The way Jake saw it, he had two choices. He could either pretend he didn't recognize the woman he'd just about knocked over in his rush to get to a date he didn't even want, or run like hell in the other direction. Out of the two choices, neither seemed particularly reasonable, but running held a lot of appeal.
At that moment, as he looked into familiar green eyes and caught more than a hint of humor, all the chatter in the restaurant faded to a dull roar. The music, the laughter, the clang of plates and flatware all disappeared, leaving him standing alone against the one woman he'd hoped to never see again. The only woman who'd ever been able to get under his skin and turn him inside out.
Why now? Why here, of all places? If he didn't know any better, he'd think his mother set the whole thing up, but even she wasn't that devious. He hoped.
"Hi, Jake." Amber's smooth, smoky voice rolled over him like a caress. A caress he felt everywhere. In the thirteen years since he'd last seen her, he hadn't forgotten that voice. Back in high school, it had been a voice that didn't fit her body. It fit now. Too well. It took him a few seconds to recover the power of speech.
Bumbling idiot that he'd suddenly become, he couldn't manage more than a single, lame word in response to what remained unspoken between them. All he could do was stare at the woman she'd become and wonder what had happened to the shy, overweight girl he'd known for most of his life. The one who'd hidden behind thick, plastic-framed glasses, bulky sweaters and science club meetings. Her voice was the same. Her eyes too. But everything else had changed.
He'd known about her transformation--couldn't have missed hearing about it, given that his mother and hers were best friends and two of the biggest busybodies in town--but some part of him had refused to believe it until this moment, when he'd actually gotten a chance to see what they'd been talking about. Now the woman who'd always tried her hardest to fade into the background practically screamed "notice me" without having to say a word. He'd noticed. Taken inventory of every inch of her.
"How have you been?" she continued, humor glinting in those big green eyes. She smelled like flowers and some sort of exotic spice. It hit him like a punch in the gut and stirred parts of his body he tried to will to remain dormant. The last thing he needed right now was a hard-on. She'd slap him for sure.
"Jake?" Her husky laugh alerted him to the fact he had yet to answer her question.
"I...uh...I'm good." Good? Freakin' stupid response, moron. Anything else you'd like to do to make a fool of yourself? All those years at Harvard, and he was reduced to an incoherent idiot when faced with a beautiful woman.
No. Not just any beautiful woman. He'd dated his fair share of them, and none had ever affected him the way Amber was tonight. There was something about her that made his brain threaten to shut down. He cleared his throat. "How have you been?"
"I've been great. It's good to see you."
It was more than good to see her. The second their bodies had touched, every single one of his nerves had stood up and taken notice. Yet another hazard of running smack-dab into a beautiful, curvy woman.
She was beautiful, too. In a way he never would have imagined. All lean lines and gentle curves. Even her hair had changed. What used to be a long, frizzy mess had turned into shiny curls the color of black coffee. Her natural color, he knew, and it complemented the rich, warm tones of her caramel skin. The curls fell to just below her shoulders and made him want to tangle his fingers in them to see if they were really as soft as they looked.
Her dress was red. Short and tight enough to afford him a good look at her nipped waist above slightly flared hips. Cut low enough it revealed a mouth-watering amount of cleavage. She had to be wearing heels--four-inchers, since the top of her head was at his eye level. Shit. He loved a woman in heels. The higher the better. Maybe it was a little shallow, but he'd always been a visual kind of guy.
Spiked heels and a red dress. Guaranteed to make him go rock-solid in seconds flat. He swallowed hard. Here he was, meeting another woman for a blind date he'd rather avoid, and all he could think about was a woman who wouldn't want him.
"You look good, Amber." The words slipped out before he could pull them back, and he muttered a curse. He would not, would not, hit on Amber Velez, no matter how much his body begged. She wouldn't be interested, and even if she was, he didn't deserve a second chance. She'd trusted him once, a long time ago, and he'd trampled on her feelings. She wasn't the kind of woman to forgive a betrayal like that so easily.
Her gaze left his and traveled down his body in a slow perusal that had him clenching his hands into fists. For a woman who shouldn't be interested, she certainly didn't act the part. By the time her gaze came back to his, he couldn't stand still.