Return Engagement

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Return Engagement by Elaine Cantrell

Blurb:

Elizabeth Lane has heard the call of the four most seductive words in the entire English language: what might have been. Would you risk everything you hold dear to find out what might have been? That’s the choice which Elizabeth has to make.

Elizabeth is lucky, for she has it all, money, fame, a satisfying career and a devoted fiancé. Her humble beginnings are all but obscured, but she isn’t the kind of woman Senator Henry Lovinggood wants for his son, Richard. Senator Lovinggood plans to make Richard the President of the United States; he’ll need a woman from a wealthy, powerful family by his side. Ten years ago he broke Richard and Elizabeth up, but this time it won’t be so easy, for Elizabeth wants to know what might have been. This time she’ll fight back, a struggle which ultimately leads to kidnapping and attempted murder and alienates her from the man of her dreams.

Excerpt:

In this excerpt Richard and Elizabeth have reunited on the beach and spent the evening together after a ten year separation.

They rode the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl two times each. Then they went through the haunted mansion which gave Elizabeth a great chance to scream and cling to his side. She hid her face against his shoulder, savoring the male scent of him. When they left the haunted mansion, they found a place that sold cotton candy and funnel cakes. They bought a huge amount of both and devoured the sugary treats as if they’d never had anything so tasty. I shouldn’t flirt so brazenly with him, Elizabeth thought but who cares? Her obvious joy caused some bystanders to smile as they remembered their own courtships.

She paused when they passed a shooting arcade. “Richard, you’re FBI, so I guess you’re supposed to be a good shot. Win me a stuffed animal.”

Richard groaned. “Those guns are probably all sighted wrong so you can’t win. Couldn’t I just buy you one instead?”
“No, that won’t do at all. Never mind. It’s okay if you don’t think you can do it,” she replied with no hint of a smile whatsoever. Would he try to win a prize for her or not?

Richard stepped up to the counter and inspected the row of guns provided by the arcade. “Okay, I know a challenge when I hear it. I’ll win you an animal if I have to stay here all night.”

The attendant, a wizened gnome of a man with a sour expression on his face, wandered over to them. “Win a prize for the lady, mister? Dollar a shot.”

“Yeah, I’ll give it a try.”

He selected the gun he wanted and shot, but he missed. “Just as I expected, the sights are off, and it pulls to the left.” He adjusted for the bad sights, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. This time he hit the target dead center.
“Hooray,” cheered Elizabeth. “I want that big white cat over there. How many does he have to hit to get it?”

“Ten in a row,” the man sourly replied.

A few minutes later Richard and Elizabeth walked away carrying the big cat with them.

Elizabeth tucked her arm through his. “This is so exciting! Nobody ever won anything for me before. You are such a good shot. I bet you’re one of the FBI’s best marksmen.” Is he blushing? thought Elizabeth. I bet it’s been a long time since a woman made him blush.

She couldn’t resist the urge to tease him. She came to a halt and looked intently into his face. “Why, Richard, are you blushing?”

The color in Richard’s face deepened. “I don’t think so. It’s just the lights.”

“Oh, yes you are! You always used to blush when I teased you. Did I embarrass you?”

Richard ducked his head, a little gesture that probably sent her blood pressure sky high. “All right, my face does feel a little warm” he admitted, “but no, you didn’t embarrass me. It’s… well it’s kind of nice to have you flirt with me and brag on me. I’m surprised how bad I wanted to show off and win that damn cat for you.”

“You are so sweet,” she declared, giving him a warm smile.

“I don’t believe it! Is that what I get for winning the cat? Sweet? I don’t want to be sweet.” Ignoring the crowds of people all around them, he jerked her close which made her breath leave her in a little woof. “I want to be your lover. I want you to say I’m sexy and that you want me. I can’t believe you think I’m sweet.”

Elizabeth willingly threw both discretion and Alex to the wind. What did discretion or Alex matter at a time like this? “Oh, that’s what you want, is it? I’m glad you made your intentions clear, Mr. Lovinggood.” She took a small step toward him and obligingly tilted her face upward.

She had known Richard wouldn’t waste his chance. His eyes darkened as he bent his head. Elizabeth gasped when his lips touched hers. She had forgotten how his kisses made her knees shake, her heart pound, and almost burned her up from the inside out.

Richard finally lifted his head. “You have a lazy, satisfied smile on your face,” Elizabeth breathlessly observed.
A smile crossed his face. “Yeah, I do.” His voice dropped. “You held me so close, and you kissed me like you’d never get enough of me.” He gently stroked her cheek with his fingertips. “That kiss thrilled me from head to toe. I…I don’t ever want to let you go.”

