Mia waved that off. "There will be. And if I know my brother at all, he’s not going to just let himself fall merrily into happily ever after."
"Happily ever after?"
Brooke couldn’t breathe quite right anymore. She and Rafe were going to have a summer fling. They were going to get a little wild together. No one was aiming for a proposal and a ring.
Or was she?
If Mia could see that she was freaking out, her friend didn’t show it as she said, "He’s my brother so I have to love him, no matter what he does. But you get to make a choice about loving him."
Loving him? Of all the ways she’d thought this conversation with Rafe’s sister might go, she hadn’t taken it anywhere near this far.
"Mia, seriously, we’re just—"
"I know, it’s just a summer fling. But if it ever becomes more, and Rafe starts to screw things up, all I’m asking is that you try to remember that men are idiots...and that I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you."
"He—" Brooke swallowed hard. "He looks at me a certain way?"
Mia smiled and leaned in as if she had a secret to share. "He looks at you like you’re going to be a heck of a lot more than just a summer fling."
Brooke was glad that she and Mia were talking, but she simply wasn’t sure what to say to happily-ever-afters and more-than-summer-flings. Telling herself it wasn’t fair if they only talked about her, she asked, "What about you? Anything or anyone on the horizon?"
Mia shrugged. "They’re all just summer flings for me."
Brooke cocked her head. "There’s never been anyone special?"
"I thought so once, but I was wrong."
The pain in her friend’s voice stunned Brooke. But before she could offer comfort, Rafe and Adam pulled into the driveway behind the house. As if she’d gotten a lucky reprieve, Mia went to see the flooring they’d picked out at the hardware store. Clearly, Mia was more comfortable talking about other people’s love lives than she was about her own.
"Everything going okay?" Rafe asked as he moved beside her a few minutes later.
She’d just picked up her paint roller again and was having a heck of a time trying to act like everything was normal. Especially when she was still reeling from the conversation she’d just had with his sister.
"I don’t want you to wear yourself out on my behalf."
He was standing close enough to her that she could feel his heat radiating through to her skin. "Everything’s great."
Her voice came out a little on the squeaky side, but thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice the higher pitch.
"I’m glad to hear it, although you do have a little paint right here."
Her eyes fluttered closed as his fingertip lightly brushed her cheek. She couldn’t find her breath for a long moment, not when every word, every kiss, every caress from the night before came back to her in a sweet rush.
When she finally felt recovered enough to look at him, she nearly dropped the roller at the dark heat in his eyes.
I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you.
She saw wild desire and dangerous lust in his face...but was there really something else there, too? Something that had more to do with emotion than heat?
It was one thing to sleep with Rafe, to be wild. But to actually have a man like him to call hers, not just for one summer, but forever?
Brooke knew the truth in her heart in an instant: She’d never wanted anything so much.
Despite her parents trying so hard to protect her for her entire life, she’d taken a few risks. Moving out to the lake full time, for one. Starting her chocolate business. Forming a partnership with Cord to expand. Now she realized all of those risks were simply trials for the real thing.
For risking her heart.
She knew she should be remembering what Rafe had said to her on the beach: "I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt you in any way." He’d said it as if he were certain that he would end up hurting her if they crossed the line of friendship to something more.
And yet, when he didn’t move his finger from her face after he’d removed the paint, but cradled her jaw in his hand and began to tilt her head into the position she now knew he liked best for deep kisses, all thoughts fled but one.
I want this man.
For as long as I can have him.
Chocolate truffles didn’t last forever, either, but oh, how she savored that one perfect taste. She’d do the same with Rafe, would appreciate every precious moment with him, both in and out of his arms.
His mouth was almost on hers when Adam’s voice carried to them from the back door. "Hey, Brooke, you in here?"
A muscle was jumping in Rafe’s jaw when he dropped his hands and took a step away from her. By the time Adam got to the living room, Rafe was already heading out to the truck to start carrying everything inside.
"I didn’t want to forget to ask—is there a way to order your chocolates online?"
"Not yet, but my partner says the new website will be up soon. For now, you can just tell me what you’d like now or call me from Seattle anytime. But, hopefully, you’ll be coming for visits often enough to pick them up from me personally. Rafe obviously loves having you here."
She loved the way the three of them took care of each other. One day she prayed she’d have a family of her own like this, one where the kids fought and scrapped and teased, but loved even more. She smiled up at Adam. He was gorgeous, just like his brother, but he’d never made her heart race the way Rafe always had.