The way you look tonight, p.17
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       The Way You Look Tonight, p.17

         Part #10 of The Sullivans series by Bella Andre
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Page 17

  Author: Bella Andre

  "One," Mia said as she held up her index finger, "don’t ever lie to Rafe or cheat on him. I can’t think of anything that would break my brother as fast as that would. "

  "I would never do those things," Brooke immediately protested.

  "I know that, but I wouldn’t be doing my sisterly duty if I didn’t say it. So don’t be mad at me, okay?"

  "Of course I’m not mad at you," Brooke reassured her old friend.

  "Good, because the second condition has to do with your forgiving nature. "

  Brooke raised an eyebrow. "How so?"

  "You know how guys are kind of clueless and they sometimes screw stuff up without meaning to? Especially when they get scared about things moving too fast or being too good?"

  "You’re the one with four older brothers, so I’m not going to doubt that you’re right. "

  "If he screws up—"

  Brooke cut Mia off. "Honestly, there’s hardly anything to screw up yet. "

  Mia waved that off. "There will be. And if I know my brother at all, he’s not going to just let himself fall merrily into happily ever after. "

  "Happily ever after?"

  Brooke couldn’t breathe quite right anymore. She and Rafe were going to have a summer fling. They were going to get a little wild together. No one was aiming for a proposal and a ring.

  Or was she?

  If Mia could see that she was freaking out, her friend didn’t show it as she said, "He’s my brother so I have to love him, no matter what he does. But you get to make a choice about loving him. "

  Loving him? Of all the ways she’d thought this conversation with Rafe’s sister might go, she hadn’t taken it anywhere near this far.

  "Mia, seriously, we’re just—"

  "I know, it’s just a summer fling. But if it ever becomes more, and Rafe starts to screw things up, all I’m asking is that you try to remember that men are idiots. . . and that I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you. "

  "He—" Brooke swallowed hard. "He looks at me a certain way?"

  Mia smiled and leaned in as if she had a secret to share. "He looks at you like you’re going to be a heck of a lot more than just a summer fling. "

  Brooke was glad that she and Mia were talking, but she simply wasn’t sure what to say to happily-ever-afters and more-than-summer-flings. Telling herself it wasn’t fair if they only talked about her, she asked, "What about you? Anything or anyone on the horizon?"

  Mia shrugged. "They’re all just summer flings for me. "

  Brooke cocked her head. "There’s never been anyone special?"

  "I thought so once, but I was wrong. "

  The pain in her friend’s voice stunned Brooke. But before she could offer comfort, Rafe and Adam pulled into the driveway behind the house. As if she’d gotten a lucky reprieve, Mia went to see the flooring they’d picked out at the hardware store. Clearly, Mia was more comfortable talking about other people’s love lives than she was about her own.

  "Everything going okay?" Rafe asked as he moved beside her a few minutes later.

  She’d just picked up her paint roller again and was having a heck of a time trying to act like everything was normal. Especially when she was still reeling from the conversation she’d just had with his sister.

  "I don’t want you to wear yourself out on my behalf. "

  He was standing close enough to her that she could feel his heat radiating through to her skin. "Everything’s great. "

  Her voice came out a little on the squeaky side, but thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice the higher pitch.

  "I’m glad to hear it, although you do have a little paint right here. "

  Her eyes fluttered closed as his fingertip lightly brushed her cheek. She couldn’t find her breath for a long moment, not when every word, every kiss, every caress from the night before came back to her in a sweet rush.

  When she finally felt recovered enough to look at him, she nearly dropped the roller at the dark heat in his eyes.

  I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you.

  She saw wild desire and dangerous lust in his face. . . but was there really something else there, too? Something that had more to do with emotion than heat?

  It was one thing to sleep with Rafe, to be wild. But to actually have a man like him to call hers, not just for one summer, but forever?

  Brooke knew the truth in her heart in an instant: She’d never wanted anything so much.

  Despite her parents trying so hard to protect her for her entire life, she’d taken a few risks. Moving out to the lake full time, for one. Starting her chocolate business. Forming a partnership with Cord to expand. Now she realized all of those risks were simply trials for the real thing.

  For risking her heart.

  She knew she should be remembering what Rafe had said to her on the beach: "I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt you in any way. " He’d said it as if he were certain that he would end up hurting her if they crossed the line of friendship to something more.

  And yet, when he didn’t move his finger from her face after he’d removed the paint, but cradled her jaw in his hand and began to tilt her head into the position she now knew he liked best for deep kisses, all thoughts fled but one.

  I want this man.

  For as long as I can have him.

  Chocolate truffles didn’t last forever, either, but oh, how she savored that one perfect taste. She’d do the same with Rafe, would appreciate every precious moment with him, both in and out of his arms.

  His mouth was almost on hers when Adam’s voice carried to them from the back door. "Hey, Brooke, you in here?"

  A muscle was jumping in Rafe’s jaw when he dropped his hands and took a step away from her. By the time Adam got to the living room, Rafe was already heading out to the truck to start carrying everything inside.

