Big Ben

By: Jenna Bayley-Burke

Dedication




For Connie, who loved golf, laughing, and frozen yogurt...and for all of us who miss her.





BIG BEN


He’ll teach her how to play, but can she handle the game?

When Jillian Welch learns that golf courses have become the new singles scene, she convinces her editor to let her research the phenomenon for her Dating Diva column—never mentioning what she really wants to do is fan an old flame.

There’s something wildly enchanting about the columnist who arrives at Ben Cannon’s golf resort. Ben’s felt this magnetic pull only once before, for a bespectacled brunette who was nothing like this platinum blonde from New York. Confident, poised... and hitting on him like crazy– is she really interested in him, or merely seeking fodder for her Dating Diva column?





Chapter One




Ben Cannon knew better than to take a midweek flight into North Bend. He shifted uncomfortably in the tiny seat and checked his watch again. Ten minutes still remained until the almost-empty flight was scheduled to take off. He needed to get comfortable. Attempting to stretch in his seat, he bumped his head on the roof of the tiny plane and cursed. What had he been thinking?

The tiny North Bend airport only saw jets on weekends when tourists came and went. Midweek flights, made by twin-engine puddle-jumper planes, were never designed to accommodate people over six feet. At six foot seven, Ben found it nearly impossible to find a comfortable position. He stretched his neck from side-to-side, giving thanks it was only a forty-minute flight from Eugene to North Bend. Or it would be, if they ever got off the ground.

Ben reached up to push his hair off his forehead. His knuckles scraped on the console above him. He swallowed a groan and prayed to get out of this tin can soon.

A commotion at the door caught his interest, and if the craned necks in front of him were any indication, it got the attention of the six other passengers as well. The pilot emerged from the cockpit to welcome aboard a leggy blonde. Pale blonde hair flipped before touching her shoulders, revealing a crimson hue underneath. Definitely a tourist. Maybe a model. She was tall enough, lithe, pretty. But she wouldn’t look up so he could catch the color of her eyes, or make contact.

Ben smiled as he watched the eager pilot stow her bag and usher her to a seat. When the beauty took a seat up front, out of his direct sight, his smile faded. Just his luck. Seven seats on either side of the plane and she had to be right up front, with him back behind the hump. How he hated these flying sewer pipes.

Ben leaned into the aisle for a closer look. There was something about her, something familiar, and yet he couldn’t place her. From this angle he could just make out her silky layered blouse and short ruffled skirt.

She couldn’t be local. Women at home did their own hair and shopped at Wal-Mart. Rubbing his chin he stretched out farther, watching her fingers attack the keyboard of her laptop.

His eyes scanned downward, enjoying the few extra inches of thigh her skirt revealed. Her curvy legs extended into the aisle like they belonged there. He couldn’t know her. There was no way he’d forget a woman tall enough for those stems who pulled off shoes like that—black and strappy with at least four inches of stiletto heel. He didn’t know her, but he wanted to.

* * *

Jillian Welch had felt Ben’s heavy stare every second of the flight. Now, in the safety of the town car, her blood pressure began to lower. For almost an hour every heartbeat had registered in her ears. How in the world did she expect to pull this off when she could barely look at the man?

Complete infatuation, that’s all. She’d been obsessed with him for seven years. And the obsession had hatched a scheme to find out once and for all if her fantasy man was as much of a dud as every other man in her life.

“It’s all in your head, Jilly, it isn’t real,” she muttered under her breath. “Infatuation, obsession, fixation. Two minutes of conversation and you’ll learn he’s just like every other man on the planet.”

Forcing herself to take deep cleansing breaths like in yoga class, Jillian went over her plan. Until now, she’d assumed her project would be easy. After all, she was The Dating Diva, able to find fault in a man in five seconds flat, able to turn down dates with a single shake of her head.

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