She’s thinking about playing cat and mouse with him again. An unexpected stab of jealousy made Sean grip his clipboard hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He turned away to pretend to count the hammers hanging on the pegboard nearest him. “Jesus, Paige, are you really thinking about going down that road again?”
“What?” She tried to look innocent, but he could tell by the tiny smile on her lips she’d already considered the possibility of sleeping with Travis. Was she looking for revenge on Travis or Melissa? Or both? And would she really go that far to get it?
“What what?” He shook his head, replacing the hammers and moving further down the shelves to continue. “You know what. The son-of-a-bitch broke your heart, that’s what. Now you’re thinking about sleeping with him.”
“I wouldn’t do that.” She folded her arms over her breasts in a defensive posture.
“Why the hell not? And don’t tell me you didn’t at least consider it.”
“Besides the ick factor, I wouldn’t do it because I wouldn’t want to hurt Beth.” She followed him down the aisle. “But yeah, I have to admit, it crossed my mind. It would be the perfect revenge.”
He gave her a sharp look. “But your better nature took over?”
She shrugged. “Not sure I have a better nature. But yeah, something like that. I like that girl, and I don’t want to cause her or her family any more trouble than I already have.”
He paused, deciding to play devil’s advocate. “Well, you know. She knows the deal between you and Travis, right? I mean, she’d probably come around eventually if you guys got back together.”
The shock on her face was followed so quickly by disgust, he realized he had nothing to worry about on that front. “You really know how to turn a girl’s stomach, Sean.”
He laughed. “Well, the way you danced in here, you looked like a woman in love.”
“Not love.” She paused, frowning. “But the kid is amazing, and she’s been the one bright spot in my return home. Aside from you, of course. And if her father breaks her heart, I’ll kill him.” She fixed Sean with a glare. “Have you heard anything about him? If he’d make a pass at me, he’s probably done it before with someone else.”
“Why would you say that?” Sean turned away. What little he knew about Travis he wished he didn’t, but he had to admit he had a hard time following her line of thinking. Paige was a sexy, beautiful woman, and they shared a past. Why wouldn’t Travis make a pass at her? What Sean had a hard time believing was that Travis had ever given Paige up.
“Why?” Paige shrugged. “I want to know if he’s a cheating bastard that’s going to end up hurting Beth. And does Melissa know? And if she does, which she surely does because she’s an intelligent woman, why the hell does she put up with it?”
“That’s not what I meant.” Sean straightened a shelf of drill bits, then turned to look at her. Her curly hair had frizzed a little in the damp evening air. She wore almost no makeup and her jeans and blouse were wrinkled. Her expression was frustrated, half angry, and her posture was defiant.
And his heart skipped a beat every time he saw her.
What would she do if I kissed her? Half the attraction was that he had no idea. She might kiss him back, she might hit him or bite him. She might kiss him back and then hit him. Whatever she did, he knew it would be unexpected because that was what Paige was.
“Well?” She raised her eyebrows. “What did you mean?” Her voice was so crisp and no-nonsense, he knew she had no idea what he was thinking.
And why was he thinking it now? But he knew the answer. Before she’d left ten years ago, he’d never been able to imagine his life without her in it and hadn’t been willing to do anything that might destroy what they had and scare her off in the process. But now he’d lived without her. He could do it again, if their relationship didn’t work out.
I don’t need her as a friend anymore. I want her as a woman.
“Sean? You still there?” Her expression had softened a little, concern overcoming some of her irritation.
“I meant that he never deserved you.” He took a deep breath and stepped toward her. “I meant that I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping with him. For revenge or anything else.”
Decision made, he reached for her, caught her by the arm and pulled her to him. Startled and off balance, she tipped forward into him, catching herself by grabbing his chest. Her expression when she looked up at him had changed from confused to uncertain.
“I never said I was going to sleep with him.” She sounded a little breathless…and like she was trying very hard not to sound breathless. The idea that she felt the attraction too and didn’t want him to know pleased him. And she didn’t try to push him away, either.
Maybe this would be easier than he’d thought. Probably not, though.
He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “You don’t have to say anything. I know what you’re thinking.”
“Do you?” Her gaze flickered—instinctively and unwillingly—to his lips and back to his eyes. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”
“Sure.” He grinned. “You’re thinking that if I don’t let go of you you’re going to knee me in the groin.”
“Then why are you still standing so close?” She tilted her chin, her voice determined.
“Because you’re not going to do it.” He deliberately stopped smiling, and, still keeping a firm grip on her waist with one arm, he lifted a hand to trace the softness of her lips with one finger. He knew her so well. Even after all these years, he could read the nuances of her expression, could see the battle between attraction and irritation. I’m probably the only one who can do that, too. The wonder of it filled him.
“Why would that be?” Her arms slid up a little to his shoulders. She could be about to knee him in the groin or move further into his embrace. Knowing her, she probably hadn’t made up her mind yet.
For answer, he moved his hand to brush back her hair, exposing the tender skin beneath her ear. Bending, he took a deep breath of her and kissed the spot, feeling her tremble in response. Because you feel the same way I do and you’re wondering why we haven’t done this a long time ago if it feels this good. He didn’t have to speak the words. When she slid her arms around his neck, moving her lips to his, he knew she knew.