The way you look tonight, p.11
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       The Way You Look Tonight, p.11

         Part #10 of The Sullivans series by Bella Andre
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Page 11

  Author: Bella Andre

  She was heading into the living room when her phone rang. She could see Rafe waiting for her on the front porch—hopefully wallowing in all the things she might have been doing in the shower for the past thirty minutes—and would have just let it ring until she saw her new business partner’s number on the small screen.

  "Hi, Cord. I’m just walking out the door for dinner. "

  She listened with one eye on Rafe as Cord quickly told her that he’d found the perfect Seattle storefront and had emailed her several pictures of the space. "That’s great. I promise to log on and look at the photos before I go to bed tonight. I’ll give you a call back in the morning. " He told her they’d need to make a deposit as soon as possible, before one of the half-dozen new cupcake makers in Seattle decided to snap up the space. "I’ll transfer the money into your account tomorrow. That way, we’re ready to jump when we need to. " She felt bad about cutting the call short, but for one night, chocolate could wait. After disconnecting, she put a couple small boxes of chocolates into her bag.

  Despite the fact that Rafe was staring out at a truly serene and peaceful lake view, he looked tense.

  "Good shower?"

  Brooke didn’t bother to stifle her delighted laughter at his rather growly question. "Amazing. " She grabbed a coat and was already heading down the steps and out toward his bike when she took a deep breath, then boldly added, "But it would have been even better with you. "

  She didn’t turn back again to see how her sexy comment affected him, but she was pretty sure she heard him stumble on the gravel. If he wanted to mess around with her by forcing a twenty-four-hour waiting period on them, then she was more than happy to mess with him right back, she thought with a wide grin.

  Especially when the good girl inside her had just learned how truly satisfying it was to be bad.

  Back on the beach, his desire for her had been obvious enough that she doubted it would have taken much more than stripping off her wet clothes for him to forget about the stupid waiting period and just take her. But despite how badly she’d wanted that, she also understood that while seducing Rafe was bound to be amazing, both of them as equal partners in seduction would be so much better.

  She wouldn’t ever regret being with him or second-guess it.

  She didn’t want him to regret or second-guess, either.

  His motorcycle was a sleek black Ducati. She barely knew anything about motorcycles, but even she’d heard of this brand. Brooke ran an appreciative hand over the smooth, shiny finish.

  Rafe reached into the saddlebag and pulled out two helmets, one big and one a little smaller. She hadn’t thought about whether or not he’d have a second helmet with him, but even though she was glad he did—she wanted to be wild, but there was a big difference between wild and stupid—she couldn’t help but wonder why.

  "You get a little line right here—" He reached out to stroke the tip of one finger between her eyes. "—when you’ve got a question you want to ask me. "

  That one little touch was all it took for her breath to go. "I’m just surprised you have a second helmet. " One clearly sized for a woman.

  "Mia’s got a thing for my bike. When I realized I wasn’t going to win the battle to keep her off of it, I bought her the helmet so she’ll always be safe when I take her for a ride. "

  Rafe was great for so many reasons, but right at the top of the list was how much he cared about his family. A moment later, he reached out to push a lock of hair that had fallen out of her braid behind her ear, then slid the helmet onto her head and did up the chin strap for her.

  At last, the grin she’d been dying to see came as he looked at her. "Damn, you’re cute. "

  For so many years, she’d hated that word. Cute. But when Rafe said it, it didn’t sound bad at all.

  "What do I need to know?"

  "Lean with me into the corners. Follow the line of my body. And promise me that whatever happens, you won’t let go of me. "

  "I promise. "

  His eyes darkened for a split second before he put on his own helmet and climbed onto the motorcycle. She swung her right leg over the leather seat and when it turned out to be wider and taller than it looked, she instinctively reached for Rafe and put her arms tightly around his chest. They fit together so that her legs cradled the firm muscles of his hips and thighs and her breasts pressed tightly into his back. She loved feeling the hard and steady beat of his heart beneath her fingertips.

  "Ready?"

  "Never been readier," she confirmed, hoping he knew she wasn’t just talking about the bike ride.

  * * *

  The ride into town was much too short as Rafe pulled over in front of the Italian restaurant less than ten minutes later. Brooke pulled off her helmet and shook out her hair, feeling like a new woman.

  "That was amazing! No wonder Mia’s in love with your motorcycle. That was easily better than sex. "

  "If that’s the case, it sounds to me like you’ve been having sex with the wrong men. "

  She shivered at the heat—and the confidence—in his tone that told her in no uncertain terms that sex with him would be miles better than any ride on a motorcycle would ever be.

  "Maybe," she agreed in a voice made breathless both by the ride and by the way his words had affected her, "but I think I want a motorcycle anyway. "

  She could tell by his expression that he didn’t like the thought one bit. "You can ride with me whenever you want. "

  She raised an eyebrow. "You don’t think I can handle one?"

  "At this point, I don’t think there’s anything you can’t handle, Brooke. . . but I’d rather you rode with me. "

  She would go absolutely anywhere he wanted to on his motorcycle. Anywhere, anytime.

