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Last resort, p.28
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       Last Resort, p.28

           Jill Sanders
Cassey stood back and watched the band set up. Friday night was her favorite night. Many people who lived close by would travel across the big bridge and highway to Surf Breeze and enjoy an evening out. Since her place had some of the best live music in town, a lot of the locals ended up there. She knew most of them by name; they all knew her. Because it was now officially off-season, the crowd in the bar and grill was down to just over two dozen. All in all, not a bad night.

  Actually, this last week, since opening her doors again, she’d seen an increase in traffic. Locals came out in droves to support her, stopping by to chat with her and let her know they were behind her. Even some people she hadn’t seen since school showed up.

  It was nice to see everyone again and to feel the support.

  Too many times during the week, she’d wished that Luke was there. Even though she spent almost an hour each evening on the phone with him, she tried to persuade herself that she wasn’t becoming attached to him. She knew she needed to sort out her feelings sooner or later but tried to keep herself busy so that she didn’t have too much time to think about it.

  He was due back later that evening, and she tried to not watch the front door, but her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for his dark eyes and sexy smile.

  After the band started playing, she headed to her office for a break with a Coke in her hand. Tonight was a two-Coke kind of evening, so she had to counteract the sugar with a sandwich from the kitchen. As she sat at her desk, eating her turkey on wheat and sipping her second Coke, she noticed the large envelope that she’d forgotten about.

  Ripping it open, she pulled out the contents and completely lost her appetite. She was still sitting there when Luke walked in over an hour later.

  “Hey.” He smiled and walked across the room to sit on her couch. He rested his head back and closed his eyes. “Am I glad that week is over. You won’t believe the lengths my father went to avoid talking to me.” He chuckled and then looked up at her. “What?” He sat up, looking at her more closely. “What’s wrong?”

  “You didn’t have to come back down here, you know,” she said, trying to hide all the emotions that had flooded her since opening the envelope.

  “I know,” he said, looking at her cautiously. “I want to be here, with you.”

  “Yes, but if you were having a good time with your family, you should have stayed.”

  “Cassey, what’s this all about? I told you how my trip went. How I dreaded being there, having to talk to my father.”

  She shook her head, trying to figure out why all of a sudden she cared so much. “I don’t like being lied to.”

  He leaned back and blinked a few times. “Is this about the land I’ve bought?”

  She continued to look at him. So there was more than one secret he’d been keeping from her.

  “Listen…” He leaned forward again. “I was trying to keep it a surprise. At least until everything was finalized. There’s still so much that needs to be done, so many chances of it all falling through.”

  She shook her head, unsure of what he was talking about.

  “I’d hoped to surprise you this next week, once I received the final building permit.”

  “Permit?” Her head was swimming now. She was trying to keep up with him, but all she could focus on were the pictures lying in her lap.

  “For the hotel.” He frowned. “This isn’t about the hotel I’m building in Surf Breeze?”

  She stood slowly, and the cluster of pictures of Luke and a very beautiful blonde woman fell to the floor.

  “You’re building a hotel in Surf Breeze?” When he nodded, she stepped from behind her desk. “And you kept it from me just in case something fell through?” He nodded again. She walked towards the door, her anger showing on her face. Her hands shook as she reached for the door handle.

  How had she let him get this close so fast? It was less than three months ago that she’d found him asleep behind her desk. And now she realized she’d totally fallen in love with him, and he was doing exactly what she’d known he would—break her heart.

  “I don’t know what your motives are, but I’m tired of being lied to. You can show yourself out.” She turned and walked out, but instead of heading back downstairs, she walked up the stairs towards her apartment. Her head hurt now and she just wanted to go back to her room and cry herself dry.

  By the time she made it to her door, Luke was there, spinning her around.

  “What are these?” He held up the pictures she’d been holding a few moments ago.

  “They appear to be pictures of you in the last few days.” She pushed on his chest and frowned when he didn’t budge an inch. “If you were done with all this”—she motioned around her, flinging her arms wildly—“all you had to do was say so. I don’t like being lied to or misled. Why don’t you explain why someone is sending them to me, while you’re at it.”

  He stepped back, a frown on his lips as a crease appeared between his eyebrows. “I can’t believe him.” He shook his head. “Well, damn.”

  She crossed her arms over her chest as he stood there. Then he shocked her by starting to laugh.

