The Way You Look Tonight / Page 12

Page 12


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Author: Bella Andre


There was no point in denying that was exactly what he was doing. "I am, but I overheard you talking about transferring money to him." After what she’d said to him on the beach about everyone mistakenly thinking she was too naïve, too soft to take care of herself, he knew better than to imply that now. "Anyone I cared about I’d be asking the same kinds of questions."


Thankfully, instead of getting upset with him this time, she smiled. "Has anyone ever told you how cute you are when you’re being overprotective?"


"I’m pretty sure that’s not the word Mia uses."


Brooke laughed. "I was teasing about this being an investigation. You can ask me anything, Rafe. Anything at all."


The way she said anything had his mouth going dry, and he had to reach for his glass of wine and take a big gulp.


The problem was that he wanted to know too much about her. Her first kiss. Her first boyfriend. Her first broken heart, if only so that he could track the guy down and kill him. Same went for her first lover...and all who had come after. He’d never wanted to be a woman’s first before, had never thought messing around with virgins sounded particularly fun, but Brooke kept making him think—and feel—things no one else had.


She was a good girl. Wholesome. Nurturing. Sweet. She should be predictable and safe, but every time he was near her, he felt like he was teetering on the edge of something dangerous.


At the same time that being with Brooke was refreshing because she didn’t play games and said exactly what she meant, it was also terrifying. He’d never been with a good girl, had always stuck with women who knew the score. But even though Brooke had told him she just wanted a fling, he couldn’t believe she meant it at her core.


"If we’re going to wait another—" She lifted her wrist to look down at her watch. "—twenty-three hours, then don’t you think we should use them to talk?" She licked her lips in an unconsciously seductive way before adding, "Because once the twenty-four hours are up, I’m guessing our mouths are probably going to be busy with other things. Although," she added into his stunned silence, "I suppose we could always fill those hours talking about all the things we’re going to do to each other..."


"Brooke." Her name was a warning on his lips. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to find out just how wild he really was, right here in the middle of the small Italian restaurant on Main Street.


Of course she wasn’t the least bit afraid of him. In fact, by the way her eyes were dancing, he knew just how much fun she was having playing with him. Hell, he could only imagine what she’d hit him with next. Probably ask him to draw her a diagram of the kinkiest position he’d ever been in.


"How can you look so damned innocent and then say things like that?"


"I never have with anyone else," she said with perfect honesty, "but with you it feels so natural that I can’t seem to help myself."


He could barely stop himself from dragging her across the table and feasting on her instead of his meal. Fortunately, Holly brought their food over right then, nearly dropping their plates onto their laps as she paid more attention to what was going on outside on the beach than her customers. Brooke thanked her sweetly anyway and then, for a few minutes, they enjoyed some of the best spaghetti with meatballs he’d had in a long time.


Mrs. Lombardi came over to their table to check on them. "What do you think of my grandmother’s famous recipe?" she asked him. "Still as good as when you were kids?"


Rafe nodded. "It’s fantastic."


Brooke put a hand over her heart and agreed, "Best I’ve ever had."


She had a little tomato sauce on the corner of her gorgeous mouth, and without thinking, he reached across the table with his napkin to wipe it off.


Their hostess took in their every move, of course, along with the fact that both of their ring fingers were bare. Her husband—the chef—came out briefly to say hello to Brooke and to shake Rafe’s hand. When he went back into the kitchen, his wife’s eyes were full of love as she watched him go.


"Jim and I met when we were children here on the lake. It will be fifty years this fall."


"How romantic," Brooke exclaimed. "Congratulations!"


The bell over the door rang as another couple walked in, and as the older woman left to seat them, Brooke sighed, her eyes soft and full of romance. "Imagine being so in love for fifty years that you still look at each other the way they just did."


Rafe gestured to the couple in the other corner of the restaurant who had been either glaring at each other or arguing the entire time he and Brooke had been seated. "Seems easier to imagine couples like that. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to make it another fifty minutes."


Brooke frowned at him. "How can you be that cynical when your parents are the definition of true love?"


"As far as I can tell," he told her, because he didn’t want her to have the wrong idea about where he stood on romance and forevers, "my parents are the exception, not the rule."


"I know you’ve seen a lot of bad marriages because of your work, but from what you told me, I have to wonder if maybe they were people who never should have been together in the first place."


"Even if that’s true," he argued, "it sure doesn’t seem to make it hurt any less. My office manager has to buy more boxes of tissues for our clients than an allergist would." He shook his head as flashes of dozens of crying women ran through his head. "If that’s how hard people cry when bad marriages break up, then I sure as hell never want to see what true love gone wrong looks like."


"But if it’s really true love, then how can it go wrong?"


He couldn’t believe how optimistic she was, so much so that she actually thought there were different kinds of love...and that if you hit on just the right one, you’d have won the forever lottery.


