Sweet Heat at Bayside(5)

By: Addison Cole

“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.

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