The Family Simon Boxed Set (Books 1-3)(4)

By: Juliana Stone


“There has to be at least one room available.”

The desk clerk’s bald head shone beneath the overhead lights and his round, brown eyes were direct as he peered over his heavy frame glasses.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Simon, but we’re hosting two conventions this weekend and are at capacity. I can make a few calls and see if you and your…” The clerk’s eyes slid to Abby who stood a few feet away, fidgeting with her carry-on.

“Friend,” Tucker finished for him.

The desk clerk nodded. “Yes, your friend. I can try to secure other accommodations at a different hotel.”

“How long will that take?”

The clerk smiled apologetically and reached for the phone. “I really can’t say.”

Tucker muttered a curse and felt the tension along his shoulders tighten even more. This wasn’t good. Christ, he should have just manned up and come alone. Bringing someone like Sonya along was one thing—his family knew him well enough not to have any expectations—but Abby Mathews? Sharing his room? For the entire weekend?

His mother would have Tucker all tied up in a goddamn relationship-bow before they finished the 18 rounds of golf planned for tomorrow.

“Tucker, I’m tired. Let’s just take the room.” Abby slid up along the front desk and propped her elbows on the counter. “We can figure things out in the morning.”

There were shadows under her eyes, and he knew that she hadn’t rested at all on the flight down. He knew, because he hadn’t either. There was something brewing between the two of them, and he wasn’t real sure what it was exactly. The only thing that he was sure about was the fact that he didn’t want to deal with it right now.

He blew out a hot breath and shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. God, he didn’t need a complication. His family was more than enough.

“Let’s see if we can find something else.” He swung his gaze back to the desk clerk but a curt nod told him that it wasn’t looking real good.

“But that could take all night.” Abby pushed her hair back. She stretched her arms and yawned, and he had to tell himself to keep his eyes above the neck—which was crazy.

This was Abby—his friend.

Abby. Friend.

But not-with-benefits.

“I just...” Dammit, what was he trying to say? “I just don’t want you to think that I planned this or anything.”

She arched an eyebrow.

Was that a hint of a smile on her face? “Planned?” she said slowly.

“Well, I would have booked two rooms if I’d been thinking straight, but I had a crazy day with a client and until yesterday, I was coming with Sonya…”

“And you thought you’d be having all sorts of hot, sweaty, sex on that big old king size bed.”

That was definitely a smile lurking behind her mouth. God, she had a nice mouth.

Tucker heard the clerk clear his throat but ignored the man. Suddenly he wasn’t so damn tired…or frustrated. He wasn’t even annoyed. He was just…light.

He should probably just shut the hell up but…

“Actually the patio is much better for extra curricular activities,” he said watching her closely.

Abby stopped stretching. “Patio?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Patio sex is hot. Don’t you think?”

Abby’s cheeks turned pink, and Tucker grinned. He liked this side of her—this slightly off-balance side.

“I didn’t know you were an exhibitionist,” she replied.

“With the right woman, I’m up for anything.” A memory flashed through him—an image of tangled legs, heated skin, the kiss of rain, and Marley. And just like that the hatchet that was buried inside his chest stirred. It cut deeper, awakening things he didn’t want awake.

Suddenly the lightness was gone. Suddenly everything was gone, and he just wanted to close his eyes and maybe forget. Shit.

“Tucker?” Abby asked quietly.

“You’re right,” he said abruptly. “We’ll deal with it in the morning.” Turning back to the desk clerk, Tucker grabbed the keycards and led the way to the elevators. The ride up was silent, broken only when he let them into their suite.

“Wow.” Abby walked forward a few feet and whirled around in a circle. “Wow! This is bigger than my entire apartment.”

Tucker dropped his bags. “It’s a bit much.”

The suite was over-the-top and reeked of money. With soft blues and creams, light bamboo and marble, it was something to see. High-end furniture filled the large, open area—a patio and hot tub sat out under the stars. The place was meant for relaxation, luxury, and sex. Lots and lots of sex.

