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Sweet Heat at Bayside(10)

By:Addison Cole

"Yes, we do," he said in a low voice that she swore oozed with seduction. "That's a very cool couch."

Ohmygosh. I'm doing it again. She pushed those lustful thoughts away,  telling herself it wasn't seduction she heard but the sound of Drake  restraining his anger over her quitting. Or maybe over last night's  miscommunication? Oh boy. Now she was dizzy.

He leaned forward a little more, pressing his body more firmly against hers. "What would we tie it to?"

Shoot. She hadn't imagined it. Her mind swam back to his comment about  tying up women, and she breathed a little harder. It's official. There  are some things a person says that can never be forgotten.

He reached for the fabric swatches with one hand and placed his other  hand on her hip, warming her through the thin material of her skirt. He  touched her all the time. Why was she suddenly noticing it so much? And  why did she have butterflies in her stomach? No, no, no. This could not  be happening.

"One of these?" His warm breath sailed over her cheek.

"Yes, for the chairs."

"Ah, makes perfect sense. I like this one." He held the swatch of  distressed burgundy leather and slowly rubbed his thumb over it.

She imagined his thumb sensually stroking her skin.

"How about you?" he asked just above a whisper. "Do you like leather?"  He dropped the swatch and picked up the shinier fabric sample. "Or  something softer?"

"I … um … " Her mind went straight to the gutter. "That one's great," she  said quickly. "I thought about mocha, but everyone uses shades of brown.  This adds a splash of color, and I found these great lighting elements  that can be ordered in any color." Oh no, now she had verbal diarrhea.  She fumbled with one of the lighting books, opening to a marked page to  try to distract herself from her overactive hormones, which were on  freaking fire.         



"Lights," she said too breathily, and flattened her hand on a page.

Drake put his hand beside hers, covering the tips of her fingers with  his own. Sparks raced over her skin. She lifted her gaze to his, and the  air between them thickened with desire as it had last night. Confusion  and lust muddled her thoughts.

So much for steeling herself against all of the emotions last night had unleashed.

"You okay?" he asked casually.

"Mm-hm." Just feeling ridiculous for thinking last night meant  something. "It's just been a crazy few days. Sorry." She shifted her  gaze to the lighting book, trying to pull her head out of the darkness  she'd fallen into, and leaned forward a little more, purposely causing  her hair to fall around her face and blocking his view of her. "These  are the lights I'm thinking about. The shelving units and the hardware  to hang the instruments should be installed this weekend. I figured I'd  come down next Friday night and work through the weekend to help get  things set up." Even though she couldn't see his face, she felt the heat  of his stare, and her words continued tumbling out nervously. "If we  order the furniture today, it will be here in time for the grand  opening, which we also need to talk about. I've spoken to the newspapers  and the local radio stations. We're set for two weeks from Saturday, on  the twelfth."

He moved her hair over her shoulder. She held her breath at the intimate touch.

His brows were knitted as he studied her face. "You talk like you're on speed only when you're nervous or drunk."

"Not true," she lied.

He shifted positions, leaning his butt on the edge of his desk beside  her. He reached for her hand, holding it gently, and brushed his thumb  over her skin in the same slow rhythm he'd stroked the leather, rooting  her in place. "Talk to me, Supergirl."

"Don't call me that." She pulled away and crossed her arms, angry that  he was so calm and upset with herself for caring. "I don't feel very  super anything right now." She wanted to shake him, smack him, or run as  fast and as far away as she could. The trouble was, she also wanted to  climb him like a ladder and take the kiss that had taunted her for far  too long. All those emotions tangled together, twisting and turning  inside her until she felt like she might explode.

His eyes remained deathly calm, trained on hers. "Because of last night?"

"What do you think? I'm so freaking confused and angry right now I can't  see straight," came out before she could stop it, each word laced with  venom. "What was that last night? I felt like I was back in ninth grade  again!"

