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Ana didn't know what she was going to do with all the photos. She'd taken hundreds—and hadn't the heart to delete a single one of them. Good thing she'd brought an extra couple of flash cards with her. Africa was everything she'd hoped it would be—wide, wild and incredibly hot. Totally different from anything she'd experienced and she sought to capture it—so she could hold onto the sense of freedom when she returned home.
Even now, with the truck pulled over to the side of the road on the outskirts of Arusha, she had her camera up and ready. She leaned her head over the side to see what it was that Bundy, the driver, was doing. Talking to someone. She could see him smiling up at the stranger who had his back to her.
Ana smiled too, enjoying the view. Bundy's friend was quite a specimen of a male. Ana let the sensation wash over her—for the first time in almost a year having a pleasurable physical reaction to a man. A sliver of excitement sparked in her belly, the momentary wondering— what if? She wriggled in her seat and angled her head for a better look. Oh, yeah. A definite what if.
She giggled. Fantastic, finally she was back to normal. Whole, healthy and actually able to feel a touch of sexual heat. She lifted the camera, clicked a couple of times. And then zoomed.
Denim shorts showed off strong, bronze calves and hinted that the thighs were equally muscular. Hands rested on narrow hips accentuating a great butt. But it was the shoulders that got her. His torso was one hell of a wide triangle—so wide the fabric of his shirt pulled slightly at the seams. Broad, broad shoulders that were built to be hung onto. The kind of physique to make a woman feel ultra feminine—and as Ana was such a giantess she needed a big man to make her feel feminine. Unfortunately there weren't enough of them around, and when she did find the occasional one he was never interested in her. For some reason big men always seemed to want petite women. But she could forget that reality for now and just enjoy this present fantasy. She took another picture. His hair was cropped close—almost army kind of close. The tips of her fingers tingled, wondering what it would be like to run her hands over his scalp. Interesting.
But the best thing definitely was his height. Bundy wasn't short but this guy was a good half head taller than him. Being so horrendously tall herself, Ana had always been drawn to very tall men and he had height in abundance. In fact this guy—from the back at least—had everything. Now if only he'd turn around and fulfil the whole fantasy of male-model gorgeous-ness.
She shifted her grip on the camera, wriggling her fingers to let out the tension sparking in her muscles. Sex. She was actually thinking about sex.
She half laughed again and took another picture. Knowing it was stupid but loving the freedom to enjoy a beautiful male. She hadn't thought she'd ever have it in her again. After the hell of the last year it was great to discover she did. All she had to do now was return to London and hopefully find the paperwork complete. At last she could get on with everything. She'd known coming here was the right thing to do. And now she'd had the final proof of her recovery and the return of her zest for life—and her libido.
Bundy turned and the two men walked away from her around the front of the truck where she could no longer see them. No matter, she looked at the screen on her camera, smiled her way through the few snaps of the handsomest back view of a boy she'd ever seen.
She smiled again. She was over it. She was finally, totally over it.
There was a bang and a bump and the truck jolted forward—on the move again. She glanced up as the others called out. It took a moment for her to realise there was someone new on board and that her fellow passengers were saying hi to him. That he was slowly walking down the aisle towards her. His gaze direct, relentless and inscrutable.
Ana hadn't known it was possible to be frozen by flaming heat. She couldn't move, couldn't think and couldn't believe her eyes. Yet somehow she was breathing, somehow she was seeing and sadly there was no denying who she was seeing. And she had to believe it.
'Seb?' Did she even say it aloud?
He was the one wearing denims cut off at the knee and the casual tee that totally showed off his broad shoulders. He was the one with his hair cropped sexy soldier short. He was the one standing so tall and making Bundy laugh.
He was the one inspiring her frisky fantasy—the first she'd had in months.
Oh, my, it was too ironic.
She blinked, hoping like hell she was seeing things.
But no. It really was Sebastian.
Her brain sent instant freeze messages to the melting softness in her body. She had just been eyeing up her ex.
Sebastian Rentoul. Her one and only one-night stand. Her one and only week-long fling. Her one and only whirlwind wedding.
Her husband. The father of her baby.
Her husband who had lied. Her baby who had died.
A thousand images flashed in the space of a second. The heat and light in the bar, the thrum of the beat as they'd stood so close, the lust in the touch, the laughter as they'd come together and uttered those foolish words. The anger in discovery of betrayal and mis-communication. The anguish in her lonely loss.
She hadn't been granted the joy of knowing her child. Looking back on it, she hadn't known her husband either. The man she'd fallen for was a fiction—a fantasy in her own needy head and heart.
It was excruciating what a fool she'd been. And the resulting pain had almost broken her completely.
Suck it up, Ana. Suck it up.
It was done. In the past and she was over it. She wasn't going to fall apart at the mere sight of him. For one thing he didn't know the half of it. And she didn't want him to. She blinked again. He was coming towards her. She reeled it all in—stuffing the memories, and emotion, into her internal prison and padlocking the door. She shut off the camera and set it on her lap, not wanting him to see the pictures she'd just been giggling over. Good grief. That she'd just felt the burn for him?
She looked down. Moved faster when she saw it, twisting the thick platinum band off her finger. He definitely didn't need to see she still wore his wedding ring. She hadn't taken it off in all these months. She'd been going to. Of course she had. But she'd been told wearing one was something a lone woman traveller could do to try to deflect unwanted interest—and as she'd had it already…
She tucked it into her camera case. Even so, her tan exposed a pale ring of skin on her finger. But she could do nothing about it now. He wouldn't notice— he wouldn't be getting that close. She darted another look.
