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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When Leanne’s bridegroom develops cold feet on the day of their wedding, what else is she to do but turn to a hot stranger for comfort? Discovering that Rex is a shapeshifting wolf does little to dampen her desire for him, his beastly nature as irresistible as it is potentially dangerous. All she ever wanted was normal, so why can’t she get this beast out of her mind?
Things are no less confusing for Rex, who has dedicated the last few years to the protection of shapeshifting beasts. He is a wolf with increasing responsibilities, especially now that humans and shifters are on the verge of an interspecies conflict. He only signed up to get Leanne to her wedding but instead, is faced with an attraction which will bring into question his own commitment to the shapeshifters’ cause.
This is the first book of Natalie Aejaz’s ‘Shifters Unleashed’ series, set in a contemporary and urban environment. This hot and steamy wolf shifter paranormal fantasy romance features a ‘happily ever after’ and no cliffhangers. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone.
THIS BOOK IS NOT INTENDED FOR READERS UNDER THE AGE OF 18.
LEANNE HAD DREAMED OF HER WEDDING since she was a little girl, and her big day was finally here.
I can’t believe it.
Posing in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, she admired her transformation as her best friend Beth went crazy taking photos with her mobile. Those weeks spent trawling shops for the perfect wedding dress had been more than worth it. The long white skirt was a dream, skimming over her hips and flowing to the floor, reminding Leanne of the princesses in the fairy tales she loved as a child. She shifted to look at her reflection from a different angle. The laced-up bodice? Still a bit tight, but buying a dress two sizes small had not pushed her into achieving those weight loss goals; she was never going to lose the last few pounds but the bodice did show off a hell of a cleavage, so that was something. The makeup artist was a downright genius, making her brown eyes stand out and emphasizing the fullness of her lips. Leanne twisted to look over her shoulder, lifting the delicate bridal veil so she could admire how her dark hair had been lined with pearls and styled in a braided chignon that was a far cry from her usual plain old ponytail.
Today she was … beautiful. But would Dave think so?
She glanced out of the window. Early this morning it looked like it would be a lovely summer’s day, but now rain was on the way. Damn! The weather would not hold up much longer and there was also the good old London traffic to contend with, so she grabbed her beaded purse from the dressing table and turned to Beth, whose slim figure carried off that strapless pink gown to perfection. “Time to get moving, babe.” They both left Leanne’s apartment and hurried down the communal stairs to the ground floor, pausing at the entrance of the building. Leanne drew a deep breath at the sight of the plush Mercedes waiting at the end of the path, nerves fluttering inside her stomach. She kissed her friend. “I’ll pick dad up, and see you at the church. Don’t forget —”
“I won’t forget your suitcase and travel bag.” Beth flung her brown hair back, green eyes wide in mock horror. “As if I would dare.”
This was it. Dave and she would spend tonight in the hotel where the reception was to be held, and tomorrow morning leave for the honeymoon in Spain — as Mr. and Mrs. Henderson. It was going to rain any minute now, but as she left Beth at the entrance of the building and rushed to the car, skirt lifted high, even that prospect did not dampen her spirits. As long as she reached the church before it poured it down, that was the main thing. The chauffeur stepped out of the Mercedes to open the door, dressed in a black two-piece suit, and she registered a tall and muscle-packed frame as she placed one foot inside the vehicle. At his sharp intake of breath she looked up, into ice-blue eyes that sent a jolt straight to her core, making her pause with her other foot on the pavement. Damn, he was handsome. Thick dark hair, somewhere between brown and black, a strong jaw underneath that designer stubble, and a face with perfect angles as if drawn by an artist. And the intensity of his gaze pulled her … He was also still, jaw taut and eyes locked on hers, the tension between them growing with each moment.
“Leanne!” Beth’s voice hit her like a glass of cold water, pulling her back to reality. “Get into the freakin’ car! Or else it’ll be raining by the time you reach there.”
Flustered, she gathered her long skirt. As she got into the Mercedes, she held the door for support and her fingers brushed his, making her jump. He froze for a moment, his expression making it clear he also felt the spark that had passed between them. Closing the door behind her, he returned to the driver’s seat; when he shut them both inside, the spacious interior suddenly seemed tiny, her goddamn heart beating out of control. What was wrong with her? After a six-year relationship, Dave had popped the question she had been waiting for — yet here she was, leaving for the wedding of her dreams and unnerved by her proximity to this stranger, shaken by her reaction to him. She glanced at the rear-view mirror and when their eyes met, could not look away, a surge of heat rushing between her legs.
