Aphrodite’s Call Excerpt


Chapter One

A deep male voice boomed through her garden, breaking her concentration. “Aphrodite!” The images of Robert and Rebecca swirled and were lost as the pool’s surface went clear. She turned to face the irate male.“Ditee! Why can’t you just leave well enough alone?”Aphrodite leaned against the cool rock and gave him a lazy smile. She’d expected Ares to complain. Robert Corvin played a key role in research and weapon development for the United States. No human got into his position without a little shove from the god of war.“I will do exactly as I wish, especially when it comes to souls who have searched as long as these two have.”“He’s mine, Ditee. I’ve finally got him where he will be of most use, and now I hear he has moved. Because of a girl! I knew it was your fault. Hands off.” His eyes flashed red, and a deep growl rumbled from his chest.Aphrodite rose to face him. Her power rose and flamed within her, causing her skin to glow white. Ares took a step back. “You will not speak to me so rudely,” she said, her voice taking on its godly attributes, booming across the garden like a sonic wave. Ares stumbled a little from the force. “I am your superior. These souls deserve to be together, and you will not interfere.”“The hell I won’t.”* * *Rebecca Carol parked her blue Honda Civic in front of the Williams Realty building on the north side of Houston, Texas. A heavy sigh escaped her. Her boss’s white Mustang sat next to the building. Drat! She had hoped to arrive first, grab her list of appointments, and leave before Marion Williams even showed up to start the day. No such luck.The bell jingled above the door when she pulled it open and stepped into the office lobby. Vanilla roast hung fresh in the air. She might be a martinet, but there was no denying Marion made the best coffee.“Rebecca? Is that you?” Marion’s shrill voice came from her office.Marion Williams ran an excellent business, and most of the time, she was a reasonable boss, but lately her personality had become grating, like a cat clawing a chalkboard. Her nasty divorce was the cause for most of it, and Rebecca couldn’t really blame her. Who wouldn’t be irritable if you found out your husband had cheated on you for the last ten years?“Yes, Marion. I’ll be right there. Let me put my things in my desk.”“No, no. Come here first.” Her urgency was uncommon, and Rebecca moved swiftly, dropping her purse on the sideboard outside the door.Purple and yellow were the company colors, and Marion’s office was quite a testament to them. The carpets were a bright summer-yellow. The desk was white, and the drapery and pillows in the window seat were a rich royal purple. A purple brocade high-back chair sat in the corner by a small bookshelf. The décor was a very bold statement, but Marion pulled it off.“Is something wrong? You sound worried.” Rebecca stood in the doorway and waited for Marion to look away from her computer screen.“Ah, no. Nothing wrong, just strange.” Marion continued to type.Rebecca cocked her head. Her boss tore her gaze from the screen and met Rebecca’s. “You have an appointment today.”“Just one?”“I’m covering your other two.”Now she was really curious. Marion never covered her appointments.“Don’t look at me like that.” Marion tucked her bangs behind an ear. “I don’t know how you got this. I should be the one running this appointment, but you were requested by name. It’s a very high-profile client from out of town.”Interesting. Rebecca shifted her weight from her right to her left foot. It was better to wait on Marion than to pressure her. She frowned as Marion gave her outfit the once-over and grimaced. Rebecca didn’t make enough money to dress in the designer labels like her employer, although with the impending divorce, Marion might find herself with less spending money than usual.“The showing is in The Woodlands. You will need to go home and put on something nicer. Your dress is too casual.” Marion shook her head and looked back at her computer screen.Rebecca swallowed a snort. The white floral dress was quite nice, especially paired with the cute green wedge heels. They gave such a nice pop of color. Most of Marion’s dislike came from the fact that they weren’t name brand.Marion handed her the clipboard with the appointment information, and Rebecca’s mouth went dry.Robert Corvin.“Do you know this Robert Corvin?” Marion asked.Rebecca glanced up from the clipboard and stared at her.“I should be handling this appointment. You’ve never handled a sale this large.”Rebecca tried to speak, but nothing came out.“Rebecca!”“Yes, ma’am. We went to high school together.” Her voice finally emerged to quell the storm in her boss’s face. With that said, Marion seemed to relax a bit.