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Authors: Brenda Jackson

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Essence of Desire (6 page)

BOOK: Essence of Desire
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He checked his watch, deciding it would be acceptable for her to think she’d had the last word on the issue. “You indicated you don’t have another appointment scheduled, so you’re in no hurry to return to Summerlin, right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“In that case, do you mind going shopping with me while we’re here? I need to buy Aunt Bessie a birthday present and I’m hoping you can help me find something she’d like.”

Not surprising to him, like most women who received great enjoyment from shopping, Roxie flashed him a grin and said. “I’d love to.”



An hour or so later and they were still wandering through various stores and shops at the Oak Court Mall. Robert had already purchased Aunt Bessie a beautiful bathrobe with matching house shoes, and because Roxie knew how much the older woman still enjoyed knitting, she had purchased her a beautiful white wicker basket filled with several colors of yarn.

“Did I tell you that Kat is coming in for the party?” he asked her when they walked out one store and were heading for another.

“No, but I figured she would be, granted Bessie is her favorite aunt.”

Robert chuckled. “Bessie is her
aunt. She’s my dad oldest sister who helped raise him when their parents died. But I’m sure you know the story.”

Roxie nodded. Yes, she knew it. There had been five Noble siblings and now there were only two left - Aunt Bessie and Robert’s father, Robert Senior. That was one of the reasons the elder Nobles were anxious for grandchildren. Roxie had gotten that much information from her own parents who spent quite a lot of time with the Nobles.

“I’m surprised Colt’s not coming,” she said. “He’s always had a fondness for Aunt Bessie.”

“And she for him,” he said.

She opened her mouth to ask something about Colt and before she could Robert asked. “What ever happened to the Hills who used to live on the corner of your parent’s street?”

She then begin talking, bringing him up to date on things that had happened in Summerlin over the past year. When his jet landed back in Summerlin there were two cars waiting for them. “One of the drivers will take you on home,” he explained. “The other one is for me. I have another engagement.”

“Oh, I understand,” she said. From the way she’d made the comment and the knowing smile on her face, Robert knew she assumed his other engagement involved a woman, so he said. “There’s a play in Lebanon that I’m treating my parents to see as well as dinner.”

Her lips formed in a perfectly surprised, “Oh”, and then, “That’s nice. I’m sure they are going to enjoy it.”

“I’m sure they will. “

Fifteen minutes later she and Robert were in separate cars and going in different directions. As Roxie settled comfortably against the rich leather of the car seat, she couldn’t help but think about what a truly nice guy Robert was and that one day, sooner or later, he would discover, just like Colt had eventually done, that a man couldn’t be a Casanova forever and would need to settle down, get married and raise a family. However, she had a feeling that Robert was a long way from realizing that fact.


Robert wandered around the room mingling with those who’d come to the party. The crowd was more than he had expected. Did his aunt Bessie really know all these people? Evidently she did, since she was sitting down holding court by the door. Everyone in attendance had to acknowledge her presence before entering.

He checked his watch. The Millers had arrived a half hour ago with smiling faces and he knew why. Colt and Cinnamon had flown in and surprised everyone…at least everyone but him since he had known of their plans but had been sworn to secrecy. No biggie. He and Colt were used to keeping each other’s secrets. The couple would be arriving later once they got CJ settled with the babysitter they had brought along with them.

“Expecting someone?” a female whispered in his ear.

He didn’t have to turn around to know who the voice belonged to. “No, what about you? Are you expecting anyone?” he countered.

Katherine Noble smiled and lifted a brow. “Someone like whom?”

He shrugged lightly. “You tell me.”

A flush appeared in her cheeks and he thought considering his sister’s personality, it was cute. Could he have been wrong and she cared more for Simon than he’d assumed?

“I’m sure you know that Simon and I are seeing each other,” she finally said.

“Yes, I know,” he said. “But not because either of you told me. I picked up on the vibes when you were in Orlando last year and dropped by the office. Since neither of you are married, that means you’re free to date whomever you please, so I assumed there was a reason things were being kept hush-hush.”

“Yes, we didn’t want anyone making a big deal of anything, assuming it was more than it really was.”

He nodded. That sounded logical to him. He took a sip of his wine and then asked. “And now?”

A smile touched her lips. “And now you can expect him tonight.”

Robert couldn’t help thinking that was definitely an interesting revelation. “Did you prepare him for the folks?” he couldn’t help but ask.

She chuckled. “Yes, trust me he’s been forewarned.”

“And he’s still coming?”

The smile on her face transformed into a huge grin. “Yes. I guess he thinks I’m worth it.”



“Happy birthday, Aunt Bessie,” Roxie bent over to whisper in the elderly woman’s ear. She then straightened and handed her the wrapped gift. “I hope you like it.”

The older woman beamed. “I’ll like anything you give me Rox.”

Roxie couldn’t help but laugh. Everyone had shortened her name to Roxie but Bessie Noble had shortened it even further to simply call her Rox.

Aunt Bessie then looked at her with deep scrutiny in her eyes. “And what’s this I hear about you decorating Robbie’s new house.”

Roxie couldn’t help but smile.
. It had been a while since she’d heard Bessie’s nickname for Robert; one he’d always detested. “Yes, Robbie hired me to handle things for him.”

“That’s good. That boy is so busy these days. I’m hoping he settles down soon.”

Roxie was about to tell her not to hold her breath for that one when she felt a presence beside her. She didn’t have to glance over to see whose presence it was. She winked at Aunt Bessie and said, “Why, if it isn’t Robbie.”

It was then that she glanced over at him at the same time his strong arms locked around her waist. “Funny, aren’t we,” he said. “Just for that you’re going to have to dance with me.”

