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A snort, almost a snicker, escaped his throat and I bit down on my lip at the sexy sound. He was laughing to himself about something he was reading. Watching his slow, easy grin made my pulse race. It just seemed so natural, without any pretense. When I ceremoniously took out my next book, I accidentally dropped it, I was so lost in watching him, in watching the seductive way his mouth tipped up at the corners. He glanced at me, meeting my gaze as he effortlessly bent to retrieve my book. I stared into his blue eyes, but only for a moment. His eyes were intense and I felt magnetized by his proximity. I could tell by the way he moved that he was sure of himself, full of confidence, but it seemed less like arrogance and more of ease. His hands gripped the book on the floor while my eyes swept up to his other hand, to the spine of the book he was holding. He was reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and seeing its title rendered me utterly speechless. What an odd book to be reading with such in-depth interest, I thought.
That slow, easy grin that had to melt every girl’s heart turned into a smirk. “Kama Sutra,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
I wasn’t really listening. I didn’t hear what he said. My heart pounded as my gaze swiveled from his book to his face—tanned skin, eyes bluer than the sky, cheeks flecked with just the right amount of stubble. He was rugged and handsome and hot.
My voice sounded dry. “What?”
“The Illustrated version of A Lover’s Guide to Kama Sutra. You’re looking for help? In a library?” he asked in utter seriousness.
“No, no. No, I’m not.” Horrified, I grabbed the book from him and shoved it onto a shelf. But I noticed that my skin tingled where it had brushed his. Of all the books in the world, that’s the one that I had to be touching—are you kidding me? It took me a few seconds to collect myself, but somehow I kept the conversation going.
I pointed to his book. “Homework?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
He lifted his hands surrender-style, the book still gripped tightly. My eyes shot to the bare skin that showed between his shirt and shorts and I began to feel flushed when an ache radiated between my thighs.
“No. You caught me. Just hiding out reading one of the classics. Fucking Huck Finn. Something he said turned my mind in a way it shouldn’t have.” He laughed.
“What?” I asked. My curiosity had been piqued.
“Have you ever read it?”
I shook my head no.
“You can’t judge me, then,” he said, his voice deep and husky. He opened the book and recited the line that had him cracking himself up. “‘That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it.’”
The way the words rolled off his tongue—it was hot; he was hot. I knew what he was laughing about and my heart thudded in my chest as I tried not to giggle. I moved closer, drawn to him. As soon as our eyes locked again, there was a moment of pure vulnerability, and the silence that wrapped itself around us seemed to speak volumes. Or that was what I thought until he blinked and handed me the book.
“You should read this if you have time. It really is one of the best books ever written.”
I did giggle at that. “Right. I’m sure it’s up there next to Tom Sawyer.”
“How’d you know?” He winked.
My stomach fluttered with desire and I couldn’t help grinning.
He started to walk backward and I really wanted him to stay. When he stopped at the end of the aisle, I thought he’d changed his mind. But instead what he did captured my heart. He put both feet together and leaned forward slightly to gesture that he was tipping an imaginary hat and said, “It was nice talking to you . . .” He paused, waiting for me to fill in the blank.
“S’belle,” I finished for him, not knowing why I’d gone with my nickname from my time abroad.
“S’belle.” He grinned, the upward tilt of his lip making him even more charming. He stood straight again and I swallowed, meeting his gaze. I breathed out a sigh and before I could even ask his name, he disappeared around the corner.
I yelled, “Wait, I didn’t catch your name.”
From someplace in a distance I heard his deep husky voice call, “Ben, my name is Ben Covington.”
• • •
“Ben, Ben Covington.” They are the same words that traveled through the Crystal Ballroom and back into my heart a few nights ago. The same words that melted through the phone line a few hours ago. And the same words that make my body mold to the mattress right now with a want I shouldn’t be feeling.