He was almost right beside her. Had a smile on but it wasn't full strength. Not the knockout 'come party with me' number he'd hit her with that first night. Even so it was enough to shoot her temperature up. Too unfair that a guy like him should be given such a gift. She summoned a bright smile of her own, ignoring her scattered insides. Pride dictated she keep it together.
'Wow. Sebastian.' OK so she sounded a little breathless. No surprise given the way her thoughts and her blood raced.
Unbelievable. Here he was looking totally at home as if he were the one who'd been on safari in Africa for the best part of the month. He even had a tan—she knew it took only moments in the sun for his skin to go that gorgeous burnished brown. It had done that during those few crazy days in Gibraltar. Oh, hell, she didn't need to think of that again. From every angle heat crawled over her body, zeroing in on her middle.
'Ana.' He didn't sound breathless. But he did sound quiet. He nodded at the empty seat next to her. 'Mind if I sit here?'
Her smile became that little bit fixed. 'Not at all. Please.' She shifted on her own, moving that imperceptible half-inch nearer the side of the truck and away from him. Her heart thudded harder, all senses on acute alert as she clamped on the muscles.
No way, no way, no way. He couldn't be here. And she couldn't be thinking about…what she'd been thinking about. Not about him. 'Fancy seeing you here,' she said. Africa. Of all places.'
He sat and the devilishness showed in his grin. 'Quite some coincidence, isn't it?'
'Quite.' As if it really were. 'Who told you I was here?'
'No one,' he said innocently. 'It really is a coincidence.'
He turned, watching her too close, sitting too close. 'Oh, I got the divorce papers.'
Oh, so he was just going to throw that in casually, huh? Ana made her smile even sweeter. 'Did you sign them?'
Please, please, please. Then this really would be over.
Her heart skidded.
'I wanted to see you first.'
'Oh.' Why? Hadn't everything been said and done? Or rather not said and not done, which was frankly the way she'd prefer to keep it. They totally didn't need a post-mortem. It had been a stupid, mad mistake and the best thing to do now was wipe the slate clean and move on. Away from each other and as fast as possible given how her body was reacting in such an off-base kind of way.
Sebastian took a couple of big breaths and tried to clear the mess fromhis head. Hell. He hadn't imagined her being like this. He hadn't imagined her looking like this. All these months when he'd thought of her she'd been quite different—pale, a little shy, compliant.
Here she was tanned, her hair was longer, loose and she was wearing only a singlet top and shorts. She looked light and bright and confident.
OK, so she'd been shocked to see him. The moment of recognition had written it all over her face. Not a pleasant surprise. But she was smiling again now. Eyes veiled for sure. But still a smile—an incredible smile, actually.
'I wanted to see you. I wanted to…' He hesitated. It had ended badly. Less than a week after the wedding there'd been a hell of a row and she'd walked. It had been his fault. And at the time he'd been a bit relieved—sanity had started to return. But then he'd started to wonder. 'I wanted to make sure you're OK.'
It had been a relief to finally hear from her—but just getting the divorce papers wasn't enough. He couldn't just sign them and forget. He had to see her for himself. To be sure. There weren't many things in his life he regretted. But he regretted that week more than anything.
'Well—' her smile didn't falter '—as you can see, I'm fine, Sebastian.'
That hint of challenge in her voice slipped into his blood like a needle shot of deadly virus. His body reacted on the spot. Could it fight it—finally build some defence—or would it succumb to the disease— again?
'Yeah.' He nodded, despite himself. 'You are.'
She was more than fine. The ripple in his body told him that, the rise of temperature, of awareness. He might be looking at her face, but every cell absorbed her slender curves and incredibly long limbs that were so on show in those short, short shorts.
Memories stirred. Memories he'd buried. The scent, the laughter, the sparkle in her eyes and the satin of her skin. And her heat.
He was stifling hot now—it was Africa though, wasn't it?—not because of her. It was the dry, inescapable heat of a continent almost always in drought.
Well, not quite. Because not only was he hot. He was hard. He suppressed the unexpected flare of desire. Surely not. Not going there again. He looked back on that week and it was like this blurred rush of events that had knocked the breath from his lungs and the sense from his head. Even now he couldn't work out how it had happened. How he'd come to commit such folly.
Then he refocused on her. Felt the tightening deep within. And knew. Sexual drive, physical compatibility, instant lust. Whatever you wanted to call it, they'd had it—by the oversized shipping-container load. But they hadn't had anything else. They hadn't had time for anything else—and no interest either. He never had interest in more.
He felt a vague stirring of panic. So he'd seen her. She was fine—clearly absolutely, completely, utterly fine. But now he was stuck on a truck with her for another week. Not well planned, Seb. He wanted to call out to the driver, to get off again, but they were out of the town now and heading towards some national park wilderness. OK. He sat a little further away from her. He could handle this, couldn't he? He could control his more insane animal urges. Hadn't he spent the last year discovering the meaning of discipline?
Ana looked out of the side of the truck and blinked. Trying to stop the fog from clouding her head. She'd forgotten. She'd totally forgotten. OK, so she'd made herself forget. It had been the only way to get through the heartache, by blanking out the electricity that had arced between them. But here it was back again. Like a flash, before she'd even realised it was him—making her body want to bend towards him.
As he was almost six foot five people couldn't help but notice Sebastian—and that was just the height thing. While she knew all about that, that was where their commonality ended. When you added the rest of Seb's body, the smile and the ice-blue eyes, you had an awesome package—something that definitely couldn't be said for her. She was just overly tall, overly angular, overly shy. And there was something more about Seb. Something that transcended the physical. Something that made not just women sit up, but men too. That unspoken authority, his confidence.
A man in control—the man in control.
That was Seb. The one everyone said yes to. But she wasn't going to let him take control of them again as he had that week. There was no them.