Authors: Sylvia McDaniel
Tags: #contemporary romance novel
"Thank you, but I won't be wearing that costume again.” The urge to feel his body flattened against hers overwhelmed her.
No, that would be totally insane.
Yet the thought sent desire rampaging through her body. She tried to concentrate.
"Too bad," he said. "Do you have any other black dresses like that one? Not that I don't think this blue outfit is nice, but that black dress is one hot number. We could go out to dinner. You could wear your black dress for me, and I could wear a suit."
"Oh, that's a nice invitation. Dress slutty and I'll take you out." She wanted to be angry, but somehow his voice touched places she'd long forgotten and they thrummed with awareness. "And then what? You'd take me to a no-tell motel and make me promises of love and devotion? I don't think so
"The invitation wasn't meant to be demeaning."
"Anytime you want to wear the dress, I'm sure I could arrange for you to borrow it.” She let her gaze travel the length of his very masculine body. "It would fit a little tight, but you’d look…unique."
He smiled a sexy grin, and the wattage from that smile sizzled all the way to her toes.
"Not my style."
"Too bad," she said, her voice sounding breathless.
"So how about it? Could we have dinner together?"
She ran her finger down the front of his lab coat, needing to do something with her hands. The man of her dreams, the man she'd mooned over for half her life, had asked her out for dinner. Uncertain if he was serious or merely teasing, she stared at him.
"You've never answered me," she said putting off her response. "Are you going to keep your birthday surprise our secret?"
"I think we should discuss it over dinner tonight. So how about it?"
"Sorry, I don’t think so. We work together."
She placed her hand on his chest and pushed him back to arm's length, needing to put distance between them. Her body seemed to have awakened from forty winks as a thrum of awareness vibrated through her. Or was that the elevator?
"I’m counting on you to let this remain our secret,” she said as she reached over and hit the button on the elevator, knowing that soon someone would be sent to investigate the stalled machine. With a clatter, the steel box started moving again.
He stared at her, his brows raised in question. She suddenly wondered if she shouldn't have waited to answer his invitation to dinner until he'd agreed to keep quiet regarding her coffin dance.
The elevator came to a halt and the door opened. Brent took two steps out the door, turned, and glanced back at her with a smile. "I promise not to say anything, but I can't make any guarantees about other people who were there that night."
"Who?" she questioned.
He shrugged. "Come to dinner and find out."
She shook her head as frustration shimmered through her like the rock of the elevator. But if having dinner with him would hold his tongue, and she found out who else she needed to coerce into silence, wouldn't one night of torture be worth the sacrifice?
And would dinner with Dr. Brent Moulton really be torture? After all, she’d be sitting across from the man with whom she'd always been infatuated. Even now he had her pulse racing.
"All right," she relented, knowing her reluctance was a self-deceiving act. She'd wanted to go out with him all along, but knew better than to play with torches. "I'll have dinner with you."
The phone on Brent's desk jingled. He reached over and picked up the receiver.
"Dr. Moulton," he said, his hand flipping through the American Academy of Pediatrics journal that lay open on his desk.
"Hello, son. How are you?" his father asked through the receiver.
"Dad, it's good to hear from you. I'm fine. How about you?”
"I'm okay.” He paused a long moment. The silence weighed heavily. "Any word on that job in Denver?"
"No, not yet. I don't know if I'd take it, anyway. I just moved here and accepted this position. But I’ve got to admit, the skiing in the winter would be great.”
"Yeah it would be nice," his father said, his tone alerting Brent that he wasn't really interested.
"Michele left me," he blurted out.
Brent recognized the familiar sound of tension in his father's voice. Long ago, Brent had ceased to be shocked when he received these phone calls from his father, or for that matter, even his mother. After five failed marriages, the drama just didn't affect him much anymore. As a teenager, the constant strain had disturbed him, but now he chalked these calls up to his parents' relationship disasters. Neither one seemed able to stay out of divorce court.
