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Danielle Rayne wheeled her suitcase into the elevator and turned around. As the doors closed, her gaze caught on two tall, attractive men, one with short tousled sandy blond hair and one with light brown hair neatly tied back in a ponytail. They were crossing the hotel lobby toward the reception desk, both stylishly dressed in slim-fi t jeans.
Oh my God. Trey and Jake.
The two men she had fantasized about for almost fi f-teen years. Two men who had haunted her dreams. Kissing her. Holding her. Her cheeks fl ushed as hot, sweaty images from those dreams rippled through her mind.
The older woman standing beside her glanced her way. “Are you okay?” she asked, kind blue eyes taking in Danielle’s burning crimson cheeks.
“Yes, fine thank you. Just a bit of a cold coming on,” she lied.
She took a deep breath and tried to steady her racing heart. As much as she yearned to be with Jake . . . or Trey . . . or both . . . it would never be. Because Jake and Trey were in love . . . with each other.
At least, they used to be. When she knew them in college.
Were they still together? They had arrived at the hotel together. Of course, that wasn’t such a surprise. A lot of the old gang would be here. Danielle had flown to Buff alo to attend her old friend Harmony’s wedding.
Old friend? Well, more like an acquaintance now. She and Harmony could have had a close friendship, but Danielle hadn’t kept in touch, even though Harmony had tried for a while. She’d sent e-mails, Christmas cards, letters.
Danielle had always intended to write her back, but never seemed to get around to it. Eventually Harmony’s e-mails and cards tapered off, and then stopped completely.
Danielle didn’t mean to sabotage her chances at friendship, but somehow, by inattentiveness, she always seemed to manage it. Well, no use beating herself up about it. She was here now and that was all that mattered.
The elevator doors opened on the fi fteenth fl oor. She smiled at the lady beside her and stepped from the elevator, then pulled her suitcase behind her down the long hallway toward her room.
“You’re in room 1512, Mr. Garner. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Trey glanced at the lovely desk clerk’s name tag, and then returned her smile with an added wink. “Thank you, Georgia.”
Her cheeks fl ushed slightly.
Jake nudged Trey’s arm as they stepped away from the desk. “Stop fl irting with the poor woman,” Jake said with a grin. “You know it’s not going to go anywhere.”
“Why do you think that?” Trey asked as they approached the elevator.
“Well, for one reason, because we’ve already made dinner plans for tonight.”
Trey pushed the elevator call button. “Sure, but then there’s tomorrow.”
He glanced across the lobby at the lovely blonde Georgia as she consulted her computer. She swept her long waves of silky hair back over her shoulder, then glanced up to see his gaze directed at her. She smiled luminously, then returned her gaze to her current client, but Trey could tell the woman was interested. Very interested.
“And who knows . . . maybe Georgia would be interested in joining us tonight.”
Jake chuckled. The elevator doors whooshed open and he followed Trey inside.
“Nice of you to share, but surely you can do without a woman for one night. I thought we’d do some catching up.”
Trey grinned and shrugged. “Well, I guess I could try. But just ’cause we’re such good friends.”
The doors opened and Jake exited the elevator, followed by Trey.
“Down this way,” Jake said as he headed left down the hallway. “I think they’re the two at the end of the hall.”
Danielle unzipped the vinyl cover and removed the aqua dress she intended to wear to the wedding tomorrow, then hung it in the closet. She heard male voices in the hall and peered out the peephole. Jake and Trey walked by her room.
Good heavens, they were on the same floor. In fact, since hers was the second-to- last room from the end, they must be in the room next to hers, or across the hall from that one.
They were definitely still together, Danielle decided. They’d arrived together and now it seemed they were in the same room. She smiled. They had been so in love in college, and that had had a big impact on her. She heard a door open, then click closed.
Although she would love it if the men were free and single . . . and liked women . . . it made her heart swell to think that their relationship could last so long. She hadn’t experienced much of that . . . relationships that lasted. Nothing in her life had been stable, and the thought that someone else could make a go of a relationship, could actually find another person to depend on, to love, and who loved him back . . . it made her feel a little better about the world.
Trey crossed the lobby toward the lounge, then stepped into the dimly lit room and glanced around. When he’d called Jake to see if he was ready for dinner, Jake had needed another twenty minutes for a shower, so Trey had said he’d wait for him here.
Trey glanced around to see a woman with long fl owing blond hair behind him.
“Hello, Georgia. You look lovely this eve ning.”
She’d changed from her uniform into a halter-style floral dress. The form-fitting bodice set off her slim fi gure. She was sexy and feminine, and definite interest sparkled in her grayish blue eyes. He was interested, too, but he’d promised to spend the eve ning with Jake.
“I just got off work and . . . when I saw you heading in here, I wondered if we could grab a drink together? Maybe dinner, if you’re free?”
“I’m meeting a friend for dinner, but . . .” He smiled and took her hand, then kissed it. “I could join you for a quick drink.”
Jake entered the lounge and saw Trey sitting at a table in the corner. Jake’s heart still clenched whenever he saw Trey. His warm brown eyes that glittered with golden specks, his strong square jaw, his full sensual lips . . . even the glint of his diamond earring . . . all reminded Jake of what he’d lost when Trey had decided to shift their relationship to one of friends rather than lovers. And the friendship had worked for the years they’d been in college when they’d shared a town house with Angela and Nikki, but now . . . They lived in the same town—even worked at the same place— yet hardly saw each other. Jake just found it too hard to see Trey and not be with him.
