Unintended Love: A contemporary romantic novella

Unintended Love: A contemporary romantic novella by Harley O'Riley Read Free Book Online

Book: Unintended Love: A contemporary romantic novella by Harley O'Riley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Harley O'Riley
Tags: Romance, Contemporary Romance, steamy romance, new adult romance
mischievous expression on his face, and she felt she was seeing a bit of the boy that he once was. 
    “Even so, I think I still adore you,” she said.
    Now these words that surprised her again, and she was beginning to feel that another person was speaking for her. But she knew it was simply the bolder, brasher side of herself that had taken control.
    When she looked back at Alex, she saw her surprise reflected in his eyes then his expression changed. And she knew that look of his by now. The line of worry flashed across his brow, and then it was gone. He gathered her against his chest. “We’d better keep going,” he said quietly next to her ear.

    T hey walked for hours in a mostly companiable silence, sometimes holding hands. Melanie’s feelings fluctuated from feeling a quiet joy, to worry, but mostly she kept coming back to guilt. And her guilt was a complex, multi-faceted thing. She knew what she was doing with Alex was all wrong, and yet it felt so right.
    There was Martin; of course there was Martin, who only a week before had asked her to marry him. And what did this all say clearly about the strength of that connection?
    She knew what it said, and her own thoughts began to echo her mother’s words on the subject. Was she truly afraid to fall in love with the kind of man she really wanted?
    She felt guilt about Martin, but strangely, it seemed worse somehow that she might be leading Alex on.
    Leading him on, not only because she hadn’t told him about Martin, but because as attracted as she was, and as wonderful as he seemed to be, she didn’t see how it could work. She didn’t want a relationship with someone who flew planes for a living. It was too risky. She wanted safe. She wanted to feel safe, and she wanted her man to be safe.
    She was afraid, yes. But it was perfectly reasonable to be afraid to fall for a man like Alex.
    A thought bubbled around the border of Melanie’s mind, and as much as she tried to ignore it, it finally burst its way in. Then she almost laughed out loud at the irony, and wasn’t able to deny her own truth. She understood then, that in many ways she had never felt as safe with any other man as she did with Alex. She somehow knew that he would do anything to protect her; he would never do anything to intentionally hurt her.
    L ate that afternoon, the temperature seemed to spike along with the humidity.
    Even the few clothes that Melanie wore, a camisole and cotton shorts, were too many for comfort. They became damp with sweat and stuck to her, feeling like hot caramel against her skin.
    They were walking side by side when Alex pulled off his shirt, and the action seemed to release a pent up heat that now lifted off his skin. She knew it was an optical illusion, but his tan, muscular back seemed to be steaming. As they walked through a grove of close-fitting trees, he moved ahead to lead the way and Melanie saw he had a tattoo on his right shoulder inked in navy blue. Curious, she picked up her pace, but when she saw clearly the circular symbol for gratitude, she stopped in her tracks.
    “That is so strange,” she said to herself.  She stood still, a feeling of unreality stealing over her.
    Alex turned and came back to her. He wiped the sweat off his brow with his shirt that hung over his other shoulder, took a bottle of water out of his pack and offered it to her.
    She took a drink, handed it back then pointed to his shoulder.
    “Your tattoo,” she said, shaking her head slowly in disbelief.
    “Oh, yeah. It’s the only one I have. That was a very short phase in my life. It hurt!” He laughed. “It means gratitude.”
    Melanie was quiet for a moment. Then she pulled her camisole off over her head revealing a smaller version of the same design just under her belly button near her left hip.
    “I know what it means,” she said.
    She saw his expression change from simple surprise, most likely because she was taking off her shirt in

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