Everyone loved a good wedding. Or at least, people were supposed to love a wedding. And the wedding that she’d just watched had certainly been incredible. The bride, Ava McGuire, had been glowing as she took the hand of her husband, Mark Montgomery. The guests had erupted into cheers when the couple was pronounced man and wife. Shouts and whistles had filled the air when the two kissed.
Yes, everyone was supposed to love a wedding.
But Jamie Myers had spent the past hour wishing she could slip away from the crowd. Wishing she could pretty much be anywhere else. Sure, she liked both Ava and Mark. They were great people. It was just…the crowd. All the noise. The voices. The people.
And seeing what I’ll never have.
The big family. The ease, the comfort that came from that connection. It was too much. Because Jamie stared at all of them, and she remembered what she’d lost.
“Time to throw the bouquet!”
Jamie flinched. Scarlett McGuire had shouted the announcement as she strode past Jamie, and now she was flashing a rather wicked grin her way, as if she realized Jamie would rather walk through hell than make a grab for that bouquet. Of all the women at that wedding reception, Scarlett probably knew Jamie the best. So she knows this is when I’ll run.
Jamie tried to inch away, but a swarm of other women and a cloud of perfume surrounded her. She was pushed forward. Pushed up closer to the bride.
No, no, no! She threw up her hands, trying to knock the bouquet away when it actually came right at her.
Jamie thought she heard a sharp bark of male laughter, and she realized that she’d squeezed her eyes shut. Jamie cracked open one eye just in time to see the bouquet bounce off her hand and fly toward one of the bridesmaids. The woman let out a shriek of joy and fist-pumped like a football player who’d just crossed into the end zone.
Jamie felt a surge of relief. The crowd thinned. It was finally late enough for her to leave the party and head back to the safety of her little house and—
“I’ve never seen anyone actually hit a bouquet away quite like that,” a deep, dark male voice drawled. “Got to say, it was impressive. I bet you would make one hell of a volleyball player.”
Her gaze slid to the left, and she found trouble. Right there. The tall, broad-shouldered man with the thick, dark hair and the glinting green eyes… Oh, yes, he was definitely trouble.
He was also one of the bride’s brothers.
Davis McGuire lifted one brow as he stared at her. His hair was a bit darker than Ava’s, and while Ava was a beautiful woman… Davis was one dangerous-looking man. His face was hard angles—high cheekbones, a square jaw. In the time that she’d been in Texas, Jamie wasn’t sure she’d ever seen the guy smile. He just oozed a brooding intensity. An intensity that frightened her.
Because I’ve seen trouble like him before. And she still had the scars from that encounter.
But when she gazed at Davis, Jamie didn’t feel afraid. She felt oddly…good. Right. He’s here now. Such a strange thought to have. One that didn’t really make sense to her.
The bride and groom rushed away in a hail of laughter and well wishes. Jamie waved to them, caught for a moment by the joy that she could see on Ava’s face. Ava had certainly lived through her own hell—she deserved every bit of the happiness that she had.
Don’t we all deserve to be happy?
And then…the bride and groom were gone. Riding off to their happy-ever-after ending.
Some people actually got those.
Others didn’t. Others got nightmares. Jamie shivered.
Davis stepped closer to her. “I’m guessing it’s safe to say that you’re not real interested in getting married right now.”
“It’s very safe to say that.” Her words trembled. She hated that sign of weakness. She straightened her shoulders and stretched her spine. Even in the heels, she only stood at about five feet six inches tall, so she was nowhere close to Davis’s towering height. At least six foot three. Maybe more.
His head cocked as he studied her. “You look…very, very nice tonight, Doc.” Male appreciation lit his gaze as it swept over her blue dress, a blue that she knew matched her eyes. “But I’ve got to say—” his gaze rose back to her face “—I’ll never forget the way you handled that bouquet.” And he smiled.
An actual, serious smile.
In that instant, his face went from dangerous to drop-dead gorgeous. She even thought that she saw a dimple wink in his cheek.
Davis offered his arm to her. “Want to dance?”
She’d met Davis shortly after moving to the area. His family owned the McGuire ranch, but the ranch itself only had a few horses on it. Jamie was a veterinarian, and she’d been called out a couple of times to check on those animals. She’d spoken briefly with Davis on each visit.
Davis didn’t have a passion for the ranch. Like his brothers, he spent most of his time working at McGuire Securities, a private investigation firm in Austin. She knew he was ex-military and she’d also heard rumors about him being an adrenaline junkie who thrived on the thrill of a dangerous hunt—
“Jamie?” Davis murmured. “It wasn’t a hard question. Do you want to dance?”
Her gaze cut to the crowded dance floor. “There’s…so many people out there.” She shook her head and eased back a step. “I don’t… Um, it’s probably not a good idea. Not in that crush.”
Before she could turn and flee—and Jamie was giving a full-out run serious consideration—Davis caught her hand in his. At his touch, she stilled because she was pretty sure she felt a surge of heat snake from her fingers straight to her heart. Her breath caught, and her gaze shot up to meet his.
He still had that faint smile on his face. “I don’t like the crowds, either. But I do know a good dance spot. Come with me, and I’ll show you.”
She shouldn’t. Really.
But she found herself walking with him. She hadn’t taken a starlit stroll with a man in.
