READ CHAPTER ONE
“What did you say?” Linda Clayton jolted away from Philip Hodgen. This might be their first date, but if he said what she thought he’d said, this would be their last one too.
“Well . . .” Philip scanned the people clustered around him. Someone from another group at the party let out a loud chuckle. No one’s head turned from the drama unfolding. A hushed sense of anticipation fell over the onlookers. “I’m planning on starting a family in the next year or two.”
“Not with me you’re not.” Linda shook her head in shock, and her hip hit a chrome table. She set down her empty glass. The crisp taste of her mixed drink still tickled her taste buds, but the unpleasantness of the situation turned her stomach.
The serious expression on his face stumped her. Could he be the same flirtatious guy she met a few days ago at the office? The other women at her work warned her. With his dark hair and killer smile, he’d only be interested in some rowdy fun.
Now standing here staring at him, she wondered why she’d gotten involved with him at all. The constant complaining about driving across town to pick her up with the party being located a few blocks from his house should have alerted her to his true character.
After arriving at his neighbor’s house, he hung out with his friends. Half the time he didn’t even bother to introduce her as he paraded her around the room. Now, the overbearing heel thought it was a forgone conclusion of her delivering his baby.
He straightened his shoulders and crossed his arms over his chest. “And why not?”
Linda rested her hands briefly on her hips, but realizing the defensive stance, she dropped them by her side. “I have two grown children and a grandchild. I’m past that stage of life.”
“But you’re still young enough to have more children, aren’t you?” Philip continued his argument like his desires would sway her into changing her mind.
Irked by his arrogance, Linda tightened her hands into fists and glanced at the interested faces in the group. “Yes, but I don’t want to.”
“But you’re already a mother. It’d be a snap for you.”
“Are you joking?” She didn’t know what he considered his job as a father to entail, but said, “Being a parent is hard work.”
A frown marred his face, and his dark gaze shot poisonous spears at her for rebelling against his wishes. She stepped back, amazed at how quickly his sexy attitude could change into one of malice.
“Oh, but I think it’s wonderful Philip wants to be a father.” The busty brunette next to him slid her hands around Philip’s forearm. “So many men today aren’t interested in having children. They just like to party, and then when a new girl comes along, they dump you.”
Philip blinked and turned with a smile to the brunette. He tugged his arm closer to his side and squeezed the girl’s hand against his chest. “Why, thank you, Annette. I’m glad someone appreciates my desire to bear children.”
He shifted his stance, snubbed Linda, and offered the brunette his full attention. “Maybe I asked the wrong girl to the party.”
A high-pitched giggle broke from the busty brunette. She stroked her hands over Philip’s chest, fawning over him with her praise.
“Yes, you did,” Linda whispered. She couldn’t believe the stupidity of the girl or the audacity of the man. He cared nothing about having a loving wife. His ego fed his urge to father a child. Too bad she’d booked him on a Caribbean cruise. With his cold heart, he should’ve tried an arctic adventure with a polar bear.
But if the job of being a breeding cow excited Annette, she could apply. Linda beat a fast retreat and walked away from the disbanding group. The plush taupe carpet cushioned her hurried pace. Her gaze fell on the ultramodern furnishings. White and gray appeared from every corner of the room creating a sterile, cold environment in a high-priced, ritzy neighborhood.
A fish out of water. The phrase popped into Linda’s head. She wondered how she’d managed to entangle herself in such a stupid situation. Not only had she agreed to go out with a man who turned out to be a jerk, but also she was stranded at a party where she didn’t know anyone to ask to drive her home.
“Gosh, Mom, that guy is a total loser. Why would you want to become involved with him?” Her son’s words echoed through her head. Josh warned her about Philip moments after he arrived at their door.
His assessment of her potential boyfriend fell on deaf ears. With Josh’s father, Tom, dead almost a year, she needed to start a new life, which included dating, again. She’d logged her son’s opinion away as irrelevant because she believed he resented her stepping out with a man other than his father.
And how could she know Philip would be a colossal dud?
She’d only dated one man in her life. Tom Clayton waltzed into her life at eighteen and saved her from a dull existence. After three days in her one-horse hometown, he’d convinced her to run away to Dallas with him to find their fortune.
Yes, they didn’t have much money. But no one called her a slut like the girls in high school did. She was also away from her father. He’d taken her wages to support his drinking, a habit that had caused many verbal rows—and a few wicked bruises—between the two of them.
As a couple, she and Tom had worked hard to succeed. Even the rough crowd at the diner where she worked as a waitress respected her enough to give her decent tips. Once they were married, she alone had managed to cover their bills while Tom built his clientele for his auto shop. The hard days taxed her energy, but the nights transformed her life. Tom, a considerate lover early in their marriage, fed her desires and excited her with his nightly sessions of seduction. Together, they’d managed to carve out a good life. They bought a nice home, raised two wonderful children, and managed to build a respectable business—until Tom got sick.
She dug her hand into her pocket and caressed her cell phone. Silently, she wished she could break away from the monotonous life and see the world she’d only read about in the travel brochures at work.
The unlikelihood of her being able to visit foreign places hit her. She remembered her son’s study trip to the library. Hopefully, he’d be done and could come pick her up soon. Then she could remember this date as nothing more than a bad April fool’s joke.
