Excerpt from ONE NIGHT STAND
“Everyone knows the best one night stands happen at weddings.”
From the dais, Marcee Robbens scanned the room. No expense had been spared in decorating the ballroom of the large downtown Chicago hotel for the reception. The crystal chandeliers glittered like a thousand diamonds, and the candles at each of the linen-clad tables cast a romantic glow. Tropical flowers flown in especially for the evening were everywhere and their enticing fragrance filled the air.
Marcee inhaled deeply and felt a tingle of excitement skitter up her spine. “There’s nothing like being all dressed up with a hotel room only an elevator ride away,” she added. “I’ve been counting down the days until this event.”
Jenny Marshall, the new bride and Marcee’s best friend, threw back her head and laughed. “Here I thought you were making those X’s on your calendar because you couldn’t wait to see Robert and me get married.”
“It was a fabulous wedding,” Marcee said quickly, knowing that was an understatement. Every detail had been planned to perfection, even the unscripted moments, it seemed. Like the look in Robert’s eyes when he’d seen Jenny start down the aisle. It had all been there, the love, the devotion, and the promise. . .
Marcee’s heart twisted and she let her gaze drop to the champagne glass. She’d once dreamed of finding such a man for herself, but in her world, good men were as hard to find as a pair of comfortable stilettos. Swallowing a sigh, she returned her attention to her friend. Jenny’s face glowed with happiness, and Marcee fought a pang of envy. “You’re a beautiful bride, Jen.”
If it were her wedding day, she knew she would have taken the compliment and run with it. But Jenny waved the words aside and cast an admiring gaze at her black chiffon. “You’re the one who is beautiful. That dress looks like it was designed with you in mind.”
Marcee didn’t argue. The slinky maid-of-honor dress had been a definite hit. Last fall, when Jenny told her she could choose any dress—as long as it was cocktail length and black—Marcee’s interest in being part of the wedding had spiked. She’d spent days scouring the shops along Michigan Avenue searching for a dress that possessed the “Wow” factor. When she walked down the aisle, she’d wanted every man in the church to say, “Wow, I want her.”
There had been plenty such looks on her trek to the altar. At least one of those men had to be interested in acting on that desire. Marcee slid her tongue across her lips and pondered the possibilities. She knew what she wanted. Broad shoulders. Rock hard abs. Tight butt. Big—
She pulled her thoughts away from delicious, delectable men and cast a sideways glance at her friend.
“We probably won’t have another chance to talk privately tonight,” Jenny said, her eyes dark and intense. “There’s something I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time.”
Marcee shifted in her seat, not sure what to make of her friend’s suddenly solemn expression.
“You know how I feel about Robert. And I’d never have met him if you hadn’t made me go out that night.” Jenny’s voice grew thick with emotion. “Thank you for giving me the love of my life.”
The same look she’d seen in Robert’s gaze was now in Jenny’s eyes. So much love...
For a second Marcee felt as if she’d taken a punch to the heart. Her breath caught in her throat. Tears sprang to her eyes. But she quickly rallied, blinking back the moisture, hoping Jenny hadn’t noticed her momentary loss of composure.
Out of the corner of her eye Marcee saw Robert returning to the table. She leaned over and gave Jenny a heartfelt hug. “You two are going to have a wonderful life.”
“Because of you,” Jenny murmured.
The tears Marcee had banished only moments before returned to press against her lids. “No.” She swallowed past the lump in her throat. “Because you were willing to seize the day.”
“Mrs. Marshall.” Robert’s smoldering gaze fixed on his wife. “Would you care to dance with your husband?”
Marcee released her hold on her friend and rose to her feet. She gave Jenny a wink and stepped aside. By the look in Robert’s eye, he had far more than dancing on his mind.
Jenny took her husband’s hand, her smile blinding, and Marcee fought a pang of envy. Still, knowing her friend was right where she needed to be made it easy for her to concentrate on her own enjoyment guilt-free.
Marcee shifted her thoughts to the evening ahead, anticipation fueling her steps. It was definitely time to get this party started. But she’d barely gone ten feet when she was waylaid by Jenny’s teenage sister, Annie, and her friend Fern.
“Marcee, you look incredible.” Fern stared in open admiration.
“I wish Mom would’ve let me wear something like that,” Annie said with a pout.
Marcee smoothed the skirt with the palm of her hand. Not only did the dress show off her curves to full advantage, it displayed some serious skin. Sexy but tastefully elegant was how the clerk had described it. She hadn’t cared about anything other than the sexy part.
Thanks to running four miles a day, at thirty-two she still had slender, toned thighs and a firm derriere. Her perky breasts were large enough to capture a man’s interest. Speaking of which . . .
As fun as talking to two teenagers could be, she had more important things on her mind. She let her gaze sweep the room. “Aren’t there any single guys here?”
Fern and Annie giggled.
“My dad is here somewhere,” Fern said. “I could introduce you.”
“That’s okay.” The last thing Marcee wanted was to hang out with anyone’s fathe
“I’ll see you later.”
