Chances Are, Book 2
“I like your tattoo,” a deep voice came from behind her. “The last time I saw it I was taking you from behind.”
Delanie choked on the wine she’d just taken a sip of, her fingers almost crushing the stem of the glass.
No. It wasn’t possible. Goosebumps broke out over her body even as quick heat spread inside her. She could feel the owl tattoo on her shoulder blade tingle under his gaze.
What was more shocking? His words or the man who had just spoken them? God, it was a toss-up.
She drew in a slow breath, afraid to turn around. Her heart pounded furiously beneath her breasts and her palms dampened.
The coin she’d stolen from him six years ago hung on a pendant around her neck like a beacon. Thank God it was beneath the neckline of her sundress and well out of his view.
“Do you remember that night?” His warm breath tickled her ear.
Hot shivers raced down her spine as his words evoked images of the night they’d spent together. The air locked in her throat and she bit her lip, trying to halt the bombardment of erotic images.
Of course she remembered. That night was a firebrand on her mind. But admitting she hadn’t forgotten could only bring trouble.
It couldn’t possibly be him standing behind me, the silly voice of denial screamed in her head.
Without turning around, she could sense the tall hardness of his body just inches from her. Could feel his blue eyes burning a trail over her.
Another tremble wracked her body.
Get yourself together, Delanie. You’re not a silly co-ed anymore. And he has no idea what you did the morning after your night together.
She focused hard on the sparkling blue water that lay beyond the trees. She'd always heard Washington State was beautiful, and this island resort in the San Juan Islands was a genuine paradise.
Funny how she’d considered herself a lucky woman getting invited to such a posh place. How wonderful that not only was she here to accept a donation to the Second Chances shelter, but to also consider an offer as the resort’s marketing director.
Her lips twisted. She should have known. Paradise always had a price.
“Still thinking about that night?”
Annoyance pricked at his mocking tone. Knowing she couldn’t very well keep her back to him forever, she forced a bland expression onto her face and turned around.
Her bravado slipped a notch the moment she saw him—because it was him—but she forced it back by lifting her chin higher. “I think you have me mistaken with someone else.”
“Do I?” He lifted an eyebrow, his mouth twitching with obvious amusement.
She swallowed hard.
Grant Thompson looked just as good now as he had six years ago. Scratch that, he looked better. The tall, lean, college athlete had turned into a sexy grown man. His face was harder now, more angular with the loss of the boyish roundness.
His hair, once more red than blond, had settled into something in between. But those eyes…those eyes were just as blue and piercing as they had been all those years ago. On that night she’d been stupid enough to bounce the bed springs with him.
She felt the warming of a blush and bit her cheek.
“Excuse me.” She stepped past him, but he reached out and caught her elbow, swinging her back around. Hot tingles raced up her arm where his fingers touched.
“Well at least you got my name right this time.” Her voice shook as she tugged herself free from his grip. She stumbled backward and eyed him warily.
That heart-crushing moment would remain engraved in her mind forever. Right after bringing her to a sweet morning-after orgasm, the jerk had called her Janie. Janie! And then to add insult to injury, he’d fallen back asleep before they could even finish making love. Wait, sex. Of course a guy like Grant wouldn’t consider it making love.
“I’m sorry about that.” Grant’s jaw hardened, all amusement vanishing. “That mistake caused a helluva delay in finding you.”
“Sorry? As if that—” She broke off and narrowed her eyes. “In finding me?”
He tilted his head and gave her a considering look. “Is that why you left so suddenly that morning?”
Guilt stabbed low in her gut, and she reached to touch the pendant under her dress. Before her fingers connected, she jerked her hand away and tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear instead.
“Look.” She let her gaze slip away from his. “I don’t know what kind of twist of fate brought us together, but I’ll catch the first ferry back to Anacortes.”
“It was me.” He stepped closer, blocking her path back into the building.
Her heart almost stopped at the three words. “Excuse me?”
“I’m the twist of fate.” His mouth tightened. “Finding you was the first piece of good luck I’ve had in years.”
She almost dwelled on the luck comment, but the fact that he was claiming to be the twist of fate resonated louder.
The urge to flee increased and she shook her head, glancing around the patio. Her stomach clenched as she realized they were alone now.
