Secret Designs Chapter One


Here's the date: September 20. So just a handful of days to go before Secret Designs is out! I'm getting excited. 🙂

The next post you'll see from me will be one that says “it's now available at Amazon”. In the meantime here is Chapter One, as promised. Enjoy!

Secret Designs (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 2)

Chapter One

Secret Designs (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 2)

Arielle Mitchell shook her head, unable to believe the passionate woman who had been unleashed last night. Was that really her? She'd never been that responsive, energetic, or—okay—damned horny with anyone else before. If she hadn’t known Dylan Summers beforehand, she might even suspect he had put an aphrodisiac in her drink or something.

Well, come to think of it, she really didn't know Dylan. She'd only met him once before, when her friend Jasmine Allen pleaded with her to accompany her to his birthday party six weeks ago. They only stayed for fifteen minutes, so she hadn’t  even talked to him that much.

Yes, Dylan could very well be someone who would put an aphrodisiac in a woman's drink. What else could have made her so lustful last night?

She snorted at her ridiculous thoughts. Don't blame someone else for your wild and wanton ways, Ari!

Okay, then. The truth was Dylan turned her on—really turned her on; turned her on enough that she found herself doing things she'd never done before.

“Hi, Ari!”

Ari jumped at the sound of Jasmine's voice on the other end of the line.

Oh, right. She’d almost forgotten the phone against her ear—almost forgotten that she’d called Jasmine. To confess. Geez.

“Hi, Jaz,” she responded. “Am I calling too early? Am I disturbing you guys?” She grimaced at the thought that Jasmine's boyfriend Kane might be listening in on their conversation.

“No, it's fine,” Jasmine answered. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, everything's okay,” she replied, trying to sound casual. “I just want to tell you something before you hear it from someone else.”


Ari inhaled deeply, then spilled it out. “Last night when I went out with my workmates for Friday night drinks, I bumped into Dylan, Kane's brother. And, uh…well…I slept with him.”

“What?” Jasmine asked in surprise.

“It was just a one-night stand,” she explained hastily. “We're both very clear on that and we're both okay with it. I wanted to tell you because I'm not very good at keeping these things to myself. And it was already starting to bother me that you might hear it first from Dylan or one of his friends instead of me.”

“Okay,” Jasmine responded, still shocked from the news.

“You're fine with it, right, Jaz? And Kane would be okay with it, too?” she asked worriedly.

“Of course. As long as you and Dylan are okay with it.”

“Yes, definitely. Like I said, we're both very clear it was just a one-night stand and we're both totally fine with that,” she replied, feeling the need to repeat herself.

“Then there's no problem,” Jasmine stated.

“Good. Well, I'll let you go. Please let Kane know what I just told you. I'll see you in a few days.”

“Okay. Bye.”

Ari placed the phone down on her coffee table with a relieved sigh, glad that was out of the way. She stood up from the sofa and stretched. As she walked to the kitchen, the stiffness of her muscles and the delicious soreness between her legs made her blush. Unbidden, her recent physical exertions played back again in her head. Where the hell was the stop button for her memory banks?

Enough already, she berated herself as desire continued to unfurl within her.

“It was just a one-night stand, Ari,” she said out loud as she poured granola, then milk, in a bowl. “Forget about him. It won't happen again. It can't happen again.”

She plonked in a chair with a heavy exhale and knew it wouldn't be easy to push away the last ten hours from her memory. The image of a gorgeous, dark-haired, blue-eyed guy with a seriously hot, muscular body loomed large in her thoughts. Dylan Summers was way too hot to be forgotten quickly—especially when he’d just given her the best night of sex in her life.

She propped an elbow on her dining table and rested her chin on her hand, breakfast forgotten. She'd only had three hours sleep. She was tired, but if Dylan were still around she would be keen for more sex. Goodness, wasn't she the one who instigated the last round after they woke up? Well, she’d had to. She wouldn't have another chance. Dylan had only agreed to a one-night stand.

