Alison Roberts

A Mother for His Family


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of pleasure sharp enough to seem like pain coursing through her body. The background harmony of voices raised in song faded but the beat of the drums matched that of Sarah’s heart and only fed the sensation of utter bliss.

      Ben’s arms tightened around her and Sarah could feel the whole hard length of his body pressed against hers. This was crazy. One kiss, and Sarah was ready to abandon any rules she had about men. Ready to step over a brink she had never crossed before—to hurl herself headlong into a pleasure she had never believed actually existed. She couldn’t stop and it didn’t matter because she couldn’t conceive of wanting to stop.

      It was just as well that Ben could. He pulled away and the time that had passed couldn’t have been an eternity because they were still alone and unnoticed. He didn’t let her go immediately, however. Sarah felt his arms still tight around her.

      ‘Well, I never,’ Ben murmured. ‘You do have something special you like to keep hidden, don’t you, Sarah?’

      The jolt back to reality was harsh. Had Ben kissed her to check out whether she was really as ‘uptight’ as he had supposed?

      Sarah pulled away from his arms. ‘Oh, my God,’ she whispered. ‘That should not have happened.’

      ‘Why not?’ Ben sounded amused.

      ‘What’s Tori going to think?’

      ‘I’m sure she’d think it was all part of the fun.’

      ‘She would, if it was her that you were kissing.’ Sarah shook her head, stepping back and smoothing the ruffled grass of her skirt. ‘I just hope she didn’t see that.’

      ‘It really doesn’t have anything to do with her, does it?’ Ben was watching Sarah as she pushed stray tresses of hair behind her shoulders. He was still close enough to be heard easily over the sounds of the party continuing behind them and he looked puzzled. ‘I think I’m allowed to choose whom I want to kiss, aren’t I?’

      Sarah felt a little confused herself. ‘But Tori likes you.’

      ‘Don’t you like me, Sarah?’ Ben’s voice was teasing. As soft and seductive as his lips had been only seconds ago. He was pulling her back, turning her convictions upside down, making her want things she had never thought she could want this much.

      ‘No...not like that.’ Sarah needed to escape. To get to shore and get away from any possible nibbles from a shark. Any more nibbles, anyway. ‘Tori’s my sister, or as good as. She’s also my best friend. I’m not going to poach a man she’s interested in.’

      ‘But I’m not interested in Tori,’ Ben said. ‘I’m not interested in any woman, for that matter. Not seriously, anyway.’ He was clearly withdrawing. Scared off maybe? A branch of hibiscus was being held back so that Sarah could rejoin the party. ‘If it’s not fun, it’s not worth bothering with,’ he said tersely. ‘Let’s forget it, shall we?’

      ‘Good idea.’ Sarah straightened her back and walked past Ben. The statement had summed him up perfectly and Sarah knew her initial impression of the man had been the genuine one. Disappointment that could easily become anger was chasing away the confusion that kiss had caused. Ben Dawson was dangerous. He couldn’t give a damn how other people felt or whether they would be hurt by his actions. He couldn’t be part of any fun as far as Sarah was concerned, and for that purpose she would have to agree with him. He wasn’t worth bothering with.

      She would just have to make sure Tori realised that as well.

      CHAPTER THREE

      HOW could she have been so gullible?

      Tori had agreed readily, as they had finally prepared for bed last night, that Ben Dawson was a low-life, ready to take advantage of any woman stupid enough to fall for his surface charm. The resigned twist of her face had suggested that the revelation was only to be expected, and she had sighed, indicating that she may have surrendered any notion of being one of those women.

      ‘Well, at least you kissed him, Sas.’

      Sarah’s brush had caught on a tangle somewhere in the length of her hair. Had the knot been caused by Ben’s fingers as they had burrowed for a better grip on her head in order to angle her lips to meet his? She’d welcomed the pain of forcing the bristles through the obstruction.

      ‘I wish I hadn’t.’

      ‘Why?’ Tori had pulled up the sheet on her bed to cover her bare shoulders. ‘Was he no good?’

      Sarah snorted. ‘I wouldn’t say that exactly.’ She’d known she would never forget that kiss. She’d had a horrible feeling she would never experience anything that had the chance of competing with it again, and that was why she wished it had never happened. But how could he not have been good...with the amount of practice he’d had?

      ‘Hmm.’

      * * *

      That murmur of agreement took on a whole new tone in hindsight as Sarah balanced the paddle on her canoe and watched Tori glide further ahead. It had been an interested ‘hmm’, not one of agreement. All she had done had been to fuel Tori’s curiosity, hadn’t she? And in her usual determined style, her foster-sister had gone right ahead planning her next move, cunningly avoiding telling Sarah because she knew jolly well she shouldn’t be doing it.

      ‘I’m not going to do this, Tori,’ she called. ‘It’s a bad idea. I don’t want any part of it.’

      ‘OK.’ Tori was still paddling. ‘I’ll go by myself.’

      She would, too. How many times had she got Sarah into trouble by pulling exactly this kind of stunt? The first time had been only a week after Sarah had moved in with the Prestons. Tori had wanted to play in the ‘out of bounds’ area of bush near the house and had tearfully convinced Sarah that she’d lost her favourite toy there the week before. And Sarah had taken the flak for the small adventure because eight-year-old Tori had already managed to creep past the barrier around her heart with her ready acceptance of her new ‘big sister’ and the stream of small gifts and notes that had been under her pillow every night.

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