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CHAPTER ONE

Alex Hayes surveyed the long lines in the supermarket with disbelief. He
contemplated leaving the trolley of goods behind and head for home, but then he
remembered his cupboards and fridge were empty and he had a hot date coming
over in a few hours.

He wanted to pull off a gourmet meal to impress Ashley, his personal assistant and part-time lover, but the only dish he could minimally manage was macaroni and cheese, and he definitely couldn’t serve that to Ashley tonight!

So, after an intense Google search on exotic dishes he made a quick trip to
the grocery store. Armed with a trolley full of items he’d never seen his life,
he made his way to the checkout counter.

Alex grumpily pushed his unusually packed trolley in the shortest line he
could find—which was still excessively long. As he steadied the trolley, a
woman who forced her way through the heavy throng of shoppers knocked him
sideways. Alex whipped around with a curse on his lips, but his brain
immediately froze, and all thoughts disappeared. He stood gaping at the
curly-haired, petite beauty before him, his heart suddenly racing.

“I’m so sorry,” her silvery voice washed over him. Without waiting for a
response, she turned and walked away, her wide hips swinging. She continued to push
through the crowds of tired shoppers and disappeared down an aisle.

Alex pulse tripped as he stared at the aisle where she’d vanished, hoping
she would re-appear. A sudden and deep longing filled him. The woman behind him
in the line hissed, ‘move up mister!’ pulling him from his reverie. He spun to
see the line had moved further up, creating a huge gap. How long had he been
watching the aisle?

Aren’t you getting ready for a date later? The voice of reason
asked him, and he ignored it. His eyes scanned the rest of the store to see if
he could spot her, and an aching need arose. He considered leaving the trolley
and going to search for her; the line was still a mile’s length, so he had
time. But one look at the miserable ole crone behind him and he knew she would
push his trolley out the line as soon as he left.

So, he stayed. But he continued looking.

Finally, he reached the head of the line. He was busy placing his purchases
on the check-out counter when he felt a gentle nudge in his side. “Hi, can I
check-out ahead of you? I only have one item.” He turned towards the voice, and
his heart stopped. The beauty he had been searching for stood right before him,
waving a small box of ice cream. He felt a jolt in his body as she smiled at
him with a silent plea, her big eyes innocent.

Alex was instantly in love.

She was waiting for an answer. “Can I?”

Snap out of it Alex! He smiled and gestured. “Go right ahead.” She
smiled gratefully, and as she moved past him, her hand brushed against his.
Alex resisted the urge to touch her. God, she was beautiful, with tiny pink
lips that slightly pouted. On an impulse he wanted to taste her, to lick every
inch of her gorgeous mouth.

He pulled back and allowed her to proceed while he admired her from behind.
Her body was sculptured to perfection, with her perky ass covered in a pair of
skinny jeans that seemed to be under immense pressure. Alex tried to visualize
her nakedness and his prick twitched at the thought.

He toyed to ask for her cell phone number, but he held back. The last thing
he needed was a blatant rejection in a store filled with people. Besides, she
probably had a man, looking the way she did.

He watched as she cashed, while he tried force his glued lips open to say
something, anything to her. Time ran out, and a beep from the cashier’s
computer showed he was next. He watched helplessly as the beautiful stranger
waved to him and hurried from the store. Alex returned the woman’s wave and
watched her go, with his heart pounding furiously and his palms running rivers.
His eyes followed her as she moved though the automatic door, her curly hair
bouncing, matching her strides that emphasized the sway of her hips and her
apple-shaped bottom.

He was itching to catch another glimpse of her, and as soon as the cashier
was through, he grabbed his bags and jogged to the parking lot. But she was
nowhere in sight.

Disappointed, he went home to prepare a meal for his date, but his heart
wasn’t in it anymore. After burning the shrimp and over cooking the vegetables
to a soggy mess, he surrendered, and took Ashley out to an expensive French
restaurant, one he knew would impress her. Ashley had no complaints; she spent
the evening taking selfies and posting on Instagram, while he sat daydreaming
about the woman who, without even knowing it, had stolen his heart.

Who would have thought? Alex had sworn to never love again after a tragedy
that changed his perception on love. After Gillian, he’d never thought he would
have any connection to anyone again. And now, this sensual creature unknowingly
destroyed every reservation he had clung to after a tragedy turned his life upside
down.

Occasionally, his mind went back to the day when everything changed…

Three Years Ago

Alex was on assignment, working on a case for a politician’s wife who needed
hard evidence her husband, Mark Bent, the city’s councilman, was having an
affair. With his reputation as a sharp but discreet private investigator,
Alex’s clients were normally from the opulent side of society. His knack of
uncovering hidden secrets and flushing lies earned him a huge following and a
fat bank account. Since lately, however, he’d been entertaining the thought of
hanging up his hat and branching into another area of work. The working hours
were endless, and he wasn’t getting any younger.

Also, it was time for him to settle down. After a series of bad
relationships, he’d finally found the woman right for him. He’d always been
drawn to women who needed rescuing; unfortunately, they were always the wrong
type.

He remembered Chartreuse, a financial accountant with sticky fingers who he
saved from jail by paying off her angry bosses. She repaid him by sleeping with
his neighbor then running off with his Rolex and a family heirloom.

