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(Note -- For the sake of clarity, text may be slightly altered from final, printed version)

 Eddie had no use for memories.  The bad ones -- and there were plenty of those -- he'd ditched years ago.  And the few good ones. . .well, that'd be like refusing to throw away a pair of shoes you'd outgrown, wouldn't it?  No matter how cool they were, if they didn't fit, no sense hanging onto 'em.

 Mala Koleski had been a pair of shoes that'd been the wrong size from the get-go.  A pair of shoes he'd never even bothered trying on.

 Not that he hadn't been tempted.

 In any case, he hadn't thought about her in years.  Yet all it took was one chance meeting, a split second's worth of a connection that was startlingly and unmistakeably sexual, to haul those memories of her front and center, boy, all shined up and ready for inspection.

 Whether he liked it or not.

 The kids annihilated the moment, as kids tended to do, and they'd all stumbled back inside, where he and Mala did this dumb so-wow-how-are-you-doing-fine-and-you? number until she'd shepherded her babies into Galen's office and Eddie'd gone back to the stove.

 Where the sizzling sausage and peppers now taunted him.  Galen had more or less left him to his own devices, and instructed her staff to do the same, even though they'd been helpful enough about showing him where everything was.  Still, he could feel them all watching him as they went about their chores, like they were wondering how he was gonna pull this one off.  Not from meanness, nothing like that.  Just. . .curious.  Probably as much about why he didn't join in their jawin' as about his cooking skills. 

 Well, if he got the job, they'd figure out that one out soon enough.  He was into doing his job, period, not getting overly chummy with his co-workers.  It wasn't that he had anything against being friendly.  And that chip he used to cart around had pretty much disintegrated years ago.  He'd tell the occasional joke, put up his two bucks for the football pool or pitch in for somebody's wedding present, stuff like that.  He just had no use for getting involved in people's personal lives.

 Just like he had no use for anyone getting involved in his.

 Eddie grabbed the bottle of wine set to one side, dashed some into the pan, reveling in the fruity steam that billowed up.  From the office, he heard Mala's laugh. 

 Soft.  That had been the only word to come to mind the first time he saw her, dashing between classes, surrounded by a half-dozen giggling girlfriends.  Everything about her -- her full figure, her velvet-smooth voice, even her perfume, which hadn't been overpowering like most of the other girls' -- had made him think of being someplace warm and comfortable and. . .soft.  She'd glanced at him, just for a heartbeat, as she whizzed past on her high-heeled sandals, and all the air just whooshed from his lungs at the sight of those vaguely curious green-gold cat's eyes.  A smile, genuine and just this side of devilish, erupted between round, dimpled cheeks, but he wasn't completely sure it'd been for him.  He remembered standing stock still in her wake, watching the ends of her dark, gleaming hair twitching across the top of a generous bottom unabashedly displayed in snug designer jeans.  An achy sense of longing that he never, ever allowed himself -- not then, not now -- had damn near knocked him over.

 Eddie chuckled to himself as he turned down the heat under the pan.  Oh, he'd ached, all right.  Hell, his physical reaction at the time had embarrassed the life out of him.  While it had been hardly the first time the sight of some girl had gotten him hot, it had definitely been the first time he'd feared for the buttons on his 501's.  And while he was way beyond getting embarrassed about things like that these days, he wasn't beyond being startled.  Because damned if those buttons weren't being put to the test again. 

 Her hair might be shorter, and that pretty face attested to the fact that she was a woman in her late thirties.  But the eyes still held that note of devilment, and the dimples were still there, and her voice had ripened into a huskiness that both soothed and excited.  And she was still soft as a hundred down pillows all piled on top of each other.

 And still out of his reach.

Copyright 2002 Karen Templeton-Berger. Reprinted with persmission of Harlequin Enterprises, S.A. All rights reserved.

What a Man's Gotta Do
Silhoutte Intimate Moments, Jan. 2003

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All cover art copyright 1998-2003, Harlequin Enterprises, S.A. All rights reserved.
Karen Templeton
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