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The One Who Got Away
By Jo Leigh
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTo: The Gang at Eve's Apple
If you're looking for something soft, you won't find it in Ben's face. Not at first.
He is all hard lines and sharp angles. The cheekbones, of course. The stuff of dreams. Improbable. Dangerous. Unforgettable. The cheekbones make you look at his eyes, give you no choice. They're dark and knowing. Too knowing. Which makes you look away, but not for long. The focus shifts to his lips. The upper is thin, but there. The pouty lower makes up for it. And when the corners of his lips curve up in that slight smile, when those eyes take you in from the toes up, when he flicks his dark, straight, too-long hair back with a hand, there's nothing to do but surrender. Give it up. Lie down, whether you're near a bed or not.
That's Ben. My first lover. My best lover. Might as well have been my only lover. Because it's been ten years, and I can't get that face out of my head.
Every man I've dated, from that gorgeous Richard Gere-like attorney to that race-car driver from Atlanta has failed the Ben Test. Not that I even realized there was such a thing, but now that I know I'm going to see Ben again, I finally get it. I see what he's done to me.
So, my fellow Eve's Apple Compatriots, my sisters in righteous conquests who seek the perfect Men To Do before we say I Do ... I hereby declare that Ben Bowman, the man of the exquisite cheekbones, of the mesmerizing dark eyes, is my official MAN TO DO.
I, Taylor Hanson, am going to spend one week with the aforementioned Mr. Bowman, in, appropriately enough, Las Vegas, Sin City, while attending my brother's wedding. I will, without fail, get Ben "Cheekbones" Bowman into my bed, and then I will see, with my very own eyes, that regardless of cheekbones, of knowing eyes, and wicked smiles, Bowman is just a guy. Like a bunch of other guys. Not a God, not an icon, not the King of the Stud Muffins.
I was only eighteen.
And then, my dear friends, I will come home, and I SHALL BE FREE to find my Mr. Right. My forever guy. Because I will have broken the spell. Damn it.
Love and Kisses,
Taylor ONLY IN VEGAS.
Ben watched the crowd standing in front of the Wheel of Fortune slot machine as he made his way through the airline terminal toward the baggage claim area. Breathless with anticipation, a dozen or so tourists watched the spinning wheel as it slowed, coming to a shaky stop under the bold 20. A collective groan marked their disappointment, and Ben marveled again at the gullibility of humans.
All anyone needed to do was take one look at the Strip to see that Vegas wasn't in the business of giving away money. But most of the good folk who came to Vegas didn't stop to think about the odds. They came for magic. For the turn of the wheel, the flip of a card that would free them from the daily grind of working for a living. They wanted the dream and no place on earth knew how to sell the dream better.
Not that Ben didn't mind a friendly game of poker now and then, but he had no illusions about windfalls or magic. He believed in hard work and persistence. If luck ever entered the picture it was because he'd made sure to be in the right place at the right time.
He passed the shops selling overpriced leather jackets, gaudy trinkets and T-shirts, finally arriving at the escalator that would take him down to his the baggage claim area.
As was his wont, he'd checked in at the last possible moment, assuring that his luggage would be some of the first out of the plane. In fact, this time his bag was the very first. A few minutes later, he was in a cab on his way to the Hard Rock Hotel.
He stared at the vision that was Las Vegas as the cab made its way along Paradise Road. How appropriate. The Hard Rock wasn't on the Strip per se, but two blocks east. Still it managed to be the hippest of the big hotels. He'd never stayed there, but he'd had dinner at Nobu and the Pink Taco. Nice place, if you liked that sort of thing. He didn't. Give him a mountain lake and a fishing pole, and he was all set. Glitz and glamour made him itchy, but this was Steve's wedding, and he'd have gone to the far side of the moon for that.
It puzzled him, however. Steve Hanson had been his closest friend since the fifth grade, and while they hadn't lived in the same town since college, they still got together twice a year to go deep-sea fishing. It made things easier that Steve owned the boats. Five of them, actually, all moored in his and Steve's home-town, San Diego. Steve had eschewed the white-collar life of his father to follow the beat of his own drum. He'd started out with one boat, The Golden Mermaid, and had increased his fleet by a boat every other year for ten years. He'd made himself a good life, and as far as Ben could see, he was a truly happy man. What Ben couldn't see was why he was about to change all that.
He hadn't discussed his plans with Ben, or the reasons behind his decision. There had just been that one phone call where Steve had asked him to come to Vegas, to be his best man. He'd said his fiancée's name was Lisa, and that she was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He'd also said that he was going to keep the fleet but move to Kansas, and work for her father at his aerospace company. That was the kicker. The puzzle. Steve hated corporate life, had broken his father's heart by not taking over the family insurance business. So why now? Why her? Why marriage?
The cab turned into the big driveway, underneath the huge guitar that was the Hard Rock logo. The lot was crowded with every kind of vehicle from Hummers to limos to beat-up Chevys. At the entrance, a uniformed doorman tried to help but Ben took his suitcase to the front desk. His room, on the fourteenth floor, was ready and after a long walk through the noisy casino, and another down a silent padded hallway, he reached it.
The parlor of his deluxe room had gold walls, green carpeting, a semicircular couch with a round black coffee table, a wet bar and, behind purple drapes that framed French doors, a fabulous view of the Strip. The bedroom wasn't quite as fancy, but nice. Two queen platform beds with leather headboards, a built in TV instead of the usual armoire and another spectacular view.
Excerpted from The One Who Got Away by Jo Leigh Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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