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Authors: Rhonda Lee Carver

Friends With Benefits

BOOK: Friends With Benefits
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Cover Copy

 

Cassie’s admirer hides behind a blindfold…could he be somebody she knows?

 

Cassandra and Sebastian have been friends since college. They know everything about each other, and even own a restaurant together. Now she has a secret admirer—one who asks her to meet him wearing a blindfold…and nothing else. She complies, mostly, and must rely on how he smells, feels, and sounds when they meet. He seems familiar. Familiar enough to be Sebastian? Surely not. Maybe she’s hoping her admirer is Sebastian. Maybe…

 

Sebastian has a secret Cassie knows nothing of: He’s in love with her. But telling her could destroy their friendship. So he’s got to sit back and watch as she swoons for this secret admirer who uses all the right romantic words to win her heart.

 

Can Sebastian step forward and reveal himself? Supposing he dares to let Cassie know he loves her, can their friendship survive if she doesn’t feel the same for him?

 

CONTENT WARNING: strong language, graphic sex

 

 

Highlight

 

Padding into her bedroom, she lit the row of vanilla candles on her dresser and assumed her place in the middle of the four-poster, queen-sized bed, keeping the gown on although it was against the rules. If he wanted to see her nude, he’d have to work toward that goal. She didn’t want to make it too easy for him.

Her body eased into the thick, soft comforter. The seductive thoughts whirling in her mind were enough to set her mood to
ready and willing
.

She checked the clock. Five minutes to go. Eagerness exploded inside her stomach.

A chuckle escaped her throat. Shouldn’t she have some sense of fright, or anxiety? Serenity made her ooze deeper into the bed. She’d never met this man, yet, she trusted him. Something about his words, his letters, had always wrapped her in peace.

A few minutes passed. Then she heard the downstairs door chime. He had arrived.

She made haste in pulling on the red silk scarf, a makeshift mask, and tied the soft material securely at the back of her head. She fixed it so everything went dark.

 

 

Friends With Benefits

By Rhonda Lee Carver

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dedication

 

For second chances. To love. Thank you to my husband and to my children for their unconditional support.

 

Acknowledgements

 

To the many friends who have contributed to clever ideas and memories. Whether it’s killing a chicken or conversations about “toys.” It’s always a good time…

 

 

Author Foreword

 

Within a lover we shall find a best friend…

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Cassandra Brooks filled the coffee maker, poured water into the machine and flipped the switch on. Pops and gurgles erupted as the steam carried the chicory aroma to her nose. Even the promise of caffeine couldn’t motivate her.

She stretched her tired muscles and groaned. Thank God this day was almost over. Two things were on her mind: a bubble bath and a good book. A yawn started up her throat and–whoa. Was that blue paper wedged between the toaster and fridge?

Excitement soared inside her. Smiling, she shot a curious glance across the quiet coffee shop. The only patron in the shop this late was an elderly gentleman who appeared absorbed in his newspaper.

Grabbing the note, Cassie darted around the counter. She zigzagged through the tables and made her way to the large window where she could see the semi-darkened street. The light on the corner dimly lit the sidewalk. No one. The street was empty.

“Damn, not again.” Her secret admirer eluded her once more. She’d hoped to finally catch him. He’d been very careful up to this point in keeping his identity from her. Had she expected lack of vigilance this time?

While she’d been busy in the storage room, he’d had plenty of time to sneak the note into the kitchen and get lost before she emerged. But how had she missed the bell above the door? The shrill ring could wake the dead.

Cassie glanced down at the note in her hand. She hadn’t expected to get a letter today. She’d received one only two days ago. They’d come once a week for the last six months, and each letter brought more hope for true love.

Deciding she’d go and find a quiet place to relish his words, she shoved the letter into the pocket of her zippered sweatshirt, turned on her heel, and ran smack dab into the broad chest of Sebastian Matthews.

“Ouch.” Cassie stepped back. She rubbed her offended nose with the palm of her hand. “Seb, I thought you’d gone for the evening.”

He smiled. His chocolate eyes turned a creamy shade of mocha. His jet-black hair and olive skin were gifts handed down from generations of his Moroccan ancestors.

Sebastian had been her best friend since they were in college together eight years ago. Platonic relationship or not, she wasn’t immune to his adorable smile and sexy eyes.

Cassie knew she wasn’t the only girl who found him appealing. Standing at six-feet-three and two hundred pounds of toned muscle and flesh, and with the looks of an underwear model, he’d be hot in any woman’s fantasy. As close to wonderful as he could be, perfect he was not. She knew everything about him.

