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Authors: Brenda Jackson

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BOOK: Essence of Desire
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“You’re ready?”

He sounded surprised and she couldn’t help smiling at that. She stepped out and closed the door shut behind her, making sure it was locked. “Of course. I consider this a free meal.”

“And here I assumed it was my personality,” he said as they walked toward his rental car together.

“It was, to a point,” she said grinning as he opened the car door and she slid inside. She knew it was a rental car but she thought it was pretty classy just the same. She watched as he walked around the front of the car before getting in on the driver’s side and again reminded herself that this was not a date.



It was hard for Robert to keep his eyes on the road and not glance over at Roxie at every traffic light he came to and for once he didn’t complain about the number that seemed to be on every corner.

He thought Roxie looked fantastic. When the car came to yet another traffic light his gaze scanned her face, thinking how she still had that girlish look near her eyes and nose but that her lips had matured into those of a woman. The combination would have one guessing as to whether she was nineteen or her age as he knew it to be of twenty-eight. Little Roxanne Miller, whom everyone always called Roxie, had certainly grown up to be a very beautiful and desirable woman.

Desirable? Yes, she was certainly that. The man in him could definitely attest to that. He didn’t find it odd that he felt that way considering the fact he’d known her for so long. She had captured his attention at Colt’s wedding, but at the time his focus had shifted to Ava what’s-her-name when she’d given him the I-want-you-bad eye. Ava had been Cinnamon’s girlfriend from college and one of her bridesmaids. A very hot one at that. The woman had enticed him to indulge in a little after-the-wedding -night affair and his libido had refused to consider turning her down.

“The traffic light has changed now.”

He blinked upon realizing Roxie had spoken, making him fully aware he’d been caught staring. He might as well come clean. Easing the car along once again he said, “I was just studying your features and thinking how much you’ve changed.”

Her soft chuckle flitted through the air. “All of us have. Nothing stays the same. That’s life.”

Did he detect bitterness in her voice? He guessed for some women facing thirty was a vast undertaking, one they would prefer rolling back the clock for. “Yes, that is life, but I can’t help but recall the last time I had the opportunity to drive you anywhere. Remember?” he asked.

He glanced back over at her and saw her scrunch up her forehead and her expression told him that she did. “I kept my promise and never told anyone about it, Roxie.”

Roxie allowed herself time to reflect on the incident he was talking about. It was the time she had been in her last year of high school and had lied to her parents about spending the night with a girlfriend when her intent had been to spend the night in a hotel room with Jordan Wycliffe instead. Colt and Robert had been away attending grad school in Boston.

She couldn’t rightly recall what Jordan had said to make her change her mind about giving up her virginity to him, but he hadn’t been pleased with her decision not to go all the way with him to the point that he had asked her to leave. With no money and no way back home, she had started walking away from the hotel in the middle of the night.

It was a stroke of luck for her, or sheer embarrassment, whichever way you want to look at it, that Robert, who had been in town that weekend for his father’s hip surgery, just happened to be checking into that same hotel with a woman, and had seen her when she had been leaving. Once she had confided as to what she was doing there, he had first threatened to take her home to her parents, but she had begged him not to tell them or Colt. Grudgingly, after what she thought was a never ending lecture from him, he had put his agitated date in a cab home and had taken Roxie to his parent’s house since he’d known his mother would be spending the night at the hospital. To this day, the entire incident had been their secret.

“Please don’t remind me about that night,” she said, even now embarrassed while remembering it. “How stupid could I have been? Jordan was a total jerk for what he did. Anything could have happened to me that night had I walked back home. The least he could have done was to give me cab money.”

Robert totally agreed, which was why after getting Roxie settled in his parent’s home he had gone back to the hotel to make sure the young man understood the error of his ways. He doubted Jordan would ever forget. It had given Robert great pleasure to give the punk a busted lip, among other things, which would have been much worse if Colt had been the one avenging his sister’s honor. In the end he had educated Jordan to the fact that a woman had choices and could change her mind whenever she liked. A real man would accept her decision and not treat her like crap because things ended up not going his way.

“Life has a way of educating you. At the time you were seventeen and probably thought he was a nice guy,” he said.

“I did. Boy, was I wrong.” Just like she’d been wrong about Darrin. When she had met Darrin she had been twenty-two, married at twenty-four and divorced at twenty-five. She had made the decision after her divorce not to get seriously involved with another man and to live the rest of life single and carefree.

“So, where are we going?” she glanced over and asked him, surprised she hadn’t asked before now. That goes to show just how comfortable and trusting she was with him.

“Ellie’s. It’s been a while since I’ve been there.”

It had been a while since she’d been there as well, she thought. Ellie was a popular restaurant that served delicious seafood. The last time she had gone there, she’d been with Darrin. He had wanted to impress her. After dinner they had returned to her apartment and he had asked her to marry him, promising to love and cherish her forever.

The liar.

She tried to get her mind to replay some of the good times she remembered in her marriage and couldn’t for all the bad times overshadowing those few times.

A rap on the car’s window made her jump. It was then that she realized that while she had been lost in her thoughts, not only had they arrived at Ellie’s, but Robert had already gotten out for valet parking and she needed to unlock her door so he could open it for her.

“Sorry, I got lost in my thoughts,” she said when he opened the door.

“No problem.”

And then with his hand at the center of her back he led her inside the restaurant.



