It was obvious to anyone that she had a crush on the man. And just as obvious when she’d turned and glared at him that she hated Reese.
It was fascinating to him. Normally he could charm the pants off any woman he put his mind to. And since she’d ruined his weekend, well, he’d go ahead and ruin hers. He could use a good diversion, and driving rigid little Audrey up the wall would do just fine.
She wasn’t his type, after all. Though her hair was an interesting color, the tight set of her mouth and paleness of her skin were very different from the tanned, golden beauties he was used to dating. So was her figure. He normally dated women who were extremely conscious of every bite they put into their mouths. Audrey clearly was not. Where her twin was nearly skeletal from her drug use, Audrey’s figure was lush and curvy. He’d thought her simply boxy and a bit frumpy in her loose-fitting clothing, until he’d gotten her wet and her sweater had stuck to her body. Before she’d pulled the fabric away from her chest, he’d caught a glimpse of large, rounded breasts above the hollow of her stomach, and he’d realized that her clothing was masking a very attractive figure.
His interest had grown exponentially.
Of course, her constant simpering over Cade was irritating. It was that reaction—so different to the one she’d given him—that had caused him to suggest their little deal. At first he’d mentioned it simply to get under her skin. But the more flustered she’d become, the more he’d wanted to hold her to it.
After all, she was now responsible for his weekend entertainment, since she’d chased his away.
Unless Cade was interested in her, too. If that was the case, he’d back off and let his buddy have the curvy little minx. He regarded the two of them putting away the groceries. It was a cozy scene; they laughed and chatted as they packed away cans and boxes of food. And he watched Cade’s reaction to Audrey. They were pleasant, and his smile was easy and friendly. Whereas Audrey seemed to punctuate every sentence with a bright red flush that made the faint freckles on her cheeks stand out.
He was pretty sure there was interest, but it seemed to be only one-sided. Still, he decided to test the waters. He headed into the kitchen and hopped up on the counter, letting his legs dangle over the side. It was, coincidentally, the counter above the spot where Audrey had been putting away groceries. For her to continue to do so, she’d have to reach between his legs.
Audrey gave him a cross look. “Move.”
“You have to ask nicely,” he told her.
Irritation flared on her face again, just before she tamped it down into her serene, professional expression that would have fooled anyone who didn’t notice the rigid set of her mouth. She looked over at Cade. “Your friend is determined to get under my skin this weekend.”
Cade chuckled, shaking his head. “Reese is a flirt, Audrey. Pay him no mind.” He shot Reese an amused look and handed Audrey a canister of oatmeal.
That wasn’t the look of a man concerned about his woman. Whatever Cade felt for Audrey, it didn’t extend past friendship, which meant she was fair game for his teasing.
Reese crossed his arms over his chest, grinning at Audrey. “Play your cards right and I can get under a lot of things.”
Her color flared again, and her mouth went even tighter. She shoved the canister of oatmeal at his chest. “You know what? You can put this away. I’m going to go check on Daphne.”
As she stomped away, Reese clutched the oatmeal to his chest and chuckled.
Cade simply shook his head. “You definitely bring out raw emotion in people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Audrey so flustered.”
“It’s probably the combination of the two of us,” Reese told him, bending over and tossing the oatmeal under the counter like he was throwing a football. From the sound of things, it knocked a few other things over, which was fine with him. More to aggravate Ms. Uptight when she returned.
Cade gave him a puzzled look. “The two of us? What do you mean?”
“Nothing,” Reese said blandly. If Cade didn’t have a clue that Audrey had a crush on him, he’d keep it that way. The last thing Cade needed was more stress. He’d seemed a bit tense lately, which wasn’t like him. “How you hanging in there?”
“Good. Work’s been busy but numbers are good. I’m scheduled to go to Africa in a month to oversee a few of the clinics we’ve set up with Doctors Without Borders and determine the needs of the communities. I don’t have to go, but I want to . . . as long as things are good here.” Again, that line of tension crossed his face, and he set down a box of cereal, then gave Reese a dark look. “How is she?”
“Audrey? You saw her.”
Aha. So the white knight had arrived to the rescue of a very different twin. Suddenly, a few things locked into place. It explained why, despite Cade’s busy schedule, he was here hanging out with a pair of childhood friends.
He was in love with a twin, all right, but it was the wrong one. For some reason, somewhere along the way, Cade Archer—good hearted, generous, white knight Cade Archer—had fallen for the messed–up, drug-using, infamous twin.
He didn’t know who he felt sorrier for—Cade, for his choice in women or Audrey, who clearly had a crush on a man who wouldn’t notice she was there except in a friendship capacity.
“She’s a fucking mess,” Reese said bluntly, and hated the way that Cade’s brows furrowed even deeper. “That girl needs a year of rehab, not a vacation in the woods.”
