The Way You Look Tonight / Page 6

Page 6


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Author: Bella Andre


"Although I do have one question for you." He braced himself for her to say all the usual things people did, such as asking him for exciting stories that he hadn’t felt like telling for a long time. "Can you teach me to pick a lock, too?"


Feeling like it would be corrupting her to teach her something like that, he said, "You don’t need to know how to do that, Brooke."


Strangely, she looked a little disappointed by his answer, but instead of pushing him on it, she asked, "How long do you think you’ll be able to be away from your office?"


"A few weeks. I’ve got a half-dozen great employees who will be running the place for me while I’m here."


She gave him an expectant look, as if she was waiting for him to tell her more about his P.I. career, but Rafe didn’t feel like talking about it. He hadn’t told anyone about his discontent with his career. Not his employees. Not his friends. Not even his family. He’d simply continued doing his job, even though he could no longer remember why he’d ever wanted to do it in the first place.


Fortunately, instead of asking him questions he didn’t want to answer about why he hadn’t gushed about his job, she said, "I was so surprised when your family sold the house. I missed you all so much."


It suddenly hit him that she must not know what had happened. "That winter after our final summer here, my father lost his job. He couldn’t find another job that paid anywhere close to what he’d been making."


He didn’t tell her the bank had actually taken the house...and that the stress of barely being able to keep them afloat on savings and then loans from friends had turned his father completely gray.


"I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it wasn’t too long until things turned around for your family."


"Eventually Dad got another job." At lower pay for a boss he didn’t see eye to eye with. "And Ian started working while he was in college, which helped." His oldest brother had walked away from the chance to play pro football to help out their family, but Ian had done it without a word of complaint.


Brooke didn’t seem surprised to hear it. "Ian was so much older, but he always made sure that the bigger kids on the beach weren’t messing with me and Mia."


That was his oldest brother to a T. He took care of the people he loved—no matter the cost to himself.


"What is he doing now?"


"Ian has pretty much singlehandedly taken over the business world with his venture capital fund. He’s brilliant at picking which businesses to get behind.”


“Is he in Seattle, too?”


“No, he’s living in London right now."


"I so wish I hadn’t fallen out of touch with all of you. What about everyone else?"


"Mom and Dad retired a ways back." Again, because Ian had pretty much forced them to. Not that they minded working in the garden and going out sailing with the club on one of Dylan’s boats.


"Are they still blissfully in love?"


From the way she asked the question, Rafe could guess that Brooke was a believer. Not only that love was possible...but that it could also last a lifetime. What would she think if he told her stories from his job about men and women who promised each other forever, and then split at the first sign of trouble?


Still, for all of his cynicism, Rafe had to admit, "They are."


She looked extremely pleased to hear it. "I can still remember the way they would walk down the beach holding hands and kiss when they thought no one was looking. And how they would sneak off to be alone while you guys were busy roasting marshmallows over the campfire. It was so romantic."


"What was romantic to you was gross to their own kids," he informed her, but he didn’t disguise the affection in his voice when he spoke about his parents.


She laughed at that, but said, "I never saw my parents kiss. The only time they ever seemed truly passionate around each other was when they were debating legal cases or supply-and-demand curves. I don’t think I would have minded seeing a little romance now and again. Speaking of romance," she said, before pausing for a moment in which her cheeks flushed slightly, "what about you and your siblings?" Her smile seemed a little too bright as she asked, "Are any of you married? Kids?"


"Well, Ian was married for a short while, but right now we’re all wild and free."


"Wild?" She almost seemed to choke on the word.


"Mia has half the men in Seattle wrapped around her little finger, and she doesn’t give a damn about any of them."


Brooke frowned. "But is she happy?"


"I think so." Although that flash of emotion in her eyes when she’d come to see him in his office the day before had made him wonder if that were true. "She’s the go-to person in Seattle for swanky estates."


"I’d love to see her again."


"As soon as I tell her you’re here, I’m sure she’ll drop everything to come visit."


Which, he figured, would be a really good thing. Because if his sister was here, then there was no way he could accidentally slip up with Brooke by stripping her clothes off and using them to tie her to her bedposts.


"What about Adam? No, wait," she said, "let me guess. Is he an architect?"


Rafe was amazed by how perceptive she was, especially considering she’d only been a child the last time she’d seen his family. "Close. He rehabs historic homes."


She nodded as if it made perfect sense. "He was always building things when we were kids. I’d find him working with Grandpa fixing a broken pipe or putting on a new section of siding or trying to make a canoe by hand."


"Good thing he’s better at fixing up houses than he is at building boats. That thing must still be at the bottom of the lake."


"Wasn’t he going steady with that girl from across the lake?"


