Tanya glanced over her shoulder in the direction Julie was staring, then turned back and kicked Julie’s shin under the table. “Close your mouth,” she hissed, tapping her chin with the back of her fingers for emphasis. “You look ridiculous.”
Julie snapped her mouth shut and swallowed, disgusted with herself. She was all but drooling, for heaven’s sake. Had it really been so long since she’d been paid any attention? She smoothed her long brunette hair with a trembling hand and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. He was just a man. A good-looking one, but just a man. A man she’d like to eat for breakfast…
“Hello, ladies,” the man said, smiling down on them. His voice was deep, resonant and luscious. “My name is Stephen. And you are?”
“Marie,” Tanya said, delivering another kick under the table. “I’m Marie, and my friend is Anne.”
Julie and Tanya had agreed to use only their middle names if they met anyone promising. “There’ll be no complications that way,” Tanya had assured her. “You can have a one-night stand if you want, and the next day it’ll be as if it never happened. No way for the guy to track you down and cause an embarrassing incident.”
“Hi, Marie,” Stephen said, shaking Tanya’s hand. Then he took Julie’s hand in both of his. “Pleased to meet you, Anne.”
Julie tried to stifle a gasp. Stephen’s hands were warm, comforting, and yet somehow erotic. His touch shot a lightning bolt of desire straight to her groin. She jerked her hand from his grasp and shook her head, puzzled. Was she really so desperate after a few years of celibacy? Or was there something between them, some instant connection?
“Won’t you have a seat?” Tanya said.
Julie tucked her legs under her chair to avoid the third kick she knew was coming.
“Yes, please do join us,” Julie added. She needed to get her mind back on track and remember her manners if she didn’t want to lose the opportunity to spend some time with the best-looking guy in the place.
“Thanks, I’d like that,” Stephen said, and dropped into a chair between the two of them. Julie shivered as she caught a whiff of his spicy aftershave. He smelled like heaven.
“Why don’t you two get to know each other?” Tanya said with a wave of her bangled arm. “I have to visit the little girls’ room and powder my nose.” She rose and left the table, winking at Julie when Stephen wasn’t looking. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Julie groaned. What wouldn’t Tanya do? She turned to Stephen. “So, Stephen…um…are you from around here?”
“Yup, I am.” He grinned at her and her heart pounded. “You?”
“Yes. No. Well, I’m from around here, but not right here. I live…over there.” She pointed west and floundered to a stop as warmth crept up her cheeks. Lord, she was babbling like a fool. “Would you…um…like a drink?”
He shook his head. “I’ve had one and I’m not ready for another. What I’d really like now is to dance with you. Shall we?” He gestured to the crowded dance floor.
Julie looked at the bar patrons moving to the music. The band was playing a fast-paced eighties disco number, and the couples were so far apart, it was hard to tell who was dancing with whom. “Sure,” she said. “Let’s dance.” It seemed harmless enough—safer than more alcohol. She was already making an idiot of herself.
She let Stephen take her hand, steeling herself to avoid reacting to his touch, and he led her out onto the dance floor.
No sooner had they reached a small open spot than the band began to play a slow, sensual love song. Stephen opened his arms and waited for her to step into them, a sexy smile on his handsome face.
Julie was stuck. She couldn’t very well back out of their dance now, after she’d accepted his invitation. That would be rude. She stepped closer, and he pulled her to him, moving in time to the music. She mirrored his moves. He was a fabulous dancer, no question about that.
Her resolve to maintain distance between them weakened, and she allowed her head to rest on his shoulder. He smelled wonderful. His warm, hard body, pressed against hers, felt better than anything she’d ever experienced, his strong arms holding her just tightly enough. He knew how to move, how to hold her, how much pressure to exert to lead her where he wanted her to go. They swayed to the music together, in sync, one. The rest of the world faded away.
Damn. Julie knew she was lost.
Excerpted from "Practical Passion" by Elizabeth Delisi. Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth Delisi. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.