“Grant…” She ran her tongue over suddenly dry lips and his gaze darkened as he observed the small movement.
“Lanie.” He stepped forward and she took a step back, her pulse jumping.
“Delanie,” she muttered without thinking. “I haven’t been called Lanie since college.”
The waves crashed against the rocks below as he backed her up against the guard railing.
“When does the next boat leave?” she queried, her heart fluttering harder in her chest. “I can arrange to be on it.”
“You don’t understand. I don’t want you to leave.” His hands curled around the rail on each side of her body.
The faint smell of soap and cologne tickled her nostrils and the heat of his hard body mingled with hers.
“It took me six years to find you.”
Six years faded to nothing with him standing so close. A tremble rocked her body, and her nipples tightened, chafing against the lace of her bra.
She bit back a groan. “Please…”
“The last thing I’m going to do is put you on a boat home, Delanie. We have a lot to talk about.”
Her stomach dropped and her mouth went dry. Oh. God. He knew.
His lips hovered just inches above hers and he used the tip of his thumb to trace the seam of her lips. The blood pounded through her veins and it became a struggle just to drag air into her lungs.
All outside noise disappeared and their gazes locked. The vision of that night so many years ago ran through her head, trapping her in a vortex of memories and sensation.
Her gaze moved to his mouth. She wanted him to kiss her. Wanted him to eliminate those few inches between them and cover her mouth with his. But that would be crazy. Ridiculous.
Her eyelids drifted shut.
“Ms. Williams, we can check you in now.”
The heat of his body disappeared. She blinked her eyes open again and Grant had stepped away from her, annoyance clear on his face.
“Thank you, Burton.” He shifted his attention from her to the approaching employee.
Smoothing her hand down the front of her dress, Delanie tried to regain some of the composure she’d lost in the past few minutes. She had to be completely insane. Talk about a close call. She’d been fully prepared to let him kiss her.
“Please remember that Ms. Williams is to be placed in room two in the north building.”
Her gaze jerked back to Grant in surprise. Why was he ordering around the employee like he owned the place?
The blood drained from her head and she gripped the railing to steady herself. Oh God. He probably did own the resort. Was Grant the sponsor who had seemed too good to be true? Was he the one offering her this job?
Her stomach dropped and all her hopes and expectations disappeared.
“Of course, the room is already prepared.” The employee gave a quick nod. “If you would just follow me, Ms. Williams.”
Eager to put as much as distance as possible between herself and Grant, she hurried after the employee.
Her name spoken softly on his lips had her stumbling to a halt again.
“Yes?” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, glad her back was to him once again.
“Have dinner with me tonight.”
“This is supposed to be business—”
“I know.” Footsteps sounded on the patio and then he walked past her. “I’ll come by your room at six.”
She stared at his retreating back, her eyes widening when he suddenly tripped and stumbled into one of the patio chairs.
“God damn bad luck,” he mumbled before disappearing inside.
Why did he keep bringing up luck? She shook her head and dragged in a deep breath, clenching her fists at her side.
“Yes. Sorry, I’m coming.”
* * * *
Delanie stared out the open French doors of her suite. The cool breeze from the straits swept into her room, lifting the gauzy white curtains around her.
The décor of the room ranged from white wicker furniture to a plush bed set high on the far side of the room.
The resort was the ultimate paradise. It had also just become her personal nightmare.
Grant Thompson. Just thinking his name made her knees a bit weak again. And she was not a weak in the knees type of woman. But nothing could have prepared her for the emotional punch she’d taken when she’d turned around to find him standing there.
He wasn’t supposed to show up in her life again. Ever. Fate didn’t have that perverse a sense of humor. She groaned. Obviously it did.
It had been one night. One night when she’d been young, stupid, and horny as any sorority girl in lust could be.
She picked up her cell phone and debated who to call. She’d been spending more time with Franklin lately, but the idea of calling him made her stomach churn. Besides, it’d be a little weird to discuss her old lover with her current almost lover.
Biting her lip, she called Second Chances, the battered women’s shelter where she worked. She pushed aside the immediate guilt over the fact that she hadn’t mentioned to her friend that she’d considered taking a new job. Not that it mattered now…there was no way she’d accept a job at a resort Grant owned.
