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Authors: Brenda Jackson

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BOOK: Essence of Desire
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“A handshake instead of a hug, Robert?”

He quickly thought he could do better than either, and bent over to give her a kiss on the cheek. “How are you Roxie?”

“I’m doing fine, and,” she said smiling, and glancing around at the grand structure he was standing in front of. “It’s seems like you’re doing fine as well if this place is anything to go by.”

He couldn’t help but grin. “Mom and Dad are getting up in age and Kat and I figured we needed to come home and check on them whenever we can. For me it would be easier to maintain my privacy with my own place.”

She nodded in understanding. The home she had purchased a few years ago was what she considered a safe distance from her parents as well. She didn’t have to worry about unexpected drop-in visits.

“And how is Kat?” she asked smiling. Katherine was his sister who was a couple of years older than she, and owned a pharmaceutical company and lived in Atlanta.

“She’s fine and doing well. Her business is booming and she’s looking to open another firm in Dallas later this year.”

“She’s still single?” she asked.

“She’s too busy to settle down.” He then gazed deep into her eyes and said quietly. “Colt told me about your divorce. Sorry.”

She shrugged. “Don’t be. I’m not. I was only married a couple of years and I’m not going to lie and say you probably would have liked him. Colt didn’t.”

His laugh was raspy. “Yeah, so I heard.”

Knowing how close he and Colt were, she wasn’t surprised. “So, where’s your secretary?” she asked, deciding it was time to change subjects and officially get down to business.

“It was time I flew in to check on the folks so I told her I would meet with you.”

She knew that his parents, like hers, were an active couple. They loved their kids but liked their freedom and didn’t want their offspring hovering over them. Colt and his family usually flew home every year for the holidays and she made a point to visit every Sunday for dinner. That was enough for her parents who enjoyed doing things with other retired couples like Robert’s parents. They were known to take trips together since the four enjoyed camping out.

“I’m glad you did,” she heard herself say. “It’s been a while. What, about five years?”

He raised a brow. “That long?”

“Yes. Not since Colt’s wedding,” she pointed out.

He leaned against the doorframe again. “That’s right. You weren’t at CJ’s christening,” he said.

No, she wasn’t. That weekend two years ago when her parents had flown to L.A., she had feigned an illness to stay behind to move out of her apartment with Darrin. Disappointment, as well as anger, flooded her insides whenever she thought of her ex-husband whose idea of relieving job related stress was coming home every day and treating her like crap. She had taken as much of it as she could but the day he had raised a hand to her had been the last straw. Luckily he had caught himself, but still, just the thought that he had come close to hitting her had sent her packing. And the sad thing was that he hadn’t come looking for her with an apology or requesting any type of reconciliation. He had continued on with his life as if she’d never been a part of it. She was grateful she no longer ran into him from time to time since he had finally taken a job that had moved him away from Summerlin.

Deciding it was time to change the subject yet again, she said. “So tell me about this house; exactly what do you envision? What is it that you want?”

He studied her gaze for a moment longer and then as if he felt her desire not to offer an explanation as to why she had missed her nephew’s christening, he said. “Let’s go inside and look around, shall we?”

Robert opened the door and stood back to let Roxie walk pass him. He had suspected there had been a good reason for her not to attend her nephew’s christening, and later Colt had basically confirmed things when he said she and her husband had split. Since Colt and his parents had never liked the man, there hadn’t been any blood lost. No one could understand how she had gotten involved with the guy in the first place and had been shocked when she’d eloped one weekend.

“This place is gorgeous.”

Her words intruded on his thoughts and he glanced over at her. She was standing in the middle of the living room in front of the huge floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall window that provided a beautiful view of Lake Darling as well as the Arcane hills and valleys. “You’ve never been inside this place before?” he asked, although from the look on her face he could tell that she hadn’t.

“No, it’s not as if many of the regular folks and the Potters ran in the same circles,” she said, since everyone knew how the Potters used to snub their noses at the middle class and under.

“No, it’s not like they did.” He glanced around, taking in all the expensive light fixtures hanging from the ceilings as well as the fancy crown moldings that bordered the walls. It had been for sale for about a year and he had negotiated with the realtor for half that long to get the price where he wanted it.

“I want to give this house more than just a designer’s touch,” he decided to say, letting his gaze return to her, seeing how immersed she was in checking out certain things.

She turned and met his gaze. “What would you like done?”

“A total makeover.”

She lifted a brow. Typically, whatever the client wanted, the client got with no questions asked. However, she couldn’t reframe from saying. “A total makeover for a house you only plan to live in on occasion?”

“Yes.”

He’d given her an answer. Nothing more and nothing less. There was no doubt in Roxie’s mind that he saw the lingering questions in her gaze, but evidently chose to ignore it when he said. “One of the first things I want to change is the light fixtures in here. They are too dramatic.”

Roxie glanced up and couldn’t help but concur. The chandelier was so humongous it seemed to overpower the room. “I’m thinking something less reflective. Softer lightning would work.”

“I agree.”

They spent the next hour and a half going from room to room, while he told her his likes and dislikes and the changes he wanted to see implemented. She had taken a notepad from her purse and jotted down information. Ideas had already begun forming in her head of how she could do the things he wanted.

She was in awe as they stepped out in the courtyard. It was huge with a swimming pool and a private tennis court. “I want more flowering plants than what is here, the kind that will bloom year round. I want this to be a showplace at night and envision a lot of light out here, enough to reflect on the lake,” he told her.

