Smoke In The Citi
by Joy Avery
by Joy Avery
Where there’s smoke…
When Passion Phillips agrees to work elbow to elbow with the man who left her at the altar, flames ignite inside the Citi Café. Flames capable of engulfing her mind and body. She’s made the mistake of loving him once, but won’t make the same mistake again. Burned by his betrayal, she is determined keep him at a distance. If only her heart would listen.
Dasher Howard is not the man he used to be. All he needs now is the opportunity to show Passion that he’s no longer the man she once knew. With a mission to prove to her love can be better the second time around, he’ll do whatever it takes to reclaim her heart. Even if it means manipulating the odds in his favor.
The only thing hotter than the food inside Citi Café is the blaze igniting between Passion and Dasher. How will he prove to her that he is the only man for her? Especially when she is hell-bent on hating him.
Excerpt from Chapter One
The idea of showing up at Second Empire restaurant, in full wedding attire, to confront the man who’d jilted her at the altar two months earlier had seemed like a grand idea to Passion Phillips two hours ago; not so much now as she stood in the Pine Room of the restored Dodd-Hinsdale house.
Dasher’s eyes glowed intense as hot embers as he watched her with a hard stare. Those captivating brown eyes had once made her dizzy with desire. Had the setting been different, they probably still could. The reality of the admission caused a knot in her stomach.
The other diners at the table, presumably colleagues, stared at her as if she’d recently been released from a mental institution and still donned the facility-issued wardrobe instead of the Vera Wang gown she wore.
The strapless, natural-waist ballerina gown had cost over six thousand dollars. It’d been much more than she’d ever dreamed of paying for a gown she would only wear once. In awe, she’d marveled at the bottom layers of laser-cut organza with a floral pattern etched in, as well as the detachable bustier top with its sweetheart neckline. It wasn’t long before she’d fallen in love with the pricey garment. And thanks to the man in front of her, it had been a total waste of money.
Standing feet away from Dasher made her realize just how unprepared she was. Unprepared to face the one person who, despite her loathing, still made an inferno burn in the pit of her stomach. That shouldn’t be the case. Especially when he’d shattered her heart just months earlier.
Although distance lay between them, she could feel Dasher’s body heat. It was more likely the heat of rage and fury coursing between them as his lethal eyes penetrated to her core.
Standing in front of the rolling cameras of a local news investigation team a year prior, defending her restaurant against trumped up allegations of food poisoning, was a cakewalk compared to standing inches from the man with whom, up until that fateful day, she’d planned to spend the rest of her life with.
“Good evening, Dasher,” she said, sweeping her veil over a shoulder.
His dark, thick brows bunched. “Passion, what are you doing here?”
Was he that oblivious? Did he really have to ask? “I wanted you to see exactly how I would have looked on our wedding day. You forfeited that opportunity when you left me at the altar.” Simply saying the words made her want to break down in tears, but she took heed not to show any emotion. Why did he need to know how much she was still hurting over his deception? Why did he need to know that her heart was still bleeding over him?
Dasher scanned the table of well-dressed and distinguished men and women. “This is neither the time—nor place for this.”
A condescending laugh escaped her. “Really? And at the church, an hour before our ceremony, was the appropriate time for you to decide you didn’t want to marry me?”
Mr. Thornton said, “Dasher, this would be more effectively resolved outside, don’t you think?”
Passion’s narrow-eyed gaze slid to Dasher’s boss. An overbearing buffoon of a man. His beet red cheeks had to be a sign of his embarrassment. Not to sound like a cliché, but she’d killed two birds with one stone. She’d never cared much for the man.
Dasher’s nostrils flared slightly, indicating his irritation. His hard stare never left her as he said, “Yes, sir, I believe it would.”
A swift motion brought Dasher to his feet. The swirling aromas couldn’t mask the unmistakable scent of his cologne when he came to a full stand. It wasn’t that the fragrance was applied too generously; it was that it called to her like a tracking beacon.
As her eyes climbed his frame, she knew underneath the midnight-blue suit, muscles rippled from his firm legs to his ripped arms. With her eyes steadily rising, she glided past the broad shoulders and settled at his hypnotic lips, a hard, straight line in them. Ignoring that, she trailed past the pronounced flare of his nostrils, only stopping when their eyes reconnected.
A quiver caused her to shift her one hundred and fifty-five pounds from one foot to the other. If her legs gave way, would the man nearest to her catch her five-foot-eight frame? She eyed him. Not likely.
“I don’t need you to placate me, Dasher. You can’t manage me like one of your computer programs. I’m leaving.” Her features softened. “I wanted you to feel just a fraction of the humiliation I felt the day you…” She paused, her breath catching in her throat. “The day you broke my heart.” Tears battled to escape, but she managed to keep them at bay.
How had their relationship gone so wrong? At one point, the two had been inseparable. So in-tune with one another, that either often knew exactly what the other was thinking without asking; could finish each other’s sentences. She’d known the placement of every one of his laugh lines, the location of every imperfection on his body, every spot that turned him on.
( Continued... )
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About the Author
Joy Avery is a North Carolina native with a passion for penning contemporary romances. Her stories guide readers along the rutted roads of love, delivering them to a gratifying happily ever after.
Joy is a member of Romance Writers of America and Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, cake decorating, pretending to expertly play the piano, driving her husband insane, and playing with her sixteen-pound peek-a-poo and hundred-pound Rottweiler. Books available at: www.amazon.com/author/joyavery
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