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Have you ever watched something that makes you want to look away but for some reason you just can’t tear your eyes from the view in front of you? For the past two hours I’d been doing exactly that, sneaking regular peeks at the couple sitting over by the window while I tried to focus on my job at the same time. Unfortunately every minute that passed by had me doing a lot more peeking than working.
It couldn’t be helped, though. Logan had been my first high school crush, my only one really. We hadn’t run into each other once in the ten years since graduation, so setting eyes on him again had ended up having the same impact it did back when I first became infatuated.
He’d dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, his loosened tie giving the impression he wasn’t all that comfortable wearing this kind of get up. His short brown hair had been slicked back as well, but the way he kept lifting his hand to run his fingers through it then stopping at the last second as if he’d just remembered he couldn’t, made me think he might still prefer that slightly messy, mostly sexy look he had in his younger years.
While I leaned against the bar and waited for Sarah to fill my drink order, I noted how well the years had treated him. The lanky body I remembered as a teenager had filled out nicely, turning him into a tall, solid hunk of man, the kind who looked like he could easily toss a girl over his shoulder—maybe a scrawny waitress with long brown hair and a too-smart mouth—then haul her off to the bedroom where he’d…
Something about the way he and the woman related to each other made me think tonight’s date might be a little different from their usual. Possibly the tension in his shoulders or the way she kept preening and rearranging herself for maximum impact; a little cleavage here, a lot more leg there—and what was with all that glancing around to check if anyone other than Logan had noticed?
They were all smiles when they arrived at the restaurant, but it didn’t take long to work out that hers was all for show. When I first approached their table his gaze dropped to my name tag, not lingering in a suggestive way like some guys did, just dropping for a second to gather the information he needed, then he met my eyes again and smiled.
“Thought it was you,” he said, oblivious to the fact that one look from him could still knock me on my ass.
“Yep. Yeah, it’s me.” I nodded like an idiot and had to mentally remind myself I’d long since moved on from my awkward teenage years. “Hey, Logan.”
He smiled again and I swear my knees trembled. “Hey, Lace. How’ve you been?”
“Good, good. You?”
“Good, too. This is Celeste.” He indicated the dark-haired woman sitting opposite him with a nod of his head. I swung my gaze across to her just in time to see the tight, closed-lipped smile she spared me before slanting a look Logan’s way as if to say: Really? You’re introducing me to the wait staff?
While I tapped my fingers on the bar and watched the two of them now, I pictured myself shoving her out of the way so I could drag him to the cruisy, late-night café down the road, where the two of us could relax, sip good coffee and enjoy each other’s company. If all went well maybe invite him back to my place and help him out of that constricting suit…
“Lacey, shake it off. You’re giving him sex eyes again. It’s getting creepy.”
“Whoops.” I glanced at Sarah just in time to catch the end of an eye roll. She completed my drink order for Logan and his harpy then slid the loaded tray across to me. I flashed her a smile as I collected it from the bar. “Okay, okay, you’re right. I’m done now, I promise.”
She tucked her chin length blonde hair behind her ear and gave me an amused look that suggested she didn’t believe a word of what I’d just said. “Don’t worry about it. I guess this kind of thing’s bound to happen when you’re unintentionally celibate.”
My smile turned into a laugh. I flipped her off with my free hand then turned and walked away.
No more than three steps later I stopped so suddenly that some of the chardonnay sloshed from the wine glasses. I slipped a cloth from my apron and alternated between working on the mess and staring in disbelief at the man I’d been not so secretly stalking all night.
The idiot had pushed his chair back and pulled a ring box from his jacket pocket. My fingers gripped the tray and I sucked in a breath, holding it in while my heart pounded. I wanted to scream Noooo! and run at him in slow motion. Take a dive and whack that thing out of his hand before he made the single biggest mistake of his life—a life I admittedly knew next to nothing about these days, but still.
Instead, all I could do was stand there with my mouth shaped into a slackened O while I waited for the inevitable.
He dropped to the floor beside her and made a speech I had no chance of making out from where I stood. I doubted the other diners could hear it either, but when the idea had caught on that something big glory hole secrets porno was about to happen, a low ripple of conversation went through the room and people set down their cutlery to focus on the show.