She nodded, envisioning that as well. She wondered if he would be spending more time at this house than she originally thought. Was he considering making this place his primary home? Besides the home in Orlando, he also had a condo in L.A., where he stayed whenever he went out to visit Colt or took care of business interests he had there.

“If you could have a budget prepared by next week, I could sign off on it,” he was saying. A smile touched his lips when he added. “Granted it’s acceptable.”

“I think it will be, Robert, just as long as you realize that the complete makeover you want will cost.”

He looked out over the lake and then back at her. “I’m sure that it will.”

She met his gaze and suddenly felt herself being pulled into the aura of magnetism that seemed to surround him. Was she imagining things or was that a look of male interest in the darkness of his gaze? She inhaled deeply thinking she must be imagining things.

He was undeniably handsome and always had been. Together he and Colt used to have the female population of Summerlin acting like total fools. As a young girl she would often sit in a corner at her house pretending to be reading or watching television but actually listening to them operate on the phone, setting up dates, hitting women with lines they had originated. They had been heartbreakers of the worse kind, and from what she used to overhear from her parents’ conversations, their college days hadn’t been any better, or the days that followed after graduation. Colt meeting Cinnamon and falling in love had come as a shock and had proven that even the most despicable rogue could meet his match.

He broke eye contact with her to check his watch. “What are your plans for later?” he asked. The dark gaze in his eyes, at least the one she’d imagined as being sexual interest, was gone. The look he now gave her was all business.

“I don’t have any.”

“Have dinner with me so we can finish up our discussion. I’m not all that thrilled with the color of the tile in the bathrooms or the wood grain of the cabinets.”

Her heart began thumping at the thought of having dinner with him. “That will be fine,” she heard herself say.

“Where are you staying so that I can pick you up later?” he asked.

Roxie was about to tell him that she could meet him wherever he chose for them to eat and thought better of it, especially since he offered. She gave him her address and wasn’t surprised when he didn’t write it down. Another thing she remembered about him was that he had a photographic memory. She recalled how Colt would joke about Robert’s memory working in their favor since they never had to worry about keeping up with any little black books.

“I’ll pick you up at seven. You still enjoy eating seafood?”

She nodded, surprised he remembered. “Yes.”

“Then I’m sure we’ll find someplace to satisfy your desires. I suggest you dress casual.”

“All right.” Already her mind was twirling as to what she would wear. She didn’t care that it wasn’t that kind of date but still, she wanted to look her best even if they were only talking business.

“Come on, we can leave now and I will make sure Hazel gets you a set of keys.”

He placed the palm of his hand in the center of her back to escort her out and she felt a deep beating in her chest from his touch. No matter what sort of history they had, no matter how close he was to her brother or their family ties, working for him was going to be a challenge, but only if he was ever around, which she suspected – and gladly – that he wouldn’t be.

She needed time to think about why a man she had stopped being attracted to years ago was stirring shocking and dangerous emotions within her.

Two
 

Roxie double-checked her hair and makeup in the mirror before heading downstairs. She expected Robert to arrive any moment and she wanted to be ready to walk out the door when he did.

Since coming home she had called Colt to thank him for the referral, although he pretended he had no idea what she was talking about. Yeah, right. Her last big decorating project had been last year when she had won a bid to decorate several model homes for a major builder in town. The job had kept her too busy to dwell on a broken heart.

The moment her foot hit the last stair, she heard the sound of the doorbell. Not surprisingly, Robert was right on time. He had said to dress casual so she had decided on a pair of black slacks and a yellow knitted top. She was wearing her shoulder length dark hair up and a pair of dangling earrings hung from her ears.

Grabbing her purse off the table she headed for the door. The first thing she’d done once she had gotten home was to think about the magnitude of the job Robert had offered to her, and then she gave herself time to think about the man himself. Not the old Robert, since she was too much a part of that history to get stuck in the past. She thought about what she considered as the new Robert. The one who had become a powerhouse in his own right. Although he had greeted her with a familiarity she couldn’t deny even if she’d wanted to, there was something about his manner that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Granted she hadn’t seen him in five years, but still even then at the wedding, he had been at the top of his playa game.

The women had actually all paused when he had walked into the church for the rehearsal. He had had his pick and he had relished doing so. Colt’s marriage had taken him out of the spectator sport but Robert had been busy enjoying every privilege being a single man had to offer. She couldn’t help but wonder if he was still enjoying being a bachelor with just as much gusto as he used to and if not, then why. His love life was no longer embellished in the tabloids like it used to be and she couldn’t help wondering why? Was there a woman he had gotten serious about and like Colt had done, was ready to settle down?

She wondered what type of woman could have captured the interest of a man like Robert. Cinnamon hadn’t really been a surprise since she was beautiful and highly intelligent. She had also been smart enough not to act like Colt had been God’s gift to women. In fact, she had turned him down the first couple of times he had asked her out. He had first seen her as a challenge, after that an obsession, and then the love of his life. Cinnamon had worked Colt and he hadn’t realized it until it was too late. As far as Roxie was concerned, her sister-in-law was the best thing to ever happen to her brother and Colt was smart enough to know it.

Upon reaching the door she hesitated a moment before opening it. She opened her mouth to say a greeting and nearly choked on her tongue doing so. It had gotten dark and the light from the street lamp shined on her doorstep and cast a warm glow on him. He stood there, tall, with his hands in the pockets of his slacks. His eyes shone like dark orbs in a perfectly handsome face. A smile that seemed as natural as breathing touched his lips, making him appear sexy as sin.

BOOK: Essence of Desire
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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