“Daphne’s stubborn,” Cade told him with a tense look. “Audrey’s tried to get her into rehab before, but she just runs away. Her label’s not much help, either. I think someone there keeps supplying her with the drugs. I imagine a constantly available stream of her favorite addictions keeps her under their control more than threats of a contract breach does.” He didn’t look very pleased at the thought.
“She’s famous,” Reese told him. “She runs with all kinds of crowds. She can probably get drugs anywhere and everywhere.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Cade told him, and rubbed a hand on his nape, as if weary. “Audrey had mentioned concerns, but I didn’t realize. Thought the tabloids were just full of their usual bullshit. Then when I saw her at the party, I realized that they were all true. And I couldn’t leave her like that. So when she reached out to me, I suggested she come here. Maybe if . . .” He paused, then gave Reese a tense look, daring him to contradict him. “Maybe if I’m here, it’ll make a difference.”
“Maybe,” Reese said. He wasn’t sure. The girl seemed pretty messed up to him. But if Cade wanted to ride to the rescue, he wouldn’t be able to dissuade him. “You just let me know if you need help with things.”
“I will. Sorry your weekend was ruined. Sounds like Audrey has some impeccable timing.”
Reese grinned. “Camilla will get over it. In the meantime, I plan on making Audrey regret that she interrupted my rendezvous.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Reese snorted. “Buddy, everything I do is something you wouldn’t do.”
“She’s a friend,” Cade cautioned, ever serious. “A childhood friend. Don’t hurt her. Despite her bluster, Audrey’s got a really good heart and she’s sensitive.”
The woman was about as sensitive as a bull in a china shop, but he didn’t disagree with Cade openly. “I just plan on teasing her a bit, man. She’s safe with me.” Safe enough, anyhow.
He didn’t mention their little blackmail-directed rendezvous scheduled for later that night. While he still considered that teasing, he wasn’t sure that Cade would.
“Good,” Cade said with a grin. “I’m glad you’re here. It’ll give us a chance to hang out, and I’m guessing we’ll need another set of hands around, if Daphne ends up being half the handful I think she’ll be.”
Reese was pretty sure that Daphne would be more than just a handful, but he said nothing to Cade. No sense in starting an argument. “It’ll be interesting.”
He just wondered what good ol’ Audrey would think when he didn’t leave immediately. Maybe he’d stick around for longer than the weekend, just to crawl under that woman’s skin. He had to admit that the idea had appeal, and his work was covered thanks to a few rather aggressive hires to handle the day-to-day aspects of Durham Industries.
Which left him plenty of time to torment Audrey Petty.
She’d fall under his spell eventually. Reese Durham always won over the women he had his eye on. And until she did, she was going to be mighty fun to play with.
He always did enjoy the chase a bit more than anything.
Audrey set four places at the wooden table, laying down the plates and ignoring the large man who hovered nearby, supervising.
“You’re so incredibly domestic, Audrey. First dinner and now the table?” Reese tsked and shook his head, pretending to be impressed. “You’re going to make Cade a lucky man.”
She glared at him, clenching the last plate in her hand as if she wanted to strike him with it. “Will you shut up, already?” Audrey glanced around the room, making sure that Cade was nowhere to be seen. “He’ll hear you.”
“Sorry,” he said in a tone that indicated that he wasn’t sorry at all. “I thought I’d help you set the table.”
“You’re clearly being such a help,” she said in a nasty tone. “What with your standing around and being in the way.”
He chuckled. “What can I do to help you, then?”
Go away. Go away and never come back. “Go tell the others that dinner’s ready.”
“That, I can do.” Reese strolled out of the small kitchen, whistling, and Audrey gritted her teeth again. At least he’d listened to her for once.
It had only been a few hours and he was already driving her crazy. The man seemed determined to make her lose her temper. Not only was he constantly hovering around and making cracks, but he seemed to delight in doing nothing more than heckling her.
She wished that Cade had stuck around, but once he’d unpacked, he’d taken a walk around the lake. He’d asked Audrey to go with him, but she’d declined, wanting to stay close to the cabin in case Daphne needed her. She’d suggested that Reese go instead, but he claimed to be tired and laid down on one of the couches in the living room.
Of course, no sooner had Cade disappeared that Reese had been back up again, bothering her and asking her questions. How long had she been in love with Cade? Had she ever told him about it? Had she ever seen him naked? Did she get jealous when he dated other women? Did she date other men?
She’d ignored his questions and gone into the small kitchen, determined to make dinner. It was something to keep her busy. The only problem was, she wasn’t much of a cook. When they were younger, her older sister Gretchen had always cooked for the family, and she was wonderful at it. Living in New York City, Audrey had never needed culinary skills, not when there was a restaurant on every corner. But the groceries that Cade had brought seemed to be healthy, wholesome foods, and she guessed that someone would have to cook for them.
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