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Beautiful distraction, p.12
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.12

           J. C. Reed
 

  “You’re right. I don’t usually have competition.” He hesitates, which gives me the opportunity to regard him intently, trying hard to read the sudden shadow crossing his features. His green gaze seems a shade darker. Troubled. And determined.

  I clear my throat and look away when his fingers clasp my chin, forcing my eyes back to him. “I’m not afraid of competition, Ava.”

  “I never believed you were.”

  “Good. I won’t make a secret out of the fact that I always get the woman I want. You won’t be the exception, Ava.”

  His monumental ego is back.

  I open my mouth, then close it at the way his mouth seems to draw closer to me.

  My breath is caged in my chest, waiting, expecting, fearing that one moment when his lips will crash down on mine.

  The world around us seems to stand still while my head becomes a big void of nothingness, my senses straining to tune into him. He’s so close. I can smell him. I can see the way the light reflects in his irises, splitting it into different shades of green—all beautiful, all breathtaking.

  “You’re different,” he whispers.

  “How so?”

  “I don’t know. Just different.”

  “Is that a good or a bad thing?”

  “I don’t know, either. Is not wanting me a bad thing?”

  “You tell me.” I cock my head, a smile tugging at my lips. “After all, you’re the one with the long list of conquests.”

  “None of them matter,” Kellan says. “None of them get my attention like you do.” He glances at me. “There’s something about you that drives me crazy.”

  “I believe it’s called rejection.” His eyebrows rise, so I feel the need to clarify. “I rejected you, and now you think you have to conquer me.”

  He shakes his head. “No, it’s more than that. I want you. I want you like I’ve never wanted anyone before. I just can’t explain it…I can’t explain you.”

  My breath hitches, stolen by his words. When did things take this turn? One moment he’s flirting with me, the next he’s saying something like this. I’m not sure that I like the change.

  “What are you saying?” I whisper, my voice shaking.

  “I’m saying…” He hesitates. “I want to know more about you. I want to know what makes you tick. And—” he pauses again, his eyes glued to my lips “—I want to kiss you. To know if your lips are as soft as they seem.”

  All air swishes out of my lungs, as though it’s just been knocked out of me. He’s waiting for my permission, I realize. “Is that a good idea?”

  “Only one way to find out.”

  His hand moves to the back of my nape, pulling me softly to him, and then his mouth meets mine in a slow, delicious kiss. Even though his lips barely brush mine, the electric jolt running through me is all-consuming. My nerve endings are on fire. My whole body is.

  He holds me like no other. His kiss is balm for my soul.

  The tip of his tongue slips between my lips, and I moan against his mouth, the sound lost between us. He tastes manly and minty, his hot breath burning me from the inside. The picture of those lips on my nipples appears before my eyes—those lips traveling down my abdomen, kissing me. My fingers are trembling as they brush the front of his shirt, the open palm of my hand settling on his lower ribcage. His warmth is seeping through the thin material, searing me.

  I want to push my hand underneath his clothes to feel skin against skin. To taste him the way I want him to taste me. But I don’t do any of those things.

  Because this one kiss is already my undoing.

  His lips are doing unthinkable things to me, creating feelings I have never had before. They remind me of a summer breeze, soft and warm; of a winter tale that mesmerizes and entrances; of the wings of a thousand butterflies, light and soundless, as they flutter around.

  I wish I could stop this one moment, capture it, because I know it won’t last.

  Because a guy like him doesn’t stay in a woman’s life. He breezes through and leaves only havoc behind.

  I press my lips against him, over and over again, letting his tongue meet mine in a slow dance. And then I can feel his hand traveling up my inner thigh.

  A delicious jolt travels through my clitoris and moisture pools between my legs, readying me for what he has to offer. Only, I’m not sure if I’m ready.

  I squeeze my legs shut, but the friction only manages to intensify the want inside me.

  Too soon, Kellan pries his lips away from mine, his hand withdrawing from my body.

