Copyright © Nicole Austin, 2011
All Rights Reserved
Note: Nicole Austin’s books are intended for those readers 18 years old or older.
“Hey, Jack! Damn, I miss you.”
Sara Cooper’s enthusiastic tone matched her emotions. She’d enjoyed her visit to San Antonio for a friend’s birthday celebration, but impatience to get home rode her hard.
“I miss you too. Your flight set to leave on time?”
Jack Taylor had been her best friend and her rock for the past few years. Hearing his voice eased a bit of her anxiety as she waited for her carry-on to clear security. The TSA official running the x-ray scanner had spent an inordinate amount of time scrutinizing her bag, then called someone else over to take a look.
“My flight is running on time but I may be late.” She bit her lip.
“What’s going on?”
His concern touched her heart. Sara knew what had the security screeners in a tizzy. She said a silent prayer they wouldn’t open her suitcase and let her fellow travelers see its contents. Talk about embarrassing.
“Uh…there seems to be a problem,” she swallowed hard, “with my luggage.”
The security agent held up her red suitcase and stared right at her. “Ma’am, is this your bag?”
Heat infused her face as she nodded. Crap, she should have paid the ridiculous fee and checked her luggage.
“Please step over here, ma’am.” He grasped her elbow, guiding Sara out of line, and took her to a metal table off to one side.
The agent donned blue latex gloves and watched her nervously chew on her bottom lip.
“I’m going to have to open your bag and check the contents.”
With her heart lodged in her throat, Sara could only nod.
“Has your suitcase been out of your possession at any time?”
“N-no. Do we have to do this here? In front of everyone?”
“Sara,” Jack groaned. “What’s in your bag?”
“No, ma’am. I can escort you to a private screening room if you prefer.”
Oh great, the agent’s expression had turned suspicious, increasing her mortification. She leaned forward and spoke softly. “I have some…personal items,” she confided. Personal to the extreme. “It was my friend’s birthday and she had a toy party.”
The man’s blank look offered no hope for saving her dignity. Sara sighed then dove in headfirst. “An adult toy party.”
He still stared dumbly as if not understanding.
“You know, vibrators and sex toys,” she blurted.
“You bought a vibrator? Aw, fuck!”
Jack’s harsh curse rang in her ear, adding to her misery. She’d forgotten he was still on the Bluetooth receiver looped over her ear. His disbelief irritated Sara. Righteous indignation had her clenching her hands into fists.
“And why the hell should it come as some huge shock that I bought a vibrator? I’m not an innocent young virgin, Jack. I’m a divorced, forty-four-year-old woman.”
God, how she wanted him to see her as a woman and not merely a friend. She’d been divorced for two years and was more than ready to move on with her life. She wanted to live again. And she longed to have sex—with Jack.
In her pique, Sara stomped her foot and pictured the pink satin bag filled with her purchases. “I bought flavored lube, arousal cream, a bullet, an egg, a rabbit, a dual penetrator, a glass dildo and a vibrating cock ring. Oh, and nipple clamps—can’t forget those.”
There, take that!
The fight quickly bled out of her as she realized the noisy airport had gone very still and quiet around her. The weight of stunned stares registered in her consciousness. A glance at the screener’s wide eyes confirmed everyone within hearing distance had witnessed her meltdown. He glanced at her empty hands. “Ma’am, who are you talking to?”
Sara tucked her hair behind her ear, revealing the hands-free device. “I…uh—” Her voice cracked and she cleared her throat. “Gotta go, Jack. See you in a few hours.”
Sara tapped the off button, dropped the receiver in her purse and pleaded with the screener. “Can we please get this over with so I can find a hole to crawl in and die of humiliation?”
The man rediscovered his professional demeanor and held out his hand. “Ticket and identification, please.”
He made a fast yet thorough search of her bag without putting her recent purchases on display. In fact, the agent avoided handling the pink bag and its contents any more than necessary. He opened the drawstring, peeked inside, shifted the contents around a bit then quickly closed it back up.
Her thoughts turned to Jack, which made the rest of her airport experience pass by in a blur. She’d planned on introducing the subject of sex toys in a more tactful, less in-your-face manner. But she found relief in having it out in the open.
Would Jack be interested? God, she hoped so, because wanting him had become a physical ache. What had held her back was concern for their friendship. Jack meant the world to her and was a major part of her life. Losing him would be devastating, but she wanted all of him and that meant taking a risk.
Staring out the tiny window, she barely noticed the scattered clouds casting dark shadows on the ever-changing landscape rolling by thousands of feet below. No, in her mind she replayed a day six months earlier. The day she’d been sucker punched by her hunger for Jack.
Bright sunlight shone down from a cornflower-blue sky peppered with a few fluffy white clouds, the picture-perfect spring day just made for racing across sparkling blue-green water. Tropical wind scented with salt and suntan oil whipped through her hair, and a light mist of sea spray cooled sunbaked skin. The throaty roar of powerful motors drowned out everything else, allowing Sara to relax, leaving her stress and worries behind. She breathed deep, feeling truly alive for the first time in ages.
Bounced around in the boat’s wake were two tubes carrying Jack’s daughters, Lauren and Emma, who laughed and squealed in delight. But it wasn’t the girls Sara turned her gaze toward. Standing tall and confident at the helm, piloting the boat with easy grace, wearing nothing more than swim trunks slung low on his hips, Jack Taylor looked…different. The same yet somehow…changed.
He looked good.
She stared as if seeing him—really seeing him—for the first time. Windblown jet-black hair, messy as if she’d run her fingers through the silky strands. Slabs of delineated sinew rippling beneath tanned skin, honed from years of hard work. Not overly muscle-bound or too lean.
As if sensing her attention, Jack turned toward her and Sara lost the ability to breathe. How had she never noticed the devilish turn of those lush lips when he smiled? And his eyes. The boyish delight in the moss-green pools made her abdomen quiver.
Jack glanced back at the girls then checked the waterway ahead before once again meeting her gaze, worry clear in his suddenly tense expression.
“Sara? You okay?” he shouted.
She was not okay. Not when her entire world had altered right before her eyes. Oh, she’d always considered Jack to be handsome. This wasn’t the same. She wanted to reach out and run her fingers over his magnificent body. Nuzzle her nose against his neck and breathe in his masculine scent. Kiss his supple lips and drink in his unique flavor. Hear the husky sounds he made when aroused. Saturate her senses with him. And she wanted to see him. All of him. Naked.
Holy shit. She wanted Jack. Not as a friend. As a lover.
Before she could answer, Sara had to remember how to speak.
Pressing a palm against her belly, she looked straight into the eyes of her dear friend, her soul mate, and lied.
“Good. I’m good.”