Not in Her Wildest Dreams(8)By: Dani Collins
His heart took a few staggered, clunking steps as he absorbed that.
All this time, he had been telling himself she had felt nothing for him, but what if she’d been attracted in the same hormonal way? He’d not only rejected her, refusing to return her call, he’d been downright cruel, not caring about her shredded reputation. He’d been so busy wallowing in resentment that it had taken years for him to notice that the debacle had brought about the best thing that ever happened to him: Harvard and a life beyond Liebe Falls, Washington.
While the seventeen-year-old virgin had been fielding offers for horizontal work.
He pinched the bridge of his nose.
Judging by the filthy looks she was sending him, yeah, really.
How long had it taken Grady to figure out what was going on and put a stop to it? At least six months, because Paige had still been here when Sterling had come home for Christmas. She’d been hollow-cheeked and defensive looking when they’d pretended not to see each other in the grocery store. She’d been buying no-name spaghetti while he’d been picking up cranberry sauce and a pecan pie for his mother.
She pulled a tub of margarine from the fridge, dropped it and swore.
Fortunately, the lid stayed on. He bent and handed it to her. “Are you okay?” he asked, realizing how pale she was.
“No. I get clumsy when my blood sugar is low. I was going to eat at this café on the way to Seattle, but—” She sighed and turned to set the margarine on the counter, then took out a plate and a butter knife.
He took in her bowed shoulders. Her delicate build. He wanted to brace her, set soothing hands on her shoulders.
“Are you diabetic? Christ, you’re not pregnant, are you?” He was not a bully. Didn’t mistreat women. Ever.
“No,” she said, mouth curling disdainfully. “Just a stress case who drinks too much coffee and forgets to eat. And my reluctance to get pregnant is the reason my divorce was finalized last Monday. It’s been quite a week. You. This delightful conversation? It is such sweet icing on top of everything else, I can barely stand it.” Bitter loathing coated her voice.
“Are you serious?” She was divorced? That news cold-cocked him so thoroughly, his mind blanked for a full three heartbeats.
“About what? That talking to you is icing? No, that’s sarcasm.” Her knife scraped over the toast as she buttered, then she pushed a corner into her mouth and bit, slapped the cold pack onto her face again and turned to regard him, the light in her eye defiant, but sad at the same time.
“I hadn’t heard about your divorce,” he said, really, really thrown. Divorced.
Available, a sick voice whispered deep in his brain.
Fuck, what was it about her?
“Don’t beat yourself up.” She brushed crumbs from her lips. “You’ve only been in town an hour. You haven’t caught up to your mother yet. Be sure to tell her about this little ménage a trois when you do.” She jerked her head toward the bedroom where Rosie slept.
Sterling hung his hands on his hips, tipping his head back to send a humorless laugh at the stained ceiling. So bitter. Freshly divorced, too. Did any woman hate men more?
“Dad’s never getting that company back, is he?”
“I don’t know, Sterling,” she said tiredly. “I agree. My dad should retire, but...”
She only bit into her toast and hitched her elbow at the other slice, offering it to him.
He was hungry enough to want it, but shook his head, something else occurring to him. Did her divorce mean she was moving back here?
“Are you thinking about exercising the option clause?”
“To take over from him? God, no. I don’t want to be here today. Why would I move back here for good?”
“I hear that,” he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck, “But?” he prompted.
“Dad and I have talked before about his retiring early and it always looks like it will cause more problems than it will solve. For instance, if he leaves Roy’s, does Lyle get to keep his job?” She looked him right in the eye, like she was demanding an answer she already knew.
Sterling kept his teeth firmly clenched against saying, Not if I have anything to do with it.