Jamie’s shoulders tensed, and she immediately shut down that thought. “I should go. I have calls in the morning and—”
“Are you afraid of me?” He’d already led her away from the crowd. They were out at the McGuire ranch because Ava had wanted her wedding to be there. She’d wanted to turn a place of tragedy into a place of joy again.
“Of course not.” Jamie was very good at lying. Too good, most days. But when your life was a lie, you had to learn how to adapt quickly.
“Good.” He kept walking, and he also kept his hold on her hand. A few moments later, they’d left the party behind and were beneath the tall branches of a tree that overlooked the lake on the ranch. The decorators had really gone above and beyond out there—they’d put up twinkling lights everywhere, and they looked like little stars nestled in the tree. The music drifted in the air, easily reaching them, as Davis turned and pulled her into his arms. “How about we dance right here?”
“I, um, don’t think my heels were made to dance out there. It’s—”
He bent. His hand slid her shoe right off. Then his fingers were gently lifting her other ankle. Lightly rubbing the flesh. Making her breath catch. And just like that, her other high heel was gone, too.
Her brows rose. “If dancing barefoot is better, then, yes.” It was a good thing the night wasn’t cold.
He laughed, the sound a little rusty but oddly warming. He put her shoes down and wrapped his hands around her waist.
“Don’t expect fancy moves,” she told him. Once upon a time, she’d danced in ballrooms. She’d learned all the right steps to take. But that had been years ago, and she’d stayed as far from ballrooms as possible since then.
“I don’t expect anything but for you to just let go. Relax with me a bit.”
Right. Because she was supposed to relax while Davis McGuire held her tightly. His body was so hard, muscled, against hers. His right hand held hers, cradling it lightly, and she could feel the edge of calluses on his fingers. Davis was a man used to hard work.
Hard work and danger.
“You smell so sweet.” His voice was even deeper. Rumbling. She could almost feel that voice inside her.
“It’s, um, lavender. My body lotion.” And that was so not a savvy, sophisticated thing to say back to him. But her sophisticated days were long gone. Not that she’d really had them, anyway. But every part of the life she’d led was gone.
He pulled her even closer. “I like your hair down. Usually, you keep it in that little twist at your nape. I didn’t even realize how long it was.”
And she hadn’t even realized he’d noticed her hair. Davis hadn’t seemed to pay her that much attention when she visited the ranch to tend to his animals. Sure, he’d been there each time she’d come out, and that was a little surprising since she knew he worked so much in Austin, but—
“You’re a million miles away,” Davis said.
Jamie shook her head. “No, I’m right here.” She’d put her head on his chest. It had seemed so natural to do that. The music was soft, romantic, and their bodies were swaying together. She wasn’t nervous. Wasn’t scared. She was just. Almost happy.
“If I said I wanted to kiss you… ” Davis murmured, “would you tell me to go to hell or…?”
She tensed. “Do you want to kiss me?”
“You’re a beautiful woman, Doc. Don’t sound so surprised. I know there are plenty of men who have wanted to kiss you.”
She stopped the swaying of her body and eased back, but didn’t lose her hold on him. She liked touching him. Odd, when she made a point not to get physically close to too many people. “I’m not talking about plenty of men right now. I’m talking about you.”
His eyes gleamed. “You’re a direct woman. I like that. I don’t have time for lies and tricks.”
Too bad. I’m all about lies. “You’re a man with secrets,” she threw right back. “So don’t give me that line. Everyone is more than they appear to be. We all wear masks for the world to see.”
His hold tightened on her waist. “You keep surprising me. Not many people can do that.”
The heat from his body was wrapping around her. Tempting her to get closer to him again. To put her head back on him, to let go, just for a little while.
“I do want to kiss you,” Davis said. He seemed to be staring at her mouth, and, nervously, she wet her lips. “I’ve wanted that for a very long time. Probably since the first day I met you.”
Was he serious? Or just trying to charm her into bed?
“But what do you want, Jamie?”
Ah, now he’d just called her Jamie and not “Doc” like he often did. She’d rather grown used to hearing his drawl when he used that little nickname.
And what do I want? She stared up at him and knew that—for an instant—she’d like to let go of her fear. To just feel. To just get lost in a man’s arms and in his kiss. It would be wonderful to act like any other woman. To simply let go.
Davis McGuire was one of the good guys. He and his brothers helped people. They were all ex-military. Davis was a former SEAL. Tough, but good. True hero material. Sure, the things he’d done might scare her because she realized the guy knew how to fight hard and dirty but.
He won’t hurt me.
If there was any man she could trust, it should be him.
But you trusted the wrong man before.
His head lowered toward hers. “One kiss.”
One. One sounded fair. Or maybe that was just the champagne talking. She found herself leaning up on her tiptoes. Clutching his shoulders. Their lips were almost touching.
Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe she’d already let things go too far. But.
One kiss. What could it hurt?
Jamie opened her mouth. Her lips pressed to his.
It should have been gentle. It should have been light. It shouldn’t have wrecked her world. Passion like that wasn’t real. It was in movies. It was—
His arms wrapped around her as he brought her even closer. His tongue thrust past her lips, and he kissed her deep. Kissed her hard. Kissed her as if he’d been desperate to taste her for so long.
And she kissed him the same way. As if a flood of need had just erupted within her—and it had. Passion burned, and she couldn’t get close enough to him. Couldn’t touch him enough. She knew desire, she’d certainly felt it before. This was different. This was.
Jamie kept kissing him. She stopped thinking and she just felt.