He reached across her, unbuckling the seat belt, and then took those big hands of his and pulled her toward him. Right before his head dipped, she managed to ask, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” His voice had slowed to that drawl she loved to hear. “Summer Jean Holland, I plan on kissing you each and every time you utter such nonsense.”

“Oh.” His head dipped, but she leaned back, unsure if she should be aggravated with him over his gall. “What if I started uttering things that make…sense?”

He grinned. “I’m still going to kiss you.”

Then his head dipped once more, and she met him halfway. Unlike the kiss in her store, this time when their lips met, it was slow and easy. Sweet and gentle, while knocking down some of the many barriers she’d erected against him and everyone else who dared to see the real her.

Of their own accord, her fingers sank into his hair. The strands were thick and heated at the scalp, cool and silky at the tips. He moaned a little when she nipped at his full bottom lip, so she did it again, smiling when it elicited another sound of pleasure.

Until, that is, he took control, nudging her mouth open and plunging his tongue inside. Her angel kissed like the devil. He made her insides twist up in tight pleasure, made heat and desire pool between her thighs. He made her ni**les tighten, and her wish that there was nothing between them, not even the cotton fabric of her borrowed dress.

His hands moved down her shoulders, cupping her elbows and sliding lower still, until he touched her wrists and laced his fingers through hers. Then he put their joined hands in her lap and simply kissed her.

He kissed her and held her hands like they had all the time in the world, and weren’t sitting in his truck, in public, while customers walked in and out of the quaint-looking restaurant.

Finally, finally, he pulled away, but kept their hands entwined. He lowered his forehead to hers. “Say something completely ridiculous so I can kiss you again,” he teased.

The words shimmered in her mind, but she refused to look at them again. She refused to acknowledge that an emotion like that could still exist between them, after all this time.

After all this time, could be it true that she wasn’t over him? She gave herself a mental shake. Of course she was over him, because she’d never been under him.

Besides, she had a plan, and she was sticking to it. Whatever it took to get her family back, she would do it, even if she had to walk backwards through the burning fires of hell while wearing gasoline panties. Which Holland Springs might end up becoming, once her sister found out her plans.

“I’m hungry,” she said, carefully sitting back and watching his reaction.

His vibrant blue eyes crinkled at the corners. “Well, I did say I’d make sure your every desire was met.” Letting go of her hands, he sat back, and then grabbed his keys.

Flipping down the visor, she pretended to check her makeup in the mirror, but she kept stealing glances at Gabriel while he got out of his truck and walked around it to her side.

“Stop staring before he catches you,” she scolded herself, before quickly reapply her lipstick. “Nothing wrong with small talk. Nothing wrong with enjoying yourself and having a nice time with the man you plan on marrying, and then divorcing for his own good.” She got a queasy feeling in her stomach, but she flipped her hair over her shoulder and put on a bright smile as her door opened.

He held out his hand to help her down. She took it, snagging her purse on the way. “Your eyes are pretty. The blue dress really makes them stand out.”

She wasn’t vain, nor had she ever lacked in compliments from the opposite sex, but his simple statement about her eyes made her want to preen in front of a mirror to see if what he said was true.

To her horror, she felt her cheeks heat. “Thank you. Blue is my favorite color.”

“I know, and not just any blue but dark blue. Indigo. ”

The color of your eyes, angel. “Green is yours,” she said, not to be outdone.

“Do you remember that time we tried to build a teepee, after I learned about the Bear River Indians during the Boy Scouts’ Jamboree?” he asked. “Darn near burned down the woods with our campfire.”

“I’d forgotten about that,” she said with a laugh. “We must have worked on perfecting that teepee for a month, but rain would still manage to sneak inside.”

Once again, he placed his palm on the small of her back, making her feel safe and secure as they walked up the front porch steps and inside the restaurant.

“One of us, and I’m not naming names, got a little too happy with making a really big fire,” he said with a wink, and then checked in with the hostess.

“How else would we roast hotdogs and eat marshmallows, or stay warm, when winter came?” she pointed out, the memory of them as children making her smile. “We were going to live there, on the shores of the Pamlico, like the Bear River People. I’d wear flowers in my hair and fish for us, while you did the dangerous hunting and watched the kids.”

At the mention of children, her smile fell. For a little while, the memories of their childhood had been a nice way to pass the time while they waited, but the present would always find a way to intrude.

“You always looked pretty with flowers in your hair.” Gabriel gently tugged on a curl resting on her bare shoulder.

Goose bumps appeared, and she didn’t dare look at her date. She couldn’t bear what might be in his gaze. Mercifully, the hostess appeared and led them into the main dining room.

They were seated at a table for two by the window. Lazy ceiling fans spun in slow circles, while servers in crisp white shirts, long, white aprons, and black pants wove in and out of the room, balancing trays on their fingertips.

“Thank you,” Summer said as the hostess handed each of them a menu. She opened one, scanned the first few items, and almost set it facedown on the table.

Had he taken her here to impress her and flaunt his money, because he thought that was something she desired? Or had he taken her here because it was romantic, like Jemma Leigh had said?

Knowing what she did about Gabriel and Jemma Leigh, it had to be because it was considered romantic. If Gabriel wanted to show off how much money he had, he would be driving a Corvette or some other kind of flashy car most people would be horrified to learn she didn’t like.

Give her a truck any day of the week. Or one of those VW Bugs. She did like those, especially the convertible ones, in bright green.

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