Her phone rang and she dragged her gaze from his, a mixture of relief and regret churning inside her. “I need to collect dad and get to the church,” she mumbled, lifting a finger to point ahead, as if he did not know where the bloody road was. As he used the snazzy push-button feature to start the engine, she took her mobile out of her purse. It was her mum Margaret, who had been at the church hours ago to make sure the arrangements were perfect. As usual, she was frantic about everything happening on time, expecting last-minute emergencies. “Of course I’m in the car, mum. Where else would I be? Yes, I’m going to pick up dad and we’ll be there soon.” She tried to shift her focus to the conversation but it was impossible to ignore the chauffeur’s presence, or the tension crackling inside the luxury vehicle.
“Be quick, dear,” said mum, “Dave will be here shortly. You cannot have him waiting.” Leanne had struggled nonstop with weight and self-esteem issues since her early teens, and mum was still in shock that she had nabbed a successful accountant like Dave, who for sure was going to be a partner in his firm one day. “Where’s Beth?”
“Picking up our friends in her car and then she’ll be there.”
“At least the rest of your bridesmaids are here. Valerie is blooming. I always knew pregnancy would suit her.” Whereas Leanne would no doubt resemble a bloated balloon in the same scenario. Her perfect older sister Val was tall and slim, married to a stockbroker, and a picture of elegance even when nearly nine-months pregnant. Leanne just hoped her sister would not go into labor at her wedding. That would be just like Val, taking the attention for herself. “I hope you appreciate how lucky you are,” mum added. “You need to take good care of Dave, keep him happy. If this does not work out, you will not find anyone else like him. You know that, don’t you, dear?”
Thanks, mum. As if she needed reminding that she would hit thirty soon and, according to her mother, become an even more undesirable prospect for many men.
She returned her mobile to the purse, deciding to look at anything but the chauffeur. But as he drove her gaze kept returning to the back of him, taking in his dark hair, muscular frame and large hands, so in control on the steering wheel. He shifted his body as he turned a corner, his shoulder muscles moving sinuously under that fitted jacket and giving a preview of what lay underneath; sending her imagination into overdrive. Dave had been her first serious relationship and sometimes she could not help wondering if she had missed out ... no, she was being an idiot. Mum was right; she could not do any better than Dave. Okay, so she had not experienced the sexual adventures Beth had to boast of, but that was not what life was about.
Dave was a kind man, and attractive enough with his dark brown hair, green eyes and above-average height — sure, he might not have the magnetism of the chauffeur, but that was not important. Her Dave was committed, which was the main thing. And for a woman less than stunning? Enough to be grateful for. He had already hinted at having children and she was more than ready, especially now he was being promoted to senior accountant in his firm’s Manchester-based office. He had a few months to move to Manchester and start the job but had decided to take up the position soon, which meant it was time to say goodbye to her role as an editor cum writer at a popular online portal, The Alternative, which specialized in all news bizarre.
It was the right choice, but she was leaving just as things were getting really interesting. Over the last few months she had published countless articles about shapeshifters, creatures with the ability to change between the forms of beast and human. The reports were pure fantasy — like most news on the portal — but with enough witnesses and fans to call for publication. The increased number of apparent shifter sightings around England had provided her with plenty of material, the stories attracting so many clicks that a few weeks ago her boss put her in charge of her own online media campaign, focused on all things shapeshifting. It meant a lot of fun and games, like the ridiculous witness account she received a few days back: “I swear I saw this man turn into a giant creature, over ten feet. Its eyes glowed, in a weird color.” This project had been her favorite since joining The Alternative nearly two years ago and it was a shame she would let go of it soon, because after the honeymoon she was speaking to her boss about handing in her notice.
The chauffeur stopped the car at a red traffic light and when she looked at the rear-view mirror, her eyes met his again. Her insides slowly heated, mind going out of control as she imagined exploring the body that lay under that smart suit, until she could practically feel his hard muscles as they rippled underneath her fingers … and lips. She forced her gaze to the window instead. Her response to him was because of last-minute nerves, that was the only explanation. She was a woman of average aspirations; sensible men and commitment had always been her thing. Any attraction to this stranger was nothing more than a case of self-sabotage.
Dave was the one for her.
