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The kitchen bell chimed as Lexi shimmied into her jeans. She knew Chef Pastille had prepared something amazing for breakfast, and he'd be insulted if she held up the meal, but she just couldn't focus. Her mind was occupied with Luke's sultry voice, talking of Asian cuisine, and his golden eyes catching the moonlight, but mostly his naked body. Sure, it was dark, and he stood fifty yards from the balcony, but she had a good imagination.

Lexi wanted to punch Dion in the face for interrupting them. She would be eighteen in one day. One day! It was time he stopped treating her like a kid sister. And the same went for Uncle Z. Why did he have a problem with Luke? As far as she could tell, Luke Carrington was the kind of guy romance novels were written about, the successful and charming humanitarian with rock hard abs. Who wouldn't want a friend like that?

Breakfast was served on the patio overlooking the Olympic-sized swimming pool and the sea beyond. It was a view Lexi never took for granted, and she stood at the marble railing, out of sight, to admire the perfect view while she counted chairs. There were twenty-six place settings split between two tables. Not their largest gathering, but enough to make the mood festive.

Lexi was determined to sit next to Luke, or at least across from him. He had more to say than any of the boys her parents invited. How would he look today? She had seen him at his most refined and his most casual. Too bad shirts were required at the table.

"Good morning, Lexi." Luke's voice came in a baritone whisper behind her, as if it were delivered on a cloud, and Lexi felt a flutter under her ribs. Forgetting all about clothes, she turned to greet a heart-melting smile. His hair was slightly tousled, as if he had a stubborn spot that refused to stay put, and she had an urge to brush her fingers through his chestnut locks, if only to fix it. She breathed in the scent of him, hoping he didn't notice but not caring if he did. All at once, the world felt right.

"Good morning, to you. How did you sleep? Mom said she gave you the downstairs suite with the view. I love that room. I go in there and open all the windows and fall asleep to the waves."

Luke's smile widened, making Lexi feel like a rambling featherbrain. "I feel privileged. And, I slept very well. I hope you didn't have trouble. According to Dion, we have a busy day ahead of us."

"I slept fine. I've never needed more than six hours at once. My mind just refuses to take longer breaks." Lexi surveyed the tables as guests started claiming chairs. "Let's hurry and find seats before the tables fill up."

She slipped her hand around Luke's arm to tug him forward, and when she heard him chuckle, she remembered he wasn't Tanya and they weren't walking into the locker room after swim practice. Of course, she couldn't undo it, but Luke didn't seem to mind, and Lexi continued her trajectory toward a pair of lonely chairs before she had a chance to panic.

Lexi saw her Uncle Z watching them from the far end of the patio, and it triggered a touch of guilt. She didn't want to incite a war between Luke and her godfather. Why did grown men insist on reverting back to childhood? It shouldn't be her job to keep the peace between a couple of adults who ought to know better.

As soon as she and Luke took their seats, a familyswooped in with one of the boys she'd met the night before. His name wassomething forgettable like Will, and he immediately started in with "Happybirthday, Lexi." It was obvious by his tone that Will had his game going, and he had worn his prep school sweater with junior year pin. Yikes.

"My parents and I flew all the way from Pennsylvania to be here," he reminded her. "When I heard you had a stable, I told them we had to attend."

Lexi donned her debate face, polite yet unintimidated. "I assume you ride, then. Do you compete?"

"Only with my friends. I'm too busy with other activities to put the time into competitive riding. But I've been told I could be a jockey, if I weren't so muscular."

Lexi unfolded her napkin on her lap, glancing down to hide the grin threatening to expose her. This boy was pure arrogance wrapped in a cashmere sweater, and she knew just how to handle his type. By the time she had her composure back, Lexi was ready. "I consider myself a decent rider. Are you up for a one-on-one race on the beach?"

Will's eyes doubled in diameter. Clearly, he hadn't expected to be challenged before breakfast. Or was it the fact that a girl had issued the challenge? "Sure, Lexi. I never pass up a chance to race. I should warn you, though. I'm not used to losing."

Lexi locked him in her other debate face, the bring it on stare. "Then this will be the perfect opportunity to see how you handle it."

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