In the novel, "In The Name Of Love" This compelling novel chronicles the love triangle of Dr. Shari Thomas and Derrick Rawlings. After a nasty breakup, Shari has moved on with her life. She has a thriving medical practice, renowned Cardiologist love interest, Dr. Kevin Mason, and a young son. Christian that means the world to her.
Derrick Rawlings, is a successful businessman who is forced to return to town to run the family computer business after his father becomes ill. Shari and Derrick haven't seen each other in more than six years, separated by lack of trust, but a chance encounter at a fund-raising event brings these two college ex- sweethearts back together again.
Derrick Rawlings lifted his 6'1" frame from the plush chair. He walked slowly to the window and gazed out at the calm waves of the Arkansas River. Meetings kept him very busy all day. He had worked his butt off for six years in London, and his efforts had helped Rawlings Industries become a multinational company. He rarely thought about coming back home.
Derrick stood there with his long fingers shoved into the pockets of his black designer slacks. He leaned against the window frame and observed the waves. He, like the waves rising below, was turbulent. His heart had ached for his family in Arkansas, but he didn’t want to come back. His father had suffered a mild heart attack, and his mother had insisted that he retire and that Derrick come home to replace his father as president of the company. Professionally, he had no problem stepping into his father’s shoes; personally, he didn’t want to be in the same country, let alone the same state, with her.
It had been six years since he’d left Arkansas. Six years, five months, seven days, sixteen hours, ten minutes, and twenty seconds to be exact—and counting. He could see the face of the beautiful, brown-skinned woman float to the surface. He recalled the first time he had seen her. They had met at a local college hangout at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. At twenty-five, he had been in his last year of graduate school for business. She was in her second year of medical school. She wanted to specialize in obstetrics. Derrick could still see her long, thick, black hair framing her oval face and could practically smell the scent of her.
He thought of their many nights of sizzling hot passion that had remained etched in his mind. He could still feel her soft, wet, wild body underneath his as they moaned each other’s name over and over again. He felt his body tremble when he remembered how he loved, stroked, and caressed her body from head to toe, not leaving one part unloved. He had been surprised, but arrogantly pleased, to discover he was her first lover.
Lord knew he’d been no angel. Until he met her, he was a man who constantly enjoyed the company of beautiful women. If anyone had even suggested that he would fall in love and want to marry — Shari or any other woman — he would have laughed in their face. But Shari was different. She was special. She had touched his heart. He had fallen in love with her. She made him a one woman man. However, she wasn’t a one-man woman. His jaw tightened as the memory of her and his best friend entered his mind. They deserved each other; yet, Derrick couldn’t help wondering if they were still together. He hoped not to ever run into them. A knock interrupted his thoughts.
“Come in,” Derrick answered as he turned toward the door.
It was Trevor Wilson. Trevor was in charge of the marketing department. He stopped just inside the doorway. “Busy?” he asked.
“No, come on in.”
Derrick strode to the sideboard and picked up the silver coffee pot to top off his coffee.
He nodded toward Trevor who shook his head no and took the chair across from Derrick. Returning to his seat, Derrick closed the folder on the desk.
“Thanks for naming me head of the marketing department,” Trevor said.
“There is no reason to thank me. I chose the right man for the position.”
Trevor smiled and said, “Okay. So, how do you feel about coming home?”
Derrick took a deep breath, thinking of the words to describe how he really felt. “To be honest,” he began, “I have mixed feelings about it, but under the circumstances, I have no other choice.”
He knew Trevor was aware of the reason behind his sudden transfer. Trevor had never met the woman that made him leave Little Rock and settle in London, but he had heard about her.
“Are you ready for Japan?” Derrick asked abruptly.
Trevor cast him a cool look. “Yes, I have everything under control. I realize this is a great business opportunity for the company.”
“A very important one. With this move we open the door wider. Internationally. So nothing can go wrong.”
Trevor nodded. “I know, I know, Mr. Rawlings,” he teased. “I’m ready. Nothing will go wrong.”
Derrick leaned back in his chair and massaged the back of his neck. “Sorry man, force of habit.”
“Think nothing of it.”
