Awakening Beauty. Amy J. Fetzer
hurt anymore, the memory of how blind he’d been still stung. And the sudden flash reminded him that he would never know if a woman wanted him or a key to his family’s fortune.
“No girlfriend to call, thanks for asking. And I called the wrecker when I was talking to the deputy.” He tipped his head a bit and leaned on the counter, closing the space between them. “You’re real hot to get me out of here, aren’t you. Why is that?”
Lane kept right where she was, refusing to back off. It wasn’t a smart move. He smelled wonderful. Warm and spicy. And the brown leather jacket and tan shirt made him look downright yummy. She sucked in a breath that unfortunately brought his scent down deep inside her. “Unlike the idle rich, I have a business to run.”
Her voice was like smoke, low and throaty, and Tyler tried placing her accent. Not Southern for sure, but the region wasn’t definite, and it sounded slightly European sometimes.
“I believe your pocket is ringing.”
He blinked and reached for his cell phone.
“Fan club?” Lane asked.
He winked at her and her insides did a dance she’d almost forgotten. “Hello, Mom, yes, I’m fine.”
Lane smothered a laugh.
“Good grief, how did you hear about this so soon?” A pause and then he said, “Tell Mrs. Ashbury I’m fine. Yes, yes, I will on my way home.” He closed the phone. “I have to give her proof I’m not lying on a stretcher with my head split open.”
“I could accommodate you if you want some sympathy?” She hefted a resin statue of a gnome reading a book, her lips twitching with a smile.
“I’ll pass.” He chuckled and stepped away before she gave in to the urge to bean him. “Send me the bill for the books,” he said as he strode to the door.
“Or better yet, I’ll stop by tomorrow and pick it up.” Tyler somehow knew that would get her riled.
“The U.S. postal system is fine, Mr. McKay. It works for most people.”
Half out the door, Tyler grinned back at her. “I’m not most people, Miss Douglas.”
He shut the door and trotted down the steps, hailing a cab and leaving behind his wrecked car.
And Lane felt as if she’d just been warned. This wasn’t the end for Tyler McKay. And that, for her, was dangerous.
Tyler leaned against the kitchen counter in his parents’ house and bit into a sandwich. Since the accident hadn’t left him bleeding on the side of the road, his mom allowed him to snitch it from her kitchen.
Good thing, because his own fridge didn’t have anything in it that wasn’t growing fuzz. He really should remember to shop and then actually stay home long enough to eat it.
“I can’t believe that you haven’t been in that bookstore before today.” His mother poured herself some hot tea.
“Once, with Diana.”
His mother and her friend Diana Ashbury had known each other since they were in high school and were as close now as they’d been then. Tyler had grown up with Diana’s children and her son, Jace, was a good friend of his.
“So…what did you think of the owner. Diana shops there all the time. She adores Miss Douglas.”
“Adores?” Tyler almost choked on a sip of soda. He couldn’t imagine anyone adoring the Lane he knew. The woman was witty, yes, but she was very cool. And she had eyes that said, “Don’t even think about it,” and that just made him want to think about it.
“Oh, yes, Di says she can find any book and doesn’t charge extra for getting it.”
That was good business sense and Tyler appreciated that. Too bad Lane didn’t spend more effort on charm. Then again, maybe it was just him she didn’t like. “She isn’t participating in the Winter Festival.”
His mother looked up from stirring her tea. “Oh? How come?”
Tyler finished off the sandwich, and when he grabbed a dish towel to wipe his mouth, his mother tossed him a napkin and muttered, “I swear, Tyler McKay, your manners are terrible sometimes. I know I taught you better.”
“You did. Sorry.” He gave her a sheepish grin. “I don’t know why she’s not joining in. I got the feeling she just wanted to be left alone.”
“Well, she’s fairly new to town and she should meet the other shopkeepers. Everyone talks about what a wonderful job she did restoring that house. And as a member of the historical society, I’m delighted. If she hadn’t restored it, the town council would have torn down that lovely old place.”
Tyler admitted the two-story house did look spectacular. Painted soft yellow with green shutters and door, it had a white wraparound porch with some curly fretwork in the eaves. But what killed him was that he hadn’t noticed it until today.
Had he had his face that deep in work not to see the simple things going on around him? He’d been working long hours lately. Getting McKay Enterprises into the big-league competition with larger construction companies had been his father’s dream before he died. His father had taken the business regional last year, and in another year Tyler would take the company statewide.
“Yes, I agree Ms. Douglas should join in,” his mother said, breaking into his thoughts. “Perhaps I’ll ask her myself. Diana is the festival chairperson, you know.”
“When is she not?” His mother and her friend headed nearly every committee that existed in Bradford, South Carolina.
“I’d rather you two didn’t march over there and instigate something.” Lane would blame him for it, he thought.
“Really? Why?” When he didn’t jump in with a response, his mother eyed him for a second, then her face lit up.
Before he could stop her, she blurted, “You’re attracted to her!”
“No, of course not. Well, maybe. It’s hard to say.” Heck. He rubbed his face for a second. It was plain strange. Lane was definitely not his type, whatever his type was. But this was something he sure didn’t want to speculate about with his mother. “I don’t know her at all, but she doesn’t let anyone get close, that’s for sure.”
Tyler hadn’t seen her with anyone else but Davis and to the kid she was kind. But to him…well, she’d practically kicked him out the door. “Me.”
“Oh, nonsense. You’re making assumptions, Tyler. You just met her. And let’s remember, you met her after wrecking her car. Not exactly the best first impression, son. But as I recall, she isn’t like the women I’ve seen you date before.”
“It wouldn’t matter. I’m not looking for a wife, so get that gleam out of your eye, okay?”
His mom made a face. “Clarice was never the woman for you. Can’t you get beyond it?”
“No, and you liked her.” It sounded like an accusation, even to him.
His mother frowned distastefully. “I tolerated her because you loved her.”
Well, this was news. “Good grief, Mom, why didn’t you say anything before?”
“It’s a mother’s duty to accept and love the woman her son loves.”
There was no doubt in his mind that she believed that bunk. And no doubt she’d meant well. “In the future, I’d like to hear your opinion.”