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One Perfect Night

Written by Teresa Southwick

Chapter Thirteen

Julie watched Ben loosen his tie—not a clip-on, but an actual silk one that he'd tied. It was pretty impressive, but he was an impressive guy, which made this so darn hard. The sheer masculinity of the gesture made her want to throw herself against him. She ached for him to kiss her and erase the pain of being without him, but that was also what she feared the most. He'd obviously noticed her nerves and was waiting for an answer.

"I don't suppose you'd believe me if I said nothing's wrong, would you?" She looked up hopefully, but he shook his head.

"Be honest. If I scared you off tonight with my talk about family, you can tell me."

"It's not that." She criss-crossed her shawl over her chest and held her purse against it like a shield. "But it did get me thinking. I didn't have the best childhood, either."

"Tell me about it."

Obviously she wasn't a good enough actress to fool him so the truth was her only choice.

"I never knew my father and was raised by a single mom. She did the best she could and I know it wasn't easy for her. She was lonely."

"She had you."

Julie heard the bitterness in her laugh. "I wasn't enough. She was always looking for Mr. Right and ended up settling for Mr. Right Now. Then he would drop her off and tell her he'd call. Mostly the men she dated never did and she wasted a lot of her life waiting by the phone for a call that never came. I won't be like her."

"She sounds like a strong, independent woman to me."

"That's not what I saw."

"Maybe an objective outsider can put a different perspective on it." He cupped her cheek in his palm. "She had to be strong to raise such an independent, fearless woman as you."

"I'm not fearless," she said, lifting her shoulder a little to savor the feel of his hand on her face. "And that's what's wrong. I'm afraid you'll kiss me and we'll end up inside, in my bedroom, just like the last time."

"Would that be so bad?" His voice was gentle with understanding, a stark contrast to the tension tightening his jaw.

"No." She met his gaze. "Yes. I'm afraid if we go down that road we'll end up in the same place, where you call a time-out and I try not to hope and wait by the phone." She expected him to laugh, but there was no trace of amusement in his eyes.

"Then let's write an alternate beginning." There was a passionate intensity in his expression that was new and different. He lowered his mouth to hers in a soft, sweet, chaste kiss, then almost instantly he broke it off. As if contact that went on too long could shred his willpower. "Good night, Jules. I will call you. Count on it."

She watched him walk down the path to his car and wondered how to stop herself from waiting by the phone.

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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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