Stacey Lynn Rhodes

Immerse Yourself in the Magic of Love...

Reader Advisory: This book was previously released as a short story. It has been considerably expanded and revised. This book is part of a series because of theme only. It is a fully stand-alone story.

An exclusive excerpt...

On a hunch, and not above a little snooping, Adam straightened suddenly as if he’d just remembered something. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he tapped aimlessly on it for a few moments. “Shoot. Hey, do you mind if I use your computer to check my email?”

“Sure.” Her brow quirked quizzically, but she didn’t ask for details, for which Adam was profoundly grateful, since he wasn’t sure he could come up with a plausible reason for needing to do it right then. He hoped she wouldn’t ask what was wrong with his smartphone. He didn’t want to actually lie to her.

Tori led him into a bedroom she'd set up as an office--he noticed a laptop as well as a desktop. She powered up the desktop, entering several layers of passwords he didn’t bother trying to catch, and opened the web browser. “Here you go.”

“I’ll be just a few minutes. Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.”

“I’ll cleanup from dinner while you’re doing that.” Tori turned to walk out of the door,but not before Adam noticed her gaze being drawn to a stack of inboxes. He went ahead and accessed his email, waiting for the sound of dishes and water running in the kitchen before he dared to look at the organisers.

Without touching them, he could tell most were just bills and apparently some work-related paperwork. But the top level held three notebooks, the old-fashioned black and white kind with a space on the cover for a title. The top one was titled in neat print:

Summer Sabbatical Objective One—Best Shape of My Life

Bingo. With growing excitement, he bypassed that one—he was probably already privy to everything in there anyway—and carefully picked up the other two.

Summer Sabbatical Objective Two—Best Sex of My Life

Summer Sabbatical Objective Three—Most Fun of My Life

Oh. Oh! Adam grinned and just barely stifled a laugh as he read number two. No wonder Tori flipped out every time he mentioned helping her meet her goals.

Oh yes, I’ll be helping you with that one, too. The trifecta. Perfect.

Sounds of dishes being done still rang from the kitchen, but Adam knew his time was getting short. He quickly opened number two, and began to read.

A few minutes later, he closed the book, not caring at that moment whether she caught him at it or not. He mechanically replaced the notebooks in their original spot and closed down his email. He was walking towards the door just as Tori came back in.

“Hi. Are you all finished? I put on some decaf.”

Adam managed a smile. Or something like one anyway. “Can I take a rain check? I need to get going.”

Tori looked disappointed and a little concerned as she stepped closer. “Anything wrong? Did you get some bad news?”

“No, nothing like that. Something unexpected just came up.” It had been unexpected all right. “I’ll see you at the gym tomorrow. Okay?” Pressing a light kiss to her cheek, he made his escape.

As he descended the stairs from her apartment in the cool night air, he felt his shock attempting to morph into anger. He shut that emotion down, got into his car and headed home on autopilot, purposely not thinking about what he had seen until he was home.

It’s like that old sayingEavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves. Boy, did I get hit by the payback’s-a-bitch fairy.

He exhaled heavily as he let himself in then tossed his keys onto the hall with a clink and a thud. Deciding against a drink, he at last settled on his couch. Only then did he let the scene replay itself, how he’d needed to leave Tori’s right then, in order to process what he’d read—a very cold-blooded plan for seduction.

Of which he was the object. Pun intended.

It had all been neatly laid out, how she had decided after meeting Adam that he would fit the bill, her wishing that things would progress faster—after all, sex must be had before September!—and the final extra little detail that had really thrown him.

This—their ‘relationship’—was a means to an end. And when the sex finally happened, the end is exactly what it would be.

To a ‘no-strings holiday affair’.

It was bizarre being on the other end of sex for sex’s sake. Adam gave a humourless little laugh at the irony of it all. He’d been taking it slow because he thought he’d found in Tori a woman he could develop something long term with. And with her being older and more mature than his usual dates, he’d assumed she would be receptive to the slower pacing and a possible commitment.

In the meantime, she’d been sizing him up for a summer fling.

Adam rolled his eyes heavenward.What the hell kind of twisted karma was that?

He briefly considered just going with the flow and giving her exactly what she wanted—what just about any other twenty-something guy would happily go along with—a no-strings affair, NSA to use personal ad-speak. That, to him, felt about as impersonal and tawdry as a personal ad would. As that pettiness occurred to him, Adam was already shaking his head, trying to banish the foul thought. Yuck. No thanks. He couldn’t pull a wham, bam, thank you ma’am on his quirky, sweet Tori. Even if that’s what she had in her head that she wanted.

It just didn’t make sense to him.Why the hell would Tori be on the prowl for a one-off? She was such a sweetheart. Classy, funny, smart…

The wave of tenderness that hit him at the reminder of his original assessment of her had a clarifying effect.Something had been nagging him about his discovery ever since he’d read the journal, or whatever it was called. The seemingly heartless and clinical approach to the very personal objective.

He seized onto the word ‘clinical’. Maybe that was just how she broke things down. She was a scientist. Perhaps she thought she could plan best when the emotional and subjective qualifiers were removed. Adam thought about his own background in science. He never would have thought about applying the scientific method to something so far removed—in his mind—from the sterility of an experiment.

But now that he’d thought of it, Adam would bet Tori would.

He had to get a look at the other two notebooks. If they also read as matter-of-factly as an English translation of foreign assembly instructions, then he would know for sure.

In the meantime, he needed to decide how to handle Tori’s need to rush to the finish line.

Adam smiled a little as he rose to go find a sheet of paper and a pen to do a little

planning of his own.

One thing he wouldn’t do was have sex with her before the end of summer. No matter how hard she tried.

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