REX HAD BEEN BEYOND PISSED at having to play chauffeur for a wedding. As he stopped the Mercedes outside the apartment building, in a West London area best described as a transition point between shitty and up-and-coming neighborhoods, all he cared about was how soon he could get the hell out of this situation. Until he saw the bride, Leanne. As she ran to the car her laughing face displayed a joy he had not felt in years, and her eyes shone with excitement, pulling at some primal need buried deep inside him.
What was it about her? As he waited at the red traffic lights he watched her in the rear-view mirror. She stared out of the window, at nothing in particular. He explored her reflection, taking in every detail: dark hair, a tendril of which escaped to flutter around shining brown eyes; and plump lips which suddenly smiled, lighting a spark inside him. He wanted her, but she was about to marry someone else. That thought raged through his veins and his knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel, a heaviness in his head. Fuck, the change was coming. As his nails grew into claws, he closed his eyes and took a few long breaths to calm down before fangs pushed through in his mouth. I have to control my beast. He inhaled again, deep, using relaxation techniques practiced for years. Relief spread through him as his claws retracted, back to the length of human nails.
Damn it, how could he have been so careless? At a time when his kind, which had spent centuries hiding from humans, was facing a new threat? For months, reported shifter sightings had appeared on that online site, The Alternative, drawing attention to them. The portal had even created web forums dedicated to shifter fans, as the obsessed followers of the stories called themselves. Those idiots spent hours hanging out in random places, watching out for people displaying animal characteristics. The subject was not taken seriously by most of the public yet, but how long before the government took an interest? The Global Council for Beasts, GCB, had put out several warnings for shapeshifters to be even more cautious than usual. As the Representative of the London arm of the Council, which supported the interests of shifter beasts worldwide, he should know better than to lose his cool in front of a human.
Luckily, the bride had not noticed his claws or panic, still too busy staring out of the window. Dreaming about her wedding? And why did it piss him off if she was, when he was just supposed to get her to the church and then get the hell out of here? He should not even be here. He ran his own investment firm and had taken the morning off to deal with GCB issues, only to be forced into this bloody situation to cover the job for a good friend, a shapeshifting panther who worked as a chauffeur. After contacting practically everyone he knew, the shifter phoned on the second mobile — the one Rex only used for Council matters — calling in an old favor. He planned to throttle the chauffeur later for using that number, but in the meantime was helping out because he owed his friend. If the idiotic panther had called him first, there would have been time to find someone else to do the job; in any case, he was not sticking around for long as he had lined someone up to take over the Mercedes at the church. In less than half an hour he would be back to GCB business, doing what he did best — look after the interests of shifters.
Finally, she glanced at the mirror again, but their eyes met only for a moment because she quickly looked down at her clenched hands. She had taken his breath away as she ran toward the Mercedes, an angel in that beautiful dress. And as she got into the vehicle, the contact with her eyes stunned him. Fuck, when she flashed a finger at him he was almost overwhelmed by the urge to catch it and pull her closer; explore her hands and arms, those bare shoulders. Every luscious part of her. I want her. So why was he behaving like a bloody craven and driving her to be someone else’s bride? He breathed in deep, trying to keep a hold on his resentment, control the beast that struggled for release. What was he doing, fantasizing about someone else’s bride like some adolescent? He forced his attention to his meeting with the GCB media team instead, which was taking place in two hours to decide whether the Council should put out its own communication to counter potential effects of The Alternative’s interest in shifters. He needed to focus on that, not her. He had worked hard as a Council member for years before being elected to his current position, and as a Representative his responsibility was to ensure the welfare of beasts, above all else. He would never compromise the safety of his kind.
Not for a female — a human one, at that.
THE CHAUFFEUR WAS SILENT, had been since they got into the car. And it suddenly hit Leanne that she had not heard him speak, or seen him smile. His voice was probably low and deep, the kind that would make any red-blooded woman weak at the knees … What did it matter, anyway? After today she would never see him again. And no, she was not bloody disappointed at that thought.
Her mobile rang again. Dave’s name flashed across the screen, making her smile.
“I’ll be there soon, Dave.” He could be so impatient sometimes. “I’m nearly at dad’s place and from there it’s just a few minutes.”
“I’m not at the church.”
Late? “As long as you’re there before me. You do know it’s rude to keep the bride waiting?”
“I’m not coming.” Had something happened? An accident? Dear God, please no ... “Are you all right, Dave? What’s —”
“I can’t marry you, Leanne.”
