Overheard, p.7
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       Overheard, p.7

         Part #2 of Unspoken series by Maya Banks
 
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  hours at least. The guys were gone. Probably in the kitchen since they seemed so determined to take care of her this weekend.

  She kicked off the covers and flexed her toes. Lord, but she was sore. Deliciously so. Her body felt heavy and languid, the kind of feeling you could only get from deep-seated contentment.

  She pulled on her jeans and her sweater, not bothering with a bra. Chances were she wouldn’t have her clothes on long enough to worry about anyway.

  She walked out of the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. She could hear the guys talking in low voices and smiled. As she got closer, she stopped in her tracks. She kept out of sight and listened to the conversation unfold in the kitchen.

  “I have to admit, when you came up with this idea, I was skeptical,” Wes said. “I wondered if you’d really heard Gracie right.”

  Gracie wrinkled her brow. What on earth was he talking about?

  “You don’t think that now, though,” Luke said with a laugh.

  Wes chuckled. “Hell no. It’s obvious she really wanted this. It’s too bad you didn’t overhear her a lot sooner.”

  “I doubt she and Michelle discuss it that much,” Luke said. “Gracie’s a private person. If she hadn’t just broken up with dipshit, I doubt she would have said anything at all.”

  “You’re probably right. Still, it worked out great. You were able to set up this entire weekend, and I think she really enjoyed it.”

  Luke laughed again. “See, there are advantages to eavesdropping. Gracie would kill me if she knew I’d listened to her conversation, but it worked out great in the end.”

  Gracie’s mouth fell open and a wave of humiliation rolled over her with the speed of a Mack truck. She could barely process what the conversation meant. She was too busy trying to control the burning in her cheeks.

  The whole thing had been an elaborate set-up because Luke had overheard her talking to Michelle about her fantasies?

  She didn’t even realize she’d stumbled into the kitchen until Wes and Luke looked up at her. Guilt flashed in Luke’s eyes, and hurt washed over her again.

  “Gracie…” Luke began.

  She held a hand up, trying to control the shaking. She’d already made a big enough ass of herself. Oh God, when she remembered all they’d done, she just wanted to bury herself in the ground.

  “Is that all this was?” she said in a trembling voice. “Were you two just cashing in on my fantasies? You see a way to have a good time at my expense? You are supposed to be my best friends.”

  “God, Gracie, no, you can’t think that,” Wes protested.

  They both started toward her and she shrank back. Her bottom lip trembled and she bit down, ignoring the pain.

  “I thought…I thought this week happened because you cared about me,” she said painfully, her gaze focused on Luke. “I feel like such an idiot. Why the games? Why the elaborate charade? Why let me fall in love with you if none of this was real?”

  “Gracie, you have to listen to me,” Luke said desperately.

  She spun away, grabbing the keys from the coffee table.

  “Gracie, wait!”

  She ignored him and ran from the house as fast as she could. She hurled herself into his truck and locked the doors even as she jammed the key in the ignition.

  Luke ran out of the house toward the truck, shouting her name. He tried to open the door as she began to back up.

  “Damn it, Gracie, don’t go!”

  She rammed her bare foot on the accelerator and gunned the engine. When she’d backed far enough out of the drive, she threw it into drive and whipped around.

  She raced down the highway, her embarrassment so acute she wanted to curl up and die. If you looked up ass in the dictionary, there had to be a picture of her.

  A tear slid down her cheek and she wiped angrily at it. Could she have misread the situation any more? She’d just made the biggest fool of herself ever. With guys she considered her best friends on earth. Guys she couldn’t even look in the face anymore.

  The forty-five minute drive back home seemed interminable. She’d been stupid to take Luke’s truck. She’d be lucky if he didn’t have her arrested. But then she’d done a lot of stupid things in the past week.

  She drove up to her house and parked Luke’s truck next to her car. She left the keys in it, knowing he’d come by looking for it. She went inside long enough to get a pair of shoes and her jacket then she got into her car and took off.

  She was being hysterical and unreasonable. She knew that much. She’d carried on like a complete nitwit, but she’d been so humiliated to learn the real reason why Luke had gotten close to her.

  She drove with no real sense of direction until she found a quiet, secluded place to park. She needed to calm down, start acting rationally again. Again. Ha. She hadn’t acted rationally in months.

