“What smells so fucking good?” he asked, diluting the tension with his abrupt change in conversation.
She put her beer on the counter, grabbing the mitts and opening the oven door.
“That would be the chicken-and-dumpling casserole left by the ladies. Grab some plates and we’ll eat, get drunk, and watch something violent and sexy on cable,” Taylor said.
“Oh my God. Where have you been all my life?”
“At the risk of sounding too sweet for words, right under your nose.”
“Uh-uh. You weren’t always like this. I knew you.”
“Well, then, you were the only one.” She glanced over her shoulder just in time to see him pause at her words. How could he say he knew her when she hadn’t known the real Taylor until the moment at the altar when she’d declared her independence in front of three hundred and fifty guests and her gobsmacked parents?
Shrugging his shoulders, Lucky swallowed the last gulp of his beer before foraging in the cabinets for plates, and grabbed two more beers from the fridge. Taylor maneuvered the hot casserole onto the countertop, almost losing her grip on the dish when he reached up, exposing the deep grooves of his abdomen and the trail of dark-blond hair disappearing under his waistband. Suddenly her hunger for the casserole was eclipsed by a deeper need.
He looked down and caught her gawking, but she didn’t look away. The attraction simmering between them overpowered even the temperature of the oven. Tonight, she was going to make him face it and do something about it. She straightened up and began spooning portions of the amazing casserole on their plates. “Let’s go eat.”
Three hours later, the room swirled a little when she reached for her beer on the coffee table.
“Are you drunk?” Lucky asked.
“Nope. Just tipsy.” She smiled at him, letting her eyes linger on the scruff on his jaw, the blond highlights catching the muted light in the room. She remembered how good that felt against her skin, marking her with a pink flush the morning after. “Even you look good.”
“Oh, then you must be drunk.” He laughed, eyes twinkling with his own amusement over the rim of the beer bottle as he took another drink.
The alcohol made her movements languid, the fire of desire in her belly spiking to a new temperature with every brush of their hands, shoulders, and feet. The couch was big enough for several people, but they’d remained close together, pulled by their own sexual gravity toward each other.
She leaned her head back and looked up at the high ceiling bracketed by heavy molding. “I really love this house.”
“You do?” Lucky turned his head on the cushion next her, his expression puzzled. “I thought you hated this house. That’s why you want to sell it.”
“No. I want to sell it because I need the money, but I don’t hate it. It’s beautiful.” She altered her position to face him, close enough breathe in his aftershave. She’d have his scent on her clothes tomorrow, and the thought made her shiver. “I just don’t want to live here. Sometimes I think there’s too much history in these rooms.”
Lucky shifted to mirror her position, his blue eyes soft and crinkled at the edges with laugh lines. He always had a ready smile and a joke to ease your worries. The times he’d been unable to smile—when his brother had died and the times when he’d come to her after difficult deployments—had broken her heart. Taylor shook off the memories, not wanting to dwell on them when Lucky was so close and very delicious.
“So you really want to stay in Hawaii?” he asked.
“Yep. I’ve built up a solid group of clients. I like being hands-on with people. And it’s great that everyone leaves me feeling good.”
“You could do that here.”
“I could.” Taylor reached out, tracing the muscled line of his forearm with her nail, raising goose bumps all along his warm skin. He didn’t pull away so she leaned in closer. “But my future is there.”
“This town is great. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
She laughed at his earnestness. The Chamber of Commerce should bottle it and sell it as a souvenir.
“Now I know you’re drunk.”