Running from her pain, she worked overtime at the spa to keep herself busy. She went in early and left late wondering if Michael would abandon his support of the spa since his interest in her had waned. He, too, left the house early and didn’t return until late. After the fourth night of this routine, she decided to sleep at her apartment instead of his house. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice. Perhaps she would be able to sleep better if she wasn’t in the same house.

At ten o’clock, a knock sounded at her door. Startled, she muted the basketball game she’d been half watching and ran to her door to look through the peephole. Her heart dipped. Michael stood outside, and even from this microview of him, she could see his impatience.

She opened the door.

“Why are you here?” he asked and strode inside, closing the door behind him.

“Um, well I’ve been working late at the spa and you’ve been working late, so I just thought I would sleep here tonight.”

His gaze felt like a laser trained on her. “Is that all?”

She cleared her throat, finding his scrutiny nearly unbearable. “Well, we haven’t really—” She swallowed.

He lifted an eyebrow. “Really what?”

“Um. Talked.”

“You were very upset after the incident at The Essex House. I thought I should give you some time.”

Surprised at his consideration, she stared. “Oh. That was thoughtful.”

He shot her a wry half smile. “You sound shocked,” he said, then waved his hand when she opened her mouth to respond. “No need to defend yourself. Mind if I stay awhile?”

Surprise after surprise. “Uh, no. Would you like something to drink? I don’t have much,” she quickly added.

“Beer?” he asked as he pulled off his leather jacket and sat down.

“Sorry, no. Water, juice and soda.”

“Water’s good.” He looked at the TV. “You’re watching the Hawks. How are they doing?”

Bella pulled two bottles of water from the refrigerator and put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. “You tell me.”

“Up by five. Not bad. I didn’t know you were a fan.”


The microwave dinged and she poured the popcorn into a bowl. “I have a new appreciation for Atlanta sports. I missed them when I was out of the country.”

He nodded. “Ever seen them live?”

She shook her head as she joined him on the sofa.

“I’ll have to take you sometime,” he said.

She almost asked why, but managed to stop herself. This was a different side of Michael, one she’d glimpsed before that first night together when the two of them had shared casual conversation and she hadn’t known what a workaholic he was. So much had happened since that night that it now seemed ages ago.

They ate popcorn and watched the game. When it was over, Michael turned off the TV and met her gaze.

A familiar, but forbidden ripple of anticipation curled in her belly. She’d seen that look in his eyes often enough to know what happened next. He would take her to bed and for a short time make her forget everything but the passion they shared.

Leaning closer and closer until his mouth took hers, he kissed her with a lover’s knowledge of what pleased her. Her body grew warm under his caress. She wanted closer. She wanted more.

He deepened the kiss and she felt herself sinking, drinking in his taste and scent, feeling the ripple of the muscles of his arms beneath her fingertips. Her body buzzed with want.

He pulled away. She felt the tension inside him. Reluctance and need emanated from him. His eyes glinted with passion. “I had a good time. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said and rose.

Bella watched in shock as he pulled on his jacket. Her knees still weak from the promise of his passion, she stiffened them and stood. “Tomorrow?” she echoed.

“Yeah, I’ll call you. Lock the door behind me. Okay?”

She mutely nodded and watched him walk away. What was going on?

Michael called her the following day, but he didn’t ask to see her. More confused than ever, she stayed late again at the Spa.“You should leave,” her aunt said. “You’ve been working too hard lately.”

“No, I haven’t,” Bella said. “Business is booming and I’m here to make sure you don’t work too hard.”

“Well, you can only do inventory so many times before you wear the labels off the products.” Charlotte narrowed her eyes as she studied her. “I haven’t seen Michael the last few days.”

Determined not to squirm beneath her aunt’s scrutiny, Bella wandered to the front desk and unnecessarily tidied it. “He’s very busy. You know he’s always got a deal going.”

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