Husband Stay (Bk 2)




AngHusband Stay FOR WEBela Lata is the quiet friend, who only ever wanted two things out of life: a singing career and children. So she’s entitled to a little craziness after discovering that her cheating husband had a vasectomy before their wedding. Still, that’s no excuse to succumb to sexy man-whore Jack, even if he is so gorgeous she can barely breathe in his presence. Hadn’t she learned anything from her girlfriend’s example? The best way to get over one man is NOT to sleep with another.

The trouble is, Angela has never had good sex, let alone great sex, and on the eve of her diva dreams coming true, Jack promises her both. All it takes is one night with him to ruin her completely. Every date afterward suffers in comparison, and with her biological clock ticking loudly and her career not living up to her expectations, what she needs is father material, not pleasure-on-tap.

Tradition meets testosterone in a clash of expectations as unlikely lovers struggle to uncover what they really want from life—and each other.






Read an Excerpt

©Copyright 2016 Louise Cusack


For the first time I could remember, I felt nervous about being onstage. Not the sort of nerves that give you an edge and makes you shine. This was nerves like I’d never had before—sick, churning, in danger of vomiting, nerves. I wanted to press my sweaty palms against my stomach to try and soothe it, but instead I wiped them on the sides of my black satin sheath as I waited for the intro music to begin so I could mount the stage.

My condition was completely understandable. I hadn’t sung in six months. In fact, I hadn’t gone out at all if I could help it. So I felt awkward in high heels, and when the music finally began I tottered to the microphone instead of strutting. New shoes had been a crazy idea, but I was desperate to show the club owner Bertie that I was the same ‘Indian diva’ who’d pulled the crowds before I found out my husband was a cheating bastard.

As a result, I was overdressed and under-prepared. I hadn’t even practiced, because I knew my voice would be there for me. It had been every day for thirty years since I’d won a pre-school singing competition. For some reason I’d never understood, the gods had tapped me with the singing wand, and I took that completely for granted.

Unfortunately, in my pre-occupation with big hair and sexy curves, I’d completely forgotten that my usual set started with All by myself, a love-gone-wrong classic. Since I’d left Danny I couldn’t bear to hear it, let alone sing it. So when the opening bars swelled, instead of slowing my breathing as I normally did, recognition and fear made me choke like a deer in the headlights, staring out across the intimate lamp lit tables to the retro seventies bar on the back wall.

All I could think was I’m about to bomb. This is it. The end of my singing career.

I couldn’t even swallow, my throat was so tight.

Then, for some reason, out of nowhere, I suddenly imagined my girlfriend Jill standing in front of me, and as clear as day I heard her saying Danny took fifteen years of your life and you’ve nothing to show for it except singing in the club twice a week. Are you going to let him take that away from you too? Bastard!

A welcomed surge of adrenalin coursed through my veins, and as the music swelled, I realized I wasn’t going to let him destroy my career. He’d sidelined my dream of motherhood. He wasn’t having my love of singing as well! So I pushed back my shoulders and raised the microphone to my lips. I was a professional. I could do this.

And I managed the opening lines without faltering. I was starting to feel as if I’d be okay, right up until I hit the chorus All by myself, where my voice wobbled into nothing. I had to repeat the line, but I couldn’t breathe. Instead of singing to the back of the room as I always did, pretending the barman was my audience, my world contracted, and in that moment I saw movement at the front of the stage and it distracted me further.

A drunk in an oversized cowboy hat stumbled out of his front-row table where he’d been sitting alone—no surprise there. The backing track carried on without me as he staggered forward to slump over the front of my stage. Tendrils of apprehension raced through me. Was he going to vomit? His shoulders rose and I was immediately reminded of Mixie, coughing up a fur ball.

I took a tentative step back, and tried to catch up with the song, but just as I was wavering, “I’m so unhappy. What’ll I do…” a harsh guttural sound cut across me and a projectile stream of disgusting something splattered the club’s small stage.