  I open my eyes and find him staring at me. He’s just as breathless as I am. His eyes are dark, full of desire. His gaze is penetrating every layer of me, reaching my core. “I’m not a patient man, Ava. But I can wait if something’s worth waiting for.”

  “Don’t do this.” My voice is shaking as I push him away and stand, disgusted at just how desperate this man makes me. I have to get away, but where could I possibly head without appearing like I’m running from him?

  His fingers brush the back of my arm, and my breath catches in my throat.

  “You sound upset. I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I shouldn’t have kissed you.”

  Coming from someone like him, his apology takes me by surprise. I want to tell him that there’s no need to apologize. That I enjoyed kissing him. But I can’t. I’ve been hurt so often that opening up is not an option. I brush my fingertips over my lips. They’re still tingling, reminding me of how good it felt to have his mouth against mine. They remind me that his presence does something to me. My resolve is crumbling. I fear he’ll pull me to him and I’ll give in, just because I miss the intimacy of having another body against mine, inside me.

  It’s been too long.

  The attraction I feel for him reminds me of that.

  I can feel the shift inside my head.

  It’s not like I haven’t hooked up with guys before.

  It’s not like I want him to put a ring on that finger.

  I’m available. He’s available. Except, is he? Who’s the blond woman in the picture on the fireplace? Why don’t I believe that she’s his sister?

  Because he won’t elaborate.

  Because the one man I loved in the past lied to me. Told me the same bullshit story.

  “Ava?” Kellan’s voice is a deliciously hoarse rumble.

  What’s the harm indeed?

  I’m not a cheater—that’s the harm. I won’t do to others what others have done to me.

  “I was in love with someone,” I whisper at last.

  The words are out before I can stop them.

  My reply has his instant attention. His shoulders tense; his whole body does.

  “He cheated,” I continue as I glance up at him. “He was my first love. My first in everything. I gave him my whole heart, and he broke it.” I take in Kellan’s face, expecting nonchalance, but there’s nothing nonchalant about his expression. “Now you know why I reject you. It’s because I won’t go through something like that again,” I say. “I’m sorry. It’s not personal. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m so sick of guys who play with your emotions. I won’t ever get hurt again.”

  “I had no idea.”

  I shrug and turn my back to him. “It’s okay.”

  “Do you want me to beat him up? I’m good at it.”

  His question takes me by surprise. “You would do that?”

  “Give me his address and I’ll get it done.” He smirks. “Actually, I don’t even need his address. His name will do.”

  I let out a laugh. “You can’t be serious.”

  He returns my smile. “You might want to say it one more time and see what happens.”

  I sigh and touch his hand, squeezing it gently. It feels so good, rough, as if life has shaped him, too. “No, thank you. But I do appreciate the offer.”

  “You sure?” He cocks one eyebrow. “You’re not saying that because you have pity on him?”

  “It’s over. Definitely. I’ve moved past him. To be
honest, I’m not even sure what I saw in that guy. It’s definitely a good thing we’re over.”

  Kellan’s hand moves up to my face and I hold my breath, excited at the prospect that he’ll kiss me again. But he doesn’t. “I don’t know who he is, but he’s damn stupid for letting a beautiful woman like you go. It’s his loss.”

  And then he withdraws his hand and gets up, his focus turning to the window. “It’s about to start raining again. I have to get the horses in.”

  “I’m sorry I can’t help you with the farm work. Is there something else I can help you with?” I ask.

  He runs his fingers through his hair and then shakes his head. His expression is casual, his eyes two dark pools of emotions I cannot read.

  He’s unperturbed.

  Whatever our kiss did to me, I’m not sure it had the same effect on him. Or maybe he’s so good at hiding it because he does it so often.

  The thought stings, but I didn’t expect anything else from him. He’s made it pretty clear that he doesn’t date. He only ever fucks.

  At least he’s honest—unlike my ex.

  “You need to rest now. You’ll be okay to walk in a few hours,” Kellan remarks. “I’ll be back this evening.”