While he went ahead and bared his silly, misguided heart to the woman, she sat upright and watched on in smug silence, the emotion on her face striking me as strange and unsurprising all at the same time. No excitement, no tenderness, just an odd look of triumph.
Then he opened the velvet box to offer her the contents…
And she clapped a hand over her mouth to smother a laugh.
My throat constricted and I watched on in horrified amazement. She waited a few beats then pulled her hand away and said in a volume loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear, “You’re joking, right? You’re loaded and that’s the best you can do. The ring has to be what—less than a carat?” Her laugh had a hysterical edge to it and she leaned away from him as if she didn’t want the icky, carat deficient ring anywhere near her.
What. A. Bitch.
My limbs chose that moment to start working again and I purposefully took the dive I’d only imagined earlier. The tray toppled first and I tumbled to the floor soon after, hitting the carpet hard enough to make it look like I might have cracked a couple of ribs. The sound of smashing glass drew everyone’s attention and thankfully gave Logan what I assumed would be a much needed chance to recover.
Several people gathered around to help me to my knees. I mumbled a few thank yous and apologies, sneaking a look through the small crowd to watch Logan’s intended fiancé grab her evening bag and stand beside the table. She shook off his final attempt to placate her then stalked from the restaurant with her mouth set in a determined line. I watched on in surprise, unable to decide if it felt like a victory or a defeat.
Instead of chasing after her like I’d expected, Logan’s gaze immediately shifted my way and pinned me to the spot, kind of like he’d known exactly where to find me. Shit. With the breath already knocked out of me I had to fight even more for air. I moved to my feet and grabbed the edge of the table, doing my best to ignore him while I tested my weight on the ankle that had taken the worst of the fall.
Sarah and another member of the wait staff hurried over with the cleaning equipment. She gave me a quick once over to search for any obvious injuries but when her eyes met mine again I detected a glint of knowing in them. “Are you all right?”
I nodded and flicked a piece of glass from the knee of my pants. The hole in the black fabric and the sting beneath told me I might need some minor first aid. “Just wonderful, thanks.”
“Why don’t you go get cleaned up?” she suggested. “You’re almost done for the night anyway. I’ll take care of this.”
“Thanks.” With a smile I headed off in the direction of the staff door that led through to the backroom, adding a slight limp to make my performance a little more believable. While I untied the apron from around my waist, I sensed before I saw the tall, masculine body fall into step beside me.
“Was that really necessary?”
Given what he’d just been through it surprised me to hear the humour in his deep voice. I let out a breath and sent him a look. “Do you really need to ask? You were dying a slow, painful death out there. Someone needed to come to your rescue.”
“Thanks. I’m surprised you didn’t grab her in a running tackle when she was leaving.”
I pushed the door open and held it for him, aware that I shouldn’t be inviting a customer back here but hoping the other staff members would be too preoccupied to notice. “So am I. Can’t say it didn’t cross my mind, though.” I tossed my apron over the back of a chair and smoothed the front of my black shirt.
He laughed then, a deep, rich sound that had me feeling all warm inside. While I pulled the first aid kit from the cupboard above the sink and hoisted myself onto the narrow bench, he stood near the doorway and looked around the cramped space. A couple sets of lockers sat against one wall, while a small table and two ladder backed chairs were crammed against the other. We mostly just took our breaks in here, but suddenly the already tiny room seemed a whole lot smaller.
“So… I’m guessing that didn’t quite go the way you expected.”
Logan’s gaze flicked to me while remained just inside the doorway. “Actually, it did.”
I grabbed the hem of my pants leg and slid it up to my knee, careful to avoid catching the fabric on what appeared to only be a minor cut. A trickle of blood had made its way a few inches down the front of my leg. I pulled an anti-bacterial wipe from the kit and tore the wrapper open. “What do you mean?” I asked while I dabbed at the mess. “And why don’t you seem crushed? It’s like you’ve just shrugged your shoulders and moved on.”
