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       MacGregor, Cynthia - An Appetite for Passion (BookStrand Publishing Romance), p.1


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MacGregor, Cynthia - An Appetite for Passion (BookStrand Publishing Romance)


  An Appetite for Passion

  Kari meets Max online, and the relationship sizzles. But there is a BIG obstacle--her weight. He knows she loves to eat but doesn’t know what that’s done to her figure. Will it bother him when he finally meets her in person?

  Meanwhile, Jeff is funny and fun, and Kari loves being with him as a friend, but he admits he has a secret. Could it be that he is, after all, the guilty party in the political campaign sabotage? But if he’s innocent, can Kari prove it and clear Jeff’s name? And can they be more than just friends?

  Note: Heroine has an affair with a secondary character.

  Genre: Contemporary

  Length: 45,482 words

  AN APPETITE FOR PASSION

  Cynthia MacGregor

  ROMANCE

  www.BookStrand.com

  ABOUT THE E-BOOK YOU HAVE PURCHASED: Your non-refundable purchase of this e-book allows you to only ONE LEGAL copy for your own personal reading on your own personal computer or device. You do not have resell or distribution rights without the prior written permission of both the publisher and the copyright owner of this book. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee, or as a prize in any contest. Such action is illegal and in violation of the U.S. Copyright Law. Distribution of this e-book, in whole or in part, online, offline, in print or in any way or any other method currently known or yet to be invented, is forbidden. If you do not want this book anymore, you must delete it from your computer.

  WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000."

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  A SIREN-BOOKSTRAND TITLE

  IMPRINT: Romance

  AN APPETITE FOR PASSION

  Copyright © 2010 by Cynthia MacGregor

  E-book ISBN: 1-60601-908-2

  First E-book Publication: September 2010

  Cover design by Jinger Heaston

  All cover art and logo copyright © 2010 by Siren Publishing, Inc.

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  PUBLISHER

  www.BookStrand.com

  AN APPETITE FOR PASSION

  CYNTHIA MACGREGOR

  Copyright © 2010

  Chapter 1

  The drubbing raindrops pelted the white lawn furniture insistently in the early September morning. Their demanding clatter was so loud that they pierced Kari’s sleep-fogged brain, even through the nearly closed window, and roused her to semi-consciousness before her alarm ever went off. Sleepily, she raised an arm in the direction of the clock, then realized that what had awakened her was not the cheery electronic rooster.

  The rooster clock had been a gift from Lylah. “Another customer was messing around with it,” she’d explained, “and when I heard it crow just like the real thing, I turned around to see where the rooster was. It was a hoot.”

  Lylah was a hoot herself, an irrepressible woman with a wild sense of humor. Kari and Lylah had been friends since high school, though lately Lylah’s time seemed too often claimed by other interests...most notably, her pregnancy. As Kari lay listening to the pelting raindrops, she felt an irrational pang of jealousy toward the baby. Not even born yet, and already it was taking up so much of Lylah’s attention.

  A more subtle drip than the noise of the rain on the lawn furniture caught Kari’s attention.

  Oh no! Not the leak in the living room again!

  She thought the roofers had fixed it, but like a horror movie monster, it was ba-a-ack.

  They ripped me off! Charged me big bucks and didn’t even fix it. Now I’ll have to stay home emptying buckets all day.

  But getting wearily out of bed, she found the leak was minor. Nothing a big bucket wouldn’t handle while she was gone all day.

  Too bad. There goes my excuse for staying home.

  It wasn’t work she was trying to get away from. Kari actually enjoyed her job in a corporate publicity department. It was Glenn she was avoiding. Glenn...that bastard!

  They had dated...once. He’d invited her for dinner, and she’d accepted. Though she’d never thought of him in a romantic or sexual light before, he was tall, suave, deep-voiced, and charming, and when he asked her to have dinner with him, not long after breaking up with Judy in Accounting, Kari had been flattered.

  Not knowing where he was taking her, she’d dressed up. After a drink at her house, he took her back to his house. “I thought we’d stay in,” he informed her. “I’m a whiz in the kitchen. You won’t starve.”

  True to his word, dinner had been a gourmet feast, although Kari found herself on the menu as his dessert. She gave herself willingly, though she insisted on leaving the lights off. Dates were few and far between for women of her size. Though she was too embarrassed by her mounds of flesh to let him see her in the buff, she followed him to the bedroom willingly enough and gave herself enthusiastically to his caresses.

  Glenn had been an able, though not a caring, lover. At first, Kari wondered if this indicated anything of his feelings toward her, but then she got caught up in his passionate caresses and calculatedly sensuous maneuvers. Swept into the grasp of emotions engendered by his knowing moves and educated touch, Kari lost her misgivings and gave herself fully to pleasuring the man who was both fanning the flames of her passion and promising to satiate her need.

  “You set me on fire,” she murmured to him as his hands stroked over her eager flesh and touched her in all the right places. There was no kissing; there were no endearments. But he touched all the right buttons and set off fireworks in her under-appreciated, over-abundant body.