“Well,” Marion gave her clothing another demoralizing examination. “I still think you should go home and change into something more appropriate. This is a really big sale. I want you to give him a very good impression of my office.”Rebecca nodded. Marion leaned back in her chair. “I want this sale, Rebecca. I don’t care what happened between the two of you back in high school. Don’t let it stop you from sealing the deal.”“Yes, ma’am. I will do my best. I’m surprised he even remembers who I am.”“Men remember more than you think, young lady. He wouldn’t have asked for you if he didn’t remember you.”“I should go. The sheet says he wants to meet at ten, and it will take me nearly an hour to get to the property.” Rebecca paused for a moment. “Is there anything else you need me to do, Marion?”“No, get going. Call me after and let me know how it went.”Rebecca nodded and walked out of the office. She picked up her purse and keys from the sideboard outside Marion’s door and waved to Paige, the receptionist who had just arrived. The bell jingled again to announce her exit.She wondered if Robert would remember her. Probably not, it had been so many years. He’d probably tutored a lot of girls in freshman algebra.* * *Robert Corvin sat in his truck at the property Tucker had found listed for sale. It was huge. Way bigger than anything he would have picked for himself, but Tucker insisted that with business functions and the type of clientele he would be entertaining it had to be expensive. The mansion in front of him fit the bill. The house and the land together had been appraised at just under five million dollars. He’d refused to spend any more than that. It was just a house.“So do you think she will remember you?” Tucker asked, flipping through stock numbers on his electronic tablet.“I hope so, but who knows what she’ll think of me? Especially since you have me buying this monstrosity of a house to live in by myself.”“Then wait for the opportune moment and ask her to live with you, man. It’s as simple as that.”“When I graduated from MIT, I just assumed I’d be working in a computer lab by myself, not running my own engineering company. I don’t want her to choose me because I’m a multimillionaire. Why do you think I’ve haven’t dated anyone over the past five years since taking the government contract?”His friend shrugged and continued to scroll through the live numbers on the exchange. “You are the one who asked me to find her when you saw her last September.”“I know.”“Well, quit whining. She’ll be here in a few minutes.”Robert shook his head. He was being dumb. Rebecca probably still thought of him as the high school senior math geek who’d tutored her in algebra. But a guy could always dream.He’d visited his parents in Houston last fall and had taken them to the annual wine festival. They’d had a great time, but he’d been unable to focus on anything since seeing Rebecca at the festival. A group of girls had surrounded her, so he hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to her. But he hadn’t notice a ring on her finger either.When he got back to DC, he told Tucker to find out everything he could about Rebecca Carol. He’d also told Tucker to find him a house outside of Houston. The business headquarters was moving to Texas. Something about Rebecca called to him, and he wasn’t going to be able to live anywhere else.He looked at his watch again –ten till ten.* * *Rebecca craned her neck. The house number was on side of the gate, but a large tree branch hung down and blocked her view. 3453. Found it with ten minutes to spare. She sighed in relief, reached forward, and clicked off the navigator attached to her dashboard. After inputting the pass code, Rebecca drove slowly up the driveway.She had only been out to The Woodlands on one other occasion, but this ten-acre property was stunning. Green lawns and a large pecan grove spread out in the front of the three-story mansion. Her realtor spreadsheet had mentioned a small, natural spring running along the side of the property as well.Rebecca shook her head in disbelief. Robert had certainly done well for himself if this was the home he intended to purchase. No wonder Marion’s panties were in a wad over this sale. The commissions would cover office expenses and employee salaries for the rest of the year.Her vehicle crested the top of the hill, and her mouth dropped open even farther. The picture on the sale sheet did not do this house justice. Merlot brick with white trim made the entire house stand out from the very green landscape. Four two-story ionic columns graced the front with a balcony on the second level. Old-fashioned, sectional windows with white shutters spread across the front and sides of the