By Opal Carew
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2008 Elizabeth Batten-Carew
All rights reserved.
"I want an orgasm." Hanna Lane's hands clenched in her lap as she stared at her sister across the table.
Grace cleared her throat.
"I think the drink is called a Screaming Orgasm," Grace said, loud enough for the people around them to hear.
They both knew that wasn't what Hanna had meant. Hanna glanced around the restaurant and noticed people staring at them, and her cheeks flushed hotly. She lowered her voice. "I'm sorry, I'm just a tad frustrated."
"I'll bet. Have you tried one of those vibrators with the thing —"
"Yes, it doesn't work. Nothing works," Hanna answered shortly, not wanting to talk sex toys with her older sister. Hanna didn't want to have this conversation at all, but she didn't know who else to turn to.
Grace patted Hanna's hand. "You'll find someone soon. When you're in a relationship again —"
"No, it won't matter."
"Honey, I know what you and Grey had was very special, but you'll find someone special again, and with him —"
"No, you don't understand. Grey and I never ..." She stared into Grace's intense gaze. "I mean, I've never ..."
Hanna shook her head, her gaze fixed on the water glass in front of her and the condensation beading on the crystal surface.
"Even with Grey? But he was so sexy. And considerate, and patient."
Hanna nodded. "I know. It wasn't his fault."
Grace nodded. "That's true. The only person who can give you an orgasm is you. You have to let it happen."
"You're not going to tell me just to relax, are you? If I hear that one more time, I'm going to scream."
She'd read every book she could find on the subject, and they all insisted that the woman just had to relax and allow it to come. But it wasn't that simple.
Grace's lips pursed as she watched Hanna.
"Why haven't you told me about this before?"
"It isn't exactly the kind of thing you want to go running to your big sister about."
Grace squeezed Hanna's hand. "It is exactly the kind of thing you can come running to me about, honey." She paused. "Is that why you broke up with Grey?"
Hanna had known her sister would ask that. After all, Hanna and Grey had seemed perfect for each other. In fact, they were perfect for each other, except for one thing. In the year they'd been together, he had never once told her he loved her.
Which had hurt all the more because she loved him so much.
There was a time she'd dreamed of happily-ever-after in Grey's arms. She'd even convinced herself that he was just one of those guys who found it hard to say the words.
But she needed to hear them. She had to know he actually loved her.
Finally, she'd thought if she said the words first, he would reciprocate. One day, in their favorite restaurant, she had taken his hand in hers and gazed into his warm green eyes glimmering in the candlelight.
"Grey, I love you," she'd said.
His fingers stiffened within her grip and his smile faded.
"Grey," she'd prompted him. "Did you hear me?"
"Yes, of course. I just have to ..." He'd glanced around, as if seeking an escape, then stood up. "I have to call the office."
He'd rushed away from the table like a man pursued by a demon, then returned a few minutes later and continued with dinner as if their previous conversation had never happened.
She'd gotten the message loud and clear.
A week later, after a lot of soul-searching, she had broken up with him. She'd told him that she loved him, but he clearly didn't love her. A part of her, even at that point, had hoped he'd deny it, then sweep her into his arms and proclaim his love for her. Instead, he'd only looked shocked.
Then she'd asked him outright, "Do you love me?"
He'd drawn in a deep breath and taken her hand in his. "The way I feel about you is different from what I've felt for any other woman. Deeper. I love having you in my life."
"But do you love me?"
His mouth had tightened into a flat line and he'd said no more.
She'd simply nodded at that point, knowing she had lost.
Pain lanced through her at the memory. She still loved him and she missed him every single day ... and night. She'd always felt loved and cherished, snuggled in his arms in bed.
Tears welled in her eyes and she dashed them away.
"Oh, honey." Grace pulled her into a warm embrace and patted her back.
Hanna accepted her big sister's hug, then slowly drew away, still thinking about Grey. "We just weren't right for each other."
How could she settle for less than love? How could she ask Grey to settle for less?
Grace looked skeptical, but she let the subject drop.
"Okay, honey, what are you doing to solve the problem?"
Hanna's sister, who was a holistic healer, was a firm believer that everyone was responsible for their own problems ... and solutions.
"I've been reading books." Hanna gazed at Grace. "And I'm talking to you."
Grace's eyes glowed with warmth and she smiled.
"There's a ten-week course at the university, in the evenings. I believe it starts next week. I know the guy who's teaching it, and he's exceptional."
Hanna's eyes narrowed. "What kind of course?"
"It's called 'Kama Sutra for the Beginner,' but he discusses different sexual issues, and one of the things he talks about is female orgasm and the fact that a lot of women have trouble achieving it. I know the instructor and I've recommended a couple of my patients take the workshop."
"I'm already signed up."
"You are?" Grace's eyebrows rose. Obviously, she didn't believe her.