  "I loved riding with my arms wrapped around you, too. " As his eyes darkened even further, she had to ask, "Do you still think waiting twenty-four hours is a good idea?"

  Clearly realizing he’d just trapped himself, he sighed and said, "You’re planning to torture me for every last one of them, aren’t you?"

  She laughed. "I have a feeling you’ll do a perfectly fine job of that yourself. Especially," her newly wicked streak had her adding, "when you find out about my pajamas. "

  "Your pajamas?" The two words came strangled out of his beautiful mouth.

  "Mmm," she said with a nod as she headed for the front door of the restaurant and tried not to betray how amazed she was with herself for the things she was managing to say to him. "I don’t wear any. "

  * * *

  Brooke and the gray-haired hostess hugged hello, and then after Brooke gave her a couple of boxes of chocolate as a gift, she said, "Elise, this is Rafe Sullivan. His family used to own the house next door, and he’s just bought it again. Rafe, you remember the Lombardis? They’ve owned this restaurant since we were kids. "

  "Sullivan?" Recognition registered in the woman’s eyes as they narrowed. "Wait a minute, weren’t you and your brothers the ones who egged our front window on July Fourth way back when?"

  He grimaced. "Guilty as charged. I know my apology is coming years too late, but I’d be more than happy to wash dishes for you tonight to make up for it. "

  Thankfully, she only laughed, although she was looking between him and Brooke with a clear question in her eyes. And a warning, if he wasn’t too far off the mark, that he should be careful not to do one damn thing to hurt the sweet woman standing beside him.

  "You already made up for it by finding that little boy in the woods," Mrs. Lombardi said, and then, "Are you back for good, too?"

  "For a summer vacation. "

  "Well, this welcome-back dinner’s on the house for both of you," she said as she showed them to a table in the corner. A rather romantic table for two, Rafe thought.

  Then again, sitting close enough to Brooke that their knees
touched was nothing compared to the ride into town with her soft curves wrapped around him. By the time he halfway recovered from that, they’d be getting back on his bike and heading home.

  He’d assumed that, after their super hot kiss on the beach, things would be weird. Awkward. Strained. But apart from the way she kept teasing him, Brooke was her usual cheerful, sweet self. At no point had she tried to use emotional blackmail on him to get her way, like most of the other women he’d met.

  Was it really possible that the two of them could have a sexy summer fling? Two friends who knew the score and wanted nothing more than to give and receive pleasure when the lights were out?

  That’s what this twenty-four-hour moratorium was supposed to be аbout: a time-out to let those initial raging impulses settle so that both of them could rationally think things through.

  Rafe figured most of the mistakes he’d made with women in the past might have been averted with a little cooling-off period. Only, something told him there wasn’t going to be anything cool about his evening with Brooke. . . and that there was a distinct possibility his plan could backfire. Instead of taking a clearheaded step back in twenty-four hours, he was afraid he’d be shredding Brooke’s clothes as he ripped them off her.

  Hell, he’d already been about to do that on the beach. Especially when she’d informed him that she was determined to be "wild" this summer, with or without him. What if he did the right thing by walking away from her and then she turned around and picked up some creep to try out her newfound urges?

  She was too trusting and it made Rafe sick to his stomach to think of all the things he knew for a fact, after seven years as a P. I. and five as a cop, could happen to her.

  Damn it, an hour in and he was already rationalizing how sleeping with her himself was the only way to protect her and keep her safe.

  Right. Wrong. After all these years, Rafe thought he knew exactly where the lines were drawn. But Brooke had him second-guessing everything. Everything except the sure knowledge that she’d freak out if he actually tried anything remotely kinky with her.

  Still, vanilla sex had never sounded so good before. . .

  Chapter Nine

  As soon as they’d ordered and Mrs. Lombardi had brought them two glasses of red wine, Rafe lifted his glass in a toast. "To old friends. "

  Brooke added, "And great next-door neighbors," as they clinked their glasses together.

  Speaking of keeping her safe, as soon as they ordered, he had to ask about the phone call he’d overheard. "Sounds like things are progressing with your business in Seattle. "

  She nodded happily. "Sorry about taking the call from Cord right before we left. He’d actually been trying to get ahold of me all day to let me know about the perfect space he found in the city for our store. "

  "How’d the two of you meet?"

  "He was a colleague of my father’s at Harvard Business School, visiting from Seattle a few years back. But it was more coincidence than anything that someone gave him a box of my truffles. He said I converted him to appreciating just how good chocolate could be. He came out to the lake with a business plan already written up. "

  A slightly surly teenage girl whom Elise introduced as her granddaughter Holly brought them their salads. She kept looking wistfully out at the beach across from the restaurant’s front window, where a bunch of teenagers were hanging out. Rafe remembered all too well what it had felt like to be sixteen years old with hormones taking hold of his brain cells and a body that was far more mature than the rest of him.

  After the girl had let loose a sigh and headed back to the kitchen, Rafe asked, "What about his personal life?"

  Brooke paused with her fork halfway to her mouth and gave him a look that said she knew exactly what he was up to. "I thought you were here at the lake to take some time off from investigating people. "
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