His hands roamed her body, skimming her smooth skin with arousing movements as they followed her naked curves. Anticipating the sensations she knew he could create, she tilted her head back in ecstasy.
Her eyes fluttered open and locked on his smoldering green gaze. She felt her breath catch as he stared at her while his fingers traced the delicate column of her neck. Then his touch moved across her collarbone, straying down until he touched her breasts.
“You are so beautiful,” he said softly.
She gasped when his wet mouth nipped her sensitive earlobe at the same time his fingers pinched her hardened nipples. Carefully, he positioned himself over her, his hot body covering hers as she trembled in expectation.
His mouth descended to her neck, scraping her heated skin with his teeth. She moaned and arched, mesmerized by the feel of his hard length as it rubbed against her sensitized flesh.
He chuckled deeply, sensually, making even the sound of his laughter an erotic joy. She wiggled underneath him, waiting in tortured need as the head of his shaft tormented her. Then suddenly his mouth was scorching her breast, tugging the erect nub with slow, hard suction.
“Oh, God,” she gasped. “Oh, please, Ben, please…”
He looked up, releasing her nipples reluctantly, and held her eyes in another intense stare.
“It’ll be good, Rachel, I swear it will,” he promised.
She nodded mutely as she wrapped her legs around his waist, her moisture beading at the top of her thighs. He leaned down to kiss her and she felt his long shaft press more insistently against her swollen folds. Now, her mind screamed, now!
He pushed forward slowly—
The blaring of the alarm clock scattered Rachel Connelly’s erotic dream to the four winds. Growling in anger and frustration, she picked up the intrusive clock and hurled it across the room, gritting her teeth as the little box smacked off the cream colored wall and fell in pieces to the floor.
Damn interruption! Damn dream! She didn’t need to have those images popping into her mind today, not on the day of her debut. This was something she’d been striving for most of her life, and she’d be damned if her vivid imagination and memories of her ex were going to ruin it. She was contemplating taking care of her rather painful predicament herself when a smart rap sounded on her door. Snarling, she barked out what passed as a greeting.
“What do you want?”
“Ah, Sleeping Beauty rises in her usual chipper mood. Was that another clock I heard hitting the wall?”
She sent a killing glare towards the teasing male voice, blurrily making out the image of her roommate, Guy. At least he wasn’t doing something horrifically obnoxious, like singing.
“Yes,” she mumbled, pulling her green sheets over her head to shut out both his cheerful expression and the sun pouring through the window-lined bedroom.
She heard him chuckle as she snuggled deeper into her bed, hoping to clear her mind a fraction before he pulled her from under the covers. Guy knew how grumpy she was when she woke up. After a year of living with her, the “see how long it takes Rachel to murder unsuspecting furniture” game had become a kind of strange spectator sport.
“I swear, if you keep this up, Rachel, I’m going to have to invest in Timex. Have you ever considered a second career as a product tester? Because if their clocks can stand up to you, they’ll last past a lifetime.” He paused before continuing. “Glad to see there isn’t a hole in the wall this time. I’d hate to have to explain to the super why he has to smear on more plaster again.”
She pointedly ignored his presence, hoping he would give up his incessantly pleasant chatter. Then the mouth-watering aroma of clam sauce floated into her nose like a long lost lover. An involuntary sigh spilled from her throat. The sound of Guy’s soft laugh made its way into the rest of the room.
“Wake up, Princess Rachel,” Guy called in a singsong voice. “You aren’t a big time diva yet, love. The opera won’t wait for you.”
The combined smell of her late lunch and her roommate’s reminder of the opera brought Rachel fully awake. She sat up, knowing she looked as irritable and cranky as she felt, and shoved the long waterfall of dark brown hair from her face. She blew at a few rebellious strands that were dancing across her nose, finally giving up when they refused to budge.
