Tempting Adam

Excerpt from Tempting Adam a Harlequin Blaze October 2002 release:temptingadam

ISBN-10: 0373790627
ISBN-13: 978-0373790623

Chapter One

“I need a wife.”

Lauren Bryant tore her attention from the advertising contract she’d been studying. Putting aside her worries over her company’s solvency, she focused on Adam Morely, her best friend. She smiled, drawing comfort from his familiar presence.

Then his words registered. She cocked her head. “Excuse me?”

He dropped neatly into the chair facing her desk. Long hours outdoors had burnished his dark hair and etched premature crow’s feet beside his gray eyes. An earnest light glittered in those eyes. “I said, I need a wife.”

Trying to shake off the inexplicable sense of panic that swept over her, she quipped, “Don’t we all?”

“I’m serious. Taxes are killing me. It just doesn’t pay to be single. Besides…” He shrugged. “I need…more out of life.”

“More?” She set down her pen and raised her brows in disbelief.

Exasperating man.

“This from the guy who has it all: a successful business, a gorgeous new home, and a different woman for every day of the week?” she said.

He straightened, a deep groove forming between his brows. “You’re exaggerating.”

“Okay, a different woman for every month. Same thing.”


She continued to stare, anger filling her. How dare he not be satisfied? She’d give anything for half his success.

“They’re all the same. One relationship after the other. Meaningless. Empty.”

“So, you’re tired of mindless sex.”

“I’d like a relationship that carries a little weight. Like what you and I have, only with the sex thrown in.”

“I see.”

For some ridiculous reason his words triggered outrage in her. Not that she’d ever thought of him in a sexual manner. From the time Adam’s family had moved in next door to hers some twenty years ago, the two of them had shared an uncommon bond. With his parents’ constant absences, she and Adam had grown up together, conquering their quiet neighborhood in Roswell, Georgia, a suburb of metro-Atlanta.

He drew a quick breath. “Not that there’s anything wrong with what we have. It’s special, no doubt, but, well…it isn’t like we get naked together.”


With an effort, she reigned in her irrational emotions. Why was she getting upset? They had a great relationship. It was comfortable, convenient. But, no, they’d definitely never been naked together, not unless she counted that time when they were toddlers.

“You don’t have to get married to have a meaningful relationship,” she said.

“But if I find the right woman, I’ll want to hang onto her.”

“Sure.” Her stomach tightened.

Needing a distraction, she glanced down at the contract. “Look, I’m going to have to break our lunch date. I have to get this deal finalized, then we’re meeting with the Bennett Bagel people.”

She allowed herself the smallest glimmer of hope. “They’re thinking maybe some local TV exposure will help the opening of their new sandwich shops. I’ve already scoped this new actor who spreads mayo like it’s fore play.”

His gaze narrowed on her. “Only you could make hawking bagels a sensual experience.”

“Food is always sensual. Besides, you know it’s not me. Entice Advertising does it. Elliot’s the one with all that creative talent. We’d go belly up without him.”

Adam nodded toward a vase on her desk filled with a rainbow bouquet of condoms. “Need spice, think Entice.”

“That’s it.”

She quirked her mouth to one side. Her partner’s preference for other men hadn’t hindered their fledgling agency in earning a reputation for using sex better than anyone else to sell their odd range of clients and products to the general population. In fact, Elliot came up with all the provocative campaigns, while Lauren spent her energies rounding up clients, keeping the books straight, and feeling a little like an imposter for not being the sexy siren others assumed her to be.

“So, can I take a rain check on lunch?” she asked.

“Sure, I just thought you might have some quick advice.”

“Quick advice?”

She rose, then moved around to lean stiffly against the desk. Did they really have to pursue this strange new idea of his? He couldn’t have thought this through.

“This is another case of your impulsiveness, isn’t it?” she asked.

He pursed his lips. “I am not impulsive.”

“Oh? Who was it who hopped a flight to Hawaii for a weekend last month? Who bought that huge house? Who got a tattoo on his—”

“You promised not to ever mention that—”

“All on the spur of the moment? Who was that? Oh, yes, it was you.”

“Okay, so maybe I have an impulsive moment from time to time.”

She stared at him, brows raised.

“And maybe I hadn’t thought about having a wife before I said that, but I still mean it. I do need a wife. Sometimes, when you know something, you just know it.”