"What happened this time, Dad?"
"I tried, son. I really did. She doesn't understand me. Every time I came home late, she accused me of having an affair," his father said.
"And why would she think that?" Brent tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
"I don't know. I've explained to her over and over that nothing is happening between my secretary and me, but she's convinced I'm sleeping with Sarah."
Brent wondered if his parents would ever learn from their mistakes. "Wasn't Michele your secretary before you married her? And weren't you married when you started sleeping with her?"
"Yes, but that's all in the past."
"You cheated on Diane with her, Dad."
"I love Michele."
"Maybe so, but trust is a fragile emotion, and Michele must think there's a reason not to trust you.” He paused. "So what are you going to do now?"
"I don't know. Michele has gotten her own apartment."
A sigh escaped from Brent, and he thought of his sister. "Have you told Leslie yet?"
"Yes, she gave me some psychobabble nonsense about getting therapy. Told me I'd never have a relationship that lasted until I figured out what I was doing wrong."
Brent smiled into the phone at the thought of his very direct sister telling their father to get counseling.
"Maybe you're just not cut out for marriage, Dad. After five attempts something is not working right."
The connection became silent with only the sound of his father's breathing alerting him that he'd not hung up. Brent pictured his father looking lost as he sat staring at the phone.
"I can't help it if women are attracted to me."
"Saying no would create fewer problems for you."
A sharp intake of air sounded through the phone. "My children never have a problem speaking their minds."
"If we weren't honest with you, Dad, we wouldn't love you. There's nothing more important than honesty and trust in a relationship, even between a parent and child." Brent said the words softly, hoping they wouldn't hurt as badly.
"Look, I better let you go. I know you're busy. I'll keep in touch and let you know how things are going. Maybe we can play golf or go fishing sometime soon."
"Sure, Dad. Call me when you want to get together."
Brent hung up the phone and put his head in his hands. Honesty and trust were foundations that all relationships needed, yet somehow neither his father nor his mother had learned such an important lesson. His father seemed surprised that Michele would doubt his integrity. Yet his father had not been faithful to any of his wives. Could he not see the pattern of his destructive behavior and why Michele would be suspicious of his actions?
Even his mother's third husband had cheated on her at least once. Neither of his parents had married spouses who believed in fidelity.
Brent sighed. Leslie was wrong. He would not be searching for a soul mate. He didn't believe in soul mates, forever love, or even happily ever after.
Jennifer paced the floor of her parents’ home, waiting for Brent to pick her up. The empty house seemed to echo with loneliness, yet she felt relieved that Julia had a party to attend tonight. She wasn't ready for Brent and Julia to see each other again, even after all these years. For deep down, she feared Brent would take one look at Julia and her bright, bubbly personality and forget all about brainiac Jennifer.
And could she blame him? Her sister was fun, vivacious, and he'd been attracted to her long ago.
She tried telling herself after nearly fifteen years, her feelings were silly. But she'd yet to convince the seventeen-year-old inside her, and Brent still believed that he'd slept with Julia on that hot summer night. Maybe he'd be interested in rekindling that fire when he saw Julia.
Whatever had possessed her to keep the truth from Brent? Infatuation and lust mixed inside a girl with raging teenage hormones, sprinkled with a dash of insecurity and jealousy of her sister. She sighed. Emotions that she'd let possess her, causing her to make a foolish decision.
And now, years later, how could she ever reveal to him— without suffering serious embarrassment—that she was the one he'd had sex with in the back of his car, not her sister? How did she start that conversation?
Oh by the way, it was my virginity you took fifteen years ago, not my sister's.
Even today her heart gave a little flutter and her body warmed at the memory. Though her hormones no longer raged, it seemed they'd never cooled where Brent was concerned. Only now she and Brent worked together, and their relationship
remain purely professional.
