Tempt Me Again

By: Wendy Etherington

“I THINK YOU OUGHT to seduce him.”

Andrea Hastings turned her surprised gaze toward her friend, who was currently binding her into the breath-stealing corset necessary to give authenticity to her early-nineteenth-century costume ball gown. “How the devil am I supposed to do that?”Sloan Caldwell Kendrick simply—and wickedly—raised her eyebrows.

Andrea scoffed and faced the full-length antique oval mirror again. “I know how in the technical sense…”

“But not so much in the practical. You’re too smart for your own good. I’ve got a book—”

Andrea waved her away. Being Palmer’s Island’s librarian, Sloan always had a book. “Get real. I’m not going to seduce Tyler Landry with printed instructions.”

Sloan smiled wide. “There are illustrations, too.”

Closing her eyes, Andrea felt her face heat. Despite her confident exterior, she still had a hard time with emotional vulnerability, and she considered sex to be the ultimate moment of exposure.

Especially with Tyler.

Well, she assumed with Tyler.

She’d tutored him in high school math and had fallen like a brick for his easy smile and bright blue eyes. His ability to excel in everything except algebra had earned him a scholarship to the Naval Academy, and, at the beach party the night before he was due to leave, she’d offered herself to him.

To, hopefully, find the G-spot, not the x-and y-axis.

He’d either been too embarrassed or too noble to accept. She’d never found out which, since she’d run away like a silly little girl, which she’d certainly been.

In the years since, she’d tried to think like her high school buddy Sloan—confident and willing to take a chance. Professionally, she’d succeeded. In her personal life…not so much.

She’d had lovers; she’d moved on. But she still burned a ridiculous, unrealistic candle—okay, flaming torch—for Tyler. It was an embarrassment, something a woman who’d traveled the world, who worked for a global insurance company, who knew art, history and finances, who freakin’ specialized in spotting forgeries, should be able to shrug off without a backward glance.

Sloan jerked the corset strings again, then tied them.

Andrea winced. “Authenticity, my ass.”

“Actually, the authenticity is necessary for your waist.” Sloan turned away to snag the elaborate lace-and-silk gown off the bed. “And aren’t you always telling me the proof is in the details?”

It’s pretty crappy to have your own words thrown back at you on a regular basis.

That’s what recently moving back to her South Carolina island home had gotten her—old friends she couldn’t snow with her degrees and put-upon self-assurance. People like Sloan knew she was a nerd—always had been, always would be—but still thought she was pretty great anyway.

“The details in my industry involve lots of chemistry,” Andrea pointed out.

“Good. So does seduction.”

As Sloan dropped the frothy gown over her head, Andrea focused on the anticipation of the party that was due to start in less than an hour. Her friend and her husband, Aidan—who could challenge even Tyler for the Hot and Beautiful Man of Palmer’s Island prize—had organized a fund-raiser with an 1812 theme to support the efforts of the island’s historical society, of which Sloan was a dedicated member.

Together, Sloan and Aidan had restored an elegant, nineteenth-century home to its former glory so that now Batherton Mansion was once again a prize of island preservation.

Staring in the mirror as Sloan snapped, hooked and bound her into her costume, Andrea watched herself be transformed from the practical insurance appraiser into an elegant lady of the past.

The pale blue silk and white lace-trimmed gown hugged her curves, which she certainly had more of after the torturous corset did its thing, boosting her bust to new heights. And either her self-consciousness or the lack of oxygen to her brain had caused a nice flush to her cheeks. Her light green eyes were highlighted from Sloan’s makeup job and bright with promise. Her golden-blond hair, lifted in ringlet curls, exposed her neck and the throbbing pulse just below her jaw.

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