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It's Only Make Believe

Chapter One

 

Michele swore she’d scream if she had to look into one more smiling face or listen to the words, ‘you make such a perfect couple’, one more time. And her feet hurt. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. To make matters worse, the warmth of Brad’s hand on her back sent heat coursing through her body. How had she let them talk her into this?

The exquisitely decorated hall looked like a fairyland. Mother sure went all out this time. Twinkle lights sparkled through gauzy material that draped from the center of the ceiling and cast a glow on Brad’s face. He was so handsome in his tux. She could almost love him. That is, if she were inclined to love anyone.

The guests sat at round tables adorned with a single red rose in three-foot tall vases. Sure looked like they were having a good time while they awaited the announcement of the newlyweds. Michelle inhaled the scent of roses from her bouquet. The red roses that cascaded through the center of the bridal table looked beautiful, one of the few things Brad had insisted on.

Her mother had sure loved that. “Such a romantic gesture,” she had said. Little did her mother know the pact Michele and Brad had made. “Red roses,” he had told her, “not only mean love, they also mean respect. And though we don’t share love we promise mutual respect.” A sweet and surprising comment.

Now their seats awaited them, their places of honor, the happy newlyweds. Ha, happy, Michele felt anything but happy. What she felt was tired, irritable, and just plain sick of this whole charade. If she had the nerve, she’d kick off her shoes and run out of here. But she didn’t and she wouldn’t - couldn’t - embarrass herself or her parents that way. She’d agreed to this charade. So she’d stay here, smile and play the happy bride.

“Almost time to make our grand entrance,” Brad whispered. “Smile.”

Michele pasted a smile on her face and looked up into her new husband’s smoky blue eyes. He caressed her back, making circular motions with his fingers. The tingling sensation burned through her dress. She moved away, but part of her wanted to move closer. Wanted to feel his arms around her. Wanted his lips on hers again even if for only a brief moment, like when he kissed her at the altar after Pastor Bob pronounced them man and wife. Of course, that kiss had been expected. Everyone would have thought it strange if they hadn’t kissed. Something about that brief kiss, though, the way Brad barely touched her lips, sent a ripple of excitement through her even now. One she’d never experienced before.

The microphone crackled. “Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time let’s hear it for Mr. and Mrs. Brad Lawson.” The Deejay’s voice rose to a crescendo and their guests applauded and whistled as Michele and Brad hurried through the hall.

 

***

 

Brad almost felt sorry for Michele. Almost, but not quite. The last thing Michele expected from him was sympathy. Not independent, self assured Michele. But for just a minute there, she looked so uncertain, so stressed. She’d only agreed to this marriage because her family pressured her into it, especially her grandfather. She wouldn’t have accepted his proposition otherwise. The way she fidgeted suggested she regretted going along with this foolhardy marriage and wanted to bolt. Heck, he’d like nothing better than to run away himself. Nothing about this wedding had been his or Michele’s idea.

Well almost nothing. He chose the roses. Why, he wasn’t sure. The thought came to him when their mothers dragged them along to the florist. One of the few decisions they consulted him and Michele about. When Michele’s mother thought his insisting on the roses romantic, he almost laughed aloud. Surely she didn’t believe he and Michele were in love. Even now, Brad didn’t know what made him do it. Maybe he wanted some semblance of honesty about this wedding, and he meant what he told Michele about respect. Besides, he found his bride attractive and if they had to play at being married, he at least wanted respect and honesty between them. He’d settle on respect and friendship for now. Hopefully, Michele didn’t think he’d remain faithful and celibate. Faithful was one thing, but he was human after all, and she was very desirable and sexy. He tugged at his tie, avoiding the sudden urge to stroke Michele’s curly, auburn hair. He liked her natural hairstyle, the way the curls framed her face. Her freshness excited him.

Something told him she wouldn’t object to his fingers in her hair. Not like the girls he usually dated, the swanky socialites, his mother set him up with, who spent hours in beauty shops, with their touch-me-not hairstyles. Not that it mattered - their hair was so stiff you couldn’t run your fingers through it anyway.