Waving a quick good-bye, she grabbed a glass of champagne from a tuxedoed waiter with a silver tray and took a sip. The bubbly tickled her nose, and her already high spirits soared. Salsa music filled the air, and while Marcee rolled her eyes at the sight of the conservative accountant types moving in time to the sexy Latin beat, the rhythm was intoxicating. It wasn’t long until her hips began to sway.
She danced her way across the room, stopping several times to chat with friends. But then the rhythm would call her name and she’d start moving again. She was halfway across the ballroom when she saw the little boy sitting alone at a round linenclad table. No name came immediately to mind but she had the feeling they’d been introduced.
The bow tie at his neck was askew and the tail of his white shirt partially pulled out of the waistband. His hair looked like he’d just raked his fingers through the blond strands. The boy’s full, perfectly sculpted lips turned downward in a sad frown, and though she couldn’t be positive, it looked as if he had tears in his eyes. Her heart clenched. She’d planned to dance on by but at the last minute found herself pulling out a chair and sitting down beside him. “Are you okay?”
His lower lip wobbled and two tears dropped down his cheek. Marcee fought a surge of helplessness. While she prided herself on her ability to handle almost any situation, she threw up the white flag on this one.
“I want my mommy,” the boy wailed, giving a not-so-gentle tug on her dress.
“Don’t touch.” Marcee pried his pudgy fingers from the delicate chiffon and softened her words with a smile.
Still, the child’s eyes widened at the firm tone. He lifted his gaze, his eyes large and very blue. “I sorry.”
Marcee suddenly realized why the kid looked so familiar. He’d been the ring bearer. She struggled to remember his name. “Your name is Adam, right?”
He shook his head.
Damn. Still, she was sure it started with an A. “Austin?”
This time he shook his head from side to side and giggled as if the attempt to discover his name was some sort of game.
Marcee felt her patience start to fray. “Abercrombie?”
The boy’s giggle turned to a peal of laughter. “Andrew,” he
said, holding up three fingers. “I
That’s right. Little Andrew. Named after his father, Big Andrew. It was a good thing his dad wasn’t named Dick, she thought. The kid would probably be traumatized for life.
“Are you having fun?” Marcee asked, desperately looking around for reinforcements. It was a simple question, but the second the boy’s face scrunched up, she knew she should have kept her mouth shut.
“I want my mommy.” His voice grew louder and more shrill with each word. “I want my mommy now.”
Marcee recoiled against the back of her chair.
“Hey, buddy.” A dark-haired man who must have been walking by stooped down next to the boy. “Something wrong?”
Marcee’s breath caught in her throat, and the tension that had gripped her only moments before was replaced with a rush of adrenaline. Now this was more like it ...
The man’s hair was the color of rich mahogany, cut stylishly short but with just enough length for a woman to run her fingers through. Some might consider his eyes to be brown, but Marcee’s discerning gaze saw gold in the hazel depths. She was almost a hundred percent sure this handsome hunk wasn’t Big Andrew. The kid’s parents had been at the rehearsal dinner last night. And while they’d been at opposite ends of a very long table, Marcee knew she would have noticed this man, no matter where he was seated.
Classically handsome would be how her friend Jenny would describe the guy. Hot and delectable were the two words that popped immediately into her own mind.
“I want my mommy.” The kid’s lower lip jutted out and his hands clenched into small fists at his side.
The determined glint in his eyes reminded Marcee of herself during that critical time of the month when she wanted—no, needed—chocolate.
The man’s curious gaze settled on her. Marcee held out her hands and shrugged.
“He’s possessed by demons.”
“I take it he’s not yours.” His eyes gleamed with good humor.
“Nope.” She shook her head. “No husband.”
He flashed a mouthful of perfect white teeth. “Me, either.”
Marcee raised a brow.
“I mean, no wife.”
“I-want-my-mommy.” The boy slipped off the chair and immediately stomped his foot.
“Watch,” Marcee said in a conspiratorial whisper. “In a minute he’s going to start spewing green bile.”
The guy grinned. “Maybe it’s time to go looking for the she-devil who spawned him.”
“I know the she-devil . . . er, his mother.” Marcee grabbed the child’s shirt before he could dart away. “I should take him to her.”
She hesitated, reluctant to leave.
“Sam McKelvey.” He held out his hand, his gaze firmly fixed on her. “Once you make your delivery, would you be interested in a . . . drink?”
Marcee tightened her one-handed hold on the squirming boy and took Sam’s hand in hers with the other. “Marcee Robbens,” she said in a low husky voice. “And I’m definitely interested.”
She let her hand linger an extra beat. Something flared in his eyes, and an answering flutter caused a tightening low in her belly.
“Andrew Michael, you are in big trouble.” A brunette with short permed hair stood next to the table, hands on ample hips, eyes shooting blue fire.
Marcee breathed a sigh of relief. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so happy to see Jenny’s nosy cousin, Mary Lou.
“I thought you might be looking for him,” she said.