“The only reason you’re not injured is because I like you…plus you have a plate of food in your hand.” She shifted on the sheet-tossed bed and grumbled quiet curses of annoyance.
“Uh-huh, I’ve heard that one before,” he replied good-naturedly. “But I have to admit, I’ve survived six government coups, dodged thousands of bullets, lived in jungles and deserts for weeks at a time…and you’re still the only thing that’s ever really scared me.”
Rachel gave him a wry look as she flung her legs out of bed. “Good, you should be afraid. I have my mother’s temper.”
“God help us all,” he muttered with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Move it, hot buns, I have to eat, shower and be at the theatre in two and a half hours.”
“Need a lift?” He tossed the question over his shoulder as he spun out of her room, moving quickly enough that she didn’t step on his heels.
“Hey, that would be great, but won’t you be bored waiting around for the opera to start?” She stumbled behind him groggily, following him into the spacious kitchenette area that provided a view of the balcony and courtyard. As she slid into a padded wooden chair he slipped silverware in front of her.
“Actually, I thought I’d bring my camera and snap a few shots backstage,” he said, setting her plate down on the small, round table.
“Uh, did you pass that by the director?” She eyed him dubiously as she plunged her fork into her linguine, her mouth watering.
“As a matter of fact, I did.” He raised an eyebrow as she stuffed a wad of noodles between her lips. He didn’t quite bite back his laugh. “Slow down, would you? There’s no way you can appreciate the nuances of the sauce eating like that. Besides, you’ll make yourself sick.”
Rachel took a sip of red wine, acknowledging his statement with a short nod. “Oh, I set out an outfit for you. It should be comfortable enough for you to work in.”
“Fashion sense, another thing I’m glad you’ve added to the blend. Then there’s the way you feed my caffeine addiction with perfectly made coffee.” His lips curled up. “Mostly though, I think it’s because you keep me well-dressed. You’d think I’d be able to match a shirt with a pair of pants.”
“Yeah, you’d think.” She flashed him a teasing look and twined more pasta around her fork. “Come on, we have to finish lunch. It wouldn’t look good for me to be late.”
He twirled noodles on his fork expertly, his brown eyes twinkling at her. She’d lucked out when she’d found Guy as a roommate. Actually, she’d been fairly lucky when it came to her life here in Athens. A few years ago if someone had told her she’d be living in Greece singing with the opera, she would have laughed and called them crazy. But here she was, with the balmy Mediterranean breeze tickling her shoulders. After her time traveling with the LaRussa Opera Troupe, this apartment was a little piece of heaven.
She’d been withering in the traveling opera group. At twenty-seven, what she needed was the normality of regular living, but she also needed her singing. Luckily for her, when she tired of being a part of Giana LaRussa’s group, the Greek National Opera Company offered her a position. She snatched at the chance to sing and live in the beautiful city of Athens, even though it was a far cry from her small hometown of Breckenridge, Nebraska. A far way away from the flat plains of the mid-west, a long way away from her family, from what she’d known…from the man who had broken her heart.
Shaking off the gloom that tried to settle on her shoulders, she looked absently around to the living room and smiled. Her gaze traveled over the various pieces of camera equipment left lying on the oak coffee table and overstuffed floral couch. It was the clutter of her life now, the kind of barely organized chaos that let her know she was living in a home, and not just an apartment.
“You still haven’t unpacked,” she commented, giving Guy a long look.
He shrugged and took a sip of his wine. “I just got back last night, love. I’ll get it all picked up tonight.”
“I’ve heard that before. Twenty minutes later you get a call from some magazine or newspaper and off you go, globetrotting again”.
He winked at her, his fork poised over his plate. “Such is the life of a freelance photographer. It pays half the rent and living expenses, so you aren’t allowed to complain. Besides, I’m good at what I do.”
“Even if you do say so yourself.” That earned a roll tossed at her head. She dodged and caught the warm bread before it hit the floor.
“Don’t disparage my work,” he said, sending her a mockingly harsh look.
