BEAUTIFUL SCARS by Shiloh Walker
Some scars cut right to the heart.
Three years after her divorce, Chaili Bennett is over her ex. Her only problem now? Of the few men she’s dated since, no one “gets” her. Not like Marc Archer—a man who’s never seen her as more than a friend.
Marc Archer needs a date for a last-minute charity event, and he needs it fast. Not that women aren’t throwing themselves at his world-famous face and body, but sometimes it’s less messy—as in less personal—to use his sister Shera’s escort service.
The last woman on earth Marc expects to see in his sister’s office is Chaili. There’s something different about her, but nothing pleases him more when Shera sets them up. That simple date quickly evolves into much more as they both discover the other fills a deep, secret need they’ve shared with no one else.
Though Chaili insists one night is all she wants, Marc isn’t walking away now. Not until he discovers what put the shadows in her eyes. And the scars on her soul.
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Copyright © 2012 Shiloh Walker
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The office was tucked away not far from his home in Lake Forest. Marc knew most of the people in the area had an idea just what Escortè did, and he suspected a few of them also thought there was more to the companionship service that his sister offered. He also knew she had her hands full chasing away the idiots who weren’t convinced by the office policy. He’d seen their mother dealing with it before she retired, had watched Shera handling it off and on, had listened to some of her stories, ranging from the funny to the messed-up.
Personally, he was glad he had an in to the place.
It made his life easier.
He could play the dating game okay, but he got tired of trying to do it. It was easier for him to keep it impersonal, professional. After Lily, he’d tried a few casual relationships, the just friends sort of thing, but those hadn’t ended up any better than any other messed-up relationship in his life. So he’d quit trying for a while and used Escortè.
There were similar services in other cities where he did the same thing. Kept it all nice and simple.
Then he hadn’t had to worry about it for a while.
He’d met Selene. They clicked. They were compatible—in bed and out, and he hadn’t had to mess with this crap.
Now? Starting all over again.
He tried not to feel aggravated. It was just a business thing. He paid for a date, had a woman with him for a few hours, spared himself the headache of dealing with some of the nightmares that came from being single at some of these parties. He also spared himself the nightmare that came from trying to have a friendly relationship that would just end in a disaster.
Really, this was for the best, right? All he had going with Selene was friendship anyway—granted, it was the friends with benefits sort of thing, but that could be found elsewhere.
Impersonal as hell. Yeah, that bothered him, and right now it was bothering him more than normal, but he’d finally found a way to balance his life and he didn’t need anything rocking that boat.
You need to stop being so negative, he told himself. But it was damned hard considering every relationship he’d been in since high school had gone from hell to hella-bad in a blink.
“No.” He threw the Porsche into park and climbed out, leaning against the side. “Not thinking about that.” Part of the reason he hated coming back here. And that pissed him off. Chicago was home. It was home, and he avoided it like the plague except for rare visits home to see his sister, all because coming back here made him think of…
“And you’re doing it again.” Shoving away from the car, he pocketed the keys and headed toward his sister’s office. It was quiet around here at night. During the day it was busy, but at night it was mostly vacant. Just a few random cars scattered in front of the other businesses. He recognized his sister’s car, parked in front of the office, but he didn’t see another one close to hers.
He didn’t want to have to drive her home…that made it seem even more like a date.
A taxi, then. He’d get her into a damn taxi, or hell, Caleb would probably have cars there.
Yeah. He could get her into a car once the night was over with.
Then he’d head out to Blue’s. Blue usually preferred that people wanting the…more private services contact her in advance, but she’d work something out. Distracted, thinking about that, he pushed through the door, thinking about maybe trying to put in a call to her before he even left Shera’s. He needed to do something, right? He was edgy as hell and the only way to burn this kind of energy off was—
His brain just stopped.
He caught sight of the woman standing with her back to him and his mind came to screeching, crashing halt. All the blood in his head slowly started to sizzle and burn. A long, sleek back, displayed in a backless, pale dress, leaving lots and lots of sexy, smooth skin… His heart bumped once, hard, against his ribs, as his gaze dipped, lingering on the narrow curve of her waist, the round swell of her ass, and then onto long, sleek, sleek legs…
Ah, maybe he wouldn’t be calling a car for her, after all.
Dragging his gaze up, he studied the back of her head and something started to click in the back of his mind. Dark hair, not quite black, shot through with lighter threads… His heart started to race. He knew this woman.
She turned around and he found himself staring into Chaili’s blue eyes.
Marc had a fondness for her eyes. He didn’t know why, exactly. Maybe it was because they were blue, and such a vivid blue they almost looked purple to his screwy eyesight. He didn’t know why. Didn’t care. He just knew she had amazing eyes.
It was a punch. A hard, brutal punch straight to his gut and he closed one hand into a fist as he continued to stare at her. Okay. She wasn’t here for him. Chaili wasn’t one of his sister’s girls. She had something else going on… Then it occurred to him—Shera had absently mentioned setting up a line of male companions. Was Chaili…?
Just. No. Even thinking about her paying some guy to take her out pissed him off.
What the heck—
Shera appeared from the back office. “Hey, Marc.” She had a smile on her face. An overly bright one. The kind of smile she’d always given him when she’d done something she shouldn’t have and she wanted him to help keep her out of trouble with Mom. Except she was a grown woman.
Swinging his gaze back and forth between the two women, he lifted a brow and waited.
“Awesome news.” Shera still had that wide, too-bright smile plastered across her face. “Chaili is going to keep you company tonight.”
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