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Harrison Payne walked through the crowd in the ballroom of the Karibu Resort in Vail, Colorado, on ski season's opening night. Every year, he got an adrenaline rush knowing that the resort was booked for the entire season, which began in mid-November. Hundreds of guests would be staying there for the next one hundred and sixty-six days.
Harry had opened the resort five years ago. In the beginning there were just fifty suites and ten hotel rooms. Today the Swiss chalet-style resort had one hundred and fourteen luxury suites and sixteen hotel rooms. And this season they were offering ten two- or three-bedroom condominiums for larger groups who wanted more privacy.
At forty-two, Harry had already enjoyed one career: he was retired from professional football. One of the few black quarterbacks, Harry was proud to have played with the Denver Broncos the last nine years of his career. Although he was a Kentucky native, Coloradans had adopted Harry as their own, and loyally frequented his resort.
He saw plenty of locals in the crowd tonight, many of whom could not let him pass them without a "Hey, Harry!" or a fond pat on the back.
He was looking for his date, Marcia Shaw. He and Marcia had been going out for three months. She was a news anchor for a Denver station. Smart, attractive and just the right age to be seriously looking to settle down, Harry thought she was perfect for him.
Harry had this "life timeline" in his brain. When he was a football star in high school, he'd said that by the time he was twenty-five he would buy his mother a house. He had met that deadline. By the time he was thirty-five, he vowed, he would be financially solvent. He was a millionaire manytimes over by his thirty-fifth birthday. And by the time he was forty-five he would be married with children. He'd put off getting married this long because he was of the mind that when a man married, his wife should take precedence over everything else in his life. Therefore, his business had to be in good standing before he married anyone. Plus, since his own father died when he was a small child, he wanted plenty of time to spend with his kids.
Now that he was forty-two he felt an urgent need to find that special someone and start working on fulfilling the last item on his timeline agenda.
The orchestra was playing "Clair de Lune" and the beautifully dressed guests were either dancing or standing on the sidelines conversing, with small plates filled with appetizers and glasses of wine balanced in their hands.
Harry saw Marcia across the room chatting with another woman. He made a beeline for her, but was waylaid by John Santiago, founder of a Denver ski club for minority kids. Harry knew John well because he'd donated his time and money to the club over the years. He had even hired some members of John's group to work at the resort over the weekend, giving beginning ski lessons to children of his guests.
"Harry, could I have a word with you?" John asked with a serious look on his medium-brown face. John was five-ten and stocky with powerful shoulders and great arm and leg muscles honed from skiing, no doubt.
Harry was six-two and athletically built. Every morning— Monday through Friday—he still got up and jogged, even though his knees were beginning to give him problems. He spent at least an hour in the gym seven days a week. Both men were wearing tuxedos for the black-tie event.
"Sure, John, what's up?" Harry casually inquired, his thick brows raised.
John took a DVD in its plastic cover from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to Harry. "I've never asked you to do this before, Harry, but this girl is special. She's a downhill racer. I think she has the talent to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but she needs a sponsor. You know what that means—she needs financial backing and the use of Karibu's facilities."
Harry started to say something, and John cut him off with "I don't want you say anything right now. Just look at this DVD, and I'll get back to you later. She's only seventeen and in her last year of high school. She lives with her mother, who's a nurse at a Denver hospital. Single mom, but she's done a great job with Danielle. That's the kid's name, Danielle Washington."
John smiled. "I'm gonna get out of your hair now." He looked around them. "Great turnout tonight, Harry."
"Yeah, thanks," Harry said, wondering what he was getting himself into.
John disappeared into the crowd and Harry continued across the room. Marcia was no longer where he'd earlier spotted her. He kept walking in that general direction anyway and saw her standing in an alcove adjacent to the white brick fireplace.
Her back was to him, so she didn't see him approaching. He could hear her distinctive voice quite well, though. "I agree, Harry's a great guy, but he's too attached to his mom. Can you believe he phones her every day? My mother would have a heart attack if I started phoning her that often." She laughed uproariously as her friend joined her.
Harry stopped in his tracks, unable to resist listening to the rest of the conversation. How could she think he was a momma's boy? Sure, he phoned his mother every day, but that was because his mother was recovering from cancer surgery and he was worried about her. He had tried to talk her in to coming out to Denver to have the surgery and recuperate so he could keep an eye on her, but Mildred had flatly refused.
She preferred to stay in her Louisville, Kentucky home where her daughter, Susanne, Harry's younger sister, could walk across the street from her house to check on her mother each day. Harry could understand so he hadn't tried to bend his mother to his will.
"I like it when a man's devoted to his mother," said Marcia's friend. "If he treats his mother well, he'll treat me well."
"That's not always true," said Marcia. "If a man wants to be with me, I need to be number one in his heart. I don't want an old lady beating my time!"
