Seduction by Design - Page 31

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“Why did you build a fire?”

“I thought it would be nice, and the evening is cool enough.”

“No, I mean why did you bother?”

“No bother.”

“Dammit, Tyler, why did you go to the trouble when … when …”

“When I’m going to be leaving soon?”

She dropped her head and said, “Yes.”

“I went to all this trouble because your bad manners and rude behavior aren’t going to drive me off, Hailey.”

She snapped to attention. Her head came up with a jerk. “Rude—”

“Yes, rude. All through dinner I tried pulling conversation out of you, but you refused to be congenial. And I suppose you always sling things around in your kitchen like a vandal and make a big angry racket while you do the dishes.”

“I only assumed—”

“You assume a lot of things. In fact that’s one of the things you do best—make ridiculous, erroneous assumptions. The latest being that I was going to prefer your big-eyed, big-chested sister to you.”

That he had struck on the truth only made her angrier. “You conceited oaf. Do you think I’d care if you did?”

“Yes,” he replied calmly. “I think you would, though you certainly never would admit it. The moment she came in this room, you began to chill.”

“I was surprised to see her, that’s all,” Hailey said, flopping down on the couch with studied indifference.

“Uh-huh. You got mad because she came in hanging on to my arm and because we were laughing together. I didn’t offer her my arm, she took it. And I was too polite to shake her off. She was laughing because she didn’t have anything smarter to do and probably because she knew it would provoke you. And I was laughing because she actually expected me to make a big play for her.”

“And you were too polite to do that, too.”

He smiled and sank down onto the sofa next to her. “No. I was disinclined. I had the girl I wanted.” He reached for her hand and held it snugly. His thumb began stroking lazy circles onto her palm. “Why did you give her the money, Hailey?”

Her eyes went wide. “How did you … You listened!?”

“To every word. Why didn’t you send her packing? I take it this is not the first time she’s hit you for money, or anything she happened to need at the time.”

She yanked her hand from him and stood up, going to stand before the hearth. “I can’t believe you deliberately invaded my privacy. What gave you the right to eavesdrop on our conversation?” She spun around to face him.

He wasn’t in the least perturbed. “I wanted to know what made you change so drastically the minute your sister put in her untimely appearance. Do you always give in to her tears and give her what she wants?”

“Tears aren’t the reason—” She broke off abruptly when she realized that she was about to reveal more of herself than was judicious.

“Go on,” he said quietly.

“I’m not affected by her tears,” Hailey said after a brief pause. “I suppose I give in to her out of habit more than anything else.”

“That’s a habit you should break, for both your sakes.”

“Patterns that are begun during childhood are hard to alter.”

“She’s always taken advantage of you like that?” Hailey wanted to deny it, but she nodded her head. “That’s because she’s jealous of you,” he said sagely.

She looked at him with incredulity. “Ellen, jealous of me?” she asked on a high note, then laughed bitterly. “Oh, that’s funny. Ellen—beautiful, bouncy Ellen—whom everyone adores, jealous of her stodgy sister.”

Tyler leaned far enough forward to take possession of her hand and draw her back onto the sofa, nearer to him this time. He draped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.

Tags: Sandra Brown Erotic