I vainly tried to hold the note as I skittered backwards so his regurgitation wouldn’t land on the silver sling-backs Jill had given me to wear as her bridesmaid—shoes I shouldn’t have taken out of the box. But my six-inch heel caught a lump in the carpet which the landlord must have thrown—not nailed—across the stage. I lost my balance and went flying backwards, straight back on my tailbone and then my wrist, unable to stop my legs flinging up and both shoes flying off.

The club wasn’t packed, but there had to be at least fifty people who saw beneath my dress to the pink G-string I’d bought to cheer myself up. The thin strip of fabric would have been highlighted in the harsh spotlight. I was mortified, and wrenched my knees together before I tried to scrabble upright.

But when I pushed down on my wrist…pain.

No wait. Agony. It radiated up my elbow and into my shoulder like a wrenching cord of molten barbed wire. I yelped in distress and pulled my hand up to my chest to protect it. Five seconds later the sound technician Ralph jumped up onto the small stage and grabbed my wrist, wrenching me to my feet.

Then I screamed.

Something was seriously wrong, and as agony combined with the threat of passing out, all I could do was slump against Ralph’s thankfully substantial frame and gasp, “I’m hurt. Call an ambulance,” tucking the wrist against my midriff like a broken wing.

The pain was so bad, in fact, that it over-rode embarrassment. I could hear pandemonium behind me where the cowboy was still puking and people were making sounds of disgust. A few heartless patrons were slow-clapping in appreciation of the drama, laughing as if my act had been karaoke gone wrong.

But this was my career.

Or at least it had been, before Danny had ruined my confidence.

Tonight’s debacle certainly hadn’t helped.

“Don’t worry, Angela,” Ralph said, as he tucked me under his arm and led me barefoot down the carpeted stairs. “I’ll get Bertie to look at it.”

He took me behind the stage and into the dressing room. I was grateful for his help, but I had to say, “It’s not a sprain. Something’s broken.”

He held my bare shoulders and eased me onto one of the stackable plastic chairs with my back to the medicine cabinet that doubled as a booze stash and makeup mirror.

The pain was getting worse and I blinked back tears, suddenly remembering, “My shoes!”

He stared at me with what could have been disbelief, as if a woman couldn’t be in mortal pain and worried about her footwear at the same time.

“They’re expensive. Please get them for me.”

He sighed and turned away, saying “Sure,” before he lumbered out, a ginger-haired yeti in his techie uniform of black Tee-shirt and jeans.

“Please,” I whispered again, knowing Jill would kill me if I lost them. I’d kill me. I should have saved them to wear at her wedding, but this was my first night back and I’d wanted to feel good about myself. That meant new shoes, even if Jill expected me to wear them for the first time in a bridesmaid’s dress.

It had never occurred to me that anything would happen to them.

Anything being vomit.

But I wasn’t going out after them. The more time passed, the more my wrist hurt. What had started as a sharp pain quickly morphed into a sharp ache that throbbed through my body and felt like it was rattling my brain with each thump. I wanted to stand up and go looking for a phone, but I was terrified that I’d faint. I really needed a doctor.

Finally, the club owner Bertie came in, smelling of cheap aftershave and cigarettes. He put his nicotine-stained fingers on my shoulders, and although I normally tolerated his groping—within limits—this time I shook him off in revulsion. Pain had obviously erased my ‘good manners’ program.

“Angie, baby,” he said, as if we were in a seventies video clip. He was old enough to remember them. “Fat boy says you’re hurt.”

“I think I’ve broken my wrist. Could you call an ambulance?” I said this through gritted teeth. My face felt cold and I was growing dizzier by the second. My lips were tingling. Was I in shock?

Bertie smiled at me, which was confusing given the circumstances. “Already rang one for the puker. He’s collapsed. They can check you over when they come, but I think you’ll be fine.”

Outrage blew away the cobwebs of my fuzziness. “Why does he get an ambulance?” I glared at Bertie, who I suddenly noticed was looking shifty. “Is this about your insurance?” Maybe he didn’t have Workers Compensation cover. “I don’t care about that. I’ve got my own health cover.”

