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From Temptation to Twins(7)

By:Barbara Dunlop

“I know it’s not. Because it doesn’t exist.”

“I mean, if it did exist. We’d cater to a different clientele.”

“The Crab Shack caters to seafood eaters. What does Neo do?”

“Neo’s high-end. The Crab Shack is casual.”

“What makes you say that?”

He seemed surprised by her words. He glanced around the building, taking in the aging brick, the torn linoleum and the rustic wood beams. “It’s humble, basic, kitschy. Don’t get me wrong—”

“How could I take that wrong?” She crossed her arms, and her elbows touched his chest. She tipped her head, recapturing his gaze and letting her annoyance tighten her expression.

“If you were to go high-end,” he said.

She waited. She couldn’t believe he hadn’t backed off yet.

Instead, he increased the connection between them, his chest pressing along the length of her forearms. It was a firm chest, a sexy chest and an amazing chest. For a second, she lost her train of thought.

“If you were to go high-end,” he said. “We’d be complementary. We could feed customers to each other. You’ve seen it, a restaurant district or an auto mall. We could become a seafood restaurant cluster—the place to go in greater Olympia for terrific seafood.”

“That’s pretty good.”

“So you’re interested?”


“Why not?”

“It’s a pretty good argument, Caleb. It’s not true, but A for ingenuity.”

Something flashed in his eyes. It was either admiration or annoyance, maybe a bit of both. “There are examples of it all over the world.”

“Neo’s a nationally known and renowned chain. You’d annihilate the Crab Shack.”

Melissa’s and the contractor’s voices were muffled as they talked outside on the deck.

“You’re not going to agree to this, are you?” Caleb asked.


“We’re not going to be friendly?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Okay.” He nodded. He let go of the ladder and rocked back, breaking their contact. “I guess I’ll go back to my corner and come out swinging.”

She wasn’t disappointed, she told herself. And she definitely didn’t miss his touch.

“But first,” he said, surprising her by reaching back to cup her cheek with his palm. “Since I probably can’t make the situation much worse...”

His intent was clear. She told herself to say no, to turn her head, to step sideways. There was nothing stopping her. She was free to move and shut this down.

But she didn’t. Instead, she surrendered to nine years of fantasy and parted her lips as he closed the space between them.


Before his lips even touched Jules’s, Caleb knew he was making a huge mistake. He also knew he didn’t care.

He’d lain awake half the night thinking about her, picturing her on the trail outside her house, reliving her saying she’d had a crush on him. He should have kissed her right then. Any other man would have kissed her right then.

Now her cheek was soft against his palm, warm and smooth. He edged his fingers into her silky hair, and his lips finally covered hers. He kept the kiss soft. He wanted to devour her, but he didn’t want to scare her, and he sure didn’t want her to push him away.

Her lips softened. They parted. He firmed his grip, anchoring her mouth to his, while his free hand went around her waist. Desire pulsed through his body, arousal awakening his senses. He gave in to temptation and touched his tongue to hers.

She moaned, and his arm wound around her, bringing their bodies flush together. He deepened the kiss, bending her slightly backward. His body temperature rose, and he could feel the pulse of the ocean, or maybe it was the beat of his heart.

Melissa’s voice penetrated from outside, saying something about the roof. Her footsteps sounded on the deck. A man’s voice rose in response to her question.

Jules’s hands went to Caleb’s shoulders, and she gave the slightest push.

He reacted immediately, pulling back, her flushed cheeks coming into focus, along with her swollen lips and glazed blue eyes.

He wanted it again. He wanted more. He absolutely did not want to stop.

“I’ve made it worse,” he said, half to himself.

“We can’t do that,” she said, obviously voicing her own train of thought.

“No kidding.”

“I can’t trust you.”

“You could have said no.” This wasn’t all on him.

Her smile looked self-conscious. “I know. I’m talking about more than just the kiss.”

“Tell me why?” He didn’t know why he cared, but he did.