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Fifteen years had passed since Ry Collier broke her teenage heart. Fifteen years during which the golden boy had amassed a fortune, making a name for the man. Fifteen years during which she'd blossomed into a woman bearing little resemblance to an awkward schoolgirl, if Ry's searing, searching appraisal in meeting her again was any indication. But quickly, best man Ry knew why the maid of honor looked familiar. And despite the past, they shared...
Fifteen years had passed since Ry Collier broke her teenage heart. Fifteen years during which the golden boy had amassed a fortune, making a name for the man. Fifteen years during which she'd blossomed into a woman bearing little resemblance to an awkward schoolgirl, if Ry's searing, searching appraisal in meeting her again was any indication. But quickly, best man Ry knew why the maid of honor looked familiar. And despite the past, they shared a bed.
And Jean Summerfield became pregnant.
Now she had to tell Ry that one reckless, remarkable night of passion had made a baby. And risk history repeating itself...
"Are you all right, Jean? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Jean turned at the sound of her best friend Susan Brundage's voice. "I ... uh ... yes, I'm fine. I thought I saw someone I knew from a long time ago, but I'm sure I was mistaken."
She glanced toward Ry again. Her stomach knotted into an uncomfortable ball. Her throat tightened. She thought she had put the past behind her, but in a fraction of a second all the insecurities suffered by that plain, overweight and shy sixteen-year-old girl came rushing back at her.
Susan grabbed Jean's arm, pulling her out of her thoughts. "There's someone you need to meet. He arrived from Chicago just this afternoon." Susan let out a soft chuckle. "He's what every woman's mother always warned her about ... a bad boy with looks, charm and lots of money. A dangerous combination for sure. And guess what ... he's single."
The knot in Jean's stomach tightened as Susan dragged her across the room toward the man she thought she would never see again. She took a calming breath, but it didn't help. She steeled her nerves against the inevitable, not sure what to expect.
"Ry, I'd like to introduce my maid of honor, Jean Summerfield. Jean, this is Bill's best man, Ry Collier. The two of you need to get acquainted. You'll be seeing a lot of each other during the upcoming week between now and the wedding."
A sexy smile lit Ry's handsomely chiseled features and a devilish gleam sparkled in his silver eyes as he made an obvious visual inventory of Jean's physical assets. He extended his hand toward her. "Jean, it's a pleasure to meet you." His smooth masculine voice tickled her senses as he clasped her hand in his, sending an immediate rush of sensual warmth through her body.
She reluctantly worked her hand out of his grasp, breaking the all-too-tempting sizzle of energy created by his touch. He was even more handsome up close than he had been from across the room. A sense of relief settled over her when he showed no outward signs of recognizing her. Perhaps the pain and emotional trauma of the past would remain safely tucked away.
Jean composed herself and her thoughts as she returned his smile. "The pleasure is all mine."
"Really?" He winked at her and flashed an absolutely killer smile. "We'll have to discuss mutual pleasure in greater detail ..." He cocked his head and extended a questioning look. "Perhaps on the dance floor?"
Ry grasped her hand again, led her to the dance floor and pulled her into his arms. She hadn't shown any signs of recognizing him, but somewhere ... somehow ... their paths had crossed. He was sure of it, yet they couldn't possibly have met. He never would have forgotten this gorgeous woman with glossy chestnut hair, beautiful hazel eyes and a figure that could not be hidden by the businesslike tailored slacks and blazer she wore. It was a body that would fulfill any man's wildest fantasies.
A tightness pulled across his chest, an unwelcome sign saying that this woman represented far more than some sort of temporary casual association. A nagging sensation continued to pull at his senses telling him he knew her from somewhere ... from someplace in his past. But where? A little twinge of uncertainty tugged at him followed by an ominous tremor of apprehension whose origins he didn't understand. Yes, indeed. She had definitely grabbed his libido. Now, if only he could figure out where he had seen her.
A shortness of breath caught him off guard when the delicate fragrance of her perfume tickled his senses. Just having her in his arms as they danced made his blood rush harder and his pulse race a little faster. Something about her had solidly grabbed his attention, pulled at his libido and made him want much more than just to hold her while they danced at a party.
Ry pulled her a little closer, taking advantage of the fact that she was already in his arms. He judged her height to be about five feet six inches, perfect for his six-foot height. He lowered his voice to a sexy whisper. "I know the bride is always supposed to be the center of attention, but you're certainly the most beautiful woman in the room."
The crimson flush of embarrassment quickly spread across Jean's cheeks as she glanced self-consciously around the room. "That's nonsense." A slight quaver surrounded her words, as if she wasn't sure exactly how to respond to what he had said. "Susan is a very beautiful woman. That marvelous mane of honey-blond hair and her big blue eyes ... she'll be a stunning bride."
"I'm more impressed with the maid of honor."
Her embarrassment seemed genuine to him, not a pretense. Was it possible that she didn't realize just how beautiful she was? That she was not accustomed to compliments? Or even pickup lines? What a welcome change from some of the vain women he had known whose primary concern was how they looked on the outside without a thought to whether they were beautiful on the inside.
As they moved to the music, his mind drifted back fifteen years. He had known a girl in high school whom he liked very much. She was a beautiful soul on the inside and the one person he truly felt comfortable around ... someone he could really talk with. He hadn't meant to, but he had destroyed that friendship as surely as if he had told her he never wanted to see her again. And for fifteen years the guilt and anguish had lived inside him.
Ry shook away the unpleasant memories and returned his attention to his very desirable dance partner. "This is a terrific idea ... having a party so that everyone connected with the wedding can meet each other before the rehearsal and wedding ceremony. Have you known Bill and Susan very long?"
"I haven't known Bill that long. He moved to Seattle four years ago. Susan and I are both from Seattle and have lived here all our lives although we've only known each other for about eight years. We belong to the same little theater group. What about you and Bill? How long have you two known each other?"
"We went to college together at UCLA. We were roommates in our freshman year and have been close friends ever since. I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago about six months after I graduated. That's where my business is headquartered."
"What do you do for a living?"
Excerpted from Having The Best Man's Baby by Shawna Delacorte Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted March 19, 2011
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