Read 01 - The Heartbreaker Online

Authors: Carly Phillips

01 - The Heartbreaker (9 page)

BOOK: 01 - The Heartbreaker
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She wished she could crawl into his arms and reveal all. Of course she couldn’t. The only one she could trust was herself. Unless . . . “Is this Chase the journalist asking or Chase the man?” she asked.

A muscle ticked in his jaw and he ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Fair enough,” he muttered.

Her question acted like the proverbial last straw, shutting him down completely and cementing the wall between them. That had been her intent
if
he was asking from a journalistic need to know as opposed to asking from the heart.

Either he was unsure how to answer, or he didn’t want to admit that the reporter in him wanted answers that could make his career. She was disappointed but she had to play her cards close.

“Rick had an officer bring your car and he dropped the suitcase off downstairs. Why don’t you shower and freshen up. We can pick this questioning up again later.”

Since she reeked of smoke and felt like hell, she agreed. “Thanks. A shower sounds wonderful.” As for them talking again, Sloane didn’t have time for exchanges of information.

Norman and Izzy had mentioned a place called Crazy Eights, a pool hall where Samson hung out when he had money in his pocket. Sloane recalled Izzy’s warning, and though she was more afraid of meeting her real father than she was of the pool joint, she had to find Samson regardless.

The sound of footsteps distracted her. Chase returned with her suitcase in hand. In his gaze, she caught a hint of warmth, which in turn made her pulse race and her heart beat faster. Thank goodness he quickly masked it or she’d have done something stupid, like kiss him.

After her shower and a quick meal, she was out of here. Off to find her real father. Without this reporter’s help or prying eyes.

 

Living in Yorkshire Falls, a single man could either eat at Norman’s, bring in from Norman’s, or learn how to cook. Chase mostly relied on take-out food from Norman’s. He opened his freezer, searching for something he could defrost and serve to his guest. Not much looked appealing.

He ran a hand through his hair, feeling filthy from soot and dirt. He needed a shower, but he’d have to wait his turn. From his post in the kitchen, he heard the shower running in the other room. Or maybe he just imagined that he could hear Sloane in his bathroom, letting the water pour over her soft skin. Only one hallway and a door separated them. The thought was enough to nearly kill a man.

So was the way she’d dismissed that night between them as a one-night stand. So that’s all it had been. It wasn’t like he’d expected to see her again, let alone get embroiled in her life. But with her words, she’d sure as hell hurt his ego. In truth, she’d damaged more than his pride. He cared about what she thought far too much for someone who’d been a brief fling. And those kind of feelings could prevent him from achieving his goals—a huge story picked up by the big papers and a shot at big-time fame. A scoop on vice presidential candidate Michael Carlisle.

Chase could practically
smell
that story right beneath his nose. And the fact that Sloane wanted to distinguish between Chase the man and Chase the reporter told him he might be even closer than he thought. But closer to what? What was she hiding?

He doubted he’d get those details from Sloane. Hopefully, Madeline Carlisle would be more forthcoming with her information once she realized he’d already done as she asked and saved her daughter’s behind. And what a delectable behind it was, round and tight in her faded jeans.

He clenched his jaw and slammed the freezer door shut,
unable to find anything edible. The easiest thing would be to call Izzy and ask her to deliver.

He picked up the phone at the same time the doorbell rang. Chase had done some renovations in the old Victorian house after moving in, and though he could reach the downstairs office from a private indoor staircase, he also had a separate entrance installed for his own personal visitors. He headed to the door and immediately caught sight through the window of his mother’s honey blond hair.

“Shit.” Knowing there was no putting it off, he opened the door and let her inside.

Before he could speak, she pulled him into her arms and held on tight. “Oh, my God, are you all right? I heard what happened at Samson’s place and I’ve been sick with worry.” She stepped back, and sure enough, concern etched her beautiful face as she ran her hands down his arms, presumably to make sure he was in one piece.

“Gossip mill ran that fast, huh?” he asked, trying to make light of a very serious situation. Raina might not have a real heart condition, but she was getting older and she adored her children. He didn’t want her worrying about him unnecessarily.

“Since when is anything in this town secret?” She perched a hand on her hip and wagged the other finger in front of his face, lightly chiding him, yet her eyes were filled with tears, her expression one of stark relief. “Now help me inside with these bags.” She gestured behind her with a grand sweep of her hand.

