Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance) (18 page)

BOOK: Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance)
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She watched him for a few seconds. He wanted her to think he’d
been joking but she saw something behind his eyes. Hurt. She was more sensitive
to that sort of thing after what she’d been through. All she knew about Ty was
that he was really Sam’s cousin, and Virgil and Molly had adopted him. What had
it been like, growing up at Diamondback, in Sam’s shadow? Being a Diamond but
still knowing that he didn’t quite belong? She found the Diamond house with all
its expensive trappings a bit intimidating. Had Ty? Was that why he’d left?

“I don’t think I would believe you,” she said. “I think you
might just enjoy shocking people.”

His eyebrow came up and his grin flashed. “You could be right,
Clara.”

There was something intimate about the way he said her name.
Her pulse began to hammer again. How did he do that?

He gestured with his bottle, a careless flick of the wrist.
“So, what
would
it take to shock you?”

She swallowed. She might be practical but she understood a
come-on when she heard it. Ty hadn’t moved an inch but he suddenly seemed much
closer. She replayed the conversation she’d heard today to center her thoughts.
Ty Diamond is a flirt and a player,
the woman
had said.
It’s as natural to him as breathing.

Clara knew she was nothing special. And if this was Tyson’s way
of making this a game, she wasn’t playing. She met his gaze and raised a single
eyebrow. “That won’t work with me.”

He laughed. “You’re tougher than you look. Well, here we are
anyway, both avoiding all the wedding hoopla. Get you something to drink?”

She shook her head, a bit surprised he seemed to brush off her
comment like it was nothing. And he’d called her tough. He probably had no idea
how much of a compliment that was. “If Sam and Angela have gone, I should
probably be getting home.”

Ty leaned a hip against the counter. “To Butterfly House,
right?”

She nodded. It was no secret where she lived, but she didn’t
quite like Ty knowing, for some reason. His dark eyes assessed her a little too
closely until she felt like a bug under a microscope. She momentarily wondered
if Angela had sent Tyson in on purpose to make sure she wasn’t alone. While she
appreciated the sentiment, lately she’d found herself chafing against the
constant analysis of her every move and thought. Sometimes she just wanted to
get on with her life rather than dissect it to pieces.

“Whatever you’re thinking, just ask, Tyson. Don’t try to guess.
And don’t stare at me. It makes me uncomfortable.” She was learning to stand up
for herself, to set her own boundaries, but even so a quiver of anxiety always
followed such a demonstration of self-assurance. It was hard to get past the
“don’t rock the boat” mentality.

“I didn’t mean to stare.” His gaze softened. “Angela told me
you are a…is
client
the right word?”

“It works.” Her heart started drumming all over again, and not
in the glorious anticipatory way it had before. He was going to ask. People
always got curious when they found out she lived at the shelter, like they were
somehow entitled to her story and the sordid details. “Is that why you followed
me inside? To get the details?”

He put the beer bottle down on the countertop. He’d undone his
tie and the black silk hanging against the brilliant white of his shirt made him
seem approachable. Touchable. Not for her, though. He probably had a string of
buckle bunnies clear down to Texas. A man like Tyson Diamond would eat her alive
and spit out the bones before moving on to the next conquest.

She felt a tiny stab in her heart, remembering how she’d fallen
for Jackson only to discover the true man underneath after it was too late. Too
late for so many things. Her throat tightened as she grieved for all that she’d
lost. Jackson had been handsome and charming, too. In the beginning.

Angela had talked to her about not judging every man by the
abuser’s yardstick, and in her head Clara knew she was right. Her heart was
still a little too bruised, though, to trust her judgment completely. She was
perfectly happy going along the way she was. It would be even better when she
was completely independent. She couldn’t wait to be one hundred percent in
charge of her own life.

“You looked panicked out there. I know the feeling, and I
wanted to make sure you were okay, that’s all.”

He wasn’t asking about her past. And he was telling the truth.
His words were utterly sincere.

“You don’t strike me as the panic type,” she responded, getting
a glass from the cupboard and filling it with water.

“I’m okay—in my element,” he responded smoothly. “Garden
weddings? Not so much my element. Neither is this monkey suit.”

“I imagine you are more of a jeans and boots kind of guy.”

“Definitely,” he answered. “Anyway, back to my original
question. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Of course I am,” she replied.

