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Barely Decent by Jennifer LaBrecque
Phoebe Matthews plans to inspire her boyfriend to propose by arranging a romantic Caribbean holiday. And her best friend, Ryan, and his girlfriend will come, too. But they no sooner hit the beach than their other halves fall in lust--with each other! Worse, the sensual rhythm of the island seduces Ryan and Phoebe into discovering that best friends make incredible lovers. ...
Barely Decent by Jennifer LaBrecque
Phoebe Matthews plans to inspire her boyfriend to propose by arranging a romantic Caribbean holiday. And her best friend, Ryan, and his girlfriend will come, too. But they no sooner hit the beach than their other halves fall in lust--with each other! Worse, the sensual rhythm of the island seduces Ryan and Phoebe into discovering that best friends make incredible lovers. Phoebe's solution? Give in to temptation and get it out of their systems....
The One Who Got Away by Jo Leigh
Taylor Hanson hasn't forgotten the hot weekend she shared with Ben Bowman, her brother Steve's best buddy. When they reunite for Steve's wedding, she decides Ben will be her Man to Do. One week, then she's moving on--for good. Ben's up for the seven-day sexual marathon. But as the heated days and nights with Taylor loosen his heartstrings, he faces a dilemma. He'll have to ensure she doesn't climb out of bed one morning and walk away....
Ryan pointedly glanced out the restaurant window at the slushy sidewalks and heavy gray skies.
"The temperature in Nashville's barely going to crawl above freezing for the rest of this week." A slow grin revealed the dimple that had broken hearts since grade school. "Sun, sand and sex. What's not to like?" He flicked the brochure with his finger, "What's the occasion?"
"It's a celebration of sorts." She paused, smoothing her hand over her red suit jacket. "You are looking at the new marketing director for Capshaw and Griffen. It comes with a window office and a nice fat salary increase."
"Hot damn, Phoebes. That's great. You got it." He high-fived her across the table. Genuine happiness crinkled the corners of his eyes and pulled his dimples into full play.
Even after all these years as friends, her heart pounded a little harder when he smiled that way. "I couldn't wait to tell you." She'd forced herself not to call him on her cell phone, wanting to share the good news in person.
"You deserve it. You've worked your butt off for eight years and you're brilliant. They're damn lucky to have you. How'd Charlie take it?"
Poor Ryan. How many weekly lunches had he suffered through her trials and tribulations with her nemesis, Charlie Langley? About the same number she'd suffered through his change of girlfriends.
"Charlie didn't take it well." Phoebe nibbled at the end of her bread stick. "He and Skip Griffen were Lambda Chi brothers. He pretty much considered the promotion his for the asking. He resigned this morning when they made the announcement. Good riddance, if you ask me."
"Damn straight. He made your life hell for the last couple of years. I'd like to have met him in a dark alley more than once," Ryan grumbled, always ready to champion her.
"Nah. It was much sweeter this way. He should've never underestimated a woman with a plan." She forked her olives onto her bread plate and slid it across the table to him.
"A plan and a competitive streak a mile wide make for an overachiever. Let me guess, you're the youngest marketing director in the history of the company."
She couldn't suppress a grin. "By two years. And you're one to talk about overachievers, Mr. Top Salesman in the southeast for Rooker Sports Equipment."
Ryan devoured the olives, taking her comeback in stride. He knew his accomplishments meant as much to her as her own. "This fat salary increase…how fat?"
"Do I make more money than you? Is that the question?" She shook her head, teasing. "I'll never tell."
"You know I could catch you with your shoes off and tickle it out of you."
"You'd be a dead man. Let's just say I'm catching up to you fast. So, do you and a date want to come to Jamaica with me and Elliott?" She lined up the proper balance of lettuce, tomato and feta on the tines of her fork. "Come on. It'll be so much more fun if you're there. By the way, who is the girlfriend de jour?"
"Her name's Kiki. And she's a very nice girl."
