"Ms. Lucas has, again, hit the highest mark with her plot and her depth of characters in her novel! ... This sensual work is very explicit and definitely not for everyone; it will, however, lead you to a wonderful, unforgettable love story.... It leaves nothing to the imagination, but leads to a highly surprising ending!"--Brenda Talley, The Romance Studio, 5 Hearts (out of 5)
"Ms. Lucas entails a great plot, well-rounded characteristics, and seasons with malicious intent showing how vicious some people can be to others."--Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance, 5 Cups (out of 5)
"This is a story of pain, loss, and passion, but, most of all, it is a story of strength and courage. Characters are well drawn and interesting, and the plot premise is wholly original."--Michelle, Fallen Angel Reviews, 5 Angels (out of 5)
Winters in the southwest weren't very cold, and this night was warm, for the most part. It could have been that spring was just around the corner, or maybe it was just that Hope's nerves were wound so tight she was almost hyperventilating.
As the night moved on, she grew more and more anxious of what she knew Thom wanted of her. He'd made a point of confronting her several times already, accusing her of not being "responsive" enough with his guests. What had seemed almost feasible in the bathtub now seemed an impossibility.
She wasn't the kind of girl who had meaningless sex.
Then again, more often than not, sex with Thom had been meaningless, so maybe she needed to rephrase that. I'm not the type of person to have sex with a person I have no emotional attachment to and just met.
Rubbing her palms together, she stole deeper into the garden, as if she could hide. She could, she knew she could, but there would be hell to pay tomorrow for it. She had no idea what had come over Thom recently, but until it blew over, she decided she better just go along with whatever he wanted.
Still, the gardens always gave her peace of mind. They provided her a sanctuary against whatever else was going on in her life. She kept going until she arrived at the serenity reflection pond. It wasn't one of her favorite water features on the estate, but it was a secluded garden. On the whole, she found the rose trees and the Zen statuary comforting. On a night like this, it just seemed the right place to go.
Behind vine-covered latticework and a half wall of stone, she hid away, drawing deep breaths and trying to convince herself it wouldn't be so bad. She'd had sex before when she didn't want to. When you were trying to conceive, mood didn't precisely enter into the equation. She knew she could close her eyes and just lay there, but she feared if she didn't make whichever guy Thom picked for her happy, she'd hear about that as much as if she didn't show up at all.
How in the world had she gotten herself into this mess? All she'd ever wanted was to not be alone anymore, and she'd missed by a mile. Sure, now she had wealth and status she'd never known growing up, but who gave a crap?
She wanted love.
Pacing the semi-circle, the soft garden lighting illuminated the gravel paths as her heels sank and crunched with each step. Was it so wrong to want love? Was it even out there? Better question, was it out there for her?
She had every reason to believe there was something inherently wrong with her. After all, how endearing could a person be when their own mother detested them?
"Is this a private trek, or can anyone join?"
Hope startled at the rich, masculine voice. A hint of accent tinged his speech, but she couldn't place it.
"Sorry, love. I didn't mean to frighten you. Thom was worried, so I volunteered to find you."
So you're the one.
Her lips curved the tiniest fraction. She could have done worse. A lot worse. She smiled by way of invitation, but continued her rhythmic pacing all the same. Examining him in a way she hoped to be subtle, she thought him far more handsome than Thom, but wasn't certain if that was good or bad yet. His dusty blond hair was brushed back from his face and hung almost to his shoulders, making it almost pretty. He had a strong, clean-shaven jaw, damned sexy lips, and good God, were those biceps or tree trunks?
It wasn't that he was one of those bodybuilder types, but his body looked good. He seemed strong and without doubt toned, but good heavens the man had biceps. He seemed to be watching her, scrutinizing her. Maybe he's trying to decide if he wants me.
Having no idea where the gumption came from, she all but choked when she heard herself say, "I'm not very good, you know. In bed." In case he thought I meant at backgammon or something.
She stopped her pacing and watched him try to hide his amusement behind his hand. He failed, but the moment seemed lighter for it. She almost wanted to thank him. He moved into the light, and she thought he reminded her of Johnny Depp in Chocolat. Good movie, and the single time she'd found Johnny Depp at all sexy. Well, except maybe at times as that silly pirate.
While she'd been pondering the sexiness or not of a pirate, the man with her in flesh and blood had moved closer. So close, in fact, that she could feel the heat from his body and smell the aftershave he wore. It smelled like the woods after a hard rain, fresh and earthy and ... Good lord, she was tingling.
"So, no games for you, Hope?"
"I'd prefer it that way."