Seduced:The Unexpected Virgin(5)

By: Emily McKay


She’d seen stars do this before. Manipulate and coax people into doing exactly what they wanted. With female stars, it came across as a sort of chummy friendliness. A subtle “Let’s be best buds!” vibe. With men, there was always a sensual promise to the overtures. An “I’ll take you to bed and pleasure you beyond your wildest imaginings” implication.

She’d spent too long in Hollywood to be fooled by such tactics. Despite that, she felt a stirring of heat deep in her belly. Her body responding to the promise her mind knew was just a ruse.

And maybe that irritated her most of all. She knew better, yet despite all her big talk, she was still vulnerable. She still felt the powerful pull of attraction to him. The part of her that had grown up as a Ward Miller fan desperately wanted him to like her. Moreover, that part of her desperately wanted him to be likable. Despite the fact that she knew how unlikely that was.

She had to muster her indignation.

“You’re right. I don’t like celebrities. And what happened out there is a perfect example why. If you’re going to talk about Hannah’s Hope, then talk about the program.” She stepped forward, closing the distance between them and then immediately wishing she hadn’t. Dang, but he smelled good. “Don’t use us as a platform for launching your comeback. The work we do is too important. There are people who really need our services and if you climb over them to get into the limelight, then you’re—” She stumbled then over her words, her tirade foiled by her own expectations. Swallowing past the last remnants of her fantasies, she forced out her words. “Then you’re not the man I thought you were.”





Two




At the height of his career, when he’d traveled more than two hundred days a year, Ward had been able to float between time zones with only an extra shot of caffeine to get him going. Either he was getting older or his time out of the circuit had changed him. He’d flown into San Diego from visiting a charity in Texas that CMF was involved with. However, despite the fact that he was only two time zones away, he woke up at four local time and couldn’t go back to sleep.

So he’d rolled out of bed, dressed for a jog on the beach, and had headed out in the early-morning gloom before getting so much as a whiff of coffee. He knew he’d feel the effects of getting less than six hours sleep later in the day, but he figured getting up was better than lying there tormenting himself.

He dressed quickly in sweatpants, a T-shirt and his jogging shoes.

His condo in Vista del Mar sat on a deserted stretch of beach. His assistant, Jess, had come out for a couple of days the previous week to rent the modest one bedroom condo. Though many larger rentals had been available, Ward had opted for compact and close to the water, glad to have the excuse to put Jess and Ryan up at the hotel rather than having them stay with him. He valued his privacy too much to want them underfoot. This time of morning, only the most stalwart of beachgoers would be out. By the time he was jogging along the beach, the faintest hint of light was creeping over the horizon chasing away the night. It would be another hour before the sun rose. For now, he was alone with the sand under his pounding feet, the surf roaring in his ears, and the breeze biting his cheeks. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to block out the memory of her words.

Not the man I thought you were.

There was enough punch in that one sentence to cripple a man.

He’d disappointed a lot of people in his life. People who’d relied on him. People he’d loved. Was it really too much to ask of himself that he not disappoint this one, fiery-tempered do-gooder?

Hell, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it was merely his inconvenient and unexpected attraction to Ana Rodriguez that kept him awake. Sexual attraction came and went. It was a simple truth in his life that women were—and always had been—plentiful. There’d even been times, before Cara, that he’d indulged in the cornucopia of femininity that his career presented him with. He’d learned enough restraint since then that merely being attracted to Ana didn’t bother him.

The real problem was, some tiny part of him feared that Ana looked right through him to his very soul and saw the truth. That he really wouldn’t live up to her expectations. He never did.

He could shove aside everything else. He was good at burying his emotions these days. But he couldn’t make himself forget that.

When Cara died, he’d lost himself briefly in his grief. He’d managed to fight, tooth and nail, to get back to himself. To climb out of his despair and rebuild his life without her. But the truth was, he’d done it by following one simple principle. Keep moving.

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