The look of confusion in Michele’s eyes contradicted the smile she pasted on her face. Oh it looked genuine enough, but he knew better. Discomfort screamed through her green eyes. He caressed her back, hoping to relax her, but she stiffened beneath his touch and moved away. What he really wanted to do was take her in his arms and feel his lips on hers again. For that one brief moment in church he felt something in her. Had she responded to his kiss? He wasn’t sure. He wondered about his beautiful bride.

Brad guided Michele to the head table, while their guests tapped their silverware against their plates in anticipation of a kiss.

The bridal party stood at their places waiting for the happy couple. How many of them knew the truth about this wedding. The girls’ basic black dresses contrasted the cream of Michele’s ivory satin gown that hugged her small waist and accentuated her height. His wife looked beautiful, innocent, and sexy. Brad wanted to put his arms around her and pull her close. She took her place next to the bridesmaids, and they posed for another picture for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.

 

***

 

Michele’s stomach growled and she wished they’d let her sit down to eat. Brad looked dashing in his ivory colored tux next to his groomsmen in their black tuxedos. She trembled when Brad leaned down and ever so slowly took her in his arms. She stared into his eyes as his mouth met hers. With gentle pressure, his lips skimmed over hers in a whisper of a kiss that held long enough to satisfy their friends and relatives. Long enough to evoke desire in her.

Involuntarily, her arms came up around his neck. Then he released her and held the chair out for her. A feeling of disappointment overwhelmed her when he let her go. What was wrong with her? She’d never reacted to a man like this before. She adjusted her dress and sat down, avoiding his eyes. His hand brushed hers, sending sparks like mini-electrical shocks throughout her body. Darn, this man fascinated her. Michele couldn’t quite figure it out. Her hands trembled. She didn’t like this sudden attraction one bit. What had come over her? She excused herself and hurried to the washroom.

 

***

 

The clanging started again when Michele returned and Brad leaned toward for a kiss. Shouts of standup resounded through the hall. The irresistible urge to kiss Michele didn’t surprise him. He’d wanted to kiss her again since they arrived at the hall. Heck, ever since he kissed her in church. And the guests gave him the perfect excuse. He could hardly hear himself think through the din of noise. When he felt the pressure of her arms go around him something erupted in him like the first licks of flames. Something about her helplessness and those frightened eyes, all of sudden he found himself leaning down kissing her again to the delight of their guests. Just a whisper of a kiss, but her lips begged for so much more.

“Okay you two, save it for later.” Mike, his best man, stood up and raised his glass in a toast.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Michele managed to get through the meal between guests dinging their plates and Brad’s pretentious kisses. Each one became longer and more passionate. Deep, delicious kisses that unsettled and excited her. He played his part to the hilt.

After dinner, she escaped to the restroom, needing to recuperate from Brad’s surprising devotion. He had played his part well, too well. She brushed her fingers across her lips where moments before Brad had planted his most passionate kiss yet. He had ignited a charge in her that began slow and increased with the pressure of his lips. By the time he pulled away her body wanted to explode. Her head swirled and their guests shouted for more. She had no idea Brad kissed that good. This wasn’t part of the deal. Right now, she wanted a moment to herself, needed to regroup. Unfortunately, Ruby, Brad’s assistant and ex-girlfriend came in right behind her.

“Well, well, the happy bride.” Sarcasm and bitterness dripped from Ruby’s voice.

Michele took a step backwards. She didn’t like Ruby, never had. What Brad saw in her, she’d never know. But right now the confrontational attitude of his assistant and former girlfriend annoyed her. She turned away, ignoring Ruby.

Ruby moved closer and swished her long, straw-colored hair. “Just remember, sweetie, you might wear his ring, but it’s only make believe. I’ll always have his heart.” She paused and glared at Michele. “Remember that when he tells you he has to work late or takes a sudden business trip.” She pointed her finger under Michele’s nose and anger flickered in her icy blue eyes. “And then picture him in bed with me.” With that, Ruby turned and strode out of the room, her thin hips swinging sexily.

