Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(3)

by Jamie Beck

He’d barely kept in touch with anyone after his move. She recalled the final letter she’d sent him on the first anniversary of his mother’s passing. His cryptic reply had politely warned her to leave him be, so she’d given up and started pushing him from her mind, determined to finally get over him.

She’d nearly succeeded, too, by throwing herself into the many other things in life she loved—her elementary school art teaching job, her photography hobby, her weekend singing gigs. Then, three weeks, three days, and seven hours ago, Cat had casually mentioned David’s unexpected move back to New York. Vivi had feigned nonchalance until she’d been alone. Then she’d been unable to concentrate on anything else.

The next day, he’d sent her a brief e-mail promising to get together as soon as he’d settled into work and his new home. Somehow she’d since refrained from calling to welcome him home, or worse, from wandering around his Manhattan neighborhood hoping to “accidentally” bump into him. But nothing had prevented her from fantasizing about seeing him again.

Cat reappeared, looking irritable, and shoved her phone into her purse.

“Forget about Justin.” Vivi patted Cat’s thigh twice. “Move on.”

Cat’s chocolate-brown eyes fixed on Vivi. “Easier said than done. Surely you know that as well as anyone.”

Vivi’s eyes dropped to her hands, clasped together and resting in her lap. Yes, I sure do. Today’s anticipation of the long-awaited reunion unleashed a million thoughts and emotions. Might he finally see her as more than his friend, his muñequita, a little doll? Or had the prolonged absence from each other’s lives diminished the closeness that had once existed?

Experiencing the feelings was challenging. Concealing them from Cat—clearly impossible.

The ferry horn’s blast pierced the air, ripping Vivi from her thoughts.

“Grab your bag. We’re docking.” Cat hopped off the bench and proceeded to the deck. The breeze whipped her waist-length hair around her face. She traipsed off the ferry with her Louis Vuitton suitcase in tow.

Other passengers appeared to be admiring Cat’s long legs, luminous hair and eyes, and finely chiseled features. Even when not working the runway, Cat looked every inch the high-profile fashion model.

Vivi sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose in response to the pungent stench of fish and engine fumes in the harbor. But nothing destroyed the romantic notion of a bygone era evoked by the National Hotel, a white-clapboard Victorian-era structure that dominated the landscape.

Following behind Cat, Vivi heaved her no-name duffel over her shoulder and ambled down the gangway. She tugged at the bottom of her cutoff denim shorts while discreetly searching the crowded parking lot for David.

As a teen, Vivi had been prepared to wait forever for him. Of course, forever had proved too ambitious. Now, on the cusp of letting those dreams die, she’d see him again, here on a crowded dock.

“Hey, Cat!” David waved his arms above his head. “Over here!”

His eyes widened upon catching sight of Vivi, which made the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. “Vivi? I didn’t know you were coming.” He then glanced at Cat with a confused expression. “Where’s Justin?”

“Don’t ask,” Cat barked. “Don’t say a word, in fact.”

David raised his hands in surrender before kissing Cat’s cheek. “Sorry.” Then he turned to Vivi and grinned, reaching for her hand.

Only thirty-one, not a single gray strand marred his beautiful head of hair. Dark stubble covered his jaw, framing his sumptuous mouth. Although no longer captain of any lacrosse team, he’d retained an athletic build—broad shouldered and narrow in the waist and hips—and stood a full foot taller than her five foot one.

“Vivi,” he murmured in her ear while curling her against his chest and kissing the top of her head. The contact of their standard hello hug filled her with longing, as always. “It’s so good to see you.”

When he squeezed her more tightly, her entire body resonated. Home. “Welcome back,” she said while easing away.

“Thanks.” David favored her with his shy smile.

“So, are you happy to be home, or missing Hong Kong?” she asked.

Following a pronounced pause, he replied, “I spend most waking hours at the office, so it doesn’t make much difference where I sleep.”

The image of him tumbled in bedsheets smacked her in the face, but she maintained her cool. His flip remark hadn’t fooled her. After more than a decade of friendship, how could he not remember she could see his soul?

“I doubt that’s true.” Noting a faint hitch in his breath, she wanly smiled.

Although curious to discover the reason behind his hesitancy, she knew he’d never disclose it in front of an audience. Patience, Vivi.

“Where’s Jackson?” Cat threw her luggage into the back of Jackson’s beat-up green Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“At the house with Hank.”

Vivi noticed Cat blanch, but David spoke again before Vivi could pry. “And Laney.”

“Laney . . . from Hong Kong?” Cat croaked before shooting Vivi a worried glance. Laney from Hong Kong? Although the words struck like a blow to the head, Vivi plastered a smile on her face. Thankfully, neither Cat nor David noticed her clenched teeth.

“Yes,” he replied.

Cat donned her giant black sunglasses before opening the passenger door. “She sure traveled a long way for a short vacation.”

“Actually, she moved to New York, too.” David’s quiet response rocked Vivi to her core. No, no, no, no. Oh, God, she couldn’t breathe.

Cat slid her glasses along the bridge of her nose and pinned David with an astonished stare. “Moved to New York, or moved in with you?”

“She’s presently living in temporary housing provided by our law firm.” He opened the door for Vivi, waving her into the backseat without quite meeting her eyes. His vague answer weakened her knees, making her grateful to finally be seated.

“Wow.” Cat paused, fumbling for words. “Looks like this week will be filled with surprises.”

Laney must be why Vivi hadn’t heard from David after his initial e-mail. Before she could wallow in her misery, the car’s engine roared to life and they set off toward the bluffs of Mohegan Trail.