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       Last Resort, p.7

           Jill Sanders

  Chapter Three

  Cassey’s heart skipped when Luke looked at her like that. She had wavered about approaching him in the first place. When she’d walked down the stairs and seen him resting against her bar, she’d wanted to run back upstairs and hide. The funny thing was, she didn’t know why.

  She’d dealt with all his employees, some of them very good-looking men, easily enough. But there was something unsettling about Luke’s eyes and his smile. If she was honest with herself, she would admit that it was the instant attraction that had slammed into her gut when she’d seen him. But she wasn’t at the point of being truly honest…yet.

  “I’m not going to change my mind, you know.” She took another sip of her Coke, wishing the cool bubbles would sooth the fire that was raging inside her.

  “I have no doubt about that.” He started running his fingertips over her arm, like he’d done before. She felt sparks everywhere he touched her and while part of her wanted to pull away again, it felt so good to be touched. Not since she’d broken it off with Mark a few weeks ago had someone shown this much interest in her.

  In the back of her mind was the nagging feeling that he was trying to find her weakness so he could swoop in and buy this place from under her, that he was trying to use sex to soften her up. It would never work, so she had to wonder why he was trying so hard.

  It was so hard to gauge his intentions. His chocolate eyes revealed little of what he was thinking.

  “Then why are you sticking around?” she asked as she tried to push his fingers from her skin. Instead, he laced his hand with hers, holding her still.

  “I think you know why,” he said, just under his breath.

  Shaking her head slightly, she realized she had been holding her breath. “No.” It came out weaker than she’d intended.

  Somehow, he’d moved closer to her, so that their knees and shoulders were touching now. She could smell his rich scent, which caused her insides to do a little flip. Even her legs felt weak now as he ran his other hand over her exposed knee. She’d crossed her legs, but now she realized how vulnerable it made her feel. Wishing she’d worn slacks tonight instead of her new dress, she felt goose bumps rise everywhere he touched her. His calloused palm was running over her knee in small circles.

  Just then, someone dropped a plate. The shattering sound broke the trance she’d been in. She pulled back and stood from the stool. Grabbing her Coke, she waited until her heart rate leveled.

  “I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, Mr. Callaway, but you won’t find any willing participants here. You’re better off cutting your losses and moving on. Good night.” She turned and walked away, holding her breath until she entered her office. Then she sank down in the couch and tried to get her body back under control.

  Half an hour later, she stood and looked out the dark windows and noticed that he was nowhere in sight. She walked back downstairs and continued her nightly ritual. By the time she let herself into her apartment, she was feeling almost normal again.

  By the next day, she had convinced herself that the attention he had given her and the way her body had reacted to him was all in her mind. He was here on a mission and would use any means possible to get what he and his father wanted—her property.

  She had lain awake for almost an hour wondering why they wanted it so badly.

  Boardwalk Bar & Grill sat on the largest lot along what was called the old boardwalk. On either side of the mile-and-a-half-long planked boardwalk, which had been built in the late fifties, sat residence homes, large rental beach homes, and other small businesses. Since Surf Breeze sat on what was essentially an island, land was scarce. The small stretch of land had mostly been owned by the same people for generations.

  There were a few smaller hotels along the highway just on the other side of the tall bridge that led to Surf Breeze, but so far the town’s lack of space had kept the larger chains away. Most tourists coming into Surf Breeze loved the small feeling. The quaint boardwalk and its nightlife appeal had been a successful mix. That is, up until a few months ago.

  Small blue shuttle vans used to run from Emerald Beach to Surf Breeze every hour, but the shuttles had recently been discontinued, and tourism had slowed down. There had been a large uproar from the local business owners, who had petitioned and attended several city hall meetings, but so far, they had not been successful in getting the shuttles running again. Shortly after the shuttles stopped running, the local businesses had been flooded with offers to sell their land or buildings. No one was interested in the businesses, just the property they sat on.

  Some of the business owners sold right away. Others were starting to talk about selling. They had gathered and held a meeting at her place a few weeks back, but so far, everyone had been convinced to hold out just a little longer.

  She was eating her breakfast—wheat toast and a sliced apple—out on the patio when she heard someone walking up the outside stairs. Turning, she watched Luke open the gate with a white bag and a cup of coffee balanced in his hands.

  “What do you want?” she asked, turning back to the local newspaper she’d been scanning.

  “Now, is that any way to greet an old friend?” he asked.

  “Old friend?” She turned her head and watched him open the tall gate.

