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Sweet Heat at Bayside(3)

By:Addison Cole

"What … ?" She thought back to the first store he'd opened, during her  junior year of college. She'd helped him revamp it and had come up with a  theme that they'd since carried over to the other stores. "That's not  true. You opened the first one. I just helped make it attractive after  you made it look like a garage."         



"Exactly. It was a joint effort," he said sharply.

"I guess you're right." She stepped closer, knowing the best way to  center his mind had always been to be near him. She knew he was  calculating project times, divvying himself up between the resort and  the store. Some guys were like bears, all claws and scare tactics. They  bullied their way into projects, creating more havoc than good. Drake  was a methodical thinker, as fierce and powerful as any man she'd ever  seen, but he didn't attack. He was like an eagle ready to land, circling  his prey until he knew the exact second to swoop down and make a clean  getaway. She admired those qualities in him as a friend and as a  businessman.

"But this isn't new to you, Drake," she said calmly. "I'm not leaving  you high and dry. I'm here now, and it's only Monday. I have five or six  more days before I go to Boston, and you know I'll work every minute to  get as much arranged as I can. And then I'll be only a phone call away.  I love working with you and setting up the stores. You know that."

"Do you?" His voice was tense, but his eyes filled with something much deeper.

Curiosity? Longing?

Wishful thinking much?

"Are you really asking me that?" she challenged.

WHAT AM I doing? Drake had no idea when he'd stopped seeing Serena as  just a friend-again-or when he'd begun noticing her womanly curves, the  way she twirled her hair around her finger when she was sleepy, or the  wanting look that came over her sometimes when they were working  together late at night. But when the thrum of heat he'd felt when they  were teenagers returned years ago, he'd known he had to mentally draw a  line between them. He'd once again promised himself he'd never stand in  her way or hold her back. She'd had big dreams since she was a kid, and  after what she and her sister, Chloe, had gone through when they were  growing up, he was bound and determined to make sure she achieved  everything she ever wanted.

No matter how much it stung that he couldn't be on that list.

But as he gazed into her entrancing eyes, shades of sea green glimmering  against soft cocoa, even with his promise in mind, he was powerless to  stop the guilt-inducing questions from coming out.

"Then why leave? You left your first interior design job because you  were bored, remember?" Serena had worked for several years as an  interior designer right after college, and after boredom had consumed  her, she'd spent the next two years helping a retail company establish  their offices in Hyannis. She'd been on fire, and lucky for Drake and  his partners, when that job ended, they'd been able to swoop her up to  help them get Bayside Resort off the ground. The last thing he wanted  was for her to go backward in her career.

"Yes, but that was years ago, and it was a tiny firm where all I did was  decorate. KHB has huge clients. They assured me I would be an integral  part of the client teams, involved with all design-management decisions,  not just picking out fabrics and pictures. If I ever want to make a  name for myself, it's the place to do it."

He was glad she'd thought it through, but that didn't take away his  heartache over her leaving. "You've been doing interior design for  months with Shift. We gave you an office in the community center so you  wouldn't have to drive to Hyannis. I thought you were happy here." He'd  even sent her a number of design clients over the winter, hoping to help  her get off to a good start so she could build a reputation for  herself.

"I am happy, and I appreciate everything you've done for me, giving me  the office to work out of and sending clients my way. And I love helping  you get the music stores up and running, taking a blank slate and  creating something amazing like we did with the resort. All those  cottages, the office, the community center … We made them gorgeous and  homey enough so customers feel like they've come home when they arrive  each summer. I love doing that, and I adore our friends. You know I do.  But I need more, Drake. I need something of my own. The resort just  doesn't need me anymore."

But I do.

Every iota of his being wanted to give her more, but he couldn't give  her the kind of more-the career-she wanted. He turned away to try to  regain control of his emotions.

"C'mon, Drake, what do I have to say to make you understand?"

He faced her again, and she crossed her arms. Her long dark hair lay  sexily over her bare shoulders, contradicting the angry press of her  lips. The look summed her up perfectly. She could be tough as nails or  sweet as sugar, depending on the situation. She'd spent her life  fighting for everything she'd ever had just to overcome a mother who  worked too many hours in order to keep a roof over her girls' heads and  spent her nights prowling for men. There was no way he was going to make  it any harder for Serena to chase her dreams.         



With a softer tone, he said, "There's nothing more to say, and I'm sorry  I was a jerk. It was totally selfish of me. Let's get started on the  space designs. I'm sure you've got a billion things to take care of  before you leave."

"Whoa. That was a complete turnaround. You sure you're not going to  secretly chain me up in the office or something so I can't leave?"

"Or something," he said with a laugh.

"Why are you laughing?"

"Because I don't chain women down to get them to stay."

Her jaw dropped open. "But you do … chain women down?"

He didn't respond.

"Oh my gosh! You do!" she said. A hint of intrigue in her eyes warred with the shock on her beautiful face.

"Tie, not chain," he clarified. "And only if they ask me to."

"They ask you to?" She mouthed, Wow.

Why did he say anything? "We are not having this conversation."

"How did I not know this about you?" she asked incredulously.

He grabbed her bag and handed it to her. "Dig your notebook out of there, Supergirl. It's time to get to work."

Her beautiful eyes were wide with curiosity that he wanted desperately to satisfy. "But-"

"Serena," he said sharply, leaving no room for negotiation. "We are not going there."

Chapter Two

SERENA RACED FROM the file room into her office Wednesday evening and  grabbed her phone, typing a quick group text to Mira, Desiree, Emery,  and Chloe. Leaving in five minutes. I'm sorry!! I promise I'll be there  soon. She was supposed to meet them in Orleans in five minutes to shop  for clothes for her new job, but Drake was still behind closed doors  with the last interview of the day. She hoped that was a good sign,  considering he'd nixed the first two candidates she'd brought in.

Drake's door opened, and Serena shoved her phone in her purse, trying to read his expression.

"Thank you for coming out," he said to Mina, the petite blond applicant.  "We're interviewing for the rest of the week, but we'll get back to you  as soon as we make a decision."

Something in his tone told Serena he'd decided against her.

"It was a pleasure meeting you." Mina shook his hand, and then she  offered her hand to Serena. "And thank you, Serena. Good luck with your  new endeavor."

"Thank you. We'll be in touch." She watched Mina leave, and the second  she was out the door, she turned a stern glare on Drake. "What's wrong  with her?"

"We can't have a Mina around here. We'll get her confused with Mira."

Serena hoped he was kidding. "Seriously? You can't tell the difference between a petite blonde and your tall, brunette sister?"

He shrugged. "She's too … "

"Experienced?" she said sarcastically as she gathered her notes for the  music shop and shoved them into her bag. "Drake, she worked for three  summers running the office for a cottage community. How can that not be  good enough?"

"She didn't lack experience," he said casually. "She lacked personality."

"She was sweet and friendly. What more do you want?"

His lips quirked up. "Sweet and friendly will never cut it when  something needs to get done. We need sweet, strong, and warily  friendly."

"What does that even mean? And when did you become a psych major?" She grabbed her bag and dug out her keys.

"You've worked here for years. Do you really think sweet will cut it  when Rick and I disagree and she needs to intervene or make a final  decision? Or how about when guys come in and hit on her? Will friendly  send the wrong message? Will she be able to deal with a handsy renter?"

"She won't have to. You always bulldoze anyone who comes near me."