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Page 17 of Third Time's a Charm (Holland Springs 3)

He, too, would be headed home. To a woman whose future he had to take away.

***

It was almost three in the morning when Rose heard the back door open and close. She turned over and fluffed her pillow, watching the light of the baby monitor as it changed colors with the sounds of Sasha’s loud, clumsy movements. Something crashed to the floor and he cursed.

Drawing back the covers, she rose from the bed and made her way to the door. Opening it a crack, she listened. Another series of crashes sounded and she found herself walking to his room.

Wearing nothing but a cotton nightgown with small straps, she shivered in the cold night air and wished she’d had the presence of mind to put on her robe. The mass of curls covering her shoulders provided a thin barrier against the night’s chill. At his door, she knocked and called out, “Are you okay?”

There was no answer.

She knocked again, louder this time. “Sasha?” As she turned the knob, the door swung open so quickly that she almost stumbled inside.

Sasha loomed over her, wearing only a dark pair of jeans with the top button undone. His sculpted chest rose and fell with steady movements, nipple rings gleaming in the dim light. Washboard abs complemented lean hips as he stretched his arms above his head, grabbing the frame and leaning forward.

“There was a reason I didn’t answer you, Rose,” he said, blocking her from seeing the room.

“Why are you wearing jeans?” He didn’t strike her as a jeans kind of man.

His heated gaze traveled to her face. “Couldn’t answer the door in the buff, could I?”

He slept in the nude? Or had he brought a woman home with him? Maybe that was why he was making all that racket. He was too busy getting it on to care about not breaking her things.

He shifted to one side and she risked a peek at the bed. Nothing. Blackbeard raced past her and jumped on Sasha’s mattress, circling once before lying down. “Why does your cat think my room is his?”

Because it used to be hers. “How did you get home?”

“Taxi driver from hell. I think he ripped me off,” he grumbled.

“You took a taxi?”

“I could hardly drive in my condition.”

The smell of alcohol wafted over her face, and she wrinkled her nose. “You’ve been drinking.”

He pinched his thumb and forefinger together. “Only a wee bit, love.”

“I thought you never drank.” Or at least, that’s what he had told her on their date. Then again, he’d also told her that he wasn’t coming back.

“There’s lots of things I thought I’d never do.” The perfect curve of his mouth flattened.

“Like what?”

“It’s really none of your business,” he said, throwing the familiar phrase back in her face. “You’ve reached your maximum of questions to ask. Thanks for playing.”

“Whatever.” Exhaustion hit her hard and she rubbed her eyes. This wasn’t the time for conversation. It was early morning and her toes were frozen. Like an idiot she’d been concerned for him. Okay, so if she was really honest, she wanted to know how his dinner went. What Jason had said. She was more worried about his big mouth than anything Harrison Collins might have shared with Sasha.

She reached for her necklace and rubbed it, watching as he tracked her movements with his knowing eyes.

“Still cross with me?” He slowly reached for her, the pad of his thumb rubbing her bottom lip. His touch lulled her and made her stomach do cartwheels at the same time.

She dropped the pendant, working up the courage to ask what she’d been dying to know. “Did Jason say anything about me?”

His thumb moved to the curve of her cheek and his eyes glittered. “Is he important to you?”

“No.” Jason had humiliated her and it still hurt to think about it, much less talk about the whole sordid tale. She lowered her lashes and she stared at his feet. They were long and perfectly formed, like the rest of him.

“When’s the last time you’ve been on a date, sweetheart?” he asked in that sexy voice of his, sliding his hand down the side of her throat and cupping the back of her neck, the pressure light. Tantalizing.

She could lie. She could say she’d dated every man who’d caught her eye, but it was three a.m. and she was standing in her nightgown at the doorway of the man who she wanted more than anything. “Not since you and I went out. I don’t really date much.” Try not at all since Jason (with the exception of Sasha), and before either of them she hadn’t had the time. Or rather, made the time. Most men around here wanted more than she was willing to give. But when she’d met Sasha, she’d taken the chance he’d be different.

Like that turned out so well, a little voice inside her head reminded. But he hadn’t used her for sex. She remembered his cell ringing, then he’d just stopped. Kissing her. Touching her. He’d become distant, his eyes fixated on the waterfall beside them. After helping her up from the ground, adjusting their clothes and walking with her back to his car, he’d driven her home. Once there, he’d thanked her for the date and driven off.

“A babysitter is a luxury I can’t afford,” she added, after the silence lengthened.

He muttered a curse and she lifted her gaze higher, to the thin trail of hair that disappeared under the second button at the fly of his jeans.

She swallowed.

“Why did you come to my room?” he asked, his tone bordering on accusatory.

“It sounded like you were trying to destroy my home.”

He wrapped his fingers around her chin and lifted it. “This house isn’t a person.”

She bristled at his tone and thunder rumbled, shaking the house. “I never said it was, Alexander. Let go of me,” she ordered, jerking out of his grasp. “Some of us actually have to work tomorrow—today. I’m leaving at five-thirty.”

His brows pushed together. “But your store is closed on weekends.”

She squared her shoulders, determined not to be embarrassed. It was bad enough that he knew everything about her financial problems. “I’m cleaning vacation homes on Palm Island.”

“In the winter?” he asked, his voice incredulous.

It was still autumn, she wanted to point out, but didn’t. “Why do you care? You’ll have the whole day to do nothing.” She turned and marched down the hallway, calling over her shoulder, “Isn’t that what you do best?”

Chapter Seven

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