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Chapter One, Part One
For the third time in the last three minutes, Alex Graham pounded his fist against the solid oak door. He was going to kill Fliss as soon as she opened the door. If she ever did. Was she hiding from him? Too damn bad if she was. He would find her and tell her exactly what he thought of her stupid prank.
If he could control himself enough to speak before going after her neck.
After another knock went unanswered, he stepped back and turned, taking in the lush greenness of the lawn and the circular drive surrounding it. Where was she? He knew she was here. He stilled. Wait. She was here, right? But where else would she be?
She’d mentioned more than once that this place, located near Lake Arrowhead, was her sanctuary, a home her grandparents had built decades ago. They’d deeded the house to her on her twenty-fifth birthday a few years ago. Only her family and a few trusted friends knew she owned the isolated, log-style home. Not that he qualified as family or a trusted friend, but that was beside the point. Her red Mercedes was in the driveway, so she had to be here.
She’d better be.
He hadn’t driven up here, his air conditioning giving up the ghost halfway through the journey, for nothing.
Still, there was no sound or movement coming from the house. His anger momentarily replaced with equal doses of uncertainty and concern, he stepped off the porch, the soles of his shoes crunching on the walkway’s loose gravel, and headed toward his car to see if he could hear or see anything. He’d only gone about ten feet when he heard it. A tinkle of music. A piano, maybe? He stopped, perking his ears to determine its direction. The backyard. How could he have missed it? Well, that was easy enough to answer. His single-minded determination to get to Fliss and chew her ass out for putting him in this situation had blocked out his other senses.
He reversed field, wiping sweat off his forehead, and rounded the corner of the house. As he stepped into the backyard, the song, highlighted by a female vocalist wailing about a failed relationship, got louder. Fliss loved Adele.
But where the hell was Fliss?
Alex shaded his eyes with his right hand and peered around. A state-of-the-art pool to the left and a garden full of flowers to the right filled his vision. Behind the garden, the lawn ended at an expanse of woods with mountains in the distance. No woman hid behind a tree, even though that was the best place for her to be if she knew what was good for her.
Over the music, he heard a splash. Alex whirled just in time to see Fliss shoot to the pool’s surface. She gasped for breath and slicked her long black hair back. He swallowed hard and sent a quick thank you heavenward that one of the world’s most perfect bodies remained underwater.
Then she spotted him. A huge grin broke across her face. She swam a few short strokes to the pool’s edge and climbed the stairs inch by excruciating inch. Alex couldn’t have looked away even if someone had chosen that moment to offer him an unlimited budget to make the movie of his dreams. Not when perfection stared him in the face.
Perfection named Felicity Chambers. Movie star. People’s reigning “Most Beautiful Person in the World.” His Kryptonite.
As more and more of her delectable body was revealed, Alex felt the pull of her Siren-like allure drawing him closer to certain doom. He hardened instantly. Not good. Horrible, actually. He prided himself on always maintaining his control in every situation, but as he was learning, he was just a man.
A red-blooded man. A red-blooded man who lusted after his best friend’s wife.
She wore a red bikini. If the scraps of material could be called that. The suit was simple, but that was the beauty of its magic, the source of its power. The wet triangles of the top molded to the slopes of her full, mouthwatering breasts, her nipples poking against the material. His eyes drifted to her bare torso with its flat stomach and the sexiest belly button he’d ever seen. It dipped in like it was begging a tongue, his tongue, to dart inside for a taste. Her trim waist curved down to shapely hips that gently swung side to side as she climbed the stairs. Hourglasses weren’t made any better.
The sensible thing to do would be to turn his back, if only to search for a towel to offer her so she could cover herself. But his feet refused to budge, and his eyes were rendered incapable of searching out another target. He breathed a small sigh of relief when she grabbed a towel from a pool chair and patted herself dry, temporarily covering parts of her body. At this point, he’d take what he could get.
His relief proved to be short-lived. She resumed walking toward him. For most women, being without makeup, their hair molded to their scalps, would be too harsh. Fliss wasn’t most women. If anything, the style enhanced her natural beauty. Smooth and creamy cinnamon-colored skin, elegant cheekbones, plump, pink lips, and a heart-shaped face. She didn’t need any enhancing. Damn her.
Fliss stopped directly in front of him, less than three feet away. It felt like three inches. Alex refused to move. Damn it, he would remain in control of his wayward desires even if it killed him. He kept his eyes trained squarely on her face. Droplets of water clung to luscious lips and long eyelashes. Her grin still stretched across her face.
He balled his hands at his sides to keep from reaching for her and caressing her flawless skin, which he now knew was soft thanks to that night. So soft. Would she mold to his touch if he pulled her into his body? Would she raise her lips to his and accept his kiss? Actively participate in it?
“Alex, what are you doing here?” She sounded honestly surprised to see him.
He gave himself permission to look into her whiskey-colored eyes. They were mesmerizing, large and almond-shaped, and he found himself drowning. By sheer force of will, he dragged himself back to the surface and dispassionately studied her eyes. As he suspected, they were dancing. She was laughing at him.
It was the reality check he desperately needed. He was supposed to be mad. Scratch that. He was mad. He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “You know exactly why I’m here. Don’t play games with me.”
“It’s nice to see you, too.” She quirked an eyebrow, clearly not intimidated by his no-nonsense tone and demeanor.
“Fliss…” he warned.
“Why don’t you chill? It’s time to celebrate. Didn’t you hear? I’m officially a free woman now.”
Yes, he’d heard. Which was why he now realized coming here had been a very, very bad idea.
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