A sneak peek from Beyond Eden by Kele Moon that releases today from Ellora's Cave!
Copyright @ Kele Moon 2010
Eve gasped in surprise, her heart jolting from the nostalgia caused by a nickname she hadn’t heard in a very long time. The smooth male voice was too close for comfort and she moved away instinctively before she spun around. Her jaw fell slack as she stared up at the tall, dark and handsome man standing in front of her.
This was not happening. She was not running into Danny Carlow, one of the sexiest males to walk on two legs, when she was an utter mess from the gym and her life was in shambles. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also happened to have been Paul Mattling’s best friend since kindergarten. She hadn’t seen her ex-boyfriend since she was eighteen and this was not how she wanted to be reported about to Paul ten years later.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Danny said, a grin tugging at his full lips as his eyes ran over her. “I’ve been following you from the produce section. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought you were in New York.”
“I was.” Eve absentmindedly tried to smooth the wisps of hair escaping her ponytail. How very typical that she should meet Danny when she looked her worst and he was still devastatingly handsome, perhaps more so than she remembered because age suited him. Even in a black t-shirt and jeans, he wore an air of self-confidence in his own attractiveness that left Eve feeling plain. “Things didn’t, um—work out like I planned. I’m back home for the time being.”
Danny ran a hand through his dark hair that was shorter than she remembered. His eyes ran over her appraisingly and Eve wished they wouldn’t because he had her feeling awkward and sixteen again. He was tall and lithe, all hard, cut muscles and tan skin. His mother was Cuban and he inherited all the best her people had to offer. His heritage showed in his full lips, his nicely arched eyebrows and in the smoldering fire of his dark, bedroom eyes.
Life changed nothing. Eve still felt inadequate next to him. She had been a goddess in New York, finally confident in the beauty God had given her, but facing Danny had her feeling like the thin, geeky girl she had convinced herself she was throughout her adolescence. She hated that she was shamefully flattered he had followed her, even though they had once been the best of friends. His handsomeness and raw sexuality left her feeling like she was lucky just to be around him.
“That’s a shame,” he said, his voice rolling like silk off his tongue. “Because it looks like New York suited you. You look fantastic.”
Eve rolled her eyes and laughed self-consciously. “You’re still full of shit.”
He didn’t have a chance to defend himself because she launched herself at him and hugged him. Not because he was beautiful and she wanted an excuse to touch. She had really missed him, more than she ever realized. He had been one of her best friends too once upon a time. She, Danny and Paul had been like the three musketeers from grade school all the way up until they graduated from high school.
She inhaled the alluring scent of cologne mixed with the slight tinge of tobacco clinging to his shirt. His breath was warm on her skin as he buried his face into the curve of her neck, smelling like Cuban coffee and mint. His scent was the best of Tampa and she hated being home a little bit less as she clung to Danny. Cuban coffee, cigars and sexy Latin men, hating Tampa was impossible, even if being back there meant she’d failed at her dash for freedom from an oppressive mother.
“It’s great to see you,” Eve said, her face hurting from smiling so broadly. “I can’t believe you’re still in Tampa.”
He shrugged, an easy, graceful gesture that caused the strong muscles of his arms and chest to shift subtly. “It’s not as exciting as New York, but I like it here. I never felt like leaving.”
“Wow.” Eve floundered under the weight of her shock at seeing him. Danny was like riding a bike, the feelings she had around him were something her body and mind didn’t forget. “Have you seen Paul?”
Eve asked it automatically, because she couldn’t see Danny and not think of Paul. Even if she was horrified at being found when she was at such a low point in her life, a part of her heart that was still just for Paul swelled at the thought of seeing him again.
“Seen him?” Danny laughed, pulling back in shock as if the question was ridiculous. “I live with him. He’s going to freak when I tell him who I ran into.”
Eve’s smile turned nostalgic then, thinking of Paul. She had forgotten her reactions to Danny but Paul she thought of often. Eve would be lying if she said she hadn’t been attracted to Danny but Paul had been so sweet and open about adoring her. Falling in love with him had been easy. She had become a woman with Paul and her heart had never stopped beating for him.
“I miss him.”
“But not me?” Danny asked, feigning hurt.
“I’ve missed both of you,” she admitted. “Walk with me, Danny Boy. My mother is in need of ice cream and there will be hell to pay if I don’t get it.”
Danny shrugged and followed obediently. “So what happened to New York?”
“Ugh, what didn’t happen?” Eve groaned, hating to think of New York, but finding she still had camaraderie with Danny and didn’t mind revealing herself. “The studio I worked for got shut down for tax evasion and I lost my job. My fiancé left me for my best friend and my dog died.”
Danny winced. “Gosh, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “I really loved that dog.”
Danny smirked. “Dog is man’s best friend.”
“You’re not a woman, you’re Evie.” He draped an arm over her shoulders and pulled her close. “You’re one of the guys.”
“If you try to give me a noogie, I’m going to find my ice cream on my own.” Eve tilted her head up to glare at him. “And I got news for you, I am a woman. I got tits and everything.”
He cocked his head, boldly eyeing her cleavage that was more than obvious in the tight spandex top she had worn to work out in. “Yeah, you sure do,” he agreed. “Did you have those in high school?”
“Okay, get off me,” she said, pushing him away and glaring at him.
He guffawed loudly. “I’m just teasing. You’ve always had nice tits.”
She gave him a droll look. “It’s a wonder you ever get laid.”
“Yet I do,” he said, his arrogant, self-confident smile back. “Frequently and often.”
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