"Girl, you need to quit," chuckled the friend, obviously enjoying their conversation. "If I had a man like Harry Payne, I wouldn't be complaining about the time he spends on the phone with his mother as long as he spends time with me in the bedroom. Tell me you've seen his bedroom." She waited expectantly.
Harry held his breath. He had never been able to put up with a woman who discussed their sex life with anyone. Not her best girlfriends. Not her sister, nor her mother. That was private. He considered sex a sacred thing between a man and a woman. Unlike some of his male friends, he never talked about how a woman performed in bed with him.
"I have no complaints there," Marcia confided conspira-torially. "He's the best lover I've had in a long time. But Marcia needs to be the queen in his heart as well as in his bed. I will not share him with his mother. I won't have her taking away my time!"
Harry turned on his heels and walked back in the direction he'd come. He didn't want to hear any more. In fact he wished he hadn't heard as much as he had. Here he was thinking that Marcia Shaw was a sweet, unselfish woman with whom he had a lot in common, only to find out that she was jealous of the time he spent talking to his mother. In his opinion Marcia's behavior smacked of a woman who was insecure and immature.
He sighed deeply. When you were past forty, it was definitely hard to find a woman worth taking home to Mom. He supposed he could give up and marry some bimbo with hips built for breeding who was just in it for the money and the big alimony after the divorce five years down the road. But he truly wanted someone he could love. Someone who could love him for himself and not for what he could give her. Was that too much to ask for?
It's freezing out here! Cherisse Washington thought as she wrapped her arms around herself. The pashmina shawl around her shoulders wasn't doing much to keep her warm. But she couldn't stand to be inside a moment longer. Why had she let Sonia talk her into coming? She could have been at home, curled up with a good book. Instead she was in Vail at "the hot resort," as Sonia had put it. Opening night promised to be filled with plenty of unattached men looking for unattached women. Sonia had already hooked up with someone: a computer programmer from Denver who had also had the bright idea to spend his Saturday night looking for love.
If Cherisse hadn't given Sonia a ride, she would have been in her car by now on her way back to Denver. But she wasn't about to leave her best friend stranded.
So she'd come out on the balcony to fortify herself with a bit of fresh air before returning to the ballroom, and the awkward advances from men who were more out of practice than even she was when it came to talking to the opposite sex.
The moon was about the best thing she'd seen tonight. It was full and bright, the color a pale yellow. She could see the smiling face of the man in the moon. She could almost feel the warmth of the moonlight on her skin. Closing her eyes, and tilting her head back, she imagined she could feel the moonbeams dancing on her face.
"What are you, a stargazer or just a moonbeam bather?" asked a deep male voice from behind her.
Cherisse's eyes flew open, and she turned to face a tall strikingly handsome man. She had no idea he was actually the host Harrison Payne. She didn't follow football and had never been to the Karibu Resort before tonight so there was no reason that she would recognize him.
She didn't follow football because she'd had enough of the game when she'd been married to Charlie Washington, a professional football player and her ex-husband for the past ten years. She'd married him at nineteen and divorced him at twenty-seven when he hadn't been able to put his family—Cherisse and their daughter—before his gambling habit. She sometimes missed Charlie, but she didn't miss football.
As for the Karibu Resort, she had heard it was African-American-owned, and that was all she knew about it.
The guy was tall and muscular. From what she could see of him, he had a square-jawed, clean-shaven face and short, neatly cut hair. He smelled nice, too. "The moonbeams feel good on my face. Which one are you?" she said.
"Oh, I'm a stargazer," he said, joining her at the railing and looking up at the moon. "Especially when I was a boy, I would imagine that I could fly to the moon and stars like Superman. A little moonlight can still make me believe I can fly."
"It's been known to make you do silly things," Cherisse agreed. She rubbed her arms again, thinking that she should be getting back inside. Being alone with a stranger on a balcony, looking at the moon might not be the wisest or the safest thing to do. "I think I've had enough for one night."
She went to open the door and Harry stopped her with a hand on her arm. "Wait, don't go."
She was around five-seven, had wavy dark hair that fell to the middle of her back. She was wearing a simple little black dress, and had the best pair of legs he'd seen in ages. Admittedly, the light out on the deck didn't allow him to see her face too clearly, but her voice, her presence, even the smell of her body made him want to spend more time with her.
But she obviously didn't want to get too close to anyone tonight, otherwise she would have been inside trying to hook up with someone, like the other hundred or so single women at the opening were doing.
He removed his hand from her arm. "Sorry. It's just that I rarely feel comfortable at parties like this and you're the only person I've felt comfortable with tonight. Won't you stay and talk a while?"
Cherisse didn't know why, but she liked being in his presence, too. "A few more minutes," she said.
Harry removed his jacket and placed it about her shoulders. "You looked cold."
Cherisse immediately relaxed. His jacket was warm from his body heat and smelled of Calvin Klein cologne, a very pleasant combination. "Thanks."
"What's your name?" he asked.
She cleared her throat and he took that to mean he was overstepping his bounds.
