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Tessa's Temptation

By:Ella Jade

Tessa's Temptation
Ella Jade

       Chapter One



Tess Burke stared out her bedroom windows that overlooked the stream  running through the backyard. She watched as the man stopped to stretch  out his calf muscles from his long, early morning run. His tall, toned  form appealed to her as he flexed his back. The faint line of sweat  absorbed into his t-shirt, evidence of a hard, successful run along the  trails of his massive property. He looked out at the flowing water, his  cool blue eyes intense and lost in a distant thought. She often wondered  what he thought about during his early morning meditation. Work?  Family? Her?

With his earbuds still in, he sat down on the bench as he did every day  to check his emails. This had become her favorite time of the day. As  she watched him, she thought about all the possibilities the new day  would bring.

All the ways she could tempt him...





One month earlier.



Tess paced the tiny hall outside her dad's room. He'd been in the shabby  rehab facility for almost a month. The car accident had shattered both  his legs, cracked eight of his ribs, and broken his nose. The man was  lucky to be alive. He had a long recovery ahead of him. It wasn't likely  he'd ever walk without the assistance of a cane. Right now he was still  in a wheelchair, recovering from the extensive injuries he had  sustained on that dark night coming home from work, when he'd swerved to  miss a deer and ended up tumbling into a ditch.

"When have we ever screwed you out of rent?" She switched the phone to  her other ear and tried to keep her voice down, but their landlord of  eight years was about to toss them out. "I'll get the money."

That was a lie. She'd given him everything she had last month. She was  tapped out and didn't have any place to turn. All of her dad's relatives  were deadbeats. He and Tess lived paycheck to paycheck. There was no  way she could come up with the rent.

"Tess, I'm sorry, but I've given you a break on the rent for the past  year. Your father is late almost every month and now you've shorted me  three hundred dollars in the past two months, not to mention you aren't  paying utilities which is in your lease." There was genuine remorse in  Billy's voice. "I can't cut you anymore slack. I'm drowning, myself."

"I'm sorry, Billy, but you know we're good tenants. I'll figure something out."

"I'm sorry, but you'll need to be out by the end of next month. I wish I  didn't have to do this but your dad isn't coming home for a while and  you can't afford the place."

She watched as an attractive guy in a suit that probably cost more than  her rent turned the hall and headed in her direction. He was blatantly  out of place she thought as he checked his shiny silver watch. He pushed  his designer sunglasses up on top of his head as he walked past her,  smiling as he maneuvered the tight space they occupied and walked into  her dad's room. He smelled of spice. He was hot as hell too. No one that  good looking ever came to a shithole like this.

What the hell. Would a bill collector come here?

"Tess, end of next month," Billy said, interrupting her thoughts from  the sexy guy who went in to see her dad. "Did you hear me?"

"You can't throw me out. I know my rights."

"Please don't make this hard. When your dad got behind on rent last year   –  before the accident  –  we never signed a new lease. You're month to  month and all I have to do is give you sufficient time to get out. I'm  within my rights. Sorry, kid."

"Thanks for nothing." She ended the call, took a deep breath and headed  in to deal with the suit who was probably harassing her father. Would  anything go right today? She stood in the doorway, listening to what he  wanted so she'd know how to handle him.

"I'm so glad you could come." Her dad smiled as his guest crossed the  room. Smiled? She hadn't seen him do that since before the accident.  "It's been such a long time."

"Too long," the hottie said as he sat and crossed one expensive shoe  over the other. "I'm sorry to have lost touch with you. When I found out  about your accident I had my assistant find out where you were so I  could come and visit."

"I was happy to hear from you. I've been following your success over the  years. I knew you'd find your course. I'm very proud of you."

"I owe so much of the way my life turned out to you."

"Bull," her father scoffed. "You always had it in you. You were determined even as a mouthy teenager."

"If not for you, Pat, I could have gone in the wrong direction. The time  I spent out at your cabin was the best thing that could have happened  to me."                       
       
           



       

Images of her childhood cabin flooded her mind. Fishing, roasting  marshmallows and swimming in the lake were front and center. That place  was filled with memories of a good life. The life she'd cherished before  everything fell apart.

"Do you still go up there?" the stranger asked. "It's such a beautiful bungalow. One I think of often."

"No," Tess said. "We lost it years ago."

He looked in her direction and stood as she entered the room. His  piercing blue eyes almost sparkled as his full lips curved into a polite  smile. She couldn't seem to drag her gaze away from his chiseled,  stubble-covered jawline. She'd never seen such an attractive man before.  He was nothing like the guys who hung out in her neighborhood.  Everything about him  –  down to his manicured fingernails  –  screamed  class, intelligence, and money.

Who the hell are you?

"There you are, Tessa," her father said. "I was wondering where you disappeared to."

"Tessa?" The man turned in her father's direction. "This is your Tessa?"

"Isn't she stunning?" Her father grinned from ear to ear. "All grown up  and doing her best to take care of me. But I'm afraid it's too much for  her."

"I can't believe it." The man's gaze had already come back to devour the  sight of her. "You couldn't have been any more than five the last time I  saw you." He'd given up any façade of speaking to her dad.

"I'm sorry, but how do we know you?" He didn't look that much older than  her. How could he remember her from fifteen years ago and she have no  recollection of him?

"Baby girl, this is Chase Carlisle," her dad said. "I grew up with his  mother. When you were three, Chase spent the summer at the cabin with  us. How old were you that first summer? He spent two more with us after  that year."

"Fifteen." He answered without any of his attention straying from her. "You're all grown up now."

"That's what happens when they feed and water us." She sat down on her  dad's bed not sure how she felt about him being there. "I just turned  twenty last week."

"Happy Birthday."

"What brings you to see my dad, Mr. Carlisle?"

"Please, call me Chase." He sat back down in the chair by the small  window. "I heard about your dad's accident. I reached out to him last  week and he invited me to come and visit him."

"It was like you knew we needed you," her dad said. "It was a sign."

"Dad?"

"I'm going to be here for a long time, well, maybe not inthis facility   – with insurance the way it is, you never know how long you get to stay  in a place. I may end in the VA hospital."

"That's not definite," Tess reminded him. "I talked to a case worker. I  don't want you to go there. It's too far for me to get to every day."

"It is what it is, Tessa." He looked at Chase. "My daughter is very  independent. She's been taking care of me for years. She goes to school,  she cooks, she cleans, and she works. When her mom and I got divorced  this kid stepped up and made sure we didn't fall apart."

"It sounds like you raised a great kid." Chase smiled at her.

"I'm not a kid," Tess said.

What her father said was all true. When her mother bailed on them ten  years ago, he fell apart and Tess had to take care of him. A kid? That  day she stopped being one of those.

"Of course not," Chase said. "What do you need from me, Pat? I owe you a  great deal. Is there something you need me to do with a different  rehabilitation facility? I can have my attorney look into it. Whatever  you need, it's yours."

"I need you to take Tessa," her dad said with more certainty than she had heard him voice in months.

"What?" She turned and glared at her father. "What are you talking about?"

"I know we're getting evicted," he admitted.

"I can handle that," she said. "I'll figure something out." Not that any  plan had come to her yet. She was too busy trying to convince the  landlord to let them stay. She was also scouring the classifieds for a  job. She hadn't had the heart to tell her father the deli had let her  go, with all the hours she'd spent here with him, she'd taken too many  days off. It was only a matter of time for them to find her replacement.

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