Last night was meant to be about celebrating the end of a busy week with her workmates in one of Sydney's popular nightspots. She didn't go with the intention of hooking up with someone. But how was she to know her ex-boyfriend would be there, too? With the woman she had once considered a good friend? The same woman she’d caught in bed with him while they were still together?

That had called for a third glass of wine. Two was her usual limit. Anything more than that and her good judgment went out like a light.

Dylan saw her first. He and his two friends had approached their group. Somehow the two of them had ended up in a corner talking and flirting with each other for close to an hour. She couldn't even remember ordering a fourth drink, but she must have had one, because her good judgment went comatose on her while she was still wide awake.

She blushed as memories of her forwardness came flooding back.

“How about you come home with me, Dylan?” she’d asked.

His handsome face had expressed a blend of desire and concern. “Are you sure, Ari?”

She’d placed a flirtatious hand on his arm. “Why not?”

“I'm only looking for some fun, Ari,” he'd replied warily.

Dylan's cautious reaction made her more determined to get him to go home with her. No doubt the alcohol was mainly responsible for such brazen behaviour, but more than that, she didn't want to feel like a reject all over again.

“Great. So am I,” she’d responded.

Dylan's eyes had flared with heat that had made her heart pound hard in her chest. “I'd love to go home with you tonight, Ari. But are you sure you don't have a problem with just a one-night stand? You're Jasmine's friend and I'm Kane's brother. It could be real awkward if we can't handle it.”

“No, I don't have a problem with it. Do you?” she asked breezily.

“Absolutely not.” 

After hasty goodbyes to their group, they got into a taxi. Dylan's hands were incredibly naughty during their trip to her apartment, creeping way up her thigh and burrowing under her top—at one point, successfully unhooking her bra. She lost count of the times she laughingly swatted a wandering hand away, conscious of the driver watching them from the rear-view mirror. She wondered if taxi drivers were used to having couples make out in the backseat of their cabs.

Their night together had been…amazing. Dylan was incredible and insatiable. So was she—insatiable, that was. Their morning sex had proven that.

Then he was gone.

Was it normal for someone to feel empty and at the same time have unstoppable fluttering butterflies in the stomach after a one-night stand? She hadn't done it before, so she didn't have anything to compare this reaction with.

Oh, well. She wasn't doing herself any favours by dwelling on the feelings swirling within her. Better to get on with her day than re-live her hot night with a hunky guy. There was no point stoking a desire that couldn't possibly be satisfied by the same man again.


“Hello, darling. We've been waiting for you. We've already started dinner, like you told us to.”

“Hi, Mum,” Dylan said as he enfolded his mother Linda in a warm embrace. “Sorry I'm late. I was at a friend's birthday party and she wouldn't let me leave. I had to wait until she was drunk enough to not notice that I was gone.”

“Dylan! Honestly, I don't know why you surround yourself with immature friends. You're already thirty-two, in case you’ve forgotten. Don't you think it's time to tone down your social activities a little bit? Maybe find someone to settle down with?”

He playfully rolled his eyes at his mother's censuring tone, used to this mini-lecture for being the second-oldest of five siblings and having never taken a girl home to introduce to his parents.

He couldn't help it that he wasn't as romantically inclined as his three brothers and only sister. Wasn't there usually one in every family who went the opposite way from everyone else? It didn't bother him in the least that, in his family's case, he was the odd one out—the one who didn't want to settle down in a permanent relationship.

“Mum, you know I'm your black sheep,” he said, putting an arm around Linda as they walked to the dining room. “But you have to admit that my social life is the only thing you could complain about. In every other way, I'm the perfect son,” he joked, giving his mother a kiss on her forehead.

“I complain about some of your friends and I complain that you don't want a steady girlfriend. So that's two things I'm not happy with, not just one,” Linda retorted.

“Aww, but you love me anyway.”

