Tessa's Temptation

By: Ella Jade

Chapter One

Tess Burke stared out her bedroom windows that overlooked the stream running through the backyard. She watched as the man stopped to stretch out his calf muscles from his long, early morning run. His tall, toned form appealed to her as he flexed his back. The faint line of sweat absorbed into his t-shirt, evidence of a hard, successful run along the trails of his massive property. He looked out at the flowing water, his cool blue eyes intense and lost in a distant thought. She often wondered what he thought about during his early morning meditation. Work? Family? Her?

With his earbuds still in, he sat down on the bench as he did every day to check his emails. This had become her favorite time of the day. As she watched him, she thought about all the possibilities the new day would bring.

All the ways she could tempt him...

One month earlier.

Tess paced the tiny hall outside her dad’s room. He’d been in the shabby rehab facility for almost a month. The car accident had shattered both his legs, cracked eight of his ribs, and broken his nose. The man was lucky to be alive. He had a long recovery ahead of him. It wasn’t likely he’d ever walk without the assistance of a cane. Right now he was still in a wheelchair, recovering from the extensive injuries he had sustained on that dark night coming home from work, when he’d swerved to miss a deer and ended up tumbling into a ditch.

“When have we ever screwed you out of rent?” She switched the phone to her other ear and tried to keep her voice down, but their landlord of eight years was about to toss them out. “I’ll get the money.”

That was a lie. She’d given him everything she had last month. She was tapped out and didn’t have any place to turn. All of her dad’s relatives were deadbeats. He and Tess lived paycheck to paycheck. There was no way she could come up with the rent.

“Tess, I’m sorry, but I’ve given you a break on the rent for the past year. Your father is late almost every month and now you’ve shorted me three hundred dollars in the past two months, not to mention you aren’t paying utilities which is in your lease.” There was genuine remorse in Billy’s voice. “I can’t cut you anymore slack. I’m drowning, myself.”

“I’m sorry, Billy, but you know we’re good tenants. I’ll figure something out.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll need to be out by the end of next month. I wish I didn’t have to do this but your dad isn’t coming home for a while and you can’t afford the place.”

She watched as an attractive guy in a suit that probably cost more than her rent turned the hall and headed in her direction. He was blatantly out of place she thought as he checked his shiny silver watch. He pushed his designer sunglasses up on top of his head as he walked past her, smiling as he maneuvered the tight space they occupied and walked into her dad’s room. He smelled of spice. He was hot as hell too. No one that good looking ever came to a shithole like this.

What the hell. Would a bill collector come here?

“Tess, end of next month,” Billy said, interrupting her thoughts from the sexy guy who went in to see her dad. “Did you hear me?”

“You can’t throw me out. I know my rights.”

“Please don’t make this hard. When your dad got behind on rent last year – before the accident – we never signed a new lease. You’re month to month and all I have to do is give you sufficient time to get out. I’m within my rights. Sorry, kid.”

“Thanks for nothing.” She ended the call, took a deep breath and headed in to deal with the suit who was probably harassing her father. Would anything go right today? She stood in the doorway, listening to what he wanted so she’d know how to handle him.

“I’m so glad you could come.” Her dad smiled as his guest crossed the room. Smiled? She hadn’t seen him do that since before the accident. “It’s been such a long time.”

“Too long,” the hottie said as he sat and crossed one expensive shoe over the other. “I’m sorry to have lost touch with you. When I found out about your accident I had my assistant find out where you were so I could come and visit.”

“I was happy to hear from you. I’ve been following your success over the years. I knew you’d find your course. I’m very proud of you.”

“I owe so much of the way my life turned out to you.”

“Bull,” her father scoffed. “You always had it in you. You were determined even as a mouthy teenager.”

“If not for you, Pat, I could have gone in the wrong direction. The time I spent out at your cabin was the best thing that could have happened to me.”