An Excerpt From 22 | Third Time’s The Charm

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“Hey Ana…yeah, still not at my best…I think it’s a bug or something that’s going around…yes, yes I sure will…ok…thank you…yes, I’ll see you tomorrow night…ok, bye.”

I pulled the cordless phone from my ear and pressed OFF. Waited a few seconds. Bit my lip.

Staring at the keypad, I pressed REDIAL.

Only this time, I asked the Operator to transfer me to Villa 1616.

I got voicemail.

With a calm voice, I asked Dean to meet me at Red Fish Grill at 5PM.

Which left me with a whole three hours to waste.

Bypassing the tub for the shower, I let the water beat me down until it ran cold. Ignoring my towel, I left the bathroom and stretched across my bed to air-dry while watching reruns of Girlfriends  on Centric.

At 5PM, I entered my closet and snatched a sea-green, strapless romper off a hanger. After ironing out a few wrinkles, I slipped it on and returned to the bathroom to apply enough makeup to look pretty but not too much to have Dean thinking that I cared…even though his interest in me still mattered. A little.

Noting the time, I piled my hair on top of my head in a twisted top knot and slipped a silver hoop into each pierced ear. A few sprays of perfume later, I left my bedroom with my wedge heels and straw bag in hand.

Determined to get some answers.

At ten ‘til six, I was sipping on my second glass of Cabernet and wondering if I’d made another mistake.

But I didn’t have time to think about it too much because Dean finally appeared. Given we hadn’t spoken since I left his villa, I figured he’d bypass the chair next to me and opt to sit across the table, which he did. His business attire was incredibly sexy but I did my best to ignore that and the fact that he was wearing the shades I’d sold him when we first met.

“Bosses are still in town,” he said, explaining his formal appearance. “I had meetings all day. Sorry I wasn’t able to return your call sooner and let you know I’d be late. I tried to call you on my way here, but your phone was off. Did you get my message?”

I forced my eyes over to the pretty palm trees and tranquil waters. “No. But thank you for coming.”

“Of course. I’m really glad you called.”

I faced him, my expression  blank.

He removed his shades and stared at me, a soft smile on his gorgeous face.  “You look beautiful.”

“Thanks,” I replied, flatly. “But I don’t need your compliments. I need to understand.”

Nodding, he settled back in his chair and released a long breath before he told me everything Lexi had already confessed, but in more explicit detail.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“I delight in hedonism,” he finally said, concluding the summation of his sordid lifestyle.

I frowned. “You’re a patron of the sex industry.”

He leaned over the table and placed his hands over mine, searching my eyes. “It’s what I do…what I’ve done, yes. But it doesn’t define me.”

I snatched my hands away and stopped the server to ask for the check.

“Can we just start over?” he asked after the woman placed the bill face down on the table.

Rubbing my forehead, I turned my gaze to my glass of wine. I should have asked for a refill.

“Please?” he begged, grabbing my hand and moving it from my head to his lips, sending shock waves through my entire body. “Third time’s the charm.”

I watched as he moved from his chair to sit in the chair next to me and allowed him to kiss his way up to my bare shoulder. Before he could attack my neck, I shifted away from him, unable to conceal the pleasure I felt from his touch.

“Just give me tonight,” he whispered, stroking my cheek. “Give me another chance and get to know me. And then whatever you decide about where we go from here, I’ll accept it. Deal?”

I didn’t agree.

But I didn’t disagree either.

Satisfied, he relaxed against the back of his chair and finally took in the surroundings. “Great idea to get a table out here. It’s a perfect evening.”

I pursed my lips.

He winked at me.

I shook my head, trying desperately to clear it and shake off the crippling effect that his presence had on my ability to exercise common sense. “What are you doing?”

“Enjoying what I hope will not be our last night together,” he replied, dropping two twenty dollar bills on the table before standing and helping me to my feet. “I know you may not want to believe it right now, but you can trust me.”

“Trust you,” I asked, incredulous. “A man who has whores on speed-dial?”

“A man who used  to have whores on speed-dial.”

I rolled my eyes. “Since when?”

He slipped his sunglasses on and grinned. “Since I bought these shades.”

I stared at my reflection in his lenses.

And followed him out of the restaurant.

22 Final Cover
22 by Rae Lamar

Having suffered the loss of her fiance, cushy job and luxury Midtown Atlanta condo at the height of the U.S. recession, Nina Drake packed up and left the ruins behind to start anew in sunny South Florida.

With no life and no friends, Nina settles in and resigns herself to the simple existence of a gift shop attendant where she passively observes the scores of colorful clientele living in the five-star resort where she works. After a few random run-ins with a peculiar resident, Nina’s boredom gives way to curiosity and she blindly steps out of her dull routine into someone else’s shoes…and the arms of an irresistible stranger. But it’s only a matter of days before Nina goes from dreaming of romantic possibilities to realizing that this tawdry hookup can never evolve into something real…

In spite of Nina’s aversion to his sordid past, Dean Whitmore is determined to make her believe that his intentions are as real as their instant connection. And the fact that he only has a few weeks to prove it to her before life leads them in different directions just makes the challenge that much more appealing…

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