“Probably just sprained,” he said and winked at me. “Nothing to worry about.”

That only infuriated me more. Unfortunately, a wave of nausea hit me then and I stumbled away from him to the disgusting toilet adjoining the dressing room, unfortunately bumping my elbow on the way.

That sent shockwaves of pain into my wrist and I barely got the toilet lid up before my mango korma dinner came back up my throat and spurted out in a totally unladylike fashion. Even while I was vomiting, I was appalled with myself. And when I’d finished, the sour taste in my mouth wouldn’t wash out no matter how many times I tried. Even worse, the floor of the toilet room was sticky under my bare feet, and that grossed me out totally.

I’d made a point of never using the ‘facilities’ attached to the dressing room, and now I felt completely validated for having refused. Employees weren’t supposed to use the patrons’ toilets—which weren’t the Hilton either—but they were a quantum leap from this germ pit.

I stumbled back into the dressing room and found it populated by Bertie, Ralph, and a female paramedic.

“Here she is.” Bertie pointed, as though the paramedic wasn’t capable of working out that I was the patient. Then he turned to Ralph and snapped, “Back to work,” before stalking out.

I used my good arm to grab Ralph’s as he turned. “My shoes?”

He shrugged. “Gone.”

“Oh my god.” I slumped into the plastic chair. Jill was going to kill me. Aside of which, how the hell was I going to get home with bare feet? The club was carpeted, but outside on the street there could be broken glass or anything. I hadn’t gone barefoot outdoors for twenty years—since I was a teenager.

The paramedic distracted me by crouching in front of me. “Hi. I’m Sally. They said your name’s Angela.” She was lean like a whippet, with cropped blonde hair, pointy features and slim shanks. A world away from my dark hair and ‘Beyoncé curves’ as Jill called them.

I nodded. “Angela Lata. I have health insurance.”

She smiled as if that was none of her business and I was telling her too much, but in my confused state, I was likely to say anything. “So.” She raised an eyebrow. “Arm?

I tried not to be annoyed. She did look competent. “Broken I think.” I held out my wrist.

“How did it happen?”

I told her as succinctly as I could. She nodded and held my arm gently at the elbow. “Is that why you were vomiting? Pain?”

I nodded again, wishing I had mints or some toothpaste.

“Worse than childbirth, eh?” She cracked a smile, then let me go to rifle through her kit.

“I wouldn’t know,” I said shortly, and the grief that had swelled with the song, tightened my throat again. Damn Danny. The one thing I’d wanted from him was the one thing he’d made sure I could never have. Cheating had been bad enough. But a vasectomy was taking cruelty to a whole new level. I still couldn’t comprehend the betrayal in that, when he knew I was desperate for a baby.

Not that I’d ever told him how frantic I was getting, nor even my three closest friends. People thought Danny and I were a ‘cute couple’, and I had loved him as my husband and the prospective father to my children. But there’d never been passion. Ours had been as close to an arranged marriage as you could find in Australia—arranged by our Mumbai-born parents who’d been thrilled that their grandchildren would be Indian and not mixed-race.

I’d always doted on Danny, but I’d never missed him when he was away. And though I hated going through a divorce, I certainly didn’t want him back. What I did want back was the twenty years I’d wasted on him: five years of dating and fifteen years of marriage, with no children to show for it. I was probably still fertile at thirty-five, but the clock was ticking.


My mother had often called her children the great loves of her life and I wanted that. I didn’t expect to love a man that way. But surely I deserved a child.

“Here.” The paramedic put a pill in my good hand. “Take this.”

I swallowed it dry. “I’d like to go to hospital.” Focusing on my immediate problems was a good way to distract myself. I wanted to keep to that plan and not dwell on the fact that my first night back at the club had gone horribly wrong and my tentative independent future was collapsing before my eyes.

“Sure. You’ll need to ride up front with me. Zac will be in the back with our other patient.”