Robert leaned back in his chair when an uncomfortable feeling seeped deep into his muscles. He was enjoying Roxie’s company. Probably a little too much. And he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.

So far their conversation had covered a lot about his new home and she had shared some of her ideas. Some he had liked while others he had not. But what was always consistent, what he had definitely liked, was seeing her mouth in action. It had a sensuous rhythm that all but stroked him every time a word flowed from between her lips. And then there were those chocolate colored eyes that looked like they belonged in the bedroom.

Tonight he thought that she looked ultra sexy. He was tempted to reach out and release the clip holding her hair up to let it down and run his fingers through it to give her that sensuous mussed-up look. He was surprised he would think that way, especially about her.

Although Mariah had withdrew her claim of sexual harassment before it made it to court, her false accusation had virtually killed his bachelor spirit in a way that Roxie’s sexy lips, bedroom eyes and sensuous mussed-up look couldn’t even restore. These days he preferred just being by himself and wondered how long he could last without the feel of a woman’s body beneath him. He allowed himself a moment to ponder the thought and felt his body—the part below the belt—get hard just thinking about what he was missing by refusing to get entangled in the warmth of female skin.

“So how long will you be in Summerlin?”

He took a sip of his drink before saying, “I’m flying out first thing in the morning but plan to return next weekend. It’s Aunt Bessie’s birthday and the folks are giving her a party at the civic center. If I’m not mistaken, your parents are invited.”

A glint appeared in the depths of her dark eyes. “I couldn’t imagine the Nobles having any type of an affair without inviting the Millers.”

He nodded. “So you dropped your husband’s name,” he said, making the observation he had noticed last week.

“Like a hot potato. I had no reason to keep it. I thought our marriage was going to be like my parents and last forever. In the end Darrin and I could barely make it to two years.”

“What happened?” Too late he’d asked before considering the fact it wasn’t any of his business.

She glanced up at him from beneath what he’d always thought was a pair of beautiful eyelashes. “He didn’t love me as much as he claimed he did.”

Her words were tinged with the pain she undoubtedly still felt. Pain or disappointment, he wasn’t sure. It bothered him, actually gripped his gut, to know that someone had hurt her.

There was silence for a moment. He didn’t know what to say. Earlier that day he’d said he was sorry to hear about her divorce, now he wasn’t sorry to hear about it at all.

Deciding they needed to move on beyond that point, he picked up the dessert menu, glanced at it and said. “Mmm, I think I have a taste for something sweet.”

“Something like what?”

He was tempted to glance up and look into her eyes and say, something like you. But instead he said, “Chocolate cake. You know how much I love chocolate.”

“Yes, I know. In that case you might want to try their fudge brownie with chocolate ice cream on top.”

“Is it good?”


He smiled over at her. “I think that I will.”



“I had a wonderful time tonight Robert, and we covered a lot of material,” Roxie said as he walked her to the door. “Now I have a good idea of just what it is that you want and should have some preliminary sketches to you within a week,” she added.

“I look forward to getting them. And you can expect a call from Hazel by Wednesday to go over my choice in cabinet designs for the bathrooms upstairs,” he said shoving his hands into his pockets so he wouldn’t be tempted to reach out and pull her into his arms.

It was a move that had appealed to him all night. However he had managed to keep himself in check by inwardly asserting the fact that at thirty-six he was capable of controlling a physical attraction to a very desirable and beautiful woman. Especially when it was a woman he had known all of her life.

“All right,” she said, breaking into his thoughts by responding to his comment.

“And if something comes up that you think that I need to handle, you have my number. Call me,” he suggested.

She merely nodded and his gut clenched when she took the tip of her tongue and used it to swipe her top lip. He wanted to take that same tongue in his mouth and have a field day with it.

Instead he leaned down and gave her a brotherly peck on the cheek. “Take care, Roxie.”

“You do the same Robert, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to work for you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

He believed her. Squaring his shoulders he took a step back. “Go on in and flick the light switch several times to let me know you’re inside safely.”


She quickly opened the door and he remained rooted to the spot until he saw the signal he’d asked her to give him. It was then that he headed toward the car hoping that he got a chance to see her next weekend when he returned.



It was a good ten minutes before Roxie moved away from the window after having watched Robert drive away. She headed up the stairs thinking about everything that had transpired over dinner.

He had been an absolute gentleman, someone who, although he hadn’t been arrogant in his demeanor, still managed to exude wealth and power. Even his clothes, although casual, gave him a refined look while at the time displayed a look that oozed confidence and a coolness he wore with style. And every time she thought about his killer-watt smile her chest tightened and she felt heat simmering in the pit of her stomach.

She of all people knew he and Colt always had a way with women. Where now with Colt it was confined to one woman, she couldn’t help wondering if Robert was still the playa that he used to be. She couldn’t help noticing all the female interest thrown his way when they had walked into the restaurant. Funny thing is that he never bothered to look back. Granted she was with him, but it really hadn’t been that kind of date. But then she guessed it would have been rather tacky for him to say to her,
Excuse me for a moment while I get this woman’s phone number.

More than once she had glanced up from eating and had caught him staring at her. She figured he’d done so while reminiscing, remembering the good old days and recalling when she had been nothing more than a thorn in his and Colt’s side. That possibly might have been the case for him, but each time their gazes met had been like a physical caress, a nerve-racking summon of her most sensuous desires. And they were desires she had tried putting on the back burner after Darrin.

BOOK: Essence of Desire
8.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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