Maybe there really was some of the old Stacey left in her after all.
Not until Stacey was settled in first class aboard the cross-country flight did she allow herself to really think about what she was doing. After making the reservations, she’d purposely blocked any further thought on the trip, barring the bare necessities. She was afraid that if she did, her misgivings would gain purchase once again and she’d end up cancelling.
Now that she was actually in the air and there was no backing out, Stacey released the mental tethers and let her thoughts run free. She was going to see Lina again!
She wasn’t sure what to expect. It had been five years, and during that time, she’d shut Lina out along with everyone else. Despite the promising two-hour chat, the actual face time might be riddled with periods of awkward silence or worse.
Stacey took a deep breath and refused to think about that. She wasn’t going to dwell on negative possibilities. If this didn’t go well, then it didn’t, and she’d be no worse off. And if it did, then she would have a real friend again.
Either way, it would be good to see Lina; she had missed her.
Anticipation built with each passing hour. Real, honest-to-God excitement she hadn’t felt for a long time. And, she thought naughtily, if even half of what Lina told her was true, this visit would provide her with enough source material for her next three novels, at least. Lord knew she needed it. She’d been in an unproductive, depressed slump for the last several weeks, and her agent was not happy.
On Wednesday afternoon, Stacey disembarked from her flight, happy for once to be the first one off the plane. The squeal that greeted her was both familiar and welcome. The moment she’d cleared the secure area, she was completely engulfed by arms and an unruly mass of multi-hued golden hair as a soft cheek pressed close against hers. Stacey had forgotten just how good Lina’s fierce hugs felt, and happily returned the embrace.
Stacey refused to let a single tear fall, but Lina had no such qualms. “Oh, Stacey, I am so glad to see you!” Lina murmured. “I missed you so much.”
That was why Stacey had given in. Because with Lina there was no sympathy, no pity, no sorrow. Just genuine happiness, and it was contagious. Stacey allowed a little of that much-needed sunshine to seep into her and warm her too-cold heart.
“Lina,” a warm male voice rumbled in amusement as a shadow fell over them. “Let her breathe, baby.”
That voice, thought Stacey. It was deep and low, a little rough, and instantly conjured images of hot, sweaty sex.
Lina backed off, smiling apologetically and wiping away some of the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. “Sorry, Stace.”
Stacey looked up at the towering source of the shadow and gaped. That body matched the voice down to the tiniest detail. Over six feet of hardened muscle barely concealed by well-worn, snug blue jeans that left little to the imagination (though Stacey had to admit, even she would be hard-pressed to imagine something better than that), a white T-shirt stretched across a broad, muscular chest, and a black leather jacket slung casually over one shoulder. Long, shoulder length black hair. Mirrored black shades hiding what Lina had told her were ice-blue eyes. Gleaming white teeth now curved in one of the sexiest male grins she’d ever seen.
A large, work-roughened hand extended out to her. “Nice to meet you, Stacey. I’m Kyle.”
Stacey had to kick-start her brain in order to place her hand in his. His grip was warm and firm, yet surprisingly gentle. Beside her, Lina giggled. “Told you,” she said softly.
“Oh, honey,” Stacey said to her, her expression a mix of awe and amusement. “You weren’t kidding.” Her eyes raked him over from top to bottom once again, and saw the corner of his mouth quirk knowingly. This bad boy knew exactly what kind of effect he had on women.
“I think I just found the cover model for my next piece.”
Words started flowing through Stacey’s mind, exact phrases she would be pounding into her laptop at the first opportunity. Vivid descriptions of her next sexy male character, who looked, sounded, and smelled suspiciously like Lina’s husband.
“I’m guessing you don’t write for a cycle mag,” Kyle commented, shooting a sideways glance toward his wife.
“Not exactly,” Stacey chuckled.
“Stacey is Salienne Dulcette, Kyle,” Lina told him quietly, lowering her voice. When his expression didn’t change, she added, “She’s the one who writes the first-editions I read in bed at night.”
Jet black eyebrows rose above the mirrored shades as Lina’s hint registered. Kyle placed one hand on each armrest of her wheelchair and leaned in close. Stacey felt Kyle’s warm breath against her skin and tried to control the palpitations in her chest. This guy was pure, unadulterated, walking sex.