Excerpt

Hot City Nights

He’s not supposed to be here.

Becky Taylor froze on the threshold of the restaurant. Across the room, Cal McKenzie leaned against the far wall, tall and lean and gorgeous. After ten years, the unexpected sight of him stole her breath away and sent her heart hammering into overdrive.

He was supposed to be in London. He’d moved there five years ago with his new wife, and she hadn’t had any word through the grapevine that he was back. He had every right to attend the staff reunion - they were both ex staff members of Hannigan’s Discount Emporium, a family owned store that had paid many a student’s way through college. The thing was, she wouldn’t have come if she’d known he was going to be there.

Becky quickly corrected herself. Of course she would have come; staying away would have meant she still cared. And she didn’t. Not by a long shot. The only reason she was feeling the distinct urge to back out the door and run right now was because she’d been taken unawares. That was all.

“Hey, look, Cal’s here,” her old friend Carolyn said behind her. Becky forced a smile.

“How about that,” she said.

“Now it really is the old Hannigan’s gang,” Carolyn said.

“Yeah.” Becky hoped she didn’t sound as off balance as she felt.

She shot another glance across the room. This time Cal was staring back at her. He raised the beer in his hand in silent greeting, his blue eyes smiling at her. It was a warm Sydney night in the middle of a hot Australian summer, but all the little hairs on Becky’s arms stood on end. It had been a full decade since she’d last seen Cal, but he still had the same effect on her. Damn him.

Carolyn was already exchanging hugs and exclamations with the group of people nearest the door. Becky wiped her sweaty hands down the thighs of her jeans. She spotted a discreet sign for the ladies’ room on the door to her left. Three steps, and she was closing the bathroom door behind her and sighing with relief. A moment. That was all she needed. A short moment to get over the surprise. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, unhappy with the dazed expression on her face.

He’s here, get over it. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean anything. It definitely doesn’t mean anything to you.

She and Cal had gone their separate ways a long time ago. The memory of how shattered she’d felt when he called an end to their brief relationship might still make her squirm with self-consciousness, but the days of her mooning over him were long gone. She was thirty-one now, not twenty-one. She owned her own home, she drove a sleek and sexy sports car, and until recently she’d been in a live-in relationship with a successful, attractive man. She was worlds away from the girl she’d been when Cal McKenzie ruled her world. The only reason she’d felt that illicit surge of excitement when she’d seen his tall body standing there was because she’d been taken by surprise. He’d once meant something to her, now he didn’t. End of story.

She squared her shoulders and dug out her lipstick, smoothing on a fresh coat then topping it with lip gloss. Her lips looked shiny and full when she’d finished. She fluffed her long, dark curly hair and adjusted the waistband on her red T-shirt. Determined to prove something to herself, she exited the bathroom and made a bee line for the far wall where Cal still lounged, laughing with a handful of men. He straightened as he saw her approach. She found herself looking up into his tanned, handsome face, a hundred old memories washing through her as she noted the way his black hair still flopped over his left eye, and how his mouth still quirked up more on one side than the other when he smiled.

“Becky Taylor,” he said. “Good to see you.”

Before she could respond, he ducked his head and leaned close to plant a kiss on her cheek. For a few seconds she was swamped with his heat and scent. She had to blink to clear her head as he straightened again.

“Cal McKenzie. Aren’t you in the wrong hemisphere?” she asked, amazed at how casual and light and assured her voice sounded. 

“Moved home last year,” he said. He placed his empty beer bottle on a nearby table and angled his body so that he cut her off from the rest of the group he’d been standing with. Almost as though he wanted her all to himself.

She pushed the stupid thought away. She didn’t care if he wanted her all to himself – she didn’t want him. That was the important thing.

Sliding a hand into the back pocket of her jeans, Becky cocked her head to one side.

“Still in IT?”

“Yep. Started my own consultancy with a mate, actually.”

“Brave of you. It’s a pretty competitive field.”

“We’re doing okay,” he said.

She’d already noted his Hugo Boss jeans, Gucci boots and the expensive Longine watch on his wrist. She guessed he must be doing very well – but then, Cal had always been modest. Even as a young man, he’d possessed a quiet confidence and charm that had drawn people to him. Her included.

“I hear you’re with David Jones now,” he said, naming Australia’s most prestigious department store. “Ladies’ fashion buyer, is that right?”

Had he asked after her, or had someone told him what she did for a living?

“That’s right.”

“I suppose that means you’ve been jetting around, checking out the latest fashion shows?” he asked.

“As much as I can,” she said. She could brag about Paris, New York and London, but she had no need to impress Cal. He was just an old work colleague. No big deal.

“I was admiring your boots when you came in,” he said, and they both glanced down at her dark red, hand tooled western boots. “They look like the real deal.”