  “Sure.” He smiled. “After all, I brought you donuts and coffee.” He set the bag and cup down and then took a seat next to her.

  “I already have breakfast.” She nodded towards her half-finished toast and apple.

  He frowned. “That’s not breakfast, that’s bird food.” He moved her plate aside and pushed the bag of donuts in front of her.

  She leaned back and crossed her arms in front of her, noticing that his eyes went to her chest. She had yet to get dressed for work and was wearing shorts and a tank top since it had been surprisingly and wonderfully warm out that morning. She quickly uncrossed her arms when his gaze made her skin feel like it was on fire.

  “I don’t know why you keep persisting.” She took a peek inside the bag and almost moaned when she saw the raspberry-filled delight. Reaching in, she decided that she might as well enjoy it.

  The first bite was like heaven. Closing her eyes, she moaned at the richness of the dessert. When she reached for her coffee, he pushed the paper cup in front of her instead. She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip, then frowned.

  “Who have you been talking to?” She set the cup down.

  He smiled and leaned closer to her. “You have a bit of raspberry”—he used his finger to wipe away some of the jelly from the corner of her mouth— “here.” His voice dropped to a low murmur.

  She had an image of him talking to her in that tone as he ran his hands all over her. He would coo to her as he told her exactly what he wanted to do to her, what he wanted her to do to him. Shaking her head, she leaned away.

  “Well?” she asked again.

  He smiled. “I don’t know what you mean.” He reached into the bag and took out a chocolate-covered donut and took a bite.

  “Raspberry-filled donuts, double-chocolate-chip Frappuccino. Have you been talking to my brothers?”

  “Brothers? I haven’t talked to your brothers.” He leaned back as he took a sip of his own coffee.

  She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him as his eyebrows shot up.

  He shook his head. “I didn’t know you had brothers. Wendy mentioned you had a weakness for the donuts and Frappuccino.” He shrugged his shoulders.

  “Wendy!” She closed her eyes and swore she’d fire the woman if she weren’t such a great asset to her business and a very close friend.

  “Don’t be too harsh on her. I pestered her enough last night that I’m surprised she didn’t give me more information about you.” He leaned in, taking another bite of his donut.

  “Why are you doing this?” She was really beginning to feel annoyed and stalked.

  He chuckled. “I’m attracted to you, Cassey. I thought I saw a
spark of attraction in your eyes as well.” He shrugged his shoulders and took another sip of his coffee. “I thought we might explore it together.”

  Honesty was something she hadn’t expected from him. Yes, she had been instantly attracted to him; she couldn’t deny it. She had noticed it in his eyes as well. But could she trust him? Since she knew she could trust herself to uphold her decision, maybe she could afford to explore a physical relationship. At least for a while.

  “I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” She frowned as she sipped her coffee.

  “Who said anything about a relationship?” He shrugged and looked a little distant.

  She leaned back, trying to gauge him. “I suppose I could use a distraction.”

  She saw his eyebrows shoot up momentarily, but his face and eyes masked his emotions. Then he nodded slowly. “When do you have a night off?”


  “Monday is good, but how about tonight?”

  “Tonight?” She tilted her head, trying to figure him out.

  “Sure, you know, the part of the day that comes just before sunset.” He smiled.

  “I’ll be here tonight.”

  “Great.” He took the last bite of his donut and stood. “I’ll see you tonight, then.” He reached down and took her hand, pulling her up from her chair, pulling her so close she could feel his heartbeat next to her breasts. He leaned towards her slowly.

  She saw the kiss coming, but after his lips touched hers, she realized nothing could have prepared her for the desire that slammed into her. His hands stayed on her hips, holding her close to his body as his mouth explored her own. His rich taste on her tongue caused her to moan and pull him closer as she explored him more. Her hands went into his thick hair, holding him to her until she felt out of breath. Then he pulled back, and she swore she saw a flash of humor in his eyes as he smiled down at her.

  “Well, I think we established there is definitely something here.”

  She tried to smile, but her lips and mind refused to focus. How could a man do this so quickly to her? She felt like a mass of jelly. Gooey all over.

  His hands dropped and he stepped away. She thought she saw them shake, but he pushed them deep into his jean pockets before she could be sure. “See you tonight, Cassey.” He turned and walked away as she stood there staring after him. When the gate closed, she melted into her chair with a huff, her mind racing.

  Her lips still tasted of him. She could still feel his mouth on hers. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the chair and wondered just what she had gotten herself into.

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