“When it pays for my linguine in clam sauce? Never!” She took another bite of her late lunch and hummed in appreciation. After another drink of wine, she tilted her head. “So, how was Australia?”
“Beautiful, sad, interesting.” He reached across the small table and tucked a strand of her loose hair behind her ear. It was a gesture he’d adopted at the beginning of their friendship. “I can’t believe what the Aborigines are going through. It’s terrible.”
“Trying to save the world one picture at a time again,” she said philosophically. “That’s one of the things I admire most about you.” She waited a full beat before continuing. “And how is Patrick?”
She watched his body tighten in frustration but ignored the silent warning. “You two were paired together for this story, weren’t you?” she prodded.
“Yes, we were, and no, we didn’t figure anything out,” he said through gritted teeth. “I don’t know why I bother with him.”
“Because you love him, you dolt,” she teased. “Besides, he’s perfect for you and you know it. You’re both stubborn, headstrong, willful, and way too nice for your own good. Not to mention, he’s hotter than a daytrip to Venus.”
Guy laughed, his broad chest rising and falling with chuckles. He shook his head, dislodging a lock of black hair as he leaned back in his chair and lifted his glass, holding it halfway to his lips. “We always did have similar tastes in men. Thank heavens poor Patrick isn’t bi. He wouldn’t stand a chance if both of us decided we wanted him.”
Rachel twisted her lips and lifted her eyebrow slightly before getting back to the matter at hand. “Seriously, Guy, you’re so in love with Patrick that you can barely see straight. Don’t you think it’s about time you told him that he was more than a fling?”
“I’ll tell him when I’m damn well ready and not a day before. And what about you, Rachel Connelly? Did you go on a date while I was gone?”
She turned her eyes away from him, trying to hide the pain she feared would be there. Guy had jabbed his pointed question directly into a raw spot, one that throbbed openly after her dream just a few minutes before.
“I went to the bistro with Dimitri Angelis, but it was pretty forgettable,” she admitted.
“That’s what you say about all your dates. I don’t think a Greek god himself could make a lasting impression on you. You’re still hung up on Ben Slater.”
“I am not,” she bit back, irritated enough to cast her friend a slanted look. She couldn’t be hung up on her ex-lover. It would be just too pathetic. “I’m just picky. After all, I have a demanding career and a busy social life. If I’m going to let someone in, it’s going to have to be someone very special.”
Thankfully Guy lapsed into silence instead of pursuing the conversation. She still felt inexplicably vulnerable whenever Ben’s name was mentioned. She never tried to delve too deeply into the fact that she hadn’t had a serious relationship since leaving Breckenridge. She didn’t even want to consider the box of trinkets and mementos that stood in the back of her closet, memories that she refused to let go. Memories of her life back in the states. Reminders of what she’d once had and ultimately lost.
Growing uncomfortable in the quiet, Rachel cleared her throat and looked back at Guy. “Are you looking forward to the opera tonight?”
He lifted his eyebrow at her change of subject but didn’t comment. “Are you kidding? I get to see the amazing Diva Connelly in her first supporting, up front role,” he answered with a grin. “So, who are you slaughtering tonight, love?”
“I’ve only been practicing my part for weeks now,” she chided. “We’re doing Don Quixote, and if you don’t stop saying I mutilate the music I sing, I might end up with a complex.”
“The great Rachel Connelly with a complex? Inconceivable.” He picked up a roll and buttered it. “Come on, you don’t have that much time before we need to leave for the theater, and I know how long it takes you to wash your hair.”
She shook her head at him. She wasn’t sure how’d she’d ended up with someone like Guy as her roommate, but she was thankful that she had. The fact that he’d become her best friend was only an added bonus.
Swallowing another mellow drink of red wine, Rachel turned her thoughts to calculating just exactly how much time she had before Guy would be standing at the front door yelling for her to get her butt moving.
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