Sold into Marriage(8)

By: Ann Major


“What about you? Boyfriend?”

She thought of dear, sweet Lucas and his eager, little-boy message on Brianna’s machine earlier in the evening.

“Maybe there’s the possibility of one…in the near future. But I was burned recently. I’m not sure I’m ready yet.”

Adam’s eyes narrowed. Something about the shape of his broad shoulders and square head reminded her of someone.

She cocked her head, studying him with new interest. “Have we met before?”

He shook his head. “If we had, you’d remember.” His voice and eyes were cocky.

“You’re pretty sure of yourself.”

“You’d remember.” His gaze locked on her face as it had when he’d stared at her from his apartment, now seeming to land on the moist heat of her lips.

A car rushed past her building, slinging slush, its headlights illuminating the bare branches above them. She focused on the sudden clenching of his jaw, on his high cheekbones that stood out like blades. He had a long straight nose and arrogant chin. There was a slight scar above his right eye.

He was handsome. Too handsome. Rugged but well-educated and polished, too.

She didn’t do well with handsome and polished. She fell too hard, gave too much, and the handsome, polished guys always walked when they discovered her real roots.

The black sky was clearing. Suddenly there were stars everywhere, shooting, soaring stars that made her feel alive.

He looked up, following her gaze, and then back at her, suddenly on full alert again.

“I know it’s late for a Texan, but there’s a bistro at the end of the block. The owner told me he’d stay open Christmas Eve,” she said, swooping around him and heading toward the gate he’d barred earlier. “He’s a wonderful chef and he has a fabulous wine cellar. I’m something of a pilier here.”

“Pilier?” He copied her accent so exactly she was almost jealous. Obviously, he had a talent for languages.

“A pilier is a regular,” she explained and smiled.

Laughing, he repeated the word. “My French leaves a lot to be desired.”

“Mine does, too. You see, I…” She stopped. The last thing she wanted to tell him about was anything having to do with her childhood.

The cold was seeping through the soles of her thin shoes, and her toes were going numb. She shivered. “I’m getting cold.”

“Would you like for me to buy you a cup of coffee at your bistro?” he asked. “Or I have a coffeemaker in my apartment. And my apartment’s closer.”

“I don’t think so,” she whispered shyly, shrinking from the too-heated awareness in his eyes, only to stumble backward.

Ice crunched behind her. Swiftly his large, warm hand closed over her elbow, sending a high-voltage jolt through her jacket and sweater as he steadied her.

“You’ll just love the bistro,” she whispered as she jumped free of him.

Then she ran out onto the narrow street onto the main thoroughfare lined with imposing mansions that had mansard roofs. Above these tall, shadowy buildings, the curves of her favorite historic domes rose against the black sky. Not that he seemed to notice the marvelous architecture as he loped to catch her.

“Not so fast,” he warned. “There’s ice.”

“Yes, but isn’t it beautiful?”

He made no comment on the tracery of white Christmas lights in the trees or on the sparkling snow. When she hurried past a pharmacy, a closed pastry shop, several unlit bistros and bars, he caught up. Matching his long strides to hers, he cast curious glances inside each establishment.

Soon she wished she wasn’t so acutely conscious of his tall, powerful body beside hers.

“Walk slower,” he ordered.

Afraid he might touch her again, she obeyed.

Desperately she fought to act cool and nonchalant, but every time they passed under a streetlight or the moon came out from behind a cloud, she glanced up at him and experienced a baffling, unnerving sense of familiarity.

“You definitely remind me of someone,” she said.

“We’ve never met,” he repeated.

Then why did he look alarmed before he turned away?

She’d had a long day and a glass of wine. It was Christmas Eve, which brought back all the old issues of other Christmas Eves when she’d been lonely and alone after sadly, her guardian had died.

Whatever was eluding her about him refused to surface.

But it would; probably at the worst possible moment.





Four



A dam’s grip tightened on his knife and fork when their tall, snooty waiter stared down his nose at him. Without a word the man flung a basket of rye bread with superthick crusts, thick slabs of butter and a platter of escargots—large snails Josie had explained—down onto the middle of their table.She ordered everything in rapid, fluent-sounding French while the waiter rudely rolled his eyes and made awful faces, which caused her to blush.

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