“Second Chances, how can I help you?”
“Phoebe? Hey, it’s Delanie. Is it at all possible to get me on a flight back to San Francisco tonight?”
“Tonight?” Phoebe asked sharply. “What do you mean? You just got there. I thought the invitation was for one week to relax, enjoy the resort, and discuss details.”
“It was.” Delanie nibbled on her bottom lip and went to sit down on the plush bed.
“Then what happened? This is the chance to mix business with pleasure. I would have killed for that opportunity. I mean the owner of the resort comped your entire trip and specifically requested we send you.”
Yes, and now she knew why. It wasn’t just about a job and a check. She touched the pendant around her neck and exhaled heavily. It couldn’t be a coincidence. It just wasn’t possible. In fact, Grant had pretty much said so himself.
Admit it, Delanie. He hasn’t forgotten that night any more than you have.
“Delanie? Are you still there?”
“I’m here.” She sighed, hesitating whether to bring up the situation.
“Is the place just trashy or something? I mean the pictures looked great…”
“It’s beautiful.” She closed her eyes. “The resort itself is absolutely stunning.”
“Okay. Look, whatever it is, can’t you work through it? I mean they’re offering to—”
Heavy silence met her statement. She could almost hear the wheels spinning in her friend’s mind.
“Wait a minute, the Grant? The one you told me about?”
“Yes. The Grant. He owns Athena’s Oasis.”
“Well,” Phoebe’s voice sounded a little too bright. “That certainly makes things interesting.”
“Umm, yeah, just a little.”
“Does he know you took his coin?”
“I have no idea,” she admitted and pushed a shaking hand through her hair. “But I have to admit I’m freaking out a bit, Phoebe.”
“As well you should be. I mean if he found out and pressed charges, it could be considered a felony.”
“Okay, not exactly what I wanted to hear right now,” Lanie grumbled. “And besides, that’s only if the coin is real…”
“Exactly. And the guy at the antique shop said it wasn’t. So, nothing to worry about, right?”
“Plus, it was so long ago, he probably couldn’t press charges anyway.”
“Of course.” There was another pause. “So, what’s going on? Has he been mean to you?”
Mean? No. Made her want to rip off her clothes and have sex like she was in college again? Yes.
“He hasn’t been mean. I just have to question his motives for bringing me up here.”
“Wait a minute, it wasn’t a coincidence?”
“No. He pretty much told me that he’s been searching for me for the past six years.”
Silence. Then, “Okay. Well, then it’s simple. Get an earlier flight home, because the man is obviously nuts.”
“But, Phoebe, what about Second Chances? We—”
“Unless…” Phoebe’s tone shifted, turned more thoughtful. “Unless he’s just nuts about you. You did say you guys had this incredible connection that one night together.”
“We did. But it was just one night,” she protested.
Who was she trying to convince though? Her one night with Grant had emotionally linked her to him in a way she’d never been able to equal with another man.
It had taken her years to accept that fact. Her stomach clenched and she gripped the phone tighter.
“Well, maybe one night simply wasn’t enough for him.”
Lanie snorted, more than prepared to shoot down Phoebe’s ridiculous theory. “Or maybe he knows I stole the coin.”
“Maybe,” Phoebe agreed mildly, though she didn’t sound convinced. “But the only way you’ll find out is if you stay.”
Lanie sighed, shaking her head. “That’s a pretty big risk.”
“Okay, well forget about the whole we screwed bit. Think about the shelter. I mean, he’s offering to donate a pretty big sum to the shelter annually. That’s huge. Way more than we ever could have hoped for.”
Guilt knotted in her gut. Jesus, she was a selfish witch. She closed her eyes and shoved her bangs away from her eyes. This wasn’t about her. This was about Second Chances and what Grant was offering could go so far for the shelter and the women there.
Realizing she’d been quiet for too long, she cleared her throat. “I’m here. You’re right, Phoebe. You’re always right. Of course I’ll stay. Forget I even called. I overreacted. You know me.”
“Yeah, I do. And you’re not the overreacting type. You’re the overanalyzing type. Which is why I’m not really surprised to be having this conversation.”
Delanie gave a soft laugh. “You’re too good to me.”