This time his mother rolled her eyes at him. But she had a resigned smile on her face.

“Hello all!” he said to everyone squeezed around his parents' big dining table. He went around to give the women a kiss on the cheek and the men a pat on the shoulder. Everyone was there: his parents, his sister Faye and her fiancé Ray, his twin brothers Riley and Bradley and their girlfriends, and his older brother Kane and his girlfriend Jasmine.

Seeing Jasmine brought back memories of the night he'd had with a beautiful, chestnut-haired woman with expressive brown eyes. Phew, last night was easily one of the most incredible nights he'd ever had. Just thinking about it made him hot and bothered. If Ari Mitchell wasn't Jasmine's friend, he wouldn't think twice about propositioning her for another tumble or two.

But experience had taught him he couldn't remain friends with girls he'd had sex with for more than one night. For whatever reason, his track record was quite consistent: he didn't have problems developing friendships with women he'd had one-night stands with, but once it went beyond the one time, maintaining the friendship became difficult. So a repeat of last night with Ari was not in the cards, not if they would have to continue being friendly with each other because of Kane and Jasmine.

“Woo-hoo! Dylan! Are you listening?”

Kane's voice snapped him out of his musing. He sat on the empty chair and grinned at his brother. “Sorry, were you saying something?”

“I said, I'm sorry we dragged you out of your friend's party. But thanks for being here.”

“Oh, sure. No worries. I might head back there after we finish here. What made you call a family dinner tonight, anyway?” he asked Kane.

“Well, now that everyone's here, I can announce my good news,” Kane replied, a blissful grin settling on his face. There was a dramatic pause before Kane finally announced, “Jasmine and I are getting married.”

Cheers erupted around the table as everybody congratulated the couple.

“I had a feeling that was why you wanted to have dinner with all of us tonight, Kane,” Faye said. “I'm so happy for you guys. Do you have a ring yet?”

“Yes, it's here in my pocket,” Kane responded as he pulled out a small box. “We wanted to surprise everyone so Jaz took it off so no one would guess our news.” He took the ring out and placed it on Jasmine's finger before giving her a kiss.

“This is wonderful news,” Linda said, touching the corner of her eye to dab a happy tear away. “Have you set a date yet?”

“Not yet,” Jasmine answered. “But it would be a good few months after Faye and Ray's wedding.”

“What do you mean a good few months?” Kane asked with a frown. “Why couldn't we get married a month after them?”

Jasmine chuckled. “They're getting married in less than two months, honey. We need time to prepare for ours.”

“Isn't three months enough?” Kane persisted.

“I don't know,” Jasmine answered.

“It's possible,” Faye said. “As long as the venue and service providers you want aren't already booked. Jessa and I can help you prepare.”

“See,” Kane said to Jasmine. “Your sister and my sister have already done all the research for their own weddings. They can help organise the kind of wedding you want within three months. Right, Faye?”

“Sure. As long as Jaz wants to get married that soon, of course. Maybe she'd prefer to wait a little longer.”

Kane looked at Jasmine with a hint of concern.

Jasmine laughed and placed a hand on Kane's cheek. “Okay. A month after Faye and Ray's wedding.”

Kane smiled brightly and gave his fiancée another quick kiss.

Dylan watched the obvious affection between his brother and Jasmine. He glanced around the table and saw the happiness in each of the person sitting there—happiness they shared with their significant other. He was the only one who sat alone and did not have someone to share a knowing look with, or a squeeze of the hand, or a peck on the lips. He scratched the back of his ear, strangely unsettled. Why did he feel left out, all of a sudden?


“Did you have a good time last night, Dyl?”

Dylan looked at Kane in surprise. His brother was lining up his shot at the pool table but arched an eyebrow at him when he didn't respond straight away.

“Last night was good,” he answered.

“Yeah? What did you do?” Kane asked as he hit the cue ball. He sank a solid.

“I was out with Trey and Adam.”

“Where did you go?”