  He glances at me one more time before heading out. For a moment, I stare at the empty space he just occupied, wondering how I could possibly learn to read a guy who’s a closed book.

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  Kellan’s right. The pain in my ankle lessens over the course of a few hours.

  After our kiss, it seems that he can’t get away from me fast enough. Or maybe he really is busy.

  From the open window in the kitchen, I watch him take Brenna, saddle and mount her, then kick her into a trot. His eyes meet mine. I give him a short wave before he disappears with Sniper by his side. I stare into the open space for a long time, alone with my thoughts, confused.

  One moment, he tells me he doesn’t like me, the next he’s expressing his readiness to beat up my ex.

  He’s a man shrouded in mystery and contradiction.

  Eventually, I sigh and hobble to my feet, giving up trying to make sense of him.

  I’ve no idea what to do with myself in this strange house as I head through the hall to familiarize myself with all the rooms.

  The space is huge. All the rooms are tastefully furnished in a rustic style, but carry a male touch. The ensuite bathrooms are clean but empty. Devoid of life. Like Kellan hasn’t had any visitors in a long time.

  I inspect the contents of the fridge and decide to make us ham sandwiches and salad for dinner, then head to my room to take a short nap.

  It’s early afternoon when the sound of chopping wood and hammering carries over through the open window. The dog barks a few times, and Kellan laughs—the sound causing a strange jolt in my chest.

  Even though I shouldn’t even be thinking about making an effort, I apply a bit of lipstick and straighten my clothes before I head back into the kitchen.

  Kellan seems surprised when he sees me standing in the doorway, juggling two plates and two glasses of lemonade.

  “You didn’t have to.”

  I shrug. “I wanted to. You’re kind enough for letting us stay.”

  He mumbles a “thanks” and we eat on the front porch in silence.

  “The mechanic is going to pick up your car later today,” he says.

  I swallow the last bite of my sandwich before I reply. “I thought the landline wasn’t working.”

  “It isn’t.” He gives me an amused glance. “But the one in the barn is.”

  “You have a working phone in the barn and didn’t tell me?”

  “I never got the chance because you just took off.”

  “You were rude.”

  “I was.” He turns his head to me and playfully bumps his shoulder against mine. “I need to apologize.”

  “I wasn’t nice either, so don’t.”

  “I knew the hill was slippery. It’s my fault you fell. How about I make it up to you?” He takes another sandwich, bites into it, and chews slowly.

  “How?”

  “I want you to stay for a few more days,” Kellan says.

  “I’m not sure I can.”

  “Because you know I’ll keep making passes at you?”

  I shake my head. “No, that’s not it. I know you will. Strange as it may sound, I think I’ve gotten used to you being annoying.”

  A smile lights up his face. “Then stay. I want to see how far I can go with you.”

  “You don’t give up, do you?” I roll my eyes in mock exasperation.

  “Never.” He grins. “Wait here.” He gets up and rounds the house, then returns with a pair of brown hiking boots. “These are for you.”

  I take them out of his hands and turn them around to inspect them. “How did you know my size?”

  “I removed your shoes from you, remember?”

  The sound of tires hitting gravel carries over, followed by Sniper barking.

  “Here, boy.” Kellan grabs his collar and guides him to the garage, locking him inside.

  A moment later, Mandy calls out, “Are you guys decent?”

  I roll my eyes at her and shoot Kellan an exasperated look. I find him gazing at me, but his expression isn’t quite as irritated as mine.

  Because he doesn’t want to be decent with me. He’s made that part pretty clear. And because he’s not a guy who beats around the bush; he seems to like to keep all women informed about his intentions.

  “I can’t believe you just said that,” I say to Mandy as we head back inside.

  She shrugs and squeezes out of her jacket, tossing it at the foot of the couch the same way she does back home. Kellan glares at the jacket like it’s the poor fabric’s fault, but doesn’t comment.

