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The Sex Diet
By Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING."
The perky receptionist behind the counter of Clearwater Bed and Breakfast smiled uncomfortably. "Er ... no. I don't have a reservation in your name, Ms. McCafferty."
Samantha McCafferty absently scratched her arm and squelched a vicious stab of irritation. The damned antihistamine was wearing off and if she didn't get another dose soon, she'd undoubtedly break out in ugly red hives from head to toe. That would certainly negate any appeal she might hope to garner through this sex diet, Samantha thought as she pictured her swollen, hive-covered face wearing a seductive smile. Ugh. Not pretty. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut. She didn't have time for this inconvenience. She needed that medicine now.
"Look, I don't care whether you've got my name in your system or not," Samantha told her, making a valiant effort to keep a note of annoyance from her tone. "I have a standing reservation. I've been vacationing here since I was a child, and have continued the tradition into my adulthood." She smiled sweetly. "The first week of September, in the Oleander Suite. Put me there." Before I turn into one giant red blob, Sam thought, covertly scratching her side. Oh, the pains one endured to be attractive.
The receptionist - Tina, according to her name tag - winced regretfully. "I'm afraid that room is already booked."
"What?" Samantha felt the first stirrings of genuine alarm and leaned forward anxiously. That couldn't possibly be right. This had to be a mistake. Her entire plan - Operation Orgasm - centered around this vacation. She was three days into the sex diet - the one guaranteed to make her attractive to the opposite sex - for pity's sake and, if the way the guy in seat B2 on the flight down had been acting had been any indication, it was definitely beginning to work. She couldn't afford for things to get screwed up now. Annoyed, she scratched her thigh.
"It's booked," Tina said apologetically and lifted her shoulders in a small shrug. "Everything is booked. Has been since they announced the Belle of the Beach contest."
Oh, no! Samantha mentally wailed. This could not be happening. Everything could not be booked. Surely Hank wouldn't do this to her. He couldn't have. Not this time, dammit. She'd kill him.
Samantha had been so busy pondering the everything-is-booked statement that it took a moment for the rest of what the clerk had said to filter through her turbulent thoughts, but when it did her brow furrowed. "The Belle of the Beach contest?" It sounded vaguely familiar, she thought. Had Hank mentioned it?
Tina gestured a manicured hand at a flyer on the wall. "Yep. It's this weekend. The winner gets an all-expense-paid trip to the Bahamas, as well as a new SUV and ten grand in prize money."
Samantha whistled low, gazed at the glitzy flyer. She could certainly use ten grand. She'd been steadily setting aside a nest egg since she'd graduated from college for a down payment on a future house, but living expenses combined with her student-loan debt had hindered her progress.
She made a good living as a dietician at one of Aspen's posh spas - Cedar Crest - but the cost of living was staggering and, for reasons she didn't fully understand, she'd recently decided it was time to return to her southern roots, move back to Orange Beach, Alabama, where she'd grown up.
Samantha had lost her parents at sixteen - victims of a drunk driver - and had moved in with her grandmother, her only living relative. Then, sadly, two years later, Gran had passed away, leaving her completely orphaned. Were it not for Hank Masterson - her longtime friend and, lamentably, the unrequited love of her life - and his parents, Samantha didn't know what she would have done. The Mastersons were her godparents and had done everything they could to help make her way easier. She'd appreciated their help, but staying in Orange Beach and attending community college just hadn't seemed right, particularly after Hank had moved away to Tuscaloosa.
Four years older than her, Hank had graduated from the University of Alabama the year she'd graduated from high school. Samantha had fully expected him to return to Orange Beach - had been particularly hurt that he hadn't - and, when he'd decided not to come home, Samantha had decided it was time for her to leave as well.
The decision had been difficult, but one that she didn't regret. She'd needed the space, the change in scenery. She'd traded sea and sand for mountains and snow and could honestly say that the move had been just the therapy she'd needed at the time. She'd moved to Colorado, attended college and made yearly pilgrimages back to Orange Beach, back to the Clearwater B&B where she'd spent so much time as a child. But over the past several years, each time she'd come home, it had grown increasingly harder to make the trip back out west.
Because Hank had returned.
He now owned the old B&B. Samantha had literally spent years of her life here in this old ante-bellum house snugged against the Gulf of Mexico.
She loved it here, loved the salty breezes and the squish of sand between her toes. She sighed a wistful breath, clawed at a place behind her ear. She couldn't wait to move home, but knew that until she had a substantial down payment for a house, that dream would simply have to wait. She'd take a significant cut in pay when she did make the move and she didn't want a giant mortgage hanging over her head when that time came. Unless a wind-fall landed in her lap, a few more years in Aspen would be in order.
Samantha smirked wryly. And that would undoubtedly be the case, she thought as she eyed the Belle of the Beach poster. She had about as much of a chance to win that heaving bosom, bronzed-body contest as she did to land Hank with this crazy sex diet - nil.
Excerpted from The Sex Diet by Rhonda Nelson Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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