  Her first mistake was going out with Keith. She’d only compounded that mistake by allowing herself to fall in love with her best friend. Her third mistake had been thinking he had feelings for her beyond those of friendship.

  She wasn’t going to cry. Even though she felt the sting of tears, she was determined not to give in. She’d already made a big enough ninny of herself.

  She sat there, staring at the sky, numb. For several hours. Luke would have his truck back by now. He and Wes would be home, probably wondering what the fuck her problem was.

  Emitting a weary sigh, she started the engine and drove slowly toward the main road. She instinctively headed for Michelle’s. It was late. Or early depending on your point of view, and she hated to disturb her friend’s sleep, but she needed a shoulder to cry on in the worst way. This whole stiff upper lip was getting old fast.

  It was nearly four in the morning when she pulled into Michelle’s driveway. She turned off the engine and slowly got out. Before she closed the door, she saw Jeremy hurry down the steps and stride across the lawn toward her.

  She trudged toward him, and he held his arms open to her. He caught her in a hug and kissed the top of her head.

  “We’ve been worried sick about you, Gracie. Come on in. I’ll make you some hot chocolate.”

  She smiled gratefully at him. “I’m sorry, Jeremy. I didn’t mean to worry y’all. Especially not Michelle.”

  “Luke and Wes are worried too,” Jeremy said quietly. “I need to call and let them know you’re okay.”

  Gracie stiffened.

  “Gracie, Luke is frantic. He’s worried something happened to you. I’m just going to call and tell him you’re all right.”

  She nodded, guilt creeping over her.

  Once inside, Michelle hurried over and hugged her tightly. Then she dragged her over to the couch and made her sit down.

  “What on earth happened?” Michelle demanded.

  Gracie sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. “I made an ass of myself. That’s what happened.”

  Jeremy returned and pressed a hot cup of chocolate into her hands.

  “Thanks,” she said.

  Jeremy sat down on the other side of Gracie and put a comforting hand on her leg. “Tell us what happened, Gracie.”

  She flushed and set her cup down on the coffee table. “Apparently Luke overheard our conversation,” she said to Michelle. “The one about my fantasies.”

  “Ohhh,” Michelle said, her eyes wide.

  “And apparently he wanted to fulfill those fantasies for me. He asked me out and we spent the week together. I thought he was interested in me. I confided those fantasies in him and he arranged this weekend. Wes was a surprise.”

  She broke off and ducked her head in embarrassment when Michelle’s eyes widened further in shock.

  “You mean, you and Luke and Wes?”

  “Yeah,” Gracie muttered.

  “You’re angry with them for not telling you they knew?” Jeremy asked in a confused voice.

  Gracie sighed. “I’m not angry with them,” she said quietly. “I’m angry with me. And I’m so humiliated I want to just find a
hole to crawl in.”

  “Oh honey,” Michelle said. She reached over and squeezed Gracie’s hand. “Why on earth should you be embarrassed?”

  “I just wish Luke had been up front. Told me from the beginning that this was about sex. Instead he made me believe…he made me believe he cared about me. He made me fall in love with him,” she said miserably. “And all along it was just a game. His heart was in the right place. I know he’s never approved of the men I’ve slept with. He wanted to give me a weekend I’d remember. I understand that.”

  Michelle wrapped her arms around her and hugged tight.

  “I let my mouth get ahead of my brain again, and I basically blurted out that I loved him. Just before I ran like a scalded cat. Now I’ve got them both mad at me because of a huge misunderstanding. One I perpetuated. I guess in a way, I wanted it to be the truth. I wanted Luke to love me.”

  “Are you so sure he doesn’t?” Jeremy spoke up.

  She nodded, tears burning holes in her eyelids. “I heard him and Wes talking. And Luke’s never said anything to make me believe he cares for me beyond a friend. I just got wrapped up in the whole going out thing and confused sex with love. You’d think I was twelve years old or something.”

  She bowed her head as hot tears splashed onto her arm. “I screwed up.”

  Jeremy gently nudged her chin up with his knuckle until she looked him in the eye. “Don’t blame yourself, honey. There are two grown men who are as big a part in this as you are. I don’t know what the hell happened, but I don’t think we have the full story here.”

  Gracie leaned forward and hugged Jeremy. “I’m sorry to put you in this position. They’re your friends too. I just needed to come by and talk to Michelle.”