Michele leaned against the sink and took a deep breath. Her insides turned summersaults, her legs turned to jelly. The ugly sneer on Ruby’s face rattled her. The witch certainly hadn’t pulled any punches. Anger flared in Michele. How dare that woman follow her in here like that? And damn Brad anyhow, that relationship was supposed to be long over. He had promised he’d be faithful. And who the hell invited Ruby to the wedding in the first place. She didn’t remember seeing her name on the guest list.

Mutual respect and faithfulness Brad had said. Honesty. Well that sure didn’t sound like Brad meant to keep his promise, did it? Minutes that seemed like hours passed before Michele composed herself enough to return to her husband and guests. When she rounded the corner of the hall, her gaze sought out Brad. She immediately picked him out.

Him and Ruby.

Michele did a slow burn at the way Brad rested his arm comfortably around Ruby’s shoulders and the way their heads met, in intimate conversation. Ruby threw her head back, laughed, and snuggled into Brad’s chest. Brad looked down at Ruby, their eyes locked and held. Michele backed into the alcove near the doorway. Renewed anger welled up in her. Ruby was flirting with Brad right under her nose. And he sure wasn’t resisting. A tightening around her heart surprised her. Why should she care if Brad strayed?

Because he promised. He’d agreed they wouldn’t embarrass each other with indiscretions. Indiscretions, Ha! Far from being discreet, making out right in plain view. Michele pulled herself together, straightened to her full five foot, eight height and took a deep breath, determined to carry their act through the remainder of the evening. She’d act as if she were madly in love with her new husband. She coughed to announce herself and came out of the shadows. She took Brad’s arm and managed to disengage him from Ruby’s clutches.

 

***

 

Brad almost hated for dinner to end. He enjoyed kissing his new bride and the guests certainly encouraged it. They could hardly take a bite of their food when someone started clanging their plate again. His kisses had changed from a simple brushing of their lips to deeper, more meaningful ones. Michele tensed every time he took her in his arms, but he sensed something else too. She felt the attraction as strongly as he did. His stomach knotted as a surge of need rushed through his body. Maybe this marriage wouldn’t be too bad after all. He stood waiting for her to return from the restroom so they could make their rounds of the guests.

Unfortunately, Ruby came out of the restroom first and snagged him. The woman had a way about her, he’d give her that. She grabbed on to him and started discussing work. Like that was a topic he wanted to talk about on his wedding day. He tried to disentangle himself from her with no success. Not wanting to make a scene, he spoke quietly. “I don’t care to discuss this right now. I told you to put everything on hold until I come back from my honeymoon.”

Ruby threw her head back and laughed. “You don’t really think Edgehurst is going to wait that long do you?”

“He doesn’t have much choice, does he? I’m warning you, Ruby, put him off and I don’t care how you do it.”

Suddenly Michele was at his side, taking his arm in a possessive way. Her action surprised him. It sure didn’t fit her usual behavior. The warmth of her hand felt good on his arm, and he almost laughed aloud at the way she managed to release him from Ruby’s grip. Did he detect a hint of jealousy? Was there something more to his wife’s feelings for him? He had tried several times to move away from Ruby and in one swift movement, Michele accomplished it just like that. And the glare his wife threw Ruby. He almost felt the pain of those daggers himself. Looked like Michele had a temper.

Brad brushed his lips against Michele’s ear and whispered, “I’ll be right back and then we can mingle with our guests.” He disappeared into the men’s room.

 

 

***

 

The rest of the evening, they mingled with their guests, cut the wedding cake, and danced the bridal dance. Things all normal brides and grooms did. But Michele felt anything but normal. Being in Brad’s arms sent shivers of excitement through her. Though she didn’t object to it, the stirring he caused in her and the sudden attraction surprised her. She found herself trembling every time he touched her. What had come over her?