"Ninth gra-"

"Do not tell me you don't remember the night you backed out of the  duet!" Angry tears burned, but she forced them back. "You leaned in  and-forget it! I'm not reliving that moment either. But I deserve an  answer about last night."

"I'm sorry!" he growled. "I didn't mean to-"

"Oh, now it was a mistake?" The pain in her heart brought fresh tears.  With trembling hands, she began gathering the swatches and books from  the desk.

"No, Serena." He grabbed her arm.

She wrenched her arm away. "Don't," she warned. "I feel like I don't even know you anymore."

He hauled her closer, ignoring her struggles. "You know me better than I  know my freaking self. It wasn't a mistake, okay? It just wasn't fair  to try to kiss you when you're about to move away."

She twisted out of his grip again. "You're darn right it's not."

She slammed her laptop closed, stacked the books on top of it, clutching  it all to her chest, a barrier between them. She was breathing too  hard, tears slipping from her eyes. "I was so in love with you as a kid.  Do you have any idea how hard it was when you turned me away back then?  Well, I'm not a lovesick teenager. This time I'm in control, and  there's no way I'll let this throw me off course. Do you have any idea  what kind of trust it took for me to accept this job with you in the  first place? How hard I had to fight my feelings for you to make it  work? It's been four years, Drake. We have been working side by side for  four years, and now that I'm finally moving on, you pull this crap?"

"I wasn't pulling anything."

He stepped closer, his eyes boring into her with so many emotions she  could drown in them. Hurt and confusion gnawed at her. He must have  noticed, because regret rose in his eyes, and he ground out a curse.


"C'mon, Serena. Can we just talk without you bolting?"

"Fine!" she shouted. "You've got two minutes." Before I start crying.

"You are my best friend, my partner in crime. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt you."

She squared her shoulders as a tear slipped down her cheek. She swiped  at it and said, "Here's a fun fact for you. You failed. Epically."

He shifted his eyes away, gritting his teeth, and when he looked at her  again, the raw torment in his gaze cut straight to her heart.

"I'm truly sorry, Serena," he said in a softer tone. He lifted his hand  as if he was going to reach for her. He must have thought better of it,  because he pulled it back and said, "Don't let my stupidity ruin our  relationship."

"Friendship," she clarified. "Why did you do it? Do you have any idea  what kind of slap in the face it was for you to do that to me for a  second time?"

"I wasn't thinking. No, that's a lie." His voice escalated. "All I ever  do is think about you. Why do you think I didn't kiss you when we were  teenagers?"

"Because you wanted faster, hotter, older girls," she said without hesitation.

He scoffed. "Seriously? No. Wrong. Because I was about to go off to  college, and you were just starting to … You were only … " He turned away.

"Only … ?"

"Fourteen or fifteen," he said angrily. "I know it sounds like I wanted  older girls, but it wasn't just our age difference. It was everything. I  was going to college, and you were on the cusp of figuring out who you  were as a person. I didn't want to take those experiences away from you  for what could have only ended badly. You'd have wanted a guy who was  there for you, for Friday nights, parties. Prom. And I was a stupid kid  going off to college. I would have hurt you without trying. Gotten  drunk, made a mistake. Everyone that age messes up, and I couldn't do  that to you."

"You're saying you did it to protect me?" She needn't have asked,  because she knew it was true. That's who he was and how he did things,  but it didn't make it hurt any less.

"And maybe protect myself?" he said with so much honesty, it hurt to  hear. "Our lives were about to move in totally different directions."

Realization dawned on her. "Like now?" She tried to swallow past the  emotions thickening her throat, but it was like trying to choke down a  golf ball.

"Of course like now," he seethed. "Our timing stinks. When you started  working here, we were finally both adults, on equal ground, only we  weren't. I had achieved what I wanted, and you were right there for me,  by my side, helping me. But you rightfully made it clear that you were  only here temporarily. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me  because of that? Not that I'm complaining, because I don't hold any of  this against you in any way, but you need to know it wasn't easy working  beside you, having everything I wanted except the part of you that  would have made us real."