A throat cleared.
Cade looked up and he tilted his head and stared over his shoulder, as if not quite believing his eyes. “Reese!” His gaze went back to Audrey, and then a sly, almost disbelieving look crossed his face as he pointed at her, then Reese. “Don’t tell me. The two of you—”
“No!” Audrey’s horrified response blurted from her and she raised her hands. “Not in a million years!”
Reese chuckled, approaching Cade and gave him a man-hug that involved a half handshake and a slap on the back. “Good to see you, bro. I was here for the weekend with a . . . friend when these two showed up and my friend retreated, along with my ride back to civilization.”
“And he was just about to call a cab,” Audrey interjected.
“No, I wasn’t,” Reese said easily. “I’m staying for the weekend, if you don’t have a problem with that.”
Please, please have a problem with that, Audrey thought quietly.
But Cade, ever the gentleman, looked thrilled that Reese was there. “You know I don’t have a problem with it. I told you that any time you wanted, the cabin was yours to use. And we’ll be glad for the company. Isn’t that right, Audrey?” Cade looked over at her.
“I thought so,” Reese said, giving her an I-told-you-so look from Cade’s side.
She was trapped. Hell. Audrey forced her tight, professional smile on her face. “As long as you’re okay with someone taking up one of the rooms, I don’t have a problem with it.”
“Not to worry,” Reese said, elbowing Cade as if they were frat brothers. “Audrey told me she wouldn’t mind cuddling with me if things got too tight in Daphne’s room.”
Audrey gave a shocked gasp. “I did not!”
Cade laughed and slapped Reese on the back. “Count on you to romance all the women within minutes of making an entrance.”
“He’s not romancing me,” Audrey pointed out, trying to keep smiling. “And he’s joking. About all of it.”
Cade just chuckled, and then rubbed his face. He gestured outside. “I parked behind you, if that’s all right.”
“That’s perfect,” Audrey said, then blushed at how infatuated she sounded. “Perfectly fine,” she amended in a brisk voice.
He grinned. “I’ll just go get my bags, then.”
As he disappeared back out the front, Audrey followed to the doorstep, watching him move as he jaunted down the steps of the lodge and out to his car. He drove a Lyons, too, but she wasn’t surprised to see that it was a dark blue sedan. That was more like Cade. Practical and elegant.
“Well, well, well.” Reese’s voice thrummed in her ear. “Just look at you.”
She turned and scowled at him. “What?”
“You’re glowing.” His grin cut across his entire face. “You’re positively beaming now that Cade’s here. You’re lit up like a firecracker.”
The flush on her cheeks threatened to grow hotter. “I’m just thrilled to see an old friend.”
“Don’t think I didn’t notice how you weren’t exactly quick to let go of him,” Reese said. “And I’m pretty sure I saw you sniff his jacket.”
“I did not.”
“Yeah, you did.” He rubbed that scruffy goatee on his chin thoughtfully. “Does Cade know that you’re in love with him?”
Her irritation turned to panic. “What are you talking about?”
He made a silly, high-pitched giggle that sounded shamefully like the one she’d burbled just moments ago. “You’re perfect, Cade,” he mimicked.
She smacked his arm. “You’re a horrible man. I wish you’d go drown in the lake.”
He waggled his eyebrows. “I see someone’s in a rush to try out her CPR skills. Baby, if you want to give me mouth to mouth, all you have to do is ask—”
“Please, shut up!”
“No can do. As Cade’s best buddy, it’s my duty to let him in on any secrets I might think he’d have interest in. And do you think he’d be curious to know that the good, sweet little twin is in love with her childhood buddy?”
She gasped, mortified to hear that out in the open. “It’s not like that!”
“Too far back? Since your teen years, then?”
“No! You’ve got it all wrong.”
“Do I?” He gave a lazy shrug of his big shoulders in that too-tight shirt. “I guess we could always run the idea past Cade and see what he thinks.”
She clenched her fists. He was turning her reunion with Cade—her first chance to spend some real, quality time with him in years—into nothing short of a nightmare. How weird would it be around Cade if he knew that she was secretly in love with him? How would he act toward her?
She suspected he would be kind and understanding . . . because Cade always was. He’d try to let her down easy, and it would break her heart. “Please,” she gritted. “Please don’t say anything at all.”
He rubbed that scruffy goatee again. “I might be persuaded to keep my silence.”
Audrey gasped. “Blackmail?”
“Now that you mention it, blackmail does sound pretty interesting.” He grinned, white teeth flashing in his face. “What do you say me and you rendezvous later tonight for a moonlight kiss?”
“You know I don’t want to kiss you! You’re the last man on earth I’d want to kiss right about now.”
“I know,” he replied, his voice smug. “That’s why I suggested it. It’d be more fun to tell Cade all about your secret. Maybe I could pass him a note like we did in grade school. ‘Audrey’s in love with you. Do you love her? Check yes or no.’”
