Her gaze collided with his baby blues. Was that . . . Damn, she didn’t know him enough to be certain if speculation, not knowledge, lurked in his eyes. She caught her lower lip between her teeth. His gaze tracked the action before lazily returning to focus on her eyes.
“Hey!” She cleared her throat to rid her voice of the breathless quality. “You found my spot.”
His glance took in the surrounding area, the rolling hills of vines, the tiny creek meandering through a stand of olive trees, the small cabin nestled alongside said trees. “Hope you don’t mind sharing. It’s a great location. I can’t get over how peaceful this place is. How isolated.”
He’d sprawled back in the chair, his legs spread wide, almost as if inviting her to take a seat. But something in his expression sharpened.
“I come here some afternoons to escape the ringing phones and constant emails,” Jules offered. She sidestepped to the left, attempting to manipulate him into turning around. “No one can reach me here, which is fine by me.”
He flicked his eyes to the phone, so fast that if she’d blinked, she’d have missed it. Dull red colored his cheeks when he met her gaze again. Suspicion confirmed. He’d found a way to get connected up here. He palmed the phone and pushed to his feet as he shoved the device into his back pocket.
Jules found herself staring at his butt for longer than she should have.
“Really?” Alex asked as he faced her. “To be honest, my ties to my email and Google border on addiction. I can’t seem to unplug.”
Success! She’d managed to turn him so his back was to the cabin. Now, she just had to keep it there.
“This place is great in the summer, but you should see it in the fall.” Good one, Jules. Way to make small talk about the weather. Like the most awkward date ever.
Except this wasn’t a date. Not even close. Alex tipped his head to the side and stared at her. As if he knew her. Shit, shit, shit! He took a step toward her, still assessing her face. Her heart hammered against her ribcage. Whether in fear that he knew her secret now, or from the insane attraction she felt toward the man. Didn’t matter. The rapid tattoo against her breastbone, for whatever reason, made it hard to catch her breath.
“Maybe I’ll come back for a weekend in October. I mean, if I’m invited, of course.”
Something moved in the corner of her vision, drawing her eye and distracting her from the view of his handsome face and broad shoulders.
Oh, Lord! Peyton, wearing a hot pink tank top, climbed down the front steps and moved into the sunlight. She laid a blanket over the lounge chair situated next to the creek, then turned to say something to Gitta, who’d remained on the porch. What part of Jules’ order didn’t they understand? She’d had Marcus deliver a stern command for them to stay in the cabin until she figured out what to do about the reporters. What a cluster this day had turned into.
Alex turned his head, as if to see what distracted her. Gitta had moseyed into the clearing. The white of the bandages swathing her head was blinding in the sunlight.
Jules didn’t stop to think. She leapt forward and grabbed Alex’s shoulders, drawing his attention back to her. “Consider this your invitation.”
Stretching up on her toes, she pressed her mouth to his. She hadn’t expected the blooming thrill at the touch of his lips, nor the sharp inhalation of surprise. Hers, not his. Nor had she considered for a second he’d return the kiss. Or deepen it.
Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss, even the rejections addressed to ‘Dear Author’ were gratifying.
After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue a vocation as a romance author.