I pulled a face. “I don’t want to be anywhere near him. It’s his fault I did this.” I raised my wrist.

“I’ll keep you apart.” She sounded as though she was worried I’d punch him. Luckily for him, I wasn’t the violent type.

Poisoning, I could consider…

Sally, however, didn’t give me the opportunity. She was right beside me all the way, helping me retrieve my handbag from my locker and even going with me to check around the stage but no, my shoes were gone. Someone said Nice undies behind me and I gritted my teeth.

Sally just patted my shoulder and said, “Ignore the bastards,” before ushering me quickly through the club, walking beside my damaged arm so no one would bump me.

Then we were out into the cool night air and I was picking my way barefoot across the sidewalk, which thankfully had no broken glass as I’d imagined. Once she’d settled me into the front seat of the nice warm ambulance with the seatbelt carefully fastened, she went back in to help her partner with the drunk.

I didn’t want to watch, but couldn’t help myself glancing in the side mirror as they wheeled him out of the club on a stretcher. He looked so still, he had to be unconscious, and without the cowboy hat, I could see he had short cropped, dark hair and some sort of moustache-beard arrangement.

I shuddered again. One thing I could be grateful for was Danny’s fastidious grooming routines. I abhorred facial hair, and men with three-day growths looked scruffy, rather than sexy to me. Just another reason to dislike this overgrown party-boy and his drunken behavior. Serve him right if he had alcohol poisoning.

I kept my gaze stubbornly ahead as the back doors opened. The ambulance wriggled around as they loaded him in, then the back doors slammed shut and a few seconds later Sally jumped into the driver’s seat. She snatched up the radio and rattled off some jargon that I wasn’t really listening to, because I was unable to help myself looking over my shoulder to the stretcher behind me.

The second paramedic was cutting the drunk’s tee-shirt open, and while Sally started the engine and took us out into traffic, I watched the male paramedic stick monitor tags over the drunk’s chest.

I glanced back at Sally. “Does he have a heart problem?” For some reason I felt a niggling sense of responsibility, as if his interaction with me had been two-way. Which was crazy. He’d inflicted everything on me. I needed to remember that before my soft heart started ambling down sympathy road.

“Maybe,” she said, not taking her eyes from the road.

But did that mean they weren’t sure, or that she wasn’t giving an indication either way because of privacy laws?

And why did I care?

I glanced over my shoulder again, noticing for the first time that the expanse of chest his opened Tee-shirt revealed was huge, and embarrassingly muscular. Was he a footballer? I’d heard that rugby boys could be uncontrollable, but I’d never seen them in Bertie’s club before.

The usual patron was a thirty-something professional—but boring professions like accountants and dentists who sat around drinking expensive cocktails and listening to the music of their teenage years, imagining they were just as cool as they’d always been.

I’d suffered more than my fair share of ham-fisted flirting over the years, and it sometimes took all of my self-control to smile and be gracious as Bertie expected, when I really wanted to say Why on earth would I go out with a pretentious twit like you when I have a perfectly good husband at home?

I hadn’t known then that Danny was far from ‘perfectly good’. I’d accepted the fact that he’d always been a flirt, which had alternately embarrassed and annoyed me. I’d smiled through most of it, sometimes with gritted teeth, but I hadn’t liked it.

Now that it was over, however, the worst thing was not-knowing when flirting had tipped over to infidelity. That really sucked. And every time I thought of how gullible I’d been, believing all his late-home-lies, I felt sick with disgust. But I had to stop doing that to myself. Self-recrimination only made life harder to wade through, and the last thing I wanted was to feel like a victim.

So I sighed and closed my eyes, wishing I could somehow go back in time to when Jill, Fritha, Louella and I had been schoolgirls together and Tommy Smout had sent me love letters. I hadn’t been attracted to Tommy in the slightest, but his adoration had impressed me.