  So, he’s the tidy kind. I add that to my mental drawer of information I’ve gathered about him.

  “Did you find the town?” Kellan retrieves the jacket and drapes it over the back of a chair.

  Mandy freezes as she hears insistent barking, ignoring Kellan’s question. “Wow. Is there a dog in there?”

  “It’s Sniper,” I say.

  Mandy watches us with a knowing smirk on her face. “Look at you, guys. You already look like an old married couple.”

  “Not a fan of marriage?” Kellan remarks, brows raised.

  “Actually, quite the contrary,” I say, amused. “She finds old, married people cute.” I grimace at him. “Don’t get her started, unless you want a rendition of The Notebook with all its literary merits and its relevance to today’s society.”

  A blank question mark flickers on his face, and I smile.

  He has no idea what The Notebook is.

  If he continues to be a big jerk, I’ll let Mandy unpack her all-time favorite movie, which I’m sure is safely stashed in her suitcase because she never travels without it, and dare him to watch it from the beginning until the very sappy ending.

  “Did you know there’s a freaking western movie out there?” Mandy ask and plops down on the sofa.

  “She’s probably talking about the landscape,” I say and look at Kellan, barely able to hide my smile. Something—is that amusement?—flickers in his eyes.

  He’s looking at me intently as he asks Mandy, “How far did you get?”

  Holy shit.

  Is there something growing on my nose, or why the fuck won’t he look away? If he continues to be so weird, Mandy will get all suspicious and then will start drilling me for details, her dirty imagination making up things that will never happen.

  “I got as far as the next town,” Mandy says slowly.

  “You drove all the way?” I ask incredulously.

  “Why wouldn’t I?” Mandy retorts, slightly annoyed. “I wish I hadn’t bothered though. All I found was a string of taverns glued together. And get this. There are no shops. Not even a Starbucks. I don’t know how those people survive. It was literally impossible to find a working phone. Or an Internet café. Even the post offic
e and the police station were closed.” She raises her brows the way she always does when something strikes her as unbelievable.

  “That’s probably the storm’s fault,” Kellan says patiently. “Phone lines are often down during and shortly after bad weather. The main roads are also blocked by uprooted trees. It takes a while to clean it all up, which takes all the manpower the sheriff can get.”

  “Yes.” Mandy draws out the word. “But that usually only happens in movies. I need to get a manicure and make a very important phone call. Not to mention the fact that I really need to check my emails. Maybe you could point me to the nearest hotel, preferably one that has a spa and deluxe rooms. And I wouldn’t mind a well-stocked mini bar. Anything to help me sleep through the days I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

  “Of course.” Kellan winks at me. “The hotel’s down that way.” He points out the window, in the direction of the barn, and I can barely stifle a snort.

  Now that Mandy thinks I’m interested in Kellan, she no longer sees the need to pretend, so she’s basically returned to her true NYC persona. Gone is the pretend off-the-grid nature fan she was about to morph into last night when she thought Kellan and she might turn into an item…if only for a night.

  “I didn’t see it,” Mandy says.

  “That’s because there’s nothing there,” I say.

  Her eyes narrow on Kellan and me. I can see her little head working. “Did you guys have fun?”

  “She sprained her ankle.” Kellan points to my bandaged leg, ignoring her question.

  “Oh.” Mandy looks at me, disappointed. “In that case, we can’t leave just yet.”

  “I can walk around, though it still hurts a little,” I say. “But my ankle’s not the reason why we need to stay. It’s the car. The mechanic’s not been here yet, so I don’t know how long it’ll take to get it repaired.”

  “Damn. And there’s no way we can borrow his?” She gestures at Kellan like he’s not standing there listening.

  “Mandy!” I give her my usual ‘don’t you dare’ glare. “We’re already imposing.”

  “What?” She shrugs. “We need to check into our hotel. We’ll be losing a day.”

  I shoot Kellan an apologetic look. “Even if we could leave, the streets are still blocked.”

 
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