About the Author
Jamaican-born Lindsay Evans is a traveler, lover of food, and avid café loafer. She's been reading romances since she was a very young girl and feels there is a certain amount of surreal magic in that she now gets to write her own love stories. Contact Lindsay at LindsayEvansWrites.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
He shifted his shoulders under his unbuttoned black blazer and reached out to take a glass of what he hoped was scotch from one of the passing waiters. He sipped the drink and winced. It was scotch but too cheap for his taste. Maybe he wouldn't even last until the awards were announced.
Marcus left the drink on a nearby table and looked around the room, hoping to find Reynaldo March, one of the men being honored at the night's charity banquet and a VP at his company, Sucram Holdings. As Marcus glanced over the crowd in search of the gray-haired VP, he heard the sound of a woman's laughter, husky and low, nearby.
The woman's laugh was rich and deep, with a hint of naughtiness. A combination that drew him like a bee to honey. His ears latched on to the sound while his eyes tracked the room for its source. Soon he found it.
Two women stood together. One was still laughing, her head thrown back, a hand propped up on her hip. She was slender and pretty, light-skinned with wavy black hair down to the middle of her back. She had a firm and high rear. And she looked money-hungry, like the type who would lie down for a man just because of what was in his wallet. Definitely his usual style.
But, inexplicably, it was the woman standing next to her that drew and kept Marcus's attention. She had dark skin, angelic features and straightened hair pulled back in an elegant French roll. Even from across the room, he sensed her innocence. While her friend was dressed in a purple satin dress that caught her at midthigh and clung to her slender but generously proportioned body, this woman wore ice-blue.
The pale dress drew Marcus's eyes to her deep mahogany skin. The dress was modestly cut just beneath her collar bones, the waist cinched and hem flaring out in frothy blue around her knees. She was tapping her feet to the music.
While her friend laughed with her whole body, this woman only smiled faintly, her full mouth tilting up at the corners with mild amusement. Marcus looked back at the friend with her killer body, white teeth and long hair that fell in thick waves over her luscious breasts. She was definitely more his type, a woman who would want him for his money and never anything else. The safe type.
But he wanted the woman in blue. He fastened his blazer's single button and walked over to them.
"Good evening, ladies," Marcus said, his charming smile firmly in place.
The laughing woman gave him a considering glance, a quick but thorough evaluation of what he was wearing, how he looked, what he was worth. He had been the focus of that look so many times in Miami that he expected it more often than not when meeting someone new.
"Good evening." The woman in purple greeted him, a smile curving her full lips. "You're Marcus, aren't you?"
"I am," he said. "A pleasure to meet you."
The woman he wanted treated him like he was intruding on their conversation. She was even more beguiling up close. Not traditionally beautiful but exquisitely made with her large eyes, wide mouth and narrow chin. Her neck was a long and slender stalk he could easily span with one hand. The top of her head only came as high as his jaw, even in her stilettos.
"I'm Trish," the long-haired one said, offering her hand to shake. "And this is my best friend, Diana." She nudged her friend, as if encouraging her to be nice to Marcus.
Diana looked at her in irritation, then extended her own hand in greeting. "Marcus." Her voice was carefully neutral.
"Don't say my name like that," he said with a grin. "So formal. Especially when I came over here intending to ask you to dance with me."
A frown settled on her angelic face. "I don't dance."
"She'd love to." Trish smiled even wider to make up for Diana's lack of welcome, then nudged her friend again, this time directly into Marcus's arms. "Enjoy, honey!" She grabbed Diana's purse and stood back, looking pleased with herself.
Marcus took Diana's arm and led her to the dance floor, where they were playing Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." He drew her into his arms, keeping a respectable distance between them but still allowing himself the pleasure of smelling the light rosemary-scented perfume that clung to her skin. Another scent, something sweeter, lingered beneath the hint of fresh herb.
"Thank you for dancing with me," he said.
She looked up at him, her eyes large and serious behind a veil of thick lashes. Her narrow chin jutted out.
"You know very well I didn't agree to dance with you," she said.
"You don't strike me as a woman who'd let herself be talked into something she didn't want to do," he murmured as they moved to the beat of the song. "Whatever small part of you wanted to come with me, I'm grateful for it." He smiled, strangely charmed by her coolness. Her reaction to him was completely different from what he usually got from women.
At his look, Diana pursed her lips, the lines of her face softening. "I'm sorry. It's just been a long day. Everyone here seems to think just because I work for a nonprofit, that means I'm going to whore myself out to the one with the biggest bank account."
Damn. She was definitely not his type at all. With other women, he knew what they wanted, and they knew what he could give. Sex for money: a transparent transaction. But he didn't want to let Diana go yet.
"If it makes you feel any better, you don't have to whore yourself out to me at all." Marcus dipped his hips close to hers as they moved to the music, then pulled back. "All I want is a dance."
She looked at him with a hint of doubt in her sparkling brown eyes. "A dance is all you really want?"
Marcus smiled. "For now." He spun her around to the rhythm of the song, then pulled her back seamlessly into his arms. "Later I was thinking of trying to tempt you with dinner, maybe a late-night walk on the beach."
The corner of her mouth twitched. "I've already eaten, and I try to avoid the beach at night."
"Why is that?"
She looked at him with a pointed rise of an eyebrow.
Marcus only shook his head, carefully keeping his amusement from showing. "Well, that's where you have me all wrong," he said. "I don't bite. At least not on the first date."
Against her will, Diana Hobbes was getting swept away. Marcus was a charmer. He danced beautifully, a graceful companion as they moved through the steps of the old-school dance, not grandstanding, simply complementing the moves she made, the subtle rocking of her hips and dip of her shoulders. He danced with her like he wanted something and was willing to be patient until he got it.
