Heat of Passion
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The bell over the door jingled as she stepped inside. A few elderly women sat at a small table by the window, sipping coffee, but the gorgeous blonde from the wedding was nowhere in sight. Holly drifted through the doorway that separated the café from the bakery, and found Shelby Garrett standing behind the counter, blowing her nose with a crumpled tissue.
It was obvious the other woman was upset, and Holly was about to back away when Shelby caught sight of her.
With a strained smile, Shelby said, “Can I help you?”
“You’re Shelby, right?”
The blonde nodded.
Holly offered a smile of her own. “I’m Holly Lawson. I work for the company that catered your wedding.”
A spark of recognition filled Shelby’s blue eyes. Holly couldn’t help but notice how pretty the woman was. She looked like she belonged in an advertisement for surfing gear or something, all California girl good looks.
“Is this about the check we wrote?” Shelby asked with a sigh. “Johnny swore he put the right date on it, but he tends to accidentally postdate his checks all the time.”
“No, as far as I know, everything is fine.” Holly moved closer to the counter, discreetly pretending not to notice the other woman’s red-rimmed eyes and blotchy cheeks. She hoped there wasn’t trouble in paradise already. The couple she’d seen at the wedding had looked so disgustingly in love, it would be a shame if they’d somehow lost that lovin’ feeling.
“I’m actually here about something else. Well, someone.” She swallowed, absently glancing at the cakes sitting in the refrigerated glass cases next to the counter. “Carson Scott. He’s your husband’s friend, right?”
A rosy blush swept over Shelby’s cheeks. “A friend of both of ours, actually.”
Holly could sense there was a whole story behind that one sentence, but this probably wasn’t the best time to pry. Instead, she moistened her lips and said, “I’m trying to get in touch with him, but he’s not answering his phone. I was hoping maybe you could give me his address.” She quickly pressed on. “I swear, I’m not a crazy stalker or anything. Carson and I…have been seeing each other, I guess. I just needed to talk to him.”
“I’m afraid his address isn’t going to help you right now,” Shelby answered. “The team left for an assignment last night. I have no idea where they are, or when they’ll be back.”
Shelby had barely finished her last sentence when a few tears slid down her cheeks again. Looking embarrassed, she swiped at them with the sleeve of her green V-neck shirt. “I’m sorry. I know, it’s pathetic, huh? I shouldn’t get this hysterical over John being away. It’s what he does. I knew that when I married him.” She blinked a few times, her lashes spiky with wetness. “But it still sucks, you know? Never knowing if he’s okay, making coffee and baking cakes while he’s God-knows-where, possibly getting shot at.”
With a shaky breath, Shelby raised her tissue and blew her nose again.
Her words brought a spark of alarm to Holly’s gut. Getting shot at? She’d been so focused on herself ever since she’d met Carson that she hadn’t given much thought to what the life of a SEAL was like. God, was he in danger right now? The idea sent her pulse racing.
“Shit, I scared you, didn’t I?” Shelby blurted out. She tossed her tissue in the wastebasket behind her and quickly rounded the counter. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to freak you out.”
Holly swallowed again. “I’m not freaked out. Though I am kinda worried now.”
Shelby offered a mild smile. “Goes with the territory. Do you want a cup of coffee?”
What she wanted was to hear Carson’s voice and make sure he wasn’t dead, but she found herself nodding. “Sure.”
The blonde poured two cups of coffee, then led Holly into the café, where the women sat down. “So, how long have you been seeing Carson?” Shelby asked, looking curious.
“A week and a half, but we met about a month ago. At your bachelorette party, actually.”
Shelby’s delicate brows soared north. “Seriously?”
“You look surprised.”
“Well, I am. Carson doesn’t usually stay with one woman for long.” Shelby shot her an apologetic look. “No offense to you or anything.”
“None taken.” Holly sipped the hot coffee. “He told me all about it.”
Again Shelby’s cheeks flushed. “He did? Damn, that’s awkward then.”
Holly blinked. “It is?”
“Well, most women wouldn’t enjoy having coffee with someone their boyfriend has slept with.”
Holly choked mid-sip. “You slept with Carson? Does your husband know?”
The other woman let out a slow laugh. “Uh, yeah, he knows. He was there.”
After a beat, Holly burst out laughing too. Figured. Carson had told her he’d led a pretty racy life, so she really wasn’t surprised to find out he’d had a threesome with his best friend and best friend’s now-wife. Oddly enough, she wasn’t angry, or even jealous. She’d never been the type of woman who cared about her lovers’ pasts, and the fact that Carson had chosen to leave his causal lifestyle for her was kind of flattering.