The intercom buzzed, interrupting them. Derrick leaned over and punched the button.
“Deborah,” he said, “continue to hold all my calls, please.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Rawlings, but your mother is on line one. I thought you would want to speak with her.”
“Excuse me, Trevor. Let me take this.” He pressed the blinking phone button as Trevor quietly left the office. “Hello, Mother. How’s Dad? Is he taking his medication? What did the doctor say?”
His father had a follow up appointment to see the cardiologist. He figured something had to be wrong for his mother to call him this early in the morning from Montego Bay, where they were spending their post-retirement years.
“He’s doing very well,” his mother, Eleanor Rawlings, replied. “He is taking his medication and the doctor says as long as he takes it easy, he will live another thirty-to-forty years. I am calling because I promised your father I would call and see how you’re settling in.”
Derrick smiled to himself. Dad would never change. He was still determined to hold on to the power he was forced to relinquish. It was determination, talent, and focus that made Albert Rawlings a prominent force in the computer industry. Those qualities were what made the company a giant in technology. Derrick couldn’t imagine him not being around, controlling and manipulating an organization of more than ten thousand employees, but his second heart attack forced him to give that up.
“Tell Dad to continue taking his medication and listen to the doctor. Everything is going smoothly, and I am settling in well,” he added quickly. “Even the hospital fundraiser is on schedule for tonight.”
Each year his mother hosted a fundraiser to increase awareness about African-Americans and heart disease. It was a formal affair held annually at the Excelsior Hotel in downtown Little Rock. Eleanor had been chairwoman of the event for the past couple of years.
“I’m so glad you’re continuing the fundraiser. I thought maybe we would have to postpone it when your father became ill. I feel better knowing it’s going to go on as scheduled.”
“How is he adjusting to retirement?”
She took a deep breath. “Well, as you know, it was difficult for him at first because he’s used to being in the thick of things, but he seems to be adjusting.”
“Where is he now?” He wanted to speak with his father, maybe get some last minute instructions and advice.
“He went fishing. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s having the time of his life.” Eleanor laughed.
“I envy him.” Derrick joined in the laughter.
“I want you to know that we both feel a lot better knowing that you’re president of Rawlings Industries,” Eleanor chimed in. “Your father will call next week to see how things are going. My love to you,” she added quickly and disconnected.
Derrick sat glued to the chair. He slowly placed the phone back into the cradle and ran his hand across his head. Did she just say she loved him? He couldn’t remember the last time she echoed those words.
“I’m almost afraid to know what could possibly happen next,” he said.
Dr. Shari Thomas swung her long, brown legs out the car door, avoiding the water running along the curb. She withdrew a small, black compact umbrella, pressed a button, and it opened smoothly with a whooshing sound. With her head lowered and umbrella braced, she dashed through the summer rain. Taking shelter under a building overhang, she folded her dripping umbrella and stepped through the glass doors. She hurried along the bright corridor to the closest elevator.
When the doors opened again, the unit secretary, Marion Bennett, greeted Shari.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Thomas.”
“Good afternoon, Marion. What room is my patient in?”
Marion gave Shari the patient’s chart. “Mrs. Adams is in labor room two.”
A moment later Shari knocked and entered the labor room. She smiled. “Felicia, how are you?”
“I’m tired all the time, Dr. Thomas,” she whined. “My back aches, my head hurts, and I look like a beached whale. I heard that being pregnant changes the body, but I had no idea it would do this to me.”
Felicia Adams was 40-years-old. Her husband was ten years younger, and he’d always wanted a family. Until she married him, she was perfectly satisfied with not having children. Like many women, she chose to put her career first.
“What you are experiencing is very common,” Shari explained. “Babies take the nutrients and leave you drained. You’re carrying twins, and you’re at the stage when most women are slowing down, so you’re more exhausted.” She pulled a stethoscope from around her neck. “Are you taking your prenatal vitamins?”
Felicia nodded. “Faithfully. David makes sure of it.”
Shari listened to her patient’s heart and then checked her lungs. Both were clear. She placed the instrument to Felicia’s stomach and smiled up at her when one of the babies kicked. Straightening, she pulled the stethoscope from her ears. “Feels like they’re running a marathon in there.”
