Author: Katana Collins
ISBN: 978-1508844211more from this user
After discovering she can't have children, Lydia Ryder has all but convinced herself that she doesn't need a family to be happy. All she needs is her camera, her passport, and a damn good manicure. And maybe, maybe a sexy male travel companion. But when her job as a magazine photographer lands her in the small town of Maple Grove, NH, a precocious ten year old and her single father barge into Lydia's life, turning what she thinks she wants onto its head. In this town full of happily ever afters, Lydia finds herself wishing for things she had sworn off long ago...
When Cameron Tripp's wife passed away from heart disease, he thought he'd never find love again. He certainly never would have expected a woman like Lydia Ryder to waltz into his life and awaken his dormant heart and libido. But despite his better judgment, Cam finds himself drawn to the vivacious and argumentative outsider. He quickly learns that, like him, she knows all about misplaced trust, heartbreak, and how quickly a family can fall apart if you let it.
As impassioned arguments morph into frenzied kisses, the two wonder if one week can ever be enough.
It didn't take long before Cam was lying on the floor, face up, a half-empty bottle of wine clutched in a hand. His ceiling fan was so dirty. He made a mental note to dust up there next time. If he even remembered in this inebriated state. Do drunk people use words like inebriated? Apparently this one did.
He looked to his left, swiveling his head without lifting it off the floor. His youngest sister, Callie was lying face down on his couch. One leg dangled off the edge and knuckles that grasped her bottle of vino scraped the floor. Her cheek was squished making her loose lips pucker. Sensing his stare, she opened her eyes; they were red and bloodshot. “You're so drunk,” she slurred.
“You're an enabebler.” Cam attempted to speak. Clearly it wasn't going well. He could tell in his own head it was wrong, and his sister broke out in a fit of giggles.
“This is fun,” she said. “Why didn't we ever do this before?”
“Because you're young and living it up at college. Who wants to drink with a brother who's almost ten years their senior?” Bringing the bottle to his lips, he took another swig. The sweetness wasn't so much of an issue after your sixth glass. And after almost a whole bottle? You didn't even taste it anymore.
Callie sat up on an arm, propping her body in some sort of yoga-like pose that made Cam's back hurt just looking at it. Shit, he was getting old.
“Listen, mister. I've been legally able to drink for...”—she counted on a few fingers, her eyes rolling into the back of her head as though the extra thinking hurt—“a long time now. There's no excuse.” Her elbow gave out, and she fell back down onto the couch with an oomph.
“Yeah, well, I've got reponsibilities. Responsilibilities,” He tried again. “Re-spons-ib-ilities.” There. He got it, finally.
Callie broke out into another fit of giggles and rolled off the couch onto her back next to Cam. He couldn't help but laugh too. And damn it felt good. Up until this week's auction and Lydia's visit, it had been creaky. Unused. “So seriously…” Callie's eyes were only half open. “Who's the city chick?”
Cam groaned. Lydia. Everything came back to Lydia lately. “I need to be drunker if we're going to talk about this.” He lifted the bottle again, the halogen lamp reflected off the tinted glass. It was noticeably lighter than before.
“C'mon.” She propped herself up on an elbow. “Tell me about her.”
He sighed. “She's... beautiful. Like a sunset on... uh, a summer's eve.”
Callie burst out laughing again. “Okay, I think you've had enough.” She reached across him and took the bottle from his hands. “You just compared a woman to a feminine cleansing product.”
He closed his eyes, picturing her face. That sleek chestnut hair. Gray eyes with little specks of gold, like his granite countertops. High cheekbones and full, plump lips.
When he opened his eyes, Callie was looming over him, smiling. “You're thinking about her, aren't you?” she asked.
He groaned. “She’s leaving Sunday. It's a moot point.”
“Did she say it was a moot point?”
“She doesn't have to. I'm not a fling kind of guy. I can't just have fun and be done.”
Callie arched an eyebrow. “Why not? If you have an itch, scratch it. Ignoring it is just going to make it worse.”
Cam thought of the kiss, of her breasts pressed against his body, that silk shirt tickling his skin. “Doesn't matter,” he mumbled. “She doesn't want me. Probably because she knows she's leaving in a matter of days.”
“Maybe you should ask her what she wants? Instead of assuming and giving up? And who cares if she's going back to New York. You should sleep with her anyway.” Callie collapsed back onto the floor beside him. “I mean, as long as she's into you, too, why not?”
“She’s leaving,” he repeated.
“All the more reason to do it. Neither of you will get attached.”
“You want me to use her to get my feet wet again?”
“If your feet get wet, I think you're doing it wrong.”
He groaned. “Oh, gross. You're my baby sister... what do you know about sex?”
She snorted a laugh. “You sure you want me answering that?”
“Oh, God.” He covered his face with both hands. “No. You're twelve. You're twelve and you collect My Little Ponies.”
Grabbing a pillow, she hit him playfully across the face. “Just think about it. We all just want you to be happy.”
