Can't Take My Eyes Off of You (Summer Lake 2) - Page 11

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"Thanks for the help, son. I'll be by the inn soon to see if you need me to return the favor and to catch up on what you've been up to." In a lower voice, he added, "I know this might sound strange, but unlike your mother, I'm not too worried about Wesley. Sometimes you need some distance to see things more clearly. Perhaps that's all this is for him--a chance to finally see things for what they are."

Too quickly, his mother was there again, following them down the stairs. "Don't go yet, honey. I've barely had a chance to talk to you since you've been back."

Even if Liam had wanted to stay, the workload at the inn was tremendous. "I've got to get back to see where I can pitch in."

Liam was almost all the way out to his car when his father called, "Your mother is sorry about her outburst. Please don't say anything to Christie about it."

*

"How dare you apologize for me!" Susan barely held in her outburst until Liam was gone.

"Someone needed to apologize," Henry shot back. "You were completely out of line talking that way about Christie."

"Why are you speaking to me like this? I'm not the one who hurt Wesley so badly that he felt he had no choice but to leave town."

"Whatever drove him away, it wasn't Christie." Her husband's normally cheerful, relaxed expression had settled firmly into disgust. With her. "Couldn't you see how upset she was when she gave us the news that they'd called off their engagement--and that they never should have made the mistake of getting engaged at all? She has never been anything but honest with us and everyone else in this town. Wesley should have stayed to face the music with her."

How could he possibly talk that way about their son? Susan went back on the attack. "You should be worried about Wesley, not some girl we barely know. What if all along she was seducing him into giving her control of the inn?"

Henry's bark of laughter at the word seduce shocked her. "Seduce him? Are you kidding? There wasn't an ounce of spark between the two of them. You had to see that. If you ask me, not getting married was the best thing they could have done."

God, how she hated his talk of sparks. The sparks used to burn so brightly for her and Henry. Where had those sparks gone? For so long, she'd held out hope that they would come back. But now that Wesley was gone, sniping and fighting had replaced the heavy silences between them.

Leaving her nearly all out of hope.

CHAPTER TEN

The next morning, Christie woke shivering. The heat was on, and she hadn't kicked off the covers, but her bedroom was strangely cold again.

She half expected to see her breath in the air as she reluctantly got out of bed. She'd left the doors open to the living room when she went to sleep, and the heat should have come into her bedroom. Instead, it was as if there was some kind of invisible barrier there keeping the warmth out...and holding the icy cold in.

Over the past nine months, when she'd heard stories about the inn being haunted, she'd discounted them as small-town folklore. The thing was, ever since moving into the newly redone top-floor suite, she'd started to wonder if they might possibly be true.

Of course, once she stepped into the shower and let the water warm her up the rest of the way, she had to laugh at herself. The inn wasn't haunted. She was just tired from staying up and working on details for the festival long after everyone at the inn was asleep. With another big day ahead of her--one in which she needed to be at her best so that she didn't fall any deeper under Liam's spell while she trained him on the inn's day-to-day routine--she forcefully brushed the remaining suspicions from her mind.

The past few weeks had been nuts. Between Sarah and Calvin's wedding and Liam's appearance, she felt like she'd been juggling half a dozen slick and slippery pins while balancing a plate on the tip of her nose.

Today, she vowed, was going to be better.

Not just better, she thought as she got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself. Today was going to be great. And the breathtakingly beautiful view out the window proved it. The sun was rising over the snow-dusted lake, yellows and golds and pinks radiating from the sky to the icy treetops on the mountains that surrounded Summer Lake.

For all that she longed to see the seven wonders and smell the salty scent of the ocean as it crashed on coasts all over the world, Summer Lake would always be a haven for her soul, for her dreams.

Liam being here and Wesley being gone didn't change that. This small town, her friends, her career as innkeeper--they were all important parts of her new life. She'd just have to hold out hope that one day she'd find the missing pieces: a husband who loved her as much as she loved him, and children to cuddle and play with and love the way her parents loved her.

Oh yes, it was going to be a fantastic day. She'd make sure of it. Any challenges that came her way, she'd face head on with a smile and courage. No matter what.

*

All morning long, while Liam worked in the small office behind the registration desk, Christie had been moving between the front desk and the dining room to oversee their guests' breakfasts and departures. She was cheerful, but not overly talkative. Interested without being intrusive. All in all, the perfect innkeeper.

He had to hand it to Wesley; his brother had done a great job hiring her to manage the inn. What she might have lacked in experience nine months ago, she'd certainly made up for with raw energy and sheer willingness to learn.

All night, he'd gone over the half-dozen good reasons to keep his distance. Foremost among them was that it was a small town, she was his brother's ex-fiancee, and he didn't mix business and pleasure. But Liam knew better than to think that any of these were strong enough to keep their attraction at bay.

In the end, the only barrier strong enough to do that was the fact that he despised secrets of any kind.

Christie's concern--and love--for his brother shone through so clearly that Liam didn't doubt she was keeping the secret because she loved Wesley and not because it particularly served her. If anything, he could see the way his brother's secret weighed her down. But she'd kept it anyway, even though Liam had told her over and over that he needed to know. And in the end, that was what he couldn't allow himself to forget. Not when secrets had done so much to destroy his past.

"Christie." A man's low voice carried through to the back office. "You don't know how much I've missed seeing your pretty face."

"Mark?" She sounded utterly taken aback. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you, baby. It wasn't easy to find this little town after a snowstorm, but you're worth it."

"How is your wife?" Christie's voice held a sharp edge Liam hadn't heard before. But as she asked, "And your children?" he realized the edge was dulled with pain.

He didn't know yet who the man was to Christie. But the sure knowledge that

he'd hurt her--and the way he'd called her baby--had Liam dropping the file he'd been reading and curling his hands into fists.

"That's what I came here to tell you," the guy said. "My wife and I are getting a divorce. I've been missing you so much, I couldn't wait any longer to come find you."

Liam reeled from the implications. Had Christie been seeing this man while he was married? His entire body tensed at the thought that she'd broken his one utterly unbreakable rule: Never get involved with someone who was married.

"I know you're probably still a little mad at me," the man continued in a cajoling voice. "But the truth is, I didn't realize until you were gone just how good you were for me. No one has ever taken care of me like you do." Liam could barely remain in his seat. Regardless of what Christie's relationship had been with this guy, Liam wanted to rush into the entry and ram his fist through Mark's face as he said, "Tell me how I can win you back."

But before Liam could jump to her defense, she said, "Do you really want to know?"

"I really do, baby."

"Go home. Tell your wife you're sorry you've been such a terrible husband and father and hug your kids. You don't want me. You only want what you can't have."

"Christie, I know you don't mean that."

Liam didn't like the edge that had crept into the man's tone. At last, he left the shadows. "Is there a problem?" He didn't waste much time looking at Mark, besides confirming that he was scum. Polished and well dressed, but scum nonetheless.

Clearly flustered and embarrassed as she realized that he'd overheard everything, she said, "I was just telling Mark that I needed to get back to work. Right away."

Her old lover's eyes moved between the two of them, narrowing before he returned his gaze to her. "When do you get off? I'll wait for you so that we can talk privately."

Before he could think about what he was doing, Liam put a protective hand on the small of her back. Though her warmth instantly permeated his hand, she stiffened at his touch, then shifted to the side so that she was just out of his reach.


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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