  He hugged her back and stroked her hair soothingly. “You’re always welcome here, Gracie. Michelle and I love you. Nothing will change that.”

  “Of course not,” Michelle said firmly.

  “I should get home,” Gracie said as she pulled away from Jeremy.

  “You’re not going home in your condition,” Jeremy said. “You look exhausted. It’s four o’clock in the morning. You can crash on the couch and go home after you’ve rested.”

  “I’m too tired to argue,” Gracie said.

  Michelle stood up. “I’ll get you some pillows and a blanket. We’ll talk more in the morning when you’re feeling better.”

  “Thanks, Chelle. I don’t know what I’d do without you guys.”

  Michelle hugged her again then hurried toward the closet down the hall. She returned a few minutes later with the linens.

  Gracie took them gratefully and made a comfortable spot on the couch. Jeremy and Michelle said their goodnights and disappeared into their bedroom.

  Gracie sank wearily onto the couch and pulled the covers up to her chin. Dummy, dummy, dummy. She closed her eyes. She was even too tired to further castigate herself.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Luke pulled up to Jeremy and Michelle’s house and parked beside Gracie’s car. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon when he mounted the steps to the front porch.

  Before he could knock, Jeremy opened the door and motioned for him to be quiet. He followed Jeremy inside and saw Gracie sound asleep on the couch.

  “She’s wiped out,” Jeremy whispered. “She was pretty upset when she got here.”

  Luke raked a hand through his hair and swore under his breath. What a mess. His gaze drifted back to Gracie, drinking in her appearance. He’d been so goddamn worried when she’d tore off in his truck. He and Wes had driven the entire way home afraid they’d find her wrecked on the side of the road.

  “I’m going back to bed with my wife,” Jeremy said. “I don’t know what all is going on between you and Gracie, but I know she’s hurting.”

  “Thanks for calling me,” Luke said softly.

  “No problem. I know how worried you were about her.”

  Luke watched as Jeremy left the room and then he went to kneel beside the couch where Gracie lay. His chest tightened when he saw the evidence of her tears. Tenderly, he stroked her hair away from her cheek then he leaned forward and kissed her lips.

  God, he didn’t like to see her hurting. He never had. She had a way of twisting him up on the inside that no other woman had ever managed to do.

  He hated to wake her up. God knew she could use the sleep. So could he. But they had to talk. He had to make her understand.

  “Gracie,” he whispered. “Gracie, sweetheart, wake up.”

  She stirred, twisting her head slightly, a frown marring her face. Then she opened her gorgeous eyes and looked at him in confusion. Hurt filled her gaze, and he felt like someone sucker-punched him.

  “What are you doing here?” she whispered.

  He stroked his hand over her face, wanting to touch her, reassure himself that she was really okay.

  “We need to talk, Gracie.”

  She nibbled at her bottom lip then slowly nodded. “I know,” she said quietly.

  “Will you come with me?” he asked. “I don’t want to hash everything out here with Jeremy and Michelle in the next room, and I don’t imagine you want to either.”

  She pushed herself up on her elbow and struggled to sit up. He curled his hands around her waist and helped her upright.

  “Okay,” she agreed.

  He breathed a sigh of relief. He’d overcome the first obstacle. Getting her to listen. Now he just hoped he’d be successful in all he had to convince her of.

  She stood up, a little shaky on her feet, and he reached out to steady her, but she stepped away. He collected her jacket and held it open for her.

  She walked ahead of him out the door, and he carefully closed it behind them. He hurried for his truck, knowing she’d be cold.

  He started the engine and turned the heat on high before backing out of the driveway. They didn’t speak as he drove toward his house. He didn’t know whether to be grateful she wasn’t yelling at him or worried that she was so quiet.

  A few minutes later, he parked in his garage and looked over at her. “Come in so we can talk?”

  Gracie stared at Luke for a long moment. He did look worried about her, and she hated that she’d acted so stupidly. She was still embarrassed as hell, but she’d just made things worse by running.

  She finally nodded and opened the truck door to climb out. Luke waited for her in front of the truck and ushered her inside.

  He had a gorgeous house. He’d moved into a spec house he’d built when he started developing the neighborhood. She’d always thought it too big for him, but it would be perfect for a family.

  She sighed and directed her thoughts away from a family Luke may or may not have in the future.