“The Establishment. Then Ivy.”

“Okay. Anything exciting happened?”

Kane's questioning was too casual, Dylan thought. He positioned himself to take a shot after Kane missed.

“I saw Jasmine's friend Ari at Ivy,” he said after sinking a striped ball.

“Oh, right. How was she?”

How was she? Dylan couldn't help the smile that tugged his lips. “She was great.”

He concentrated on his next shot but missed. When he looked up, Kane was staring at him in a funny kind of way. He narrowed his eyes at his brother.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” Kane asked innocently.

“Like you know something.”

“Is there something to know?”

Ah. Kane did know something. Had Ari told Jasmine about last night, already?

“Ari and I hooked up,” he admitted to Kane.

“You like her?”

“It was just a one-night stand, Kane.”

Kane nodded, as if he knew it already.

“Is Jaz cool with it? Are you?” he asked with concern.

“Sure. As long as you two are okay with being in the same room after what happened. With Jaz and I getting married, I'm sure you'll see more of Ari.”

“I know that. You know me, Kane. I can be friends with women I've slept with.”

“That's not exactly a secret,” Kane said dryly. “I don't know how or why you do it.”

“Hey, I'm just a friendly kind of guy. I naturally get along well with girls I sleep with, otherwise, they wouldn't have attracted me in the first place. See, the trick is to limit the sex to one night only. Once it gets past a one-night stand, it's damn difficult to manage a friendship. Somehow, women's expectations change when you sleep with them too often. Remember that,” he told his brother.

Kane chortled. “Why on earth would I need to remember that? I'm getting married in case you haven't heard the news.”

He grinned. “Well, with you out of the market, that means more opportunities for me.”

“Oh, Dylan,” Kane said resignedly. “I don't know why you won't just find yourself a steady girlfriend instead of drifting from one girl to the next.”

He simply shrugged. “I'm still happy with my lifestyle.”

“Well, it's your life. As long as you don't make Jaz unhappy by playing games with Ari. But it looks like Ari's fine with it, too, anyway.”

“Ari told Jaz?”

“Yes, she rang this morning.”

“Okay, good. No one has to make a big deal of it, then.”

Dylan watched Kane concentrate on his next shot but his mind had already left the game. All this talk about Ari was disconcerting him.

It was a strange feeling. For the first time in a long, long time, he was missing a woman. He was missing Ari.

Damn, she was hot.


Secret Designs, available from September 20 at Amazon.




Secret Designs Won’t Be A Secret For Much Longer

Hi there!

It's time for an update! I've been slack in letting you know where I'm at with the next book in the Secret Dreams series so I thought I'd do a quick post today.

Secret Designs (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 2) is almost ready for publishing! I promised to have it available in September and yes, it's still on track for release later this month — in about two to three weeks.

Writing Ari Mitchell and Dylan Summers' love story was a real pleasure, but at the same time, a bit of a hard slog. I was distracted with a lot of other things happening around me and, if it wasn't for the fact that I'd booked my editor for a specific date, I probably would have taken longer to write it.

But, boy, am I happy with the finished product. I've loved Dylan ever since he first popped up in my head when I was writing Ray of Love. I'm glad I'll soon be able to share his and Ari's love story with you.

I hope you're as excited as I am with the release of Secret Designs. In the next few days, I'll share with you the book cover and Chapter One of the novel, then I'll let you know when it's available for purchase.

Not long to go now!

Chat again in a few days. xx

Secret Words Out Now!

Hi everyone!

It's here!  Secret Words (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 1) is now available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats.

Secret Words 2D for Kindle v2


Here again is the book synopsis:

Love Touched The Core Of Their Hearts Unexpectedly

But how do they fight those who believe they weren't meant to be?

When Jasmine Allen met Kane Summers in the unlikeliest of places, she wasn't expecting the swift and immediate attraction she felt for him. But Jasmine had a secret she wasn't at all comfortable sharing with anyone, least of all, the hunky guy who was literally sweeping her off her feet.