“Can’t … what?” Was she hearing things? “Dave? We’ll talk properly at the church —”
“I already said I’m not coming.” Lips trembling, she struggled to hold back tears that would spoil her beautiful makeup. Six years. Of course he was going to come. “I’ve wanted out for a while, but felt stuck. This wedding … it was only to make you happy, and because of the bloody pressure from your mum.”
Not true. “You wanted this,” she reminded him. “More than anything. That’s what you said the day you put a ring on my finger.”
A pause. “I thought this was what I wanted, but I’m not ready for the whole marriage and kids thing, not yet.”
“Please Dave, don’t do this. Everyone’s waiting at the church …” The chauffeur glanced at her in the rearview mirror, jaw tight. “Let’s talk things through. Whatever it takes, I’ll make you happy.”
“Sorry, Leanne. It’s over.”
REX SLOWED THE CAR until it stopped. The silence stretched, becoming more unbearable.
He glanced at Leanne, increasingly concerned for her as she just stared out of the window, her expression even more pained as rain began to fall — a light drizzle at first and then faster, until the pedestrians walking past were forced to pull out umbrellas. It was difficult to believe her laughter had taken his breath away as she rushed to the car less than half an hour ago. He wanted to kill the bastard who had hurt her but right now, she needed to be cared for.
He spoke after some time. “Where should I take you?”
Her expression was confused, as if she had forgotten about him. The thought cut deep. Eventually, a response. “I don’t want to see anyone.” Her mobile rang again, and she hesitated before answering. “Beth?” Now in tears, she talked between her sobs. Rex took a few breaths and closed his eyes, knowing the glow was there. I have to bloody relax. But her misery was putting him on edge, making his beast clamor to come forward and hunt the prick who had done this to her. “Dave’s not coming,” she cried, “He doesn’t want to get married.” A barrage of expletives was released on the other side, easy for him to decipher with his superior hearing. Whoever this Beth was, she was sound. “No, don’t give the phone to mum … I don’t want to talk to anyone, just need to be on my own. Don’t come to the apartment because mum will be there straight after you.”
She ended the call and when her mobile rang again, switched it off. Rex kept his face lowered until the heaviness left his head, and he knew the glow in his eyes was gone. Then he turned to her. “Where shall I take you?” She was expressionless, as if in shock. “You need someone to look after you,” he told her. Someone other than him, because how was he supposed to deal with a bride who had been dumped, on her damn wedding day? As a Representative he had been through some shit over the years, but never felt as helpless as right now. Leanne was broken, pining for another man, and he did not know how to comfort her. “Where do you want to go?” She remained silent, in a daze, staring at people walking by on the street. “To Beth?” She sounded like someone who could handle this situation. Leanne shook her head. She needed to be alone? “Back to your place?”
“They’ll come looking for me there.” She took a tissue from her purse to wipe her eyes and without realizing it, spread black eye makeup across her cheeks. “I want to go somewhere nobody can find me.”
He knew the feeling, too well. “You’ll have to deal with them at some point.” Running away solved nothing, only delayed the inevitable.
“I will,” she said, her voice trembling, “When I’m up to it.”
His instinct was to protect her, but he had his own responsibilities and could not hang out here, waiting. “A hotel or something? Until you’re ready to return …”
She checked inside her purse, hesitant. “I didn’t bring my credit cards. They’re in my travel bag.”
The last thing on a bride’s mind would be to carry funds for an emergency hotel room. “Don’t worry about the money. I’ll pay.”
“Not a hotel.” She tossed her purse to the side. “One look at my dress and they’ll figure out what’s happened.”
But she had to go somewhere. “I’ll buy you clothes.” With shops nearby, it would not take long to pick up something, and she could wait in a safe place until she was ready to go home.
She shrugged her shoulders, defeated. “Can you drop me off somewhere I could be alone? Where nobody will see me?”
That craven bastard had let her down, today of all fucking days, probably broken her heart. Rex could not abandon her in some random place. But if he remained here, with a crying bride in the back of the car, he was sure to attract attention soon; the last thing he needed. So where the hell could he take her?
It was the only place that ever brought him peace … But what about the GCB work he planned to take care of this morning? He took in her tear-stained face and trembling lips, knowing he could not leave her in this state. Pulling out the mobile he used for Council business, he sent a message to postpone the meeting with the media team to this afternoon. The forest would help clear her head, and then he was dropping her back at her apartment.
