Authors: Reese Gabriel
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Ian’s Way Copyright © 2009 Reese Gabriel
Edited by Pamela Campbell
Photography and cover art by Les
Electronic book Publication September 2009
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
“Hello, Dominique,” drawled Mr. Tall, Dark and Devoid of Name Tag. “Remember me?”
heart skipped a beat as she drank him in—over six feet tall, broad shoulders, lean waist and a black silk shirt that highlighted perfectly his chiseled features and laser blue eyes.
Good grief, had this guy been one of her classmates? He made Hugh
look like Larry the Cable Guy. She must have been even more out of it in her teen years than she remembered.
“I’m so sorry…”
was forced to admit defeat. “Ten years out of high school and I guess I’m still the same old airhead.”
He shook his head. “You’re anything but an airhead. Some days I can barely recognize myself. How about a clue? The sum of the squares of two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the—”
threw herself into his arms before he could finish reciting the Pythagorean
Ian the geek!”
“The one and only,” he chuckled as he held her tightly against his muscular chest. The embrace caught her off guard. It was the kind of contact that made a woman
safe, protected…and desired.
broke away, shocked at her body’s fierce response—the quickening heartbeat, the tightening of her nipples and the distinct heat between her thighs. It had been ages since she had warmed up so quickly to a guy, let alone an old buddy whom she had never thought of in a romantic way.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said, taking a breath to clear her head. “Please don’t take any offense over the geek remark, it just popped out.”
His smile was deep, rich and downright intoxicating. “You could never offend me, Dominique, even if you tried.”
She wasn’t sure what he meant. She was going to ask but instead she said, “Where have you been? You dropped off the face of the earth. I tried to get hold of you after graduation.”
“It’s a long story. Can you forgive me for not keeping up our relationship?”
“Only if you tell me your beauty secrets,” she quipped. “Here the rest of us are going to pot and you look like you discovered the Fountain of Youth.”
Scratch that. Ian Hamilton looked as if he had been dipped into a fountain of hotness. Back in high school he had been lanky, awkward, the butt of everyone’s jokes. Now he would put any male model to shame.
How had he done it? He had earned those muscles with hard work, not hours in the gym—she could sense it. There was a maturity in his face and the deep etchings of pain.
“You haven’t gone to pot, Dominique. You are more beautiful than ever. You still blow away every other woman in the room.”
blushed, the glow spreading from her cheeks down to her exposed cleavage. Darn
for insisting they wear these hot little party dresses they had found in the city last week. Hadn’t they spent enough time in high school playing on their looks?
“I think maybe you need your old glasses back, Ian.”
He smiled wryly. “What I need is to buy you a drink.”
Next thing she knew her old pal and tutor was leading her to the cash bar of the Omicron Hotel banquet room their class had rented for its reunion.
Ian ordered a white wine for her and scotch on the rocks for himself. They settled at a small table in the corner.
was glad for the relative concealment. So far she had managed to avoid the eagle eyes of her best friend the perpetual busybody
Green and she intended to keep it that way.
The last she had seen,
was pretending to be engrossed in Veronica Miles’ digital puppy pictures—somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion pixels wasted on a miniature something or other Veronica had bought to celebrate her second divorce, or was it her third?
Nikki had excused herself, claiming she needed to call her plant sitter and check on her philodendrons.
had stayed put, no doubt biding her time to pick up some fresh gossip from Veronica.
“So tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself,” Ian said, picking up the conversation.
Nikki sipped her wine. “I work in advertising in the city.”
“Advertising, huh?” His brow furrowed, moving into pensive mode, the way he used to whenever he was working out a tough problem. “What about in your free time? Got anybody special?”
“You mean anybody who sticks around?”
“Just my plants.”
The wine was going down smooth and warm. She was going to need another glass soon. “Suffice it to say, Ian, things haven’t changed much for me in the relationship department since high school.”
Ian smiled wistfully, the fullness of his lips and the fierceness of his eyes quickening her pulse on the spot. Yes, she remembered him now. It was good old Ian, only more so. Ian 2.0, or was it Ian 10.0?
“Beautiful Dominique,” he rasped. “Still worthy of so much more than the boys and men around her have ever been able to offer.”
“I don’t know about that. I think I have gotten exactly what I deserve.”
Damn, listen to me
, she thought.
I sound so bitter after ten years. What will I be like after fifteen or twenty? Better sign up for a Dr. Phil segment—Washed-up Cheerleaders Wallowing in Self-pity.
Nikki sighed. “
, Ian, can I tell you how much I hate these functions?”
He leaned back, laughing. It was the same deep, rich sound she remembered, ever steady and true. Ian had always been the voice of reason and calm in her life. Truth be told, Ian had been her closest friend, after
, and all
had done was take advantage of him.
“Maybe it will get better if we dance,” he proposed.
The invitation shocked her, not so much that he had asked but because of the ideas it was putting in her mind. The two of them touching, fingers intertwined, his hand on her bare back or even lower, caressing her posterior, drawing her closer into his orbit, flat against his hard, lean body as they swayed to whatever blast from the past was being hacked to death at that moment by the cover band.
Hell, why stop there? What about the two of them exploring each other’s bodies horizontally in a room upstairs—hot and steamy, their fingers greedy, flesh pressing, lips tasting, teeth nibbling, building inevitably, crossing the one boundary their friendship had never breached?
“I need to be drunker,” she decided.
Not skipping a beat he excused himself for a return trip to the bar. “Don’t go anywhere, Dominique.
