Never Too Hot
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Waving away his praise she said, “It's nothing. Just tacos.”
He finished the first taco, started another. “You should be in the kitchen, not waiting tables.”
“Waiting tables is just for money. I'd rather paint.”
Watching as she sucked her lower lip beneath her upper teeth made not only Connor's groin react, but also something in his chest. And even though he'd told himself over and over to keep his distance, he found that he wanted to know more about her, wanted to try to solve the mystery of her.
Maybe then she'd stop being so damn intriguing.
“Why are you here?”
She blinked, clearly thrown off by his abrupt question. “Most people have never heard of Blue Mountain Lake.”
She put down her half-eaten taco. “I got a divorce. And just to be clear, I'm the one who wanted out. But once it was all done I knew I couldn't stay there anymore.”
“New York City.”
The picture was growing clearer. “You didn't wait tables in the city, did you?”
“No. I did a lot of fund-raising.” She raised her eyebrows. “More than you'd think was humanly possible, actually.”
Another puzzle piece slid into place. She didn't dress like a rich girl, but there was a sophistication in the way she moved.
“Most people don't walk away from money.”
She took a long drink from her bottle of beer, then said, “I know this is going to sound like I'm a poor little rich girl, but I love how different Blue Mountain Lake is from my previous life. My parents think I'm crazy to want to be out here, can't believe I'm waiting tables for nothing, but it's my decision. I waited thirty-three years for this, for something all my own, to use my own hands and brain rather than have everything handed to me on a silver platter.” She paused, looked him straight in the eye. “I came here to finally get it right.”
Any other time, any other person, he would have let it be. But the way Ginger had pushed him to talk last night about the fire, about his hands, still grated. He'd call it retribution, and work like hell to believe that's all it was.
Rather than out-and-out fascination.
“Why'd your marriage fall apart?”
Instead of flinching at his pointed question, she came right back at him. “What is this, twenty questions?”
“Last night you got to ask the questions. Now it's my turn.”
She seemed to consider it before nodding once in agreement. “Fine. But I'm not going to spare you the gory details.”
Jesus, he'd already felt that she'd understood him last night, but now it seemed that she'd almost been in his head too.
“I'd get them out of you anyway.”
Loaded tension swung back around to heat, back to the sensual chemistry they couldn't push down.
“It was lust at first sight. Jeremy and I met at a dinner party given by a family friend. We left early to have sex at his frat house.”
Lust? Jealous sparks shot through him.
Looked like she was right. He didn't want the gory details after all.
“I was twenty-two. A virgin in her senior year of college, the good girl who'd been saving herself for Mr.
Perfect. So naive you wouldn't believe it. Within weeks his ring was on my finger. My parents fought it, told me to slow down, but I just thought they were being their usual rich, cautious selves, that they were snobs because he didn't have a huge bank account. So I ripped up the prenup they wanted him to sign and when he wanted money to start a company I gave it to him without doing any due diligence. I was so blindly, stupidly in love.” Her mouth twisted. “And then one day I realized it hadn't been love at all. Just pretty good sex that left as quickly as it had come.”
Pretty good grated, but not as much as great or fantastic would have. Connor did the math.
“You must have been with him ten years.”
“Don't remind me. What a waste. Ten years I spent trying to pretend everything was fine, trying to convince myself that I hadn't made the wrong choice, that I hadn't failed.”
“Why did you finally leave?”
Her eyes closed tight. “I'd rather not talk about it.”
A nice guy would have dropped it. But he'd lost that guy in the fire. “I talked last night. Fair is fair.”
Without opening her eyes, she said, “We were at one of the auctions I'd organized. Jeremy liked to be the auctioneer, was pretty good at it actually. Except that night, he'd been drinking. And when he drank he got sort of… mean.”
Connor's fists clenched. “Did he hurt you?”
Her eyes flew open. “No.” She shook her head. “Yes. It was one of those 'buy a date' auctions and I was one of the last women to be auctioned off. He made a joke.”
“About a cow.” Two bright spots of color spread across her cheeks. “About how if we lived in India I would be the prize for the night. That there must be some guy out there who liked,” she lifted her hands to make quote marks around the words, “big girls like me. And then he grimaced to show just how disgusting he thought I was.”
Connor had never met the guy, but he wanted to rip him apart with his bare hands.
“My father yanked him off the stage. I don't remember exactly how I got to him through all the tables and chairs.” She smiled then, a bitter twist of her lips. “But I'll never forget how good it felt to slap him. The sound it made when my palm hit his jaw. And then he swung at me with both fists, would have hit me if one of my father's friends hadn't pulled me out of the way in time.”
She took a breath, seemed to come back to the porch, the dining table. “It was the final straw. What was the point of pretending anymore? Everyone could already see what a mess my marriage was. So I filed. And got the hell out of there.”
“Your husband was an ass**le.”
She smiled, almost seeming surprised by it. “You're right. He was. Is.”
“And he was wrong. About you, about how you look.”
“Connor, you don't have to. It's taken me a long time, but I'm finally starting to come to terms with my body.
With my shape.” Another smile, this time more sad than happy. “I spent a lot of summers at fat camp.”