Love Me Once More
Ethan cursed under his breath, but followed on Will’s heels. Before they reached the table, a guy in a designer polo and board shorts cut in front of them. Ethan’s gut tightened when he leaned down and spoke to Lainie, who’d had her eyes closed. They popped open, startled, and she shook her head. But he was persistent and instead of leaving, he placed his hand on the back of her chair and continued to talk, tilting his head in low towards hers. Without a second thought, Ethan strode up to the table, gave a curt nod to the other women, and rested a hand on Lainie’s shoulder.
“Let’s dance,” he said. She shivered under his touch and his mouth went dry. This was a bad idea.
Lainie glanced at the stranger then back at Ethan. “Now?”
Ethan jerked his head towards the floor. “Come on, one dance won’t kill you.” Or me.
The preppie-looking guy spoke up. “Excuse me, but this lovely lady and I were just about to dance.”
Ethan sized him up. He had a golden complexion and light blue eyes shining with might have been confidence, but was more likely arrogance. His mouth quirked up in a cold smile. Judging by the designer duds and the Rolex on his tanned wrist, he was one of the summer folks, probably one of the ones who lived off his parents’ wealth and spent his days yachting. But at least he didn’t flinch when Ethan stared him down. One point in his favor.
“It didn’t look to me like she was interested. So if you don’t mind, my wife and I are going to dance.” Ethan grabbed Lainie’s hand and pulled her up from the chair. He led her to the dance floor, but to a corner away from the other couples. Ethan caught Will’s eye as the other man led Calista out onto the floor. He flashed Ethan a triumphant grin. Ethan made a mental note to kick his ass later.
He put his hands on Lainie’s waist, desperately trying not to let the feel of her curves get to him. She put her arms around his neck and looked up with a curious gaze.
“What the hell was that?” she asked.
“When did you get here? I didn’t see you come in.”
“About half an hour ago. Looked like you were having fun, I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“So you were watching me?” She shook her head. “No, spying. You did say you didn’t trust me. But then why did you interrupt that guy asking me to dance? You didn’t want to wait and see what I’d say?”
The thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. But even though it wasn’t his intention, the resignation in her voice and the hurt in her eyes made him feel about two-inches tall.
“I wasn’t spying, Lainie,” he said. He bent his head toward her. “I didn’t know you were going to be here, honest. I came out with Will to grab a drink and listen to the band. That’s all. Then I saw you here with Calista and the other women, I didn’t want to intrude. I thought you might need the night out to unwind as much as I did.”
“You canceled on me today,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “You didn’t call me or text me. I worried you were changing your mind about giving me another chance.”
“Lainie—” he began, then paused. What could he say that wouldn’t make him a total asshole? He’d have to outright lie to her face right now, or tell her the truth, and at the moment she looked so vulnerable he wasn’t sure he could do either.
In the dim light of the bar, holding her in his arms, rocking back and forth to a slow, soulful melody he almost believed he could give her another chance. Almost. But he couldn’t risk putting his heart out there for her again. She nearly destroyed him last year. She was the only person in the world with the power to do so, and there was no doubt she could do it again.
She stared up at him with shimmering eyes, her lips parted slightly. His gaze dropped to her lips and he pulled her in closer. She brought one of her hands from around his neck and cupped the side of his face. He leaned into it and moved closer, already tasting her lips. At that moment, Jamison played the last doleful note on his guitar, breaking the spell. Ethan’s breath hitched. He pulled back and put his hand up to hers, drawing it from his face. His thumb brushed over her rings.
“Why are you still wearing these?” he asked, his brow furrowing.
She looked away and didn’t answer for a long moment. Finally, she said, so softly he almost missed her words, “Hope. I’ll take them off when I’m ready to accept it’s really over.”
Content (c) 2018, 2019 Cate Tayler. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this content may be republished, other than brief excerpts for review purposes, without prior permission.