“Bye, Travis,” she called over her shoulder as she sailed across the street, scarf clutched to her chest. “You did it, by the way!” she said—a little too brightly?—giving him one final look before turning to leave. “I’m in a great mood!”
That made one of them.
Well, this was fucking awkward.
Stephen frowned at Travis from across the Castle family living room, bottle of beer in a white-knuckled grip. They’d worked together a handful of times on the flip since news outlets had started splashing pictures of him and Georgie across their pages, but they’d avoided conversation that didn’t involve building materials or floor plans. Grunts, pointing, and manly throat clearing had become their communication method of choice. Which worked on a noisy construction site, but not so well in a quiet living room.
Restless, Travis started to pace in front of the fireplace. Where was she?
The front door opened and Travis’s muscles tightened, but Bethany breezed into the house instead of her sister. Travis hadn’t seen Bethany since high school, although he remembered her well. And he wasn’t fooled for a second by her bright smile. She hated his guts. If he recalled correctly, she’d written You’ll get yours, playboy scum in his yearbook.
“So good to see you, Travis,” Bethany enthused. “Thank you for taking a break from your busy schedule of ruining the lives of women to be here.”
“Please.” Ignoring the hollowness in his stomach, Travis saluted his beer. “It’s the least I can do.”
She clasped her hands beneath her chin. “Selfless as always.”
Kristin bounced out of the kitchen and stopped in front of Stephen, popping a canapé into his mouth. Chewing, he grumbled, “If anyone should be taking shots at him, it should be me.”
“Teamwork is key in this family.” Bethany set her purse down and dusted off the arms of her blouse. “While we have you to ourselves, I should tell you I am completely fine with you dating Georgie.”
Travis raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Oh, I can tell.”
“She’s smart. Funny. Selfless.” Bethany ticked Georgie’s merits off on her fingers. “And she’s taken charge of her sexuality.”
Stephen interjected a loud sigh. “Gross.”
“As soon as this whole business is finished, she’ll be wading through options.” Another brush of her sleeve. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Travis’s stomach pitched. In the kitchen, pots and pans banged together loudly, mingling with the Castles’ signature bickering. Sights and sounds from his youth, and he was grateful for them now, because they distracted him from his seasickness. Georgie dating other men. Recognizing the best thing to ever happen to them, they would lock her down in a heartbeat. Travis would be nothing more than a stepping-stone. In the past. Before Bethany could rain down another blow, the front door opened again.
In the split second before he saw Georgie, he was hit with anticipation and . . . joy. Yeah, joy. Everything would be fine now. She was here with her wit and funny facial expressions and that way she looked at him. Like she understood his every thought without him even opening his mouth. That was before he saw her.
Holy motherfucking shit, Georgie, are you trying to murder me?
She looked so good it hurt. As in his dick. Hurt.
Why? The long-sleeved dress wasn’t even revealing. The V-neck showed off the swell of her tits, but the buttons came up high enough that you couldn’t classify what was showing as cleavage. No, it was the high hem at the bottom that made his mouth water. The yellow dress was loose around her thighs, but it showed so damn much of them, he wanted to cry. He was scared of her turning around. Didn’t even want to know where that hem hit her ass. Were her legs always so shiny—
Wait a minute. Wait a damn minute. They’d been waxed.
These were lounging-poolside-at-a-resort-in-Vegas legs. Which led him to a seriously disconcerting question. What else had she gotten waxed?
“Georgie,” Kristin said, clapping her hands together. “Look at you.”
Bethany put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. “Hide your sons, Port Jefferson,” she drawled, sending Travis a wink. “A fashionably late entrance and everything. The student has become the master.”
“More like I got caught talking to Mrs. Casey about a party for her triplets.” Georgie set down the bottle of wine she’d carried in, her eyes briefly landing on Travis. A red blush overtook her face and, goddamn, that uncalculated reaction increased his hunger tenfold. This girl could make a man crawl and had no idea. “She wants an underwater theme, so apparently I’ll be wearing a snorkel and flippers.”
