Not in Her Wildest Dreams(2)

By: Dani Collins

She loathed being on the defensive and reflexively switched to offense, which was never a good look for her.

“I’m sorry, is this a private conversation? About a man who is lucky to be alive? As opposed to what you were implying,” she said to Walter with a sugary smile. “That death by fornication would be so awesome.”

Shut up, Paige, she thought, but her mouth kept running.

“Maybe show a little respect when you come to visit a friend in the hospital.”

“I’m here for my prostate,” the car lot guy said.

“My daughter had a baby,” the Mayor said, turning red and making for the nearest stair well.

The bank manager swiped his handkerchief over his bald head, starting to stammer, “My wife’s car is in the shop and she’s off shift soon.” He cut himself off and hung his head as he followed the Mayor.

Walter didn’t so much as twitch a white hair.

“Respect is something you earn,” he said with a condescending curl of his lip.

The damp of rain on Zack’s hoodie penetrated to chill whatever heat Paige’s indignation had worked up. She shivered, regressing fifteen years in fewer seconds, once again soiled by talk that she was living up to the family name. She didn’t need this. She could walk away.

And would have, if a man hadn’t come up behind her.

“Excuse me,” he said, touching her shoulder lightly to indicate he’d like to get by.

Her bones turned to sand as recognition of that particular voice dawned. Sterling Roy. Walter’s son.

The battered box of Scrabble in her hand, the one she’d forgotten she was even holding, tilted. She’d meant to tape the end, but there hadn’t been any in the house, not without venturing into Lyle’s shop and monsters abided there. But maybe she should have risked her life and gone looking because the end of the box opened and letter tiles spilled all over the hospital’s green lino.

Far. Out.

Maybe she could spell, Terrific, while she was down here, groveling at the feet of these grade-A a-holes.

“Oh hell, I’m sorry.” Sterling crouched with her.

She glimpsed a dark gold crew cut of tousled spikes and a suit that put the other men’s to shame, then lowered her gaze to the scattered game pieces.

“I can do it,” she muttered, opening the box on the floor and thinking the whole thing would have to go into the incinerator. Hospital germs. Gross.

“It’s my fault. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He gathered up x’s and o’s and offered them to her.

What the hell was he doing here?

Apparently Walter found it equally questionable.

“What are you doing here?” He moved to stand above them.

“Plane was late.” Sterling’s voice had grown deeper, developing a hint of North Carolina ease. “I called Mom. She said you were here, seeing Grady. I thought you might need an exit strategy—”

Rude. Paige stopped what she was doing to look at him.

He met her gaze and shock froze his gorgeous features, giving her time to note that his all-American looks had matured into sculpted, Prince Charming perfection. His strong jaw was stronger, the cleft defined and lightly coated in brown-gold stubble. His straight nose was more arrogant, his lips full and sensual without being pretty. His brows had darkened enough to frame his eyes.

Those eyes were that kind of painful, mid-winter blue that was so intense it hurt to look into them. A cloud of scent surrounded him that was clean like rain, but warm and welcoming, masculine and enticing.

When did anyone ever feel their blood moving in their arteries? She did. Right now. Her whole body came alive with subtle throbs and a generation of heat that would embarrass her to death when it hit her cheeks.

“Paige.” His expression smoothed to something more neutral and polite while his gaze took in the hood that she’d pulled over her hair and the way the oversized hoodie hung off her narrow shoulders so much more loosely than it did on her fifteen-year-old nephew.

“I’ve seen Grady. We can leave now,” Walter urged.

Paige heard the tension in Walter’s voice and understood his impatience stemmed from Sterling being this close to Paige.

Because she was so irresistible to him.

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