“Ditto. Oh, and by the way, Franklin called the office looking for you. Said you weren’t answering your cell.”
“Right,” Delanie’s lips twitched and some of the tension eased from her body. “Reception is terrible out here.”
“I’m sure.” Phoebe giggled. “That’s why you’re calling me right now with no trouble.”
Earlier she’d turned off her phone to avoid his calls. It was another reason she’d been eager to take this trip.
She suspected he wanted their relationship to be quite a bit more serious than she did. The part she couldn’t figure out was whether or not Franklin just thought she was the perfect arm candy for a senator.
As Phoebe had pointed out more than once, she was an attractive young woman from a respected family, who worked tirelessly for a battered women’s shelter.
“All right. I need to unpack and get settled.” She tightened her grip on the phone. “And thanks again, Phoebe.”
“For talking me down from the ledge.”
“You’d do the same for me. Have a good night and keep me posted on everything. And I do mean everything.”
“Will do. Say hi to Gabby for me.”
“I will. She’s been asking about you. Should I tell her you’re miserable?” Phoebe teased.
“No. Tell her all is bliss. Why weigh her down with my drama.” Delanie laughed. “Good night, hon.”
She shut her phone and set it on the bed then leaned back against the pillow and let her head sink into the feathery softness.
She closed her eyes, hoping it would erase the image of Grant from her mind. If anything, it only heightened it.
Her fingers brushed over the faded coin around her neck. And just like every other time she touched it, the vision of that one night with Grant flickered through her mind.
A cold night, it had been snowing outside. While two hot, naked bodies joined in passion and moved together on flannel sheets.
It was a night that should never have happened.
The plan had seemed so simple. Stage an accidental meeting with Grant at the bar and get him to bring her back to his place. Then she’d steal the coin and sneak out.
“But being an overachiever, I just had to go for extra credit,” she muttered to herself with a bittersweet smile. “I just had to go ahead and sleep with him too.”
Delanie sat up on the bed and glanced outside her room to where the wind had picked up. The water beyond the resort was whipping into a frenzy of whitecaps and swells.
She lifted the coin closer to her face to stare at it. Even six years later she couldn’t explain why she’d kept it for herself. That certainly hadn’t been part of the plan. But when she’d untied the leather cord on the pouch and dumped the coin into her hand, the plan had gotten ditched.
The first thing she’d noticed about the coin was that it seemed old—many centuries at least. The second thing that had caught her attention was the owl on it. A weird twist of fate, since she’d just gotten an owl tattoo on her shoulder blade the week before. And maybe that’s why she’d made the decision she had.
Her choices had been simple. Throw it into a lake as she’d promised the person she’d stolen it for, or keep it for herself.
The decision had been a no brainer. Not only had she kept it, but she’d had it turned into a necklace. Though she’d made sure the tiny prongs that held the coin ensured no damage would come to it.
You should’ve just thrown it into the lake.
She let go of the coin, the cool weight of it between her breasts calming her. No. That was another decision she wouldn’t regret, no matter how much it came back to bite her in the butt.
Sliding off the bed, she reached behind her to untie the back of her halter dress. Looking over her shoulder, she caught sight of the small tattoo on her shoulder blade.
Grant’s words flitted through her head again. The last time I saw it I was taking you from behind.
Heat spread through her body and she closed her eyes. More images assailed her. She on her hands and knees, his strong hands biting into her hips as he took her.
She swallowed hard and shimmied out of the dress, letting it pool at her feet.
She glanced at the clock. Grant said he’d come for her at six. Two hours.
That meant she had two hours to make herself look good. Not good—great. When she pulled out all the stops with her appearance, she felt confident, ready to take on the world. She could hold her own in any situation.
Which seemed all too appropriate for the dinner she was going to attend tonight. Uneasy now, she headed to the bathroom to shower.
Grant stood in his office and swirled the glass of melting ice left over from his gin and tonic.
With his gaze narrowed on the choppy waters off the island, he tilted the glass, emptying the rest of the ice into his mouth. Half made it into his mouth, the rest of it spilled down the front of his freshly pressed shirt.
He sighed and set down the glass. Of course he’d dumped half the contents on himself.