  Luke guided her into the living room and gestured for her to sit down on the couch. She perched on the edge, just wishing they could get the awkwardness over. She needed to beg forgiveness for being such a dipshit, and maybe, just maybe, they could one day go back to being friends again.

  He stood a few feet away, looking uncomfortable. Poor guy probably didn’t know what the hell to say in the face of her assumptions. He was probably trying to figure out a way to let her down easy.

  She sighed again. “Look, Luke, I’m sorry.”

  He looked startled by her apology. He started to speak but she held a hand up. “Let me finish please. She looked down at her hands and sucked in a few steadying breaths. Then she looked back up at him.

  “I overreacted. I know that. And I made some assumptions I had no business making. It’s just that I wish you’d been level with me from the get-go. Just told me what you’d planned. You didn’t have to go through the whole charade of getting close to me. I thought…” She took another deep breath, willing herself not to crack. “I thought you were coming to care for me as more than a friend and that this weekend was a natural progression of that relationship. Silly, I know, but not knowing that you’d overheard my conversation and made plans to surprise me, well, it’s the only con
clusion I could draw.”

  He stared at her, mouth open. Then his eyes sparked. He was angry. Hell.

  He strode over to where she sat on the couch and knelt down in front of her.

  “Luke, I—”

  “Gracie, shut up,” he said fiercely.

  She blinked in surprise.

  He blew out his breath in an angry puff then he yanked her to him, kissing her roughly, passionately. She had no time to react, and she was too shocked to do so.

  He pulled away from her and collected her hands in his. “Gracie, I love you.”

  Her mouth fell open. “But—”

  “Not a word,” he said, his eyes still flashing angrily. “I swear I don’t know where you get some of those fool-headed notions of yours. I’m so tempted to turn you over my knee and spank your ass.”

  Her cheeks warmed as she remembered him doing precisely that.

  “This week has been the best week of my life, Gracie. And you’re the reason for that. Yeah, I overheard your conversation with Michelle. And yeah, it made me see you in a new light. It made me realize how much we had in common and how stupid I was for never seeing it, for never asking you out.

  “Yes, I wanted to give you a weekend you’d never forget, but I also want to give you a lifetime of those weekends. You and me, tearing up the sheets, eating each other alive. Gracie, when I’m with you, I swear I don’t even think straight. The chemistry between us is off the charts. But more than that, you’re my best friend. I love you. I think I’ve always loved you, and I want to spend my life with you. There’s no one I have a better time with. No one who understands me like you do.

  “I fucked up. I should have told you I heard you and Michelle talking, but honest to God, it never even occurred to me that things could go so terribly wrong. I planned to spend the weekend making all your fantasies come true and then I was going to get down on my knees and beg you to make mine come true by marrying me.”

  Gracie stared at him in shock. Her mouth fell open and tears spilled over onto her cheeks.

  “You love me?” she whispered.

  “After a speech like that, can you doubt it?” he asked.

  She laughed and put her hand up to cup his cheek. “Oh, Luke, I was such an idiot. I was so afraid. I’d fallen so hard for you, and in that moment, I was so afraid you didn’t feel the same.”

  He gathered her in his arms and held on tight. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Gracie. I’d never do anything to hurt you on purpose.”

  She hugged him back, trying to blink away the tears that streaked down her cheeks. Relief and euphoria like she’d never known rolled through her system.

  He pulled slightly away and kissed her. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her so tenderly, so full of love that it was hard to hold the tears at bay.

  “Will you marry me, Gracie?”

  “Yes. Yes!”

  She threw her arms around him again and peppered his cheek and neck with kisses.

  The door leading from the garage to the kitchen slammed and Luke whirled around. Gracie saw Wes standing in the doorway to the living room, concern etched on his face.

  “Gracie, are you all right?” he asked anxiously.

  She looked at Luke and, at his nod, stood up and walked over to Wes.

  “I’m fine, Wes. I’m sorry for blowing up like I did.”

  “Ah hell, Gracie, no need to apologize.”

  He walked forward and wrapped his arms around her. He squeezed her tight and stroked a hand through her hair.

  “I’m sorry if we hurt you, girl. I’d cut off my right arm before doing anything to hurt you.”

  He drew away and kissed her warmly on the lips. He let his tongue mingle with
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