"Okay, no last names," he said with a smile.
"It's Cheri," she told him, giving him the nickname her friends called her.
"I'm Harry." He waited half a beat, expecting her to recognize him now. But she gave no indication that she had connected him to the Harry who owned Karibu Resort.
"What are you doing here tonight, Cheri?"
"A friend convinced me that this was 'the' place to meet nice men."
"And you don't agree?"
"I'm sure there are plenty of nice men here tonight. It's just that I'm not in the market for a man, nice or otherwise."
"Then you already have someone?"
"Yeah, a teenaged daughter," Cherisse said with a laugh. "I also have a job I spend way too much time on, and college loans to repay. I don't have time for a man. Or should I say the average man would not have time for me. He would soon discover that he would be relegated to a sorry fourth in my life. My daughter, my job, the loans and, lastly, him. No man would put up with that kind of ranking."
Harry laughed softly. "You would be surprised what a man would put up with to have a good woman in his life. Take me, for example. I'm dating a woman I just found out hates the fact that I dote on my sick mother. Can you believe it? I phone my mother every day. She's recovering from breast cancer surgery. Thank God they found it when they did. She's gonna be all right. But, tell me, Cheri, would you hold it against a man if he was concerned enough about his mom that he phoned her every morning just to hear her voice and assure himself that she's still breathing?"
Cherisse was a nurse in pediatrics at Mercy Hospital in Denver. She dealt with sick people every day. She believed the sick healed faster when they had people around them who cared about them.
"Have you gone to visit her, and not just phoned her?" she asked.
"She had to threaten me to get me to leave Louisville," he told her. "She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. That's my hometown."
Cherisse smiled up at him. "Every mother should have a son like you."
Harry felt like hugging this complete stranger but restrained himself. "Thank you!"
He moved farther into her personal space, but not too close. He got a good whiff of the fragrance she was wearing. He couldn't place it. It was spicy but not overly so. He liked it when women smelled good, but perfume didn't turn him on. In this instance, it had to be a combination of her skin and the fragrance she was wearing. Something about her had captured his senses and wouldn't let go. "What's your real reason for not being open to meeting a nice guy tonight?" he suddenly asked.
Cherisse turned to face him and laughed softly. "Promise not to spread this around?" she asked lightly.
"I don't know anyone you know," Harry said. "I'm pretty sure your secret will be safe with me."
"I haven't been intimate with anyone in more than six years. If I met someone and we liked each other it would eventually come to that age-old question—your place or mine? And I'm afraid I've forgotten everything I ever knew about that aspect of a relationship. I'm not a twenty-first century girl who can sleep with anyone just for the immediate gratification. I need to like the guy, a lot! And it's been six years since I really liked a guy."
"What happened to the guy you really liked?"
"He was killed." Her voice broke.
Harry didn't know what to say. He should have kept his mouth shut. Now he could feel the pain radiating from her body, just as her lovely scent had wafted over him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up sad memories."
"It's okay," she said, clearing her throat. "At any rate, you see my predicament, right?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed with a smile. "You would be a tough nut to crack."
Cherisse laughed again. "Exactly, and what man in his right mind would even try?"
Harry was about to say that he knew any number of men who would get in line to take her out when the balcony door opened and Cherisse's best friend, Sonia Lopez, cried, "There you are! I've been looking all over for you." She noticed Harry. "Oh, sorry, girl, I didn't know you were out here with somebody. I'm ready to leave. I have to work tomorrow. But if you want to stay a while longer I'll go wait for you in the lounge off the lobby."
Cherisse clamped onto Sonia's arm as if it were a lifeline. "I was just waiting on you" she said. She gestured to Harry. "This is Harry. Harry, this is Sonia."
The two of them murmured hellos and Cherisse turned to Harry. "It was nice chatting with you, Harry. Take care."
"You take care, too," Harry said. He wanted to give her his card, but knew it would be inappropriate. He was dating Marcia. He had to chalk this up to one of those magical nights that had no chance of going any further than it already had.
Posted December 9, 2008
This is one of the best book EVER. Janice haves did it again:). It is so good and i cant stop reading it. Im always reading it over and over again:). LOVE IT
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Posted February 16, 2009
Posted December 9, 2008
Ex-pro football player, Harry Payne and nurse, Cheri Washington meet one moonlit night on the balcony at the Colorado resort Harry owns. There was instant attraction but both went their separate ways. By chance they meet again, a week later, when Harry agrees to sponsor Cheri's daughter, Danielle in a quest for the Olympics. <BR/><BR/><BR/>Charlie Washington, Cheri's ex-husband and Danielle's father, returns in their lives with plans of his own - getting his family back. But Harry wasn't having it. <BR/><BR/>This is a very passionate love story about two people being seduced by the moonlight... if you are a hopeless romantic; I highly recommend this book to you. I loved it. It is definitely one I plan to read again and again. Another job well done Janice.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2014
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Posted June 6, 2009
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