Elizabeth looked around at the crowds of people everywhere and blushed herself. “It’s one thing to kiss an actor in front of a camera, but I don’t like to be too affectionate in public. No more kissing right now, please.”
“Can I kiss you later when we’re alone?”

Alex! Elizabeth came down to earth with a thud. “No. We shouldn’t have kissed at all. It’s my fault, and I apologize.”
Richard laughed as if she’d said something hysterical. “You don’t have to apologize for that. You won’t hear any complaints out of me.”

Oh, lord! What time was it? She glanced at her watch. It was time to go home. Maybe Mother and Alex are worried about me. I haven’t behaved very well tonight. It isn’t fair to Alex for me to go out on a date with Richard. Oh, but you can’t call this a date! Yeah, right, and maybe the sun won’t come up tomorrow. She picked up her cat, and they started the walk back to their cars.

***

Elizabeth was right. It was a public place, and one set of eyes had been focused on them for almost the entire evening. The small, unremarkable man with washed out brown hair did not follow this time, but in his mind a new plan started to take shape, an infinitely superior plan.

***

“Look at the moon, Richard. Have you ever seen anything so big and beautiful? Isn’t it lovely the way it’s reflecting off the water?”

“Yes, but not as lovely as you are.” Richard made a sound of disgust. “That is so trite. You’d think I could do better, but all evening I’ve had trouble saying what I mean.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re trying too hard, but for the record, I think you’re doing just fine.” She shivered and hunched her shoulders as she hugged herself. “That wind is cold.”

Richard immediately removed his jacket and handed it to her. “Here, put this on.”
“Won’t you be cold?”

“I’m fine. I’ve got on long sleeves and that’s enough.” His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. “In fact, I kind of like the idea of you wearing my clothes. Sounds like high school, huh?”

The chilly wind that blew across the moon-drenched water snatched Elizabeth’s laughter away. “Who cares?

Sometimes it’s nice to be as irresponsible as a teenager.”

“Let’s sit down and watch the moon awhile.”

Elizabeth willingly sank into the damp sand and cuddled close beside him.

“Richard, about this evening….”

“Elizabeth, about Alex….”

“You go first,” Elizabeth urged, glad to put off telling him she couldn’t see him again.

“All right, I will.” He turned slightly, an almost angry look on his face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing getting yourself engaged to Alex Crawford? It’s obvious to a blind man that you don’t love him. You’ve been teasing me and flirting with me all evening. You’ve even kissed me. Right now your body language makes me think if I wanted to take this snuggling any further you’d be willing.”

“Wha…” Elizabeth sputtered.

“You don’t strike me as the type of woman who’d pick a man for a night of sex and then go back to her fiancé like nothing had happened. If that’s true I don’t think you love Alex as much as you think you do. The question is: what are you going to do about it?”

Elizabeth moaned and hid her face in her hands. Richard expected this surprise meeting to lead to something more that a hot dog on the beach, a casual meeting between two old…friends. I’ve done enough damage for one evening; I’m going home before I cause any more trouble. I’ve betrayed Alex and given Richard hope for a relationship with me when there is no hope.

She tried to jump up, but Richard grabbed her and held her close. “The wind is cold, and you can think just as well, no better, in my arms.”

Elizabeth gave up the effort to get away from him. “Yeah, right. Being in your arms clarifies everything! I’m so confused I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” she cried. “I do love Alex. I do! That’s why I agreed to marry him, but with you I feel like a different person.

“I know I shouldn’t have flirted with you and kissed you, but I couldn’t help myself.” Her eyes misted with tears. “I didn’t want to help myself. It’s like it was ten years ago only better because now nobody can accuse me of corrupting a minor. You asked me what I’m going to do, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t think I can stand it if you walk away again.”

Elizabeth threw her hands over her burning face again. “What kind of woman am I? I haven’t seen you in ten years, yet here I am leading you on and encouraging you to… What’s wrong with me!”

Richard jerked her hand away from her face and kissed it. “From my point of view things have finally taken a turn for the better.” Satisfaction oozed from his voice.

“You’re willing to admit you don’t want to lose me. It’s taken ten years, but we’re back where we belong-together. Everything I ever felt for you came back the minute you spoke to me. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it too.”
“I…” Elizabeth fell silent. After all; what could she say?

“Let me help you make up your mind about what to do.” Richard pushed her back into the sand and kissed her, a delicate, brushing of lips that deepened as hearts caught fire. Elizabeth imagined she could feel the thudding of his heart against her own and shivered against him. She didn’t really notice when his hand slipped under her blouse, but when she felt its warmth on her breast she cried aloud and shoved him away.

“I want to finish this in private,” Richard whispered. “We’ve waited ten years, and we deserve this night. Ask me to go home with you.”




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