Kane Summers was a sucker for damsels in distress. When he found himself wanting to protect Jasmine Allen in more ways than one, the instant chemistry they had for each other hit him squarely in the chest. But Kane's life was complicated, and he wasn't totally free to act on the fascination he felt for her.

Kane and Jasmine were fighting a losing battle to stay away from each other. But circumstances – and certain people – beyond their control were very much intent on keeping them apart.

How could they find their way past secrets and malicious intents to nurture a love that, if given the chance, could last a lifetime?

˃˃˃ A sexy entertaining novel that stands on its own.

Just like all of my books, Secret Words is a complete stand-alone novel. It is the first of four beautifully passionate, steamy love stories from the Secret Dreams series.

Warning:  This book is for adults only. It contains hot sexual content.

Click here to get your copy of Secret Words (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 1) and immerse yourself in this entertaining, sweet and steamy novel.



Heart Robber is FREE April 10 and 11 on Amazon

Hello everyone!

Yes, I'm making the ebook version of Heart Robber (Lifestyle by Design Book 2) free on Amazon on April 10 and 11 (US Pacific Standard Time).

Heart Robber 1600 x 2500With the release of Ray of Love (Lifestyle by Design Book 3) last month, I thought this would be the perfect time to celebrate the completion of the sexy Lifestyle by Design series by making one of the books free on Amazon for a couple of days.

Why Heart Robber?

I was surfing the net, checking out blogs and sites relating to being an author when one question on one of the blogs stood out for me.

Who among my characters could I identify with the most?

While I can see a little bit of myself in all my heroines, I assumed Clarise Carson from Will To Love would be the one that I would identify with the most.  But I did sit down to think about it further and surprisingly enough, it was Jessa Allen from Heart Robber that came the closest.

So, decision made.  Heart Robber will be free.

If you already have your very own copy, thank you :-).  You may want to share with your friends the hot romance between Jessa and Rob so please direct them to this post.

This free promo will only be on April 10 and 11, 2013, US Pacific Standard Time and only for the ebook/kindle edition of Heart Robber (Lifestyle by Design Book 2).

And this is important.  Before you download, please check the kindle price on the Amazon page and make sure it is zero.  Depending on Amazon's system latencies, it may take a few minutes to a few hours for them to start the free pricing for Heart Robber.

Please also note that this free promo only applies to the Amazon site.  When the Amazon website shows it is no longer free, then it's no longer free.

Happy reading!


It’s Ray of Love’s Time To Shine

Ray of Love 3D coverIt's here!  My third book, Ray of Love (Lifestyle by Design Book 3) is now available.

Once again, completing this book has been a wonderful journey for me.  Writing about Faye Summers and Ray Thackery's love story kept me busy and holed up in my study for many days, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

This is the third and last book of the Lifestyle by Design series and, I must say, I have truly loved spending all that time with all the characters in this series.  They have become some of my favourite people.

My next series, Secret Dreams, will be coming soon.  The good news is that some of the characters from Lifestyle by Design will be featured in that series.  They were just screaming at me to tell their story so I have to write about them :-).  Watch out for the romance between Jasmine Allen (Jessa's sister) and Kane Summers (Faye's brother).  I can't wait to share their story with you.

But for now, enjoy the first chapter of Ray of Love.  (Warning: swear words coming up!)

Ray of Love (Lifestyle by Design Book 3) Chapter One


“You need to have a haircut soon, Ray,” Faye Summers said distractedly as she continued to gaze at the man sitting next to her.  The more she looked, the more she found little details she hadn't noticed before – like how his brown hair turned wavy when it was longer than its usual length, or how his deep blue eyes had specks of green in them, or how the right side of his mouth quirked into a cheeky, lopsided smile when he was being teased.

“Yeah, I know.  I just haven't had the time to get it done,” Ray Thackery agreed, running his sexy fingers through his longish hair.  “Is it that bad already?”