  Their bodies merged, and his swollen organ surged into her. She delighted in the feel of his strength pistoning in and out of her. She crested even faster from his plunging rod than she usually did when her own finger sent her to ecstasy, and she was left a whimpering and utterly satisfied pool of melted womanhood on his bed. He climaxed a moment after she did.

  She waited for his afterplay. Tentatively making the first move, Kari stroked Glenn’s shoulder hesitantly, expecting his hand to play through her hair, his kisses to seal the pleasure into her lips. She waited, but she didn’t feel Glenn’s reassuring touch, didn’t hear any murmured endearments, received no tender kisses. He didn’t even say, “Thank you. That was good.”

  Kari hadn’t mistaken his seduction for a declaration of love, but she’d assumed he had some interest in her more than a quick and nasty physical coupling. She’d envisioned them dating, at least...and who knew where that could lead?

  But after they’d lain together for only a couple of minutes, Glenn got up and got dressed again. “Let me go wash those dishes,” he muttered, picking her clothes up from the chair and laying them on the bed in the darkened room. The hint was clear. It was time for her to get dressed and go home.

  She felt rebuffed, hurt, but she chided herself for oversensitivity.
He’s probably got an early morning meeting and needs a good night’s sleep,” she rationalized as she pulled her voluminous dress over her head, trying not to feel too dejected.

  Glenn turned the lamp on, wrapped himself in a robe, and strode out to the kitchen. Looking at herself in Glenn’s mirror, she saw a pretty-faced, if tired-looking, brunette with a stylish hairdo whose chic outfit, though unable to hide her bulk, dressed it up smartly. She also saw the disappointment mirrored in her liquid brown eyes.

  When she assented to sex, she had expected to spend the night. She’d looked forward to curling up to another human body, feeling his warmth, enjoying his nearness. She craved the closeness, the intimacy.

  Not beyond ploys, she ambled out to the kitchen and tried a maneuver. “It’s late,” she said, consulting her watch and opening her mouth wide in an exaggerated yawn. “God, I’m tired.” She had left two hooks unfastened at the back of her dress. “Can you get those for me?” she asked, turning around.

  But instead of saying, “Never mind. It’s late. Take your dress back off and stay the night if you want,” Glenn fastened the hooks and said, “Here you go. If you’re that tired, maybe you’d better get going right now. It’s a good thing you haven’t got far to drive.”

  The next day at work, he was cold to her. Several times she tried to start a conversation, but he cut her down every time. “What’s wrong?” she finally pleaded.

  “Absolutely nothing. Nothing has changed,” he said. Well, that was the problem. She thought after the night before that something had changed. She endured his coldness and several nasty barbs all day, wondering if he’d be like this on their next date, wondering if she even should accept another date with him. She wanted to feel his touch again, feel him make her body soar to heights of fulfillment, and hopefully, this time, curl into the enfolding warmth of his form afterward. Yet, on the other hand, if he was going to be like this....

  In her mail that night there was an invitation. Her cousin Allison was getting married. The next day, when she passed Glenn in the corridor, she asked him if he’d like to go to the wedding with her.

  “Why the hell would I want to?” The ice in his tone was even worse than it had been the day before.

  “But what about what happened Tuesday night?” she asked.

  “You got what you wanted...just like me,” he said. A rush of anger burned through her. How dare he presume he knew what she wanted...or presume that all she wanted was a quick jolt of physical pleasure? The burn threatened to spill out of her eyes.

  “Besides,” he added, his voice even more cruel, “if I wanted to be seen with an elephant, I’d pose for pictures at the circus.”

  Kari fled to the ladies’ room and cried off all her makeup. Up to that moment, the evidence of his behavior notwithstanding, she’d still tried to believe there was such a thing as Kari-and-Glenn. Knowing that a woman her size gets fewer chances at happiness, she grasped at every one that she saw.

  She’d even caught herself writing her full name and Glenn’s full name on a piece of paper at her desk one day. Following the ages-old adolescent formula, she’d crossed off all the letters in each of their names that matched, then counted off the remaining letters, saying aloud as she did, Love, Friendship, Marriage, Hate.

  It came out Hate. Unsatisfied with that result, she tried it with just their first names. With no duplicated letters to cross off, the formula pointed to Love.

  Well, that was better, but it was marriage she was really after. Kari had it all planned. She would meet a man, be swept off her feet, fall madly in love, and get married. They’d have kids, of course, and she’d finally be happy. All she needed was the man.

  With Glenn’s good looks and charm, she’d thought she could fall for him easily. How could she know he would prove so cruel? How could she know that marriage, love, and even friendship were out of the question? Obviously, this adolescent romance-prediction method had been right the first time when it came out hate.

  After that, she dreaded going to work. She nearly quit the job she’d formerly loved, but she had too much pride to let his presence drive her away. So she stayed at the same job, going to work every day in an aura of gloom and dread.

  Now, on this rainy September morning, she was disappointed that the leak in the living room wasn’t large enough to legitimize her staying home. She put on a pot of coffee and resolutely dressed, selecting a pants suit with vertical strips that minimized her heft and projected a businesslike image.

