Meeting Megan Again. Julianna Morris
his dark gaze had made her uncomfortably aware of him…as a man. For a while, Tyler had attended most of the family gatherings, always watching, seeming to disapprove of her. Then he’d just stopped coming.
“Why doesn’t he come to any of the family stuff?” Kara asked. “Didn’t he used to live with Grandma and Grandpa?”
Megan shrugged. “For a few months. They learned his parents had died and he’d been raised in a group home up north. They brought him to California just before he turned eighteen. But he never really accepted the family.”
Kara sighed. “We have to invite him, Mom. He never had kids, so he must be lonely.” Her tone made it sound like Tyler was over the hill, instead of a healthy thirty-four years.
“I’m sure he’s fine.” Megan glanced over her daughter’s shoulder at the magazine, and a familiar quiver went through her stomach. The article was titled, “The Sexiest Man in America.” And it was right. Even after her lousy marriage and her vow to avoid men, she still got goose bumps when she thought about Tyler O’Bannon.
“Uh…” Kara hesitated. “Grandma Eleanor really wants him to come to the reunion, Mom. And she hasn’t been feeling well. It would make her happy.”
“Fine, I’ll invite him.” Megan knew she was being manipulated, yet she couldn’t refuse this last argument. She ignored her daughter’s jubilation and pulled out some stationary. It had been so long, she couldn’t imagine Tyler showing up. But at least it would please Kara and her great-grandmother.
O’Bannon’s Inn, Bed and Breakfast.
The sign was lettered in old-fashioned writing, and it hung from a wrought-iron frame. A delicate pattern of morning glories twined around each corner. Beneath it hung a second sign, saying Closed for the Season.
Tyler O’Bannon turned down a tree-lined driveway and saw a beautifully restored Victorian house standing on a small rise of land. There were at least two dozen cars parked in the small lot, and a leisurely game of horseshoes was being conducted in the middle of the garden.
He looked more closely, trying to see if he recognized anybody, but it had been a long time and he’d never known anyone in the family that well, except for Eleanor and Grady. The couple had been kind to him, but angry teenagers aren’t particularly receptive to kindness.
A wry smile tugged at Tyler’s mouth.
During the months he’d lived with the O’Bannons he’d been a major pain in the behind, with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest. Too proud for his own good and too stubborn to care.
Tyler parked his Mercedes between a pickup truck and a battered station wagon and got out. In his pocket was an information flyer about the reunion, along with two letters. One was from Eleanor, saying she’d been “feeling poorly lately,” and it might be her “last reunion, so won’t you come?”
The second letter was from a child, pleading with him to attend the annual family function. A postscript had been added by the kid’s mother, saying she was sure he wouldn’t be able to fit it in his schedule and not to feel obligated about coming. She’d even written, “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I was your cousin’s wife….”
Not remember Megan?
Tyler practically snorted as he headed for the front door of the Victorian. Megan was the forbidden fiancée of his cousin, now his cousin’s widow. They’d met at her engagement party, and he’d convinced himself she was marrying the wrong man for the wrong reasons.
For a brief moment, Tyler paused, his hand on the polished brass handle of the vestibule door. He’d like to think he’d come to the reunion for Eleanor’s sake alone, but he had to be honest, if only to himself.
He wanted to see Megan again.
Maybe he just needed to be sure she was out of his system, and that things had worked out best for the both of them. She would have been miserable starting out with a penniless husband, and he would have been miserable knowing he couldn’t give her the things his cousin could provide.
“Right,” he muttered, knowing in his heart that he wasn’t entirely convinced. Shaking his head, Tyler walked through the vestibule into the central hall of the house and glanced around. High overhead hung two crystal chandeliers, lighting the foyer and broad staircase. And, some twenty feet away, a woman was talking to a young girl.
And undoubtedly her daughter. For reasons he wasn’t willing to examine, Tyler was glad to see that Megan’s child resembled her, instead of his cousin.
“We can’t put Reece and Jessie in the same room,” Megan said firmly. It didn’t take a genius to see her patience was wearing thin.
“But they’re engaged,” the youngster protested.
“I don’t know where you get your ideas. Engaged people don’t always sleep together.”
“Aw, Mom. You’re so-o-o old-fashioned.” Kara rolled her eyes and Tyler couldn’t keep from grinning. He’d heard that, between television and the Internet, children grew up fast these days, and Kara was living proof.
“Fine. I’m old-fashioned.”
Tyler realized they were so deep in their discussion they hadn’t even noticed his arrival. He crossed his arms and focused his gaze on Megan. She’d never been classically pretty, but she had a special beauty that demanded a man’s full attention. Five-foot-three, with dark auburn hair and a body that was perfectly proportioned for her petite size. Snug-fitting jeans cupped her bottom and she wore a green T-shirt with O’Bannon Family Reunion printed across the breast.
“We have to assign Reece and Jessie separate rooms,” Megan insisted. “Put Reece’s fiancée in number four.”
Kara looked desperate. “We have to save that room. Because…uh, you-know-who might come.”
“He’s not coming, Kara.” Megan rubbed her temples as if they ached. “Tyler is a wealthy man now. He’ll probably think we want something from him. Besides, why would he come after all this time?”
“Because he was invited,” Tyler said, deciding it was the right moment to throw his two cents into the conversation.
“Oh, my gosh,” the youngster shrieked. “It’s him. See, I told you he’d come, Mom.”
The expression in Megan’s green eyes went from affectionately exasperated, to stunned. “Tyler,” she whispered.
“Yup, it’s me. It’s been a long time, Megan.”
“You don’t…that is, what are you doing here?”
“Don’t you remember? You invited me to the family reunion, and how could I resist such a cordial invitation?” Tyler pulled Kara’s letter from his pocket and waved it in the air.
“I’ll get him one of the shirts,” Kara cried happily. She disappeared down the hall.
Megan stepped away, putting the antique reception desk between them. She’d never expected Tyler to actually show up. He had kept in touch with Eleanor, calling on her birthday and sending gifts at Christmas, but he’d never visited. Not for years and years.
He’s a proud man, Grady O’Bannon always said when somebody asked about Tyler. And Eleanor would finish with, he’ll come back when he’s ready. Eleanor had never stopped hoping Tyler would become part of the family again; maybe her wish was finally coming true.
“Nothing to say?” Tyler asked.
“Plenty.” Megan hesitated. It might seem rude, but she needed to understand why he would attend a family reunion after so long. “Why are you here, Tyler? And don’t