“Okay,” he said, sticking his hands in his trouser pockets,
making his suit jacket flare away from his hips in a most attractive way. Clara
swallowed. She remembered not two months ago, asking Angela about Sam as he
chopped wood in the back yard at Butterfly House. She had told Angela there was
a big difference between appreciating the package and taking the leap into
something more. She’d looked at Sam through the window that day and found him
handsome. But Ty…Ty resembled Sam but with an added something she couldn’t put
her finger on. For the first time since crawling away from Jackson, battered and
bruised, she was definitely appreciating the package, all wrapped up in a suit
and patent shoes.

Her tongue snuck out to wet her lips and she saw Ty’s gaze
follow the movement. All the air seemed to go out of the room.

She fought to be rational. Other than his hands briefly on her
arms as she came barreling out of the bathroom, he hadn’t touched her or made
any sort of suggestion that he was interested.

Except…

Except for the dark gleam in his eyes as he stared at her lips.
There was just this
thing
hovering around them. It
had been a long time since she’d felt it, but it was like riding a bike. Once
you experienced it once, it came back to you in a flash—whether you wanted it to
or not. Now she found herself staring at his lips and wondering what it would be
like to be kissed.

Reality hit like a splash of cold water. “I really should go,”
she said, taking a step backwards. Her voice sounded higher than normal and she
swallowed. “Your mother will be expecting me here on time tomorrow. Weddings are
all well and good, but real life has a tendency to intrude, and your dad has
physio in the morning. It was nice meeting you, Ty.”

“You’re not going to stay for a dance or two?”

“God, no.”

The answer came so quickly and with such force that she didn’t
have time to think about
not
saying it. There was
acknowledging the presence of some sort of…
chemistry,
she supposed was a good word for it. But
dancing—touching—in front of people? She swallowed. Her progress hadn’t quite
extended that far. She’d even said no to Sam—who she trusted more than she’d
trusted any man since leaving her ex—when he asked for a dance. He’d been
perfectly understanding, but she’d stood by the sidelines watching everyone else
dance, feeling silly. Like a coward.

Ty’s gaze darkened until it was almost black, and she felt his
cool withdrawal. Leaving the half-full bottle, he headed towards the deck doors,
stopping for just a moment beside her. She could feel the heat from his body and
the crisp scent of whatever aftershave he wore surrounded her in a cloud of
masculinity. “Miss Ferguson.” He nodded, then continued on his way. The click of
the French door let her know that he was gone in a swell of country music that
was immediately muted; she couldn’t bear to turn around and watch him stride
away.

She hadn’t meant it how it sounded. She’d only been thinking of
the idea of being held close in a man’s arms. The very prospect was laughable.
Dancing was so intimate. The one thing she still hadn’t managed to shake in all
the therapy sessions and the time that had passed was her aversion to having her
personal space invaded. She hadn’t been held by a man since walking away. It
triggered too many memories of how Jackson had held her and told her he loved
her, only to turn around and use those same loving hands to…

She shuddered. But she knew how it must have sounded to Ty. It
had been an indirect invitation on his part and she’d refused before he’d been
able to take a breath. Right after he’d called himself the adopted bastard. He’d
looked at her lips and she’d acted like she was repulsed.

He would think she considered herself just like Amy—a cut
above. But he was wrong, so very wrong.

Tomorrow she’d have to face him. He was living here now, and
she would be here every day, helping Molly with the household chores and putting
Virgil through his physio exercises. It would be incredibly awkward at best if
they left things the way they were now. She should at least explain that it
wasn’t him, right?

She rolled her shoulders back and resolved that she would not
have an anxiety attack in the next fifteen minutes. Instead she would take
another step towards having a normal life. She couldn’t lean on Angela and Sam
any longer. “Living in fear is not living,” she repeated to the empty room.
Wasn’t it about time she started putting that mantra into practice? Wasn’t it
time she did something about the one thing that still held her back?

Her hand tightened on the handle of the French door. She’d be
able to face herself—and Tyson Diamond—in the morning.

It was time to move on.

ISBN: 9781459238305

First North American Publication 2012
Copyright © 2012 by
Shirley Kawa-Jump, LLC

All rights reserved. By payment of the required fees, you have been
granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of
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now known or hereinafter invented,
without the express written permission of publisher, Harlequin Enterprises
Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents
are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and
any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events or locales is entirely coincidental. This edition published by
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BOOK: Return of the Last McKenna (Harlequin Romance)
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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