"Uh-huh. They all are." And they were. Even after he moved on to the next one, they remained friendly. One big happy harem. It never ceased to amaze and annoy her. "You change girlfriends the way some men change ESPN channels."
Ryan quirked one sandy eyebrow, devilment lighting his pale green eyes. "There's lots of good sports, Phoebes. You stay on one channel too long and you miss something on another one."
That was no way to approach a relationship. Phoebe shook her head. She worried about Ryan and his steady stream of vacuous relationships. "What do you talk about with these nice, but let's face it, not very bright women you tend to favor?"
"Are you saying a smart woman wouldn't want to date me?"
A sexy, captivating man with the attention span of a gnat? He made a wonderful friend—considerate, caring, dependable, fun—but she'd watched him over the years, and he didn't extend the same effort as a boyfriend.
"Absolutely. No woman in her right mind would go out with a man who changes channels as often as you do."
Ryan's smile qualified as wicked. "Maybe I've got a really impressive channel changer."
A purely feminine response shivered down her spine at his sexy suggestion, setting off a clamor of warning bells in her head. No way she'd ever tell him she'd wondered about his channel changer on the odd occasion, late at night, in the privacy of her bedroom. Channel changers, impressive or not, didn't belong in a friendship. "Don't go there. And don't try to switch the subject." Phoebe stabbed her fork in his direction. "What do you talk about?"
Actually, she was terribly curious. What allure did these women have other than the obvious physical appeal? Sex only carried a relationship so far.
Ryan shrugged. "Stuff. I'm not looking for deep conversation from a girlfriend—"
"Good. You'd be out of luck." Well, that sounded nice and bitchy. Even if it was true.
"If I want to discuss world peace, I've got you."
Sometimes they talked for hours on end about everything and nothing. And sometimes they spent hours together with only comfortable silence between them.
"I've been thinking about it. I've decided you're emotionally retarded, and I think I'm an enabler." She was only half teasing. Was their friendship part of the reason he drifted in and out of relationships? If she were a male friend instead of a female one, would he look for a deeper relationship with some of the women he merely skimmed the surface with? It was a painful thought.
"I'm a guy. I'm supposed to be emotionally retarded."
She hated it when he refused to take her seriously. "You do a good job of it. Go ahead and laugh. One day someone's going to break your heart. Big time."
"Nah. It'll never happen."
"How can you be so sure?"
"You change the channel before you get that interested in the outcome of the game." Ryan sliced off a neat quarter of his stromboli and shifted it to an empty salad plate, stringing melted cheese along the way. "Anyway, in the unlikely event that transpires, I've always got you to pick up the pieces, Ms. Enabler."
Just as she'd always been able to count on him. Phoebe brushed aside the niggling thought that a part of her liked the fact that he never had a serious relationship with another woman.
He shoved the plate across the table. It dinged against her water glass. "You sure Kiki and I won't cramp Geek Boy's style if we tag along to this couples-only resort?"
Her mouth watered as steam rose from the cheese-and spinach-filled dough. She preferred the stromboli, but the salad made her feel better about her waistline management. So each week she ordered what she needed, and Ryan parceled out a portion of what she really wanted.
"I'm sure Elliott won't mind when I mention it." And it would be so much more fun with Ryan along. And Kiki.
"He doesn't even know yet, does he? " Ryan laughed and shook his head. "You're something else. You'll just set everything up and then give him the dates he's supposed to show up?"
"Something like that." Ryan often razzed her about her take-charge personality. "He's close to tenure now and very busy."
"Do the two of you ever discuss anything other than world peace?" Ryan turned the tables on her.
An associate professor of Greek and Roman literature at Vanderbilt University, Elliott took himself very seriously.
"Occasionally." Actually, Elliott was so reflective, a touch of frivolity would be nice. "We both need a break." She hoped the break jump-started their stagnant relationship. He was sweating his upcoming review, and she'd been working her buns off to land this promotion. A little R and R should do them both a world of good.
Naomi, their regular waitress, stopped by. "The stromboli okay?" Ryan gave her a thumbs up. "Good. You two splitting a baklava today?"