“I know,” Felicia said, smiling. “Happens all the time.”
Shari’s smile waned. “I got your glucose test results back,” she said.
“What is it, Dr. Thomas?”
Shari took a deep breath. “The results show you have gestational diabetes.”
Felicia’s face immediately became pale. “Is it life threatening?” “It can be, but we can keep it under control with the proper treatment.”
“If you can’t?” Felicia asked, alarmed.
Shari reached out and grabbed Felicia’s hand, squeezing it tenderly. “With you and me working together, I’m sure everything is going to be fine. First we’ll put you on a special meal plan and schedule light physical activity.”
Thirty minutes later, Shari watched Felicia Adams waddle out the door. Shari left the hospital and drove the ten minutes back to her office in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Felicia had been her only patient at the hospital to check up on. Once inside her office, she allowed the peace and quiet to surround her as she made final notes on Felicia Adam’s chart.
All of her life, Shari knew she wanted to be a doctor. No one expected the poor, country girl from West Memphis, Arkansas to succeed. But her mother believed in her. At thirty-five, Shari had her own medical practice, but she found it was not enough. She longed to find someone to love and marry. She thought she’d found him once, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Shari walked into the outer office. The paintings of Gauguin, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, displayed on the soft tan walls enhanced the area. A coffee table was covered with Pregnancy, American Baby, Baby Years, Parents, Ebony, and Jet magazines. Across the room, a television set and rubber plant sat next to each other.
As Shari reached the filing cabinet, she heard a familiar voice ask, “How’s Mrs. Adams?” She turned to see Camilla, her best friend and partner, walking toward the reception desk.
Shari sighed deeply. “She has gestational diabetes.”
“Think you can control it?” Camilla asked, walking around and leaning against the desk.
“If she cooperates and follows the meal and physical exercises we discussed.”
“I’m sure she will. She really wants those babies.” Camilla leaned forward and smiled. “Are you ready for the hospital fundraiser?” she asked, changing the subject.
Shari glanced at her friend. “Is that tonight?” She put a prenatal chart back in its proper place in the file cabinet. She had been working so hard the past couple of weeks that the event had slipped her mind.
“Are you still going?” Camilla asked in a voice that dared Shari to back out.
Shari studied her friend for a moment as she tried to decide whether to attend. What the heck, she thought, I might as well go ahead as planned. “Yes, I’m still going,” she replied. “But we have to make a trip to the mall before it closes. That reminds me, I have to call Kevin to find out what time he’s coming by to pick me up.”
Shari disappeared in her office, reappearing a few minutes later with her black clutch purse in hand.
“Kevin is escorting you tonight?” Camilla asked as they walked out of the office to Shari’s Mercedes.
“Yes, he’s escorting me.”
Shari and Dr. Kevin Mason had been going out occasionally for the past couple of months. He wasn’t the most exciting man alive, but he was solid, stable, and a successful cardiologist. She couldn’t help but smile as she remembered her first glance of him. He had walked into the maternity unit for a consultation. He was average height and his skin looked like rich coffee sweetened with just a touch of cream. The female staff threw themselves at him, but Shari remained professional. After six months of turning down his advances, she gave in and agreed to a dinner invitation.
Camilla slid onto the passenger seat, casting a thoughtful glance at Shari.
“I know how you really feel about him,” Camilla said, “and it’s not the same way he feels about you.” She raised a perfectly arched brow. “Or have things changed?”
Shari returned her friend’s glance for a moment. “If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, the answer is no. You know my past. I want to take things slow.”
Camilla smiled wickedly. “I know how long it’s been since you’ve been with a man. Six years to be exact. So you may be thinking it’s time to end that drought.”
Shari exhaled a long breath, turned the key in the ignition, and started the motor. Why does Camilla have to mention my drought? she thought. She was well aware of how long it had been since a man had been in her bed.
“How does Kevin feel about your decision to abstain?”
“He said he understands,” Shari answered, pulling out into traffic. She knew sooner or later, if she continued to see Kevin, he would want more out of the relationship. She just wasn’t sure he was the one she wanted to end her drought with.