“Bad?  No, it's not bad, just a little long.  You still look hot but you look hotter when you wear it shorter.”

“You think I'm hot?” Ray asked in complete surprise, his brows lifting.

“Sure,” she responded nonchalantly.  “You must know you are.  Even Clarise and Jessa think so.”

“Oh.  And here I was thinking you were flirting with me,” Ray commented dryly.

She laughed and hurriedly changed the subject.  “Hey, since those two are both engaged now, how do you feel about them taking some time off for their weddings and honeymoons in a few months' time?”

“I hope they're not planning on being away from work at the same time,” Ray replied absently before jumping back to their original topic.  “So how short should I have my hair cut?”

“Hmm, about a couple of inches shorter, I think, and wear it spiky and a little bit messy like you do sometimes.”

He raised an eyebrow and smiled charmingly.  “You think it'll be easier for me to pick up women with that ‘do?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Faye chuckled.

“Well, it would be nice if you picked me up,” he drawled.

“Why don't you have that haircut and I'll consider it.”  She was surprised at the husky statement that came out of her mouth but it was too late to take it back.

“Okay, I will,” Ray grinned.


Faye didn't know why she was letting herself have this conversation with Ray.  Sometimes her mouth did get her into trouble.  She was someone who didn't have problems telling people what she thought or felt.  And, oh yes, she was a bit of a flirt.

Ease up, Faye.  He might take you seriously, she cautioned herself.

Even for just a one-night stand or a brief affair – no, especially for a one-night stand or a brief affair – Ray was not someone she would consider.  She shared too much of her personal life with her best friends, so that a sexual encounter of any kind with him would be complicated.

Her three closest buddies, Clarise Carson, Jessa Allen and Victor Michaels, all worked at Lifestyle by Design Publishing.  Based in Sydney, it published one of the most popular magazines in Australia for the entrepreneurial and professional set.  Clarise and Jessa were its senior writers and editors, while Victor was its head graphic designer.

And Ray Thackery was its owner.

So why in the hell was she flirting with her pals' boss right now?

Maybe it was the few glasses of wine she'd had.  She wasn't a big drinker but they were celebrating Jessa's twenty-ninth birthday and her surprise engagement to Rob Granger.

Or maybe it was because Ray was one of the most attractive men she knew that she just couldn't help herself.

“Hey, guys,” Jessa called as she stepped out onto her courtyard that was decked out with portable outdoor heaters.  While it was early spring in Sydney, the nighttime temperatures were still cool and the heaters offered welcome warmth for those who lounged outside.

Jessa held out bags to them.  “Here are some leftovers for you.  Everyone gets to take home some food; otherwise it'll go to waste.”

“Oh, excellent.  Thanks, Jess.  It’s really yummy.  I still can't believe how much food Rob ordered,” Ray replied.

“Is this your way of telling us it's time to go, Jess?” Faye teased.

“Yes,” Rob called from inside the house.  “My new fiancée just can't wait to properly thank me for giving her a surprise birthday party and putting a ring on her finger.”

Jessa rolled her eyes and blushed.

“We can take a hint,” Ray grinned as he stood up and got ready to go.  “You sure know how to throw a party, Rob.”

“Well,” Rob said as he leaned on the door frame, “I wanted to make it as hard as I could for Jess to say no when I proposed.”

“As if I'd say no,” Jessa replied as she walked over to Rob and put her arms around his waist.  Rob hugged her to him with a tender smile on his face and kissed her hair.

“Okay, guys,” Faye called out to Clarise, Victor and their partners.  “It's time for all of us to go and give these two lovebirds their private time.”

As Ray headed for his car, he turned to Faye.  “See you after I get my haircut, Faye,” he said with a wink.

Faye couldn't help but smile at his playful demeanour.  She suddenly became conscious of the fact that it had been a long time since she and Ray were this comfortable with each other.  It was good to joke around with him again.  She missed that.


