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KAYLA SMILED at the man entering the rose-filled courtyard and opened her arms in welcome invitation. He moved confidently, powerfully, his vivid blue eyes filled with intensity and a resolute goal—to please her, repeatedly.
No man had ever touched her before, bringing her such exquisite sensations, such undeniable elation, that she felt empty when he was gone.
"I knew you'd come," she said, and the corner of his mouth crooked upward in that sexy grin that made her pulse jitter.
His shirt was the color of his eyes, Caribbean blue, and she licked her lips as he unbuttoned it and tossed it to the ground. The broad chest, sprinkled with light-brown hair, led to a built abdomen, also embellished with a thin sprinkling of hair that led to the top of his jeans, where his hands now rested against the waistband while he awaited her command.
"Take them off," she whispered. "Please. I want to see all of you." She did want to see him, but she wanted to feel him even more, deep within her, filling her, completing her. She yearned for this moment each day and wished it never had to end.
But she wouldn't think about the end now. Right now, he was here, and preparing to give her exactly what she needed. He knew how to please women, and he'd pleased many, Kayla realized. It was apparent in the way he moved, in the confidence of his stride, the assuredness in his eyes. But while he obviously knew his share of females, Kayla couldn't help but believe that she was different. She was special to this man, just as he was special to her. She could see it in his eyes, feel it in his touch, and when they became one, there wasn't any denying that their bonding was unique. It wasreal. It was meant to be.
He unfastened his jeans, then slowly slid the zipper down. Kayla's legs began to twitch in anticipation. She hated the fact that he was here and not inside of her. Yet. She nearly shouted for joy when the heavy denim hit the ground, and he stepped toward her.
The next move was hers, and she knew what to do. He wore black underwear, the sheerness boldly outlining his erection. He wouldn't remove the fabric that barely covered his glory; that was her job. And she loved it.
She leaned up and grasped the waistband, lifted it slightly to bring it over the end of his penis, then pulled the stretchy cloth down those muscled thighs and let it fall to the ground. He stepped even closer, and Kayla brought her mouth to the tip of his beautiful erection, licking one pearly drop of his desire away before he moved from her reach.
She looked up into those intense blue eyes and knew what she'd see—him shaking his head. He wanted to see her naked, and he wasn't giving her access to him until he had full access to her, too.
Kayla loved the way he made her feel—so strong, so bold, so ready for this, for making love, the way she couldn't remember making love in real life.
That niggling reminder, the whisper of a hint that this wasn't real, that she was merely creating what she wanted in her mind, caused Kayla to frown. She didn't know this man, not really, didn't even know his name. She wasn't even sure of her own name. She certainly didn't know whether he was real, or merely an intensely strong figment of her imagination.
But he sure seemed real.
He shook his head again, not allowing her to leave the dream until he'd completed his goal—pleasing her—and Kayla willingly let go of reality and let fantasy reign.
Sighing contentedly, she removed her nightclothes and panties.
His eyes were a smoky blue now, filled with lust and desire, and his smile showcased the wicked cleft in his chin. Kayla wanted to lick that sexy indentation, and she would. Soon.
He lowered himself to the ground beside her, and Kayla against him, she enjoyed the way they fitted so well into her soul.
She licked the cleft in his chin while he moved his thigh between her legs. Rocking her hips to provide as much abrasion as possible between his flesh and her clitoris, Kayla knew that if he let her, she'd come merely from this, moving against him, feeling him this close, wanting him even closer.
"Please," she panted. "Don't make me wait any more. I need you. Please."
His mouth slid over hers and his tongue moved within her lips, then he rolled over on top of her, his legs pushing against hers and spreading them wide, preparing her for that hot, hard length to come inside.
The thick head of his penis pushed against her opening and stayed there, while he broke the kiss and rose above her, those blue eyes staring into hers while he waited.
Didn't he understand that she was ready? That she was always ready for him?
No, he didn't. His questioning gaze told her that he was still mindful of her fears, that he didn't want to hurt her. But he would never hurt her. He only loved her, and she needed that love, that completion, more than she needed her next breath.
She couldn't wait. Wrapping her legs around his back, she rammed her hips upward to bring him, totally and completely and deeply, within her core.
Kayla rode the exquisite wave of desire, spiraling and burning and fighting for release. She matched him thrust for thrust, her breathing hard and heavy as she let go of all fear and gave him everything. His chest heaved above her, eyes hers, and her passion exploded in wild, convulsing spasms.
His hands grabbed her hips, and he pushed inside her, in his own powerful climax.
Kayla trembled with the after shudders, closing her eyes in exhaustion.
When she opened them, he was gone, and she was alone on her tiny cot in the shelter, while the other women in the room slept noisily, their raspy breaths and low snores filling the night.
She swallowed and tamped down on the urge to cry. How could she cry? He'd come to her again and fulfilled her need for intimacy, true intimacy and trust, with a man. She said a prayer of thanks that the blue-eyed man had given her a fantasy tonight…and that the gray-eyed monster hadn't delivered a nightmare. "AREN'T YOU getting tired of meaningless sex?"
Gage Vicknair stood at the top of the levee and scanned the surface of Lake Pontchartrain, its murky brown water churning madly beneath the thick Louisiana humidity, while Monique's question churned just as madly in his mind.
Tired of sex? Gage Vicknair?
Not in this life.
But that wasn't what she'd asked, now, was it? She'd asked if he was tired of meaningless sex. That was the kicker, and that question had a different answer altogether. He was twenty-seven and, to his knowledge, he'd never experienced any other kind of sex but meaningless…in real life. But, for the past two weeks, he had glimpsed a deeper connection, yet only within his dreams.
And with a woman he'd never seen before.