"Plenty of ways, Brooke. So many that I could spend the next twenty-three hours listing them all for you."


"I’d much rather you told me your definition of true love."


Of all the things he thought they’d talk about tonight, true love would have never made the list in a million years. "I’m a guy," he reminded her. With his thumb, he gestured out the front window at his Ducati. "I ride a motorcycle. I’ve never tried to define that, apart from knowing it only happens once in a blue moon."


"I wonder which I can get you to say first," she mused. "Kinky or true love."


She surprised another laugh out of him.


"Actually, I’d much rather hear you laugh like that again." And then she caught him off guard one more time by asking, "Try now. Just for fun. Pretend true love is real and out there for any of us to find."


For a moment he was so lost in her big green eyes that he couldn’t remember what she wanted him to try.


Oh, right. Define true love.


His brain went blank until he thought about his parents. "Holding hands." She was silent as he thought more about it. "Laughing together." What else? "Being a unified front, especially when times get tough." The more he thought about the ways his parents had weathered their storms together, the easier it became to add to the list. "And celebrating together when things get better."


"Are you sure you’ve never thought about true love before?" she asked in a soft voice.


He shrugged. "I’ve never had anyone ask me to try before." And if they had, he would have laughed in their face. He was the one who asked the difficult questions, never the one who answered them. But when he’d tried to make a joke about it with Brooke, she hadn’t let it go. Despite how sweet she looked, she would make one hell of an investigator. "Your turn now, since I’m guessing you’ve given it quite a bit of thought over the years."


"What girl doesn’t think about it?" she asked, clearly teasing him about the fact that he still hadn’t said the two words aloud, referring to true love as that and it instead. She toyed with the stem of her wine glass for a few moments. "True love would be passion that burned so hot you were almost afraid of the power the other person had over you, the way they could turn you inside out with a look, a touch, a kiss. It would be wanting to fall asleep every night and wake up every morning for the rest of your life in that one person’s arms. Just like you said, it would be holding hands and laughing and building a family together. And, most of all, it would mean being able to talk to each other about absolutely anything, knowing that no matter how hard it was to say the difficult things, you’d both still love each other...and that you’d find a way to work it out together. No matter what."


Mrs. Lombardi’s granddaughter removed their plates and replaced them with a huge piece of tiramisu, and Rafe was glad for the distraction. He didn’t think he’d ever seen anything more beautiful in his life than Brooke talking about what true love meant to her. Which was crazy, considering he couldn’t imagine having this conversation with anyone else—especially any of the women he’d been out with over the years. Not when he was certain none of them had believed in the steadfast nature of love any more than he did.


"I’ve just realized true love is about one more thing," Brooke told him.


"What’s that?"


She slid her fork into the tiramisu and grinned at him. "This cake."


He didn’t know a damn thing about love, but the sinfully pleasured look on her face as she took a bite of the decadent cake had his mouth watering.


Not for dessert. For Brooke.


A few minutes later they were leaving a huge cash tip on the table and sneaking out before Mrs. Lombardi could make them take it back. Before Brooke put on her helmet, she pointed up at the sky.


"Look."


There was wonder in her voice, and it was pure instinct to slide his hand into hers as he looked up.


"In just a few days, it will be a blue moon."


They both looked at each other then, and in her eyes he saw a sudden, unexpected flash of what forever might look like.


Looking as stunned as he felt, she took a step back as her helmet fell from her fingers to the ground. Forcing himself to drag his gaze from hers, he picked it up, and when he slid that lock of hair back behind her ear before slipping on the helmet, she trembled.


This time she got on behind him like a pro, and even though it would have been a hell of a lot wiser to take her straight home and say good night, after the way she’d reacted to their short ride to the restaurant, he decided to give her a treat by going the long way home.


The sun had set, and the windows of the stores along the tiny Main Street were lit up, as were the cottages all along the water and in the woods. It would have been a great ride alone, but it was a thousand times better sharing it with Brooke.


Riding his motorcycle had always been a rush. A thrill. A release. Not foreplay. And definitely not romantic.


But it was all those things tonight.


When they finally pulled in behind Brooke’s cottage and she took off her helmet, she was vibrating with energy. "I thought I was ready this time for how awesome that ride would be. If that gets better and better every time, I may explode from the sheer thrill of it soon. Thank you." She threw her arms around him, just as she had the night before when they’d been so surprised to see each other again. "Riding on your motorcycle, dinner, and the company were all spectacular."


"They were," he agreed as he let himself hold her for a few seconds. She was warm and soft and he couldn’t ever remember enjoying the feel of a woman more. After having her pressed up so close to him for the past thirty minutes, her legs and arms and hands holding him as tightly as she would if they were in bed together, all he could think about was sex...and wanting her to explode from the pleasure he could give her.


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