“You believe him?”
“How was your day?” She’d had enough of Camilla’s habitual spiel about her love life. Camilla didn’t have to worry about her love life. Shari could have dated more often if she wanted. Like Kevin, men found her attractive. If she wanted, she could have had a date—a real date—this evening for the fundraiser. The handsome mechanic at the auto dealership where she got her car serviced made her well aware that he would be more than happy to get to know her better. She smiled and kindly informed him she already had a date.
Camilla smothered a laugh. “Okay, okay! We’ll talk about it later. How’s my godson? Can we talk about him?”
“Christian is at his friend Brandon’s house. You’ll get a chance to see him later. I’m picking him up after we leave the mall,” Shari explained as she found a space close to the entrance of McCain Mall. “Now let’s focus our attention on what’s really important,” Shari added before opening her car door. “Shopping. ”
The smooth voice of Sade’s “Paradise” flowed from the CD player on the shelf of the cabinet in the living room. Shari added a pair of black earrings to the ensemble she wore.
She crossed the thick, brown carpet to check her final appearance in the European style, three-mirror vanity table. She had decided to up sweep her long, black hair. A long, graceful curl hung freely on each side of her oval face. She looked at herself from three different angles. Not bad, she thought. Her long fingers traveled up and down the length of the expensive clinging floor length, black velvet gown. She stepped into her matching high-heeled Italian pumps and added an extra light coat of lipstick.
She felt so good. She began singing along to the record, moving to the beat, the hypnotic sound reminding her of how much she loved to dance.
“Mom, you look pretty,” Christian spoke from the doorway. The smiling face of her son was always a warm sight. Christian was tall and slim for his age of five. His features were the replicas of his father.
“Thank you.” She smiled and blew him a kiss.
Christian came farther into the bedroom and plunged onto the bed. “You’re going out with Dr. Mason?”
“Yes, I am.” She gave him a kiss on the forehead. “We’re going to a fundraiser.”
He frowned. “What is a fundraiser?”
“It’s like a big party, where everyone dresses up and gives money to people who need it,” Shari carefully explained.
Christian seemed satisfied with the answer. He went over to Shari’s vanity table, lightly touching the expensive perfume bottles, careful not to break them.
He looked back at his mother and said, “I like Dr. Mason, don’t you, Mom?”
“Yes. I like Dr. Mason.”
Shari knew what her son wanted to talk about. She knew how much her son adored Dr. Mason and vice versa. He was hoping one day they would become a family.
“All right, sweetheart,” Shari found herself saying. “Let’s get you ready for bed. Mrs. Miller should be here any minute now.”
“Mom, it’s still early,” he protested.
“You don’t have to go to bed now, but let’s get you in your pajamas. I want you in bed by nine o’clock,” she called after Christian, who was running down the hallway to his bedroom.
“Mom, I can put my own pajamas on.” He opened the chest of drawers and chose a pair of pajamas with a picture of Grover from Sesame Street on the front. He began taking his clothes off. “I’m a big boy,” he said proudly. “I can dress myself.”
“I see.” Shari smiled at him. He was growing up so fast.
“See?” Christian began to pull awkwardly at his pants.
Shari laughed. “All right. I’m going. I guess you don’t need my help.”
She left Christian’s bedroom and headed down the hallway to the living room. The antique clock in the hallway chimed the half hour—seven-thirty. Dr. Mason would be picking her up in thirty minutes.
She placed her small, black clutch purse on the ivory colored circular sofa and looked proudly around the room, taking in the European style of the furnishings. She crossed the room and turned off the CD player. She spent long hours away from home, and when she returned, she enjoyed enclosing herself with beautiful surroundings.
The pieces were light in color but massive, giving the room a bright aura and making it cozy and comfortable. She ran her fingers gently across the back of the antique lounging chair. She’d spotted the collector’s item at a garage sale. She had even managed to talk the man down from his asking price, purchasing it for half the price. She’d had the chair upholstered to match the rest of the ivory colored decor. Art by African-Americans hanging on the soft, white walls had taken months to locate but were worth the time and expense.