He brushed the ice off his shirt and glanced back out the window.
Thank God she was here. It had been surprisingly easy to lure Delanie Williams to Lopez Island. She hadn’t even seen it coming. But then, why would she have?
She’d walked out of his life on that snowy morning six years ago and probably didn’t have a clue of the chaos she’d left in her wake.
B.D.—before Delanie, he liked to call it—life had been good. The girls had loved him and he’d had no problem with his life as a serial dater. A.D.—after Delanie—he’d been lucky to make it past two dates with a woman without getting bored.
Every woman he dated, went to bed with, inevitably got compared to the one woman he’d spent less than twenty-four hours with.
It was annoying as hell, and he hated himself for doing it. Couldn’t understand why he did it. He barely knew Delanie, so why should every other woman on the planet have to measure up to her?
And it wasn’t just his love life that had gone kaput after that night. Things had just started to fall apart in general. His cat died, his truck got stolen, and he’d lost his job.
And those had just been the first handful of things that had gone wrong. Six years of bad luck had ensued after the coin disappeared.
He’d kept that coin in the same place day in and day out. There was no way in hell it had been misplaced. It had been taken, plain and simple. Possibly by his roommate—who’d denied ever taking it—and Grant leaned towards believing the guy. Which left only one other likely person. Delanie.
He shook his head. The idea still seemed far-fetched that she was the one who took it. What could possibly have been her motive?
The only way to find out would be to ask her face-to-face. He’d always prided himself on being able to read a person’s first reaction. And tonight he’d read Delanie’s.
That coin had accompanied him everywhere, it was his lucky charm. It’d been a part of him—a part of the Thompson family—for centuries.
He rubbed the back of his neck, and closed his eyes.
“This is about more than the coin,” he muttered to himself. “And you’d better stop trying to convince yourself otherwise.”
Seeing Delanie again was like fitting that last piece of the puzzle where it had been missing for so long.
The image of how he’d first seen her today flashed behind his closed eyes. She’d been facing away from him. Her back and shoulders bared around the thin straps of her sundress. The small tattoo of a white owl had drawn his gaze like a beacon. Then, when she’d finally turned around…
His chest tightened and he drew in an unsteady breath.
Delanie had been a pretty sorority girl, slender, with short brown hair, and brown eyes full of mischief.
But six years later she was stunning. Her slender body had softened with the curves of a woman. Her breasts were fuller, her hips more rounded, but it was her hair that had undergone the biggest transformation.
It had used to be short, but she wore it long now. And it was lighter, almost blonde.
And he still wanted her. As much today as he had that night they’d tumbled into his bed.
Grant drew in a deep breath and winced. The smell of gin now lingered on his shirt. It was probably time for that shower.
He unfastened the buttons on his shirt and headed to the bathroom to get ready for his dinner with Delanie.
An hour later he left his room. Clean, changed, and cologned. He walked to her room, drawing in a slow breath before he lifted his hand and knocked.
His mouth twitched as he waited for her to open the door. She probably had no idea he’d had her placed in the room right next door to his.
Half a minute passed and he frowned then knocked again. Maybe she hadn’t been thrilled by the idea of dinner with him, but would she deliberately avoid him? Not answer the door?
The tension eased from his shoulders when footsteps sounded inside the room. A few seconds later, the door swung open.
Grant drew in a sharp breath, letting his gaze move over her as the blood stirred in his cock.
If this was how she dressed when she didn’t want to go to dinner, he’d love to see what she looked like when she did. Sweet Jesus, she looked sexy.
The black dress cut low on her breasts, showing plenty of cleavage before falling all the way down to her red-painted toenails.
He jerked his gaze back up to her face and his hand gripped the doorframe as he made a serious mental effort not to get a hard-on.
Her brown eyes appeared brighter, her expression tentative. “Sorry, I was drying my hair.”
“No problem.” He cleared his throat. “Are you hungry?”
She gave a quick nod, her hands twisting together in front of her. “A little. The last thing I ate was some God-awful crackers on the plane.”
“God-awful crackers make for a terrible meal.” He gave her a slight smile, hoping to put her more at ease.
She was nervous. Then again, he wasn’t exactly Mr. Composure either after seeing her again. No matter that he’d mentally geared up for their reunion, it was still a shock.
