(3 book romance bundle).., p.18
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       (3 Book Romance Bundle) "The Cowboy's Love" & "Sex with the Billionaire" & "Loving the White Billionaire", p.18

           Julie Allen, Carla Davis, & Monica Brooks

  Chapter Three

  The next morning, feeling refreshed, I headed down to the main restaurant for breakfast, with a new spring in my step. I have to admit, I felt a little self-conscious eating alone, but quickly I came to ignore the slightly pitying looks older women, with husbands and teenaged children, were giving me. Soon, I was simply enjoying my fruit salad and yogurt, as I admired the stunning view from the windows. Unfortunately, that view was often disrupted by people strolling along the deck. But, what I could see of the coastline of Nice, France, was truly beautiful.

  Leaning back in my chair, I chewed on a juicy chunk of mango and couldn't help but wonder what Carl was doing. It was a funny kind of thought: both depressing and gratifying all at once. It felt great to be having a good time without him. Hell, it felt great just to be having a good time. I was reminded that I could not only exist, but live without my husband. And, if the cold, hard truth be known, I didn't miss him. I missed the boys, of course. But I didn't miss Carl. That, in and of itself, was the cause of the more somber sensation. After all, shouldn't I have been missing him?

  "Excuse me," a bright voice from behind me uttered.

  Twisting in my seat, I turned to find a hunky blonde man, who could have been no more than twenty years' old. He wore a white A-shirt under a Hawaiian floral patterned shirt and blue board shorts. With trendily scruffy dark hair and crystal blue eyes, he grinned at me with a perfect set of blindingly white teeth.

  "Hi, there," he said. "Um...this may seem like a strange question," he began, "but have you got any plans for when we dock in Monte Carlo?"

  "Err..." I hesitatingly replied.

  "I'm Blaine," he stated, seeming to realize he'd neglected to introduce himself. "I couldn't help but notice you're alone," he continued. "And I figured maybe-"

  "Oh, well," I interjected hurriedly. "I'm married," I pointed out, lifting my left hand, which still bore both my engagement and wedding rings.

  His smile widened as he shook his head. "That's not exactly what I had in mind," he chuckled. "Although, you're a very attractive woman," he added hurriedly. "What I actually wanted to ask was whether you'd be interested in joining a scuba class I'm running."

  "Oh," I breathed, my cheeks reddening with embarrassment. How could I have possibly thought he was coming on to me? After all, I was almost ten years his senior. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..." I babbled. "It's not that I think I'm irresistible or anything," I added. "I just...Well, I just assumed. And I don't know why I assumed, I shouldn't have...obviously."

  "It's fine," he assured with a good-natured shrug. "You're a woman on your own, a strange man comes up and starts asking you what you're doing at the next port, it's an understandable mistake."

  "Hmm," I responded, hoping to detach myself from the whole, hideous conversation as quickly as possible.

  "So, anyway," he chuckled. "How about it?"


  "The scuba," he explained. "I give beginners classes, or if you've dived before, we can do something a little more advanced."

  "Oh," I nodded. "Well, I've never been diving."

  "You wanna?" he excitedly asked. "I promise it's like nothing else you'll do on this trip. And once you've experienced it, you'll be hooked."

  "Well...I...." I awkwardly muttered, trying to think of a good excuse why I couldn't go. In truth, I wasn't turned off by the idea of scuba diving as much as I was perturbed about spending any more time around the young stud I'd just made a fool of myself in front of.

  Cocking his head to one side, he flashed me what I guessed was the kind of persuasive smile he used on the whole of the female sex. And I could see why. It worked. "Come on," he urged. "It'll be fun, and I'll take good care of you, I promise."

  Remembering what my mom had said about adventure and freedom, and realizing that letting a little embarrassment stop me from doing something, was completely contrary to that ethos, I shrugged. "OK," I sighed.

  "Great!" he enthused. "Well, we'll be convening on the harbor when we dock and then heading straight down to Port Hercule and the yacht. You don't need to bring anything other than yourself, and a bathing suit," he said with a subtle lift of one eyebrow, so subtle I couldn’t be sure I hadn't imagined it. "Oh, and it's probably a good idea not to bring anything that could be lost in the water, you know, jewelry or watches and stuff. Safer to keep it locked up in your cabin," he added.

  "Alright," I nodded.

  "Good," he replied, mirroring the movement of my head. "I look forward to seeing you this afternoon...." he lingered over the word, lifting the syllable as if it held a question. It was a question that took me a few seconds to comprehend.

  "Oh, Zara," I breathed, offering him my hand.

  "Look forward to seeing you then, Zara," he said, extending his own fingers toward mine and taking them firmly. As he kept hold of my hand, he leaned forward slightly. "By the way, if you weren't married," he said in a hushed tone, "I totally would."

  Jaw dropping open slightly, I was sure I must have misheard, but I didn't get a chance to ask him to repeat it, because by the time my brain had caught up with my tongue, he'd already slipped his hand from mine and was strolling back the way he'd come from.

  It would be a complete lie to say there was no part of me that wasn't flattered by the comment. Sure, it had been coarse and without even a hint of romance. But, it had been so long since I'd felt like the object of someone's desire, that even that small crumb of acknowledgment was a balm to my wounded ego. Of course, knowing that he was young and hot, and could probably have his pick of younger women than me, didn't hurt either. Although, I have to admit, it occurred to me that he was the kind of guy who enjoyed getting as much sex as he could; which generally meant not being too picky about who it was with.

  Nevertheless, he hadn't said what he said in the hopes of getting anywhere. 'If you weren't married...' those were his words. So, as I finished my fruit and tried to decide if I even knew what scuba diving was, I determined to stop analyzing Blaine's comment to death and accept it as a compliment.

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