Grey had signed them up for that course, hoping it would help her with her problem. Now that they'd broken up, though, she couldn't bear to take the course alone. Not that she would tell Grace that.
Taking the course would remind Hanna of the frustration she and Grey had both shared. It would remind her how hard he had tried to make sex enjoyable for her, despite her problem.
It would remind her that she no longer had Grey in her life.
"You know ..." Grace stared at Hanna over the frosty water glass she held in her hand. "The instructor's single. ..."
Grace sipped her water, then placed her glass on the table.
"Okay, so why don't you do something wild and different? Something you've never done before?"
"Well, maybe find some sexy guy — someone you don't even know — and make wild, passionate love with him. If you don't know him, you can act differently. You don't have to be yourself. You can be wild and uninhibited. Maybe then you can let go of what's holding you back."
Wild and uninhibited. Hanna's stomach tightened.
"Oh, no, I don't think so."
"A complete stranger? That's crazy."
"Sometimes you need to let loose. Do something crazy. But it doesn't have to be a complete stranger. It could be someone you've seen a few times. Maybe been attracted to. You could even form a relationship after ... or not. The point is not to worry about it. That's where the freedom lies."
Goose bumps shivered down her spine. The thought actually excited her. How insane was that?
In fact, she thought about the tall, sexy man who'd started coming to the Hot Spot Café, the coffee shop she owned, about a month ago. He had eyes the color of espresso and a deep, melodic voice that sent tingles down her spine every time he spoke. And he was exceptionally good-looking, with a strong, straight nose and a square jaw softened by the waves of dark curls that caressed his collar.
She had found herself making an excuse to help out behind the counter whenever he came in so that she could serve him. Organic Earl Grey tea with milk and natural cane sugar. He was always warm and friendly, and he exuded a sexual magnetism that sent her senses whirling and had triggered some exciting and embarrassingly erotic dreams.
Maybe her sister's suggestion wasn't so crazy after all.
J.M. walked along the stone path through the campus, lit by the streetlights and the soft glow of an almost full moon. A light, warm breeze rustled through the trees as he stepped toward the traffic light on the corner of Stevens Street and Main, Brock University campus behind him.
He liked it here in Spring Falls, a quaint university town where the people were friendly, the pace was easy, and the scenery was stunning. The Shannonista River meandered through town, banked by bike paths and parks filled with flowering shrubs and bright gardens.
Ordinarily, he would head straight home at this hour, but he had a craving for an Earl Grey tea, the special blend with bergamot oil they served in the coffee shop across from the campus. Or, really, a craving to see the attractive woman who frequently served him.
He smiled at the thought of her midnight blue eyes twinkling as her soft, rose lips curled up in a smile, which happened every time she turned and saw him at the front of her line. She wore her long, blond hair tied back, but soft wisps swirled around her heart-shaped face and caressed her cheeks. There was a sweet innocence about her, but he sensed a smoldering sexuality beneath the surface.
The light turned and he crossed the street. It was unlikely she'd be on duty now, since he usually saw her there in the late afternoon, but it didn't really matter. All they'd ever done was exchange a few friendly words while he'd waited for his tea. Of course, if the shop was still open, which he doubted on a Thursday night at nine thirty ... and if she was there ... and if the opportunity presented itself ... then maybe he'd ask her out.
His intuition told him this could be his lucky night.
The bell over the door rang and Hanna hurried to finish clearing the tray of dishes, wishing she'd locked the door after the last customer had left a few moments ago.
"I'll be with you in a moment," she said over her shoulder as she wiped the tray and placed it on the stack of clean ones.
She was still here forty minutes after closing. There had been a rush of people about a quarter to nine, and they'd just kept coming in. Someone had mentioned there'd been a special speaker at the psychology building tonight and the talk had ended at eight thirty.
She turned around and stopped cold as she found herself facing the tall, dark-haired man she'd been dreaming about even before her sister suggested she jump a stranger. Her cheeks flushed and a tremor of awareness quivered through her body.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." He smiled. "I'm glad you're still open."
"Well, actually, we aren't." Oh, damn, why had she said that? "I mean, I can still get you something, but ... I'm just closing up now."
"Of course. I haven't turned off the machine yet, and there's still plenty of hot water." She smiled but glanced toward the door, hoping no one else would come in. "An Earl Grey? I have decaf if you'd like. Naturally decaffeinated."
"That would be great."
Her gaze strayed to the large front window and a couple walking by, gazing into the shop. Hanna grabbed the key from the drawer under the till.
"Look, would you mind locking the door for me?" She placed the key with the brass cup-and-saucer key chain on the counter. "It's actually past closing time and I don't want any more customers tonight."