That funny feeling churned again in her stomach. It swirled around inside her, sending unexplainable anxiety racing through her. With an effort, she curved her mouth into a grin. “Let me get this straight. You want my advice on how you should go about finding a candidate for a wife?”


“A wife? You’re serious?” Her grin stiffened. To her dismay, the anxiety swelled. Nervous laughter spilled from her.

After a moment, she straightened. “I’m sorry.”

She bit her lip, and swiped at her eyes. She’d been under way too much pressure lately. That was it. She was displacing her worry over her business’s finances. It did not bother her that Adam wanted a wife.

“Look, given my track record, I can understand your amusement, but you help me with this, and I’ll do something for you…I’ll owe you big time.”

“And I’ll collect.”

After drawing a calming breath, she faced him. “But didn’t we have this conversation when you were ready to buy your car, then your house, then all the furniture to go in it?”

“What’s wrong with that? I value your opinion. And in return you got those hydrangeas, a fine lesson in negotiating price—”

“Ha! Who do you think negotiates all the deals around here?”

“And that new fountain in your backyard.”

“Hey, if I do this, it’s going to cost a lot more than that fountain.”


“I’ll have to think about it. But don’t expect me to come cheap for this kind of thing.”

“An eye for an eye.”

“Right. Not that I’m looking for a relationship. I don’t have the time.”

“No, you don’t.” He regarded her a moment.

She steeled herself. He’d been very vocal of late in criticizing her work ethic, but he continued, “So, where do we start?”

“Well, this isn’t like those other times.”

“It’s not so different. You know my tastes.”

“Yes, Adam, but don’t you see what you’re doing?”

The muscles of his shoulders rippled in a half shrug.

“This is not another acquisition of personal property.” She spread her arms in appeal. “It isn’t like you can shop for a serious relationship at the mall.”

“Well, of course I’m not looking to buy a wife.”

“Good.” She cocked her head as another thought occurred to her. “What will all your women friends say?”

“You’ll all have to get used to the idea. I’ve made up my mind.”

He settled back in his chair, the look of resolve she knew all too well settling over his features. “On the serious relationship anyway. I’m not going to jump into marriage, though that’s the ultimate goal.”

Drawing up straight, she shoved aside her nervousness. Of course she’d help him. He’d never let her down before. Hadn’t he rushed over last week when she’d been up late working and found a half-live mole her housemate’s cat had dragged in? He’d disposed of the poor creature without uttering a single complaint, even though she’d wakened him from a sound sleep.

Adam was a great guy. The best. He deserved whatever happiness he could grab. “Okay, then my advice is to go about this with one thing in mind.”


“Romance her.”

His brows arched.

“When you find the right woman, woo her.”

He folded his arms across his chest.

“Roses, Godiva chocolate, perfume—”

“Diamonds, chartered vacations?”

“Yes. You’ve got the idea.”

“Right. You want me to buy a wife.”

She quirked her mouth to one side. This was what she got for offering her advice? “No. That’s not what I’m saying.”

A quick rap sounded on the door. Elliot Star, her partner, leaned around the doorjamb. He swept a hand over his graying curls. “Oh, hello, Adam.”

Adam shifted, not quite meeting the man’s admiring gaze. “Elliot.”

Lauren could never have gone into business without Elliot’s help. After one too many prima donna fits over his need for artistic license he’d been fired from one of Atlanta’s premiere ad agencies. Ever ready to champion a new cause, Lauren had left that same agency, plotting with him to try it on their own. The man was a genius. Giving him free creative reign had put Entice Advertising on the map in just under two years.

Elliot sighed and shifted his gaze to Lauren. “Those proofs are back. You ready to talk bagels?”

“Sure.” She gave Adam’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “Sorry about lunch. I’ll make it up somehow.”

“Yeah? Well, I’ve got a taste for that Cajun meat loaf you make so well.”

Surprise welled up inside her. “You want me to cook?”

“It isn’t like you don’t know how. You’re one of the best cooks in Georgia.”

“Now you’re exaggerating.”

Adam simply raised his chin and leveled his gaze on her.

“But I haven’t cooked—”

“Since you started this agency. It’s way past time. I postponed a meeting and traveled across town just for you to blow me off.”

His mouth curved into the smile she’d never been able to resist. “Besides, I’ll bring the ice cream.”

