After finding her—now former—fiancé in bed with another woman, Sara Simmons decides that love and marriage just aren’t for her. What she needs is a hot fling. Enter hunky next-door neighbor Gavin Blake. But Gavin is playing for keeps, and he’s vowed to hold out for more than sex. Begging isn’t Sara’s style…but she will if he won’t!
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Hah! Sara behaved very much like a woman scorned—or a woman who had caught her fiancé intimately involved with another woman. And knowing Karen as he did, that assumption wasn’t unrealistic. He’d learned some time ago that Karen would never be a faithful, devoted, loving partner. Which was why he’d ended the relationship and sent her on her way months ago.
But as the two women ran straight for him and he saw the fury—and the hurt—in Sara’s eyes, Gavin knew for a certainty Karen had been up to her old tricks. He decided to stay out of the matter and let Sara do her worst, knowing she wouldn’t actually hurt Karen. But the women had other ideas.
They tried to use him as a maypole.
He dropped the file he’d been holding and saw the approved plans for another subdivision scatter across the garage floor. He struggled to maintain his balance with Karen trying to shield herself behind him and Sara trying to go straight through him. He bent to retrieve a floor plan being mangled under furious feminine feet and was promptly shoved away and onto his backside. Having just come from the office, he was unfortunately wearing dress pants. He started to grumble, but then Karen made a dive for the house, and Sara followed, climbing right over the top of him.
There was another loud screech, and Gavin couldn’t help but grin. He’d known since first meeting Sara that she was a passionate little thing, filled with energy and an abundance of emotion. But this was the first time he’d seen that emotion really set free. The jerk she’d planned to marry would never have made her happy. Gavin supposed, in a way, he owed Karen his thanks for showing Sara just how big a jerk Ted really was.
Then he heard the sound of breaking glass and decided he’d have to intervene after all. Knowing Sara, and he’d come to know her very well since she’d moved into one of the houses he built, she’d hate her loss of control once she calmed down.
He wondered briefly if she’d allow him to console her.
Coming up behind Sara, he was just in time to duck the rake as she took another swipe at the cowered, screeching Karen. Gavin snatched it out of her hands, and when she rounded on him, he pulled her close in a careful bear hug. “Just calm down, honey.”
He tried to keep the satisfaction and good humor out of his tone. Little by little, the enormity of the situation was sinking in, and he was starting to feel damn good. He’d now see the end of Sara’s fiancé—and without a guilty con- science. He’d held back, keeping his personal interest to himself, unwilling to involve himself in a set relationship, even though he knew the relationship was doomed. Sara was much too good for Ted, she just hadn’t seemed to realize it.
But with these new crimes against him, Sara would surely send Ted packing. Finally they would both be free of ties, and he’d be able to pursue her the way he wanted to.
Sara growled, and he had to admit, the menacing sound was very effective. “Let me go, Gavin.”
No way. She felt damn good in his arms, too good. He looked down at her rigid expression, her bright eyes, and had to fight to keep from kissing her. This was the first time he’d ever been able to actually hold her, and he liked it—a lot. She growled again and he saw that slightly crooked front tooth, the one that always taunted him, made him want to touch it with his tongue. He tightened his hold just a bit more, relishing the feel of her small body tucked up against his, and breathed in her gentle fragrance. Sara always smelled of sunshine and softness and woman. He lowered his mouth to her ear.
“I think you’ve made your point, honey. Karen understands the error of her ways.”
She struggled in his arms. “You don’t know what they… They were in my house, in my bed!”
He did know. The house meant everything to Sara, but very little to Ted. In fact, Sara had bought the place herself, no small feat for a woman alone with a moderate income. And not a day went by that she didn’t tell him what a wonderful job he’d done building that house. She made him feel as if he’d given her the moon.
“It won’t happen again, Sara. I promise.”
He had a hell of a time controlling his elation. And when Sara peeked up at him with energy and emotion blazing in her blue eyes, he couldn’t help himself. He smiled.
Very slowly she looked around. A lamp lay broken on the floor and Gavin saw her wince. When her gaze landed on the shattered picture, she closed her eyes as if in pain. Color flooded her smooth cheeks.
Behind him, he heard the sounds of Karen slinking away.
No doubt she planned to make a strategic retreat. Gavin ignored her. In the three months she’d been gone, he hadn’t missed her once. “Sara? Are you okay now?”
Cautiously, making certain she wouldn’t bolt after Karen again, Gavin lowered his arms. She stood there, her eyes still closed, her cheeks pulsing with heat. She said in a strangled whisper, “I’m sorry.”
Gavin touched her cheek, swamped with tenderness and a real healthy dose of desire. “Hey, don’t worry about it. After a boring day in the office, I needed a little excitement.”
She drew in a long, slow breath, then opened her eyes, but didn’t look at him. Instead she surveyed the damage. “I didn’t mean to break anything.”
“Karen would probably disagree.”
Her gaze shot to his face and her hands curled into fists. “I don’t want her anywhere near me ever again.”
She was such a ferocious, impassioned little thing when duly provoked. “Don’t worry. I think Karen has learned her lesson. Besides, I wasn’t the one who invited her here.”
She scowled. “No. Ted apparently did.”
“What will you do?” He was very curious, but he held no sympathy for Ted. In fact, he wanted to rub his hands in glee over Ted’s folly. The idiot.
Sara lifted her chin, then slowly stepped around the broken glass on the floor. “I’ll take care of Ted.” Gavin watched her stiff posture as she walked away, and he wondered if he should accompany her home so she wouldn’t have to face Ted alone. Then he thought better of it.
Ted didn’t stand a chance.
Besides, Sara was private, with a streak of dignity and pride a mile wide. She wouldn’t want an audience when she gave Ted the boot. He knew Sara—not as well as he’d like to, but probably better than Ted would ever know her. At least he knew enough to realize how important old-fashioned values were to her. Possibly because they were important to him as well.
She’d talk to Ted, listen to his lame excuses, then toss him out on his miserable can. She’d be hurt for a while, but she’d get over it, just as she’d get over Ted. Gavin was willing to give her some time.
And then it was finally going to be his turn.
End of Excerpt
is available in the following editions:
Out of Print Editions
March 1, 2000