What she hadn’t expected was that, several hours into their drive upstate, Daphne would turn down an unfamiliar highway.
Audrey frowned and reached for the map in the glove compartment of Daphne’s tiny roadster. “I think you missed the turn.”
“Nope,” Daphne said, staring straight ahead at the road.
“I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way to the cabin.”
“That’s because we’re not going to the cabin.”
A sinking feeling moved into the pit of Audrey’s stomach. Her twin was giving up already? This was just like every other time. “Daphne, you promised.”
“Correction. I promised I’d go away for a month with you to try and start over,” Daphne said, her eyes shielded by enormous designer sunglasses. Audrey couldn’t read her expression. “But my manager expects me to be at the lake house, which means the label’s going to put pressure on him. And do you know what that means? It means the paparazzi are going to show up at some point when I’m looking my scuzziest and attempt to get something they can sell to the tabloids to drum up some publicity. And I don’t want that.”
Audrey couldn’t blame her twin, though she was still a bit leery of any change in plans. Daphne needed to be in a controlled environment. “So where are we going?”
Daphne glanced over and gave Audrey a sneaky smile she recognized all too well.
“Oh, no,” Audrey moaned. “What did you do?”
“Something that should make you pretty happy, if you’re still carrying a torch for a certain someone.”
Audrey wanted to throw up and throttle Daphne at the same time. “Please don’t tell me we’re going to Cade Archer’s house.”
“We’re not,” Daphne said.
Relief set in.
“We’re going to his lodge in the mountains.”
There went the relief, right back out again. “Seriously, Daphne? You called Cade and arranged this?”
“I did. He said he’d always be there for me,” she said stubbornly. “I’m cashing in that chip. I thought it’d be fun to be just you and me and Cade for a few weeks. He’s so busy all the time he could use a vacation, too. And I thought if he was there, maybe I could help you lock him down.”
Audrey put her head in her hands and stifled the moan that threatened to escape all over again. “Daphne, we’re not doing this so you can try to hook me up with our childhood friend. We’re doing this to get you clean and get your life back on track.”
“I know that,” Daphne said irritably, reaching for her pack of cigarettes. She’d already gone through them, and she sighed at the empty packet and pitched it out the open window. “Gimme a new pack of smokes out of my purse, will you?”
“You shouldn’t smoke.”
“Oh, you’re right,” Daphne said sarcastically. “Let’s stop by the nearest gas station and I’ll ask where I can score some rock instead. Leave me fucking something, Audrey. All right? You can nag me about the other shit but smoking is off limits.”
Wordlessly, Audrey handed her twin the new pack of cigarettes. “Just promise me that this vacation is going to be about you and making healthy choices for your life.”
“I promise,” Daphne said, shoving a cigarette between her lips and punching the car’s lighter in. “You know what’s different this time? I want it for sure. This time I mean it.”
You say that every time, Audrey thought with a sigh. But she couldn’t help but feel a little flutter of excitement in her belly. Cade Archer was going to be spending the next few weeks with them. Sweet, caring Cade Archer. He’d gone from a considerate, thoughtful, handsome teenage boy who she’d had a crush on to a gorgeous and near-perfect billionaire with a kind heart. And she was still ridiculously in love with him.
Self-consciously, she flipped down the mirror on the passenger side and checked her hair. She wished suddenly that she’d worn something a bit more exotic than a plain black sweater over a purple tank top and jeans. Since she was on vacation, she wore no makeup and her hair was pulled into a loose, carefree ponytail. Too casual. She wanted to look good for Cade. After giving her twin another frown as Daphne chain-smoked her way down the highway, Audrey relaxed and tried to think of what she could say to Cade to make it seem like a wonderful surprise to see him.
If she rehearsed, maybe she wouldn’t blurt out her love for him as soon as he came into sight.
While their family had a modest cabin on a bit of lakefront property as a timeshare, Audrey had to admit that if they wanted privacy, Cade’s hunting lodge was the way to go. She didn’t think he actually hunted, but the name had stuck. It was in a remote portion of the Adirondack Mountains off a heavily wooded road. It backed up to a lake, but the difference was that their parents’ cabin shared the lakefront with dozens of other small cabins. This lake and all the surrounding property had been bought up by Cade, and it was isolated and quiet.
Perfect, really, Audrey thought. She’d been to the lodge once, and only for a short period of time. She hadn’t been invited—rather, her boss, Logan Hawkings, and his buddies had a weekend getaway and she’d had to bring some work for him. She’d glimpsed the cabin, admired the scenery, and then drove straight back to the city.
But it was clear from Daphne’s knowledge that she’d been here before. Audrey cast her twin a suspicious glance. She hadn’t needed the map, and she’d clearly been in contact with Cade for quite some time. Exactly how many times had Daphne been to this cabin without letting Audrey know about it? A flare of hurt rose through her that her twin would be so secretive. Once upon a time, they’d shared everything. It just reinforced that Daphne had turned into someone who Audrey no longer knew.