The sound of the doorbell interrupted her thoughts. Shari peeked through the peephole, finding Mrs. Miller standing on the doorstep.
“I’m sorry to be running late, child,” Mrs. Miller said, sounding out of breath. “Those grandchildren of mine ’bout to run me crazy.” She smiled. “Bless their little hearts. They didn’t want Grandma to leave.” Mrs. Miller strolled lazily over to the sofa, put down her crocheting bag, then turned back to Shari with outstretched arms and gave her a hug. “Child, don’t you look nice. That doctor friend of yours is going to have a heart attack when he sees you,” she chattered on. “It’s a good thing he’s a heart doctor cause when he sees you, he’s going to need one himself.” She threw her head back with a big laugh.
Shari blushed. “That’s the idea, Mrs. Miller.”
“Well, child, you don’t have to worry about that.”
“Tonight, you are what the doctor ordered.” Mrs. Miller began looking around the room. “Where’s my little man?”
“He’s putting on his pajamas. He should be out in a minute.”
“I better fix him something to eat. That boy is bound to be hungry. Where he puts it, I’ll never know.” She shook her head. “Skinny as a rail just like his mama. If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen.”
Shari watched the plump, middle-aged woman turn and hurry into the kitchen. A few moments later the sound of pots and pans was followed by the soft singing of “Amazing Grace.”
Shari had been in desperate need of a babysitter for several weeks when Mrs. Billie Mae Miller responded to the ad she placed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Hershey-hued woman with the congenial smile, sparkling bright eyes, and dark hair that streaked softly at the temple was heaven sent. She was a nice looking woman. Though she had a choice of suitors, she chose to remain single after her husband’s death ten years ago.
Shari and Christian both took to her right away. Shari hated to think what they would do without her. With her parents having passed and being an only child, Shari felt Mrs. Miller was more like family than just an ordinary babysitter.
Shari opened the door to Dr. Mason at exactly eight o’clock. He smiled at her with satisfaction displayed on his face. “Hello Shari. You look lovely,” he said.
“Thank you, Kevin. You don’t look too shabby yourself.”
He looked debonair in his black tuxedo. He pulled a bouquet of red roses from behind his back.
“For you,” he said as he stepped into the room. He stopped in front of her and planted a gentle kiss on her cheek.
“Kevin, they’re lovely,” she said in a soft voice.
She turned and walked into the den to find a vase for the roses.
“Hi Dr. Mason,” Christian shouted, running buoyantly into the room.
“Hey little man,” Kevin said, hugging him. “How have you been?”
“Fine.” Christian smiled. “You still gonna take me to play putt-putt?”
“I sure am.”
“Can we go Sunday?” Christian asked.
“Sure we can.” Kevin shifted his gaze to Shari as she re-entered the living room. “If it’s okay with your mother.”
Shari met her son’s bright eyes of anticipation.
“Can we, Mom?” Christian begged.
“I don’t see why not, but it will be after church.”
“Of course,” Kevin answered. “Are you ready?”
She nodded. “Just let me grab my purse, and we can be on our way.”
Shari reclaimed her purse, kissed Christian, and said goodbye to Mrs. Miller.
On the ride through Little Rock, Kevin slipped an Eric Benet CD into the player. Benet’s smooth crooning kept them company as Kevin concentrated on the road ahead. Shari looked out into the darkness as the BMW sped along, heading west on Interstate 30.
Splashes of haze glowed from the tall lampposts that lined the city. She glanced over at Kevin. He gave her a wink, and his right hand came down and squeezed her left hand affectionately. Shari returned a tight smile. If it wasn’t for medicine, she thought, we wouldn’t have anything in common.
Derrick’s eyes scanned the room; the fundraiser was successful. His parents would be pleased. The guest list was impressive, ranging from doctors, lawyers, and politicians. The list was endless.
His brother, Lance, interrupted his thoughts. “How long is this event going to last?”
Lance was five years older than Derrick. He enjoyed women, partying, and living life to the fullest. Derrick lost count over the years how often his parents had to go through the humiliation of numerous paternity suits. Lucky for Lance, they turned out false each time.
“Patience, big brother. It will be over soon.”