For the first time, Chase saw the large brown bags, all filled to the top. “What’s this?” he asked as he gathered the packages together.

“Why, dinner, of course. You need your energy after such a stressful day. Norman cooked your favorite, the wonderful man.” She followed him inside, chatting the entire way.

He managed to get the bags into the kitchen before one handle broke and the contents fell to the floor. He glanced down but
everything seemed intact. Still, the bags had been heavy, and for a woman with a so-called weak heart, she shouldn’t be lifting them.

He was angry as hell at her for the charade, but with Sloane due to walk out of that bathroom any minute, now wasn’t the time for a confrontation. In fact, now would be an excellent time to get rid of Raina before she got an eyeful of Sloane and came up with any more harebrained, matchmaking ideas. Heaven help him if she discovered he and Sloane had a past or that he actually liked the woman.

“Did you carry these bags yourself?” he asked, putting heavy disapproval in his tone.

“No, she had her chauffeur do it for her.” From the open door, Chase recognized Dr. Eric Fallon’s voice.

“Come on in, Eric,” Chase called to the town practitioner, and his mother’s
boyfriend
. What else could he call the male half of a late-in-life couple?

Chase appreciated the older man for the happiness he’d brought into his mother’s life and for the voice of reason he presented in the midst of the chaos that was Raina. Eric kept her busy, made her laugh, and took charge when her ideas seemed to get out of control.

“This is the last of the bags,” Eric said, placing them on the counter. Two bottles peeked out from the top of the bag.

“Wine?” Chase asked.

“Champagne,” Raina countered. “To celebrate life.”

So now they were having a party. He glanced toward the hallway and wondered what Sloane would think when she walked out of the bathroom to find she had an audience.

Raina lifted the expensive bottle of Dom Pérignon and eyed it longingly. She didn’t drink often, but when it came time to celebrate, she loved a glass of bubbly with her family. Too bad Chase was about to kill her fun. It was the only solution he could think of as payback for her babymaking scheming.

He put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed lovingly. “You shouldn’t drink, Mom. It’s not good for your heart.”

“The boy’s right, Raina.” Eric eased the champagne out of her grasp and placed the bottle on the counter.

“Killjoy,” she muttered without meeting his gaze.

Chase met his gaze and Eric winked.

Two men, with Raina as a common bond. With his salt-and-pepper hair, the doctor was distinguished-looking and a nice complement to his mother’s fairer looks. They made an attractive couple, Chase thought.

He glanced around the now-messy and chaotic-looking kitchen. Though he no longer had to worry about what to feed Sloane for dinner, he’d rather not do it with an audience. “Thanks so much for bringing over food.” He stopped short of adding,
You can go now
.

“You’re welcome.” She bent down for one of the lighter bags, and after placing it on the counter, she began unpacking the contents. “I figured that a bachelor like you has nothing in the fridge to feed a houseguest, let alone a beautiful houseguest.”

So she knew about Sloane. He glanced at the overloaded shopping bags filled with food and champagne. He should have realized she had an agenda. The only upside to the situation was that hopefully, if she was matchmaking, she wouldn’t be staying for dinner. A mother’s presence didn’t make for romantic settings, he thought wryly.

Not that Sloane would be interested in romance tonight. She’d made it clear their one night had passed. “Beauty has nothing to do with what someone eats,” he said, focusing on conversation with his mother. “Besides, who told you I had company?”

Eric chuckled. “Your mother has a direct line to Gossip Central. Not five minutes after the pretty redhead left Norman’s, Izzy was on the horn with Raina.”

Raina clucked her tongue, chiding him. “Don’t make it sound
sordid, Eric. The young woman’s been through a lot today. So has my oldest boy. I just wanted to make sure they were well fed.”

“And we needed champagne because . . . ?” Chase asked.

Raina rolled her eyes. “To enhance the atmosphere, of course.”

Chase clenched his fists, hating being manipulated. “You don’t even know if Sloane and I have chemistry. You don’t even know if I’m interested, yet here you are with a gourmet dinner and a bottle of expensive champagne.”

“Norman’s is hardly gourmet,” Raina countered. “And it’s not like you to be surly.”