“Ready?” He released the doorframe and stepped back, giving her room to step out.
She ran her hands over the waist of her dress and then gave a quick nod. “Yes. I’m ready.” She stepped past him and closed the door behind her.
When she took those few steps past him, his gaze immediately moved over her back. The dress was cut low on the backside as well, the slinky fabric clinging to the curve of her ass.
He balled his fists against his sides and ground his teeth together. This isn’t about getting laid, buddy. Though it would be a nice bonus.
“So, where are we going?” she called over her shoulder, not looking back as she strode down the hallway.
“I’ve arranged dinner in a private room on the second floor of the main house. Here.”
This time she did glance sharply behind her.
“It has a great view. You’ll love it,” he promised and increased his stride so they walked beside each other.
He led her up the spiral staircase to the second floor. A small table had already been laid out with plates, wine glasses, and a candle burning in the middle.
Christ. He’d asked for a quiet dinner to be set up, not something you’d find on an episode of The Bachelor. But then, that was Roberta. The older cook was a die-hard romantic.
Delanie gasped and hurried over to the large windows that overlooked the San Juan Islands. “Look at that view!”
He smiled, thrusting his hands into his pockets. It was the reason he’d requested the dinner be held up here. The room was generally off limits. This view was rarely seen by anyone, outside himself and the occasional employee.
She seemed to hesitate before moving toward the chair he pulled out for her. She sat down, her back rigid and her hands folded in her lap as she eyed the table warily.
“Can I get you some wine?” he offered as he sat.
“I’d rather you tell me how I ended up at your resort.”
Delanie bit her tongue the moment the words were out. Her stomach flipped as he lifted an eyebrow and gave a low, sexy laugh.
She hadn’t planned on going straight for the attack, but seeing the tender scene he’d set up had rattled her nerves.
“Perhaps some wine first?”
He went to work filling both glasses and her gaze dropped to his hands, which were wrapped around the wine bottle.
Those hands had given her more orgasms in one night than her last two boyfriends combined.
“Here you are.”
She took the glass he held out to her, annoyed to find her own hand trembling. Perhaps a little wine first would be good.
She lifted the glass to her lips and took a sip of the sweet chardonnay.
“Was I just a one-night stand to you?”
His sudden question made her choke on the wine. Jeez. How the heck did she answer that question? She set the glass back down, and cleared her throat.
“How could it be anything but? Technically, we did only have sex that one night.”
She lifted her gaze, not sure what she’d see. His expression was both curious and strangely intense, which unsettled her.
“That could have been remedied had you stuck around in the morning.” He sighed and took a drink of his own wine.
“Look.” She drew in a deep breath before plunging on. “If you brought me out here to get me into bed again, it’s not going to happen.”
“Because I’m—you didn’t?” She blinked, her stomach sinking with a disappointment she didn’t want to acknowledge. You’re being an idiot, Delanie.
He shook his head and then winced. “Well, it wasn’t my initial plan. Although I admit after seeing you again…”
Something occurred to her, something she hadn’t even considered. “Oh my God. Was it all a ruse? The job offer? Getting me out here with the offer to make donations to our shelter?”
“No.” His mouth thinned. “Of course not, Delanie. I’m not a complete asshole.”
Her smile twisted. “But you do admit to being a partial one? I won’t take it you know.”
Irritation flared at his cockiness.
A woman carrying two plates walked into the room and set them down in front of them.
“Here you are, kids. Enjoy.”
Kids? Delanie’s mouth twitched as she watched the older lady hurry back out of the room.
She looked down at the food before her and her mouth watered. A salmon filet rested on a bed of rice, next to it a skewer of shrimp and steamed broccoli.
“This looks amazing.” She picked up her fork and speared a chunk of salmon, lifting it to her mouth. “Mmm.” She chewed the bite and swallowed. “Wow. That is so much better than crackers.”
He wasn’t eating. When she lifted her gaze, she found him watching her, a pensive look on his face.
“What did I do to you?” he asked softly, shaking his head. “To make you get up in the morning, walk out of my house, and then basically disappear off the face of the planet?”
Her hunger diminished with the sudden question, and she set her fork down, considering her response.
