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The Ex Factor (Harlequin Presents Extra Series #196)

The Ex Factor (Harlequin Presents Extra Series #196)

3.2 5
by Anne Oliver

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Melanie Sawyer's intense affair with Luke Delaney was fuelled by an all-consuming desire. Both knew it couldn't last—she was a waitress, he was the son of a millionaire. Feeling out of her depth, Mel ended it—but was left with an enduring reminder of Luke….

When Mel meets her ex again, he still has the X factor, and the red-hot


Melanie Sawyer's intense affair with Luke Delaney was fuelled by an all-consuming desire. Both knew it couldn't last—she was a waitress, he was the son of a millionaire. Feeling out of her depth, Mel ended it—but was left with an enduring reminder of Luke….

When Mel meets her ex again, he still has the X factor, and the red-hot passion between them reignites. As they spend time getting to know each other again—intimately—they realize the chemistry between them is too powerful to resist. But once Mel's secret comes out, will Luke be able to trust her?

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The man in her bed had a body built for giving pleasure, chiselled and polished to sinful perfection.

Melanie Sawyer hadn't sinned, perfect or otherwise, in far too long.

So she absorbed the gilded sheen of his skin in the early morning light, traced the wide plane of his back and the long furrow of his spine with hungry eyes. And down, to where the curve of a taut backside disappeared beneath her fluffy pink and tangerine throwover.

It wasn't only her eyes that were hungry. Her lips tingled and her fingers itched to explore the textures of skin and hair. That neat little earlobe, the sharp wedge of shoulder blade. But she only watched, entranced, not moving in case she woke him and spoiled the moment.

He murmured something in his sleep and rubbed his cheek against her pillow, the rasp of stubble sharp against crisp cotton. Her breath caught at the intimacy of his naked flesh sliding over her linen. He faced away from her so she couldn't see his features, but his dark hair was thick and tousled and utterly touchable.

A shame he wasn't awake.

A shame she wasn't in bed with him.

Adam's guy friends had slept over before. But not this particular one. And not in her bed.

With her gaze glued to the delicious sight, she unwound her scarf and set it on her suitcase beside her. Undid the top button of her suddenly too-tight sweater. Was the rest of him naked under that sheet? God, she hoped so. The thought made her blood pump faster, thicker, warming places that hadn't been warmed in a while. A long while. It had been five years since she'd had the pleasure of up close and horizontal.

She was a nurse, she'd seen more than her fair share of naked men, but the fact that this one was snuggled up with her pillow like temptation personified…well, her expectations were high.

Who was this guy anyway?

She glanced over her shoulder at the living-room destruction for any sign of a wallet or ID. Nope. Just a pile of action DVDs amongst greasy take-away containers and beer bottles—the drawback to having a male flatmate, she supposed, although, to be fair to Adam, she had come home from the conference a day earlier than expected.

A low rough-throated rumble from across the room rolled through her senses, drawing her attention back to her bed and its current occupant. With unapologetic interest—and, yeah, anticipation—she leaned against the doorjamb and watched him come to. Watched the sinewy forearms twist as his long fingers bunched and flexed around her pillow. Then he stretched, a lethargic shift and tensing of bone and muscle and golden skin, and rolled onto his back. everything inside her froze and fractured.

Luke Delaney.

No! Luke was an engineering geologist in Central Australia somewhere, not here in Sydney.

She saw the same shock register in his too-familiar mocha eyes as they locked gazes and she struggled to draw air. His lazy leonine posture vanished as he pushed up to a sitting position and ran a hand over his eyes as if he, too, was having trouble processing the information.

In that instant subtle changes snapped through her stunned brain. His body had grown firmer and more muscled over the past five years. His hair was shorter. The lines fanning out from his eyes were deeper. But his gorgeous mouth was the same.

Full with a tiny upward tilt at one corner, as if he were about to smile.

But he didn't smile. He swore—a soft short word beneath his breath before he said, 'Melanie.'

His voice reverberated through her bones, deeper, richer than she remembered—and she remembered very well. His velvet whispers in her ear, against her throat, on her breast. The way he murmured her name as he slid inside her.

He scrubbed at his face, then began shifting to the edge of the bed. 'When Adam said "Melanie"… Hell. I'm sorry. I should've grabbed the couch, but Adam said—'

'Stop!' She threw up a hand, hating the desperation she heard in her voice. Was he naked under there? God, she hoped not.

Once she'd have torn back the sheet herself and gloried in his hot, hard masculinity. Her horrified gaze shot back to his face. A more weathered face, but no less handsome. His complexion was a darker sun-stroked colour, but she felt none of that warm familiarity as he studied her through dark, impassive eyes.

One large bronzed hand curled around the edge of the sheet. 'It's okay, Mel,' he said at last. 'I'm decent.'

That was a matter for debate, she thought as he rose, giving her an eyeful of muscular torso covered only by a pair of black briefs, which did little to hide his impressive morning bulge…

Oh, dear God. She turned away, her face hot as wicked thoughts seared through her brain. At least he was out of her bed. 'When you're ready…' When you're covered.

She turned and headed back to the living room, grabbed the coffee plunger with its inch of black sludge and carried it to the kitchen. Some sort of conversation was inevitable and she needed a shot or three of caffeine first.

Where was Adam when she needed a buffer? His car was in the underground park next to hers, his bedroom door was shut. She drew in a breath as she dumped coffee into the plunger and savoured its steadying aroma.