“Yes, if you will promise to stop calling me by my full name. I feel like I’m having a discussion with my father.”
“Guess I’ve always thought of you as Dominique. It sounds more sophisticated and sexy. But
is good too. It brings up a whole bunch of images of you back in your cheerleader days. Any chance you’ve still got that little skirt you used to wear, the really short one with the pleats?”
He winked and walked off before she could answer. Her cheeks instantly flushed. Was it her imagination or was her old platonic guy friend looking to change up things between them in a big way?
Judging by her racing pulse and the hardening in her nipples, she didn’t exactly hate the idea.
, a veritable swirl of blonde hair and silver sequins as she swooped into Ian’s empty seat. “There are absolutely no rich guys here. Did you see that little mousy thing Tab Carter dragged in, by the way? OMG, somebody get a 9-1-1 out to the ugly police.”
was afforded exactly zero response time before
was on to the next topic.
“And how about Veronica’s dog?
It looks like a puffball on crack. Honestly, that chick needs to get laid. What are you doing over here anyway?”
“I’m having a chat with Ian Hamilton.”
Her eyes widened.
“Ian the geek?”
“Why didn’t you say so, I could have rescued you ages ago.”
“Actually I’m kind of enjoying it. If you must know, I think he’s interested in me.”
made a face. “Interested in you for
? Sharing some nerdy science formulas? Get real, girlfriend, you don’t even know how to read the expiration date on a milk carton.”
It was times like this that
wished she could get a little space from her old friend, but the truth was, they had been peas in a pod since junior high, the two of them helping each other through every boy crisis known to humanity.
was still trying to come up with a decent retort when Ian returned, drinks in hand.
Green,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
It was worth everything to see the look on
face, the dropped jaw, the shock mixed with barely disguised lust.
Ian set the drinks down and took
hand. She melted into a puddle.
frowned, instantly on guard. Like all girlfriends, they competed for men from time to time. This was not going to be one of those times.
The sudden resolution caught her off guard. Was she jealous?
“Would you like to join us?” Ian offered.
under the table. “
just dropped by to say ‘hi’. She has to be going.”
“I do? Oh yeah, that’s right.”
bit her lip, taking a hint for once.
Not that she could resist a parting shot. “I’ll be waiting for you upstairs in our room,
. I got this neat recipe for making
“You can’t make
in a hotel room,”
replied, instantly regretting having opened the door for yet another lesson in
“Sure you can. You use a hair dryer and tweezers. I saw it on a travel show.”
“A comedy show more likely,”
muttered under her breath.
Ian chuckled as
all bounce and wiggle, ever the cheerleader.
“She hasn’t changed much,” Ian noted with a smile.
Heavens, he still had those same dimples, cute as hell.
“Tell me about it.”
rolled her eyes.
Ian’s smile turned more serious. “I always thought it was good of you, how loyal you were to
“You mean when she was a total bitch to everyone else? It’s okay, it’s the truth and I love her all the same. I do wish I had stood up to her a little more back then, especially when she would say all those mean things to you.”
“I never took it personally. Seemed to me she was jealous of how much time you and I spent together.”
laughed. “I was with you more than any of my boyfriends and they didn’t treat me half as well. Oh Ian, I don’t know why you bothered with me, helping me with all my homework, darn near writing my papers.”
He angled his lips sharply, deliciously. “The writing part wasn’t so bad. I’ll admit the time you burned off my eyebrows in chemistry was a little rough.”
“The Bunsen burner incident!
Oh god, I still feel horrible about that. I swear I thought the knob was supposed to be turned to the right for off.”
“No, ‘off’ was definitely to the left,” he deadpanned.
She shook her head. “We sure had some interesting times.”
“So what about you?
What have you been doing? Do you have someone special in your life?”
His brow crinkled again. His eyes had a faraway look, mystery piled on mystery. “Dance with me,
heart slammed in her chest. In her current state of mind, hot off the heels of
yet another heartbreak
from yet another loser, there was no telling where a simple dance might lead. “I can’t. I have plans upstairs with
He nodded. “The great
experiment, yes. I’m sure the ingredients will keep.”
swallowed. “It’s just not a good idea, Ian.”
As if to show her how wrong she was, he reached out and took her hand in his—enveloping and arousing, sending tiny arcs of electricity between them.
Her toes curled in response.
“Please don’t say no. I’ve been waiting ten years for this,
. Hell, make it fourteen years, counting from the first day I met you.”
From the first day he met her?
This was getting more intriguing by the minute.
“All right,” she heard herself say, her voice a mere whisper, hot and dry.
“Just one dance.”
One dance, five or ten minutes at most. How much could happen in that amount of time?
she thought as she let him take her hand,
if I’m not careful
As Ian took
hand, his heart soared. He had done it. He had gotten her to agree to a dance, one chance to win
over by giving her a taste of what it could be like between them physically. To accomplish his mission he would have to walk the finest of lines, enticing her to the point of no return without crossing the boundaries of social etiquette.
Everything hinged on keeping his cool, on letting the sexual possibilities unfold in shorthand, the slightest touches, the subtlest press of body to body, for a prelude to all the possible pleasure to be had. Each second would have to count so that by the end of the dance she would have no doubts.
It was so close he could taste it.
, the star of a million fantasies, queen of Ian’s adolescent dreams. Over the years, those fantasies had only grown stronger. It was
memory, years later that had preserved him after the accident, giving him the incentive to live,
detail of her beauty breathing new life into him.