Rejecting His Desire
She slinked around the living room of Daisy’s home where all the furniture had been cleared away so people could dance. Her sister could have had an extravagant wedding, but she had been happy with a simple ceremony. Micah King was certainly not short of money, but in the brief time Rose had gotten to know Daisy she was beginning to realize that her sister was happy with what she had.
It was hard to believe that until six months ago, Rose hadn’t even known she had siblings, let alone that she was part of triplets. She’d been on her own a long time. Her parents had died in a car crash when she was ten, leaving her alone and in foster homes until she was fifteen.
She stepped out into the hallway, making her way up the stairs, stopping at the window halfway up. It was an idyllic place; the house faced the Silver Lake on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Rose lifted her hand to the pane of glass, sighing wishfully. It certainly was beautiful. Just for a split second she wondered what her life would have been like had she grown up somewhere like this.
The sun was hot on the July day, leaving hues of color bouncing off the still water as it reflected the calmness of the afternoon. All the little fishing boats were in the harbor, and the seagulls swooned down on them as they pulled their catch of fish onto the harbor deck. A large boat carrying more people to the island pulled around the lake. There were only two ways to get there—boat or plane.
Would it be terribly rude to sneak away, change into her jeans, slip on her tennis shoes, and go outside for a walk? She felt so exposed in this dress. It was beautiful, there was no doubt about it, but the strapless emerald green silk fell just above her knee, the back dipping low to the base of her spine.
When she had discovered she wouldn't be wearing a bra, Daisy had insisted that she looked lovely, but Rose had worried that the skimpy dress would fall down. She wasn’t exactly
well endowed, and she certainly wasn't used to going without a bra. Rose had learned a long time ago that it was best to play down what little assets she had.
She hadn’t wanted to upset Daisy by refusing to wear the dress. After all, it wasn’t every day that your sister got married—a sister that she hadn’t even known she was lucky enough to have until six months ago.
Micah, Daisy’s brand new husband, was a bit of a dish. He was part owner of a business he’d started with two friends who’d been in the Navy SEALs with him. He oozed inaudible menace, as did Jack Calloway and Kent Lloyd, both of whom were still single. Poppy, their birth mother, had asked the men to find the three daughters she’d given up for adoption. When Jack met Rose, he tried to come on to her. Her response was to show him the way out of the jazz club she owned, which should have left him knowing exactly where he stood.
Rose had felt Jack’s eyes on her throughout the evening. Every time she’d looked his way, he seemed to be watching her every move. At the age of thirty-one she hadn’t had one relationship with a man that made her stop and say wow. As far as she was concerned, she’d rather have a piece of good steak followed by a glass of Merlot.
“Honey girl, you look as if you’d rather be somewhere else.”
The familiar voice made her stomach clench and her heart race.
She cleared her throat, turning around. “I thought about changing my clothes. I’m not really all that comfortable in this type of attire.”
Jack’s dark eyes went over her from top to bottom, his perusal slow, until his eyes rested on hers.
“That’d be a real pity, Rose, ’cause you look beautiful in that dress.”
“Yeah, right.” She laughed. “Is that a pick-up line, Jack?”
Even on her best day she thought she just looked ‘okay’, nothing out of this world, definitely not a beauty like Daisy and Jasmine. Rose thought that the beauty gene must have passed her by, because her two sisters were beautiful while she was merely passable.
The male species were okay, but she’d never found one that made her sigh and swoon. She was used to putting up a front, fighting her battles, but truth be told, she was embarrassed and felt uncomfortable in such close proximity with Jack.
He reached over, slipping his finger around a curl that the hairdresser had tonged into her straight hair, it was left loose while the rest of her hair was piled on top of her head. He twined it around his finger, doing it as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
She reached up, circling his wrist with her fingers, only they were too small, and it made her aware of just how large he was.
He gave her a questioning look. “You gonna try and throw me down the stairs or something?” His mouth twitched as his eyes twinkled with amusement.
She stared hard at him. She didn’t like to be touched. “If I have to.”
Rose was defiant; she knew for sure that no way in hell would she be able to do that. When he’d allowed her to kick his six and a half feet of muscled body out of her club she’d had to admit surprise. Rose thought a man like him would have been mortified by a female getting one over on him, but he hadn’t even lifted a finger to stop her.
He stepped back, and she held her breath when she felt his fingers touch her neck as he let go of her hair. Her insides did that shaking thing which had also happened the last time she saw him. He leaned back against the banister and shoved his hands into his trouser pockets.
“So why’d you laugh when I called you pretty?”
“Because I thought it was funny and a terrible pick-up line.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You think that was a pick-up line?”
“Wasn’t it?” She moved back, or tried to; she was already pushed against the window. He was so close, she had to look up to talk to him. The air seemed limited, and she blew out a breath to cool her very unattractive sweaty upper lip.
“No, it was the truth. You look beautiful.”
She tried to be casual by shrugging her shoulders, but she was standing in four-inch heels, and the movement unbalanced her—there was no way that was ever going to end well. She fell forward straight into his arms, her braless breasts squashed into his hard chest.
Immediately her nipples hardened, and she was shocked. She could feel her body enjoying the warmth of Jack Calloway before she realized he had his arms around her with his long fingers laying on the bare skin of her back. Jeezus, was that an electric shock whizzing down her arms to the tips of her toes?
She pushed back, looking up into those black eyes that were half closed. He, on the other hand, seemed perfectly unaffected by what had just happened. Although he wasn’t smiling as he had been, the facetiousness had disappeared. She frowned. Had she imagined that sizzle of awareness? No…the soles of her feet felt like a pincushion.
He was powerful, a magnificent specimen of a man who was just lying in wait for the
unexpected, just momentarily latent.
“You are beautiful,” he insisted.
She laughed, because she wasn’t used to anyone saying things like that about her, let alone this perfect embodiment of the male species.
“You find my compliment funny?”
She lowered her gaze, and when her eyes were level with the two opened buttons of his shirt, which showed a small amount of chest hair peeping out, she wondered if the short strands were as silky as they looked. Damn.
She tried to pull away, but he tightened his hold. She could kick him exactly where it would hurt, but he moved slightly as if aware of her intentions. She lifted her head, meeting his stare. His eyebrows raised, and the gleam of amusement in his eyes told her that he knew exactly what she’d been thinking.
“I’d prefer to keep my virility if you don’t mind.”
“Then let me go.”
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