Of course, I hadn’t been attracted to Danny either, but the difference between the two men was that Tommy had grown into a lovely man, a faithful and steadfast husband and a doting father. At least that’s what my mother told me while recounting news of Dakaroo, the little country town where we girls had grown up before we’d all fled the outback for adventures in the city.

If I’d married Tommy Smout instead of Danny, I’d be a happy mother now—albeit to mixed race children—instead of a lonely woman with no shoes riding an ambulance to hospital in a city where nobody cared about you.

I sighed again, and that’s when Sally interrupted my thoughts. “He’s a looker, that’s for sure.”

I blinked my eyes open, confused for a second about her ability to read my mind. Then I twigged that I was still turned toward the drunk. Without realizing what I’d been doing, I’d twisted sideways in the seat to face Sally, resting my cheek against the head-rest so I could stare at the man on the stretcher behind her.

“No wedding ring.” She winked at me and hauled us around a corner, her thin arms like spindles as they turned the steering wheel.

“He’s a creep,” I said categorically, but when I glanced back at him, I couldn’t help feeling as if the description didn’t fit anymore. With monitors all over his chest, and his face gentle with sleep—or unconsciousness—he looked like a big kid. A big stupid kid, granted. But not a creep.


But not scary.

I twisted around to face the front again, protecting my wrist with my good hand. “I’m married,” I said. My standard defense. May as well use it until the divorce was official.

She shrugged. “Fair enough, but there’s no law against looking.”

The other paramedic’s voice cut over us from the back. “ASAP, Sal.”

She flipped on the siren and that was the end of our conversation as she focused on the road, swerving between cars, running red lights, worse than a Sydney taxi driver.

I could see movement behind me in my peripheral vision, and I desperately wanted to turn back and stare, but some ingrained decency forced me to avert my head. Every bad thing I’d thought about the man on the stretcher slowly drained out of my mind. He wasn’t even the drunk anymore. He was someone’s son, clearly fighting for his life.

In a straight stretch with a clear freeway in front of us, Sally grabbed the radio and rattled off codes. I had no idea what they meant. But I heard cardiac among it. Then she slapped the microphone back down and said over her shoulder, “Do you need me in the back?”


I stopped cradling my wrist and let it rest on my lap, feeling like a complete baby. Why on earth had I made such a fuss? Especially now that the pill had done its work and the pain was a muted rumble, like distant thunder.

I turned to Sally and said, “Is there anything I can do?”

Her frown deepened, but she didn’t take her attention off the road. “Pray?”

She’d probably said it as a joke, but I closed my eyes and immediately started into the prayer my parents had taught me when my grandmother had been desperately ill. I worship the lotus feet of Ganesha, and call on the son of Uma, the destroyer of all sorrows…

Whoever this man was, it wasn’t fair for him to die in this way, with no loved ones nearby. So when the ambulance pulled into the emergency section of the hospital, I kept right on praying, staying where I was as Sally jumped out and helped her partner get the stretcher out of the ambulance.

Orderlies rushed out of the hospital to meet them and I watched as the man I’d thought so badly of, jiggled on the stretcher as it rattled across the asphalt and was swallowed up into the hospital.

I kept on praying, feeling ever more hopeless, terrified that his last human interaction might have been my curse about a stupid pair of shoes. The shock of it all must have gotten to me, because I was on the verge of tears when Sally came back ten minutes later and opened the passenger door to let me out. Somehow I held my emotions in check.

“Let’s get you inside so they can look at that wrist.”

I wished I could tell her it was unimportant, so I could retreat to the tiny apartment I was sharing with my cousin and have a cathartic sob, but there was something wrong with the wrist. It needed an X-ray. I may as well get it done now.

“Thanks.” I picked up my handbag with my good hand and followed her in, trying to ignore how uncomfortable my bare feet were on the uneven asphalt. “Is he going to be okay?” It was none of my business, but I still felt a completely unwarranted sense of responsibility for him. “Are his people coming?”

She shook her head. “No idea. We just pass on the information. Hospital staff will work that out. Unless you know something about him that you can tell them?”