She grabbed a tall mug from the shelf and filled it with hot water, then ripped open the foil pouch on the tea bag as he walked across the store. When she heard the click of the lock, she realized she was in the shop all alone at night with a sexy, attractive man. One she'd been having hot dreams about. Dreams where they'd done intimate, erotic things together.
She dipped the bag in the steaming water until it reached the darkness she knew he liked and filled the mug with milk and one packet of cane sugar, then placed it on the maple counter. He placed the key beside it, along with a couple of bills to pay for the tea.
"I was going to take it to go so I wouldn't keep you."
She stared at the ceramic mug she'd given him.
"Oh, sorry. I can put it in a takeout cup ... or ... you're welcome to enjoy it here, if you like. I've ... uh ... got some leftover banana walnut muffins I can't serve tomorrow." Great, she'd just offered him what sounded like stale muffins. "On the house."
She lifted the glass cover from the decorative plate containing three muffins, picked up the tongs, and placed the biggest, fattest muffin on a plate and handed it to him.
He smiled. "Thank you. These are my favorite."
She knew that. He ordered them every time they had some, so she'd added them to the menu more often, just in case he came by.
She dropped the rest in a paper bag and curled the top.
"Actually, take the rest, too. I'd just wind up taking them home, and I don't need any more muffins."
As he took the bag, his hand brushed hers and an explosion of sensation burst along her arm. She had to work at not snatching her hand away.
"Are you this generous with all your customers?"
"No, not really. I ... uh ..." She paused, worried he would think she was flirting with him, then realized that's exactly what she was doing. She just wasn't very good at it. "I just hate to see them go to waste."
She really wasn't good at this!
"Here's to finding myself locked in a coffee shop with a cup of tea, a muffin ... and a beautiful woman." He held up his mug. "Would you join me?"
His warm, inviting smile chased away any thoughts of refusal.
She smiled shyly. "Okay."
Someone tried the doorknob, rattling the door a little. When the man peered in, she shook her head, mouthing, We're closed.
"I ... uh ... need to turn down the lights so people know we're closed, otherwise that'll keep happening."
She dimmed the lights, then grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler and followed him to the table with the two love seats in the far corner. It was in the back of the seating area and people couldn't see them from the window.
"This is nice," she said as she sat across from him.
She watched him as he sipped his tea, her gaze straying to his lips. Full and sexy. She could imagine them pressed against the back of her hand, playing along her knuckles. Goose bumps blossomed along her arm as she thought of those lips taking a long, leisurely stroll up her arm, then nuzzling her collarbone. He would stroke behind her ear, then tip her chin up and capture her lips in a firm, passionate kiss.
Oh, man, she wanted him. Maybe her sister was right. Maybe Hanna should just jump him here and now. Have a sexual romp totally devoid of relationship or baggage. Just consume each other's bodies in a hot, wicked flight of fancy.
But how could she be so bold? Her gaze shifted from his lips to his hot, simmering eyes and her breasts swelled with the need to feel his hands on them. His lips. She wanted him. Here. Now.
"Exactly what are you thinking?" he asked.
"I was thinking that ..."
She drew in a deep breath, seeking the courage to say what she wanted to say.
J.M. watched her as she licked her lips. This sweet, innocent nymph clearly had passion on her mind. He could feel the desire radiating from her. But he could see she was struggling with how to act on her desire. The hot look of lust in her eyes sent his blood boiling and his cock straining.
She needed a little help getting over her inhibitions — clearly she'd never done this before — and he was determined to help her get what she wanted. Because it was exactly what he wanted, too.
He leaned over the table toward her.
"I'll tell you what I'm thinking."
His gaze shifted to her lips and lingered, just as hers had on his.
"Yes?" She seemed mesmerized.
"I'm thinking how lovely it would be to kiss your luscious lips. To feel their softness against mine." Her eyes glittered in the dim light.
Hanna pushed herself to her feet and slid beside him on the love seat. All kinds of bells rang in her head, trying to prevent her from continuing, but the heat inside her, swelling inside her breasts and melting through her core, wouldn't let her.
She sat beside him, staring into his eyes. Her nostrils filled with his spicy, masculine scent. She breathed deeply, filling her lungs with his male aroma. Filling her with need.
He made no move toward her. He just watched her, his dark eyes encouraging. Courage built within her and she raised her hand to touch his cheek. Raspy. Oh, so masculine. She stroked his other cheek, loving the maleness of stubby whiskers under her fingertips.
He was so sexy ... so incredibly attractive. Yet so comfortable to be with. Most sexy men seemed arrogant, making her self-conscious. Grey, too, had been easy to be around right from the beginning. But she didn't want to think about Grey right now.
At this instant, she wanted to lose herself in this man's simmering espresso-colored eyes. She could melt from the heat of his gaze. He made her feel attractive and desirable. Sexy and feminine. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Blush by Opal Carew. Copyright © 2008 Elizabeth Batten-Carew. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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