She glanced sideways at Elliot, who shrugged. Throwing her hands in the air, she gave in. “Okay, but it’d better be chocolate.”

“You’ve got it.”
With a slow nod Adam rose to his full height. Lauren let her gaze travel over all 6’3” of him. His career in landscaping had left him sculpted and tanned. Even though he now spent most of his time supervising his own independent contracting company, he never turned his back on physical labor.

And it showed. Adam would have no trouble finding a wife.

Her heart thumped dully as she scooped a file from her desk. “Great. We’ll finish this discussion then.”

“Can’t wait.”

She paused at the door, throwing one last glance at him. He emanated quiet strength and power. In spite of the depth of intelligence in his wide-set eyes and his dark good looks, his strength was what people noticed most about him, though he seemed unaware of it. He commanded strength of body and strength of character in equal amounts.

Sunlight slanted through the office window, highlighting the angular planes of his face. She shivered. She knew no other face better than his, yet somehow it seemed she’d never really seen him before. Like when viewing a hologram, where a slight shift brought a new picture into view, her perspective of him altered in that moment. With his eyes shining and his wide lips curved in that playful tilt, she could almost see what all the women who had chased him must have seen.

“Well, goodbye,” she said, hoping he missed the funny catch in her voice.

He nodded as he turned his attention to the ringing cell phone he extracted from a holder on his belt.

Drawing a deep breath, she hurried after Elliot. Her pulse thudded and a thought she hardly let herself acknowledge whispered through her consciousness.

What would it be like to get naked together?

* * *

The sun slipped below the horizon, casting long shadows across the porch as Lauren headed up the steps to her townhouse, a quaint brick-front featuring a small, but private backyard. Balancing her mail, keys, and bulging briefcase, she kneed open the door.

The scent of roses enveloped her as she dropped her load on an antique bench in the entry. She turned, inhaling the heavenly aroma, then stopped. A tall vase stood on the table gracing the far wall of the tiny parquet-floored foyer. Roses with delicate white petals crowded the vase, spilling over the sides.

An envy-filled sigh escaped her. Kamira Davies, her housemate, always dated the most considerate men. She’d received more flowers in the six months since she’d moved in than Lauren had received in her entire life.


Kamira emerged from the kitchen, her dark waves captured in a loose braid. Her green, almond-shaped eyes glittered with amusement as she wiped her hands on a dish towel. Nala, her silver tabby glanced up from her spot by the window.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Kamira asked, scratching the cat behind her ears.

“Gorgeous.” Lauren tore her gaze from the blooms. “Things are going well with Greg, then?”

“They’re okay, but these aren’t from Greg.”

“You’re seeing someone else?” Lauren asked, surprised.

“No. No. They’re not for me. They’re yours.”


“That’s what the card says.” Kamira plucked a small envelope from beside the vase, then handed it to Lauren.

Frowning, Lauren scanned her name on the front, then read the neat writing on the enclosed card.

I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush upon its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.
John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890)

She glanced up at her friend. “Love that is purest and sweetest?”

“I’ve never heard anything so romantic.”

“It doesn’t say who they’re from.”

“You don’t know?”

“Who do I know who would have the class to do such a thing? Besides Elliot, who obviously didn’t send them. It can’t be Todd. I haven’t heard from him in months, and roses, not to mention any pure, sweet love, were never his style.”

Her two year relationship with software guru, Todd Jeffries, had ended some nine weeks ago, when he’d left the country to share his expertise with a company in Japan. He hadn’t understood why she wouldn’t chuck her job to go with him.

She turned to Kamira. “Are you sure they delivered them to the right address?”

“Definitely. Sure you aren’t keeping secrets?”

“I have no life. You know that.”

“Ahh…then there’s only one thing it could be.”

“What’s that?”

Kamira squeezed her arm. “You, dear, have a secret admirer.”

* * *

She’s keeping secrets. Adam frowned later that evening as Lauren pulled her meat loaf from the oven, a mysterious smile curving her lips. She’d never kept anything from him before. What could it be? Steam rose around them, filling the kitchen with the spicy scent.

Beside her, he inhaled deeply, his worry easing with the distraction. If she ever realized how easily she could control him with the promise of her home-cooking, he’d be in big trouble.

“Ahhh, I knew you still had it in you.” His gaze fell hungrily on the delicacy. “It’s a rare treat. You’ve been holding out on me.”

