“Have dinner with me, Alannah,” he says before looking around us. “Somewhere more private than this.”
“That would be a mistake, Parker, and you know it. We didn’t really end on good terms.” And that would be putting it mildly. How long did it take me to pick up the pieces after he said what we had was over?
“Have dinner with me anyway.” He pulls out a card and a pen from his breast pocket, writes something down on the back of it, and slides it across the table toward me. “That’s my personal cell phone number.”
His beeper buzzes then and he takes the last bite of his bacon. “I’ve got a meeting in five minutes. I hate to leave you but–”
“I know the drill, so no need to apologize,” I say as he gets up from the table. “I’ll be fine.”
He glances at his card, still on the table. “Think about dinner and call me. In fact, just call me. We need to talk.”
I almost tell him we really have nothing left to talk about but by the time I find the words, Parker has left the table. He’s also managed to undo me… again.
Other Side of Love is the story of Sarah and Benny from A Different Kind of Love series. I can’t seem to work on anything but their story so I’m going to run with it. The events in their story happens ten years before Everything She Ever Wanted.
I hear him make his way upstairs, the sound of the central heating switching on, a whisper of a breeze inside the room. I don’t even feel the cold. All I feel is that deep want for something only he can give me.
I catch my breath when Benny enters the room, still wearing his jeans unbuckled and unbuttoned, barefoot, his shirt half-open. I can feel him watching me as he approaches and I shiver in anticipation, biting my lower lip as his broad frame fills my vision. Friends have long wondered how we’d managed to stay together after twelve years when not even their marriages have lasted half that long. Sometimes I wonder if it’s this, the games we play together when we’re alone, the command over my body and my heart that I’ve given him so long ago, one that ends the moment I say my safe word… but I’ve never had to.
I feel Benny’s mouth on the back of my neck, his beard tickling my skin. I giggle, feeling his arms tighten around my waist as I playfully struggle to pull away. As I open my eyes, I see the time blinking from his bedside clock.
“Isn’t your flight in two hours?”
“Hmmm.” He nips the skin behind my ear and I shiver, goosebumps dotting my skin.
“You’re going to be late, Benny.”
“Just one more kiss,” he murmurs. “For the road.”
“One more kiss that’ll lead to one more–”
“Are you complaining?”
I turn my head toward him just in time for our mouths to meet. Of course, I’m not complaining. Why would I? I need to take what I can get for he’s leaving again and for how long, I don’t know. One would think after twelve years as an Environmental Protection Specialist, he’d get to stay in one place for good but with a new oil spill reported on tribal lands in Minnesota, he’s been called in as a consultant. Again. And just like the others before this one, whatever recommendations he proposes will only get mired in government red tape.
But I push the thought away, rolling onto my back as my lips part and his tongue slips between my teeth. My belly tightens as his kiss deepens, his tongue sweeping and tasting, making the butterflies in my belly come alive. Funny how twelve years since he first kissed me, not much has changed. Benny Turner still makes me weak in the knees with just a look, a touch, a kiss.
And that’s just the parts I can talk about.
Sarah and Benny lead the way for Love in Taos, a collection of holiday steamy short novellas I’m doing for 2019. The shorts are about 17k words each and will feature a couple you may have already met in earlier books or new ones.
A sudden POP! from the street below was followed by car alarms. It made Riley jump and she shut her eyes, though she composed herself as quickly as she could. He could see her fear from the way her body trembled, he felt it hanging in the air between them. Her hair was a jumble of waves cascading behind her back and it felt soft in his hand as he brushed a lock off her left shoulder. She flinched from his touch and Ashe felt his throat tighten.
“It’s only a car backfiring,” he whispered and Riley nodded, opening her eyes again though she kept her gaze on a spot in the middle of his shirt.
For the next few minutes, Ashe circled her. The exhaustion he’d felt earlier was gone. Anger still coursed through him but there was relief, too, like a heavy weight suddenly lifted from his shoulders. Knowing what he was didn’t guarantee that she’d stay with him, but at least there would be nothing hidden between them.
As I take a step toward the wood stove, I feel her hand on my arm. “Are you sure it won’t be any problem for you to bring a guest to dinner?”
“Definitely not,” I reply. “Besides, my sister’s bringing home her fiancé and I need a reason not to be too hard on him.”
“So you’re saying you need me,” she says, her eyes narrowing. “You aren’t asking me out of pity just because I’m by myself on Christmas Eve?”
I shake my head. “Of course not. Besides, what’s the fun in having chips and salsa by yourself when you can have all you can eat turkey and ham to go with that wine of yours? Or if you’re a vegetarian, sweet potatoes or green bean casserole.”
“I’m not vegetarian.”
“Is that a yes then?”
As she smiles, I’m suddenly struck by how beautiful Summer Avila is when she’s not on the defensive.
The next morning, Campbell and I hardly look at each other or even talk. Sure, we do the usual good mornings, how are you bit but that’s about it. It’s as if the clock has struck twelve and he’s on a mission to take Cinderella home seven hours too late.
He plays R&B on the radio and I busy myself by watching the city cloaked in snow pass outside the window. I wish I could rest my hand on his forearm like I used to when I had something to say or crack a dirty joke and think nothing more of it. It would have been completely normal, just two old friends hanging out.
But Campbell was right that first night. Once you get a taste of the forbidden, there’s no way you can go back to not wanting it again… and again.
Campbell finds me in the living room two hours later, sitting on the lambskin rug on the floor in front of his Christmas tree that’s all lit up. Fully decked out with the decorations we’d purchased at the holiday market, he added white string lights that make the golden ribbons and tinsel glisten like stars.
“What are you doing here?” He settles on the rug behind me and brings the blanket over our shoulders, his body so warm against my back.
“I remembered the tree. I missed it on the way in.”
“Ah, yes. I forgot to set the timer for the lights.”
I turn to look at him, his stubble grazing my shoulder as he leans forward. “I found the switch for it and turned it on. Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not. Thank you.”
“You did a great job with it, Cam. It’s beautiful.”
“Thanks to you,” he says, chuckling. “My mother’s probably still in shock after I sent her pictures of it. She figured hell must have frozen over.”
I giggle. “No, Caitlin just stormed through your apartment and demanded you put a tree up.”
Campbell scoots forward, his legs on either side of me and his arms circling my waist. “Thank you for this. It’s the best decision I ever made.”
“To put up a tree for Christmas?”
“To be with you.”
Hard to believe it’s been a week since I released Friends with Benefits and I’ve yet to celebrate its launch. If I did, I don’t remember because it was pretty hectic since it was also Thanksgiving weekend in my neck of the woods. But it’s live and I’m really very proud of it.
Campbell and Caitlin grew on me while writing Falling for Jordan and they were such strong happy characters that I knew they needed their own book even if they’re basically a tangent away from the series’ main characters of Dax and Harlow. Like the rest of the series, it’s only available on Amazon and included in your Kindle Unlimited subscription.