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In one of the bustling spectators’ enclosures set up along the Thames riverbank for the annual Henley Royal Regatta, Nathan Hunter milled with a group of old university rowing club peers, reunited for finals day of the world-famous competition.
Beside him, somewhat distracted from the increasingly raucous reliving of the glory days, Ben Pearce fidgeted, alternately checking his wristwatch and scanning the ever-changing sea of faces in the crowd swirling around them.
Always more careful to conceal his emotions than his friend, Nate gave every impression of being engrossed in the reminiscences of the rowdy group. But beneath the smiles and banter, his real focus lay with Ben’s every tic and twitch.
That’s how he knew the precise moment the blond man’s body tensed up, attention snagging on something over Nate’s left shoulder. In response, Nate felt his own muscles snap taut, breath stilling with anticipation.
“She’s here.” Ben leaned in close, pitching his voice low enough for just the two them. “I told you she’d come.”
A wave of relief, topped with a heady rush of excitement, washed through Nate at the sound of the words he’d begun to fear he’d never hear. Around him, sudden laughter erupted in response to the latest bawdy quip, but the pulse pounding in his ears meant he’d missed most of what had been said. Not that any of it mattered now.
Using his empty glass as an excuse to break away from the group, he turned on his heel, gaze sharpening as it swept the crowds.
“Where?” he demanded.
“By the entrance,” Ben said, already falling into step alongside him. “Just walking past the Badge Office… Damn, she’s looking good.”
Shock ran all the way to Nate’s toes the moment he laid eyes on her.
It had been five years since he’d last seen that fair-haired, blue-eyed, English-rose delicacy. Five years since the diminutive coxswain had made up a perfect third of their crew, calling the strokes and keeping Ben and himself on course. Five years since the night they’d had that luscious little body naked and all but impaled between them. Five years that had matured the gorgeous, golden girl of his memories into a ripe, delectable woman.