With a shake of her head, she set the pan on the stove. “You know I’ve been busy.” She cast him a sideways glance. “And I’m not getting into another argument about my long work hours. I’m doing something productive and worthwhile with my life. Nights like this will have to remain rare treats.”

“I can help you round up more business. Then you could hire an assistant to help out.”

“I appreciate the few clients you’ve referred. And I’ll certainly follow up on every lead you send my way, but you know how I feel about you trying to fix all my problems.”

“It doesn’t hurt you to accept a little help now and then.”

“And I have and I thank you. But I’m a big girl. This is my agency and it’s my responsibility to generate the business. You can’t do everything for me.”

Adam popped the top on a beer he’d pulled from the refrigerator. He handed the drink to her, before grabbing another for himself. He let the conversation drop. They’d been over it too many times already. Not that he’d quit doing what he could to round up clients for her. He ran into so many people while playing tennis and golf alone, that it wasn’t an effort to scrape up a referral or two. He just didn’t have to tell her what he was doing.

He took another sip and let his thoughts drift. Funny how the moment he’d said he needed a wife, he’d known it was true. Yes, this was more like what he wanted. A home-cooked meal and someone to share it with. Sipping wine at the local bistro just didn’t cut it any more.

Not that Lauren spent her evenings casually sipping wine, unless she was courting a new client. Then there was nothing casual about it. The woman spent way too much time with her nose to the grindstone. Maybe she’d eventually come to realize that work did not make the world go ’round.

He saluted her with his can, too relaxed to argue with her. Maybe she would enjoy this off night enough to begin wanting a personal life for herself again. “It doesn’t get better than this.”

She raised her beer in return. “Another big account or two would help.” After taking a long swallow, she continued, “But I have to admit spending time in the kitchen wasn’t so bad.”

His gaze traveled over Kamira’s mini jungle of plants that softened the white cabinets and the tan and white striped walls, lending the room a cool touch of green. Lauren stood framed by the stove and the assortment of pots and pans brimming with the side dishes she’d taken such pleasure in creating, even though she rarely indulged in her old pastime anymore. Her face radiated contentment.

Again, that mysterious smile flickered across her lips.

Was it the mere act of cooking that had brought on that glow, or was she really hiding something?

“So, how’s everything going?” he asked.

“Great. Finalized that deal with the car wash.”

“I didn’t mean with work.”

A soft pink flushed her cheeks. “What makes you ask?”

“I don’t know. There’s something…different about you tonight.” When was the last time he’d seen her blush? He shifted, trying to pinpoint exactly what was different about her.

She busied herself with transferring food into serving dishes. “Did you notice the roses on your way in?”

He glanced through the kitchen’s archway to the entryway off the far side of the adjoining living area. A bunch of white roses crowded a vase on a table near the door. “So, who sent you roses?”

Her eyes brightened and her lips curved into a smile. “Don’t know. Kamira thinks I have a secret admirer.”

“Ah, this wouldn’t have anything to do with that talk we had earlier?” He couldn’t keep the slight annoyance from his voice as he helped her move the dishes to the drop-leaf table.

“No. You think I’d anonymously send myself flowers, just to prove a point to you?”

He laughed, perplexed. “Of course not.” Why was he annoyed? “It’s just a strange coincidence, don’t you think?”

“I’m as surprised as you are.”

“And you have no idea who sent them?”

“No, but I have to admit it’s very flattering. Which brings us back to our earlier conversation. Romancing the woman of your choice is definitely the way to go.”

She cocked her head. “I hadn’t thought about it in exactly these terms, but the whole secret admirer thing does add a nice touch.”

He made a deliberate effort to relax his jaw. So Lauren had a secret admirer. She’d had a fair number of men in her life, and that had never bothered him before. Wasn’t this what he’d been pestering her about over the past months—encouraging her to find a life outside of work?

She was a phenomenal woman, a flower among thorns. With her golden beauty and welcoming way, she was bound to draw masculine attention. Her allure lay not only in the deep green of her eyes and the generous swell of her hips and breasts—though those were enticement enough—but in the great depth and breadth of patience and love she extended to all lucky enough to fall into the sphere of her life.

Adam had always considered himself fortunate in that respect. Though his parents had never seen their way to spending more than a two week span in his presence, Lauren had remained steadfast by his side for well over twenty years.