We’d never been all that close in high school but he’d talked to me often enough for grup sex me to know the goodness I saw on the surface went a whole lot deeper. He’d been popular with the other students but also kind to those who weren’t so blessed in the looks, personality or hygiene departments. Basically the opposite of what you’d expect from someone who didn’t need to be nice to people in order to be worshipped.
He dipped his hands in his pockets and met my eyes. “My dad’s a lawyer and her father’s his biggest client. The Calloway hotel chain?” When I nodded to let him know I’d heard of it he continued. “Celeste and I met at the last Calloway Christmas function. My dad tried to warn me off her because she had a reputation for being a princess, but she was hot—”
“Gross. I think I’m going to be sick.”
He gave me a patient look. “She was hot and I thought we could have some fun together. It only took a few months to figure out she doesn’t do fun. She’d already started talking to her parents about us getting married.”
Whoa. A little eager maybe, although I could understand the woman’s need to hurry. Men like him weren’t all that common so when you found one you had to stake your claim hard. “Why didn’t you dump her?”
He smiled. Just a brief flash of teeth but it did strange things to my insides. “I couldn’t. Like I said her dad treated her like a princess and reminded me more than a few times that if I broke her heart he knew ways to make life difficult for me. She’s an only child who gets whatever she wants. If I’d ended things with her it wouldn’t have been good for my dad or me.”
“So you just gave in because it seemed like the noble thing to do? Fall on your sword, martyr for all of eternity, that kind of thing.”
He gave me a not so patient look this time.
“What was the plan then?”
“She had a fancy house in mind, a couple of kids she could fob off onto a nanny, limitless cash flow… that kind of deal.”
I almost laughed at the image. “So you proposed to her in order to make her dreams come true? I hate to tell you this but I think you may have hit your head recently—repeatedly and hard, too.”
He sighed, then closed the door behind him and took a few steps into the room. “I don’t remember you being like this back in school. You were all cute and shy and used to blush so hard I thought your face would catch fire. Has anyone pointed out lately that you’re a pain in the ass?”
“More than once.” I wadded up the wipe and lobbed it into the waste basket, trying hard to contain the blush that sometimes still made an appearance even now. “I don’t have a lot of control over it unfortunately.”
He let out a laughing breath and looked me over, his gaze lingering longer than it had when he’d checked out my name tag. We had something going on here, something that if I went back and analysed all the snippets of conversation we’d shared throughout the night, might just be described as… yes, flirting.
Since Logan appeared to want to get this slightly mental story of his out without any further interruptions, I remained quiet and raised my brows in encouragement.
“So… I proposed to her with a small diamond because I knew she’d react that way. If she was the one to break up with me it wouldn’t bother her parents nearly as much. They’d have no reason to throw a fit, my dad would be unaffected… aaand my life would get back to normal.”
“All wrapped up with a neat little bow.” I slid my pants leg down and looked at him. “You’re an evil genius, Logan. I don’t know if I should be impressed or terrified.”
“I’m sure you’re genuinely bothered by the fact that she stormed out of here —and did you see what she did to my hair tonight? You should be outraged on my behalf just for that alone.”
“Well, you might have a point, but regardless… setting her up like that, all that deceit and manipulation… you’re not painting a very appealing picture here.” He was, but the guy probably had more than his fair share of positive reinforcement from every single person around him. It wouldn’t hurt to bring him back down to earth every now and then.
He took a couple more steps until he’d reached the point where some personal space had definitely been invaded. “What would I have to do to be more appealing?”
I laughed and stared at him. “Are you seriously hitting on me right now?”
“Are you seriously pretending you’re not interested?”
How could I answer that one when all I wanted to do was grab him by the lapels of his suit jacket and drag him against me so there was no personal space left to invade? Knowing there should probably be a few more steps between flirty conversation and suit-lapel grabbing, I chose the wiser option of saying nothing.
When the silence stretched on a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he moved close enough that my knees were almost touching some interesting places. With a hand resting either side of my thighs his gaze dropped to my mouth, the intense, determined look in hd porno his eyes leaving no doubt about what he wanted to do next. “What time do you finish?”
