3 Brides for 3 Bad BoysBy: Lucy Monroe
A Deal is a Deal
A DEAL IS A DEAL
Rand Alexander should have a warning sign.
Because he impacted Phoebe's senses like a nuclear power plant going into meltdown.
She sucked in air, trying to regulate breathing that had gone haywire the moment his to-die-for body had filled the doorway of the swank hotel's reception room.
Heart racing, she fought the painful intensity of desires that would shock Rand silly. Like she always did. Every time the man walked into the room, she lost control of her body's reactions.
And he didn't even notice.
It wasn't that he ignored her. They were friends, after all, but if she danced naked on the hood of his car, he would politely ask her if she needed a hand down. All the while his real focus would be on something, or someone, else.
Like the blonde whose dress looked as if it was made of shimmering silver spangles glued to her body. The one that had just caught his arm and his attention.
"He looks wonderful, doesn't he, Phoebe dear? So mature now." Aunt Emmaline's voice buzzed at the edge of Phoebe's consciousness like a bee trying to alight.
Wonderful? He looked edible, six feet four inches of solid sex appeal with glossy black hair and eyes the color of molten steel.
"Fancy him coming back after all these years and still unattached."
Of course he was unattached. He had buried his heart with his wife and son six years ago.
"Oh, look, he and his mother are coming this way."
It was only as her aunt's last words registered that Phoebe realized the old woman was not discussing Rand, but rather his half brother, Carter Sloane. Her ex-fiancé.
While Rand turned aside to talk to the blonde, Carter was indeed headed their way. Walking beside his elegant mother, he looked more like a California golden boy than an East Coast executive.
"Carter, how well you look." Aunt Emmaline beamed at him.
"Thank you, and may I return the compliment?"
The old woman's paper-thin cheeks pinkened under the warmth of Carter's smile. It was the same smile that four years ago had made Phoebe's heart race, but it did not have the slightest impact now. Rand, on the other hand, only had to look at her and her brain stopped working.
The older women greeted each other.
"Phoebe, how are you?" Carter's attention was fixed wholly on her now, and she tried to return the favor.
Only Rand and the other woman were laughing together, and the sight of red fingernails against a white dinner jacket had Phoebe fighting green demons she hated almost as much as her status as a twenty-five-year-old virgin.
"I'm fine, Carter." She forced her eyes away from the couple on the other side of the room. "It's been a long time."
"Yes, it has."
"How long will you be staying?"
He shrugged. "I may be back for good."
His mother looked unmoved by the prospect, but not so Aunt Emmaline. "How wonderful!" She smiled with a definite gleam in her eye. "You and Phoebe will have to catch up on old times."
A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told Phoebe she had to divert this conversational tangent but fast. "The past is over, and I'm sure Carter has no more interest in it than I do."
Aunt Emmaline frowned. "You don't mean that, dear."
"I do." Phoebe smiled at Carter to show no offense was intended by her blunt declaration, but blunt was all that worked with her great-aunt.
"Standing on four-year-old pride makes for a lonely existence." The acerbity of her aunt's tone didn't bother Phoebe nearly as much as the implication she'd spent four years pining for a man who'd dumped her.
"I'm not being proud, just practical. It's only fair to tell you that if you're considering Carter as a candidate for great-nephew-in-law, then don't bother. We've been there, done that, and it didn't work. Right, Carter?"
She turned to Carter and willed him to agree with her.
His expression was regretful, but he remained quiet, which did nothing to help the situation or settle her temper.
"I suppose you think Rand Alexander is a better prospect?" Aunt Emmaline demanded, warming to an old argument. She glared in disapproval toward the couple on the other side of the ballroom, now blatantly flirting.