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One perfect night, p.4
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       One Perfect Night, p.4

         Part #9. 5 of The Sullivans series by Bella Andre
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Page 4

  Author: Bella Andre

  Still, she’d had more super-sexy dreams during the past week than she’d had in her entire life. And Noah from Lake Tahoe had starred in every last one of them.

  She’d hoped her endless hours of working to get her store ready to open would help her forget him. But they hadn’t. If anything, she found him popping up in her thoughts all the time. Like how she’d forgotten to be afraid on the ski lift with him, and now, she refused to be afraid to go to the top of the Space Needle. When she’d unwrapped a box of gift books on angels, her heart had clenched at the memory of the snow angels they’d made together. And when she saw a couple holding hands as they walked down the sidewalk outside, she’d thought about the way he’d held her hand for a little while. . . and how right it had felt, snow gloves and all.

  When she sighed, Mia shot her a look. "Still thinking about the guy from the slopes, aren’t you?"

  There was no point in pretending otherwise, not when her friend had laser vision for things like this. After all, hadn’t Mia been the one to question Rob’s scum-like qualities long before Colbie had walked in on him cheating on her? Mia’s brother Rafe might be the P. I. , but there was no question about her people-reading skills. It was what made her such a great Realtor; she had a knack for pairing up her clients with just the right properties, even when they swore they were looking for something else entirely.

  "I thought turning him down was the right thing to do," Colbie said. "And maybe it was. But I’ve said no to dating plenty of guys and never given it a second thought—until now. "

  Yes, he’d certainly made an impression on her up on the snowy mountain, but how could she possibly have known just how big a deal meeting him really was? Especially when she’d still been so hurt by what Rob had done. Because hadn’t her ex seemed great on first meet, only to end up not being great at all?

  But as she’d awakened over and over again in the middle of the night from yet another sexy dream about Noah, her skin sensitive and overheated as her sheets brushed over it, she’d found herself wondering why she’d ever compared Rob to Noah.

  Sure, she hadn’t really known Noah apart from the warmth of his arms around her. And his strength and his ability to hold her steady even as she’d sent them tumbling together down the mountain. And his concern for a complete stranger when Colbie had bit the dust avoiding a small child in the snow. And his patience and encouragement in teaching her to ski.

  But hadn’t she known for far longer than she’d wanted to admit to herself that Rob wasn’t going to be her forever? And hadn’t she simply stayed with him out of the fear of being alone? Yes, it had hurt when she’d caught him cheating, but how much of it had been her heart that hurt. . . and how much of it had been the fact that he’d stung her pride with his callous behavior?

  Suddenly, she wished she could rewind to that day on the slopes. She wished she could have been brave enough to accept more than an offer to learn to ski from a sinfully gorgeous man, whose strong and steady heartbeat she could still feel against her cheek in her dreams.

  "Why didn’t I get his number, at least?"

  Mia carefully tucked the tissue-wrapped French lingerie into her purse. "You should call Rafe. I’ll bet he could help you find the guy. "

  Colbie started laughing, then stopped when she realized her friend was serious. "You really think I should hire a private investigator to find a guy I spent a few hours with in Lake Tahoe?"

  "Look," Mia said, looking as serious as she ever got, "I heard all that stuff you said about not wanting to be distracted by a guy right now, but you and I both know that your store is going to do really well whether or not you’re dating someone. I think the real reason you blew off what sounded like a super-hot, super-great guy was because your ex made you lose faith in all men, rather than just him. " Mia’s expression turned fierce. "Rob didn’t deserve you while you were dating, and he sure as heck doesn’t deserve to ruin your next relationship, too. "

  Mia pulled her cell phone out of her purse, scrolled through the numbers in her contacts, and put it to her ear. Before Colbie could tackle her friend and make her drop the phone, she was saying, "Hey, Rafe, Colbie needs to talk to you about something really important. "

  She had no choice but to take the phone Mia shoved into her hand. "Hi, Rafe. "

  "Colbie, it’s been too long. " She knew he was grinning, just from the sound of his voice. "How are things?"

  Every one of Mia’s brothers was good-looking and charming, but she’d always felt the most comfortable with Rafe. Which was a good thing, considering the very embarrassing favor Mia wanted her to ask of him.

  "Mia’s helping me get my new store ready to open tomorrow morning. "

  Okay, she told herself as she answered his questions about the store, even if Rafe did find Noah, it didn’t mean she had to marry him. She could just ask him on a date and then, depending on how that went, they could see if it made sense to go on another one. Really, there was no need to be so nervous about seeing him again. It wasn’t like he was going to declare his undying love to her, or anything.

  Besides, given that Mia would never let her hear the end of it if she didn’t bite the bullet—she knew her friend was only trying to look out for her, even if her methods were a bit unorthodox—Colbie took a breath and barreled ahead.

  "The thing is, Rafe, I was wondering if you could help me find someone. "

  * * *

  An hour later…

  Mia was surprised to find her brother waiting in her real estate office when she got back from helping Colbie a short while later. Not, of course, that any of the Sullivan Realty staff minded keeping Rafe entertained in her absence. Fortunately, her brother knew she’d kill him if he so much as looked at any of her employees the wrong way. As far as she was concerned every woman in Seattle was fair game except for the six women who worked for her.