With a scowl, he nodded toward the left. The bedroom wasn’t enclosed, but the bed was hidden behind yards of gauzy material that fell from the ceiling and tucked behind it was the bathroom.

“You can sleep there, I’ll take the sofa.”

“No,” Abby said. “I can’t. That wouldn’t be right.”

His mood already darkened, Tucker crossed the room and paused at the bar where he scooped up a bottle of whiskey. “I’m not arguing. Take the bed.” Once his tumbler was filled with ice and booze, he turned back to Abby. She stood still, with her carry-on and small suitcase, her eyes on him. Eyes that were unsure.

Eyes that made him feel like an asshole.

“Look, Abby. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Please take the bed.” He shrugged. “I’m not going to sleep for a while, so...”

A heartbeat passed, and then with a quick nod she whispered, “All right.”

After she disappeared into the bathroom, Tucker made his way out to the patio and sank onto a chair that was in the far corner, buried in the shadows. Overhead, the night sky was crystal clear, and a million stars shone down on him. A breeze moved languidly, bringing with it the smell of the ocean—a scent he was familiar with—one that he loved.

He inhaled deeply and felt the weight of it as his lungs filled with the open air and unmistakable tinge of the ocean. It moved something inside him. Something he’d been trying to bury for years, it seemed.

Damn, but it still hurt.

Someone told him once that smell was more powerful than memory. That smell could bring back the most intimate or minute detail. It was true. The smell of the ocean always reminded him of home, family, and ultimately, Marley.

He knew it was a bad idea to come back here. He knew that the memories might be too much. That maybe he wasn’t strong enough to deal with them.

A grimace crossed his face. Damn family. He’d always had a problem saying no to them, even though his first instinct when he’d received his cousin’s invite was to toss it.

Slowly he sipped his whiskey and, after throwing his ball cap onto the patio floor, rested his head back so that he could see the sky better.

Where the hell was the Big Dipper?

He stared up at the stars for so long that they blurred and only looked away when his glass was empty. He poured himself another and was just about to settle back when a sound caught his ear, and he glanced over to the patio doors.

Abby.

After a few moments, she crossed the tiled floors and paused a few feet away.

“It’s beautiful out here,” she said softly.

“Yeah,” Tucker answered, though his eyes didn’t follow hers as she glanced up at the million dollar blanket of stars.

The breeze picked up again, lifting her hair into the air, and she giggled as she tried to tug it behind her ears. The white tank-top she wore was pressed tight against her body and those long legs—hell, they went on for miles.

Her laughter dried up when she looked his way, and she crossed her arms over her chest, though she wasn’t able to hide her erect nipples. From the cold? Or was she feeling what was brewing inside him?

Mouth dry, Tucker dragged his eyes away and downed his tumbler in one long swig. He was tight. Angry. Tired and confused.

He was also horny as hell and right about now was wishing it was Sonya standing a few feet away wearing next to nothing. Because he sure as hell would have had Sonya bent over the chair and maybe then he’d get some relief from the tension that rode him so hard.

What the hell did that say about him? Five minutes ago, he’d been thinking of Marley. His wife. Five minutes ago, he’d been remembering things…things that he was afraid to forget.

Now, one glance at Abby and it was gone.

Anger spiked inside him, and suddenly he needed to hold onto it with a desperation he hadn’t felt in a very long time.

“Did you need something?” he asked, his voice sharp.

She tightened her arms across her chest but didn’t look away. In fact, her gaze was direct.

“No,” she answered slowly, drawing that one word out. “I just wanted to say goodnight and to make sure that you were okay.”

He lifted his tumbler in a mock salute. “I’m better than okay.” He paused, noting the way she bit her bottom lip—a nervous gesture—and maybe it was the devil that had him tonight, or maybe he was just being a prick, but he forced a smile and reached for the bottle.

Maybe he just didn’t want to be alone after all. “Want a drink?”

She shook her head.

“Are you sure?” He leaned back and watched the shadows cross her face, moving erratically in the breeze.