Wouldn't you know it? At the point in his life when he'd decided he was actually ready to look for more, to give a woman more than merely a physical bond, he'd go and flip over a fantasy girl who existed only in his mind.
Laughter carried in the air from the partyers gearing up for a hot night at the Treasure Chest Casino, less than a block away from Gage's apartment on Williams Boulevard. And from the cars backed up around the Pontchartrain Center, the place would soon be hopping with tourists in town for the September RV show.
Long-nosed cigar boats pushed through the deep waters of the lake, and several elderly fishermen sat on white plastic buckets around the sloped bank, brown bamboo rods hovering above the gloomy water. A couple of pretty college girls dozed on striped beach towels, their bikini clad bodies soaking up the last rays of the Friday sun.
His cell phone beeped the "Zydeco Stomp," and he wasn't surprised at the ID displayed on the square gray screen. He flipped the phone open.
"Haven't you done enough damage for one day?"
"Oh, don't even go there." Monique's feistiness was in full force. "It should take more than an honest comment about your love life to get you pissed, but if you're wanting an apology, I'll give you one. I'm sorry." She paused for effect. "There, how was that?"
"It'll do in a crunch," Gage said, grinning. Heaven help him, he couldn't stay mad at her for long. Never had, not even when they were kids and she'd tried out her new school scissors on his hair while he was sleeping. Thank God she'd learned a bit more about haircutting since then, or Monique's Masterpieces would have flopped big-time. As it was, her salon was thriving. Then again, Gage gave her more business than anyone, since all of his previous lovers found their way to his sister's place to keep tabs on the "roving playboy." Their words, not his. But the description was accurate, and reminded him again of Monique's blunt comment.
Meaningless sex. "I do mean that, by the way," she said. "I am sorry…" "How come it sounds like a "but" is coming?"
He nodded at two fishermen struggling to lug their buckets up the levee. A fat speckled trout on top of one of slapping loudly against the additional mix of red fish and flounder filling the pail.
"Looks like you did okay," Gage observed.
One of the guys grinned, displaying a big gap where his two front teeth used to reside. "Sho" "nuff."
Walking a short distance behind the men, a perky blond levee, her tight T-shirt knotted beneath her breasts and her blue-jean short-shorts almost qualifying for indecent exposure. While the bikini-clad girls wore less, this one somehow managed to show, and tease, more. Slowing her pace to a crawl as she neared, she smiled at Gage.
"Hi there," she said, her voice a sexy whisper. Her diamond-embellished belly ring caught the sun and made Gage flinch.
All it'd take was a friendly hello, and he could put money on having her out of her shirt and shorts before the sun went down. But as Monique had pointed out, he'd had his share of meaningless sex, and he wasn't into jailbait. So he nodded politely, then turned his back to the flirty girl and let her go hit on someone who wasn't having a life altering day, courtesy of his meddling sister.
And speaking of meddling Monique, he'd nearly forgotten she was on the other end of the line.
"You still there?"
"I was waiting to see what happened," she replied.
"What happened?" he repeated.
"Hel-lo there," she purred, mocking the teen's seductive tone before laughing into the phone.
"Watch it," he warned.
"Oh, all right. I'll stop," she said, huffing. "But the only reason I've been nagging you about your beyond-interesting love life is that I want you to have what I've got." She lowered her voice to a giddy whisper. "I'm so happy, Gage. Ryan is a dream come true."
"Actually," Gage corrected, "he's a ghost come alive, but "dream come true" will work."
Monique, like Gage, their brother, Dax, and their cousins, Nan, Tristan and Jenee, had inherited the family's unique ability to communicate with the dead. Or, more specifically, to help ghosts who had trouble crossing over to the other side. Oddly enough, Gage had never seen the family obligation as anything out of the ordinary—since he'd been around Vicknair mediums since the day he was born—until Monique had fallen in love with her assigned specter. Even the Vicknairs were stunned that Ryan Chappelle had been sent back over to the land of the living to be with his soul mate, Monique.
"Ghost, dream, whatever." She giggled shamelessly.
"Anyway, we're excited. That's why I called. I wanted to tell you that Ryan and I are at the airport. We're leaving for Las Vegas tonight, and if everything goes as planned, I'll be Monique Chappelle before midnight."
Gage swallowed hard. Monique hadn't known Ryan that long, but then again, he couldn't have stayed on this side if they weren't meant for each other. Still…Monique? His wild, vivacious and ready-for-anything sister? Married? To a former ghost?
"Gage?" Her voice sounded slightly worried.
"Say you're happy," she instructed.
"I'm happy." He was happy, because Monique was happy. But it was going to take some getting used to. And what about her assignments? Ghosts didn't take too well to waiting for help. "You're leaving town?"
"Don't worry," she said, evidently following his train of thought. "We'll come back if I start feeling ghosts, and I haven't had any burning sensations all day. I'm hoping I won't have any spirits calling until I'm safely back in Louisiana next week."
Monique usually sensed her ghosts a day before they came, so she was probably right. She and Ryan could go to Vegas, tie the knot and get back before she received another of Grandma Adeline's letters, as long as they were willing to cut the trip short if necessary.
Adeline Vicknair distributed ghostly assignments to each of the Vicknair mediums, and she could make their lives unpleasant if there was any delay.
Monique's skin burned when she had a specter coming. Gage, on the other hand, heard the dead ghost cry before he received a visit. Typically, he had about a day from when he first heard the ghost weeping until he actually met his specter, so he was usually at the Vicknair plantation waiting for his grandmother's letter when it materialized on her silver tea service. Once, however, after Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans, he hadn't been able to leave the emergency room at Ochsner Hospital. Being a trauma doctor, he simply couldn't just walk out on patients during a crisis. So, even though he heard the crying, he didn't leave.
The result had been horrendous.