Lost and found sisters, p.10
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.10

          

  “Are you feeling something?”

  “You could say that,” he murmured. “You?”

  She licked her lips and he nearly groaned. “I think so,” she whispered.

  “That’s good.”

  “Are you going to kiss me?”

  He cupped her face, let his thumbs trace her jawbone, his fingers sinking into her silky waves. “No,” he said quietly. “And not because I don’t want to, but because when I do, I want to know you’re ready. That you’ll feel it.”

  She sighed. “Guys do whatever they want all the time, no emotions necessary. I want that skill.” Another shaky breath escaped her, and since they were literally an inch apart, they shared air for a single heartbeat during which neither of them moved.

  Her gaze dropped to his mouth. “Okay, so I’m definitely feeling things.” She hesitated and then her hands came up to his chest. “Maybe we should test it out to be sure.”

  God, she was the sweetest temptation he’d ever met, and he wanted nothing more than to cover her mouth with his. Instead, he brushed his mouth to her cheek.

  “Please, Mick,” she whispered, her exhale warming his throat. He loved the “please,” and he wanted to do just that more than anything. But when she tried to turn her head into his, to line up their mouths, he gently tightened his grip, dragging his mouth along her smooth skin instead, making his way to her ear.

  “Not yet,” he whispered, letting his lips brush over her earlobe and the sensitive skin beneath it.

  She moaned and clutched him. “Why not?”

  It took every ounce of control he had to lift his head and meet her gaze. “Because I want to make sure you’re really with me, that you’re feeling everything I’m feeling. That there’ll be no doubt, no regrets.”

  “You sure have a lot of requirements.”

  He laughed. And she was right, it was all big talk for a guy who didn’t do relationships anymore. Still, he forced himself to step back and shut the passenger door.

  As he rounded the hood to the driver’s side, he tried to remind himself of all the reasons she was a bad idea. He lived two hundred miles away and he was hoping to move his mom up by him and never come back here. Not to mention that Quinn lived an equal two hundred miles in the opposite direction and she was in a deeply vulnerable place. No way would he even think about taking advantage of that.

  But when he slid behind the wheel and their eyes locked, he realized that while his mind could stand firm, the rest of his body wasn’t on board with the in-control program.

  Chapter 10

  Olympic events I could compete in:

  -Extreme lurking

  -Marathon sleeping

  -Rhythmic eating

  -Freeestyle complaining

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  The drive to the B & B was quiet but not uncomfortable. In fact, Quinn felt a flash of disappointment that the evening was over as soon as she and Mick got out. Being back meant facing her hot mess of a life and she wasn’t ready. So she stood still and tipped her head to take in the view.

  She wasn’t sure what was happening to her. Maybe the domino effects of Carolyn’s dying had kick-started her emotions again, at least the simple ones like lust and anger and frustration.

  But things like sadness and grief and love . . . those she’d shoved so deep she didn’t know how to access them anymore.

  Basically, she was an emotional idiot.

  She distracted herself from that knowledge with the scenery. Wildstone at night was an experience. There were no streetlights. No billboards, and with the exception of the bar, the sidewalks apparently rolled up at eight o’clock. There was nothing to detract from the inky night shining with the brilliance of so many stars it looked like a velvet blanket scattered with diamonds.

  “It’s . . . wow,” she breathed as wind rustled through the trees, crickets doing their song and dance, and she thought maybe she could also hear the distant sound of the tide pounding the shore. When she inhaled deeply, it smelled like one of those woodsy outdoor candles she loved. “Wildstone at night is incredible.”

  Mick took her hand in his and let out a low laugh, his head tipped back as well. “Yeah. I guess I forget what it’s like.”

  “How?” she asked, awed. “How can you forget?”

  He shook his head, making her even more curious.

  “How long since you moved away?” she asked.

  “I left after I graduated from high school and didn’t come back much until four months ago.”

  When his dad had died. She turned and took in his profile. He was good, he didn’t give much away. The tall stance, the broad shoulders capable of holding the weight of mountains . . . he could hide in plain sight. “Do you miss him?”

  He let out a low, mirthless laugh and met her gaze. “We didn’t do well together. But I miss him for my mom. She loved that heartless bastard.” He led her toward her room. With the open hallways empty, it felt like they were alone on the planet as they walked, and at her door she turned to him.

  Sexy, alpha, quiet-but-most-definitely-not-shy Mick Hennessey. “Thanks,” she said softly.