The Deejay picked up the microphone. “Okay all you single women, let’s go, front and center.” Only a few came forward. With a little coaxing from Michele and Brad, he called a few names. “Come on, Lisa, Jenny, don’t be shy.” He went out into the crowd to pull the more hesitant ones forward. The guests laughed, applauded, and shouted out some names themselves.

Finally satisfied that all the single women were gathered on the dance floor, the Deejay took his place. Before Michele turned around, Ruby stepped to the front of the crowd.

“On the count of three.” The deejay’s voice roared. “Ready? One... Two... Three! Michele threw the bouquet. Hearing a scuffle, she turned around to see a group of women fighting over the bouquet. Somehow Ruby came up with it. Michele cringed at the smug look Ruby threw her.

“Okay, single men,” the deejay yelled. “Let’s get all those single men out here. Come on, guys, front and center.”

Someone brought a chair to the center of the hall and Michele sat down for Brad to remove her garter. Music played in the background, but she hardly heard it. Her heart beat so loud she thought everyone in the hall heard it. It almost kept up with the drumbeat of the music. Brad’s eyes captivated her. He stared at her with a look so provocative - she almost leaped from the chair. Then, with a hand so gentle, so teasing, he removed the garter. She sucked in her breath. Wave after wave of electricity spiraled through her body as his hand crept higher up her leg. Heat crept into her cheeks, and she lowered her eyes, afraid to look at him. This couldn’t be happening. How dared her body betray her like this?

Still on his knee in front of her, Brad flung the garter to the waiting bachelors. Then, he stood, took her hand, helped her to her feet, and with one great swoop lifted her into his arms. He carried her from the hall. Guests cheered and followed them to the door. He set her down in the doorway, raised her chin, leaned down, and kissed her. A hard demanding kiss that took her breath away. The kiss drowned out the noise from the crowd. All she heard was the gasp and moan that came from her throat and the beat of her heart.

 

***

 

Taken up with the moment, Brad whisked Michele away from the crowd, not sure what had come over him. One moment he knelt in front of his wife, her long slender leg in his hand. The strip-tease music played in the background and desire inflamed him. Her eyes widened as he seductively removed the garter, desire filled them before she lowered long lashes, trying to hide it. The urge to kiss her became too strong – now he set her down in front of the door, oblivious to the crowd around them. He took her in his arms and kissed her the way he wanted to all evening.

Friends and relatives cheered him on, bringing him back to the present. He took her hand and hurried outside. Michele stumbled against him and he tightened his arm around her. Poor thing sure never expected any of that. Not that he was sorry. Far from it. He’d never enjoyed anything more in his life. He held the car door for her then ran around to the other side.

 

***

Anger replaced the sensual feeling when Michele got into the waiting limousine. “What was all that about?” She tried to keep her voice calm, while her insides threatened to erupt. What was he thinking, carrying on like that? “I know we agreed to act out this charade, but I think you carried it a little too far.”

Brad leaned back in the luxurious leather seat and laughed. “Just play acting, it’s what they expected.” He raised his hand to her face, caressed her cheek with his fingers. “Why not relax and enjoy it, we still have a year of this game and our parents expect an heir.” Lowering his mouth, his lips captured hers, silencing her protests. He moved away, put his arm around her, leaned back, and pulled her close. “Besides, I find you very desirable and you have to admit, I don’t repulse you.”

Michele made a half-hearted attempt to pull away. Repulsive, yeah right, that’s the last thing she found him. In fact the attraction she experienced overwhelmed her. She enjoyed being in his arms, liked his kisses. Giving in, she laid her head on his shoulder and relaxed for the first time in days. She sighed at the sudden contentment that rushed through her.

All too soon, the fence that surrounded the two acres of the beautiful brick mansion, their parents purchased for them, came into view. An electric wrought iron gate opened from a remote by the chauffeur, and they drove through the tree-lined drive. Although the picture of elegance, Michele hadn’t wanted a home like this. She hated it. She’d always dreamed of a long ranch in the country with horses and dogs and eventually children, but most importantly with a man she loved.