“They are. Straight out of Texas.”

She was very aware of the way his gaze travelled back up her jean clad legs and over her breasts before it returned to her face. She felt a flare of excitement when she saw the desire in his eyes.

Unbidden, a handful of sense-memories raced across her mind: the feel of his long, strong fingers stroking her body; the way he used to whisper in her ear as he drove her to her climax; the aching, needful fullness of his body moving inside hers.

She licked her lips and tucked her other hand into her back pocket to stop herself from reaching for him.

Then she realised what she was doing and she snapped to attention.

Pathetic. Ten years, and he cocks his little finger and you’re ready to go on the spot. Too sad for words, Taylor.

“So, is your wife here?” she asked pointedly. Time to nip this flirtation – if that was what this was – in the bud.

Cal held up his left hand, displaying his ringless fingers.=

“Divorced. Papers just came through,” he said. “How about you?”

Divorced. He was divorced. Which meant he was free. Available.

“I’m not married,” she said evasively.

“But you’re living with someone, aren’t you?” Cal asked.

Becky blinked. He had done his homework.

“Not any more.”

He looked pleased. She glanced away to break the spell he was weaving around her. She’d always found him fatally attractive. Right from the very first day when she’d looked up from reading a book in the staff room at Hannigan’s and Cal had been standing in the doorway, a dark-haired god with blue eyes and a roguish smile. She’d been nineteen years old, and his innate charm had hit her like a freight train.

Even though she knew it smacked of retreat, she cast a look over her shoulder, scanning the party for an escape route.

“Look, there’s Cheryl. I haven’t seen her in ages,” she said with relief. “I’d better go say hi or she’ll kill me.”

She had a smile fixed firmly in place when she turned back to him.

“Great to see you, Cal,” she said.

Before he could say anything else, she turned and walked away.

Cal watched her walk all the way across the room. More specifically, he watched her ass. Becky had always had a great ass – full, high, firm – and time had not altered it one iota.

God, she looked good. And she was single. He couldn’t believe his luck. If he was completely honest with himself, she’d been the main reason behind his appearance at the reunion tonight. Sure, he’d wanted to catch up with a few old buddies, but it was Becky who had really drawn him. For ten years, the memory of their few weeks together had burned bright as the hottest, most sexually satisfying time of his life. They hadn’t been able to get enough of each other. He could still remember how desperate he used to be to get his hands on her smooth, creamy skin after a full shift working alongside her. More than once they’d wound up in the back seat of his car in the parking lot or the dark corner behind the box crusher in the stock room, tearing at each other’s clothes until he was inside her, giving her what they both wanted.

Was it any wonder that his thoughts had gravitated toward her now that he was a free man again?

He kept his gaze on her as she joined the group of ex-Hannigan’s employees near the bar. Her hair was longer than when he’d known her. Back then, she’d kept her curls short and well tamed, but he liked the way they cascaded around her shoulders tonight, the overhead lighting picking out rich highlights in the tumbled, dark mass. She’d put on a little weight, just enough to make her hips rounder and her breasts fuller, but her face was exactly the way he remembered it – the small, upturned nose, the full lips, the big brown eyes. She had the smoothest, clearest skin of any woman he’d ever known, and he could still recall the way he used to chase the blushes across her skin when he had her naked in his bed.

Cal registered the tightness in his Boss jeans. If he didn’t stop staring, he was going to embarrass himself in a very public way. He hadn’t expected to be so struck by her. When he’d hoped that she’d be here, when he’d speculated as to whether the old fire would still be there between them, he hadn’t imagined anything like the heat that had ripped through him the moment he saw her. It had honestly been as though ten years had fallen away and they were two kids again – two kids who desperately wanted to jump each other’s bones.

Across the room, Becky laughed and brushed a stray curl away from her cheek, tucking it behind her ear. Even though he’d been staring at her shamelessly for the past few minutes, she hadn’t glanced his way once.

He was forced to a reluctant conclusion – that the heat he was feeling was one-sided and only one of them was interested in bone-jumping. Namely, him. It had been a long time between drinks; it had been crazy to think that there might be something left between them. Just because his thoughts had constantly drifted to her over the years, wondering what she was doing, who she was with, who was to say that hers had done the same?

Which left him standing alone at a reunion with no beer in his hand and a hard-on in his jeans. Not exactly a recipe for social success.

Forcing himself to look away, Cal shoved a hand into his pocket and rejoined the group of men he’d been hanging with before Becky entered and rocked his world off its axis.

He had the answer to the question that his body had asked when he received the invitation to the reunion – yes, Becky was still the hottest woman he’d ever known. And no, he would not be getting a chance to relive history.

A damn shame, but he would survive.

Close Window