Copyright © 2014 Jess Dee
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The radiant brunette hung a bag over her shoulder, took out a smaller suitcase with wheels, carefully draped a suit—nope, dress—bag over her arm, shut the boot and, tugging the case behind her, set off towards the ramp beside the staircase leading to the hotel.
“I owe you big-time for this.” She flashed him a smile as she looked back at him.
The matching case Andrew pulled also had wheels, making it easier to handle. Still, the woman had packed major stuff in there. He smiled back easily. “I’ll accept payment in the form of a drink later. Red wine or white. Your choice.”
“Red, always.” Something sparked in her eyes before she turned back to watch the path ahead of her. “But later’s going to be difficult. I have serious commitments this weekend.”
It’d been so long since he’d been with a woman, Andrew had obviously lost his touch. A quick mental check told him his last date had been over three months ago. His last relationship? Way more than that.
He and his palm had become intimately acquainted of late, which was pretty damn pathetic when all was said and done.
Pity he’d lost his touch. Sharing a drink with this woman held a ridiculous amount of appeal. But of course she had commitments. Why else would she have six bags and suitcases for one week?
“You know…” She came to a stop halfway up the winding path. “I’m sorry I can’t grab a drink with you. You seem awfully nice. Plus you have the most amazing eyes, and I’m a sucker for brown eyes. Especially amazing ones, like yours.”
Pride restored and chest puffing a little, Andrew rushed to reassure her. “No worries. I understand commitments.” All too bloody well. He gestured at the hotel while wondering exactly what her commitments were. “Those bags are going to get heavy if you carry them longer than you absolutely need to.”
Her face was instantly aglow with contrition. “Never mind me, you’re the one lugging half my wardrobe with you. Please, leave it all here. I’ll come back for them.”
Andrew snorted. “And disprove my masculinity in front of the sexiest woman in the Hunter Valley? I don’t think so.”
Laughter pealed from her. “You’re sweet to say it, but I’m not sexy. Just happy.”
“You look happy.” And sexy. He took a step forward, prompting her to do the same.
“Ever have those times when everything in life seems perfect?” she asked conversationally.
He took a second or two to think about it. No. Not since his mother had been diagnosed, anyway. Because once a family member had a diagnosis like she’d been given, it colored every other moment in one’s life.
Or maybe Andrew’s inability to separate himself from his parents’ problems had stopped him from appreciating the perfect moments in life.
Like now, for instance. It didn’t get much more perfect than this, staring at the best ass in history. “Every now and again,” he answered, determined to forget about his folks for a while. Just put thoughts of them aside and take a break.
Yeah, things might be bad at the moment, but Andrew had enjoyed some standout perfect times in his life. Times he knew others would give their right arms to enjoy.
“Think about it,” the brunette encouraged. “At those times, I bet you felt great. Believed nothing in the world could get you down, right?”
“Right,” he agreed.
“Well, when you’re in that state of mind, you tend to give off a vibe. That’s me now. I’m not sexy, I’m just in a really good headspace.”
Something stirred deep in his gut, an emotion or maybe an instinct, something that told him this woman was…different. Someone to take notice of. Someone he needed to get to know better.
That stirring made Andrew stand straighter, pay attention.
“Yeah?” He chuckled. “I kinda suspect you’d be drop-dead gorgeous even if you weren’t having a perfect moment.”
“You know you’re making me feel even better about myself, don’t you?”
Andrew trained his gaze on the lower half of her body. “That probably explains why your legs and ass keep looking better and better.”
“Tell me you are not checking out my legs and ass.”
He watched as she took one step after the other, watched the muscles work in one thigh, then the other. Watched the creases that appeared beneath those rounded butt cheeks with every step she took.
It made his chest ache with a reaction that had nothing to do with the physical lust pumping through his veins. “I’m not checking out your legs and ass.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
He laughed. “Okay, guilty as charged. I am checking them out. But only because they’re worth checking out.”
They reached the entrance to the lodge, and Andrew nipped ahead to hold the door open for her.
With a grateful—and mischievous—smile, she walked inside. “You know, under any other circumstances I’d tell you that you had a great ass too.”
“Under other circumstances?” Did that mean she’d checked out his ass when he’d walked ahead of her?
“Considering the reason I’m here in the Hunter, I feel it only diplomatic to suspend judgment.”
Andrew frowned. “I’m intrigued. What could bring you here under those circumstances?”
Her expression was…dreamy. No other way to describe it. And so open and filled with delight it sucked the breath right out of his lungs.
She draped the dress bag carefully over the back of an armchair near the front desk and dumped her bags beside it. Andrew set down the rest of her luggage as she patted the dress bag tenderly. “My wedding.”
She’d barely gotten the words out when two things transpired concurrently.
Andrew was clobbered with a wallop of crushing disappointment, and a gaggle of women descended on the beautiful bride-to-be.
“Tori, you’re here.”
“Honey, how was the drive?”
“We’ve been waiting for you.”
“The celebrations can start.”
“Here comes the bride. All dressed in…shorts and a singlet.”
She was instantly swamped by them, exchanging hugs, kisses and whoops of delight.
Andrew watched, both charmed and bummed out. No wonder the woman radiated happiness and sunshine. She was getting married. Which, yeah, was cool for her. But man, it sucked big-time for him.
The desire that had hit him like a hurricane should have dissipated in the ensuing excitement and disappointment. It didn’t. As she mouthed a big thank-you, he waved a silent goodbye to a woman about to spend her life with another man.
Instinct told him not to let her go.