“It’s been a long day. I’m tired, bored, and ready to turn in.” Lance looked at the petite woman latched onto his arm. “I could find better things to do.” He planted a deep kiss onto her lips.
“Hello, Derrick.” The greeting came from Mia Dallas, who approached the small group.
Derrick looked over at her. She was enjoying the display put on by Lance and his date.
“Hello, Mia,” Derrick replied.
Mia reached out, taking Derrick’s hand in hers. “Why don’t we follow their lead and let me welcome you home properly?”
Derrick had dated Mia in graduate school. Their relationship had been over for years. In a few weeks time, Mia must have heard that he was president of the company and still eligible. Derrick realized that she wanted to pick up where they left off, but it wasn’t going to happen; although he had to admit she was still one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. She was from a good family, background, and social standing. When he fell in love with Shari, none of those things mattered.
Derrick released her hand. “Mia, we’re no longer together.”
Mia looked at him with dreamy eyes. “I know that. I was just hoping that after all of this time we could rekindle what we once had. I know you still remember how good we were together.”
“I admit we were good at one time, but it’s been over between us for years. So let me tell you, so there is no misunderstanding, we will never go back to the way it was.” The statement was firm. “Do you understand?”
Mia’s neck snapped back. She raised her chin and stared at him for a moment.
“I understand perfectly,” she said.
“Good,” Derrick declared, “because I don’t want to ever have this conversation with you again.” And with that, he stomped off in the opposite direction without a backward glance.
“Fine.” Mia’s eyes hardened as she watched him disappear into the crowd.
Shari made her way through the crowd ,nodding acknowledgments and shaking hands. Kevin spotted some acquaintances and went over to mingle.
“Would you like something to drink?” A tall, young waiter asked, holding out a wine tray. Shari took a glass of white wine.
“You are wearing that dress,” a soft voice said behind her. She turned to see Camilla standing there. “Move over Jennifer Lopez, there is a new diva in town!” The humor in her voice brought a blush to Shari’s cheeks.
“You don’t think it’s too risqué?” Shari tugged on the dress self- consciously.
“No,” Camilla exclaimed. “We went through this at the mall. It looked fine then and it looks fine now. Besides, what’s wrong with taking a little risk every now and then? Keeps you young.” Both women laughed. Camilla squeezed Shari’s arm in reassurance.
Camilla could have passed for a high-fashion model tonight herself. She was wearing a strapless red dress, revealing her slender figure. She didn’t need to wear makeup. Her beauty was natural, exquisite, and flawless.
“This is really nice,” Camilla said, as they walked around and peeked inside the various rooms. “The Rawlings really outdid themselves.”
Shari’s body tightened. She took another sip of wine to compose herself. “You didn’t tell me that the Rawlings sponsored this fundraiser,” she said.
“I thought you knew. Eleanor Rawlings sponsors the fundraiser for heart disease every year.” Camilla craned her head around searching for the Rawling’s Lady Matriarch. “ I haven’t seen her yet.”
“She’s probably still hanging upside down in her cave.”
“Shari, that’s not nice,” Camilla chuckled.
“I don’t care. That woman hates me,” Shari said. “If I knew she sponsors this event, I wouldn’t have come.”
“Well, you should have read the tickets. The Rawling’s name is at the bottom.”
“Kevin bought the tickets. All he told me was that we were going.” Shari placed her glass on a passing tray. “I’m out of here.”
During the past six years, she had only seen one member of the Rawlings family—and that was Lance—a year ago at McCain Mall. Shari was there with Christian. Lance did a double take at Christian, spoke, but didn’t ask questions. He didn’t have to.
She figured if Derrick knew, he would have come back to town and demanded to be a part of his son’s life. What they shared was unforgettable; she had given her virtue to him, and it had been the most fulfilling time she’d ever shared with a man. Then it fell apart. Derrick had accused her of being unfaithful. When he confronted her, she denied it, of course. He didn’t believe her, and the relationship was over. The breakup was very painful. Shortly after, she found out she was pregnant.