LEANNE HAD DONE WHAT SHE could to be the perfect girlfriend and fiancée, and that bastard Dave still dumped her — on their wedding day. Frustration welled up inside her. As the chauffeur started the engine, he said, “There’s a place, not far outside London —”
“I don’t want to know.” Her voice shook. “Just take me there.”
As he drove silence settled between them again. She should have been in the church, family and friends laughing and crying as Dave and she said their marriage vows. Instead, she was alone in the back seat of the car, on her way to God knew where. That miserable thought made tears spring to her eyes. She did not care where the chauffeur was going. Whatever she did, Dave and mum had only ever criticized; it would serve them both right if she disappeared. Around half an hour later they had left London behind and were on a lane with thick trees on either side, a green blur because of her tears. She wiped at her eyes and saw a broken sign with a picture of a car on it, probably indicating a parking area. After a few more minutes he stopped the Mercedes, in a clearing among some trees. A forest? “I wasn’t thinking straight.” He glanced out of the window, at the rain. “I should take you back.”
To face everyone? Not yet. She stepped out of the car and straight into a pile of mud, a splash of the gunge landing on her skirt. Perfect. The dress she spent weeks choosing was going to be ruined. When she wiped at her eyes, mascara and foundation came away on her hand; the rain not too heavy, but enough to spoil the makeup artist’s hours of hard work. She kicked at the mud so that more landed on her dress. It felt good, destroying it. The chauffeur also got out of the car, concern on his handsome face as he removed his jacket to place it around her shoulders. When he stepped back the white shirt stretched across his broad chest; his thick biceps, previously hidden by the jacket, hinting at his strength.
She glanced around the trees surrounding them. “I want to go for a walk.”
“But there will be people wondering where you are.” She was in no bloody mood to worry about anyone else so set off, no idea where. “Wait. I’ll come with you.” Walking with her, he added, “A short walk and I’ll drop you at your apartment.”
The apartment she had lived in for the last few years. She had already packed her favorite belongings in boxes, and earmarked items for the charity shop — but with the way things were going, she would be living in that place for even more years; alone. As they walked deeper into the forest, the tears came again, mixing with drops of rain. Mum’s voice screamed inside her head, telling her she was an idiot for following a stranger into these parts of the forest. It was bloody weird, probably the effect of being dumped like this, but she trusted this stranger. And what difference did it make — how well she knew him? After knowing Dave for years, she had been clueless about the fucking stunt he was about to pull. Dave could piss off. This stranger had offered to help her out by paying for a hotel room and clothes. Dave, the stingy dickhead, scanned the internet for cheap deals even if they went out for a damn dinner. She was better off without him … Wasn’t she? Saying it was one thing, believing it another. What about all their plans? And how the hell was she supposed to let go of six years? Had he really suddenly decided he did not want her? Or perhaps he never did and she had been too love-struck, or desperate, to see?
She wiped the tears away. “What’s your name?” she asked the chauffeur, lifting her skirt and maneuvering her legs over a fallen branch. It was just as well that, because of those silly fears about stumbling all over the wedding aisle, she had gone for sequin shoes with a lower heel. She was now wet through, skirt covered in mud, but did not care. Not one iota.
“My name’s Rex.”
It was so peaceful here, with only the sounds of birds, creatures and nature. She trailed her fingers along a tree trunk, comforted by its presence. As they walked, she was increasingly disconnected from the world outside, almost forgetting what happened today. Almost. “Rex … what is this place?”
“Somewhere I bring no one else.” He stopped in a small clearing, turning to her. “I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.” Trees surrounded them, so thick that little of the sky was visible. The branches above provided shelter, only allowing the odd drop of rain to filter through. “When father passed away, I used to come to this forest for some peace. Maybe you’ll feel better here, too.”
That was so bloody sweet of him that she was suddenly sobbing. She placed her hand on a tree, letting it support her. “I’ve been such an idiot,” she cried. “How am I going to face people? All the questions?” She did not want to lose it in front of him, but it was all really too much.