“You need to be careful, though,” he said. “He could be anyone.”

“Don’t go getting all protective on me, Adam. Whoever sent those roses is the sensitive-type. I can’t imagine he’d be dangerous.”

“At least he’s not ostentatious in his gift giving. I hate gift buying for its pure material value.”

She turned toward him, her hands planted on her hips. “I never meant it that way.”

Waving his hand in a gesture of peace, he continued, “In this case, the value is on the thought, since the sender remains anonymous.”

“Well, it does build a sense of expectation, which is kind of nice. Of course, we could be making a mountain out of a molehill. This could be an isolated incident.”

Adam appraised her a moment. In the soft light of the kitchen, with her cheeks flushed and her eyes glowing, Lauren was one hell of an attractive woman—a desirable woman.

As he’d done so many times in the past, he stifled the thought. Somehow it just seemed wrong to think of her in that way. She was like a sister to him. She’d surely be horrified to know he harbored an occasional fantasy or two about her.

“Somehow, I don’t think so,” he said. “And eventually, he’s going to make himself known. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

A sound of exasperation escaped her. “The point is the anticipation, the thrill, the romance.”

That irrational annoyance rose again in him. “The point is this guy wants to get you in bed.”

“That’s not fair. You don’t even know him—”

“He’s a guy. What else is there to know?”

“Well, you’re a guy.”

“And you think I’ve never thought of you in that way?”

Her eyes widened. Silence hung over them. Adam gritted his teeth. Why had he blurted that out?

The front door slammed a moment before Kamira breezed into the kitchen. “You didn’t tell me you were making your meat loaf.”

“We’re just getting started.” He pulled out a chair for her.

Lauren retrieved another plate from the cabinet. And you think I’ve never thought of you in that way? Adam’s words rang through her mind. Well, he was a guy. She should have expected this…but somehow, it was so…surprising.

She set the plate before Kamira, then sat beside her, purposely avoiding looking at Adam as he took his place on her other side. The weight of his gaze bore down on her.

“I thought you were at the clinic,” she said to Kamira.

Kamira heaped large portions of the meal onto her plate. “Mmmmm. I just dropped off the tile samples. I’ll be happy when this new section is ready. I swear, there’s a baby boom going on. We need the space for all our new patients.”

“The women’s center is expanding?” Adam asked. He hadn’t made a move toward any of the dishes.

“Didn’t Lauren tell you? She’s been volunteering down there. She helped knock down the wall between our offices and the empty space next door. Boy, can she swing a sledge hammer.”

“Patterson, the building’s owner,” Lauren added for Adam’s benefit, though she still refused to look at him, “wanted to give me the first swing, but I had this fear the roof would tumble down on us, so he went first.”

“Ha, but we all got into it after awhile.” Kamira smiled.

Keeping her attention on the bowl of whipped potatoes, Lauren bobbed her head. “Very cathartic. I got all my aggression out.”

Kamira’s eyes rounded. “I’ll tell you who else looked good swinging a hammer. Patterson’s son. If that boy was five years older, I’d drop Greg in a heartbeat.”

“Mark?” Lauren chuckled, then stopped. She’d filled half her plate with potatoes. “I think he’s Rusty’s age.”

She smiled, thinking of her younger brother. He’d taken off to work the oil rigs after graduating from the University of Georgia last year. It’d been harder to let him go than she’d thought, having felt responsible for him for so long.

“Of course, he dropped me a line a while back that he was dating an older woman. Mark’s young, but you’d better be careful. You just never know,” she said.

“He’s a very mature twenty-two, and is well read in all the classics.” The one dimple in Kamira’s left cheek flashed as she grinned. “He’d be a great cause—so much to teach that young, open mind. But Greg’s safe. I’m no cradle robber.”

“I’ve got a cause for you.” Heat filled Lauren’s cheeks as she glanced at Adam, then back at Kamira. “Help me find Adam a new lady friend.”

Maybe Kamira would take over the task for her. Somehow, playing match-maker for him held little appeal.

“What?” Straightening, Kamira turned to Adam. “Since when are you having trouble finding women?”

“Since he wants to get serious with one,” Lauren answered for him.

Kamira’s mouth spread slowly into a wide smile. “Adam, you’re wanting to settle down?”

“If I find the right woman.”

“Wow. That’s so sweet.”