Shari hadn’t had the courage to ask Lance about Derrick. Was he still in London? How was he doing? Had he changed much? Was he ever coming back to town? Most Important, was he married? Why should she care? He made it perfectly clear it was over between them. She tried to convince herself she wanted to know simply for Christian’s sake.
Camilla and Shari strolled back into the main room. A woman’s low throaty laugh amid a clinking of glasses came from across the room. Shari spotted Lance with an obviously younger looking woman on his arm. Their eyes locked. He smiled. Shari nodded then turned to walk away.
“Wait a minute. Where are you going?” Camilla took a sip of wine.
“I’m going to find Kevin.” Shari noticed Camilla’s gaze shifting from her to an object over her shoulder. “What is it?” She was just about to turn around when Camilla answered her.
“You’re not going to believe this, but Derrick Rawlings is coming this way.”
“What? Where?” She forced herself to turn and Derrick came into her line of vision, moving through the crowd shaking hands and greeting the guests.
Six years may have passed but the man still could awaken the sensitive areas all over her body. The years had been good to him. He was still jaw-dropping gorgeous. She tossed the word around in her head—gorgeous. The word didn’t begin to describe him. As always, he was impeccably dressed. He still possessed style that denoted his wealth, authority, and power.
Like her, heads swiveled as he greeted the guests. He had that something that always set him apart from other men. The crisp white shirt extended delicately beyond the black tuxedo jacket. The collar of his shirt lightly caressed his neck. His black pants softly touched the top of his expensive shoes.
Derrick’s gaze fixed on the woman who suddenly came into focus. He frowned, thinking there was no way it could be her. He drew in a deep breath and crossed the room.
Shari forced herself to blink. When her former lover stopped in front of her, her heart slammed against her rib cage, and a warm feeling settled between her thighs. Her mouth opened to speak, but nothing came out.
“Derrick,” she finally said, her voice barely above a whisper. “When did you move back to town?”
“Never mind that.” His voice was cold. “What are you doing here?”
Shari stole a quick glance at Camilla. She was standing quiet, looking from one to the other. Shari returned Derrick’s hard expression with one of her own.
“For your information,” Shari replied, “I was invited.”
Derrick inclined his head slightly. “I don’t remember inviting you. But you do have a habit of being in places you’re not supposed to be.” Without another word, he turned and walked past her. Shari’s heart sank as she watched Derrick greet a couple next to her warmly. She was still getting over the shock of his rebuff when Kevin came up behind her and put his arms around her waist.
“Come on, I’d like to dance with my favorite girl,” he whispered in her ear.
Before she had a chance to answer, Kevin weaved her through the crowd until he reached the center of the dance floor. Shari momentarily closed her eyes. She reopened them, looking up at Kevin. Clearly he was oblivious to what had happened.
He took her carefully in his arms. She fell against his chest, inhaled the scent of his cologne, and adjusted herself comfortably to his long, hard body. She felt his fingers gently touching the soft flesh of her shoulders and moving down the graceful curve of her back to the swell of her hips.
She felt a wild urge to break free from him, but she tried to unwind and let Kevin lead her through the dance. She clung to him and wondered when the song would end and if Derrick was watching.
“Shari, are you okay?” Kevin asked. “You seem tense.”
She nodded, refusing to look at Kevin for fear he would notice she was not okay.
“Huh?” He glanced at his brother standing beside him. His attention was elsewhere. Derrick watched Shari dancing in the arms of a man he didn’t know. His eyes narrowed when the man’s hand moved down to Shari’s hips. Her slender fingers moved the man’s hands up. Seconds later they descended again. Derrick took a deep breath to calm himself.
“Have you heard a word I’ve said?” Lance asked.
Derrick gave Lance his full attention. “I heard every word you said.” He glanced over at Shari again.
Lance’s questioning gaze followed the direction of Derrick’s on the dance floor.
“You wouldn’t be jealous, now would you?” Lance teased.
Anger flashed briefly in Derrick’s eyes. “I thought you were leaving.”
Lance threw his hands up in a mock gesture of surrender. “Just an observation.”
Questions about the man’s identity swirled around in Derrick’s head. He wondered if they were a couple or if the guy was just someone who wanted to dance. Then he got his answer. He looked just in time to see them leaving together.