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“So it was a lie. You weren’t okay with Josh being with me that night?” I couldn’t keep the shock from my voice. This had been their bloody idea, how come I was suddenly the bad girl?
Nick shook his head and stepped away, walked toward the patio table that held a large vase of pink and lilac sweetpea. He rested his hands on the back of a chair and half bent over, as though he held the weight of the world on his shoulders and the burden had made him weary. “I was never going to be happy about him spending a night with another person, male or female. But it was a case of if you love something let it go and hope it comes back. I did, he did.”
“So, what has changed?”
He stood and turned, leaned his butt against the chair back and folded his arms over his chest. “Ah, now there’s the key word, change. He came back, but I was a fool to think he wouldn’t be changed by the experience. Oh, I’m not saying he is in love with you or anything. Because he’s not, you know.”
“No, of course not, I know that.” Even I wasn’t deluded enough to think that was a possibility.
“How could he be in love after just one night? He hardly knows you.” Nick shook his head and furrowed his brow, as if pondering a conundrum. “But he was so pleased when you said you would come and stay, like, really excited. I can’t understand it. I can’t understand it at all.”
“Maybe he just wants a female friend,” I said, clutching at straws. “He works with guys. If his family is not particularly understanding of you two being married, then maybe he is just lacking some friends in his life. Nothing more than that, plus he…” I hesitated and looked down at the floor.
“Plus, I’m also here on a professional basis.” I had to tell Nick. A birthday surprise was not worth his anguish. “Josh wants me to take some photographs, for you, as part of your birthday present next week.”
Nick nodded slowly and he relaxed his shoulders a fraction. “Well, that’s something, I suppose.”
A large ginger striped cat, pale and with a toffee-colored tail, appeared on the patio. It pushed its cheek against Nick’s leg and coiled its body around his shin.
Nick reached down and fussed its head.
Suddenly I realized how wrong it was for me to be here. I didn’t belong. I was intruding on a happy family unit which had no place for me.
“I should go,” I said, dragging in a deep breath and bracing myself for the words I had to say. “I have no wish to come between you two.” I tilted my chin stoically. “Please make up whatever excuse you want to Josh, whatever will make it easier for him.”
Nick straightened. He stared at me again, his glinting eyes heavy with relief and also gratitude.
“Laura, Laura, you’re here.”
We both turned to the orchard. Through the shadowy, winding path, Josh’s tall frame appeared. He had a broad smile on his face.
My heart flipped at the sight of him, but I immediately berated myself. I was causing a major problem by being at Barn View, so I definitely shouldn’t be admiring the man at the center of the issue.
I can’t help it.
Josh looked like every erotic fantasy I’d ever had all wrapped up in one damn sexy fireman. Despite the warm evening he wore clumpy black boots, thick, slightly loose navy blue trousers with silver reflector bands around the lower half, and a matching shirt with the sleeves rolled up; there was an embroidered emblem on his shirt, over his chest, a gold shield with GFS at the center.
I couldn’t help but return his smile, it was infectious. So much for sneaking off and leaving Nick to make my excuses. It was too late now. I didn’t dare glance at Nick. I was sure if looks could kill, I would be getting a lethal one.
“The traffic can be hell on a Friday, I’m glad you made it okay,” Josh said, moving up close and going to kiss my cheek. “I got here as quick as I could, didn’t even bother changing.”
I tipped my head but misjudged which side he was going for. I hesitated, so did he, then we both jerked and his lips skimmed mine.
“Oh, sorry,” I said, giving a nervous giggle and pressing my fingers to my mouth. “Hi.”
I gazed up at the face that had been haunting my dreams. He had a light sooty dusting on one cheek and his hair was flat, probably pressed down by a helmet. He smelled of ash and smoke. He appeared slightly taken aback by our accidental kiss, but only for a brief second, then his smile returned.
He stepped up close to Nick, pressed a palm to his cheek. “How are you?”
Nick gave a small nod before their lips met in a soft, lingering connection.
Once again, seeing them kiss did funny things to my insides. My stomach fluttered, and I was aware of a tensing in the walls of my pussy. They were just so damn sexy together.
Josh’s shoulders relaxed, as if, at the end of a long, hard day, being with Nick, kissing Nick, made it all worth it.
Nick curled his hand over Josh’s biceps and stared at me, even as they kissed. His eyes communicating that what he had with Josh was so much more than what I had.
I glanced away. I didn’t need to be told that. It was clear they were strong. I’d been a blip, that was all. And the sooner I left them to their happy ever after the better.
Josh finally broke the kiss. “How did the Redmond survey go?”
“Great.” Nick touched a lock of Josh’s hair, pushed it back from his eyes and then rubbed the sooty mark on his cheek with the pad of his thumb. “No issues at all.”
Josh smiled. “That’s good news.”
“Yes, it is.”
Nick gave a sigh, and I was relieved to see some of the strain on his face lift. Josh was as good for him as he was for Josh.
“So,” Josh said, turning to me and rubbing his hands together. “I’m sure everyone is starving, and I apologize for keeping you waiting for dinner. Just let me wash up and I’ll be straight down.”
He took several big strides and disappeared into the cottage.
I looked at Nick.
He looked at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
Nick’s lips tightened.
“I was just about to go, but he—”
“I would have—"
He held up his hands. “I know, okay, but it’s too late now, he’s seen you. You’re here, officially.”
I swallowed tightly. “As soon as I’ve done the portrait, first thing in the morning, I’ll go.”
I nodded and fiddled with the strap on my camera.
“I get it,” I said. “You love Josh with all your heart and you don’t want to share his affections. I don’t blame you, you’re married, you have a right to be possessive. Me being here, in your home was never part of the deal, was it?”
He shook his head. “No, it wasn’t.”
I hope you enjoyed that snippet! THE GLASS KNOT will be available on Amazon later this week! (Buy Link)
Have a great Sunday