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Chapter 12 Found: The Perfect Pearl

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Miranda couldn't remember when she'd slept so well or so soundly. Jason woke her at ten to tell her breakfast would be ready in thirty minutes and remind her she had a plane to catch. When he kissed her cheek, he whispered, "Thank you," then left her to dress.

The night had been extraordinary but left her disappointed on two counts. While Jason and Alex were wonderful lovers, they were still missing the elusive quality she sought. She had the constant feeling that the whole performance had been for their pleasure, not hers.

And again, the pearl had been the wrong one.

Insisting she still have something to remember them by, they had presented her with a tiny teardrop pearl on a gold chain, which she wore until she boarded the plane, Then she took it off and dropped it into her purse. It would rest in her jewelry box, a memento of a very erotic escapade but no more than that.

She leaned back in her seat and sighed. What was she doing with her life, anyway? Nothing of any substance or value. She had more money than she could ever spend but only one really close friend whom she trusted completely. She manufactured adventures for herself because her life was so empty. Thrill-chasing certainly had its drawbacks. She'd allowed smooth-talking men to fuck her senseless and nearly rob her blind. It was time for a change.

She was finally tired of sex for the sake of sex. Maybe the perfect lover just didn't exist. And if Raoul needed that pearl so desperately to get on with his life, well, he was welcome to it. She just wanted to go home and go back to being plain old Mandy Fox. Maybe it was time for her to find something useful to do with all that money. It was certainly time to stop chasing after a sexual dream.

By five o'clock she was back in her condo, showered and changed into shorts and an old football t-shirt, her feet shoved into comfortable sandals. Face free of makeup, hair pulled back in a ponytail, she drove to the causeway and her favorite dive, The Oyster Shanty. Here she could lose herself in the anonymity of boaters and tourists and try to figure out what to do next with her life.

She was sitting at the bar, losing herself in the noise of the crowd and drinking a cold beer, when she sensed someone climb up on the stool next to her. She glanced sideways, then nearly dropped her beer.

"B.J.?"

"One and the same." He grinned. "Have a nice trip?"

"I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind."

She took another sip of beer, then took a longer look at B.J. She was so used to seeing him in his pressed slacks and collared shirt that the man in the denim cutoffs and black t-shirt was almost a stranger. And his sun-streaked blond hair, usually arranged perfectly, was ruffled as if tossed by the wind. Unexpectedly a wave of lust hit her and she nearly choked on her beer.

"Hey, you okay?" He turned concerned eyes toward her and patted her on the back.

"I'm fine." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Some just went down the wrong way." She wrinkled her forehead. "I didn't know you came here. I've never seen you here before."

"That makes us even. I didn't know this was one of your hangouts."

Her mouth turned down at the corners. "I haven't been here in a long time. Too long, I think. Do you come here a lot?"

He pointed out the big glass window to the dock and marina beyond. "I keep my boat here. Makes it handy to drop in for beer and oysters."

Her eyes widened. "Your boat?"

"Uh-huh. Cabin cruiser. My pride and joy. I've actually thought of living on it, I like it so much."

"You're kidding."

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