Beach? Bathing suit? Baklava? "No."
"Yes. One baklava. Two forks," Ryan countermanded. Naomi grinned as she walked away.
Ryan affected women that way. Young. Old. It didn't matter. He charmed them all. She thanked the powers that be—and not for the first time—that she fell under the best-friend immunity umbrella.
"One bite." She'd allow herself a taste of the honey-and walnut-filled pastry. "Stop me at one bite." Phoebe eased back on the wooden seat, fairly sure how Ryan would receive her next piece of news. Sometimes she thought she knew him better than she knew herself.
"Okay, I'll stop you at one bite." He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Now, what gives? You've got that look."
"That I've-got-a-plan look."
"I do, in fact, have a plan." Phoebe operated with plans. She'd had her fill of surprises and changes when her parents upended her world when she'd been only six. She liked plans. In accordance with her long-term plan, she'd devoted her twenties to building her career. Right on schedule, she'd realized a major career goal. Now it was time to work on her personal life. "Having a plan isn't a crime."
"Let's hear it. What is it now? Vice presidency within two years?"
"Well, there is that, but this is a little more personal."
"You're going to start yoga classes?"
"No. But maybe that's something to consider." No easy approach to the subject presented itself. "I want to check out Hot Sands as a potential honeymoon site. Elliott and I have been dating for almost a year. Once he makes tenure, we should consider getting engaged."
"Engaged? Honeymoon?" Ryan choked the words out. She'd expected surprise. He looked positively stunned.
"Do you need me to Heimlich you?" Why did she feel so guilty? As if she'd somehow betrayed Ryan?
"You'd really marry him?"
"Don't you like Elliott?" Well, that was a stupid question. Since her first prom date at eighteen—no, actually since her first crush on Gary Pelham in middle school—Ryan had always found her boyfriends lacking for one reason or another. Of course, she couldn't say she'd cared much for the girlfriends who flitted in and out of Ryan's life, either.
"He's okay. But not to ma-marry." Ryan stumbled over the word. "Why do you need a husband?" He appeared genuinely perplexed and sounded close to desperation.
"I don't need a husband. I want a husband. You and I just turned thirty this year. I want to grow old with someone."
"Remember when we pricked our thumbs and took a blood oath when we were nine? We promised we'd always be friends. We'll grow old together. Look. We passed thirty. We're already getting old."
Phoebe studied his earnest expression across the table. Could she make him understand this void in her heart that ached to be filled, the desire for the one thing always denied her? "Not like that. I want a family."
"But you've got your aunt Caroline and uncle Frank."
"Yes. And they're wonderful, but they've been my family on sufferance." She held up a hand to stem his protest. "Loving sufferance, but sufferance nonetheless. They graciously stepped up to the plate when my parents dumped me on them, but we aren't a family by choice. We're a family by obligation. My parents…
there's nothing left to say there. I want to build my own family."
"We're like family," he stubbornly maintained.
Ryan's entire life was built around the short term. He leased his sports cars, trading them in for a new model every few years. His sales career brought new faces and new conquests on a daily basis. His girl-friends…well, they'd covered that. The only permanent, long-term fixture in Ryan's life was Phoebe.
She bought her cars and drove them past the point they were paid for. Her job required months on long-term projects. She'd worked with Capshaw and Griffen since she graduated college. For all that Ryan knew her better than anyone else, he didn't seem to understand her craving for stability and a family to call her own.
"Yes. We are like family." Phoebe's connection to Ryan ran soul deep, but she wanted more than friendship. "But I want a ring on my finger that symbolizes commitment. I want a husband to come home to every night, and in a few years a baby. I want the family I've never had."
Naomi plopped down a baklava between them and stopped to finger the Hot Sands brochure. "That looks like a good time. You two going?" She glanced from one to the other.
Ryan sighed. "Phoebe thinks it has honeymoon potential."
Naomi clutched at her blouse.
Posted December 28, 2011
No text was provided for this review.