“One minute he was by my side, the next he was gone.” Mary Lou shifted her gaze to the wide-eyed boy and pursed her lips. “I’ve been looking for you for almost fifteen minutes.”
Andrew batted his long lashes. “I sorry, Mommy.”
“You should be.” Though Mary Lou glanced at Sam, instead of assuaging her obvious curiosity she scooped Andrew into her arms. “The flower girl’s father is waiting. He wants to get some pictures of the two of them together.”
“Good luck,” Marcee said. “I’m no expert, but little Andrew doesn’t seem in the picture taking mood to me.”
For the first time, Mary Lou appeared to noticeher son’s mutinous expression. Her arms tightened around him. “Maybe if I hurry we can get one or two decent shots.
Thanks for watching him, Marcee. I owe you.”
With the squirming boy clasped tightly in her arms, Mary Lou hurried off, heels clicking on the hardwood floor.
“Looks like you’ve done your good deed for the day,” Sam said, a twinkle in his eye.
“I have and now it’s your turn.” Marcee unwrapped one of the chocolate kisses scattered across the tabletop, popped it into her mouth and held out her hand.
“Dance with me.”
For what seemed like forever, but in actuality was probably only a handful of heartbeats, Sam hesitated. “I have to warn you, I’m not much of a dancer.”
She reached down, grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. “No worries. I’ll lead.”
He chuckled and pulled her close. The spicy scent of his aftershave and the warmth of his body stirred her senses. Slowly they began to move in time to the music. They fit together perfectly and the sudden intimacy of the moment took Marcee by surprise.
“We’re not on the dance floor,” she murmured, resting her head against his chest.
“That doesn’t matter to me, and I don’t think you care,” he said in that deep voice of his. “I have the feeling we’re alike in that respect.”
Marcee didn’t answer. His arms were strong, his chest broad, and it had been six long months since she’d been in a man’s arms. An eternity by any measure. Her eyelids drifted shut and she lost herself in the not-to-be-forgotten feel of a muscular body pressed against hers. And not just any body. There was something about Sam. He exuded a kind of solid strength that she found appealing. But before she let herself get too interested, there were a couple things she needed to check out first. He’d said he wasn’t married, but he could still be attached. Her heart gave a ping at the thought.
Mentally crossing her fingers, Marcee leaned back in his arms so she could see his reaction. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
The look of surprise on his face was too spontaneous to be faked. “I wouldn’t be dancing with you if I did.”
Marcee released the breath she’d been holding and her heart did a happy dance.
“How about you?” he asked.
“Single. No current boyfriend. Never married.”
“I was married . . . once.” Though his tone gave
nothing away, something in his eyes told her he
hadn’t wanted the split.
“How long have you been divorced?” Marcee asked softly.
“We didn’t divorce,” he said. “She died.”
“I’m sorry,” Marcee murmured. It seemed inadequate but she didn’t know what else to say. She couldn’t imagine falling in love only to have them die at such a young age. “Any children?”
“One daughter.” Pride filled his eyes. “She’s spending the night with a friend.”
Though Sam tossed the statement out there all casual and offhand, Marcee’s heart skipped a beat. Whether he realized it or not, he’d let her know he was free until the morning. Marcee slid her hand up his back and her fingers into his short dark hair.
“How about you?” He tilted his head back into her touch. “Any children?”
Marcee shook her head. “Nope.”
“Parenthood is great,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade my daughter for anything.”
“How old is she?”
“Seventeen,” he said.
A teenager. This handsome hunk had a daughter in high school . . . unbelievable. Marcee widened her eyes. “How old were you when she was born? Twelve?”
Sam chuckled. “Close. I was nineteen.”
Marcee tried to remember what she’d been doing at that age. In college. Working two jobs. It might not have been the good life, but she’d still tried to make it fun.
“Enough about me.” His gaze lingered on her face for a long moment. “You’re an attractive woman. How come there’s no husband and children in the picture?”
“No maternal instincts,” Marcee said, keeping her tone light. “And too many Mr. Wrongs.”
“Those men were fools,” he said.
Her heart warmed at his indignant tone. “You’re very sweet.”
His gaze met hers and her breath caught in her throat. Waves of testosterone rolled off him and over her, stirring her senses. He was so obviously male. So blatantly sexy. So completely desirable.
She dropped her gaze to his lips and time stood still. Though it was commonly understood that the man should make the first move, Marcee hadnever been good at following rules. She laid her palms flat on his chest and gave into temptation. He tasted like champagne and wedding cake, a combination that suddenly seemed wildly erotic. For a second he hesitated and she worried he might push her away. Then his tongue teased the fullness of her lower lip, coaxing her to open to him, sweeping inside when she did.
Her entire body quivered. It was familiar, this flare of heat, the quick rush of hunger, yet at the same time . . . different. When he released her, Marcee’s head was spinning.
“Wow,” was all she could manage.
The dimple in his cheek flashed and her heart skipped a beat. The reception had started off a bit rocky but had definitely picked up. And now, staring into Sam’s hazel eyes, Marcee realized that the best was yet to come.
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