Forever in Cape May

Page 5

Her gaze appraised the man across the counter. He’d always liked to wear his hair long, and tonight it was held back at the nape of his neck, the blue-black strands gleaming like silk. His face was a mishmash of strong features that didn’t seem to fit individually, yet when put together, they gave him a rough edge that was definitely sexy. Scruff clung to his jaw in an almost-goatee. Sharply angled cheekbones, a Roman nose, and a high brow set off those amazing eyes that seemed to peel off every surface layer to get to the core. It was a talent that made him an amazing photographer—the ability to see hidden emotions.

She loved his landscapes, but his portraits were legendary. One shot seemed to capture a person’s soul. She wondered if his new direction would include expanding his photography business. Of course, she could never see him leaving Sunshine Bridal or Cape May. This was his home and his heart. He’d always dreamed of settling into their childhood town and making a name for himself. He’d accomplished everything he’d ever wanted.

Now, it was her turn.

She spun on the stool and lightened the mood. “As long as you don’t quit to become a politician. The world will stain your innocence.”

“I’m surprised you think I have any left after years of hanging with you.”

She stuck out her tongue again. “You’d be bored without me. I’d better get going.”

“Hell no. You’re not driving tonight. It’s too late, and that has a high alcohol percentage.” He plucked the empty bottle from her hand and took it to the sink to rinse.

She blew out a breath. “It’s only a five-minute drive. Trust me, I still feel like I’m highly caffeinated. These night shifts are brutal.”

“I don’t care, you’re staying.”

She regarded him closely before relenting. He was impossible to argue with when he was in this type of mood—a mule looked easy to handle in comparison to Pierce when he made a decision on something. “Gonna make me do the walk of shame?”

“Like you’d care. But you have your sweats and T-shirt here from the last time. I washed them and put them in the top-left drawer.”

“Thanks. Should have told me before—I hate wearing these clothes. Since I’m staying, pop me open another beer, okay? What are we gonna watch?”

His groan echoed through the hallway as she walked into his bedroom. “I’m too tired. We need to sleep.”

After closing the door halfway, she listened to him rustle in the kitchen while she quickly tugged off her too-stiff clothes and replaced them with her comfy ones. “Don’t be a loser!” she shouted back, deciding to steal a pair of his socks. “Did you finish The Witcher without me?”

Silence condemned him.

“Bastard! Now you’re gonna have to watch it again!” She hopped on one foot, slid the other sock on, and met him back in the kitchen, glaring. “I told you not to skip ahead.”

“Then stop going on dates,” he said, walking over to hand her an open beer. “If you leave my ass stranded, I get to watch an episode.”

She rolled her eyes and made her way to the couch before flopping down and setting her beer on the glass table. “Fine.”

“Use a coaster.”

“You’re so twitchy lately,” she huffed, resetting the bottle on the designated space and then grabbing the remote. “I’ll set it up. Go get changed.”

She clicked on the television, then settled in with a happy sigh. Funny, she was always dealing with her itchiness to be on the move, out socializing, working, anything that would soothe the wild restlessness inside her she’d been born with. But whenever she was in Pierce’s house, the beast inside her settled. The thought of being alone in Paris caused a trickle of worry to leak through her. So many things were about to change. Would she be truly ready? To take on the world without her best friend at her side?

Ugh, why was she acting like Eeyore? It would all work out. No need to torture her brain by spinning imaginary scenarios.

She grabbed her favorite slate-colored mushy throw pillow, propped it under her cheek, and got ready to watch Geralt kick some monster ass.

Chapter Two

Pierce stripped and changed into sweats and a tank, then spotted Taylor’s messy pile of clothes on the floor. Typical. She termed herself “casually messy,” like it was an artistic phrase.

He shook his head and scooped up the black skirt and white silk blouse, neatly folded them, and put them on his dresser. Her scent drifted up to him. Musky, a bit exotic, and always a contradiction. Just like the woman.

A strange ache hit him in the gut, which he tried to decipher. It felt a bit like loneliness. Probably the knowledge he’d be losing his other half in a few short months, and nothing would ever be the same. Hell, how was he going to get used to not having her around? She slept over at his house more than any woman he’d ever dated. How many nights had they crashed together because one of them was too drunk or too tired to go home?

But finally, her dream was coming true. She’d be out of Cape May and launched into the world of travel and art. A world away from him. Sure, she’d come back for occasional visits and holidays, but he knew nothing would ever be the same.

It was time to begin dealing with it.

He dragged in a deep breath, reset, and headed back to the living room. “You’d better be ready for spoilers,” he warned. “You know I suck at hiding things, so don’t blame me when I tell you the end of—” He stopped, gazing down at the figure sprawled under his Phillies baseball fleece blanket.

She was asleep.

Shaking his head, he walked around the couch and clicked off the TV; retrieved her beer, rinsed the bottle, and placed it in the recycling bin; then carefully pulled the rest of the blanket over her, moving her legs so she was stretched out.

She murmured something and smiled in her sleep.

He stilled, studying her relaxed features in slumber. She’d always been beautiful. Pink hair like cotton candy tucked under her chin. Finely plucked arched brows and thick black lashes. Those Bambi-brown eyes were filled with a fierceness that always seemed too big to contain in her five-foot-seven frame. Her face was rounder than her sisters’, with a natural sulk to her full lips. Her nose held a diamond stud, and he knew every marking on her body—from the flock of sparrows tattooed on her nape, to the mole at the top of her right breast, all the way to the ugly bump on her little toe that she despised.

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