“You must face them sooner or later.” Rex pulled a handkerchief out of his trouser pocket. It was damp from the rain but he used it the best he could to wipe away her tears, the action belying his tough exterior. He really had gone out of his way for her, hadn’t he? As he pressed the sodden hankie into her hand, she glanced at his chest, at how that wet shirt stuck to his skin, giving a tantalizing glimpse of the muscle underneath. “Leanne. Remember, the people who care will understand. And the ones who don’t … they’re not worth it, anyway.” He was right, but the thought of facing everyone … oh God, the comparisons with Val would be even worse now. She leaned with her back against the tree, crying some more. When there were no more tears she closed her eyes, taking in the silence.
“Feeling better?” Rex asked eventually. Funnily enough, yes. She nodded, opening her eyes to gaze into the blue of his. “Good. I’ll drop you back soon.”
Not yet. She sat on the ground, surprisingly dry because of the shelter of the trees. Resting her head against the tree trunk, she could see why he brought her to the forest, an environment so soothing and peaceful she wanted to hide here forever. “I’m staying right here.”
“I understand this isn’t easy, but staying here won’t solve anything.” His gaze was warm as it rested on her face. “Only you can make things right.”
“How can I make anything right, when I just mess everything up?” Damn it, why did nothing work out for her? “My sister Val’s a lawyer but I chose a liberal media college and, well, let’s just say my career’s apparently not up to the standard of hers.” As she was often reminded by Dave and her family. And as if that was not enough, Val was married to a stockbroker and busy decorating their new detached house before the baby arrived; whereas she had no bloody savings after blowing everything on this stupid wedding. At this rate she was going to end up renting a cheap apartment forever. “I’m such a failure!”
“No, you’re not. That Dave’s the failure for not owning up to what he wanted.” Rex frowned. “You might feel like crap now, but it won’t always be this way. Trust me.”
It would be great to believe him, but life was pretty shit at the moment. “Everything works out for Val. And she’s so gorgeous too, even when heavily pregnant. Look at the fucking state of me!”
“What the hell are you going on about?” Rex ran a hand through his wet hair, handsome face tense. “You’re beautiful.”
With that muddy skirt and makeup running down her face? He was just trying to make her feel better but still, his words cheered her a little. Did Dave ever call her beautiful? All she could remember was his disapproving tone whenever she made a beeline for dessert after dinner. She had managed to go from a size 18 down to 14 and got stuck, but it was not as if he was sporting a bloody six-pack. “You’re being nice, Rex. I could do with losing a few pounds, for starters.”
Jaw clenched, he looked down at her, and she flushed as his slow gaze paused at the top of her bodice. He had a hell of a view of her cleavage from that angle, and heated thoughts instantly entered her head, images of his mouth slowly exploring her body. Did he want her? More likely she was being a stupid idiot. Yet her heart sped up at the possibility, gaze lingering on his mouth. Had she ever seen lips so kissable? And how would they feel on hers? Those blue eyes were now on her face, intense. “Don’t fucking compare yourself to the sticks in those idiotic ads. You’re perfect, how you are.” His words were sincere, warming up those places inside her stunned by Dave’s coldness. He cleared his throat as he offered his hand, his voice a touch deeper now. “Time to go back.”
The last thing she wanted was to be away from him. “All right.”
She took his hand, the contact driving electricity to every part of her. Heat surged to her cheeks. Dear God, if this was making her insides ache, what would happen if those fingers touched and caressed her body? He pulled her to her feet but did not release her hand, standing still, fingers intertwined. Pressure built between her legs as she imagined losing those crappy inhibitions and kissing him, tasting him. His grip tightened as he drew her closer, her knees going weak at how his muscles slid under his shirt with each movement. When he leaned in, head lowered as if to kiss her, anticipation sent her libido into overdrive. She might have been a clueless idiot in Dave’s case but had no doubt that this man — six foot something, tanned and gorgeous — desired her. She planted her gaze on his lips … how would they taste? Their bodies were now so close she felt the heat emanating from his. Could she do it? Go for what she had wanted since first setting eyes on him? He brought his hand to her face, touch gentle as his thumb grazed her lower lip, his mouth near enough to kiss. But he suddenly stepped back, leaving her with an instant sense of loss. And confusion. “We should get going,” he said, voice strained.
Sanity fought desire. “Get going?” Yes, that would be the sensible thing to do. Little old Leanne always did the sensible thing, but was still never good enough. Yet she tried her best, always wanting to please others. Not today, though. Dave could go fuck himself. To think she had agreed to give up her job without a second thought and planned to leave everything to move to Manchester. There was mum’s voice, inside her head. You should be calling Dave, making things right with him. For once, she was going to be the girl mum raised her not to be.