Lauren picked at her potatoes. “He wants a new best friend he can have sex with.”

The words tumbled out, surprising her. The heat in her cheeks intensified. She glanced at Adam.

He blinked, then his mouth quirked to one side. “Friendship and mutual respect like we have are vital to any relationship.”

“And where did you read that?” Brows raised, Kamira nodded toward his empty plate. “What’s wrong? Not hungry?”

“Starved, actually.” With great relish, he piled food on his plate, then consumed several bites.

Lauren pursed her lips and poked again at her potatoes. How could he drop such a bomb, then stuff his face like nothing had happened? Because nothing had happened. Evidently, any sexual thoughts he’d had of her hadn’t been strong enough for him to act on.

A feeling of foreboding stole over her. He’d always been there for her, with his brawn when she needed it, and with his broad shoulders during times of crisis, like when her father had died. Would he still be there if he found a wife?

A small sigh rose in her chest. She was losing her best friend. Once he found a woman to give him all she did and more, he would no longer need his old buddy. She’d be superfluous.

Adam reached across the table and squeezed her fingertips. “We’re as good as family. It isn’t like you’ll be getting rid of me.” As usual, he’d read her mind.

“No. Of course not. And if you do marry it’ll be like gaining a sister for me,” she said through stiff lips.

“Right.” Apparently satisfied, he picked up his fork and again dug into his meal.

Kamira sat back in her chair, her expression puzzled. She turned to Adam. “Tell me, do you have a plan for finding this woman?”

“I thought I’d just open myself to the possibility and see what happened.”

A speculative light glimmered in her eyes. “Hmmm, I see. That’s good, being open.”

“I told him when he found the right woman he should romance her.”

Kamira beamed. “Excellent idea. What do you think, Adam? Are you up for the romantic approach?”

His shoulders shifted. “Could be. Real romance should be more than just blatant gift giving, though.”

“Blatant gift giving?” Kamira asked.

“I want a woman who’ll want me for who I am, not what I can give her. It isn’t my style to make a big display over buying gifts for a woman.”

Lauren rose to carry her dishes to the sink. “I only meant you should try to make her feel special. Gifts are just a part of that.”

With measured movements, Adam followed her to scrape the spare remains of his meal into the disposal. “Okay, I can see that.”

“So, have we got ice cream for dessert?” Kamira left the table to pillage the freezer. “Death by Chocolate, my fave. Why don’t I dish some up, and we’ll eat it on the deck?”

“Just a little for me,” Lauren said.

“Adam…” Kamira ushered him toward the sliding door that led to the deck. “Why don’t you light the citronella torch? We’ll be right out.”

“Sure. Make mine two scoops?”

“You’ve got it.” With a smile, she slid the door shut behind him. Then she turned to Lauren, her eyes shining.

“You know the mosquitoes don’t seem to notice that torch, Kamira. What are you up to?” Bending low, Lauren rummaged through a drawer for the ice cream scooper.

“When did you and Adam have this conversation?”

“About his settling down?”

“About his wanting to have a serious sexual relationship involving friendship and mutual respect.”

“Around lunch time.”

“And you suggested he woo the woman of his choice?”

“I hardly think his tactic of wham, bam, thank you ma’am will work toward establishing anything long-term.”

“Don’t you find it interesting that he’s opening himself to the possibility, but that he isn’t actively searching for this woman?”

Lauren shrugged. “He’s not going to find her in his usual haunts. Do you see a woman like that patronizing Charlie’s Corner Bar?”

“Of course not, and what about the fact that you received those roses anonymously after your conversation?”

“What does that have to do with Adam? There’s still the chance Todd sent them.”

And you think I’ve never thought of you in that way?

“Todd, the man you’re no longer seeing? The man who gave you a new calculator for your two year anniversary?”

“Point taken, but I still don’t see how Adam figures.” Blood rushed through Lauren’s ears.

And you think I’ve never thought of you in that way?

Kamira glanced out the window to where he’d anchored the torch into its stand. “I’ve always had a feeling about you two. I just think it’s odd: the timing; the fact that he’s against what he calls blatant gift giving. Seems he would be the anonymous type.”

Lauren’s breath caught. “Tell me you’re not suggesting what I think you are.”

“Don’t you see? It makes sense. He isn’t looking for a woman, because he’s already found one. You.”

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