She glanced at the doorway and noticed Cade was starting to head up the steps. Panic overtook her. “No notes. Don’t tell him anything. Please!”
“Rendezvous then? Tonight?”
She had about two seconds to decide. Her mind whirled frantically for a moment, and then she turned and smacked Reese on the shoulder. “I hate you so much.”
“So that’s a yes?”
“It’s a yes,” she whispered, practically exploding it at him. “Now just shut up! Please!”
He winked at her and made a zipping motion over his mouth, just as the door opened again.
“Here, let me help you with that,” Audrey said to Cade, rushing forward to take a few of the bags from his hands. He had an overnight bag slung over one shoulder and multiple plastic grocery bags piled onto each arm. “It looks like you stopped at the grocery store.”
“I did. Wanted to make sure things were as easy for you and Daph as possible.”
“You’re so thoughtful,” she said softly to him, taking a few of the bags.
“You’re a real prince charming,” Reese teased, but grinned and made the zipping motion again when Audrey glared at him.
He’d keep the secret, all right. He’d just needle the hell out of her with the information since he had it. God, she hated the man.
“I cleared my schedule,” Cade was saying as he headed into the kitchen with the rest of the bags. “So as long as you and Daph need me, I’ll be here for you.”
Thankful tears burned her eyes. Getting Daphne clean would be hard enough on her own, but with Cade here, she had her best friend and support system right at hand. She couldn’t have asked for better. “It’s so good that you’re here, Cade. I’m so glad to see you.” And then she added, “I’m sure Daphne will be thrilled, too.”
Cade gave her a gentle smile, ruffling her tight bun. “You know I’ll always be there for you in your hour of need, Audrey.”
His words were like sweet music to her ears. It was just a shame that he’d tried to ruffle her hair like when she was a kid. She ignored that part, focusing on the delicious words instead, and her heart melted just a bit more.
Things would be wonderful now that Cade was here.
So far, this weekend was turning into a huge bust.
Reese tugged at the too-tight sleeves of his borrowed T-shirt and sat on the end of the couch, watching as Audrey—snarling, angry Audrey with the tight bun and even tighter mouth—fluttered over Cade and giggled at everything he said.
It would have been downright amusing if it hadn’t hurt his ego, just a touch.
Reese was the playboy of their club, after all. The others joked that if they needed a woman seduced, all they had to do was send her to Reese, and she’d be melting as soon as he smiled. His charm had gotten him into many a sealed boardroom . . . and plenty of beds. He’d been planning on using that infamous charm on Camilla Sellers, heiress to Sellers Hotels and daughter of the man Reese was currently going back and forth with in regards to an investment opportunity for a series of cruise lines. Reese wanted to expand his empire, and Sellers was looking more and more like the way to go. The fact that his daughter was twenty-five, gorgeous, and clearly interested in Reese was just a bonus. She didn’t sit on the board . . . yet. But she definitely had her father’s ear, and while Reese romanced her, she could be talking him up to her father, convincing him that a partnership with Durham Industries was the way to go.
Cade might think it was underhanded, but Cade had already made his fortune. Reese, as always, was still trying to catch up to the others in regards to funds. He’d relied on his easy charm for years, back when charm made up for the fact that his wallet was empty.
This weekend had been planned with dual purposes in mind. He’d wanted to get away and spend some time with Camilla, to get to know her better and to feel her out on how her father’s business was leaning in regards to the cruise lines. And he’d been getting to know her quite well in the hot tub, edging into conversation about hotels and cruise lines . . . until sour Audrey had showed up and kicked up a fuss.
He could have cheerfully strangled her in that moment.
To make matters worse, Camilla had ran as soon as Audrey had pulled out the camera phone, ruining his plans. It was going to be impossible to romance Camilla into opening up about Sellers Hotels, especially when she was clearly terrified of her father finding out about their flirtation. Audrey’s bullheaded charging into his seductive getaway had ruined more than just his weekend plans. He’d have to start over with Camilla, break down her defenses gently, and then lay the foundation for suggestion later.
But he hadn’t showed any of his outward irritation at Audrey, because he’d gotten quite good at hiding that sort of thing years ago. Women—all women—responded best to a flirty laugh and a teasing voice.
All women, except this one. For some reason, the more he’d teased, the more annoyed and flustered she’d gotten. Which had made his bruised ego feel better, so he’d continued to tease and prod at her with his words, enjoying her reactions. She was as tense and rigid as that tight little bun that sat atop her head.
Until Cade had arrived. And then her tense frowns had turned into smiles; her narrowed eyes had changed and she’d begun to bat her lashes. And she’d blushed prettily when Cade had hugged her, and she’d even sniffed his jacket.
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