  He nudged a wayward strand of hair from her forehead, curling it behind her ear, his finger brushing the shell of her ear. “Anytime.”

  “I didn’t mean for the ride,” she said.

  “Again,” he said. “Anytime.”

  His voice was deep and rich. Went down as smoothly as her alcohol had. And damn, but she’d enjoyed herself tonight. No way around that. Mick was an unusual man. No hidden agenda. No complications. Easy to be with, so damn easy, and suddenly, standing in the moonlight in front of him, she needed more of all of that, along with a chance to forget, even if only for a little bit.

  She’d had no idea how much she’d shut herself off, shut herself down, but a few hours in his company and suddenly she was aching for things she’d long ago forgotten about. Aching to be held, touched . . .

  “Quinn.”

  His tone held a warning. Like he knew what she was thinking and it was a bad idea. Well, of course it was a bad idea. But she realized that wasn’t going to stop her. Was it? She looked past his broad shoulders to the rising moon. “Today sucked golf balls,” she said. “Until you. You said you wanted to see me feel something.” She looked at him, into his dark eyes. “Well, I’m standing here, feeling plenty.”

  His expression was strained. “I’m into that, believe me. But I’m trying like hell to be the good guy here. I need you to go inside and lock the door behind you to keep out of trouble.”

  “I thought Wildstone was safe.”

  “It is. The trouble isn’t going to come from the unknown. It’s going to come from me. Go, Quinn. Now. And lock your door.”

  She stared up at him, mesmerized by the thought of him being trouble, images going through her head of him proving it to her, all of them involving little to no clothing and a bed.

  Or not a bed . . .

  Watching her face, maybe reading her mind, Mick groaned. Pretty sure he was about to retreat, she fisted her hands in his shirt and tugged. Given the solidness to his build, she knew she couldn’t have budged him unless he wanted to be budged, but he obligingly stepped in close. Now they were chest to chest, toe to toe, the heat of his body instantly enveloping her even as her body shivered in anticipation. She went up on tiptoe and brushed her lips over his, feeling a rush of long-forgotten pleasure as desire went skittering through her. Desire, and a yearning so strong she moaned with it.

  So did he. His hands went to her hips, gripping hard as they stared at each other for one breathless beat. Then he lowered his head and kissed her, a slow, melting nuzzle of lips that was at once both perfect and not nearly enough, and she moaned again. Mick murmured something wordless and sexy, and he slid his hands to her jaw to hold her head in place, keeping her steady as he kissed her again, light at first, until she squirmed against him for still more, and then it was an explosion of want and hunger and hard need.

  She was pressed between his body and the door and trying to climb him like a tree when he pulled back and pressed his forehead to hers, breathing hard.

  “You’re going inside,” he said, his voice not so smooth now, but low and rough as sandpaper. “Alone.”

  Unable to speak, she nodded, but when she didn’t, couldn’t, move, he let out a half groan, half laugh. “Come on.” Taking her key, he unlocked her door, flicked on the light, gave the room a cursory once-over before gently shoving her inside and shutting the door behind her.

  “Lock it,” he said from the other side of it.

  Not that she was counting, but that was twice now he’d turned away for what she suspected was her own sake. She hit the lock and pressed her face against the peephole in time to watch him walk away.

  QUINN DREAMED ABOUT star-filled skies and long, drugging kisses and woke up all erotically charged and achy. Someone had once told her that coming out of a period of extended grief felt like the aftermath of a root canal—everything got tingly as the feelings came back. But that wasn’t it at all. Nope, it felt a lot less subtle than that, more like being hit by a freight train.

  She called Cliff for Tilly’s cell phone number.

  “You staying?” he asked.

  “Long enough to at least see her again. And to ask if she needs anything, and if we can keep in touch.”

  He was quiet for a beat. “Stay out of trees.”

  Right. She felt her forehead. The huge lump was gone. And she was breathing just fine. With the day’s good news out of the way, she texted Tilly.

  QUINN:

  Breakfast?

  TILLY:

  I don’t do breakfast.

  QUINN:

  Lunch?

  TILLY:

  Do you ever take no for an answer?

  QUINN:

  I was a pit bull in another life. So . . . lunch? Whatever you want. Except sushi. I know it’s not cool, but I hate sushi.

  TILLY:

  It’s cute that you think you could even get sushi in Wildstone. I’ll meet you at the house at my lunch break. I need to pick up some stuff anyway.

