- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Ships from: Ottawa, Canada
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
"So let's see if we understand this correctly, Zoe." Amy Donatelli's dark eyes danced as she laid a conspiratorial hand on Matt Burke's arm. "You're saying there isn't one man from your past you can't stop thinking about? Is that it?"
Zoe's mouth twitched when she tried to answer in the affirmative. Darn it. She wanted to lie, but it went against her blasted moral code to tell falsehoods to her two best friends. Evasion didn't.
She raised her voice to be heard over the conversation and the music inside the noisy Washington, D.C., pub where the three of them had a standing Wednesday night date to toss back a few in the name of friendship.
She'd been so eager to get here tonight that she'd powered through a job for a client who contacted her Clutter-Bee-Gone business with a closet emergency. Then she'd practically sprinted three blocks and hopped a crowded Metro train in a mad dash to get to Dupont Circle on time.
All for this!
"Just because my mailman tracked down his high school sweetheart and discovered he still loved her doesn't mean everybody has somebody who got away," Zoe said.
As she waited to see whether her comment had done the trick, she nervously caught her left earlobe between her thumb and index finger only to discover she'd neglected to put on her earrings. Unless ... she touched the gold hoop on the right ear-lobe. Yep, she'd done it again. She'd put on only one earring.
"Everybody doesn't have someone who got away, honey," Amy said. Zoe's lips curved into a relieved smile as she covertly removed the right earring, noticing in the process that she'd painted the fingernails on only one of her hands. "But you do."
Zoe's smile disappeared faster than their first round of drinks. The color she felt flushing her face, unfortunately, seemed like it was going to stick around.
"Cut it out, Amy," Matt said in the slow, measured way he had of talking. "You're being too hard on Zoe."
Zoe could have kissed him smack on his sensible, analytical mouth, not that she had any romantic inclinations in that direction.
With light-brown eyes, dark-blond hair and cheekbones a model would kill for, Matt was a looker. If you liked the clean-cut, suit-and-tie type. But he bore an uncanny resemblance to Zoe's only sibling, a half brother who lived in California and whom she saw far too seldom.
Until Matt had taken a job at a D.C. law firm and moved to the district a few months ago, Zoe hadn't seen Matt enough, either. In addition to looking like her brother, Matt was considerate, thoughtful and intelligent.
Not to mention a true-blue friend.
Matt took a swig of pale ale and raised his eyebrows. "If Zoe wants to pretend she never had a thing for Jack Carter, we should let her."
He was also lower than a pig in a mud bog.
"Ha!" Amy clapped her hands in obvious delight. "That proves it, because Jack Carter is ..."
"... the man you were thinking of," Matt finished for her.
"Right," Amy said, nodding.
Zoe felt her face turning redder and wondered if she could talk her way out of this one. Considering she, Matt and Amy had met at the University of Maryland, the same place she'd met Jack Carter, it was doubtful.
"Since you bring up his name every couple of months, that's no surprise," Zoe told Amy with feigned aplomb.
"Uh, uh, uh." Amy wagged her finger for every denial she uttered. "You bring him up, honey. It's like he's always there in the back of your mind, waiting to jump into the conversation."
"You're exaggerating," Zoe said, but her voice cracked and four eyebrows raised. She threw up her hands. "Okay, I might have mentioned him once or twice, but that's perfectly understandable. Don't you remember what he looks like?"
It had been five years since Zoe had seen Jack Carter, but she could still picture the way all female eyes swung to him when he sauntered into the college biology class they'd taken together senior year. Even though the campus had twenty thousand students, she still marveled that she hadn't noticed him before then.
He'd be wearing those blue jeans with the slight rip in the back. The rip she suspected he'd made deliberately because he was such a perfect specimen coeds couldn't help but want to reach out and trace the inches of powerful thigh it exposed.
As though Jack Carter needed any help in the sex-appeal department. Not only had he been the star pitcher on the baseball team, but all six foot two inches of him were gorgeous.
He'd looked his sexy best when he strolled into class fifteen minutes past the eight o'clock start time, his hair mussed and his face unshaven as though he'd just rolled out of bed. How could a biologically sound woman not want to hustle him back to his place and crawl into that bed with him?
Not that Zoe would have considered letting Jack know she was susceptible to his bedroom look. Or the killer smile he'd flash her when he'd unsuccessfully try to bum her notes.
Amy waggled her eyebrows. "If you're trying to say Jack Carter had what it took to heat up your oven, why don't you just spit it out?"
"It's nothing to be embarrassed about, Zoe," Matt said when Zoe's face attained ovenlike temperatures. "Most people think about the One Who Got Away."
"But -" Zoe began.
Amy didn't let her finish. She squared her shoulders, shot an indecipherable look at Matt and blurted out, "I certainly think about my OWGA."
Zoe didn't immediately realize Amy had turned One Who Got Away into an acronym, but Matt had no such trouble.
"You have an OWGA? Who? The gum chewer? The knuckle cracker? The loud talker?" He rolled his eyes. "Those guys were losers."
"They were not!" Amy denied. "And it's not any of them anyway."
Amy tossed her thick mane of long, dark hair and hesitated only slightly before replying, "Pierre ... LeFrancois," a name so French that Zoe was sure Amy had never mentioned him before. Was he someone she knew from childhood? A family friend? A French chef?
Excerpted from Once Smitten/Twice Shy by Darlene Gardner Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.