Tonight's date was a chance to sit down and talk, reaffirm that he would not tell anyone about how she jumped out of a coffin wearing little more than black chiffon scarves. Who else might have witnessed her performance at that ill-timed birthday bash? Maybe somewhere in the conversation she could work around to that night so long ago and confess the truth.
Yet confessing to him would mean the memory of that night reflected in his gaze each time he looked at her. Did she want to face that knowing sexual glance day after day? No way!
The loud purr of an engine rumbling down the street alerted her. She glanced out the window to see a metallic red BMW Z3 pulling into the driveway. No one could compare Brent with Ralph Nader. No, he was definitely more of a James Bond kind of guy, known for his exuberance for living and, rumor said, the ladies.
With anticipation, she watched Brent stroll to the front porch, a bounce in his step. She heard his knock on the door and let the curtain fall back into place. Nervous butterflies migrated across her intestinal system, overloading it with a sensuous flutter.
She opened the door. "Hi."
"Hi," he said and added, "Jennifer."
"You must have had your visit with the ophthalmologist."
"No," he replied. Placing his hand above her on the doorframe, he leaned toward her. "I would recognize that mischievous grin of yours anywhere."
"Well, you're in luck. Julia has not come in yet. She had some birthday party to work. So you weren't tested."
He glanced in at the house. "You still live at home?"
"My parents are no longer living and it's just Julia and me. We haven't had the heart to sell the old place."
"I'm sorry to hear that your folks have passed." He took a deep breath. "Are you ready?"
A pleasant, woodsy scent wafted from him, and Jennifer resisted the urge to step closer and place her nose against the curve of his neck.
"Yes," she finally managed. "Where are you taking me tonight?"
She stepped outside and shut the front door firmly behind her. Brent fell into step beside her as they strolled across the walkway.
"I thought we might try Randi's Steakhouse. It's a quiet restaurant a little way out of town, but the drive is nice."
One glance at his car and she turned back and raised a brow at him. "Which, in guy speak, means you just want to show off your hot rod."
He grinned. "Well, a man does like to have a fast machine beneath him. And it's not often that I get to drive it on a winding, country road."
Brent opened her door and she slid into the low automobile, her short summer dress sliding up to reveal more of her long legs than she'd intended. With a slam, he shut the door, and she pulled her dress down while he walked around the car and climbed in.
She glanced around the sleek automobile. "What happened to your father’s Mustang?"
Backing the car out of the driveway, his large hands gripped the steering wheel. He glanced at her, a smile brightening his handsome face. "I'd forgotten all about that car. Dad wouldn’t let me take it to college."
He made a right turn onto the main road out of town. "You had the coolest car in school except for David Stanley, who drove a hot-rod truck and had the looks to go with it."
Brent accelerated the car as they turned onto the interstate. He gave her an incredulous glance. "He was a nerd."
"What's wrong with nerds? I bet Bill Gates was once considered a nerd, and look at him." She liked the way Brent drove with confidence through the evening traffic.
"Bill Gates is still a nerd, just a rich one."
She laughed. "Okay, you're right."
A sound of disgust escaped his lips. "There's nothing wrong with being a nerd, just the fact David drove a hot truck and was a nerd."
"Oh, so only football jocks were supposed to be the ones with the hot cars."
"Nerds drive junkers."
She laughed, hoping that he only teased. "Please."
He grinned at her. "Well, back then I probably thought so. I see a nerd driving a Mercedes or Lexus. What do you drive?"
"A Pontiac Grand Prix, and no, I'm not a nerd."
His quick glance begged the question “Are you sure?”.
They sat in silence enjoying the ride. She didn't want to say anything, but she loved the way his little sports car clung to the road, low and fast, zipping around corners and speeding down hills. The thrill felt almost sexual and an anticipatory tenseness gripped her.
"I have no idea how fast you're going, but one of Tyler's finest is sitting at the top of the hill, waiting for you," she said, spying the police car from afar.
"Good eyesight," he said, hitting the brakes and practically standing the little car on its nose. The seat belt restrained Jennifer as her body catapulted forward.