But then she has an idea––a naughty idea––that will satisfy all her needs. Bryce, the business expert, will teach her how to run the bookstore. And Joan, the erotica expert, will give him a few lessons of her own. Hands–on lessons. And they'll start with that scene on page 102…
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By Julie Kenner
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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Chapter OneThe little bell above the door of Archer's Rare Books & Manuscripts jingled as Jack Parker slipped out the door and into the dark. Joan Benetti looked on, amused and, if truth be told, a little sad. After almost a year of marriage, Veronica Archer Parker, her boss and friend, was about to follow her husband out the door and head off on her belated honeymoon.
How cool was that?
Joan sighed. Pretty damn cool, actually. For years, Joan had done the New York singles thing, hopping from bar to bar and guy to guy. It had been a hoot and a half, no doubt about that, but now ... well, maybe now it was time to get serious. And not just about a man. About a lot of things. Lately Joan had been using Veronica's life as a mirror, and over and over Joan had found her own reflection wanting.
"Hey?" Veronica - Ronnie, as everyone called her - tapped a fingernail on the glass display counter, her voice pulling Joan from her reverie. "You in there?"
Joan looked up, manufacturing a grin. "Of course. I'm just tired. This four in the morning thing sucks."
Ronnie laughed. "Can't help it. The plane leaves at six and I needed to grab a few things from the office. But you didn't have to get up."
Joan yawned, the talk of sleep making her tired all over again. "I didn't get up. I was already up." She was temporarily living in Ronnie's old apartment above the bookstore, so she'd thought she might as well come down when she heard Jack and Ronnie come in for the reference books and notes Ronnie was taking with her to Paris and London. The honeymoon was a working trip, but Jack didn't seem to mind.
"Awake all night," Ronnie said, her expression amused. "And what does this one do?"
Joan rolled her eyes. "I wasn't with a guy."
Ronnie's brow furrowed. "But it's Saturday night. Well, Sunday morning."
"Yeah? So?" Joan knew she sounded defensive, but she couldn't help it. Instead of dating, she'd spent the weekend reading and thinking. Big, sweeping life thoughts. "Who-Am-I and WhatShould-I-Do-With-My-Life" type questions. Ones best pondered in the dark with a Nina Simone CD and a bottle of merlot. Of course, while she was pondering in the dark, she'd missed flirting with Roy, the DJ at Xylo's, and she'd really missed the bar's famous chocolate martinis. But, for the most part, she'd enjoyed her weekend alone. Well, okay, so it was only one night alone, but still ... She'd made some important decisions, and that was the key.
Ronnie shrugged. "It's no big deal," she said. "I just assumed you'd have a date."
"Yeah, well, I'm on hiatus." Joan grinned, then waved to Jack who'd stepped back inside. Ronnie moved easily into his arms, and Joan felt that little tug at her heart again.
The truth was, it was Ronnie's impending honeymoon that had kick-started Joan's meditative mood. Jack had rolled out the fairy-tale golden coach for Ronnie and he was whisking her off to the ball. And as far as Joan could tell, Ronnie's coach showed no signs of turning back into a pumpkin.
That was the trouble with all of Joan's dates. Trey, Andy, Martin, Jim - and all the rest of them. They were no princes, and no matter how much fun she might have had at the ball with them, the fantasy always came to an end. It sucked, and Joan was tired of it.
"I'm swearing off drive-by dating," Joan blurted, trying her resolution on for size. Ronnie and Jack both looked up, their expressions curious but not too surprised. Okay, so maybe Joan did tend to make a lot of resolutions, but they usually involved diets or exercise. This one she intended to keep.
"Swearing off?" Ronnie repeated.
"Well, yeah," Joan said. She lifted her chin, reminding herself why she was doing this. "If it looks like there might be something real there, then sure I'll date. But no more of this random stuff."
"A woman with a plan," Jack said. "I almost feel like I should issue some sort of warning to my poor, unwed brothers in arms."
At that, both Joan and Ronnie rolled their eyes. "We have a taxi waiting," Ronnie said to Jack as she pointed toward the door. "Go make sure the driver doesn't take off with our stuff."
He kissed her. "I'll meet you out there," he said. He paused at the door. "I asked Donovan to drop by now and then. Just to make sure everything's okay."
Joan grinned. Jack was a homicide detective and his partner, Tyler Donovan, was a good guy who looked about ready to tie the knot himself with a nurse he'd been dating steadily for months. Both men tended to be overprotective. Joan pretended to be annoyed, but in truth, their concern made her feel special. "Thanks, Jack," she said, then grinned when his expression of surprise revealed that he'd been expecting a protest.
"You're welcome," he said, and she wondered what argument for her safety and well-being he'd had to toss by the wayside.
Once he was outside again, Ronnie moved back toward the counter. "So you're really giving up dating?"
"Sure. It's no big deal," Joan said.
"Uh-huh." Ronnie didn't look convinced. Which made sense. Joan wasn't certain she was convinced, either. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
This time, Joan knew she wasn't talking about her dating life, but about running the store. "Fine," she said. "I've been working here four years now. I think I'm getting the hang of it."
Ronnie had the good grace to look a little sheepish. "Still, it's a big responsibility. You've never done the books or payroll before. And it's not like there's a lot of room in the budget." She frowned. "You've got the number for our hotels in case there's an emergency?"
"I'm fine. Everything's under control." She licked her lips, wondering if this was the best time to broach one aspect of her resolution to get serious about life.
"Ronnie?" she started, jumping in. "Are you still planning on, you know, cutting back?"
Ronnie sighed, then ran her fingers through her hair. "Yeah, unless I can find someone to take on as a partner. The problem is that bookstores make lousy investments. So potential business partners aren't exactly knocking down my door."
Excerpted from Silent Desires by Julie Kenner Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book was excellent read from the beginning to end. Definitely recommend.
Quick fun and sexy read (160pgs.)