I shook my head. “I’ve never seen him before.”

“You’d remember him if you did.” She led me in through the sliding glass doors and a wash of cold, disinfectant-tainted air coursed over me. It was a relief to be on smooth, cool tiles. “He’s one big unit,” she added with another wink, then she led me to triage. “Well, this is where I leave you. Sorry I missed your set. I’ll try to get to the club some time to hear you.”

“Really?” I was surprised by her interest. It was sweet. “Thank you. Please let me know if you do come. I’d like to buy you a drink to say thanks.”

She glanced around, and then back at me. “You’re not…hitting on me, are you?”

It took my brain two seconds to process that, then my breath fell out on a gust of shock. “Not… No! Goodness no. I’m completely straight. Completely! Married, well, separated, but—”

She laughed at my reaction. “Okay. It’s okay.” She patted my shoulder. “You just didn’t seem interested in the hot guy, so I thought…you know.”

“He was drunk and unconscious.” I shook my head. “How was I supposed to notice he was hot?”

And why would I care? It was way too soon for that.

Sally grinned. “Must be just me with the lecherous thoughts.”

The triage nurse butted in with questions, so Sally excused herself and I was left to suffer the next few hours of waiting and consultation and x-rays and more waiting all by myself. I’d expected to grow sadder, but instead, as time passed I became more curious about the guy and what was happening to him.

In the end, I embarrassed myself by cornering a nurse. “A man came in the ambulance with me. Tall. Big build. Dark hair. Some sort of heart issue.”

She nodded. “Killer smile, sexy chest.”

I did a double-take. The nurse had to be fifty. Probably a grandma. “I didn’t see his smile…” I faltered. Did that mean he was awake now? I had seen his chest. “He was a patron in the club where I work. So I feel…a sense of responsibility for him. Have his family been notified that he’s here?”

If I was in hospital with a dodgy heart, I’d want my parents at my bedside, stat!

She shook her head. “He’s all alone. You want to check in on him?”

“Oh, no.” It was my turn to shake my head. “I don’t know him.” I looked around for an excuse. “I’m waiting for the results of X-rays. If I don’t hear my name called—”

“I’ll find you.” She looked as if she was calling me on a dare. But the last thing I wanted was to talk to the man. I was tired. It was nearly 4am. I wanted my wrist fixed and I wanted to go home. Damn my stupid marshmallow heart for getting me into trouble—yet again. But she just raised an eyebrow. “Five minutes,” she said. “Might cheer him up.”

I frowned at her, but it was like frowning at a rock wall. She absolutely wasn’t moved. And my conscience was saying, You prayed for the man. Would it hurt you to look in on him?

I was over my angst about the shoes. Perhaps I could consider it an act of goodwill and tell Bertie I’d done it on his behalf. It might make me look more reliable, more like a staff member he could count on to perform her duties.

“Alright.” I hadn’t meant to sound so begrudging, but both her eyebrows rose and I felt obliged to add, “I’m sorry. I’ll be nice to him.”

“He nearly died.” She pinned me with a glare, then she nodded at the corridor and set off ahead of me.

I padded after her in my bare feet and black sheath dress, feeling stupid all over again when people gave me puzzled glances. Did they think I was some party girl who’d lost her footwear while roaming around drunk? At least my hand was now in a tidy sling against my chest, so I added straight shoulders and a raised chin, hoping I could get this ordeal over with quickly and get home.

I’d worry about how to get my car back from the club tomorrow. I clearly couldn’t drive with one arm out of action. Which meant I’d need to beg my cousin for a lift to the train station on Monday. The last thing I needed was to lose my new part-time job at the deli…


How could I prepare food when I had only one working arm?

I hadn’t thought of that, and the bottom dropped out of my stomach at the same moment as the nurse stopped and turned to me.

“In there,” she said and nodded at a door.

I struggled to put my own concerns aside for the moment, but my smile only lasted until I realized she clearly wasn’t coming in with me. I shook my head. “You want me to just…go in?”

