Can't Take My Eyes Off of You (Summer Lake 2) - Page 6

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"Did you and Wesley date in college?"

"No. We were just friends."

"When did that change?"

She dreaded this next part. Because this was where things got sticky and didn't totally add up--even in her own mind. But she owed him the fullest explanation she could give. "It didn't. Not really. That was the problem, in the end. I think we were both far more enamored with the idea of getting married and settling down than we were of each other."

"So you didn't love him?"

Christie knew what he was thinking, that she'd set out to hurt his brother on purpose. "Of course I love Wesley. I've loved him practically from the moment I met him." She was sitting straighter on her stool now, her shoulders back, her chin up. "But as a friend."

"How could it have taken you so long to realize this? You were engaged for months."

"You're right," she admitted. "It shouldn't have taken so long for me to figure out that marrying your brother was wrong and that neither of us should settle for anything less than the kind of love that Sarah and Calvin have for each other." A part of her couldn't believe she was saying these deeply personal things to a man she'd met only hours before. But she was sick and tired of trying to pretend that she felt something she didn't.

"So when you realized this," Liam said, "you broke it off with him."

"I was going to, but before I could, he told me he'd also finally realized he couldn't marry me. So we agreed to call off the wedding and stay friends. But then I found his note the next morning." She hated this. Hated knowing without a shadow of a doubt that Liam was going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing at her until she broke. But all she could do tonight was shake her head, feeling trapped in a terrible web. One that she'd helped to weave. "I thought we were going to have a chance to talk about things more, that we were going to stand together to tell everyone about calling off the wedding."

"Do you really expect me to believe that he left without telling you why he was leaving?" His voice was still smooth, but there was steel behind every word. Along with a determination to learn not only Wesley's secrets...but every single one of hers too. "You've just told me he's your closest friend. So why wouldn't he have confided in you, even if you both made a mistake about getting engaged? I get that you made a promise to him, but I'll never be able to forgive you if he's hurt and you didn't give me the information I need to help him."

"I've told you everything I can!" She couldn't keep her cool any longer. She shoved away from the counter and dropped her plate and cup into the sink with a clatter. "Even things that you have no right to know, frankly, about my relationship with your brother."

But she could see from the hard, closed look on Liam's face that he didn't care about what she'd told him. Only what he was--rightly--assuming she hadn't. Didn't he realize how bad she felt about having to keep his brother's secret?

Well, no, of course he didn't. Which was why there was no point in her spending another minute down here with him. Why hadn't she just ignored her stupid grumbling stomach and stayed upstairs to take a bath?

Which was when she remembered her dress. And the stupid zipper.

Of all the people to have to ask for help. She almost groaned out loud. But knowing it was either Liam or the scissors, she turned around to face him one more time tonight.

Wishing the earth would open up and swallow her whole, she made herself say, "This is really awkward, but I'm afraid I need your help with something." She lifted her right arm slightly. "The zipper on my dress is stuck. That's partly why I came downstairs. I was hoping to find someone who could help me. Since we're the only ones up, I'd really appreciate your help."

Her request hung in the air between them for a long moment before he finally moved toward her. She shouldn't have felt like a lamb being stalked by a lion, but she most definitely did. And as he came closer, ten feet dissolving to five, then three, then a handful of inches, she had to firmly resist the urge to back up.

He'd touched her only once before now--when he'd grabbed her shoulders after the wedding to ask about Wesley--and she hadn't been able to forget the feel of his hands on her yet. She really didn't need round two to make things worse.

"Lift your arm a little more," he said softly.

That was when she made the mistake of looking up at him, and his eyes caught hers. She'd heard what he said, but her brain couldn't seem to comprehend the meaning of it. Not when he was standing this close. Not when she could finally see the faint line of a scar that cut across his face, cheek to chin. Not when she was breathing in his deliciously masculine scent, reminiscent of cedar chips and summer bonfires.

Finally, her brain registered his words and she lifted her arm. He held still just long enough for her to wonder if he was as reluctant to touch her as she was to be touched by him.

And then she felt his fingers lightly brush the side of her rib cage over her dress. She could feel her body reacting to his nearness, heat creeping across her skin, a fierce rush of desire that had no business swamping her system from nothing more than the lightest brush of his fingertips.

He worked the zipper slowly, steadily. Feeling lightheaded, she realized she was holding her breath.

"I see what's stuck. But I'm going to have to get at it from the inside." His low tones wrapped around her like velvet.

"From the inside?"

"I'm afraid so."

How she wished he was like her sisters' husbands. They made her laugh, made her groan at their jokes and love of football, and she loved them because they loved her sisters, but that was it. There were no hidden currents. No reasons she wouldn't want to be alone with them in a dark hallway. And if one of them had to reach inside her dress to fix a stuck zipper, even if they got a feel-up by accident, they would've simply laughed about it later.

But neither she nor Liam was laughing.

And she honestly wasn't sure she'd survive even one more second of his fingertips brushing over her skin.

She had to stop thinking this way. There was nothing between her and Liam. And there never would be. He was simply Wesley's brother. Getting all weird about his fingers inside her dress was crazy.

"Okay," she said as firmly as she could manage. "Go for it."

She tried to think of something, anything but Liam's lightly callused fingertips sliding over her. She focused on the problems they'd had ordering new silverware for the inn's dining room. She reviewed her mental files on the guest last week who'd "accidentally" packed the room's alarm clock. Heck, she went all the way back to the time when she was five and had the mumps so bad she could hardly recognize herself in the mirror.

But nothing, not one single thing she could think of, could distract her from the sensation of Liam's warm touch on her sensitive skin.

Finally, the lining of her dress shifted out of the zipper's teeth, and in one smooth motion, he pulled it all the way down, then back up.

Abruptly, he moved away. So fast that he half spun her around. She blurted, "Thank you," then shot toward the door and up the stairs to her room.

She'd vowed not to keep running. But if ever there was a time and place to run, it was now.

Because with only the slightest brush of his fingers across her skin, Liam Kane had made her feel things no other man ever had.

*

What was wrong with him?

If Liam had been the least bit in control of any of his senses, he would have gotten the hell out of the kitchen the minute Christie walked in. But every second he spent with her had his brain working less and less on a rational plane. Which was crazy, because he was always rational. Hell, he'd used his analytical mind to make millions upon millions of dollars.

She looked soft, warm, sweet. But finding out just how smooth her skin actually was...

Sweet Lord, he couldn't believe how close he'd been to kissing her. She'd just told him that she and Wesley didn't love each other. That they were just friends. So there was no barrier there.

But there were others. Big one

s, like the fact that he was certain she wasn't telling him the full truth about Wesley's disappearance.

Yes, she seemed like an open book. It looked like everything she felt was written on her face. In fact, when she'd been talking about wanting love, her wistful longing had almost gotten to him. To the heart he swore he didn't have.


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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