house. It was a fantastic example of southern colonial architecture. She couldn’t wait to see the inside.The driveway circled around in front of the house, and she pulled to a stop behind an oversized red King Ranch pickup truck. A few moments later two men climbed out. Rebecca took a deep breath and tried to gather her thoughts. She refused to make a fool of herself over feelings for a boy she had known ten years ago. He probably didn’t even remember her, but then, why had he specifically requested her to show the house?The man who got out of the driver’s side of the truck was Robert. He had changed quite a bit from his skinny, black-glasses, and pocket-protector days. Though she’d thought he was adorable in high school, looking at him now, she felt a rush of heated desire. His dark hair was cut short, and his narrow-rim glasses framed a handsome, chiseled face. The familiar square jaw was more defined than she remembered, and he wore a five o’clock shadow very well. He was wearing loose jeans, a bright turquoise polo shirt, and a pair of worn brown sandals—Texas casual. His lanky figure had filled out, and he was taller. Rebecca swallowed and stepped out of her car.His associate walked around from the other side of the truck.  Very differently dressed, he sported dark dress pants and a white button-up shirt minus the tie. Rebecca flashed both men a quick smile, closed the door to her sedan, and walked forward to meet them.Halfway between the cars, they met, and Robert extended his hand.“Good morning. Mr. Corvin, I presume?” Rebecca placed her hand in his and shook firmly. She sucked in a quick breath to keep from trembling with excitement.“Yes, but please call me Robert.” The twinkle in his chocolate-brown eyes made Rebecca suspicious. Does he really remember one girl he tutored in high school algebra? Surely he would say if he did, but then, she wasn’t…“It’s so nice to meet you, I’m Rebecca,” she answered politely, and turned to face his associate who had just stepped up next to them. Rebecca could have sworn Robert muttered an “I know” under his breath, but it was probably just her imagination. “Hi, I’m Rebecca Carol.”“Tucker.” The man gave her a very obvious once-over and offered her a grin. Rebecca tensed under his scrutiny. “Evan Tucker, ma’am.”Rebecca sputtered a protest. “Please don’t call me ma’am. Rebecca will do just fine.”“Of course, Rebecca,” he answered with a heavy drawl.Rebecca turned her focus back to Robert and was surprised to find him studying her. She furrowed her brow and glanced back and forth between the two men.“Would you care to see the inside of the house? Or should I just stand here and wait for y’all to finish looking me over?”That comment seemed to snap Robert out of his mesmerized stare. He gave her a big grin, and Rebecca’s irritation melted away. It was wrong that a simple smile from him affected her so strongly. She lifted her chin and walked confidently to the front door. Heavy footsteps let her know they were following.She swung the large coffered oak door wide open and pocketed the realtor’s key. Robert gestured for her to enter first. She stepped into the beautiful two-story entryway and smiled. Robert stopped a few feet inside, and Evan closed the door softly behind him as he stepped across the threshold.“This is gorgeous,” Robert commented, genuine awe in his voice. Rebecca nodded in agreement. “The pictures online were nice, but it’s just not the same as seeing it in person.”“It was built in the architectural style of southern colonial. It is one of the most breathtaking examples I’ve ever been inside. The curved staircase is made from solid oak. Here in the entry it spirals up to the second floor, and behind it, there is a spiral down to the lower level.” Rebecca tried to keep her voice calm. She pointed in the direction of the staircase.“A basement?” Evan questioned.“Well, technically it’s called a basement, but because the home is built into a hill, the basement level is an open walkout in the back. This design allows lots of natural light into the floor plan so it doesn’t feel like a basement.”“Excellent.” Robert gave her a quick smile. “Where should we go first?”“I’m going to let you two take the tour,” Evan interrupted. “Robert, I’m going to get measurements and pictures for the contractors.” He paused and looked at Rebecca. “Is that okay with you, Rebecca?”“Of course.”