“Oh, well,” Daphne said after a moment. She flicked her cigarette into the lake and pulled out her pack, frowning. “Damn it, that was the last one. I’m heading back to the house to get more. You want to come?”
“No thanks. I think I’ll stay out here a bit longer,” Audrey said, turning back to the lake. “Clear my head a bit more before returning. Camilla’s perfume is killing me.”
“Ha.” Daphne snorted. “Someone should tell her it’s gauche to bathe in her own line of perfume.”
“Yeah, but someone won’t, because she’s rich and powerful.” Audrey shared a smile with her twin, then waved her back toward the lodge. “Go. I’ll be in in a few.”
Daphne headed back up the path and Audrey circled the lake again, lost in her thoughts. She really didn’t know what to make of the situation. Was she the other woman? Just a bit of a fling? What was Reese other than the best friend of the man she was supposed to be in love with but hadn’t really thought about much since arriving? She didn’t have answers.
After about a half hour of walking alone, she arrived back at the dock and turned to head back to the lodge. As she headed back up the path, she heard voices and paused.
It was a male and a female voice. Curious, Audrey sneaked along the side of the cabin, listening in. The two were standing by the woodpile, and as she got closer, she could hear Reese and Camilla talking.
A stab of jealousy gutted her, and Audrey stopped short, surprised at herself. Why was she jealous? Reese wasn’t hers. Not really. There was nothing for her to be possessive about, but when she heard Camilla’s voice, she couldn’t stop her hands from clenching into fists. Unable to help herself, she slid forward along the lodge so she could listen in a bit more. After all, that wouldn’t hurt things, would it?
“Camilla,” Reese sighed. “Please. Don’t make this harder for me than it already is. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to make you understand. That’s all.”
“How am I supposed to understand? How did you change your mind so quickly?” There was a pause and a crunch of grass, as if someone was stepping. “A few days ago, we were in the hot tub, enjoying ourselves.” Camilla’s voice turned seductive, and Audrey pictured her leaning into Reese, her hands on his chest. “I don’t see how things have changed that much in that little time,” the heiress continued.
“Well, for starters, you left me behind,” Reese replied. “No clothes, no phone, no nothing. I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of that.”
“I was nervous,” Camilla said in a soft voice. “She was taking pictures with her phone. You know my father wouldn’t be happy if I got caught in a hot tub with a strange man.”
“Topless,” Reese added.
“Topless,” Camilla agreed in that slinky voice. “So you understand?”
“Oh, I understand. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t annoy me.”
“So is that why you’re turning me down?” Her voice became petulant.
Turning her . . . down? Audrey cocked her head and took another step forward, suddenly intensely curious as to what the two were saying. The knot in her throat became dry as a bone.
“Don’t make this more difficult than it is, Camilla.” Reese’s voice was calm and easy, but it sounded a little dead to Audrey’s ears. As if he was saying the words but truly didn’t care how Camilla felt. Was this how he was with other women? How did they not notice his utter boredom with them?
Was he ever like that with her? She made a mental note to pay attention the next time she talked to him in private.
“I don’t see why this has to be difficult at all, Reese. You told me you wanted me.” She gave another huffy sigh, and then asked, “Is there someone else?”
Audrey held her breath.
“I’m sleeping with someone, yeah.”
“Do you love her?”
Audrey nearly swallowed her tongue.
Reese laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. This is me you’re talking to.”
And just like that, her heart plummeted back to reality. For a moment, Audrey felt weirdly crushed. She mentally shook herself. Why did that bother her? Wasn’t she just using the man for a mindless fling, too? Who cared if he was in love?
Certainly not her. She was supposed to be in love with someone else.
Camilla gasped. “Is it Daphne Petty? Ohmigod. You’re sleeping with Daphne Petty? Reese!” For a moment there, Camilla sounded excited, and then she quieted. “Is it true that she’s hooked on the hard stuff? She looks like a mess in there. Yuck.”
“Camilla,” Reese said in a warning tone.
“I won’t tell anyone. But you have to get me backstage at her next concert. She has this really hot drummer and I—”
“Camilla, I’m not sleeping with Daphne Petty.”
There was a long pause, and Audrey could practically hear the gears grinding to a halt in Camilla’s pretty blonde head. Then, she snorted. “There’s no one else here but the fat chick. Don’t tell me you’re riding that moped?”
Audrey bristled. That little bitch.
“Shut up, Camilla,” Reese said in that same bored, dismissive voice. “I trust this won’t affect business?”
“What are you talking about? Of course it affects business. You think I won’t tell Daddy about this?”
“I rather hoped you wouldn’t.”
