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When Julia Chapman first sees drop-dead handsome Ben Russell at the helm of his boat, she's hooked. They meet soon after at a mutual friend's party but her hopes and dreams are shattered by his less-than-friendly behavior toward her.

Fighting the instant attraction he feels for the gorgeous school teacher, Ben pushes her away with borderline rudeness. But he soon finds he can't fight his growing desire for her.

When they finally come together, the sex is explosive and plentiful. She falls hard for him, and is happy beyond belief, until she hears a message on his answering machine a couple of months into their relationship and her perfect world collapses.


A Romantica® contemporary erotic romance from Ellora's Cave



The sun was high when Julia awoke the following morning. She slid from the bed and stood at the window as a boat sailed by. Her thoughts shifted back to Ben Russell. She sighed with regret for what could have been and never would be. She was so tired of dating men who were almost interchangeable. Ben Russell seemed different. She'd hoped he'd be someone special, someone she'd like well enough to date more than once. But he wouldn't do. Not even for one single date. She turned from the window and went into the bathroom.
It was a clear, sunny day, perfect to sit on her back porch in her favorite chair and enjoy the Indian summer heat. With a cup of coffee in one hand and her manuscript in the other, Julia watched in total bewilderment as Ben Russell moored Serenity at her dock, step ashore, and amble toward her as if he'd been invited.
Lying at her feet, Fred raised his head and made threatening, low, growling noises. "Does he bite?" Ben asked as he started to climb the steps to the porch.
Only jerks like you. "Not usually."
His lips curled into a smirk. "I'll take my chances then."
She shrugged. It wouldn't be her problem if suddenly Fred decided to go after his tall, hairy legs clad in a pair of cargo shorts. In spite of herself, the sight of him made her pulse go faster. Damn. He was a handsome one in a wild, dark way. She grabbed Fred's collar more to keep her hands busy than from any concern.
"Why are you here?"
"I came to invite you to lunch."
He was even more lust worthy in daylight and she couldn't help the surge of heat to her face and neck, and the moistening of her pussy. She had to act calmly though, so she nodded at his boat. "In that?"
His face lifted in a flash of amusement. "No. In a restaurant."
"Huh." That was all she managed to say when her heart leapt with pleasure.
"Is that a yes?"
"I thought you weren't looking for a partner."
"I'm not."
Her jaw started to clench. "What do you want from me, Ben?"
"A lunch date," he said easily.
She'd been out of the dating game so long now she didn't know how to play it. And Ben Russell was older, more mature than the men she had previously dated. Famous even! And capricious. He was definitely that. She could hardly recognize last night's distant, cynical man in the almost amiable person standing in front of her today. But he was still the same person who told her in no uncertain terms he wasn't looking for a partner. And a partner was what she truly wanted.
"I can't."
He frowned. "You mean you won't?"
"I mean I already have a date."
"With Kevin?"
So, he did notice. Excellent! "Yes."
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Cancel it."
A derisive little laugh gurgled from her throat. "Why would I cancel a date with a nice, friendly man to be with you?"
Leaning down, Ben placed his hands on the arms of her Adirondack chair, his eyes blazing with some strong emotion—anger, annoyance, frustration? "Because I'm not nice or friendly… and also not boring."
"Kevin is n—" His mouth crashed down on hers, pushing the words back into her throat.
His kiss was wild. Wild and incredibly wonderful, intoxicatingly addictive. And it went on forever, his frustration transmitting to her mouth in a passionate demanding kiss that was more intent on stirring an immediate and overwhelming response, than tasting and exploring any kind of intimacy. It was impossible to even pretend she was outraged by his behavior when she was returning his kiss with the same mad urgency that seemed to have overtaken him. Arousal came fast and she shivered with the sheer force of it. There was no withdrawal from her, no attempt to pull away as their lips parted, their tongues thrust, and they licked, nipped and sucked as if they were starving and couldn't get enough of each other. She wanted him with a need so strong it stunned her. She tightly gripped the front of his shirt and her hands took their own fill of him, inciting him to take her. Intensely and immediately.
Oh, oh, this is pure insanity. A serious case of pent-up need unleashed by his expert and lustful kissing. She didn't want to go there. With more regret than she thought possible, she pushed against his chest with the flat of her hands.
He drew back, his eyes burning into hers.
"No!" she said, and though it wasn't the first time she'd said no to a man, this time she truly regretted it.
He straightened and blew out his breath, tension quite palpable.
"I must get ready for my date," she said, standing on shaky legs. She waited for him to back away but he merely shifted his body so she could squeeze by. She carefully stepped around, afraid to touch him and lose control again, and pushed through the screen door into the safety of her kitchen.


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Francesca St. Claire