Had Brooke had a crush on Adam when they were younger? And if she had, why did it matter? It wasn’t like Rafe was going to lay claim to her, regardless of how much the caveman inside of him wanted to do just that.


"He was, but that ended when we left the lake."


"All of you are so good looking, I just don’t get wh—" She seemed to realize what she was saying a beat too late, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. "I just mean that I would think women are beating down your doors, so..." Her flush deepened. "Ugh. I should stop talking already. I’m just making it worse."


Damn, she was cute. And sexy. Who knew that would be such an irresistible combination?


And the truth was that he was just as surprised about her. He’d have thought she’d be married by now to some perfectly nice guy, with one kid holding on to her leg and another, smaller one in her arms.


Strange how easy it was to see her with those kids, and to know what a great mother she’d be. The guy, on the other hand, he couldn’t quite picture. Not when he knew there weren’t many guys out there who would be good enough for Brooke.


"You remember my eight cousins in San Francisco?"


She grinned. "Boy, was that a crazy week when they all came to visit. I always thought it would be amazing to have all those other kids to play with—five in yours and eight in theirs."


Rafe sometimes forgot that everyone didn’t have a big family like he did. Brooke only had her parents and grandparents.


Knowing it would please her, he said, "Every last one of them is paired off now."


He’d never personally been with a woman he could fully trust, but he’d managed to suspend disbelief for his charmed cousins in San Francisco. Along with his parents, they were the exception. But at the same time, he couldn’t understand how they’d all decided to take such a massive risk. Because if there was anything he’d learned during the past seven years, it was that even if one person wanted to be steadfast, odds were the other person wouldn’t be. He sure as hell hoped his cousins could keep proving him wrong.


"All eight? That’s wonderful." Just as he’d expected, she looked extremely pleased by the thought of so many happy couples in one family. "What about Dylan?" She scrunched up her nose. "Although I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven him for making me go sailing with him that day when the winds were at twenty knots, and he told everyone I barfed over the side of the boat."


"If it makes you feel any better, he’s still taking women out on boats until they barf, which probably explains why he’s still single." She was laughing as he told her, "Only difference now is that he’s building the sailboats."


Brooke was still grinning as she drained the water from the pot and added butter, cheese, and a dash of pepper to the pasta. "And on that fantastically appetizing note, dinner is finally served."


When Rafe took a bite of her pasta, he nearly groaned with pleasure. "This is damn good, Brooke."


She looked like he’d just told her she’d won the lottery. "Thank you."


They ate in companionable silence while enjoying the sound of the frogs and the crickets outside. Finally, she pushed away her half-full plate and yawned. "Sorry, I had to get up early this morning to finish boxing some orders to deliver before the stores opened today."


"What time did you wake up?"


"Five a.m."


"I’ve kept you up too late. You need to go to bed." He stood and took their plates into the kitchen. "I’ll take care of cleaning up."


"You rode all the way here from Seattle on your motorcycle." She moved next to him to turn on the water and start the dishes. "You must be tired, too."


His first mistake was putting his hands on her waist to pull her away from the sink.


His second was not letting go.


And his third was almost lowering his mouth to hers.


Somehow, he managed to take a step back. "Thank you for dinner. It was great." He forced himself to look away from her gorgeous face and those curves that wouldn’t quit. "And thanks for giving me a place to stay. Now I’m going to wash your dishes, and you’re going to bed."


Alone, damn it.


"You haven’t had one of my truffles yet. Don’t you want one for dessert?"


Hungry for something he knew would be a hell of a lot sweeter than chocolate, he said, "I’d love one."


"I wonder which flavor I should give you?" She licked her lips as she stared at him, and he couldn’t keep his gaze from dropping to her full lower lip and then the beautiful bow at the center of her upper. "How hot do you like your spices?"


"Hot."


Her beautiful lips curved up. "I had a feeling you’d say that." She took a piece of chocolate with a red swirl across the top from a clear plastic container on the counter. "Try a bite of this one."


She didn’t hand him the chocolate, but lifted it to his mouth instead. He leaned down and bit into it. Spice and steam instantly hit his tongue, followed by the smooth, rich flavor of dark chocolate.


"You like it, don’t you?"


With his mouth full, he could only nod.


"Have the rest."


Her voice was husky, and though the truffle was amazing, he wanted to bite into her instead the next time. When she moved just a little bit closer to feed him the other half of the chocolate, the sweet scent of her hair and skin had him swaying toward her just enough that his tongue slicked over the pad of her forefinger.


Her pupils dilated, and he could have sworn he heard a small gasp fall from her lips at the tiny contact.


Somehow, he convinced his feet to take a step back from her again. "Your truffles are delicious, Brooke."


"Thank you."


They stared at each other for several heated moments. "I’ve kept you up too late. Go to bed." Before I do more than lick your fingertip.


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