What if he was asleep or—

“Yep.” She turned on her heel and marched back the way we’d come, leaving me staring at the door, wondering what might be happening on the other side. What if he was using the bedpan, or a doctor was in there examining him. Any number of embarrassing things could be happening—things I didn’t want to intrude on.

But surely the nurse would have thought of that. And, really, could I walk away when she’d made him sound so lonely? In the end it was my marshmallow heart that did the deciding, and I knocked tentatively.

Unfortunately, there was no answer, so I tensed my shoulders in anticipation, turned the doorknob and eased the door open, sliding my head inside to scope out the room, ready for a quick exit if necessary.

But nothing was happening. He was alone in the room, lying on the bed with his eyes closed, his big tanned chest dotted with tiny white monitors and their cords. Was he asleep?

I hovered in the doorway, not sure what to do. I couldn’t simply walk into a stranger’s room when he wasn’t even awake. Weren’t there laws about privacy? I was frowning at him, thinking I should just ease back out of the room and try and retrace my steps. But right in that moment, he opened his eyes.

“Yes?” he croaked.

I had another impulse to back away—which would have been the right thing to do. There was no reason to stay. Only…he looked sad.

Stupid marshmallow heart.

I struggled internally, but ended up stepping inside and shutting the door behind me. I even conjured a fake smile. “Hello. I’m Angela. From the club.”

“Jack.” His frown deepened and he shook his head. “Have we met? I’m sure I’d remember you. You’re a knockout.” His voice was unnaturally gravelly, and I wondered if they’d pumped his stomach. That distracted me so much I didn’t pick up on the compliment straight away.

When I did, I said, “Oh,” and took a few steps closer to the bed, so he didn’t need to strain his voice. Then I faltered to a stop and my mouth fell open.

Shiva be praised. What a man!

Somehow I managed to say, “Thanks,” although I could hear the vague tone in my voice. I was totally confused by the loud shouting in my brain. Stop staring at his chest. And, Oh my! How completely manly. How completely…sexy.

I swallowed hard and struggled to meet his gaze, which was impossible when he was naked to the waist. He had huge pecs with tiny brown nipples and a thin line of dark hair that ran down the middle of his muscular belly, widening marginally below the waist as it disappeared beneath the bed linen.

My imagination promptly conjured a visual of what could be hiding there, and I felt stunned by the fact that I wasn’t revolted—far from it!

Clearly, I should never have come into the room alone. It was completely inappropriate, and that had to be the reason my face felt so hot. I was embarrassed. That was all.

“Angela,” he said wistfully. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember anything before I woke up. The whole night is a blank.” Jack’s eyes were brown, but not as dark as mine—more toffee colored—and staring into them made me feel breathless. Which was crazy. I’d met handsomer men than him—men with no facial hair.

But the stubble couldn’t hide a strong jawline and beautiful lips. He was stunning, arousing, and I’d never felt like this before, not even when I’d had teenage crushes. The jerky sensations racing around my body were debilitating and energizing all at the same time.

I could hear Fritha’s voice inside my head telling me it was destiny, and Jill saying it was lust. I wasn’t sure what it was. But it was something.

I forced my mouth to work. “I was singing. You vomited on my stage.”

“Fuck.” He just kept staring at me, and somehow the air thickened around us. I could feel it throbbing like a heat mirage. “I’m sorry.”

His steady gaze slid away from my eyes and I felt my whole body tingle into life. His inspection was slow, from the top of my long dark hair, down to pause at my lips, then it lingered on my shoulders, my breasts, down to my cinched waist and then over my generous hips. When he’d finished, he met my eyes again.

“So there’s no chance of us…” He waved a finger between the two of us and smiled the ‘killer smile’ the nurse had warned me about, all shiny white teeth in his tanned face, sexy crow’s feet beside his eyes and a come-hither eyebrow raise. Looking at it made my insides flutter down low, and I was just thinking I’d never felt that before, when he added. “…having sex?”

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