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One Perfect Night

Written by Teresa Southwick

Never mix business with pleasure. A rule of thumb that Julie Carnes now wishes she had taken to heart. She had one perfect night with her boss, Ben Carson, and for one night he made her believe she could be cherished, cared for, loved. And then he called her…to break things off.

Now, after weeks of Julie having to endure seeing him every day in the hospital, Ben wants another chance. A chance to explain. A chance to start over. A chance to turn one perfect night into one perfect lifetime. But to Julie, that sounds an awful lot like giving him the opportunity to break her heart all over again. And that's the one chance she's not sure she can take.

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Chapter One

Business meetings with the boss had been so much easier before she'd seen him naked.

Julie Carnes sat quietly at the conference table while Ben Carson, the regional vice president of Mercy Medical Center in Las Vegas, was wrapping up his remarks. Ben was hands-down the best-looking man she'd ever seen, including Ryan Reynolds, the actor he resembled so much. Six feet two inches of handsome man with light brown hair and sincere, dark brown eyes. He was also smart and fair. There was no one working in this hospital who wouldn't go to hell and back if he asked, and she was no exception. She'd already been there because of him, in fact. He hadn't suggested she go to hell, exactly, but what he'd said after their relationship had gotten complicated was just as effective. They had been over before they'd even really started.

"I want to thank all of you," he said. "Everyone is doing more with less, and your hard work doesn't go unnoticed."

He looked around the table at the men and women who managed and directed different departments in the hospital. Julie was in charge of the Intensive Care Unit, and her responsibilities included budget and staffing, as well as monitoring the quality and continuity of care for each patient. The job was demanding, but recently, having to be around Ben made it even harder. Every time she saw him, it reminded her of how stupid she'd been to let him in—she'd really cared for him and he hadn't cared for her, at least not enough to trust her.

Since he first started working at the hospital six months before, she'd been instantly attracted to Ben. They talked after meetings, had spontaneous lunches in the cafeteria, joked and laughed together. She liked making him laugh, sensing he didn't do it easily. After so many months idling in that pattern, she thought he would never ask her out, but he finally did.

The perfect date was just dinner—nothing grander than a nice little Italian place in Henderson, not far from the hospital. They had both worn jeans, but his battered brown leather jacket made him look like a rugged, swashbuckling hero. He brought her a single white rose, her favorite flower. He opened the car door, the restaurant door, held her chair, made her feel special. It wasn't a put on, just natural—a part of who he was.

On a first date she usually dreaded the awkward good-night kiss, the what-does-he-expect-now part. But it was different when Ben took her home that night.

"I had a great time," he said.

"Me, too."

His eyes held hers and her heart pounded like crazy when he cupped her cheek in his big palm, then leaned down to kiss her. Before that touch she'd planned to follow the minimum three-dates-before-sex rule. But when his mouth met hers—sweet, soft and sexy—desire that had simmered for six months exploded into a tide of passion that pulled her in and swept her away. It could have been seconds or hours that they stood there kissing. She'd never know.

Finally he came up for air and said, "I have to go before I can't leave at all."

"Then…don't go."

"I want everything to be perfect. It's our first date."

"Doesn't feel that way. We've known each other for six months, but it seems like forever."

"Julie, I don't want to ruin the best thing to happen to me in a long time. Are you sure about this?"

"Very." She was fully aware of what would happen if he came inside, and she wanted it more than her next breath.

When they made love, it was as if their bodies and souls had been together in another lifetime. He seemed to know just where to touch her, just how to hold her. He refused to spend the night because he didn't want the neighbors to talk. Not yet. But he promised to phone the next day.

But he didn't. And when he finally called, she wished he hadn't.

Now she wished that this meeting was over already. Suddenly, the words Mardi Gras ball penetrated the buzzing in her head. It'd been a dream of hers to attend the exclusive fundraising event ever since she started at the hospital. The dresses, the shoes, the glamorous location… Not that she'd get the chance this year—only bigwigs and rich benefactors got tickets.

But Ben must have been wrapping up, because everyone stood. That was her cue to slip out quietly. Being the last one in the room meant she'd have to talk to Ben, something she'd managed to avoid since he'd broken things off so abruptly. Always good to shoot for a perfect record.

She made it out the door and turned right, heading toward the hospital lobby and the elevators beyond it, but she heard footsteps behind her, quickly closing the distance.


Ben's voice made her heart pound. This moment was why personal relationships were better outside the workplace. She wanted so badly to pretend she hadn't heard him and keep going, to be able to enclose herself in the sanctuary of the elevator while it took her to the second floor, where running the unit and taking care of the patients would ensure she was too busy to think about what had gone wrong between them. The problem was, they still had to work together—and he was her boss. If he had something to say she pretty much had to listen.

She stopped and turned. "Was there something else?"

"Yes." He looked around at the people in the hallway talking in groups, their voices echoing off the tile floor. "Come with me."

She wanted to say no. Not again. Once was enough. But that was personal. This was business. "Okay."

He gently took her elbow, as if he thought she might try to escape, and led her back the way they'd come. A door to the administrative offices was on the right and he opened it, letting her precede him, then stopped her just inside. The hall was narrow, and cushy hunter-green carpet covered the floor. No echoing here. Their voices wouldn't carry, so no one would overhear what he had to say. That got her warning signals flashing in a big way.

"Is this about work?"

Intensity made his dark eyes almost black. "No. It's about us."

"There is no us."

"And that's my fault. I realize that I handled things badly…but I just got some good news."

"If it's not related to work, I don't need to know. And I have to get back to the unit."

"Can I call you later?"

To her nerves, those words were like a high-pitched squeal from a public address system. She'd been raised by a single mom desperate to find "the one." Her mother had wasted her life waiting by the phone for calls that never came. Julie wanted nothing to do with a call-waiting relationship.

"There's no point, Ben. There isn't a thing you can say that I want to hear."

"What if I say give me another chance?"

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About the author

I discovered my love for books through being lazy. In a high-school hi...

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Teresa Southwick

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