  “What?” She started to feel her energy disappear. Reaching up, she rubbed her forehead.

  “I’m so sorry, babe.” He dropped the photos and took her shoulders in his hands. She tried to jerk away, but she was still pinned to her door. “Some of those are from this weekend, but the more…intimate ones are from several years ago. My father thought he could distract me by inviting my ex-girlfriend Angela and her mother down for the week. There’s nothing going on between us. Honestly.” He pulled her close. “I spent a miserable week trying to get my father alone and fighting off the attentions of Angela and our matchmaking mothers. I wanted to be here, with you.” He smiled down at her and she could see the weariness in his eyes.

  She’d known it. After all, he’d spent the nights heating her up over the phone. He’d called or texted her a dozen or more times each day. She felt terrible, until she remembered he was building a hotel in Surf Breeze and this was the first she’d heard of it.

  “I believe you about the pictures, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m hurt about your plans to build a hotel. Did your father change his plans?” She waited, keeping her body stiff for what was coming next.

  He shook his head and ran his hand down her hair. “Let’s go inside and I’ll tell you all about it.”

  When they walked in, she went to the fridge and pulled out two cans of Coke. Popping the top of hers, she took a large sip and closed her eyes. Why was it that when life looked bad, the drink always made her feels more stable?

  “Feel better?” Luke asked as he leaned against the countertop, looking at her.

  She nodded and held out a can for him. He took it and her hand and pulled her into the living room, where they sat on the couch.

  “Since I met you, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.” He took a drink of his Coke and then set it on the glass coffee table. “I thought that I was stuck doing and being what my father wanted me to be. Working for the family’s business, being one of my father’s minions, with no real future.” He turned and looked at her. “Then I met you.” A smile crept onto his face and his eyes grew darker. “You showed me that I could take a chance at what I wanted.” He took the can of Coke from her hands and set it on the table. Taking her hands in his, he turned until they were looking into each other’s eyes. “I never thought that I would get a chance at happiness. Not after Calvin died. I always imagined I’d be a slave to my father. You gave me the courage to go after what I wanted. And,” he chuckled, “it turns out that what I want is to own my very own hotel. Go figure.” He shook his head.

  “It makes sense.” She tried to smile.

  “I suppose.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I found some land on the edge of town. After driving by it, I went to my grandfather and asked him to release my inheritance. I showed him a business plan that I had written up.” He shook his head. “Damn if th
e old man wasn’t proud of me and gave me his full cooperation. Even told me that if Dad gave me any problems, to talk to him. It’s the first time in my life that I truly felt like part of the family.” He leaned back and looked out her window at the dark courtyard. “My father found out, somehow.” He shrugged his shoulders again and looked over at her. “That’s the conversation you interrupted. Thank you for that, by the way.” He smiled.

  “How did he take it now that you’ve had a chance to talk to him?” she asked.

  He shook his head. “Pretty much the same as he did the first time we talked about it. Although, I did get a chance to explain myself a lot further. There was a moment I thought he understood, but…” He shrugged his shoulders. “We’ll see how it goes.”

  She looked down at their joined hands, not sure when she’d started playing with his fingers. “I’m sorry. I know how hurtful parents can be.”

  He smiled at her and pulled her closer. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone else.”

  She tried to pull back, not sure if she wanted to hear what she knew was coming next. She’d been trying to put if off for so long, even knowing she couldn’t stop it from coming.

  “No,” he said lightly. “Don’t pull away.”

  When she hesitated, he took advantage of her hesitation and tugged on her arm until she sat across his lap. She found herself looking into the deep rich pools of his eyes, transfixed by the tenderness she saw there.

  “Cassey, I’ve never felt this way for anyone else. My whole life I’ve waited and wanted someone like you to come along. I know this started out as just a convenience, but we can’t fool ourselves any longer. We’ve become so much more, and I want our relationship to continue to grow.”

  “Luke—” Her hands went to his chest, trying to hold him back, trying to hold what she felt back as well.

  “No, don’t say anything just yet.” He pulled her close. “Let me show you how I feel. Let me be with you tonight. I just want to be with you.” He leaned his head down and took her lips gently.

  In the couple of months that they’d been together, there had been plenty of passion, speed, and desire. But this was the first time she’d felt tenderness and love so strongly. She didn’t quite know what to do with the desire that built up. It was different than any other she’d ever felt.

  No one had ever shown her this much love, ever.

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