Ebony Denise Garrett always gets what she wants. The owner of the widely popular lingerie franchise, Discreet Boutique, is as sensual and as exotic as the merchandise she sells. And when it comes to getting what she wants, she’s as persistent as a Jehovah Witness on a Saturday morning. So, when she meets devilishly handsome Xavier Reed at a spring banquet at Jubilee Christian Center and he rebuffs her advances she’s stunned. How could a man pass up a night with a beautiful, sexually liberated woman like her? Ebony is allergic to commitment but she wouldn’t mind some companionship. Some romance. Some fun. And a few nights of toe-curling passion. Is that too much to ask?
Xavier would be lying through his teeth if he said he didn’t find the titillating and seductive boutique owner attractive, but her blatant come-ons and come-hither looks are a complete turn off. He likes his women quiet, classy and demure-everything Ebony Garrett is not!
To the surprise of her family and friends, Ebony signs up to volunteer for the ‘Changing Lives Through Meals’ program at Jubilee Christian Center. As coordinator of the homeless outreach program, Xavier is expected to offer guidance and support to his team, including Ms. Garrett. Could it be that he misjudged the sexy siren? Or is her sudden interest in giving back to the community all part of her elaborate scheme to snag him? Xavier can only pray that the next twelve weeks goes by fast, because every time Ebony flashes her smile his way or “accidentally” brushes up against him, he has to remind himself to breath. There is no denying the chemistry between them. It’s crushing. Overpowering. Stifling. But getting involved with a woman like Ebony will bring him nothing but trouble…Or will it?
That woman is trouble in three-inch heels Xavier decided, as the statuesque woman with the smoky eyes and mocha-brown skin approached. Her auburn hair was short, trendy and bounced restlessly as she walked. The stylish cut showed off her delicate neckline and gave her a bold, edgy look.
She’s sin waiting to happen! Xavier watched the woman weave her way through the crowd, like she was on a mission. Everything about her was tempting-the seductive curl of her lips, her sensual walk, the way she moved through space. Her mischievous smile set him on edge, but there was no denying it; the woman had a Lord-have-mercy-body. Her crimson v-neck dress clung to each and every luscious curve and drew attention to her figure. She had a smile that shone brighter than headlights and the glint in her eyes hauled him in like a fisherman with the catch of the day. Her flawless skin was the most beautiful shade of chocolate, clear and smooth. The woman had the ultimate bad-girl face and when she brushed passed him and requested a Diet Pepsi from the potbellied man working the refreshment bar, Xavier concluded that her sexy, throaty voice could seduce even the most God-fearing man.
Soda in hand and an affable smile on her face, Ebony turned to greet the man to her right. “Having a good time?”
Xavier turned at the sound of her voice. His eyes lingered on her full, pouty lips and ultra-white teeth. Her chandelier earrings shimmered under the soft lights, and jingled every time she batted an eyelash. Gawking was indecorous and made the doer look asinine, but Xavier couldn’t help himself. And when her smile expanded, revealing a perfect mouth, he felt like someone was squeezing his heart with both hands. She had the whitest teeth he had ever seen. Teeth so white it looked like food had never passed her lips. But the sugar in her smile, the honey on her red-hued lips and the dangerous slope of her hips told him otherwise.
Xavier took a sip of his Mountain Dew before responding to her question. “I’m having a good time, thanks.”
“The food was wonderful, wasn’t it?”
He could listen to her deep vixenish voice all night. Rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, he patted a hand over his stomach. “The women’s fellowship committee really outdid themselves this year. The main course was scrumptious, the desserts heavenly and the overwhelming turnout is a testament to all their hard work.”
He smiled kindly, those dimpled cheeks enhancing his nice-guy appeal. He exuded masculinity and strength and though they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, Ebony felt elfin standing next to him. It was a welcome change. Most men were intimidated by her size; it was refreshing being with a man who wasn’t dwarfed by her five-ten frame.
Ebony extended her right hand. “Ebony Garrett. And you are?”
“Xavier Reed. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ebony. I’ve never seen you at Jubilee Christian Center. Did one of our members invite you?”
