Excerpt from Blue Heaven

 

“Sugar or cream?”

“Just sugar.”

She lifted on tiptoe to the top shelf for the bag of sugar, exposing, he could not help but notice, one smooth curvy hip and a dainty indentation of waistline. Before he knew it, he was beside her, one hand on her skin, the other effortlessly snagging the sugar that had been just out of her reach.

“I don’t have a sugar bowl.” Of all the things she could have said, this was about the stupidest. But she couldn’t help it. His hand on her naked midriff made her an instant idiot.

“I bought all kinds of dishes and treasures for the cottages at the antique store in town,” she babbled.

“But not a single sugar bowl,” he added.

“Or a creamer.”

They stood there at her kitchen counter talking about coffee condiments, and she swore it was turning into the sexiest conversation she’d ever had.

He was so close she could smell the beach on his skin. They moved at the same time, sat across from each other at the little table, sipping coffee. Even though she was famished, the cookies sat on a pretty plate between them untouched. She wasn’t hungry for cookies.

“Here’s what I was thinking,” Daniel said. He had a great voice. He could be on the radio. But what was he talking about? A museum?

“…and we could do a barter. I’ll fix your wood, the steps and the registration counter and the window sashes, if you find and furnish period pieces, set up displays in my museum. All on my dime of course. I want the best.”

“While you’re in Georgia?”

He nodded enthusiastically, a young man ready to set out in search of new horizons. She understood why he would want to spread his wings. She just didn’t like it. And if she was honest—the truth embarrassed her—she might not like his bossy attitude when it came to Bryman, but she was attracted to every other single thing about him.

“Sounds like a perfect plan.” She injected more happiness into her voice than she felt. “For me.”

“Winters up here are brutal. Just leaving your house to check on my places will make it worth my while.”

“Okay.” Having Daniel do woodwork would save her a bundle. “But it still doesn’t seem fair.”

“I have more ideas about what you can do for me.”

Whoa. Her face turned pink. He couldn’t mean what she thought he did.

“Let me document the work we do here at Blue Heaven. Take before and after photos that I can add to my museum collection. I have some old pictures, too. Maybe you do as well? From when your family came up summers?”

“I think so. Well, my mom does. But she can send them to me.”

Daniel took a breath. Things were beginning to go his way. “I have a friend at Discovery Architect. He knows Bryman, knows me. I’m betting the Blue Heaven restoration will be the thing that finally gets him to write us up. A summer resort on a GreatLake. Perfect.”

An illogical tiny corner of disappointment wedged into her heart. He was way more interested in her property than he was in her. But hey, he trusted her with his money. That said something.

****

Daniel’s earnestness was winning her over. He’d grabbed her hand across the Formica table and rubbed her palm with his thumb. Did he realize that what he was doing ramped up her attraction to him? She didn’t care. His skin against hers felt good. She didn’t pull away.

Car doors slammed and engines revved to life. Then within seconds, the air around them was still. Really? Five o’clock already? They’d been talking for hours, but it had seemed like minutes.

“When can I see the rest of the house?”

What was left were the bedrooms, two of which were crammed with boxes of antique store finds for the cottages, and the empty laundry room. Of course he probably wanted to check out her claw-foot tub in the bathroom.

After he’d quickly glanced into the other rooms, they ended up in her favorite room of the house right now. Her bedroom. This was the only room she was really comfortable in. Here were all her things: red laptop, flat screen television, iPod, and docking station. Her big bed from the condo and the white eyelet comforter with matching pillow shams. The weathered oak floor scattered with colorful rag rugs, the Battenberg lace curtains hanging at the window. She’d painted this room herself, before the movers came with her bed. The warm cream-colored walls showed off old brass wall sconces.

“Wow,” Daniel said, not paying as much attention as she thought he would to the sconces. He sat on the bed.

“Yeah, a real room.” Her heart sped up. He was sitting on her bed. She wanted to walk up to him, put her hands on his chest and push him down onto the mattress.

Her heart beat double time. Triple. She tried to take deep calming breaths. This was ridiculous. He sat innocently on her bed. Looking at her. Not her wall sconces. Not the wavy glass in her window. Her. Right before her eyes, he turned into the Superman she’d wanted him to be. Helping her take her dream to the next level.

“Lovely,” he said, and she didn’t know if he meant the room or her. The way he gazed into her eyes, as if he could see down to her soul, made her think he was interested in her, not her property.

Daniel got up from the bed and came to her without breaking eye contact. She let him come, couldn’t help it, couldn’t fight it.

“You are an amazing woman, Eva Delacroix.”

She stood rooted to the spot as he approached her, the air between them thick with desire.

“You’re pretty great yourself,” she answered, her words coming out in a husky whisper.

He was as close as he could get without taking her into his arms, and still he looked at her, not smiling, just holding her gaze. He smelled like the beach. Her eyes fell to his mouth.

Her stomach growled.

They both laughed.

“Hungry?”

She nodded, her eyes closed. She was a little embarrassed. What she was hungry for was his kiss.

It has been a pleasure to have you visit, Cindy. Thank you

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