With a man who loved her. Would she ever find that man? Could it be Brad? Not that she stood a chance with him. Ruby made that all too clear earlier that evening. Michele pulled away. What was she thinking relaxing like this? She was going to have to bring Ruby up eventually, but how? Could she just ask him outright? He’d certainly been an attentive bridegroom and except for that one occasion, he hadn’t gone near Ruby the rest of the evening. In fact, several times it looked like he avoided her. How to bring it up? Not now surely, at least not within earshot of the chauffer. She closed her eyes and leaned back on the seat. Somehow or other, they’d get through this year.

 

***

 

Brad relished the feel of Michele as she snuggled against him, her head on his shoulder. Play-acting, ha, he didn’t even know what came over him. But he liked it. Whatever caused the sudden attraction was going to make married life all the more pleasant. He stared out the window as they drove past the tree-lined drive and their house came into view. He hated this house, hated everything about it. It was the type of house they both grew up in. But certainly not one he’d have chosen for himself. Why did his parents think he shared their same tastes? Of course, Michele probably liked it, and he did have to compromise. Besides, the amount of time he spent traveling, he may as well live in a hotel room. Suddenly, Michele pulled away. Now what came over her? He had to admit she puzzled him One minute giving in and the next withdrawing. The chauffer pulled into the circular drive in front of the mansion.

He helped Michele out of the car and led her into the house. Once inside he took her into his arms, his body smoldered with desire.

“Not now, Brad, I’m tired and our flight leaves early in the morning.” Michele backed away and turned her head, but not before Brad saw the desire her eyes. “Not that I’d mind missing the flight. I have no desire to go to Cancun.”

Disappointed and frustrated, he released her. He didn’t want to push her, she’d come to him willingly later. He sensed the desire in her, and she probably was tired. It had been a long day. He was tired himself.

He dropped his hands, backed away and went to fix himself a drink. “Would you like a nightcap?”

 

***

 

“No, thank you.” Disappointed, Michele shivered as he moved his warm body away from her. She hurried upstairs to their room, looked around, and found the décor not to her liking. Too tired to worry about it now, she got out of her dress, slipped into bed, fluffed up the pillow and fell instantly asleep.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Michele woke before the alarm. Brad lay on the far side of the king-size-bed, his muscular arms and chest uncovered and bare. She longed to reach out to smooth the disarray of his wavy black hair, mussed from what looked like a restless night. It begged her to run her fingers through it. She wanted to touch his cheek, run her fingers across his lips. Lips that had tantalized hers from the slightest pressure to those hard demanding kisses. Who was this man? What made him tick?

She thought back to when they were children.

Remembered him, playful and teasing. Now he moved in different circles than her, with a much faster crowd. She smiled, remembering the crush she had on him - a silly school-girl crush - which ended when he went to high school. After that she seldom saw him, having her own group of friends. So how, she wondered, as she lay next to him, had she allowed them to talk her into marrying him?

Michele had gone to the best schools, the most expensive summer camps and took the usual tour of Europe. She had conformed, always doing what her parents expected. At least she had until she opened her Interior Design business. Her parents, mostly her mother, had tried to arrange her life. Mother didn’t like the idea that her daughter started her own business, no matter how successful. After all, “Markey” women got married and had families, not careers. Her parents had expected her to marry the right man and for years she dated men they expected her to date. But she ignored all the prospects and had gotten away with it until they suggested she marry Brad. More of a demand than a suggestion.

She had laughed at the idea. She and Brad had nothing in common. Yet somehow, all of a sudden their parents managed to bring them together at various events. Brad appeared polite but disinterested, which was fine with her. She had no desire to marry anyone. Her career had just gotten underway.

Since their parents and grandparents had grown up together, they had always assumed she and Brad would marry. And pressure mounted from them until suddenly she and Brad found themselves thrown together and left alone to “get to know each other better.” Brad became an attentive date. Six months later, their parents laid out their plan. In order to inherit the vast fortunes each family had amassed, Brad and Michele had to marry. “To keep the money in the family, so to speak,” Brad’s grandfather said.