As Jake walked across the room, a young woman with blond hair approached Trey’s table and sat down, setting her purse on a spare chair. Georgia from reception. Jake noticed two drinks on the table.
Georgia said something to Trey and he laughed; then he glanced up and saw Jake approach the table.
“Jake, you remember Georgia.”
“Of course.” He smiled, but inside, jealousy swirled through him. Trey would no doubt have chosen to spend a casual eve ning of sex with this woman if Jake hadn’t already booked the eve ning with him.
And why not? She was beautiful and sexy. Hell, if Trey hadn’t been interested in her, Jake would have been. After all, there was no reason either one of them shouldn’t pursue an attractive woman. It wasn’t like there was anything between Jake and Trey anymore.
Trey had totally moved on, Jake reminded himself, and dwelling on what might have been was a recipe for heartache
“Well, it’s time for me to be off.” Trey signed the check on the table.
“Do you have to leave so soon?” she asked.
Trey smiled. “Sorry, honey.” He took Georgia’s hand and kissed it. “But I had a delightful time.”
She smiled, but couldn’t keep the disappointment from her face. Trey was such a lady’s man.
“Have a good time at the wedding tomorrow,” she said as they walked toward the door.
They stepped outside into the warm eve ning.
“I’ll get us a cab,” Jake said. “Any ideas where to go for dinner?”
“Georgia suggested we go to a little Italian restaurant just a block down, so we can walk.”
They turned left and strolled down the street and a few minutes later entered a classy Italian restaurant.
“Please, follow me,” the mustached host said as he led them through a maze of hallways passing small groupings of tables in intimate niches along the way. “Is this to your liking?” he asked when he stopped at a booth in a niche of its own.
“Could you bring us a carafe of your house wine? Our friend told us to be sure and try it,” Trey said.
“Right away.” The man hurried off, leaving them to enjoy the soft dinner music playing in the background.
“Nice atmosphere.” Jake picked up one of the menus the host had set on the table.
The waiter arrived with a carafe of red wine, two stemmed glasses, and a basket of fresh-baked bread. He set the bread on the table, then filled the glasses. Both Trey and Jake ordered the house specialty. The waiter scooped up the menus and went on his way.
“So what’s going on with you these days?” Trey asked.
“Since we’re into the summer session, I have a pretty light class load.”
Trey nodded. “Got the pool open?”
“Of course. You’re welcome to come over for a dip anytime.”
“Yeah, sure,” Trey said. “I’ll have to do that.”
But Jake knew it wouldn’t happen.
The waiter arrived with their salads.
“What about you?” Jake asked.
“I went on a forty-mile ride last month.”
“Yeah? That’s not too long for you.” As long as Jake had known him, Trey had been an avid cyclist and often did lengthy trips.
“True, but Lindsay . . . the woman I went with . . . hadn’t done a ride that long before, so we had to ease into it.”
“Hmm.” Jake grinned. “A woman willing to go into training to be with you. Sounds serious.”
Trey shrugged. “I thought so, but . . . no. She ended it a week later.” He took a bite of his salad.
At the haunted look in Trey’s eyes, Jake’s heart compressed. He’d obviously cared about the woman. “Sorry to hear that.”
“No problem. That’s just me . . . looking for love in all the wrong places. Just because we shared a few interests didn’t mean it was a match made in heaven. Our personalities didn’t mesh well together.”
Jake had gotten the sense for a long time now that Trey had decided to leave his interest in men completely behind him and hoped to find a woman to settle down with. Start a family. Have a normal life . . . at least, one he didn’t feel he had to hide.
“What about you?’ Trey asked. “I heard you were dating Rachel in the science department.”
“For a while . . . but that ended in April. Before that, I was seeing a guy named Rico.” It felt strange talking to Trey about his love life, but he tamped down the awkward feelings. After all, friends talked about their love lives all the time, didn’t they?
“I heard that became a bit of a problem.” Trey grabbed a slice of bread from the basket and buttered it.
Jake pushed back stray stands of hair that had escaped his ponytail. Trey seemed to know a lot about Jake’s relationships. Was that a friendly interest, or could it be more?
“Yeah. The guy was pretty emotional . . . and overly possessive. I finally had to end it.”
Trey nodded. “It’s tough out there. Finding the right person. Making a go of it. If you do find the right person, though, I’m sure it’s worth the eff ort.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Jake said, shifting his gaze to the bread as he picked up a slice and buttered it. “What about you? Do you think you ever will?”
“I hope so,” Trey said with a shrug. “Enough about this, though.” Trey grinned. “So tomorrow, Harmony ties the knot.”
Jake nodded. Harmony had found someone she loved and whom she would spend her life with. She was proof it could be done.
Jake glanced at Trey. If only he could find someone in his life who thought he was special . . . who would make him forget how much he wanted Trey.
“It’ll be great seeing a lot of old friends tomorrow,” Jake said.
Trey leaned forward. “You know who we haven’t seen for a long time? Remember Danielle Rayne from fi rst year? I wonder if she’ll be there.”
“I’m sure. She and Harmony were pretty close friends.”
Danielle had transferred to another school after fi rst year. Financial considerations.
Excerpted from Forbidden Heat by Opal Carew.
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Batten-Carew.
Published in January 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.