* * * *
Vaughn Reagan popped a wintergreen breath mint into his mouth before he followed Linda across the room. He’d stood a short earshot away from her when she’d told off Philip. Not a fan of the man either, Vaughn enjoyed seeing the sexy redhead put him in his place, and it also piqued his interest in the lady.
He smiled. The soft sway of her hips rocked her red skirt over the back of her thighs, and he led his gaze down the long length of her legs to her black spike heels. Making the return journey, he caught the gentle curves of her hourglass figure outlined by her fluffy black sweater. Her auburn hair sparked his awareness. He’d always been a sucker for a redhead.
She stopped by the sliding glass door. After a quick survey of the room, she opened the partition and ducked out of the house without a backward glance.
Vaughn paused and wondered briefly whether to follow her outside. Philip’s overbearing attitude didn’t appear to faze her. Strong and determined, she faced his assumptions of her having his baby head-on. But now with the fight finished, she could be hiding her pain and require sometime alone.
Or she could have another objective in mind?
Her parting words didn’t indicate bruised feelings, so he strolled to the door to see if she’d talk to him. He tugged it open and stepped outside. A light, chilly breeze hit him in the face. Early April in north Texas required a light jacket after dark. He wondered if he could help keep Linda warm and searched the area for her sexy silhouette.
Standing by the edge of the concrete patio, she stood staring out over the backyard. The wrought iron furniture blocked his path to her, so he maneuvered around a table and chairs to her side.
“Damn it, why can’t he ever be home when I need him?” She turned and glared at Vaughn. “Who are you, and what do you want? I’m telling you, I’m not in the mood to put up with anything at the moment.”
The light streaming through the patio doors showed the angry set of her mouth and the heated look in her eyes. The red flush of her face displayed her irritation. He wondered if it’d deepen to the same crimson shade when she was excited. A faint light flashed. She snapped her cell phone shut indicating she’d been trying to call someone.
Not surprised by her reaction to him interrupting her, Vaughn raised his hands to show her he meant no harm. “Can’t say I blame you with the way Philip treated you. He can be a real prick at times, especially if you’re balking at his current pet project.”
“And exactly why does he hanker for a wife and a child?” She pointed her cell phone at Vaughn’s chest. “Because I’ll tell you, marrying a woman just to produce kids is a really bad idea.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.” Vaughn stepped forward and held out his hand. He craved her touch and the sensation of the fast beat of her pulse against his fingers. “By the way, I’m Vaughn Reagan. Philip introduced us at the start of the evening.”
Her forehead wrinkled, and she tilted her head slightly to the right.
“I’m the computer nerd who works at home and never gets out.” Vaughn added Philip’s earlier description.
“Oh, yeah, shows you what a total idiot he is.” She shifted her phone to her other hand.
She closed her cold fingers around his, and their palms touched briefly. The image of her hand stroking other parts of his body teased his mind with erotic possibilities. He released his grip and reminded himself to take it slow. Six months marked a long enough dry spell to suffer without a date.
“My son is working on his degree in computer science,” she added and slipped her hand from his. “And even though he doesn’t travel much, he’s brilliant. He surfs the Net and learns all sorts of useful facts. Knows more about the world than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Yes, well, the Web can be a lonely place. Chat rooms and cybersex don’t provide much of a physical connection.” His words registered. At the same time, she jerked back with a shocked look on her face. “I mean . . .”
She shook her head, her full lips quirking into a grin. “I know what you mean.” Her gaze shifted to the people still inside the house. “But sometimes I think companionship is overrated.”
“No, there are jerks everywhere.” He crowded closer and pointed to her phone. “But, I can’t blame you for wanting to leave. Bill and Karen are nice neighbors, but some of their friends are less than polite.”
“So you live around here, too?”
“Next door.” He pointed over her right shoulder. She turned, and her arm accidentally brushed his shirt.
A sweet fragrance tickled his senses, almost the same scent as fresh-baked cookies. He drew in a deeper breath and identified the alluring scent.
Vanilla. His mouth watered for a taste.
She glanced back over her shoulder. The sexy pose plunged his heart into overdrive. “That really is close.”
“Yes, and it provides an easy way to escape the boring company of fools.” He forced himself to step around her and held out his hand. “Why don’t you run away with me?”
Her hair caught by the wind blew across her face and blocked his ability to read her expression. She shoved the silky auburn strands out of her eyes and frowned. “That’s not a very good idea. I don’t even know you.”
“Yes, but are you sure you’d like to return to the party?” He read the answer on her face. The light from the sliding glass door lit the frown forming on her lips and the subtle narrowing of her eyes.
The notion of her going home with him caused excitement to race through him, and he tried to remember if the place appeared presentable.
“No, but if forced to choose between the devil I know and the devil I don’t . . .” She strolled forward and laid her hands in his. “I guess you win.”
“Good, you won’t regret it.”
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Reviews for "Youthful Temptation"
Youthful Temptations is about a couple finding love and overcoming stereotypes. We see that we all have baggage, it’s a part of us, and those that love us don’t mind the load we carry. Awesome story, I really enjoyed Youthful Temptations.
Reviewed by Raine
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