“Huh,” Daphne said as they turned down the long, graveled driveway and the lodge came into view.
Audrey glanced up, her train of thought disappearing. “What is it?”
Daphne nodded ahead. “That. He’s here already?”
There was a sleek, shiny Lyons convertible in the driveway, cherry red with tricked-out rims and a personalized license plate. A little ostentatious for Cade, Audrey thought with a wrinkle of her nose. Maybe he liked a little flash with his cars? Anything was possible. He was a generous, low-key man, but perhaps he had a weakness for finely tuned, expensive cars. Lots of men did.
The lodge itself was nothing short of spectacular. Built in an A-frame style, it nestled amongst the trees on stilts, a curved wooden deck flowing around the exterior. The front of the lodge seemed to be made entirely of windows to let the light in, and smoke curled from the chimney.
“Someone’s definitely here,” Audrey commented, heading around to the trunk of Daphne’s car to grab their bags. She pulled out her overnight bag and turned to hand it to her sister.
But Daphne had wandered away, holding her cell phone up into the air, trying to get reception.
She glanced back at Audrey, then put the phone to her ear, waving a hand at her. “You go ahead. I’m going to make a call.”
Audrey gave her an exasperated look. “Please don’t tell me you’re calling someone about drugs already.”
Daphne made a face. “I told you. I’m fine. And I’m not calling about drugs. I just have to make a call, all right? Get off my back.” She made a shooing motion with her hand. “Why don’t you go say hello to Cade? I’ll be in in a minute.”
Audrey hesitated, but when her twin continued to ignore her, she shouldered the bags and headed up the steps. She couldn’t watch Daphne every minute of this vacation. If her twin was calling for drugs, there’d be no saving her. As it was, she had to have a little bit of trust for her sister.
And she did want to see Cade.
The front door to the cabin was unlocked, and Audrey knocked as she opened it. “Hello?”
Audrey stepped into the lodge, admiring her surroundings. A plush rug covered the wooden floor, and three rustic couches framed a massive stone fireplace that flickered with logs and a small fire. The walls were not adorned with animal heads but instead had ornate, wire art pieces that somehow matched the rustic decor. The clock over the fireplace was designed to look like a rusty wagon wheel. Charming enough, Audrey thought. The kitchen was off to the far end of the house, and down a nearby hallway she could see several bedroom doors and a set of stairs leading up. A den? Game room? Interesting.
Still no sign of Cade, though. Audrey set the bags down near the entryway and wandered a bit further into the house, trailing her hand along the back of one of the couches.
A feminine giggle touched her ears.
Frowning, Audrey glanced back outside, but she could see Daphne in the distance, her phone held up to her ear. It wasn’t her twin. Had Cade brought someone? Dread sunk into her and she stepped quietly forward. When the giggle sounded again, she followed it, smoothing sweaty hands down her jeans. She’d thought about her reunion with Cade on the car ride here. She’d planned on being so very casual. Smile and exclaim about how good it was to see him again, and hug him tight. She’d engage him in conversation, reminding him of what close friends they’d been once upon a time and how different she was from her train wreck twin. And maybe, just maybe, things could lead somewhere else if given time.
None of her plans had ever factored in another woman.
Clenching her fists, Audrey headed to the back door, where the sound of the giggles emanated. She heard a low, constant rumble like the sound of a generator . . . or something else. To her annoyance, the back door had no window and she was unable to see outside. What if she was interrupting something awkward? Should she leave? If she did, though, Daphne would just come barging in and announce that Audrey was spying. That would only make things worse. Best to just open the door and get it over with. Taking a deep breath, Audrey threw open the door and stepped outside.
Three things were immediately apparent.
One was that the sound she’d heard? The low rumble? It was coming from an enormous jetted hot tub.
Which was currently filled with two naked people: a man and a woman.
Neither of which were Cade Archer.
The couple was kissing passionately. She could see the long, slim back of the tanned woman as she pressed against the man’s chest, her arms wrapped around him. He’d stopped kissing her, though, and was staring at Audrey in surprise. They were bare chested and though she could see nothing untoward, it was pretty obvious what their goal was.
Audrey cleared her throat.
The woman jerked around, saw Audrey, and then slapped the man she was mauling. “You told me you weren’t seeing anyone else!”
He winced, rubbing his cheek. “I’m not. I don’t know who she is.” He pinned Audrey with an irritated look. “Who are you?”
They were both glaring at her like she was the intruder. Worse, like she was a bug. A really unattractive bug. Audrey bristled. “I should be asking that of you, shouldn’t I? This is Cade Archer’s private getaway.”
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