The Hotel Magnate's Demand(6)By: Jennifer Rae
‘No...’ Amy grinned. ‘But I have lost my tolerance for your teasing. And if you haven’t noticed...’ Amy put one hand on a hip and pushed it out ‘...I’m not as skinny as I used to be.’
Yeah, he’d noticed. Luke beat down the heat pumping through his veins. Amy wasn’t the skinny teenager of eight years ago. She’d changed. Filled out. His eyes slipped to her chest. Really filled out. And although he’d always considered her a pretty girl, she’d always been just that—a girl. But she wasn’t a girl any more. She was a woman. And, by the looks of the body she was showing off in a tight white skirt and tan silky blouse, she was all woman.
But she was still his little sister’s friend. Her silly, irresponsible friend. The girl who was too pretty for her own good. The girl who made an art form out of flirting. And that hadn’t changed. The barman was still flushing and throwing furtive glances Amy’s way.
‘Some things have changed, but not everything.’
He nodded towards the barman and Amy turned to see the direction of his gaze. The barman smiled shyly before fumbling with a glass and allowing it to drop with a loud smash to the ground.
He leaned in close to Amy’s ear so no one else could hear. ‘Still making men do stupid things.’
As soon as the words had left his mouth he regretted them. He watched her stiffen. He felt her shrink away from him and her cheeks burned an instant red. He hadn’t meant that. Not what she thought.
She smiled. Wide. Fake. ‘It’s okay.’ She gathered drinks. She hoisted her purse under her arm, flicked her hair and left. Making him feel like the most insensitive man in the country.
He knew what had happened all those years ago wasn’t her fault. She’d been a kid. Sure, she’d been silly, naïve—reckless, even. But who wasn’t at that age? She hadn’t deserve what had happened to her and he’d made sure that the loser who’d attacked her understood how wrong he’d been.
Luke watched her walk back to the table filled with people he hadn’t seen in years. People who had once been closer to him than his family. People who’d made him feel normal. People who’d made him feel as if he belonged somewhere for the first time in his life. For the only time in his life. He’d never felt like that since.
The memory of that summer on Weeping Reef had got him through some tough times in his life. Had it only been a few months they’d all lived together on the island? It had seemed like longer. It had seemed that summer had lasted for years. It was the place where he’d remembered being young. Having fun. Being himself. But that was over. His reality now was work and responsibility and money and more work.
And he liked his life. He didn’t want to go back. He’d grown up so much since then, learned so much. He was different now. Stronger.
But as he watched Amy walk away, clearly angry and upset, he didn’t feel strong. He felt twenty-four again. Inept. Out of his depth and totally unable to decide what to do next. At twenty-four he would have ignored it. Ignored her. Ignored the way she felt and the fact that he’d put his foot into it. He would have sat with the others and said nothing. Carried on as if nothing had happened.
But he wasn’t twenty-four any more. He was turning thirty-two in a month. And over the years he’d learned that the only way to solve a problem was to throw himself into it. Avoiding problems always made them bigger, more bad and harder to solve. Walking away was for sheep, and he wasn’t a sheep. Not any more.
His feet flew across the floor and he had his arm on hers before she even sat down. ‘Amy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it came out.’