“When you’re meddling, it sure as hell is,” he muttered.

“Shh.” Raina placed a finger over her lips. “Maybe she doesn’t like foulmouthed men.” She glanced around, finally looking for his guest. “Where is she, anyway?”

“Cleaning up.” He gestured toward the bathroom in the back hall. “And she’s had a rough day. I doubt she’s in the mood for company.”

Eric’s deep laugh echoed in the room. “I think he’s asking you to leave, Raina dear.” He grasped her elbow gently.

“Us,” Raina said. “He’s asking us to leave.”

“He knows I have one foot out the door already, while you’re angling to stay.”

His mother pouted, but from the resignation in her eyes, she accepted that she’d been effectively shut down. “I’m not finished putting away groceries.”

Chase laughed, steering her to the door with Eric following close behind. “I don’t mind handling things. Besides, you need your rest.”

“So do you after the day you’ve had. You and that poor girl. And Samson!” She said the old man’s name as if his situation had just registered.

Considering all she had on her mind—her son’s safety and a new woman in town to attack—Chase understood her mental lapse. His mother was the most gentle, caring soul around, and
despite Samson’s often belligerent attitude, Raina liked him. She even brought him sandwiches for lunch when he hung out in the gazebo across from Norman’s. Not that the old man seemed to appreciate her, but Raina treated him like a friend.

She stopped midway to the door and turned to Chase. “How is poor Samson? Any word?” Her eyes were huge, her concern so obvious and genuine it nearly broke his heart.

“I’d like to know that myself,” Sloane said, walking out of the bathroom.

She wore a pair of dark denim jeans combined with a cropped long-sleeved white shirt emblazoned with a pair of shimmering glitter-covered gold lips on the front. Her burnished hair curled around her shoulders. He hadn’t realized how curly her hair really was or how sexy she’d look fresh from a shower.

From his mother’s eager and excited expression, she’d found a new female face with which she hoped to entice Chase. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t need his mother’s prodding on this one.

Sloane already interested him plenty.

CHAPTER SIX

I’
m sorry, but there’s been no news on Samson,” Chase said to Sloane. “If there had been, Rick would have called.”

“Oh.”

Raina Chandler stared at the beautiful girl who’d just walked out of her son’s bathroom. Disappointment flickered over her face at Chase’s news, making Raina wonder what her connection was to the reclusive and often elusive Samson. “Are you and Samson—”

Chase stepped forward in a protective stance. “Do not ask her questions, Mother,” he said, warning her with his tone.

And upon hearing those unexpected words, Raina decided to heed his request and back off. At least for now. A protective streak was a common trait for all her sons. But Chase only exhibited it toward Raina and, more lately, his sisters-in-law. That he’d step in for a woman he’d just met spoke volumes, and Raina’s heart began to soar with the knowledge that she’d hit the jackpot and her last son might finally be falling in love.

Actually, from the expression on Chase’s face when he gazed at the girl, he was the one who’d hit the jackpot. “I think introductions are in order,” Raina said, changing the subject to please her son.

His shoulders eased, the tension gone from his stance. “Sloane, I’d like you to meet my mother, Raina Chandler. Unfortunately, she was just leaving. Weren’t you, Mom?”

Aah, so he wants to be alone with Sloane
. This afternoon, which had started out with a scare thanks to the explosion and had caused genuine heart palpitations for Raina, had taken an unexpected sunny turn.

Before Raina could greet Sloane properly, Chase continued. “And this is her friend, the town’s best doctor, Eric Fallon.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Fallon.” Sloane shook Eric’s hand, then turned her attention to Raina. “And you, Mrs. Chandler.” With a genuine smile, she grasped Raina’s hand next for a brief shake.

As Sloane pulled a strand of hair off her cheek, Raina noticed her damp curls fell to her shoulders, while shorter pieces touched her face. For a brief minute, Raina had a flash of déjà vu. The girl looked familiar, but she couldn’t figure out why.

“A pleasure to meet you too.” Raina stared into Sloane’s wide green eyes, taking in the obvious intelligence there.

Good. Chase would need a woman capable of smart breakfast conversation, something more solid than
How does this eyeshadow look, dear?
Sloane could most definitely provide that.

BOOK: 01 - The Heartbreaker
7.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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