Audrey bit her lip. She was still annoyed about the fat comment, and now Camilla was going to hold the business deal over Reese’s head? She supposed Reese deserved it for trying to use the heiress for his own means, but it bothered her to have him more or less held hostage by the spoiled blonde’s whims.
“You know what they say,” Reese said flatly. “Never mix business with pleasure.”
“But Reese—” Camilla’s voice took on that whining tone. “You’re not being fair to me. Sleep with the fat chick or Daphne Petty. I don’t care. She can be your gimme.” Her voice turned seductive in a flash, surprising Audrey. “But I don’t see why that has to spoil our fun.”
Audrey ducked behind the stairs when she heard footsteps. Sure enough, Camilla came stomping past in her adorable outfit, a pout on her pink, glossy lips. She paused at the steps, oblivious to Audrey hovering in the shadows behind them, and turned to give Reese one last look. “If you want that business deal, you know where I’ll be.” Her shoulders gave a slight shrug. “I think we can still have fun together, but that’s up to you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Reese told her.
“So . . .” Camilla asked.
He sighed. “My answer is still no.”
Audrey ducked further back into the shadows as Camilla went up the stairs of the cabin and Reese turned to walk down to the lake. She watched his broad back as he left. Their little fling had come close to ruining Reese’s business deal. It sounded like Camilla still wanted Reese, even though he didn’t want her, and that was confusing to Audrey.
Why was he turning down the heiress? It didn’t make sense. Because of their bet? Did he really want to be Audrey’s slave for a day?
She almost snorted aloud. She doubted he wanted that more than the anal sex she’d agreed to.
It had been shocking to Audrey to hear him suggest such a thing as part of their dare. She’d guessed from the challenging, almost playful look on Reese’s face that he’d expected her to freeze up or flip out on him. He’d been trying to get a rise out of her.
Instead, she’d agreed to it. God only knew why. She’d never had anal sex, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to sleep with a man—no matter how sexy he was—right after he rolled out of another woman’s bed. But somehow, she’d found herself agreeing to it, knowing it was pretty much a sure thing that she was going to lose.
Reese coaxed her wild streak to the forefront, and she liked it. Just the thought of doing wild, dirty, forbidden sex with him sent a whole fleet of butterflies through her stomach.
Of course, his turning down Camilla had never really even been a consideration. It was downright strange. Not only was he losing guaranteed sex from two women—and according to Reese’s reputation with ladies, he never turned down no-strings attached sex—but he was in danger of losing his precious business deal.
And that made her feel weird.
She should have never dared him to seal the deal with Camilla. Maybe he hadn’t liked that Audrey was trying to force him in one direction or another and that was why he’d gotten cold feet. Maybe he was just denying Camilla at the moment so she’d only want him more when he returned.
Or maybe there was a bit more there with the “fat chick” he was nailing? Audrey felt a heated blush creeping over her cheeks at the thought, and she pressed her palms to her face.
What a silly thought. She couldn’t hold on to someone like Reese any more than she could hold on to a handful of lake water. He was witty, sexy, urbane, and had women falling all over him. She was calm, efficient, and boring. Well, most of the time. When she was with him, she was . . . different.
She should confront Reese, she decided. Make him tell her what was going on behind his thought process so she could quit wondering about it. They were friends, after all. He’d tell her.
But for some reason, Audrey found herself slinking away so Reese wouldn’t see her, wouldn’t know she’d been listening in to their conversation. She’d give him the afternoon. That would allow him plenty of time to change his mind and see where he landed with this thing.
And maybe give her stomach time to calm down and quit acting all excited, like he’d just chosen her to take to the prom or something.
Audrey lurked in the house for the rest of the day, determined to act like nothing was wrong.
Like Camilla hadn’t gotten into her car and driven away, tires screeching down the gravel road.
Like Reese hadn’t gone upstairs and slammed his door as if he were annoyed at the world, and then spent the afternoon up there, avoiding the rest of them.
Like both Cade and Daphne weren’t giving her curious looks and whispering to each other, trying to figure out what was going on.
Nope. Audrey acted as if nothing was going on. She popped a bowl of popcorn and settled down in front of the fire with her book and read, acting as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
In all reality, she’d already finished the book. Twice. She was simply staring at the pages, lost in her own thoughts. Well, except for when it came to the love scenes. She read those at least twice more with great attention to detail. She might have also pictured herself in the place of the heroine, and Reese in the place of the hero. At least once. And then she felt weird about it and went back to staring at the page, turning over the conversation with Camilla in her mind.
She couldn’t figure out Reese’s motives as to why he’d turned down the heiress. The way she could see it, there were only a few possibilities as to why he’d refuse Camilla’s blatant invitation: that he was truly interested in Audrey, that he was determined to make Camilla suffer for abandoning him, or that Camilla had some horrible sort of sexually transmitted disease and this was an easy out.
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