“Dance? But I just got here. I haven’t mingled yet. I haven’t even said hello to your parents.”

He rolled his eyes. “Trust me, they aren’t going anywhere. Besides, I need you to save me.”

“From what?”

He leaned in closer. “It’s not from what, it’s from whom. Dorothy Whaley brought her thirty-something-yet-to-wed daughter and has tried shoving her in my face all night.”

Roxie couldn’t help but smile, and also felt sorry for him because she knew Wilhelmina Whaley was definitely not Robert’s type. She was gay. Unfortunately, her mother was still clueless of that fact.

“All right, one dance,” she said, waving goodbye to Aunt Bessie as Robert led her away toward the area where couples were dancing. “Why didn’t you tell me Colt, Cinnamon and CJ were flying in,” she said.

“He told me not to,” Robert said, pulling Roxie into his arms when the live band struck up another slow number. The tune was romantic and the beat seductive.

“And of course the two of you, thick as thieves, are known to keep each other’s secrets,” she said, tilting her head back to look at him.

“Take them right to the grave. And if you have a problem with it after all this time then I suggest you get over it,” he said, reaching out and lightly pinching the bridge of her nose.

She screwed that same nose up at him. “Not sure if I can. The two of you have ruined me when it comes to men. I have nightmares of becoming involved with someone just like Colt used to be and the way you still are.” She then rested her head on his chest and he automatically pulled her closer.

“And what if that told you that I no longer have a Casanova bone in my body,” he said, thinking of how nice she felt in his arms. He wondered if he was holding her too close. He didn’t want anyone to get ideas about them. Then decided, what the hell, and pulled her even closer.

At least he would have if she hadn’t lifted her head off his chest and looked up at him again. “Is that true?”

He frowned, trying to remember what he’d said to prompt such a question. “Is what true?”

“You’re not a womanizer as much as you used to be.”

He never considered himself a womanizer, at least not to the extent of some men. He was merely a man who’d enjoyed women just as much as the next guy. Unfortunately, in Roxie’s eyes the next guy just happened to have been her brother. So in all reality, she got a double whammy of being exposed to two hot-blooded males hit full blast by teenage testosterones.

“If you’re asking if I still drift from one affair to the next, the answer is no,” he finally said.


Robert met her gaze thinking she was asking a lot of questions tonight. There was no way he was going to tell her about Mariah and the extent the woman’s dishonesty had on him. Instead he said. “Too busy. I’m trying to retire in four years, which means I have to work hard and stay focused. I don’t have time for women. They’re too time-consuming.”

She almost missed a step. “Time consuming? That’s never stopped you before. In fact you always found time restraints challenging. If I recall correctly, you could ace a test on one hand and strip a girl naked with the other. Your words, not mine.”

Yes, those had been his words and he wondered when she’d heard them. She really hadn’t been into Nickelodeon during that time to have overheard that, he realized. He cleared his throat. “That was then. I’m older now. More business-minded.”

“Stuffy”, she accused. “Personally, I liked you more when you were a bad boy, heartbreaking rogue.”

He chuckled. “Why?”

She shrugged and before burying her face in his chest, she said. “I don’t know. I just did.”



Roxie was glad that as soon as the dance ended Colt and Cinnamon arrived and everyone gravitated toward the couple to welcome them home. That eliminated the need to think about why she liked Robert more when he’d been the bad boy, heartbreaking rogue. She’d actually thought of him as a sexy rogue but had refused to admit such a thing to him.

One reason she liked that side of him more was because that was the Robert she knew, the Robert she was used to. She couldn’t adjust to the Robert Noble who lived a staid life filled with nothing but work. Didn’t he know that all work and no play made a person boring?

She inhaled deeply, thinking, look who’s talking. Hadn’t she begun doing the same thing after her breakup with Darrin? Didn’t she throw herself in to her work and refuse to have anything to do with men while doing so? Yes, but she felt she’d had a valid reason. One broken heart didn’t deserve another and when it came to a man, she discovered you didn’t resort to getting even; the key was getting smarter. And she felt she was smart. No other man would trample her pride like Darrin had done. Nor would one ever treat her like crap.

She knew her reasons for laying low and giving any interested man an evil eye. What were his? Even now women—daughters, granddaughter, neighbors, and cougars—were approaching him with that, I’m-interested-in-you, look in their eyes. Yet Robert wasn’t giving them the time of day. Why? Had he really turned into a stuffy old businessman like she’d accused. Had he lost his touch when it came with being a flirt? Possible burnout? She could believe the latter but for some reason, she had a feeling there was more to it than that. And there was only one person who would know for certain. Colt.

She glanced across the room at her brother and sadly shook her head. He wouldn’t tell her anything Robert didn’t want anyone to know, even if Colt’s life depended on it. Their loyalty to each other was just that thick.

However, there was another person who could possibly know something. Robert’s sister, Katherine. She glanced around the room and saw Kat standing with a very handsome man by her side. She then looked around the room for Robert. He was standing near the buffet table talking to her father. That meant he would be occupied for a while since her father liked to talk.

With a glass of wine firmly held in her hand, she took a deep breath as she moved toward Kat and the man. Even from a distance, she couldn’t help noticing how the two were looking at each other. Passionately.

A part of her hated that she was about to interrupt the hot interchange but she really wanted to know what was going on with Robert and Kat was the only one who could tell her and she hoped that she would.

Although only two years separated them in age, growing up she and Kat had been good friends, often comparing notes on their notorious brothers. Girls would often befriend them just to get close to Colt and Robert. At first their popularity was nice but then it became a pain in the rear-end, especially during breakup time.

BOOK: Essence of Desire
4.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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