Why? Well, that he couldn’t explain. And maybe he wasn’t the martyr that he tried to make himself out to be. Staying away from Sierra for the greater good wasn’t his only motive. No, he’d found himself getting too attached to her. Too quickly at that. After that last night they spent together in Vegas, wrapped in each other’s arms, his cock sheathed deep inside her luscious body, Cole damn near lost his mind. And his heart.

The only conclusion he had come to was that he had already fallen hard and fast for the woman, and after everything Luke put her through, he didn’t want to be the rebound guy. Part of him hoped that by giving her space, she’d come to him. When that didn’t happen within the first couple of days of being home, Cole figured he was right. Sierra had needed comfort after Luke had so recklessly smashed her heart.

Oh, he wouldn’t be the one to tell Sierra that he had held her that first night when she cried. Considering she had been asleep, deep, soul wracking sobs torn from her chest, Cole hadn’t been able to wake her, so he settled for doing the only thing he knew to do. He held her until she finally settled back into a restless sleep. After that, Cole had been filled with hurt and anger and… confusion.

He loved Sierra. He’d be the first to admit it. At least to himself. But he wouldn’t share that little bit of knowledge with her because apparently she hadn’t felt the same way about him.

So in a matter of weeks, Cole had found love, only to let it slip so easily from his grasp. And what was worse than that, it was the second time it had happened in the last few months. As far as he was concerned, he had met his quota for a lifetime. No sense in torturing himself any longer, so he had let her go, right along with Luke.

Tonight he would settle for watching Sierra, knowing she was doing well and hoping like hell that once Luke realized she was here, all hell didn’t break loose.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

For two hours, Sierra managed to mingle with the other guests, even being introduced to two more prospective clients. Cole was still nowhere to be found, but Sierra did her best not to care. That was much easier said than done. Thankfully Ashleigh seemed to be looking for an escape as well, so the two women stood on the back patio overlooking the beautiful pool and talked briefly. Neither woman admitted why they were trying to put distance between themselves and the party, but Sierra found solace in the fact that she wasn’t alone.

By the time she figured she had finally put in enough face time to call it a night, Sierra managed to find the guest bathroom where she was able to take care of business and wash her hands. As she exited the bathroom, determined to seek out Sam so she could say her goodbyes, Sierra heard a familiar voice coming from further down the hall.

“Don’t you get it? I’m not interested in that right now. You might have chosen to ignore everything that happened, but damn it, I can’t.” The male voice said, anger and frustration lighting up his words.

“I’ve moved on. You should too.”

The second voice brought her up short. She dreamed of that voice.

“You’re a heartless bastard, you know that?” The first voice said, sounding as though he were moving closer to where Sierra stood motionless in the hallway. “You might be able to give her up, but I can’t. It’s killing me, Luke.”

Was Cole talking about her? Sierra’s heart pounded erratically in her chest, her hands beginning to shake.

“That’s the fucking problem. I can’t give her up, but I don’t have a choice. She needs someone better than me, someone who can put her first.”

At that point, Sierra was certain they were talking about her, but she couldn’t move from where she stood. She couldn’t go back toward the party, and she couldn’t go forward. She was rooted to the ground, hanging on every word.

“You do what you need to do. You’re a selfish bastard as far as I’m concerned, and one day you’ll realize just what the hell you missed out on. I only hope I’m around for that day.”

The voice came closer and just when Sierra realized Cole was stepping around the corner, she also recognized she didn’t have time to run.

“Sierra.” Cole’s seductive voice washed over her, sounding hurt, yet hopeful.

Her eyes darted from Cole to the man standing just a few steps behind him, then back again. She was overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu, feeling as though she had been here before, alone with these two men. The way they stared at her, she felt as though she was completely naked, and more than a little vulnerable. Unable to move, at least she managed not to fidget.

“Sorry, I was –” Sierra let her voice trail off, not knowing what she was going to say. The only thing she did know was that she was going to make her feet move, no matter what the hell they wanted. She had to get away from them because this was too awkward, and she felt as though the bottom of her stomach had dropped out. Shooting one last glance back at Luke, Sierra made sure he saw all of the emotion that welled up inside of her before she turned to go.

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