The idea of getting intimate with him when he’d potentially just done the same thing with another woman last night unfortunately took some of the shine off this thing we had going on here. I wanted him but I couldn’t let myself go there until I’d learned all the dirty details first. “When was the last time you slept with her?”
He frowned, whether the change in topic had confused him or it took some effort to remember, I couldn’t be sure. “About a month ago, maybe more. I think she cut me off in the hope it would speed up the whole proposal thing. What time do you finish?” he repeated, giving me a barely there smile.
My breaths had turned all shallow because he’d basically just given me the go ahead to throw myself at him. I could see the tiny flecks of gold in his hazel eyes. If I moved forward just a bit I could have my lips pressed to his without too much effort, maybe make a joke before I dived in so his mouth would be smiling when it touched mine. I loved moments like that.
My lack of seriousness had always annoyed my previous boyfriends. One had wanted marriage early on like Logan’s almost-fiancé, while another had assumed my laid-back personality meant I wouldn’t mind if he slept with other women. I just wanted someone I could find that perfect balance with, someone who’d stand his ground and not let me walk all over him, but be supportive and decent as well. Until tonight I’d always assumed my goals were set too high.
“I could probably finish up right now,” I said, deciding on the fly that whatever he wanted to offer I wanted to grab onto with both hands—gently, depending on what it was. “I’m sure the other girls will cover for me. I’ve done it enough times for them.”
“All right. I’ll go settle the bill while you do your thing. Meet me outside when you’re ready.”
It took me longer than I’d expected to get out of work. While I rushed around fielding questions from my nosey bartender friend and trying to finish up what I needed to do, I kept wondering if Logan had lost interest during the wait and taken off. The moment I walked out into the almost empty car park to find him still standing there, relief flowed through me and I laughed as I hurried over to him.
He smiled at my reaction and opened the passenger door to a red Mustang. “Up for a drive?”
“Sounds like fun. Where are we going? No, wait!” I said in a rush. “Don’t tell me.” The idea of being surprised appealed to me more. I slid inside and dumped my bag in the foot well. “How did what’s-her-face get home?”
He shook his head at my comment, his eyes smiling as he looked down at me. “Celeste. Her name is Celeste. Taxi I’m guessing, which would have been okay with her because she hated this car.” Logan shut the door before I could respond. Probably a wise move since it appeared I didn’t have anything all that nice to say about her.
He rounded the car and pulled open the driver’s side door. Before he climbed in he slipped off his suit jacket and flung it into the back seat without a care. The sight made me laugh while also proving my theory that he’d hated the whole dressing up process. With a brief grin he jumped in and slammed the door.
The two of us chatted easily during the drive, sharing stories and catching up on some of the happenings in each other’s lives. All the while I kept my eyes on our surroundings, wondering where he could possibly be taking me out here. We’d reached the outskirts of town where the houses stretched farther apart and streetlights no longer lined the roads. With only the headlights left to cut through the gloom, the darkness had closed in around the car and taken on a life of its own.
Just when I’d reached the point where my curiosity had overtaken my desire to be surprised, he lifted his foot off the accelerator and leaned forward as if searching for something.
“Are you trying to find the spot where you’re going to kill me?”
“Nah,” he said, keeping his eyes on the road. “The trunk’s not big enough for a body.”
“And you know this how?”
He flicked on the high beams and steered the car around a tight bend. When he didn’t respond I stared at his darkened profile and prodded, “Logan, if you don’t answer me right now, I’m throwing the door open and commando rolling right out of your life.”
Although I heard him laugh he still didn’t look my way. “Shhh. I’m concentrating.”
He took another turn then veered onto a smooth gravel road that I would never have seen had I been the one driving. The dense bushland hugged the vehicle and created the feeling of being in a tunnel, then after a few twists and turns that would have had most guys worrying about the paintwork on their car, everything suddenly opened up and we found ourselves in a wide open area that, aside from the blackened circle on the ground that I assumed had once been a campfire, looked undisturbed by any kind of human presence.
I’d lost all sense of direction on our journey but the tang of salt in the air told me we’d reached the ocean. When Logan pulled to a stop and flung open the door, the scent of the water and the sound of lapping waves were unmistakable.
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