“So what did Ray mean he’d see you after he gets a haircut?” Clarise asked as she glanced at Faye seated in the back of the car while her fiancé, Will Matthews, smoothly navigated the streets to Faye's apartment.

“Oh, we were just joking around.  I kind of said I'll consider picking him up after he gets one,” Faye answered dismissively.

“Pick him up?  To go where?”

“Not that kind of pick up,” she clarified to her confused friend.  “We were just flirting around.”

“Right.  So what does all that flirting mean?”

“Nothing.  Like I said, we were just joking around.  You know what I think about going out with your boss, Clarise.”

“Not interested, Faye?” Will asked, peeking at her through the rear-view mirror.

“If he wasn't my best friends' boss, maybe,” she answered with usual frankness.  “But he is and I don't want any drama with my closest relationships.”

Clarise raised her eyebrows in surprise.  “You never said anything about being interested in Ray.  When he asked you out sometime last year, you didn't even hesitate to say no.”

“I know.  I had just met Steve then, remember?  Besides, even before he asked me, I'd already considered the complications of having a relationship with him and decided it wasn't worth it.  Imagine the drama if I cried to you about my personal issues with him, or if he needed me to listen about work problems involving you guys.  It would be very awkward, to say the least.”

“But if you're really attracted to him …”

“I'm not that attracted.”

“So, you're interested but not interested enough to do something about it?” Clarise quizzed.

“Yes, that's exactly how I feel.”

“Okay.  You do know Ray might get the wrong impression?  We think he might still have a little crush on you,” Clarise admitted.

“Really?  What makes you think so?”

“Remember about two months ago when you went speed dating?  He asked me and Jess where we were going and we said we were escorting you to this speed dating thing.  There was just something about his reaction when he discovered you'd broken up with Steve and that you were available again.”

“You guys didn't tell me about that,” Faye said, her brows furrowing.

“No, we didn't.  We knew you weren't looking for anything serious and we didn't want Ray to hope for anything, so …” Clarise shrugged her shoulders.

Faye nodded.  It was clear as day that her friends were also protecting Ray's feelings and she could understand that.

Before she met Steve, her last boyfriend, Ray was their frequent lunch buddy.  It surprised her that he joined them as often as he did, seeing he was her friends' boss.  She eventually learnt that he did make it a point to socialise with his staff to get to know them better.  But it also appeared that he had lunch with the four of them far more often than he did with his other employees.  It was when he asked her out that she guessed the reason why.

She enjoyed Ray's company and at one point even toyed with the idea of going out with him.  But she was also witness to the great relationship her best friends had with him as their boss.  Dating Ray could upset that.  That was exactly why she decided not to get involved with him.

“I'll be more mindful next time I'm around him,” she promised Clarise.

They stopped at a red light and Will reached out for Clarise's hand and lifted it to his lips before setting it down on his thigh.  Clarise smiled at him and left her hand where he placed it, stroking him innocently.

Faye sighed silently.  It was very sweet and she was happy that Clarise had found the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with.  They were so in love.  She wanted that, too.

She gave herself a mental shake.  It was the impatience in finding ‘the one' that got her diving into new relationships before she was truly ready to move on.

No rush.  There's nothing wrong with enjoying being single for a while, even at twenty-nine.

After breaking up with Steve four months ago, she'd decided to just date around and not plunge into anything that would mean commitment.  Her last three relationships moved into serious territory pretty quickly, and none of them lasted more than a year.  She figured part of the problem might be that she was too quick to fall in love with the next guy without fully getting over her issues with the previous one.  So this time around, she promised to give herself plenty of time to heal whatever conscious and unconscious wounds she had.  For a few months – maybe another six or so – she'd focus on simply having fun while dating and leave it at that.  Fun.

With her straight, silky blonde hair, long-lashed blue eyes, flawless skin and slim body with gorgeous curves, Faye was considered stunning by most people.  There was no shortage of interested men who would give their right arm to date her.