And Leigh-Ann; he met her—bumped into her actually—when she was running from
her abusive husband who attacked her in the restaurant where they dined, when
she accused him of cheating.  Alex hid her in his apartment for several
days while her lawyer prepared a quickie divorce. After her divorce, and a
short affair with Alex, Leigh-Ann disappeared from his apartment—and his
life—like a ninja.

Currently, he was dating Gillian, a fitness trainer who lived in his
apartment complex. They’d hooked up after she hired Alex to find her ex who had
framed her for murder.

Gillian was in her apartment canoodling with her new boyfriend when Marcus,
her jealous ex broke in and shot him point blank in the head. He knocked Gillian
unconscious, wiped his prints from the gun and put it in her hands. He added
the icing on the cake by calling the police and reporting a shooting at her
address.

When the police stormed in Gillian found with her blood-soaked hands
clutching the nine-millimeter that had killed her lover. She was on trial when
Alex tracked Marcus down and skillfully drilled a confession from him.

To show her gratitude, Gillian invited Alex into her bed, and within a short
time, their relationship escalated and they moved in together. Their synergy
was amazing, Alex considered the thought of marrying her. The only drawback was
his overtime hours on the job which meant that he and Gillian, though living
together, hardly saw each other.

Gillian had voiced her frustrations with his busy schedule, and he knew he
had to make a change, and fast. She was a good woman and he did not want to
lose her. His feelings for her were as close to love as he could feel. He
couldn’t imagine life without her. Yes, it was definitely time to change his
career, marry Gillian—if she was still around—and have babies. In that order.

He drove around town, tracking the politician he was hired to investigate,
and a feeling of foreboding suddenly launched in his gut. His thoughts
immediately ran to Gillian and he dialed her number. Her phone went directly to
voicemail and he hung up, his mind returning to business.

According to the Mark’s diary that Alex had gotten from his wife, Sandra, he
was currently in a meeting at the city’s convention center. Alex drove fast,
and arrived in the parking lot just as the Mark emerged, waving to his
colleagues and climbing into his SUV with haste. He immediately gunned the
engine and sped away. Alex quickly followed.

He headed to the hip strip uptown and turned into a modest motel located on
the far end of the strip where the most private and exclusive businesses were.
Alex waited a beat, then parked while Mark entered the motel.

After two hours, Mark reappeared, this time with his jacket slung over his shoulder
and his shirt sloppily tucked in his pants. He glanced behind him as a tall,
athletic woman stepped from the doorway. Alex felt his bowels loosen.

It was Gillian.

Alex froze and stared at the couple until his eyes strained; his eyes were
playing tricks, he reasoned, for it was impossible that Gillian, the woman he
wanted to marry was having an affair. Clearly it was someone else. He jumped
from his car for a clearer look. Simultaneously, another car pulled into the
venue and glided past him and reversed neatly into a parking spot. It shocked
Alex to see the politician’s wife, Sandra alight from the driver’s seat.

How the hell did she know where to find them?

As he closed the car door, his cell phone fell from his hand. Cursing, he
bent to retrieve it, and as he straightened, he saw Sandra approach the
startled couple.

What happened next was a blur.

She ran towards them, screaming expletives. Mark stood shock-still but
Gillian recovered quickly and laughed outrageously. Sandra stiffened, clutching
her purse. Alex hastened his steps, the sinister feeling rising.

Sandra took a gun from her bag. Alex spotted it and broke off in a run,
screaming Gillian’s name. Sandra pulled the trigger as Gillian turned and
looked in Alex’s direction, her face registering surprise at the sight of Alex
and force of the bullets hitting her neck and chest. In an instant, she was
gone.

Mark turned to run but several bullets connected with his head and back. He
fell with a heavy thud on the asphalt.

At sound of gunfire everyone scattered. Alex froze, his mind willing his
eyes to defy what he’d just seen.

The sound of police sirens filled the air. Sandra sunk to the floor with a
hysterical sob. A squad car entered the complex with breakneck speed and came
to a screeching halt where she knelt. As the cops spotted the gun they sprang
into action, jumping from the car with their own guns raised, screaming
instructions for her to put her gun down.

Alex stood in a daze as he watched the scene unfold.

Sandra looked at Alex, her face etched with torment. Then, as swift as an
arrow, she put the gun to her head and blew her brains out.

***

Alex had never truly recovered from that day, and he’d vowed never to fall
in love again. After Gillian’s betrayal, it was impossible to trust any woman.
His heart had been permanently out of business.

Until today…

***

Whitney grabbed the box of ice cream from the supermarket refrigerator in a hurry and headed quickly to the checkout aisle. After a long day she was rushing to get home. It was late, and there was someone special waiting for her.

She groaned at the long lines ahead. It would take forever to get through.
The checkout clerks resembled snails on an assembly line, and the queues were
barely moving. Decisively, Shivani made her way to the front of one of the
lines where an attractive man proceeded to unload his trolley.

“Hi, can you allow me to check-out ahead of you? It’s only one item,” she
waved the box of ice cream at him.

He stood staring at her blankly, and Whitney smiled uncomfortably. Had he heard her? “Can I?” She repeated.

His face broke into a smile and he gestured. “Go right ahead.”

She gave a relieved, “thank you!” and moved ahead. She waved at him as she left then hurried to her car, with her thoughts on home. Her man was waiting for her, and she was dying to feel his warm body against hers. It had been a long day.

She was so intent on reaching her destination she did not see the car that followed her all the way home.

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