She should've stayed in Canberra. Come home tonight like everyone else. Perhaps she'd have avoided this now inevitable reunion. The memories reared up and the secret she'd thought she'd buried turned over in her breast and throbbed to life again.

Luke continued to stare at the empty doorway after she'd gone. Melanie. His Melanie. Her imprint was still seared onto his eyeballs. Curves and colours—tight yellow sweater, a purple skirt above a tantalising flash of leg, knee-high furry beige boots tied up with laces… So Technicolor, so vibrant. So Mel.

Still the most beguiling woman he'd ever met.

And he'd spent the night in her bed.

His fingers clenched at his sides, tension gripped his gut. One look was all he needed to get the adrenaline pumping, his body tensing in anticipation. He remembered how it had been between them—hot, urgent, a fast-track ride to paradise. He'd always wondered how he'd react if he saw her again. Whether the old desires and needs lived up to the memory.

Now he knew, and the knowledge did nothing to reassure him. He forced his hands to uncurl, fought the impulse to leap up and follow the tempting sway of her hips beneath that skirt, the subtle fragrance of roses and vanilla she'd left drifting in the air.

Living with Adam Trent, for Pete's sake. He sucked in a breath. Adam had told him he shared with a nurse, but this nurse? He tried unsuccessfully to reconcile the Melanie he remembered with one in a starched white uniform and crepe-soled shoes.

Which didn't tell him squat about her personal life, Luke thought, grabbing his jeans from the floor. A glance around her room gave no hint. Only a tiny framed snapshot he'd not noticed on her dressing table last night—Mel and her sister, Carissa.

He studied it a moment. Yeah, still those same sultry lips and dark hair he'd fantasised about too often for his peace of mind. No men, then—at least none that rated a pictorial reminder. Relief pumped through Luke, instantly recognised and denied.

Whoa. He shook his head to clear the residual haze that had surrounded him since he'd woken to find that familiar pair of exotic grey eyes watching him. Her love life was none of his business. Her life was none of his business. Not since they'd gone their separate ways.

A glimmer of the emotion that had always accompanied her image spun through him like old gold. Part of him wanted to get the hell out, go home, crawl into bed again—his own bed—and put this whole morning into some sort of perspective. Another part wanted to stay, to rework that final scene from five years ago into something different, something that might have lasted.

But she hadn't wanted long-term.

He pulled on yesterday's sweater, and made a quick trip to the adjoining bathroom. The reflection in the mirror as he splashed his face with cold water reminded him he wasn't the guy Mel knew anymore either. What would they make of each other now? The band around his gut tightened and he leaned over the basin to eyeball himself. You don't want to know.

But one step into the living room, he came to a halt. She was holding a pot of steaming coffee, her buttercup top a stunning foil for the long sweep of coal-black hair, looking as fresh as an early spring daffodil. Quite simply, she took his breath away.

The colour in her cheeks flared a fragile peach as she met his gaze across the room. He'd seen the four seasons in those eyes and for a heartbeat he thought he saw a glint of summer joy behind the clouded depths before they dulled to a neutral stare.

Those eyes had haunted his dreams.

He couldn't linger because she tore her gaze away and crossed to the coffee-table. Her body still had the same concise curves and long, lean lines, the same tilt to her head that set her hair swinging as she set the coffee and mugs down. If she'd changed physically in any way it was only to radiate that inner beauty women seemed to gain as they matured.

His heart stalled in his chest and he had to swallow to ease the dry knot in his throat.

'Coffee?' Her eyes flicked down as she poured him a mug. 'Thanks.' Something strong and wet at least—'You still take sugar?'


As he crossed the room to join her she leaned over to pour her own mug. The seductive curves of her breasts pressed intimately against her sweater as she straightened. Sensation burned in his blood, a punch of heat that left him breathless.

'So…' She lifted her mug, wrapped white-knuckled fingers around it and sank onto a faded brown couch as far away from him as she could get. 'What are you doing here?'

'Catching up with Adam.' Gripping his own cup of the fortifying liquid, he remained standing. 'Adam's an old high-school buddy. We had a few drinks, he offered me a bed, said his flatmate wasn't due back till later today.'


Was that disappointment or relief he heard in her voice? He told himself it didn't matter. One social coffee, a few moments of civilised conversation and he was out of here. 'I'm sorry if I inconvenienced you.'

She lifted a shoulder. 'I…didn't know you were back in Sydney,' she murmured, then frowned into her mug.

'Because we never kept in contact.' The room fell silent as memories flickered like shadows between them. He shook them away. No trips down memory lane. No questions, no blame. Leaning over to set his spoon on the tray with a decisive clink, he said, 'You came home early, then. A conference, wasn't it?'

She nodded. 'My room-mate was a chronic snorer. I couldn't stand it another minute so at three a.m. I packed up and drove home.'

And not quite straight into his arms. 'Strange how fate works.'

An almost-smile touched her lips. 'You sound like Carissa.'

'And how is she?'

Meet the Author

Anne Oliver lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She is an avid romance reader, and after eight years of writing her own stories, Harlequin Mills and Boon offered her publication in their Modern Heat series in 2005. Her first two published novels won the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008. She was a finalist again in 2012 and 2013.  Visit her website www.anne-oliver.com.


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The Ex Factor 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this story. Great chemistry and great plot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story was good, but unrealistic.