“Besides call me Janie?” she asked, with the only defense she had. And it was rather paltry.
“We met in a bar. It was loud when you introduced yourself to me. So I got the first letter wrong.” He reached across the table and pulled her hand into his. The contact radiated warmth up her arm and throughout her body.
“I know it must have made you feel terrible. But I have a hard time believing you would throw away that night we had together over my small fuck-up.”
It had hurt. And fortunately that hurt had been the spark to ignite her into action. Meeting him that night in the bar all those years ago had never been an accidental occasion. It had been the first step in a hastily laid plan.
She’d been on a mission that night. A mission spontaneously suggested by her sorority sister. What was her name…Bridget?
Liking him was an inconvenience she couldn’t have predicted. God knows what would have happened if he hadn’t called her the wrong name. She might have stayed in bed all day and confessed her real reason for being there.
“Delanie.” His thumb traced circles over her palm, and her breath hitched. “Did that night really mean so little to you?”
Her pulse pounded, her chest twisting tight as it grew hard to swallow.
If he only knew. That night had meant everything to her. It was why she wore the damn coin she’d stolen from him on a chain around her neck. It reminded her of the deepest connection she’d ever had with a man. The same man who’d had no qualms about breaking Bridget’s heart.
She jerked her hand back from his, almost afraid he could read her thoughts. She had no illusions about what she’d done that morning. When she’d stolen his coin, she’d flat out committed a crime. A small one, but a crime nonetheless.
Being here, on this island with Grant, put everything at risk. Her status as a respected woman in her community. But even more so, her heart.
“Why did you bring me here, Grant?” She shook her head, her mouth pulled tight. “Because I’ll be real honest, I’m close to catching the first ferry off this island in the morning.”
He stared at her for a moment, his gaze intense on her face. “All right. You want to know why I brought you here? I’ll tell you. I want it back.”
The blood drained from her face. Not even trying to convince herself she didn’t know what he meant, she picked up her wine glass with hands she forced to remain steady.
She might know exactly what he wanted back, but she didn’t have to let him know she knew.
“I’m sorry? You want what back?”
Confessing she took it was way too dicey. Not to mention she’d grown awfully attached to the necklace.
She set her glass back down on the table and lifted her gaze to his. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
His nostrils flared. “The hell you don’t, Lanie.”
The first bit of unease settled in her gut at his unwavering accusation.
“Why would I take your coin?”
“That’s what I’d like to know.” His jaw hardened and he shook his head. “The only thing I do know is that I’ve had the worst goddamn luck since my coin disappeared.”
She blinked. “Bad luck? You think that because you lost your coin you’ve had bad luck?”
“I did not lose my coin.”
She dropped her gaze, unable to handle the intensity of his stare. It was clear that he knew she took it. He just had no proof.
Thank God she’d had the sense to take off the necklace before dinner. She made a mental note to hide the thing in her luggage until she got home.
She pushed back her chair and stood up from the table. “Look, if this is any indication of how this week is going to go, I’d rather not deal with it.”
“Wait.” He stood, his mouth tightening. “Please, sit. I’m sorry. The last thing I want to do is have Second Chances suffer because we’re having issues.”
“There is no we.”
“You know what I mean.”
She stared at him for a few seconds, the blood pounding through her veins.
“I didn’t take it.” It was really amazing how easily the lie fell from her lips.
At first he didn’t answer, then he just gave a terse jerk of his head towards the chair. “Okay. If you say you didn’t take it, I won’t force the issue.”
Still she hesitated, torn between the burning guilt of her blatant lie and the unwillingness to sit through what was sure to be an awkward dinner.
“Please. Roberta probably spent half the day in the kitchen prepping for this dinner.”
With a brisk nod, she sank back into the chair and picked up her fork. “It’s good. She’s a wonderful cook.”
But the food, which had looked so appetizing just moments ago, now might as well have been wood chips.
One thing he said still rang in her mind, puzzling her.
“So this bad luck,” she began, lifting the shrimp skewer and pulling off a piece. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with the coin.”
“I thought you didn’t want to talk about it.”
She bit into the shrimp and chewed it slowly. After swallowing the seasoned bite, she licked her lips. “Okay, well certain points I’d rather not. But you’ve piqued my curiosity. I mean, bad luck for six years? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence—”
“My cat died the day after the coin disappeared.”