“I forgot my guitar.” His gaze swept across her face. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sure. I’m fine.” She fumbled with the rubber band holding her blonde hair in an untidy ponytail, pulling the elastic free. Her hair fell down past her shoulders and she finger-combed it. “Why do you ask?”

“You only play with your hair when you’re hiding something. And, that’s some sexy expression. What’s brought this on?” The corner of his mouth curved.

Cassie tucked a wayward hair behind her ear. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She pretended interest in pushing the chairs in at one table.

Sebastian came around to face her. He tapped her nose lightly with the tip of a finger. “Don’t play games, Cassie.”

She should’ve known after this many years, it’d be impossible to hide anything from Seb. He knew everything about her too. Unable to contain her excitement, she grabbed him by the hand and tugged him past the counter, through the swinging doors leading into the kitchen.

She dropped his hand, sat on the stainless steel countertop, and pulled the note from her pocket, holding it up for his examination. “I just found this. That means he was here and I missed him again.”

Sebastian’s dark brows knitted. “Wow, twice in one week. You two must be getting closer.”

Catching the sarcasm in his tone, Cassie shot him a look of warning. He could have at least feigned interest. “Stop before the lecture starts.” She wagged an accusing finger.

He shrugged a wide shoulder under his red polo. “I’m not going to preach, not tonight.”

She didn’t believe him. “Sure. I saw the sermon building in your expression.”

He relaxed against the professional-sized refrigerator and crossed his arms over his chest. His dark eyes steadied on her. He looked daunting. “Cass, I meant only to say–”

“That if this guy really cared for me, he’d end all of the secrecy and introduce himself.” She rolled her eyes. She knew Sebastian had a protective spot for her. She saw the brotherly emotion in his features. “Shall I remind you when I first started getting the letters from Mr. Mystery, you encouraged it?”

He slid his fingers through his hair and locks of curls awakened. He seemed to think her words over carefully. “You’re right. But at the time I thought you deserved a little fun. Don’t you want more than to just sit around waiting for the next love letter to pop up?”

She made an effort to bite back the smile tickling the corners of her mouth. It was no use. “I find your concern chivalrous. But I find Mr. Mystery exciting. He writes such passionate words.”

With the back of his shoe, Sebastian closed the open cabinet door on his right. “Are you falling for this guy?”

How should she answer? She shrugged and stared down at the letter she still clutched in her hand, loosened her grip and sighed. “Would it be so bad for me to fall for him?”

“You don’t know him.”

Cassie brought her gaze up and narrowed it on him. “There’s a connection, Seb, one I can’t explain.”

He pushed himself away from the counter. The smile on his face didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Then I should be happy for you.” He covered the distance between them in three short strides.

She dropped her head back to look up at him.

He reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm. What had gotten into him?

Time seemed to stop as his sincere, heated gaze held hers. Did he have something to say? This seemed like the intimate look a man gave a woman before he kissed her. Her heart raced. Her mind slowed to idle as the breath held in her chest.

Question was, why didn’t she end it before it happened?

“You deserve pleasure.” His eyes twinkled, then he pulled away.

Swallowing the cotton ball feeling lodged in her throat, Cassie took a good thirty seconds to recover from the menacing mix of emotions spreading through her veins.

Sebastian picked up the note and handed it back to her.

She hadn’t even realized she’d dropped it.

She finally managed to say, “I appreciate you thinking of my parts–I mean, pleasure.” Her cheeks must’ve turned crimson. “Thank you, for always being there.”

“No problem. See you tomorrow, babe. You can tell me all about the letter then.” He winked and disappeared.

Cassie stared at the large metal doors until they stopped swinging. What just happened? Confusion clouded her brain. And why did she tingle all over?

At eighteen, she and Sebastian had tried the boyfriend-girlfriend thing, and learned they were better as friends. Sebastian hadn’t been ready to settle down. He’d needed to sow some wild oats. Fact was, she’d also needed to experience life before she dedicated herself to one person. So, she had broken it off while they still liked one another.

Luckily, they’d become the best of friends.

They’d even opened the corner coffee shop, Whipped Dream, as partners five years ago. Not once in all those years since they’d broken up had he initiated anything intimate with her.

Tonight, when he’d looked into her eyes, she’d felt something. His touch had held promise. It also seemed like he’d stopped from doing what he’d wanted.

Cassie couldn’t deny she’d wondered a time or two why they never took their relationship a step further, like friends with benefits. They’d cuddle on the couch watching a movie. They’d hold hands. He’d always treated her like the ice cream cone that he could never lick. At times, she’d wished he’d sample her flavor. Cassie had even been disappointed when he hadn’t.

BOOK: Friends With Benefits
2.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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