Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(14)

by Jamie Beck

He’d have come without Laney? She kept the unspoken sentiment bubbling inside her, bottled up. Those types of remarks and that pet name were exactly the kinds of things that had kept her pining for him her whole life.

“I don’t hate you.” She lowered her voice. “But sometimes I wish I could.”

David’s eyes blinked in surprise. Before he could respond, Hank raced up the stairs. Another snug, well-worn T-shirt molded to his muscular chest and shoulders. Man, he was easy on the eyes. Why couldn’t she be attracted to him? Seemed her head and heart never inhabited the same space. Maybe that was Cat’s problem, too, she speculated.

“At your service, Vivienne.” Hank lifted the heavy pouch from her shoulder. “Shall we go?”

“Thanks.” Vivi glanced back over her shoulder at David. “See you in a while. Have fun.”

David tilted his head, looking as if he’d completely forgotten how to have fun. Ignoring the pinch in her heart and instinct to shake him, she turned away and followed Hank out the front door.

They sauntered along the long gravel driveway leading to Mohegan Trail.

“Thanks for rescuing me again.” Vivi squeezed Hank’s forearm, then released it. “You’ve been a savior.”

“No thanks needed. I enjoy your company.” Lowered brows replaced his adorable smile. “Although, I’ve got to ask, why David? He doesn’t seem like your type.”

“Why not? Because he’s so sophisticated and I’m so, well . . . me?” She grinned. Deep down she knew it was true. Vivi liked herself well enough. She didn’t want to change. Yet her folksy personality made her different from most women David knew.

“No.” Hank’s confused scowl made Vivi grimace. “You’re open and enthusiastic.” He paused. “But he strikes me as stiff and cold. I can’t imagine you two together.”

“Well, apparently neither can he!” She chuckled with a shrug. “David’s not cold. He’s just reserved. Although he’s been more closed off since his mother died, he has a tender side. That’s what I love most.”

“Tender?”

“You should’ve seen how he adored his mother. And it couldn’t have been fun having his sister’s friend follow him around like a puppy when we were kids, but he always made time for me. He’d compliment my art, and he never teased me about my clothes and hairstyles. And let me tell you, I was a walking, talking Glamour ‘Don’t’ back then.” Vivi snorted at her own memories. “I lived alone with my dad, a belligerent drunk who never stopped grieving what he lost long enough to pay attention to me. Cat’s friendship gave me a sister. David’s gave me more confidence and hope.”

“And he doesn’t bore you?” Hank’s frank tone surprised her, and for some inexplicable reason, she sensed a hidden agenda.

“Never.” She frowned. Boring?

David’s photographic memory enabled him to talk endlessly about any topic. He’d even been able to make history exciting for her. No small feat!

“If anything, his reserve is comforting.” She kicked some pebbles on the side of the road. “Until his mother died, he’d been my rock.”

Hank stared at her. “I’m surprised your feelings haven’t affected your relationship with Catalina. It must be awkward for her.”

“I’ve never put her in the middle. Our friendships are separate.”

“That’s a lot of juggling. Must be hard this week, with Laney here.” His eyes met hers. “You’re hiding your feelings well.”

“Watching him with her physically hurts, but I’m determined to push past it.” Vivi paused. “That said, I can’t believe he loves her. Not that he loves me, of course.” She peered at Hank from beneath her lashes. “You think I’m crazy.”

“Not crazy. Maybe disillusioned.” He grinned at her before shoving his hands into his pockets. “Why do you doubt his feelings for Laney?”

“Laney seems nice enough, but I know him. He couldn’t love someone so . . . dry.” Vivi noted Hank’s dubious expression and knew he disagreed. “Lust after her body, yes. Admire her ambition and intelligence, sure. Love? I don’t think so.”

The sound of hurried footsteps scattering the gravel behind them interrupted their conversation. Within an instant, David caught up to them. Heat rushed to Vivi’s face. She hoped he hadn’t heard.

“Laney took a conference call, so I can come after all.” His hands rested on his hips and he nodded at Hank. Shifting his gaze to Vivi, he smiled. “Let’s go to Rodman’s Hollow, for old time’s sake.”

“Sure,” she answered. She smiled in spite of the uneasiness wrestling her body. Had David or Hank detected the catch in her voice? “Let’s go.”

Together the threesome continued alongside the paved road. David’s words and actions confirmed he wanted to reconnect with her, if only as a friend. Why didn’t she feel happier?

Hank broke the uncomfortable silence settling over them. “So, how long have you been coming here, David?”

“Fifteen years.” His stride matched Hank’s, while Vivi trailed two steps behind them. “It’s your first time, right? How do you like the island?”

“It’s a more rustic version of Nantucket.”

“Yes, there are similarities. I like the quiet here.” David rubbed his neck. “It’s named for the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, but the Native Americans called it Manisses, meaning ‘God’s little island.’ Whatever its name, I’m glad my mother won this battle.”

“Battle?” Hank asked.

“Initially, my dad refused to buy property here because it didn’t make financial sense. My mom had argued that value couldn’t always be measured on a balance sheet, and time spent together here would be priceless.” David clasped his hands behind his back. “Anyway, she wore him down, although he’s never really taken to the place.”

“Why hasn’t he put it up for sale?” Vivi piped in.

David’s shocked expression revealed he’d never before considered the possibility. “He’d probably love to sell it and reinvest the money elsewhere.” A joyless chuckle punctuated his remark. “But Cat would kill him. He’d never risk it.”

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