  "I’m glad you’re here," she told him when he finally extricated himself from her staff and closed her office door behind him. She handed him a color printout she’d been saving for him. "I found the perfect summer cabin for you. "

  "I don’t need a summer cabin," he told her, but when he looked at the picture of the cabin and started reading, she smiled and sat back in her chair to watch him. As kids, their parents used to rent a cabin on a lake in the Cascades every summer. All of them had a good time swimming and fishing and hiking, but Rafe had loved it more than any of them.

  Sure, Mia thought, Rafe might not need a summer cabin, but it didn’t mean his life wouldn’t be better for owning it. He tucked the paper into his pocket before sitting on her leather couch.

  "I’ve got a funny story to tell you," he said. "You remember that guy I went to college with? The one you were all drooly over when you were in high school and you came to visit us one weekend? He works with the Maverick Group now. "

  Mia thought about it for a second before snapping her fingers. "How could I possibly forget Noah?" She heaved a sigh of remembered appreciation. "Tall. Dark. Gorgeous. " She shook her head. "I’ve always thought it was too bad he wasn’t into fifteen-year-old girls. "

  "I would have killed him," Rafe growled, before telling her, "He hired me to find a girl he met a week ago in Lake Tahoe. "

  Mia’s eyes grew big. "No way. He’s the guy Colbie bailed on at the top of the mountain?"

  Rafe grinned. "And now she’s hired me to find him, too. About time I had a couple of easy cases like this. "

  Mia grinned back, the wicked spark in her eyes matching her brother’s perfectly. "Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, you know. "

  He raised an eyebrow. "And?"

  "How about instead of just calling them with the info, we have a little fun with this? Because I think I’ve got the perfect plan. . . . "

  Chapter Five

  February 14, Valentine’s Day

  At 7:15 p. m. , a full hour and fifte
en minutes after her store should already have closed, Colbie rang up a beautiful pair of handmade earrings for an extremely relieved looking man.

  When she waved goodbye and finally locked the door behind him, she sagged against the glass. Her feet were killing her and she was miles beyond exhausted, but she couldn’t stop smiling.

  Because it had been the best day of Colbie’s life.

  Her girlfriends had been the first ones inside the store, and she’d been touched by how sweet it was for them all to drop by. Even her old co-workers from came by to see what Indulgence was all about. More than one of them had bought a gift for his girlfriend or wife. Just that alone would have been enough to make it a great first day. But her friends had gone one step further and told their friends about her store. And, of course, Mia had spent half the day on Twitter and Facebook letting everyone on the planet know about the new store they simply had to check out.

  She’d barely had a chance to think about Noah all day. Or to wonder if Rafe had made any progress in finding him. Or to daydream about how right it had felt when his arms were around her and she was—

  Colbie had to laugh at herself as she grabbed her purse and shut off the lights. Mia was waiting for her at the swanky new cocktail bar down the street to celebrate, so instead of cleaning up now, she’d come back early the next morning to restock.

  Stepping out the back door of her store into the damp, cold Seattle night, she took a deep breath. She loved the Pacific Northwest, and even when a steady stream of cloudy days had her praying for slivers of blue sky, she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

  There were red and pink hearts plastered to every store front in honor of Valentine’s Day. Last year she’d spent it with Rob at an overpriced restaurant with food that had been far too rich for her taste. Of course, her ex had loved it because it was the hottest place in town. If only she’d had the confidence then that she had now, she would never have wasted her time with him.

  Quitting her job had been a risk. Opening up the store had been a risk. Both of those had paid off in spades. Asking Rafe to find Noah was a risk too, but if things kept going this well, Colbie was starting to feel pretty good about her odds. . . .

  * * *

  Noah Bryant loosened his tie and settled into one of the chairs in the cocktail lounge to wait for Rafe. Surprised when he’d texted about meeting up tonight, Noah hadn’t been able to reach his friend all day to find out what was up, but hoping it was good news about Colbie, he’d immediately agreed.

  Noah’d had a busy week at the Maverick Group’s Seattle office, with a big deal he’d been working on for months finally closing. Still, he couldn’t shake his discontent. Because he couldn’t stop thinking about Colbie. . . and wondering if he was ever going to see her again.

  If it turned out that Rafe hadn’t found Colbie yet, Noah was finally going to do what he should have done a week ago: he was going to call every goddamned number in Lake Tahoe, no matter how long it took to find her. And then he was going to do a hell of a lot better job of convincing her to give him a chance than he’d done last week.

  So many things about her had resonated with him in those first few minutes they’d spent together. The jolt of pure physical attraction. The fact that she was his exact ideal of what a woman should look and feel and smell like. And, most of all, that Colbie was the kind of person who tried to help a little child she thought was in trouble, even when helping someone else meant she was going to get herself into more trouble. She was the kind of woman who went tumbling down a mountain in a stranger’s arms and was far more concerned about making sure she hadn’t hurt him than she was for her own bruises.

  Noah’s parents were in a good, loving relationship. Baggage and commitment issues weren’t the reason he hadn’t yet married and started a family. He simply hadn’t found the right woman yet.
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