With Every Heartbeat
Page 9

 Linda Kage

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“It’s not what?”
Zoey straightened her back and drew in a breath. “Nothing.” Her eyes were filled with concern as she glanced in at Cora, though.
I felt as if I was being left out of a secret, but I was usually paranoid about people thinking the worst of me and keeping things from me, so I pushed my qualms aside.
Neither of us spoke for a good thirty seconds, so I blew out a breath. “I’m gonna...yeah.” I hooked my thumb over my shoulder and motioned down the hall toward the exit. “I’m going to go then.”
“Okay,” she said and nodded once more. She was big on nodding. Not so much on talking. But then, I was exactly the same.
I stepped in reverse away from her as I sent her a small smile. With a little farewell wave, I said, “Welcome to Ellamore. It was nice to meet you.”
“Thank you. You too.” She averted her gaze as color flooded her cheeks.
At first, I empathized. There was nothing I hated more than blushing, which I did more than I wanted to. It was one of those horrifyingly embarrassing reactions that came when you were caught thinking or doing something you knew you shouldn’t and making matters worse by letting everyone else around you know it.
But then it struck me that she was thinking something she knew she shouldn’t be. All I’d said was that it was nice to meet her. I don’t think even Ten could’ve found a way to turn that into a dirty thought, which meant...her body had just responded in a way she hadn’t wanted it to.
Whew. My sympathy turned to relief, glad she was also feeling the unwanted attraction between us. It’d been awful thinking I was experiencing it all one-sided. But to know it was shared was a relief. Except...wait.
Unease finally struck. Oh, no. This was not good. Poor, innocent Cora was lying mere feet away while her boyfriend and best friend were experiencing vibes for each other? How wrong was that? I needed to get out of here...like five minutes ago.
“’Night,” I mumbled, stumbling around so I could haul butt for the door.
I hardly ever felt instant attraction to women. I’d grown crushes on girls over the years after getting to know them or watching them for a while, but Cora had been the first to give me an instant punch in the gut the first moment I’d seen her. It didn’t seem possible that her best friend would be able to draw the same exact reaction from me.
While I drove home, my fifteen-year-old truck trying to rattle apart around me, I realized one awful fact. As much as I’d been hoping to connect with someone who’d shared a similar past, I wasn’t going to be able to make friends with Zoey Blakeland after all. I was going to have to keep my distance from her instead.
Though it was late when I pulled into town the night before, I was up with the sun, unable to stay asleep, unable to calm my nerves.
But I’d done it. I’d really done it. I had escaped the home of Ernest K. Blakeland, bank president of North Heritage National and co-founder of the Ridgeway Gold Country Club.
If I was lucky, he’d never find me. If I was marginally fortunate, he wouldn’t discover my location until I’d done what I’d come to do. And if God hated me, he’d be downstairs right now demanding to know Cora’s room number.
But I wasn’t going to think about that possibility. I had plans, and I was going to see them through, no matter what he did.
Cora needed me.
The first thing I did was check on her. She was sleeping so soundly I had to put my fingers by her parted lips to make sure she was still breathing. I still couldn’t believe she’d put herself at so much risk last night by drinking.
As soon as she woke up, we were going to have a serious talk.
I let her rest for now, though. She needed all the rest she could get.
My next order of business for the day was to carry my boxes up to my apartment from my car. Henry, from last night, wasn’t on duty. The new guy who’d taken his place reminded me so much of the doorman off Curious George I almost expected to find a dachshund at his side.
I faltered and fidgeted, not sure how to introduce myself.
“Hi,” I finally mumbled. Okay, that was lame. Face heating, I tried again. “I’m Zoey. I just moved in last night.”
His grin spread. “Into 8E with Miss Wilder?” When my eyes widened in shock, he grinned. “Henry already told me. I’m Terrance.” He bowed. “Welcome to the Chateau Rivera, Miss Blakeland. Is there anything I can do for you on this fine day?”
“No.” I ducked my face and shook my head, not used to such respectful treatment. “No thank you. I was just going to carry in my things from my car...if that’s okay.”