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BELIEVE IN ME
by Laura Moore

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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Meet Owen Gage, the hero of Believe in Me. In this scene, Owen, architect and designer, has just met Jordan Radcliffe who is as prickly as she is beautiful. A connoisseur of women as well as fine historic architecture, Owen finds himself intrigued…  

The lunch verged on inedible. The poached salmon was rubbery, the asparagus drastically overcooked, and one bite of the cloyingly sweet key lime pie that Nonie served for dessert had made Owen’s teeth ache. Just as syrupy and distasteful had been Nonie’s “dear” and “darling” every time she addressed him.

Yet surprisingly Owen was enjoying himself. The chance to sit across the china-and-silver-laden table from Jordan Radcliffe more than made up for the meal’s deficiencies.

Owen studied the woman seated across from him. A man who appreciated contrasts, he could not help finding her fascinating. Such a curious mix of social poise and palpable hostility. And for a woman with more prickle than a cactus, she had the smoothest, silkiest skin imaginable. She also happened to live in one of the finest houses in Virginia. This fact alone made Ms. Jordan Radcliffe extremely worthy of his attention.

Guessing what a lunch at Nonie Harrison’s would be like, he’d made every attempt to avoid it. But then she dangled the promise of Jordan Radcliffe’s presence. He would dutifully eat an entire platter of overboiled asparagus for the chance to step inside Rosewood. The house was rumored to be a near- pristine example of Greek Revival architecture in Virginia, passed down through generations of Radcliffes. The family had apparently never deemed it necessary to alter the home built by their ancestor, the storied Francis Radcliffe. To the architectural historian in Owen, visiting a house like Rosewood was like mining the mother lode.

He’d seen a few tantalizing glimpses of the house in a Vogue photo spread that an assistant had brought into his Alexandria office to show him. One of the Radcliffe sisters was a fashion model and had agreed to a photo shoot in the ancestral home. Now he remembered seeing in the spread a picture of Jordan, as well. That he should have noticed her at all was nothing less than remarkable. He’d been scouring the photographs for details of her ancestral home, not for images of its own ers.

Indeed, if someone had asked Owen a mere hour ago which would hold greater interest, meeting a direct descendant of Francis Radcliffe, who’d commissioned Rosewood in 1840, or getting a chance to explore the mansion inside and out, his answer would have been immediate. I’ll take door number two.

But that was before he’d met Jordan. To say he found her intriguing was an understatement. When he’d shaken her hand earlier, he’d felt the slight trembling of her fingers clasped in his and caught the flash of feminine awareness in her wide blue eyes. Yet rather than acknowledge that they were two individuals who recognized a spark of attraction between them— he was always more than happy to admit any interest in a beautiful woman— she had abruptly gone all prickly on him.

Her dislike seemed a bit too determined when all they’d done was shake hands, and so to Owen she was that much more interesting. From Nonie’s pointed comment, he’d already figured out that she was divorced, so what was the big deal?

Owen didn’t consider himself particularly conceited, but he was rather accustomed to being liked by the opposite sex. He was decent- looking. He took care of his teeth and trimmed his nails. It wasn’t hard to keep in shape by supplementing the manual labor he put in on his renovation projects with visits to the gym. But most likely the reason women seemed to gravitate toward him was because he’d always been comfortable around them. It was a trait developed early, fostered by the long string of au pairs and nannies his parents hired to care for him as they traveled the world.

By the age of six, Owen had already tapped into the winning combination of using the right words and a few disarming grins to convince almost any woman to do his bidding. Back then, he’d basically been aiming for another slice of cake and an extra half- hour of playtime in the park. At thirty-six, his tastes had evolved, but he still greatly enjoyed playtime.

The women he dated did, too.

Jordan Radcliffe, of the flawless skin, fathomless blue eyes, auburn hair, and willowy figure, was doing everything she could to let him know she wasn’t remotely interested in engaging with him in any kind of activity, recreational or otherwise. Indeed, from the conspicuous lack of interest she displayed, she was letting him know that she considered him about as interesting as dry rot . . . actually, probably less.

Perhaps it was for the best. He made it a point to avoid women who fairly screamed complicated, no matter how petal- soft their skin. He preferred his affairs to be straightforward, mutually enjoyable, and brief. Brevity was key. Let a relationship continue too long and the woman developed an unfortunate tendency to make plans.

And the only plans that interested him were architectural. He’d worked his hide off to make Owen Gage & Associates one of the best architectural preservation firms in the area. While he liked contrasts and depth in art and architecture, he had no intention of making room in his life for a woman who had “complexity” written all over her.

A shame, because Jordan Radcliffe smelled really good. Owen was still trying to identify the beguiling scent he’d breathed in as he’d escorted her to the dining room and then held her chair for her. The fragrance was light and fresh and, well, he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what made it so different from the perfumes women generally favored, but he liked it.

He told himself he should be grateful that she’d made it abundantly clear she didn’t want him anywhere near her sweet- smelling self. Otherwise he might be tempted to ignore his established rules of engagement.