Happy. The word rolled around in his mind like a marble on a slick surface. It was too soon to be happy. Too raw. He liked the wound—liked keeping it fresh and open. It was his only connection left to Hannah.
Cam pushed off the ground, the room spinning as he got to his feet. With a groan, he grabbed a plastic bag, gathering the empty bottles.
“What are you doing?” Callie mumbled.
Cam rubbed his eyes with a knuckle. “I can't have Maddie or Mom coming home tomorrow to find these. I'll take them out to the recycling tonight.”
Callie gurgled something that half sounded like words before she rolled over, smashing her face into a pillow.
The recycling was locked in a wood shed on the edge of the property to protect their garbage from raccoons and bears. Cam shivered, his unlaced boots crunching in the snow as he staggered to the shed. He had to pause a moment, leaning on the banister to make the snow falling around him and beneath his feet stop spinning.
At the water's edge was a vision. A beautiful woman staring out into the night. Cam blinked. Was he just seeing things? Surely he couldn't trust his eyes when he was this drunk.
But then, the woman turned, and he was struck by Lydia's stunning svelte body, backlit by moonlight. She took his breath away. Tossing the recycling into the shed, he huffed toward the frozen lake, and Lydia stood there, unmoving.
His insides wrenched and he didn't bother thinking.
“Cam,” she said as he approached. Only he didn't let her get anything else out. He grasped her waist with both hands and tugged her into him, stopping just shy before his lips touched hers. “Do you want me?” he asked.
She gasped, her mouth parting in a delicious pout. She broke his gaze, staring out to the lake. “We need to talk—”
“Maybe.” He brushed his thumb across her bottom lip. Her tongue darted out, licking the corner of her mouth where his touch had just lingered. “But for now? I just need to know if you want me... this... as much as I do?”
Her pause, though only a matter of seconds, was absolute torture. Finally, she met his eyes. “Yes, I want you.”
“I'm going to kiss you,” he warned. Slowly, he brought his mouth down over hers in a kiss that stirred fire even on the coldest night. He was pure steel between his legs and she wrapped an arm around his neck, pulling him even harder against her. Their tongues explored each other in wild, feverish movements.
He scooped his hand into her hair, tugging the strands and pulling her head back to expose her neck. His erection nestled onto her hip, and she ground against him. “God, you are beautiful,” he whispered against her. “And smart. And talented.” Then, dragging his lips up her neck, he scraped his teeth along the tender flesh there. Her muscles quivered against his mouth and he grinned, loving that he could affect her this way.
He kissed her jaw up to her chin, pausing just in front of her full, curvy pout. “What are you doing to me?” he rasped.
Lydia's eyes danced, fluttering open to meet his gaze. She licked her lips and swallowed. “You've been drinking.”
“Only a little,” he lied. Cam tried to blink his alcohol-fogged brain back into commission, but all he could see was Lydia. All he wanted was Lydia. He didn't care about the wine. Or the auction. Or the fact that she had a life waiting for her in New York. He just wanted to live in the moment and for once do what his heart desired. “I've wanted you since the moment I first saw you in the coffee shop,” he groaned and pressed his lips to hers once more. “I wanted to hold you and kiss away that one tear that fell from your left eye.” He trailed a finger down the side of her nose, stopping at the corner of her mouth.
Her hand found Cam's erection, and she squeezed him through the denim. “Fuck,” he hissed and slid one palm down her back to her ass, cupping her through flimsy pajama pants while the other slid into the front, nudging the silky boy short panties to the side.
She pumped him through his jeans, and he brushed his fingertips across her damp heat, dipping his fingers inside. She bucked against him and cried out, her face falling into his shoulder with a stifling bite.
God, she was so wet. So ready for him. He wanted nothing more than to bury his erection deep inside her wet sex and lose himself there forever. He plunged two fingers deeper this time, using his thumb to circle her clit. Within minutes, she was trembling into his palm, crying out. Her muscles clamped his fingers, pulsing as she came.
His erection raged just as strong in her hand as she exhaled with a sigh. “That was...” she swallowed. “That was...”
“Delicious,” Cam finished for her, sucking his fingers clean. She tasted sweet and tangy and all Lydia.
Her eyes darkened. “Why don't we go inside so I can take care of you now.”
Cam looked to the house as a light clicked on in his kitchen. Lydia followed his gaze, her eyes widening in alarm. “Oh, God. Is Maddie awake?” She covered a mouth with her hand, moving it to the blush on her cheeks. “Oh, shit.”
The ground below him seemed to be suddenly made of shifting sawdust, and Cam could barely keep his footing. “Y-yeah. I should probably get back inside,” he slurred.
Lydia nodded. “Of course. I-I'll see you tomorrow.”
Cam watched as she ran back to the guest house before he too, entered his cottage. He fell back on the floor below Callie, who had resumed her place on the couch. She blinked awake with a knowing grin.
“Shut up,” he mumbled.