“Do they make clown bathing suits?” Bethany said on a laugh.
“No,” Travis growled. “They don’t.”
Everyone stared at him, including Georgie. He liked having her undivided attention. Putting himself in this awkward situation was worth it just to have her look at him, ground him, show him that rare, honest quality he couldn’t get anywhere else. Yeah, he was staring, too, so he was grateful when Vivian and Morty ambled out of the kitchen with yet another cheese plate.
“I’ll carry it,” Vivian said out of the side of her mouth. “That way you’ll stop eating olives before everyone has a chance to see my masterpiece.”
“It’s food,” Morty pointed out, patting his pocket for his eyeglasses. “Food is supposed to be eaten, not styled.”
Vivian skidded to a halt and thrust the cheese plate at her husband. “Georgie! Is that a dress? Are you wearing a dress?”
“Is that what this is?” Georgie looked down. “I must have worn it by mistake.”
“No! No mistake.” Vivian circled around the back of her daughter. “Oh, excuse me. Someone’s got a pair of pins. And not the kind that go in your hair. What do you think, Travis?”
“Don’t answer that,” Stephen called, draining his beer.
“Mom,” Georgie groaned. “You’re pretty much ensuring I never wear another dress again in this house.”
“My lips are zipped.” Vivian patted her hair and grabbed the cheese plate from Morty, just in time to thwart his olive stealing. “I just think it’s nice, Georgie bringing a date to Sunday dinner. I don’t mind the short notice at all. About the extra place setting or the actual relationship. I find out things when I find them out, I guess. That’s a mother’s lot in life.”
Travis almost laughed as all three siblings traded a wince.
“Dinner is almost ready,” Vivian said breezily. “Everyone have a glass of wine and relax, okay? This is so nice. All our kids in one place.”
The Castles disappeared back into the kitchen.
“Stephen,” Kristin said, tugging on her husband’s arm. “I have some cupcakes out in the car. Can you help me carry them in? I made enough to feed two armies.”
Stephen eyed Travis and Georgie, obviously dubious about leaving them alone. “Sure, honey.”
“Nope, I’m not going to be the third wheel. I’ll go make a call,” Bethany muttered, sliding the glass door open and dipping into the backyard. And that was how Travis and Georgie ended up alone in the space of minutes. The turn of events sent his pulse thrumming, made his blood heat. Not helpful. Nothing could come of it. There would be no relief. Their objective was to convince the outside world they were dating, not to satisfy each other with touches. Or kisses. There was an attraction here, but he wouldn’t act on it. Not when moving on was inevitable.
Travis couldn’t make himself issue any of these warnings out loud, though, as Georgie crossed the living room in his direction, her legs giving a sexy little flex beneath that fluttery hemline. Had he once actually referred to her legs as normal? I was a fucking idiot. They were petite and lithe and the color of warm sand. He wanted to . . .
Georgie stopped in front of him, hijacking his thoughts. Pretty. So pretty with her chewed-on lips and sun-kissed nose. Had she been outside? Maybe it was the way she only reached his shoulder that sent protectiveness surging up to his jugular, while somehow—at the very same time—he wanted to seek refuge in her.
Nothing made sense anymore.
Georgie whispered something to herself that Travis couldn’t hear and shifted side to side. Before he could ask her to repeat it, she touched him. Georgie touched him and there wasn’t a single camera around. She placed her flattened palms on his pecs and . . . her lips parting on a nervous breath . . . she slid them up and around his neck, bringing their bodies flush.
“What are you doing?” Travis said hoarsely, the impact of her unexpected touch making him unsteady on his feet. “Georgie—”
She’d gone up on her tiptoes in order to get her arms around his neck. When she wobbled a little, Travis could do nothing but wrap a protective arm around her back. The other followed, tugging her tight against him. His mouth found its way into her hair, exhaling, every inch of him reacting to having her body molded to his hard planes so securely. The chaos that had been churning inside him all week settled, while a different kind of commotion took shape. She parted her lips against his neck and his groin tightened to the point of pain.