“Thanks.” Evan nodded to Robert and started down the stairs to the lower level. Rebecca motioned for Robert to walk to her left into the dining room. She followed closely behind him.He walked quickly through the dining room, butler’s pantry, and into the large open-plan kitchen. The corners of her mouth turned up when she saw him poking his head into a couple of different cabinets. The view of the backyard through the windows in the keeping room caught her eye, and she moved toward them.The garden was breathtaking. It had natural-stone walkways twisting through a maze of perennials, flowering bushes, and gorgeous lilac growing on several different trellises.The lilac reminded her of her mother’s garden. Her stepfather had sold the house after her mom passed, but she still drove by and would sit in her car for hours, staring at the garden bench and lilac she and her mother used to sit under.* * *“I already see the spark! Look, Ares.” She pointed to the pool, now a portal allowing her to watch Rebecca and Robert.“I don’t give a–”“Zip the lip. You will not spoil the atmosphere in my palace with your wretched attitude. Love is the strongest emotion in the universe.” Aphrodite held up her hand, and Ares narrowed his gaze. She smiled, knowing he couldn’t open his mouth until she lowered it. “You know I met them at a wine festival last fall. Dionysus invited me. It’s a good way for me to touch people without them being suspicious.” She glanced up and smiled. “Drunk people are almost always friendly, especially to me.”Ares rolled his eyes and tried to yell something at her through his tightly closed lips. She shook her head and continued, “They were both in Texas last fall and both at the same wine festival. Their souls were already being drawn together.” She smirked at Ares and finally lowered her hand.“You are a pain in my ass, Ditee. I will fix this. You can’t have him.”Aphrodite raised her hand again. Ares took an instinctive step back, but it was too late. Instead of silencing him, she shoved him. His body flew through her open veranda door, through the grand hallway, out the main entrance door, and thumped hard against the marble road outside her palace. Aphrodite smiled at the image of him sprawled on his ass in the road. “I told him not to spoil the atmosphere,” she muttered before turning back to the images in the pool.* * *“It’s beautiful.” Rebecca jolted a little in surprise. His voice was so close to her. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” He chuckled and took a step back.She shook her head. “Forgive me. I was lost in a memory.”“What kind of memory?”“One of my mother. We used to sit under this huge lilac plant and talk for hours.”“You don’t anymore?”“She passed away a couple of years ago.” He moved back to her side and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. It was meant to be comforting, but Rebecca could barely contain the shiver of excitement running through her body. Seriously, what is wrong with me? I’m acting like I’m sixteen again.“I’m so sorry for your loss.”A soft smile curved the corners of her mouth. “It’s okay. She isn’t hurting anymore, and that’s what is really important.” Rebecca turned and waved her hand toward the great room behind her. “Would you like to see the rest of the house?”He followed her through the large opening. “As long as you’re in it, I’ll love it.”She swallowed slowly. What was that supposed to mean? She met his gaze when he turned back to look at her. He gave a quick wink before walking over to the fabulous stone fireplace. The ornate design on the oak mantel was magnificent.“Is the bedroom through here?” He pointed to a door in the corner of the room. Rebecca nodded. She tried to speak, but found her mouth uncooperative. He flashed her a suspicious grin before disappearing into the master suite.She followed him moments later, but he was not there. He had already gone into the bathroom. She tentatively stepped through the doorway into the master en suite.“Rebecca.” His voice held genuine excitement. “Look at this closet. You know, it’s bigger than my bedroom was growing up.” She joined him in the huge walk-in closet.“The house is nearly eleven thousand square feet.”“I know.”He was staring again. His incredible brown-eyed gaze devoured her from head to toe. “Would all your clothes fit in here?”She laughed out loud. “All my clothes would fit in that one small corner, but why are we talking about my clothes?”“Just getting a woman’s perspective.”There is that damn suspicious grin again. She couldn’t figure out what he was hiding, unless …“Why are you moving back to Texas?” Shit! Shit! Shit! Rebecca grit her teeth and clenched her hands into fists.A huge smile spread across his face. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall of the closet. A look of smug male satisfaction stared back at her. “I was hoping you would eventually slip up.”“You remember me.”“Rebecca, not only do I remember you, I came back to Texas looking for you.”She gulped a small breath of air and took a moment to collect her thoughts. “Marion thought it was strange I was singled out to show you this house.”