  The outfit personified competence. Studying her mirrored reflection, she felt a returning flow of self-confidence. It’s time to make some changes in my life. Take charge of my destiny. Do things to improve my state of happiness, she thought. She wasn’t clear as to what changes she should, could, or would make, but merely resolving to make a change for the better put a spring in her step that hadn’t been there for a while.

  She had a dinner date with Lylah. There’s something specific to look forward to, she thought. Lylah always made her laugh. Driving to work, she thought about where they might eat. The Japanese restaurant on the corner by the office? The Chinese restaurant in her own neighborhood? That budget-priced Italian place down the street from Lylah’s house? There was a new Turkish place that had opened downtown. She’d never had Turkish food before—reason enough to go there.

  She was again contemplating the “menu” of restaurants an hour later at work when she passed Glenn in the hallway. He was emerging from his office with a look as black as crows at midnight. Obviously he had something far less cheery than dinner prospects on his mind. Kari wondered what was up. At lunchtime, she found out.

  “Want to have lunch?” Sheila from Personnel asked her in the hallway as she was heading out. They occasionally ate together.

  “Sure. I’ve got no plans. The coffee shop?”

  “Sounds good to me. The less distance we have to walk in this weather, the better.” It was still raining, and the temperatures had dropped, too. The day had turned downright nasty with a chilly, unpleasant nip in the air.

  “Weather can be cruel,” Kari agreed.

  “So can people,” said Sheila, who had heard the Glenn-and-Kari story along the office grapevine. “But sometimes they get their comeuppance, even if it doesn’t come from the person they wronged.”

  Kari lifted an eyebrow inquisitively. “Tell all,” she said.

  “Glenn’s been canned,” Sheila gloated. “Fired, let go, bounced, out on his ass. Two weeks severance, but he’s out the door as of now.”

  “Cosmic justice,” marveled Kari. “This day is definitely looking up. Lunch is on me.”

  But the day took another downward turn that afternoon when Kari’s phone rang. Lylah’s voice on the other end announced, “Sweetie, I’ve just joined a Moms-to-Be support group...and the first meeting’s tonight. If I hand engrave the rain check and deliver it on a silver platter, will you let me bow out of our plans?”

  “Sure,” Kari said dejectedly. Lylah had been too busy for her a lot lately. Yes, she knew Lylah was having a difficult pregnancy, and yes, it was her first one, and yes, it made sense for her to join a support group...but did it have to meet on the night they were finally getting together?

  Get a life! she snarled at herself mentally. She was envious of Lylah’s life, actually. She had to admit it, if she was to be candid with herself. Not that she had any designs on Steve, Lylah’s husband, but—with a different man playing the part of Husband—she wished she were in Lylah’s position. Married. About to have a baby. She would even put up with the difficult pregnancy, and the resultant proscription against sex for the duration. At that thought, she gave a snorting laugh. It’s not like I have a sex life now.

  The sky had cleared at five, and though the air was still crisp, it was no longer nasty out. She walked up the street, leaving her car parked. Maybe she’d have a bite to eat somewhere anyhow. There were plenty of places downtown where a woman could eat alone without every man in creation assuming she was there to g
et picked up. Maybe she’d have a drink and...? Chinese? Japanese? Hungarian? There I go again. I never met a cuisine I didn’t like.

  She walked without any specific destination in mind, looking in windows, taking her time. Kari felt a change in her life was both desirable and imminent, but she was clueless as to what form it might take or what she ought to be doing about engineering it. She had just about decided on the Cuban restaurant in the next block—some lechón asado would fill her up and warm her up—when she passed an electronics store.

  Kari was an absolute Luddite when it came to electronics. Oh, she owned a computer…she wasn’t so far gone as to still be using a typewriter…but incredibly, she wasn’t connected to the Internet.

  There was a reason. One of Kari’s dearest friends in the world, second only to Lylah, had been a woman named Audra. Audra had jumped on the Internet bandwagon early. She was the first of Kari’s friends to get a modem, get connected, get web access, get email. And she had met a man in a chat room. They had started an email correspondence, and eventually, agreed to meet in person. He’d told Audra he lived only 200 miles away and would be willing to travel to meet her.

  He’d traveled. He’d met her. He’d killed her.

  He had been a psychopath. The police caught him, resolving in the process, a string of unsolved murders. But that was no consolation to Kari. The loss of Audra, and the shock of her murder, hit Kari hard, and Kari blamed it on the Internet. She vowed she would never get electronically connected, lest she risk meeting the same fate as Audra. And she had kept to that promise all this time. At work, she used email only for business and only when absolutely necessary. At home, she had no Internet connection at all.

  Now, standing in front of the electronics store, she felt her resolve beginning to waver. How long can I hold out? How long can I remain a Luddite in a wired world? Dissatisfied with her life, she resolved this was one change she could make. She took a deep breath, as if steeling herself to enter a dentist’s office, and went in.

 
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