his internal musings, and he stifled a chuckle. He’d known Bayleigh for five years and never heard her curse before now. Still, she was moving stealthily around the room in complete darkness. Assuming she was looking for her clothes, it bothered him that she felt she had to leave under cloak of darkness.
He was also troubled by the reality of his life not going the way he planned. Right after his thirtieth birthday, he’d felt ready to settle down. Yet, at thirty-five, he still didn’t have the wife and children he’d planned for. Until tonight he was happy to have this project as a distraction.
Due to the time constraints, he invited Bayleigh over to work on the project. He ordered takeout and everything had been fine. How they ended up in bed together was beyond him. One minute they were talking about her research results. The next he was kissing her. The kiss wasn’t one he expected from Bayleigh. It was no secret that she was quiet and reserved. Yet, her kiss had been anything but.
It was hot with no hint of shyness. There wasn’t any other way he could put it other than to say the sex had been extraordinary. He hadn’t expected her to be so responsive. She was the only woman he never had to ask what she liked. Her body told him.
Dane swallowed a groan. Had he really had sex with Bayleigh? It wasn’t that he’d never thought about her in a sexual way. She was a beautiful woman and he would never deny that he was attracted to her. Bayleigh never seemed interested, so he kept his thoughts private. After tonight, he no longer had that option.
What he hadn’t known about was the body she had been hiding underneath her clothes. Bayleigh was stacked and had curves that she somehow managed to keep well hidden. His body reacted to just the thoughts of her body. His desire was quelled when it dawned on him that he just took a step across a line he had no business even going near. He didn’t want to ruin his friendship with Bayleigh, but the way she moved around in the darkness, he felt like he had.
There was another hard thump and Bayleigh stifled a cry of pain. He opened his eyes. It was difficult to pretend he was asleep while she fumbled around in the dark. Besides, he needed to face what they had done head on. Taking a deep breath, he reached over and turned the lamp on. The bright glare made him regret the action, until he looked up. A bare and shapely rear end was in his face.