“Okay.” She grabbed another piece of shrimp, still not convinced. “Was it old? Did it get hit by a car?”
“No. She ran across the room and jumped into a glass door.”
Sounded like the result of a stupid cat to her, but she bit her tongue. “I’m sorry.”
“Then my ice cream truck got stolen while I ran inside a convenience store for some nachos.”
Delanie tried not to giggle, but it came out anyway. She picked up her wine. “You drove an ice cream truck?”
“It was a summer job.”
“Ah. I thought it might have been your chick mobile.”
“And that’s another thing.” He scowled and picked up his own skewer of shrimp.
“Women. I haven’t had a relationship that lasted longer than two weeks since…” He held her gaze, his irritation obvious. “Since the coin disappeared.”
“You can’t expect me to believe that you haven’t had sex in six years.”
His gaze jerked back to hers, blue eyes alight with amusement. “I never said anything about sex.”
“Of course.” She rolled her eyes and turned back to the salmon. “Men never seem to have a problem with that.”
“What about me?”
“I’m assuming you haven’t exactly been abstinent since that night.”
The salmon in her mouth grew heavy against her tongue. She swallowed quickly and grabbed the wine.
No, not abstinent. But damn close. The few occasions she’d taken a lover had left her so bitterly disappointed, she’d pretty much given up trying.
Franklin had been pressuring her to become intimate for months. And, truth be told, she’d been getting close to caving. As it was, she’d just hit the two-year mark without sex.
Her name sounded husky on his lips. It sent heat through her body, finally coming to rest heavily between her legs.
She closed her eyes, not wanting to admit to herself that every man who touched her ended up being compared to the man across the table.
“I’ve had lovers,” she finally admitted.
When he didn’t respond, she lifted her gaze. Surprise rippled through her. His jaw had hardened, even as his eyes burned a path over her face.
He couldn’t possibly be jealous, could he? That would be…ridiculous. They’d only had one night together.
She lowered her gaze, pushing her plate away. Although, when he’d casually stated that he’d had lovers, something had clenched deep in her gut.
She sighed and glanced out over the view. The sun had only half set, casting a reddish-orange glow over the trees and water.
As if seeing Grant after six years weren’t enough, now she was sitting across from him at a dinner that, for all intents and purposes, should be considered romantic.
It brought out all kinds of emotions inside her. Made her want to do stupid things and reflect on the stupider things she’d done in her past. Get out of here before you start a repeat performance.
“Thank you for the dinner, Grant.” She set her napkin down and pushed back her chair. “Today’s travel has caught up with me and I’m a little tired.”
“Of course.” He stood up. “Let me walk you back to your room.”
“Really, there’s no need,” she protested. “I can find my way back.”
“I’m sure. But I’d rather see you there myself.” He gave a slight smile. “I was raised with good manners.”
Walking back to her room she had to agree with him. Even with just that one night together, it was the first thing she’d picked up on. He’d held doors, paid for her bill at the bar…made sure she’d come five times before screwing her silly.
She bit back a groan and closed her eyes for a second. When she opened them again, they had arrived outside her room.
On impulse, she turned around to face him. He was so close, the top of her head almost brushed his chin.
Her gaze latched onto the few curls that peeked out from the neckline of his buttoned-up shirt. She breathed in deeply and could smell the mix of soap and spicy cologne.
Six years and it still seemed so fresh in her head. The way his big hands had moved over her body so knowingly. How his thumbs had strummed her nipples until she’d begged him to suck on them. The weight of his body on top of hers as he’d settled himself between her thighs. And finally, that one incredible moment when he’d thrust inside her.
Heat stirred low in her belly and her breasts ached under her dress. She wanted him to touch her again. The thought should have alarmed her more, and yet it didn’t.
It was almost a relief to admit it to herself. She needed to feel his mouth on hers. It had been much too long.
She lifted her head, her tongue running over her lips.
His gaze darkened and his jaw went rigid. “Delanie…”
Without giving herself the time to reconsider, she reached up and slid her hand around his neck. Spearing her fingers upward into his soft hair, she tugged his head downward.