The Hotel Magnate's Demand(9)

By: Jennifer Rae



Amy sidled in next to Willa on the red velvet banquette. More partygoers had arrived and the room was filling with hot bodies. Inside her chest the usual thrill of excitement thumped. But tonight there was something else in there. Caution. An unmissable beat.

Calm the hell down. But it was hard to tell her heart to do that with Luke sitting right opposite her, with his big hard body and his come-to-bed eyes that had just locked with hers so hard she’d thought she’d never prise them loose.

‘What the hell happened? That was a pretty heated conversation.’

Amy glanced at Luke as Willa spoke. A couple of vodka sodas and her friend’s whispering hiss echoed like a train in the desert.

‘Shh.’ Amy moved a little closer so she could hiss herself into Willa’s ear. ‘Your brother hasn’t changed at all. He still thinks you and I are two little girls who can’t take care of ourselves.’

‘What did he say?’

He’d said she was still making men do stupid things. As soon as he’d said it she been able to tell he regretted it. She knew he hadn’t meant it as it had come out. She couldn’t remember how many times he’d told her over and over that night that it wasn’t her fault. That just because she’d been friendly it hadn’t given that loser the right to expect anything from her or to do...what he did.

Amy pushed down the swooping, then glanced at Luke. His eyes met hers and her stomach settled. He hadn’t meant that. He’d rushed straight over to her to tell her he hadn’t meant that. But what if he was right? Maybe she was flirting a little too fiercely. Amy hitched at her shirt. Maybe she was exposing too much skin.

No. No! Stop! she scolded herself. What had happened hadn’t been her fault. The way she dressed and the way she spoke to people had nothing to do with what had happened. It had been his fault. This shouldn’t ever have been her problem, her hang-up.

Amy shook herself physically. When she’d come home from Weeping Reef her mother and father and even her little brother had wrapped her up in their little cocoon of a family and helped her recover. That was when she’d met Laurie. Sweet, nice Laurie. Who’d loved her. Who’d made her feel whole again.

She’d hadn’t thought about what had happened in years. It had only been in the last six months, since her old friends from Weeping Reef had come back into her life and their stories had been rehashed, that she’d thought about it again. But she was strong. She was tough. She wasn’t going to let the memories of one bad night make her into a victim.

‘Ames? Was he awful?’

‘No, not at all.’ Amy shook her head and turned back to her friend. ‘Sometimes I’m just too sensitive. And besides, I think I’m still in a little bit of shock that he’s even here. You should have warned me!’

‘I’m sorry about that, Ames. It happened so suddenly. And anyway, there’s no need to be embarrassed. You had a crush on him years ago. He probably doesn’t even remember anything about it...or...anything else. And he wouldn’t even care. You know Luke—keep the peace, stay cool, never let anyone know what you think.’

‘Yeah...’

That had been Luke eight years ago. She’d fallen over herself back then to get him to notice her. That night with that horrible guest had been all about trying to make Luke jealous. She’d been trying for months to get him to notice her but he hadn’t. All Luke had wanted to do was work and haul her into his office to tell her off every time she bent a staple.

The old Luke would never have apologised. The old Luke would have said nothing. He’d have let her walk away. She knew his theory—not my monkeys, not my circus.

But tonight he hadn’t let her walk away. He was different. He looked different. Older. Harder. Stronger. Sexier. Amy bit her bottom lip as she sneaked another glance at him. That same strong jaw—only now wider. That same thick dark hair—shorter, but still with a hint of wave. His skin wasn’t as tanned, and he’d put on weight, but she could tell that underneath that suit he was all muscle.

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