  "I didn’t want to forget to ask—is there a way to order your chocolates online?"

  "Not yet, but my partner says the new website will be up soon. For now, you can just tell me what you’d like now or call me from Seattle anytime. But, hopefully, you’ll be coming for visits often enough to pick them up from me personally. Rafe obviously loves having you here. "

  She loved the way the three of them took care of each other. One day she prayed she’d have a family of her own like this, one where the kids fought and scrapped and teased, but loved even more. She smiled up at Adam. He was gorgeous, just like his brother, but he’d never made her heart race the way Rafe always had.

  "I absolutely love having the Wild Sullivans back next door, too. "

  Instead of grinning at her, Adam simply stared at her for a moment, long enough that she asked, "Do I still have paint on my cheek?"

  "No, you’re perfect just the way you are. " She felt her eyes widen at his words, but they were nothing compared to his saying, "My brother’s one hell of a lucky guy. "

  Before she could even begin to figure out how to react, Adam was heading out of the room to help carry in the new flooring.

  * * *

  The sun had begun to fall in the sky by the time they’d put down the new wood flooring in more than half of the small lake house. On top of that, Brooke and Mia had finished painting the living room and kitchen. Rafe was amazed by how much ground had been covered in the past three days, especially with the help of his siblings. He’d be out of Brooke’s house a heck of a lot sooner than he’d thought.

  Women had always complained that he liked his own space too much, but he hadn’t even come close to getting his fill of Brooke. Maybe after they’d had sex a few times. . .

  No, there was no point in lying to himself when he knew sleeping with her was only going to make him want more of her, not less.

  Brooke was back at her house working to finish up a couple of last-minute orde
rs when Adam told Mia, "We’d better hit the road. " Rafe’s brother looked around the lake house with clear satisfaction. "The place is starting to come together. "

  "Once the furniture is in,” Mia said, "it will look even better. " When Rafe groaned at the thought of having to furnish an entire house from the ground up, his sister grinned at him. "I already ordered most of the furniture you’ll need. They said they’ll deliver by the end of the week, so you should probably make sure the rest of the flooring is in by then. I told them my big brother deserved the very best. "

  It was one heck of a surprise. A really good one, given that she had saved him the pain of furniture shopping. Then again, he had a feeling he was going to be a whole heck of a lot less glad when he saw how much of his money she’d spent.

  On top of helping him lay the new flooring, Adam had made notes for the handful of renovations he was planning on implementing in his spare time throughout the summer when he could get back up to the lake. Considering his brother was already overloaded by clients who wanted his magical touch on the historic homes they’d purchased, Rafe knew how big a deal this was.

  Despite how grouchy he’d been about their abrupt appearance the night before, it meant a hell of a lot to him to have his brother and sister here, all of them working to put their old lake house back to rights. He might have been the one who’d paid for the place, but as far as he was concerned, it was as much theirs as it was his.

  "Thanks, guys. " He didn’t say for what, but he knew he didn’t have to. Not when his family had always understood all the things he didn’t know how to say.

  They found Brooke in her kitchen, putting the lids on a couple of large gold truffle boxes. "We’re here to say good-bye for now," Mia told her, "and to thank you for putting up with all of us on absolutely no notice whatsoever. "

  "I know we’re not family," Brooke said in a soft voice filled with emotion, "but I’ve always felt like we were. And I love that you came without calling first, just the way family should. "

  Brooke hugged both Mia and Adam, gave each of them a box of chocolates, and then they were grabbing their overnight bags and heading off to Adam’s truck, leaving Rafe and Brooke alone once again, standing almost exactly where they had been twenty-four hours ago.

  * * *

  "Our brother has it bad for the girl next door," Adam said to his sister as they left the lake behind in the rearview mirror.

  "Of course he does," Mia replied. "Who wouldn’t? I saw the way your eyes nearly popped out of your head when she opened the door last night, and then again when we went swimming this morning. "

  "She’s gorgeous," Adam admitted, "but he’s dated plenty of pretty girls before. "

  "She’s also intelligent. Sweet. And, most important, she knew him before everything got warped by his job and all of those scumbags he finds cheating. "

  "True, though I’m sure whatever she did with him inside while the two of us were out at the bonfire last night doesn’t hurt, either. "

  Mia made a face. "Seriously, can we not talk about Rafe’s sex life with our friend?"

  "Okay," Adam readily agreed.

  Too readily, Mia thought. She smacked him on the arm. Hard.

  "Ow!" He lifted his left hand off the wheel to rub his tricep. "What was that for?"

  "Just because you’re not talking about the two of them having sex, doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re still thinking about it. Probably in play-by-play detail. "

  He pretended to be playing a bass guitar as he sang a parody of a bad porn soundtrack. She covered up her laughter with a sound of disgust.

  "Seriously, stop it. She’s your brother’s almost-girlfriend. And if he doesn’t manage to totally screw it up, she could be more than that someday. "

  "Doubt that will stop me," he told her, then pretended to play the bass guitar some more.
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