Brad’s grandfather usually intimidated Michele, but not this time. This time she couldn’t help it. She laughed at him. Loud and hard. At least, she laughed until she realized her grandparents and parents agreed with him and seriously expected the union. A little over a year ago, Brad approached her with a proposition of his own.

“I’m getting a lot of pressure about this marriage thing,” he said. “So, what I’m proposing,” he raised his hand to silence her protest, “is we marry for one year to satisfy them and to save the family business. After the year we can get a divorce. We’ll say we gave it our best shot and it didn’t work out.”

Was he crazy? “A sham marriage, somehow that’s too dishonest.” Besides, Michele didn’t care about the money. She had her career and with time she’d make it a success.

“Just give it some thought.”

“The idea’s insane, what’s to think about?” But something in his eyes made her agree to at least think about it. In a few days she’d tell him to take a hike. The whole idea of marriage appalled her.

Her parents and grandparents continued to pressure her. She hadn’t realized how important it was to them. They seemed to think she and Brad made the perfect couple and a union between them benefited the company. Always the company.

“We built this business up from scratch. I’d sure hate to lose it to a stranger.” Grandpa told her

“But it won’t go to a stranger, Grandpa – it’ll go to Brad.”

“No, it’ll all be lost. Your father and I worked too hard to let that happen. And you have no interest in working there so it’ll dissolve. If you marry Brad, you’ll be part owner.”

“But won’t I still be part owner even if I don’t marry him. I mean won’t I hold fifty percent of the stock?” Michele argued with him.

“No, the agreement was to remain part owner you either had to work at the company or marry into it. There’s a clause that in order to keep the company going both families have to own it jointly. Otherwise we dissolve it. Jacobson will see to it.”

“What does Mr. Jacobson have to do with it?”

“More than you know. He’ll take over the business if you and Brad don’t work in it or marry.”

“Change it. Surely it isn’t ironclad.”

Grandpa shook his head. “I’m afraid it is.”

That absolutely made no sense to her. Granted, she wasn’t a lawyer, but surely if the owners could change anything they wanted. Something seemed awfully fishy about this whole deal.

“Okay, then I’ll work there. I’m just not ready to get married. Especially to a man I don’t love. Who doesn’t love me.”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t like it. Besides, you have your own business.” Grandpa wasn’t someone who took no for an answer. Besides he’d always been her confidante, even when she was very young, she went to him with her problems, and he always helped solve them. He’d always been there for her when everyone else was too busy. How could she refuse him now? The very look in his blue-green eyes pleaded with her. Somehow this meant the world to him. But marriage, Michele thought, that was a bit much to ask.

“But, Grandpa, marriage is supposed to be special. I’m not ready. And I want to marry someone I love.” Michele tried one last argument.

“Love is highly over-rated, my dear. Friendship – that’s what counts. And you and Brad grew up together, you’ve been friends forever.”

Yeah right, friends. She didn’t even know Brad anymore. It had been ages since they hung out together. Sure he seemed attentive on their dates and treated her well, but his reputation as a lady’s man – wasn’t that enough to make her refuse?

“You’ll see, Michele. Look at your grandmother and me. And your parents. Do you think we could have made such a success of our marriage if we hadn’t been best friends?”

“Ah, but see, Grandpa, Brad and I aren’t best friends. Until lately we hadn’t seen each other in years. I hardly know him anymore.”

“But you knew each other from way back. Don’t you remember how you used to tag along after him? You followed him around like a little puppy dog?”

Michele smiled at the memory. Oh yeah she had followed Brad, even had that horrible crush on him, but he hadn’t even given her the time of day. Michele shook her head. She couldn’t marry a man she knew nothing about?

Her grandfather didn’t quit – he had an answer for every argument. Eventually she ran out of reasons. She couldn’t refuse him, she loved him too much and this seemed so important to him. Arguing was senseless Never being one for confrontation, she finally she gave in, as usual, and did what they expected. After all Brad had said only for a year. She supposed she could handle a year with him. Besides, he traveled a lot for business, chances were they wouldn’t have to spend all that much time together.