“I came with my aunt. She visits Jubilee from time to time.”
“Have you ever attended one of our services?” Xavier asked, inhaling her sweet perfume. The scent made him hanker for fresh fruit.
“I don’t have much free time during the week, so I like to hit the clubs on the weekends. I use Sundays to catch up on sleep.” Stop babbling Ebony chided herself. Be engaging and witty and let him know you’re both interested and available.
They talked for a few minutes about the church and then a long painful silence settled in among them. There was an air of shyness about him Ebony hadn’t picked up on initially. If she waited for him to build up enough courage to ask her out, they could be standing there all night, and time was of the essence. “Have you heard of A Taste of Venice?” Ebony asked, tilting her head to the right. Her stance gave him an unrestricted view of her cleavage.
Xavier kept his eyes on her face. She couldn’t be more obvious, he thought, refusing himself a glance at her chest. “That’s the new upscale restaurant on Hennepin and ninth, right?” She nodded, and he continued. “I’ve been meaning to check it out, but I haven’t had the time.”
So far so good, Ebony thought, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. She paused, when a trio of longhaired, blue-eyed blondes approached the bar. Each woman was making googly eyes at him. How desperate can you be? she wondered, when the thinnest one in the group tossed some hair over her shoulder and winked. Heifer.
Ebony waited until the women slithered away before she spoke again. “Are you free for dinner this Friday? Say, eight o’clock. We can meet at the restaurant if you’d like.” She opened her clutch purse, pulled out a business card and started to hand it to him when he politely declined. The smile slid off her face. “No, you’re not free this Friday or no you don’t want to have dinner with me period?”
“Both.” His eyes smiled, belying his harsh words.
The vacant expression on his face caused self-doubt to take up residence in her mind. Is he for real? she wondered. Ebony pushed for more details, “I don’t understand why you won’t go out with me. It’s just dinner.”
Xavier downed the rest of his soda. It was time to bring this conversation to a close. The entertainment portion of the program was set to begin any minute now and he didn’t want to miss anything. His friend Liberty Williams was singing Amazing Grace and he just knew she was going to blow the roof off the church. “You seem to be a lovely woman and all, Ms. Garrett, but I can’t go out with you.”
Ebony was stunned by his brusque reply, but her face remained inexpressive. “Why? Are you dating someone? Engaged? Married?” No sense in making the same mistake twice, she thought, checking his left hand. No ring. In fact, aside from his watch, he wore no jewelery at all.
Xavier’s eyes raked the room. This was one of those situations where his bogus wedding band would have come in handy. A few years ago, he had taken to wearing a gold ring on his wedding finger, but it hadn’t been the deterrent he had hoped it would be. Women had descended on him in doves. They slipped business cards into his pocket, scrawled their phone numbers on napkins and told him his wife would never have to know. “No, I’m as single as they come.” Xavier left it at that. He had a feeling that if he said anything else, she might use it against him later.
“Then why won’t you go out with me?” Ebony cringed at the sound of her voice. She sounded desperate, pathetic, needy. Clearing her throat, she took a mouthful of soda and tried again. “What I meant was, what’s the harm in two single, very attractive people going out for dinner?” His eyes twinkled in amusement, which was all the encouragement she needed. Now she knew two things about Xavier Reed: he found her attractive and he thought she was amusing. Both were very good things. “I’m paying, Xavier. It won’t cost you a thing if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“That’s not it.” Xavier chose his words carefully. It wasn’t his style to hurt people’s feelings but there was no way he was going out with this pushy woman. “I’m an excellent judge of character, Ms. Garrett, and I seriously doubt we’d have anything in common.”
Ebony nailed him with a look. The articulate and well-spoken man had obviously been blessed with good looks, but he was about as warm as an ice-rink. She took a step forward to leave, but the sting of his insult pushed her to ask, “How do you know we have nothing in common when you don’t know anything about me?”
I know you’re aggressive and bad news. Xavier decided to keep his observations to himself. He shrugged one shoulder. “Call it intuition.”