“Marion who? What?”“My boss, Marion. She runs the realtor office where I work,” Rebecca answered.“Oh, I didn’t speak to her. Evan made all the arrangements.” He took several steps toward her.“Well, she just said that–”He lifted her chin, and Rebecca met his heated gaze. “Stop. Changing. The. Subject.”“Would you be happy if I said I was glad you were looking for me?”Rebecca felt his entire body relax after her question, even though only the tips of his fingers were touching her face. He smiled and then covered her mouth with his smooth, warm lips. He slid his hand around to support the back of her head as he leaned her body against the closet wall. God, he feels so good. His body pressed in at all the right places, and liquid pooled between her legs as her own desires were stoked.His lips coaxed hers open, and he swept his tongue inside her mouth. Rebecca took a deep breath, his scent washed over her, and she had never felt more content. She belonged in his arms. She’d always sensed a connection with him. Her hands slid up his muscled torso and held on. He snaked his free arm around her waist and lifted her up off the ground.“Whenever you two are done in there is fine by me, but I have another meeting to go to,” Evan called out from the bathroom.The sudden interruption startled Rebecca. She shoved herself away from Robert in a frightened panic. He cursed under his breath.“Just go, Evan!” he bellowed in irritation. “The keys are in the truck.”Rebecca waited quietly, listening to Evan’s footsteps fade away on the hardwood floor. She glanced back at Robert and gave him a sheepish grin.“I didn’t mean to shove you so hard. Sorry.”A big smile spread across his face, and he laughed. “I forgot he was even here.”“Should we look at the rest of the house?” She wrung her hands together, wondering how to move forward from there.“I’ll buy it if you help me furnish it.”Rebecca coughed. What the hell? “But, it’s your–”“Let me try this again.” Robert took a step toward her, and she instinctively backed away. He reminded her of Mai Tai, her cat, stalking his favorite toy. “I will buy the house if you will help me furnish it. We can start shopping today, right after lunch.”“There’s that damn grin again.” Rebecca clamped her hand over her mouth. His smile got even wider, and he folded his arms across the strong-muscled chest Rebecca wanted so desperately to run her hands over. Sheesh, get a grip, woman.“I’ll take that as a yes.”She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. “Not like you’ve given me much of a choice.” Her comment brought another roll of laughter, and she couldn’t help but smile herself. In truth, she knew she would use any excuse provided to spend more time with him. The fact that Marion had ordered her to make sure the deal was sealed only made taking him up on his offer to spend the day shopping even more appealing.“Why don’t we lock up the house and head out for lunch now? You seem hungry.” She winked at him and turned on her heel, narrowly escaping his lunge to grab her by the arm. Rebecca squealed and hurried to the front door as quickly as her high heels would carry her.“You can slow down, Rebecca. I won’t grab you.”“Somehow, I just don’t believe you.” She giggled over her shoulder.“That’s probably because it wasn’t really true,” he called out from behind her. “But slow down. Really, I don’t want you to fall.”Rebecca stopped at the front door and waited for him. Once he stepped onto the porch, she clicked the lock on the doorknob and popped the realtor’s key back into the box.He took her hand, and they walked down the steps to the driveway. As they neared her car, she felt his hand on the small of her back as he guided her to the passenger-side door. “I’ll drive.”“It seems that once again I have not been given a choice.” She met the twinkle in his brown eyes with a small smirk.Robert opened her passenger door and helped her into the seat. He closed the door gently and jogged around to the driver’s side before sliding in. She touched his hand as he shifted the car into gear.“Why didn’t you ever ask me out in high school?”Robert froze and slowly turned to face her. “It seems silly, but I was scared you’d turn me down. I was a computer-math geek, and you were gorgeous, popular, a cheerleader. So out of my league.” He sighed and sank back into the seat. It was as if he were resigning to be rejected now as well.“I would have gone out with you, Robert. I’ve had a crush on you since my very first algebra lesson, pocket protectors and all.” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and snapped her seatbelt into place. “I never thought you were a geek.”

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