She took a step back so that she wasn’t quite in the circle of his arms anymore. “I suppose it’s better than the chances she was taking every Friday night at those awful bars. But he hurt her so badly when he left before that all I can do is worry about how hard she’s going to be hit when he does it again.”
Not if Colleen’s ex screwed her around again. When.
Adam knew better than to try to stand up for the guy, especially considering he’d never met him. But he also hated knowing that Kerry was so torn up over her sister’s decision. “You’ve always been there for her. If something does happen, you’ve got to trust that she knows you’ll be there for her again.” And so will I, he added silently.
Kerry’s eyes rose to meet his, and for a moment he was glad to see her relax slightly. “That’s what I told her.”
Adam couldn’t wait for everyone in his family to meet Kerry. They were going to love her just as much as he did, not least because she was as devoted to family as they all were.
A waiter walked by with a tray of cocktails, and Kerry said, “Do you mind if we get a drink first before going upstairs?”
He’d been planning to head straight to the suite with her the way they always had before, but she was still so tense. A few minutes sipping a drink was probably a good idea. A good prelude to the champagne he’d promised to drink from her skin, anyway.
“As long as you don’t try to convince me to drink anything with the words lemon or drop in it,” he teased.
The way her lips remained in a tight line instead of curving up before bantering with him the way she usually did told him just how much her sister’s decision to get back together with her ex had thrown her. He put his hand on the small of her back and led them both over to the hotel’s cocktail bar.
Adam was surprised to see his cousin Drake heading their way. “Kerry, it looks like one of my cousins from New York is here.”
She turned, and when she followed his gaze, her eyes widened. “Are you talking about the guy who’s even better looking than you are? He’s your cousin?”
“If you’re talking about the one who’s almost as good-looking as I am,” Adam said, “then yes, that’s him.”
His cousin gave him a hug, then immediately turned the charm Kerry’s way as he held out his hand. “I’m Drake Sullivan, and it is a sincere pleasure to meet you.”
“What are you doing in Seattle, Drake?” Adam asked. “And why didn’t any of us know about your trip west?”
“My agent arranged a last-second meeting with the museum for an installation they’re working on. They’ve been having trouble getting the details exactly right.”
His cousin was clearly irritated by this fact, and Adam forced himself not to razz him over it. Heck, he was just as much a perfectionist about the buildings he worked on as Drake was about his paintings.
Adam suddenly remembered, “This is the exhibition Will and Sebastian twisted your arm into doing, isn’t it?”
When Drake nodded, with a side of snarl, this time Adam did laugh out loud. Will Franconi and Sebastian Montgomery were two of the five billionaires who ran The Maverick Group. They were not only frequent investors in various Sullivan businesses—including several of Smith Sullivan’s movies—but they had also become good friends with Adam’s family over the years.
Adam knew right when Kerry realized who she was talking to—the painter who had been called the “leader of a new generation” by The New York Times. “Oh. Wow. Your paintings are amazing. Truly, one of my goals is to be able to afford one someday.”
Drake wasn’t the kind of guy who cared much for accolades, unless they came out of the mouth of a beautiful woman, of course. “If you’ll sit for me and let me paint you,” he said with a grin clearly intended to make Kerry’s heart beat faster, “I’m sure we can work something out.”
But his cousin was three and a half weeks too late. Kerry was already Adam’s, and no other Sullivan—not even one of the really good-looking ones—was going to have a prayer of winning her heart.
“She’s too busy to sit for you,” he growled, knowing his cousin could easily translate that to over my dead body.
“I should have connected the dots earlier,” Kerry continued, as if Adam hadn’t just crossed the line by speaking for her. “Especially since I’m planning Rafe and Brooke’s wedding and they gave me the rundown on everyone in your family. I know it’s no excuse, but it’s been a crazy day and my brain is a bit frazzled. I hope you’ll forgive me.”
“If you’ll let me buy you a drink,” Adam’s way-too-charming cousin said with an answering smile, “all is forgiven.”
Adam always liked spending time with his cousins, but not when they were hitting on his girl. “Shouldn’t you be heading off for your important meeting at the museum?”
Drake shrugged as if that meeting barely mattered anymore. “I was planning to have a drink before I headed over anyway.”
“Adam and I were about to have a drink, too,” Kerry said. “And I’m sure you two want to catch up, so that sounds great.”
Adam again put his hand on the small of Kerry’s back before his cousin could swoop in, but as they headed into the bar, it wasn’t jealousy that was hitting him hardest. It was the fact that it had started to feel as though Kerry was using both the drink and time with his cousin to avoid being alone with him for as long as possible tonight.
But that didn’t make sense. Not when the last time he’d seen her, they’d been having a picnic beneath the big oak tree and things had never felt better. So good, in fact, that he’d finally realized he was in love with her.
“So,” Drake said to Kerry after they’d found an empty booth and ordered, “how did you two meet? Something to do with Rafe and Brooke’s wedding? Or did you already know each other?”
The question was innocent enough, pretty much what anyone would have asked after seeing Kerry and Adam walking into the popular cocktail bar together. But by the way Kerry flushed, he knew she didn’t see it that way. All because they had a suite waiting for them upstairs, one of many they’d made secret love in throughout the city.
“We didn’t know each other beforehand,” Kerry replied. “But Adam is helping to build a gazebo on the beach for the wedding, which I really appreciate.”
“Am I getting in the way of you two getting down to business?”
Adam was about to say yes when Kerry said, “No. We’ve actually finished planning the gaz—” If she was trying to make it look like this was a business meeting, she stopped herself a little too late. She picked up the drink that had just been delivered and gulped half of it down.
Where was his calm and collected wedding planner? Had Colleen’s news really thrown her off this much? Was being seen together by one of his relatives freaking her out?
Or was something else going on?
“Kerry and I hit it off when we started working on the gazebo,” Adam told his cousin. “So well, in fact, that I’m now also working with her to restore a house she just purchased.”