She just needed to be extra selective so she didn't end up going out with someone who'd be in a hurry for a relationship before she was ready.


Ray discreetly checked out Victor Michaels' office as he walked past it.  He spied Victor there with his eyes glued to his computer.  Good.  That was Victor accounted for.  As for Clarise and Jessa, they were out on assignments.  Clarise was meeting with the owner of Sydney's fastest growing beauty spa chain and Jessa was sampling the culinary delights of one of the city's newest Japanese restaurants.

None of them was having lunch with Faye today.  With a little bit of luck, he would be having lunch with her.

When he found out two months ago that she had broken up with her boyfriend, he had convinced himself not to go down the path of asking her out again.  But after spending that time with her at Jessa's birthday party, all that swirled in his head was the question ‘why not?'

He shoved his hands in his pockets and strode purposefully out of his office building.  It was absolutely silly.  Hell, it was crazy.  But for the life of him, he just had to give it another try.  Maybe this time she'd agree to go out with him so he could either get her out of his system for good or make her fall in love with him.

Okay, who was he kidding?  There was only one choice that mattered and it was the second one.  After more than a year of searching for a woman who would make him forget about Faye Summers, he hadn't succeeded yet.  Now that she was available again, he simply couldn't resist grabbing this new opportunity.

He was still kicking himself for not being persistent enough sixteen months ago.  But when she told him then that she just started dating another guy, he backed off straight away.  It was clear she preferred the other man and he wasn't desperate for a date.  After all, he had his fair share of female admirers.

But how was he to know that he had already fallen for her and was just too proud to admit it?  When he realised the extent of his feelings, the relationship she was in was already serious.  She seemed happy and he didn't want to ruin her bliss.

He still couldn't believe how he had fallen for someone he hadn't even slept with.  Jesus, they hadn't even gone out on a real date!  But from the very first time he met her he was totally bowled over, not just by her captivating beauty but also by her personality.

Faye was a confident, funny, outgoing, smart, loyal, caring and straight-to-the-point woman.  But beyond that, there was something about her that called to that deep, hidden part of him that no one else had ever touched – except her.  She had cast a spell over him and he couldn't seem to escape it.

There were no explanations for how he felt.  He had already questioned and analysed his feelings until his brain hurt but he couldn't deny the fact that every time he saw her, even if it was simply bumping into her on the street, his heart raced and he wished with everything he had that he was with her – that she was his.

He'd given up trying to fight it.  Instead, he'd resigned himself to the fact that he could be spending the rest of his life feeling incomplete and unfulfilled.  That was until he learnt she was single again.  And heavens above, he would be more persistent this time in getting her to give him a chance.

He walked to the vicinity of Faye's office, where she worked as a senior career consultant for one of Australia's largest career consulting firms, and stationed himself outside a coffee shop across the road from her building.  He got there at exactly twelve noon.  He didn't know what time Faye would be taking her lunch break but he would stand there until she came out.  He just hoped he didn't have to wait around for too long.

And what if she had brought lunch with her and didn't have to leave her building?

He knew if he missed her today he'd just try again tomorrow.

He shook his head, unable to believe what he was willing to put himself through.  But then again, patience, resilience and tenacity were some of his major traits that enabled him to build a highly successful business, even after a number of failed attempts that almost bankrupted him.  He was determined to succeed when it came to Faye, too.

It would be mortifying, though, if Faye rejected him again.  So for now, he would have to be sneaky and make everything look as if it was pure coincidence.

He checked the time and noticed fifteen minutes had passed.  He was tempted to order coffee while he waited for her but a woman walking out of the building he was watching made his heart pound like mad.  There was Faye, looking just as beautiful as always, strolling towards the nearby food court.

He sighed with relief and quickly followed her.  All of a sudden, he found himself more nervous than he had been for a long, long time.

For fuck's sake, Ray.  You're thirty-four, not fourteen.  Relax!


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