He was a handsome man. She had noticed that immediately when he came up to her and Trish. Tall and wickedly sexy with eyes the color of old gold rimmed in black. He was obviously one of the rich ones despite his lack of the usual trappings. His blazer and jeans looked like they had been tailored to fit his gym-hard body, and his haircut was crisp and fresh, his nails buff-shined and recently manicured. The jeans and sneakers he wore said he obviously didn't care what people thought, yet no one looked twice at him. She just couldn't tell if he was one of the idle rich or someone who actually worked for his money.
Trish had known immediately who he was, but Diana had no clue. She reminded herself to ask her best friend later exactly who this guy was. In the meantime, the feel of his strong arms around her was intoxicating. The subtle scent of his sandalwood cologne, along with his deep and rumbling voice that pulled answers from her rather than talking about himself, worked magic on her attention-starved body. It had been a long time since a man had paid her such focused attention, especially with Trish around. But she knew it wouldn't last. It never did.
"What about the second date?" she asked. "What should I expect then?"
The question fell from Diana's lips against her will. She bit the inside of her cheek, but it was impossible to take back the words. She didn't want to seem overly interested. Or desperate.
"On the second date, anything can happen," he said with an amused light in his mesmerizing black-rimmed pale eyes. "Are you giving me something to look forward to?"
"Don't get ahead of yourself," she said. Though she might as well have been talking to herself. Just because he was the first man in months to show her this much attention shouldn't be a reason to throw all caution to the wind. Like all the others, once he figured out she didn't have much space in her life for anyone else, he would disappear.
"I never do that," he said. "But I do go after what I want." He looked at her meaningfully. "Can we at least have a first date before we discuss the terms of the second?"
Her fingers tightened briefly on his shoulder through the soft blazer. She had been working harder than usual lately. Giving all her days and even some of her nights to Building Bridges. Never leaving time to find a man, much less cultivating something meaningful and lastingor just hot and deliciouswith one. And then there was her family.
As she opened her mouth to respond to Marcus, the song ended. He took her hand, looked around the room as if searching for someone, then tugged her toward the back of the enormous ballroom and outside to the balcony.
The night was beautiful. A symphony of stars shone in the sky, and the gorgeous Miami skyline lit up like a Christmas tree in December. The balmy breeze brushed over Diana's face and throat.
"Come to dinner with me." The laughter was gone from his voice.
"I'm a little busy right now," she said, though her heart pounded in her chest at his nearness and the urgent way he spoke. She allowed him to pull her close and then closer, overwhelming her with the spicy scent of his aftershave and the heat of his body.
"You are a very compelling woman," he said in his rumbling voice.
"And what is it, Marcus, that makes me so compelling in your eyes?" She meant to tease him, to force him into a tongue-tied mess so he could retreat and put them back on more appropriate footing.
His mouth tucked up at the corners. "Because you insist on saying my name in such a stern way, for one." He moved a hand down her back, eliciting a round of intrigued tremors. "When you say my name, it sounds like I'm in trouble."
"Hmm. Is this better?" She tested the gentler sound of his name on her tongue. Once. Twice.
"Say my name one more time like that and I might have to accelerate this to being our second date. My teeth are aching for a taste."
She shuddered and drew back, her hands falling off his chest and to her sides. She put a few more feet of space between them. His teasing was getting to be more than she could handle. Yes, she liked him, but she was never one to rush into something with any man.
"I think you'll have to go hungry this time around," she said.
He looked at her with disappointment, sliding his hands into his pants pockets. He leaned back against the railing separating them from the brilliant Miami night. "You're breaking my heart," he said softly. "I hope this isn't something you're going to do all the time."
She turned away from him and toward the rooftop pool, glittering impossibly blue under the lights. "I don't play games," she said.
"But games are part of what make life fun." Amusement and temptation laced his voice.
Diana knew she had to get away from this man. She had danced with him for longer than she planned, had stepped out to the balcony with him although she'd known it wasn't a good idea. And it would soon be time for the awards to be announced. Her boss, the executive director of Building Bridges, wanted to have Diana by her side when the crystal plaques were presented. She looked past Marcus's shoulder to see the room resolving itself into order, people stepping away from the dance floor en masse and heading into the ballroom, where the round tables and chairs sat.
"I have to go," she said.
He gently grabbed her hand. "Come out with me after this. I'd like to show you my Miami."
Just then, a gray-haired man with a red rose in his lapel opened the door behind them and announced that it was almost time for the awards presentation. Diana felt he had looked specifically at her and Marcus, although there were nearly a dozen other people out on the balcony enjoying the balmy evening.
"We'll see," she said, tugging her hand away.
Diana felt his disappointment but refused to turn around. She slipped inside and made her way quickly into the ballroom and over to the table where her boss was waiting.
"Diana! I've been looking all over the place for you." Nora Evers, elegant and poised in her pearls and iron-gray Chanel dress, held out her hands to grip Diana's. "Come. It's about to start."
Nora's lush figure was downplayed in the severely cut dress, but it was still apparent why the newspapers often called her one of the sexiest women in nonprofit. Her frosted gray hair was cut in a sleek natural style that showed off her long-lashed bedroom eyes and pillowy lips. Her still-youthful body and the way she spoke with someone as if they were the only person in the room made her irresistible to many.
Despite her boss's call for her attention, Diana couldn't resist a last look over her shoulder toward Marcus. Then she deliberately pushed him from her mind and concentrated on the event at hand.