Copyright © 2013 Sami Lee
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Ty hooked an arm over the back of his chair, assessing her from his seated position. “Hello, Summer. I thought that was you I saw the other day.”
The implication that he might have been unsure of her identity when she’d been instantly certain of his increased Summer’s discomfiture. “Ty, what are you doing here?”
Ty lifted his cup and drawled, “Grabbing some coffee.”
He might as well have said, asinine question, woman. Summer’s mortification intensified. “I suppose I meant here in Leyton’s Headland.”
“Back for a visit.”
He didn’t say he was planning to buy a house and move back to his hometown, but for all Summer knew he simply didn’t feel like telling her his business. He’d definitely been interested in real estate when she’d seen him.
“I see.” She looked at the staff working behind the counter, recognizing from the small crowd of people hovering that they had several orders to fill. How long before hers was done?
“Do you need somewhere to sit while you wait for your drink?”
Turning back to face Ty, Summer saw the way his brow kicked up and wondered if he found her inept attempts at conversation amusing. What had happened to all those cool lines she’d secretly rehearsed over the years? Part of her had wanted, if she’d ever seen Ty again, to appear aloof and sophisticated, as though she wasn’t still occasionally haunted by thoughts of him and what might have been.
Seeing no way of refusing his offer without looking ridiculous for standing right next to his table instead of sitting at it, Summer murmured a thank-you and took the seat opposite him. After an awkward silence during which Ty eyed her over the rim of his coffee mug, he remarked, “It’s been a long time.”
Summer forced herself to let out a breath. “It has. Ten years I think.”
“How have you been?”
“Fine.” Summer gave the standard response, hardly able, or willing, to condense the last decade into a five-minute conversation. “Not as well as you from what I hear.”
Summer almost winced when Ty’s brows hiked. “What is it you’ve heard?”
“Oh, only the sound bites. You’ve won the world title three times, scored several high-profile sponsorship deals and dated as many models as you’ve caught waves.”
Ty laughed. “That’s an exaggeration. Only a couple of my sponsorship deals are high profile.”
Ignoring his deliberate insinuation that the stories of his dating history were not inflated, Summer noted, “You’ve done well for yourself.” She’d always known he would. That his skill and personality were too big for a place like Leyton’s Headland, that they would take him places far away from here. Far away from her.
Ty merely lifted a careless shoulder in response. “So have you. Your own business and all.”
Summer tried to ignore the strange thrill she experienced because he’d noticed that achievement. “I’m a naturopath now.”
“Naturopathy. I bet your dad’s impressed.”
“You mean Dr. Rex Campbell, purveyor of all things western medicine? I think he’s finally taken the attitude that when it comes to his daughters, things could be worse.”
“Sounds like glowing praise.”
Summer shrugged at Ty’s drawled comment. What could she say about her dad? He was a demanding man who had expected his children to make full use of the educational opportunities afforded them. While he didn’t exactly think practicing herbal “mumbo jumbo” was making full use, he’d finally stopped verbalizing his thoughts on the issue. “Dad remarried last year. Dianne is a psychologist with two sons, both very successful in finance. He’s relaxed a bit with me and Jasmine, now that he has the sons he always wanted.”
Summer had meant the remark as an offhand joke, but Ty’s frown made her fear it had come out sounding bitter. Remorse niggled. She had no wish to malign her father, he’d done the best he could with the hand he’d been dealt when Joy Campbell died. He’d never asked to be a sole parent any more than Summer had asked to lose her mother.
“My dad loves me.” Summer felt the need to come to Rex Campbell’s defense. “Everything he’s done has been because he wants what’s best for me.”
Including making sure she didn’t throw her life away on a nomadic type like Ty Butler. The derisive turn of Ty’s lips made Summer wonder if he had made the same connection between her statement and what happened in the past. If so, he didn’t say. Instead he steered the conversation away from her family altogether. “So what do you do at the clinic?”
“Everything from aromatherapy to acupuncture.” Summer relaxed a fraction at the change of subject. She’d decided to study naturopathy despite the fact Duncan had shared her father’s disdain for the practice. After the divorce, it had given her something to focus on, to work toward. Now, she was proud of her job and the business she’d built all by herself. “I do sports massage too. I’ve treated your mother a few times.”
“Yeah, she’s still doing those triathlons. Not bad for an old bird.”
“I’ll tell her you called her that next time she comes in.”
“No you won’t.”
His smile was knowing, and Summer bristled. Okay so clearly Ty was making an affectionate joke and there was no way Summer would repeat it to his mother, but she didn’t much appreciate that he seemed so certain of how she’d behave. She wasn’t that predictable.
“Here’s your chai latte and cookie, Summer.”
Having apparently noticed her involved in conversation, Patrice chose that moment to appear at the table, delivering Summer’s order instead of having her pick it up. Summer’s regular order, the one all the cafe staff knew by heart. Not predictable, eh, Summer?
Smiling a thank-you, Summer silently cursed the missed opportunity to make her exit when her order was called out. It would have been the perfect excuse to leave the table, depart the cafe altogether so she could catch her breath. Instead she was still sitting here, part of her jittery with the urge to flee while her pride told her not to give away how strangely nervous she actually was.
For God’s sake, why are you nervous? Summer was dismayed to discover being in Ty Butler’s presence still had the power to do peculiar things to her heartbeat. Dismayed and…oddly relieved.
You’re divorced, not dead. The line Penny had delivered more than once echoed in her head. Summer had never told her employee how her flippant words saddened her, made her mind careen away from a truth she didn’t want to acknowledge. For a long time it had felt like a part of her had died somewhere along the way, the part that could still be physically affected by a man’s presence. The part of her that could still be exhilarated by anything.
She wasn’t miserable by any stretch of the imagination. But if she ever took time to examine her life, Summer couldn’t say she was exactly happy either.
“This is weirder than I thought it would be.”
Ty’s rueful statement made Summer lift her gaze from where it had been fixed on the plastic lid of her takeaway cup. Her eyes connected with Ty’s, making Summer aware she had been avoiding direct eye contact since she’d first seen him sitting in the cafe. Now, she forced herself to hold Ty’s gaze. That unexpected spike in her heart rate occurred again. She had once known those whiskey-hued eyes so well, and for a fleeting moment she was transported back in time, to those months of teenage longing and anguish.
And the lust. Dear God, the lust. A remnant of it passed through her like a ghost, sending tingles up her spine before common sense returned and Summer forcibly tamped the reaction down. His eyes were the same, but so many other things about him were different. The careless stubble that graced his jaw, the hard lines of his mouth that lent a sardonic edge to his smile. His shoulders and arms were more solid, more roped with muscle. He was more of everything, like nature had taken the boy he used to be and multiplied his physicality, his persona, by a thousand, creating a man who was both innately congenial and overtly intimidating at once.