Just One Taste...(4)

By: Wendy Etherington

Beautiful, butterfly-tattooed blondes would just have to wait.

He tuned into the European-vacation discussion. He smiled at appropriate times. He didn’t talk too much. Or too little. And when the esteemed doctor excused himself to dance with his wife, Lucas’s business card was in his jacket pocket.

With a smile, he turned to find the next conquest. But as he continued to schmooze, she was there. He felt her. Her smile and her grace. Her glowing skin. The heat her body would undoubtedly radiate.

Why couldn’t he forget her? Or at least set her aside until the business of the night was done?

Nothing came before business. At least nothing ever had before.

Tonight, though, he knew where she was at every moment. He knew she hovered nearby. Lovely. Tempting. Forbidden.

His muscles grew tired of holding back. His fingers tingled in anticipation. He even got a crick in his neck from craning in an effort to constantly keep her in sight. For a man who’d fought for and gained control over his life and his emotions, the night was becoming both a torture and a curiosity.

Oddly enough, the moment he buckled was when he saw her holding out a tray of strawberries to an elderly couple.

After they moved away, he approached her. “I’d rather have them dipped in chocolate.”

Her head jerked up, and she met his gaze with a surprised jolt, as if she’d been lost in her own thoughts.

Smart move, chère, with this crowd.

“They’re better with a bit more sweetness,” he added, somehow knowing he wasn’t through giving in to temptation.

ALL THE AIR LEFT Vanessa’s body.

She shook her head to clear it, certain she was hallucinating.

A tall, trim, black-haired, green-eyed, strong-jawed, impeccably dressed vision of a man was not standing in front of her. Popping out while she was rearranging the fruit.

Quick, girl. Think of something clever. Knock that hard head of yours against something if necessary.

Instead, she stared.

His smile was just a tad too confident, but his eyes were bright, as if lit from within. His posture and broad shoulders communicated assurance and reliability, giving her the impression that he was capable of slaying dragons, should such a drastic measure be necessary. She noted the crystal champagne flute in his hand, and the Rolex encircling his wrist, completing the picture of powerful elegance.

Why him? Why now? she wanted to ask somebody. Yell at somebody. Anybody. She was supposed to be working. Impressing the moneyed masses. Avoiding her mother’s criticism. Denying her sister access to her neglected, impulsive and sometimes romantic heart. And, last but not least, mending the family fence—even if it was made of iron.

All desire for those lofty achievements had faded. Gone poof like a Vegas magician’s assistant.

Somehow, someway, this man drew her to him, making her forget her goals and needs. Other than the most carnal ones. By self-assurance or warmth or the supernatural, she felt herself leaning closer, eager to catch the next words he said.

You’re supposed to say something, her libido reminded her.

To stall, she glanced down to note the silver tray trembling in her hands. What had he said? Strawberries. And chocolate.

“Sweet is good,” she managed to say finally, setting the tray aside. And those impulsive, rebel genes, no matter how deeply buried, popped out like a stripper’s implants. She stepped closer, and his eyes went hot. His subtle cologne and body heat enveloped her. “Tasty. Tart. Warm.”

“Exactly,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

Desire slid through her body. When she’d first gotten out on her own, she’d picked up a few guys at bars, just to give her cramped wings a stretch, but her social life had quickly taken a backseat to work. The success of her business was vital to her wallet, her peace of mind and her pride. She hadn’t met a guy who could hold her admittedly short attention span for very long.

But her attention was riveted now. “I have strawberries just for the chocolate.” She licked her lips. “Do you need a demonstration on how to dip them?”

“Love one.”

She turned away, leading him to the chocolate fountain. Now that she wasn’t facing him, she could think a bit clearer. She thanked heaven, her lucky stars and her fairy godmother that she’d seen him before Mia. Friends they were, but wow, he would be hard to be friendly about.

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