  Lunch it was. Quinn got up, showered, grabbed a big, fat jelly doughnut from the “buffet,” and then looked at the clock. Still three hours before she’d see Tilly.

  She went to the front desk, where surfer boy sat thumbing through his phone. “Do you think I could pay someone to take me to the Whiskey River to get my car?” she asked.

  “No,” he said, not looking up. “I mean yes, but no.”

  She put a hand over the screen of his phone and he yelped, pulling the phone free to stare at it. “Ah, man. You made me lose a life.”

  “Want to lose another?”

  He sighed. “Your car’s already here.” He tossed a set of keys at her.

  Hers.

  “Who—” she started but the guy was back to his game, non-responsive. It didn’t matter, she figured she knew who’d retrieved her car for her.

  Mick.

  Not knowing how to feel about that, being dangerously attracted to a man she hardly knew after going so long without being attracted to anyone at all, she got into her car.

  She drove along the coast, mesmerized by the pounding surf, the small morning dots that were surfers, and then farther out, sailboats glinting on the water dusted with whitecaps. By the time she then turned inland again, she was smiling as she took in the wineries and ranches in the green rolling hills.

  Smiling.

  Back in town, she drove down the main drag, eyeing the hair salon. One glance in the rearview mirror at her crazy uncontrollable waves convinced her to stop. Maybe she could get help making a better impression on Tilly.

  She took one step inside and stopped short. The woman behind the counter was none other than Lena, Mick’s ex-girlfriend.

  “Hi,” the woman said, her mouth curved, eyes cynically amused. “You going to bring your other leg in and stop letting out all the bought air, or . . .?”

  Feeling silly, Quinn let the door shut behind her.

  “There you go. Now, do you speak?” Lena asked.

  Quinn narrowed her eyes. “Are you always so rude?”

  “Yes, one hundred percent. It’s called sarcasm and attitude, which are both so much cheaper than therapy and bail. What can I do for you?”

  “I was thinking about having my hair done.”

  Lena looked at it critically. “Good decision, and I’ve got some time. My first client just canceled—got food poisoning and is in the hospital.”

  “Oh my God.”

  Lena shrugged. “No worries, she’s evil to the bone, so she’ll make it. Evil always does.”

  When Quinn just stared at her in horror, Lena smiled. “I’m kidding. It’s my mom, she’s not evil to the bone. Just halfway. And my next client isn’t due for a while, so lucky you.”

  Oh boy. “How is this lucky me when you hate me?”

  “Lucky because I’m the best,” Lena said. “And I don’t hate you. What I hate are men in flip-flops, slow drivers, and humidity. You, I just intensely dislike.”

  Quinn blinked.

  “Look,” Lena said, “you gotta know by now that not everyone’s going to like you. Not everyone likes chocolate ice cream even though it’s fucking delicious. What do you want done to your hair?”

  “I need to impress someone.”

  “Mick isn’t impressed by hair.”

  “Good to know,” Quinn said dryly. “But I meant my sister. I need to somehow look cool and approachable.”

  “You mean not like the sort of woman who stalks people in trees and then falls out of them?”

  Quinn sighed. “Yeah.”

  “That would take more time than I have, but I’ll work around it. Sit. Your color makes you look pale. You need highlights, just a few foils.”

  “Uh—”

  “Trust me.”

  “Can I trust you?” Quinn asked.

  “Definitely not. So, would you say you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of woman?”

  Sure. She was totally a go-with-the-flow kind of person. As long as that flow was detail oriented, went according to plan, and had its own color-coded itinerary. “No.”

  “Hmm,” Lena said, already working, getting out supplies. She was blessedly quiet for a few minutes. Then she said, out of the blue, “I liked Carolyn.”

  The abrupt change of topic startled Quinn.

  “I’m pretty sure she’s sitting on a cloud watching over everyone—like she did from down here,” Lena said.

  Quinn met her gaze, surprised by the unexpected warmth in Lena’s. “She helped people?”

  “Everyone,” Lena said. “She’s definitely up north, if you know what I mean.” She smiled. “Not me though. When I die, I’m going to slam into hell, take off my bra, sit on Satan’s lap, and say, ‘Hi, honey, I’m home, what’s the Wi-Fi password?’”

  An hour and a half later Lena turned Quinn to face the mirror.

  Quinn looked and barely squelched a startled scream. “Blue?” she managed to squeak out.

 
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