“I had actually gone to school for business because my girlfriend at the time wanted to open a high-end spa,” he explained.
I rose my eyebrows but said nothing.
“She was a real city type, and we had a plan to open her company in Dallas because that’s where the clientele was. But things didn’t work out that way.”
“What do you mean?”
“By the time I graduated, the distillery was going under, and my dad was too. I had to come back home to lend a hand.”
I shot him a glance under my lashes, a twinge of pity sizzling through me at the pain in his voice. “And Duke did the same?”
Luke nodded. “No-brainer.”
“And what happened to . . .” I let the question hang in the air, studying Luke’s face as I waited for him to fill in the blank. He didn’t look pained anymore, but he didn’t look excited to be dredging it all up either.
“Sarah,” he finished for me. “She came back with me. For a while, at least. Like I said, she was the city type, and living in a small town—especially one where everyone already knew me—wasn’t her style.”
“I see.” I nodded. “That must have been hard for you. Taking on everything and—”
“Looks like we’re here.” Luke cut me off as he pulled in front of the inn.
I stared at it, stunned we’d gotten here so quickly. Why did time seem to fly by so quickly when I was with him?
“Okay then. Well, thanks for that and the pretzel,” I said, shaking it at him like a stick. “I had fun.”
I moved to push my door open and paused, sucking in a steadying breath before turning to face Luke.
“Do you want to come in for a while?”
Charlotte glanced from me to the inn and back again before tilting her head to the side, letting her silky hair cascade over her shoulder. “Don’t feel obligated or anything. I just thought I’d ask. No big deal.” Her cheeks went pink as she scrabbled for the door handle again.
“I’ll come in for a sec.” My groin went tight and I shrugged. “But only to help you pack,” I said softly.
She blinked in confusion, her mouth half-open. “What do you mean?”
I leaned closer and traced a finger over the line of her jaw. “Your car isn’t going to be fixed until Monday. It’s just plain silly for you to keep staying here when I’d rather have you in my bed.” I let out a low growl, leaning in to nip at her earlobe before pulling back.
She dropped the last bit of her pretzel into her lap and let out a nervous laugh. “Are you sure about that?”
I nodded. “Look, we both know the deal here. You’ve got to get back to your life and I’ve got to focus on the distillery, but for the rest of the weekend . . .” I shrugged. “I don’t see what’s stopping us from having a little fun. Don’t you like what we’ve been doing?”
Her eyes gleamed, and I guessed she was thinking—like I was—of the way I’d poured maple syrup all over her body that afternoon and lapped it up with my tongue. I was careful to ensure her nipples and the delicious spot between her legs were well and truly clean before I dragged her into the shower and lathered the rest of her body with shampoo.
“It’s been fun,” she said, sounding a little breathless.
“So, it’s settled. Let’s go get your stuff.”
She quirked her lips to the side before picking up her pretzel and pushing open her door. “Fine. I’ll grab my bag, but you stay here. I don’t want anyone seeing me leave with you and getting the wrong idea that I’m a woman of loose morals,” she said with a chuckle. “But I’m warning you, if you’re going to tease me like this, you’d better be ready to hurry back to your place and make good on those implied threats.”
“You got it.”
I grinned and watched her disappear behind the inn’s front door, my mind drifting to how she’d looked beneath the bleachers and in my oversized T-shirt this morning, compared to how she looked when she first got here.
There was no use in comparing, of course, but it seemed like there was something different about her now. Back when we first met, she was in hoity-toity, high-class New York mode. But under the bleachers, and in my bed, she wasn’t a duchess. She was just Charlie, laughing and pretty, and all mine.
But then, Sarah had been like that too.
And Charlotte would be going soon, just like Sarah did, but this time I had the advantage of knowing that in advance. I wasn’t serious about Charlotte like I’d been with my ex, and we both knew as much. So, as long as I kept my heart out of all this and just had fun, what was the big deal?
Molly had told me I worked too hard and needed a break. Maybe this was exactly what she meant—I needed a warm, sexy body to share my bed, someone I could have some laughs and unwind with, no strings attached. No harm, no foul.
Charlotte stepped out of the inn, suitcase in hand. I climbed out to help her with the bag, but she lugged it around the truck and shoved it inside with surprising speed. As we settled back into our seats and prepared to head back to my house, I sensed an odd disturbance in the air between us, a tension that hadn’t been there before.
Of course, it could have been because she was getting ready to spend the rest of the weekend with a man she’d only known for a few days, but something told me that wasn’t it.
Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Sarah earlier. Or maybe when I did, I should have turned to watch Charlotte’s expression to see exactly what she thought. If, of course, she had any thoughts about my ex at all. It had been so long ago, and my life had changed so much since then.
I cleared my throat. “Okay, so you know all about my life and my past. What about you?”
She reeled around to look at me. “Like what?”
“I told you about college and Sarah. You must have some story about—I don’t know—your debutante ball? The prince who asked for your hand in marriage?”
She blushed and looked out the window. “I didn’t have a debutante ball.”
“College then. You majored in marketing, right?”
“I did. Not much to know. I went to Sarah Lawrence. It was fine.” She shrugged. “End of story, really.”
“I doubt that. No guys in your life?” I raised my brows. “High school sweetheart who broke your heart?”
“I went to an all-girls school, but good try,” she shot back.
“Huh. I don’t know a single person in the world that ever stopped,” I said with a grin. “You don’t mean to sit here and tell me you gave your virginity to some random guy you met when your car broke down in Texas?”
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, so I’ve had boyfriends, but that doesn’t mean they were anything interesting enough to talk about.”
“What was the last one like? What was his name?”
“Why? You the jealous one now, Luke?” She shot me a tight grin. “You gonna go fight him?”
I laughed. “Depends on how things ended. Was he mean to you?”
She turned to look out the window again. “His name was Prescott.”
This time I laughed even louder. “Are you for real?”
She blushed. “It was a family name.”
“Which means he was actually Prescott Moneybags the what? Fourth? Fifth?”
“Prescott Billingsley.” She cleared her throat and added under her breath, “The sixth.”
“Wow, the sixth.” I let out a low whistle. “So, he’s old money then. Big score.”
She frowned. “Like I said, nothing to write home about.”
“You mean to tell me your parents didn’t do a happy dance when you told them who you were dating?”
“Look, it’s not important.”
She rubbed her palms over her thighs, and I did my best not to roll my eyes.
“How did things end?”
Another heavy silence filled the cab of the truck, and she shifted in her seat. “It was fine. Things just didn’t work out. Look, I don’t want to talk about it,” she practically snapped, then smoothed a hand over her hair. “I’m sorry. You were so open. I shouldn’t—”