“Okay, I agree to your proposition but on one condition,” she had told Brad later, “that you promised to remain faithful.”

“I will if you will.” Brad shook her hand and just like that they became engaged. A handshake, no kiss, no romantic gestures – what a deal. He pulled a ring out of his pocket. The size of it almost knocked her socks off. A one carat emerald cut solitaire. The sparkle almost blinded her.

How did he know she’d agree to this charade? She almost changed her mind and gave it back, but something stopped her.

“I know this looks presumptuous of me,” he said as if he read her mind. “But honest it wasn’t my idea. My parents insisted I buy it. Somehow they knew you wouldn’t refuse. If you don’t like it we can exchange it for something more to your liking.”

She stared at the ring on her hand. Like it, she’d have to be a fool not to. The very simplicity of it appealed to her. And the size, well that could have been smaller. She’d never been one for expensive jewelry. Michele looked at the ring. Next to it was a plain gold wedding band. Anything more would have taken away from the beauty of the diamond. She closed her eyes.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

Movement in bed brought Michele back to reality. She crawled out of bed, careful not to wake Brad, and went to take a shower. How she’d get through this next week was beyond her, let alone a whole year. She wanted to get back to her business, “The Designer’s Edge”. She stood in the shower letting the water rush over her body when noise came from the other room. She turned off the water, grabbed a towel, and wrapped it around her. Brad knocked and opened the door without waiting for a response. He greeted her with an enticing grin.

“Morning, Star-shine, sleep well?” He reached out and rubbed her wet head.

Michele tried to side-step him. She moved away, dodged his hand. The attraction between them exploded inside her. Her stomach muscles tightened, causing a fluttering and rising tension. She tried to move past him, but he pulled her close. His lips hovered over hers, smoky eyes filled with desire. She turned away before his lips met hers, and they landed on her cheek. He held her in his arms while his lips moved from her cheek to nuzzle her neck. Flickers of electricity jolted her body. Her heart throbbed so loud he had to hear it. Moving his lips to her mouth, they captured and held, starting out fierce, demanding, and then easing into tenderness.

She kissed him back, her mouth and body betraying her, giving in to their desires. The towel fell away. His hands caressed her bare skin creating waves of fiery passion in her. Her naked body thrust itself against him, as if it belonged there. Moans escaped from deep within her throat.

Something in the back of her mind told her to stop, but she ignored it, wanting only to be loved by this man. This man she grew up with, yet knew nothing about. His hands moved freely over her body, exploring. Strange sensations that she never experienced before trembled through her. She wrapped her arms around him tighter, pulling him closer, wanting to become part of him. He backed her into the bedroom, holding her close, kissing her, driving her wild with desire. They reached the bed. He eased her down and took her, mumbling words she couldn’t quite hear.

Afterwards, he moved to her side, still holding her close. An overwhelming feeling of comfort, security, and satisfaction filled her before the realization of what just happened hit her. Afraid to open her eyes, she lay still as his hand caressed and soothed her.

 

***

 

Brad relished the way her skin felt. Appreciated the way she reacted to his touch. Even now she shivered, her body trembled. The softness of her skin was like fine silk under his hand. Her body molded into him. He couldn’t remember desiring a woman this much.

Suddenly she stiffened. Tension replaced her relaxed body as she lay next to him. Why the sudden change?

“Michele?” His soft seductive voice questioned, while his lips feathered across her cheek.

“Michele.” Brad leaned over her, resting his head on his hand. “Open your eyes. Look at me.” He needed to know what caused the sudden change. Color slipped into her face. She’s embarrassed. His stubborn, temperamental wife was embarrassed. He almost laughed. Instead he lay back and closed his eyes, giving her a minute to compose herself. Never in his life had he met anyone like her. Obviously under that confident exterior was an unexpectedly shy woman when it came to the bedroom. Or was it just with him?

 

***

 

Michele shook her head, her face flamed, her body stiffened.

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