Sins from Her Past (Scandalous) (2 page)

BOOK: Sins from Her Past (Scandalous)
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“I hope you can clear your schedule because I will need your undivided attention.”

She smiled. “I can clear mine. The question is can you clear yours? You forget I know how often you like to entertain.”

He held his palms up and shrugged. “I can’t help it if I’m popular,” he said with a smile that had no doubt charmed many ladies into dropping their panties. “But you have nothing to worry about.”

“I’d feel better knowing none of your women are going to come at me with jealous vengeance.”

Vincent’s smile warmed her…a sensation that had nothing to do with friendship. “Have no doubt. All the women I know are shallow, self-absorbed. But none of them are vengeful.”

Evelyn lifted a brow and smiled. “Vin, do I need to remind you of the time you came back to the apartment you shared with Dylan and Alan your senior year of college and found all of your clothes bleached?”

Rich laughter sounded through the room as he sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “That was years ago, Evelyn. I’ve learned to have a little more finesse since then.”

“Finesse? You mean you honed all of your smooth talking? Why have I never witnessed it?”

For a brief moment, she thought she’d seen heat, desire glaze over his soft eyes—which was most certainly the only soft thing on him—but just as soon as she had the thought, the look was gone.

“Anytime you want to hear my smooth talking you just let me know,” he told her with a wink and a flash of those mocking twin dimples.

On one hand she’d love to hear his charming words, but on the other she didn’t want to hear them knowing they were more than likely from some script he had.

She’d always been comfortable with Vin—perhaps that’s why she’d secretly wished he’d be the man to help her overcome her fear. But with his laid-back ways, he probably wouldn’t be able to handle all she would bring to the bedroom.

Evelyn glanced down to her clasped hands. Did she really want to take this project on knowing how she’d had feelings for him for years? For so long she’d wanted to go to Dylan or Vin and tell them what was going on, to seek their support, their protection. But she’d been left with no choice but to protect herself the only way she’d known how…with her body.

Nobody would ever know what she’d sacrificed.

Could this be more complicated? She fantasized about the man who was her brother’s best friend and now he was offering her the business deal of a lifetime. All while flirting, which wasn’t out of the norm for him. His flirting with her was harmless. He didn’t mean a word he said…at least not to her. But he was giving her a chance and she wasn’t about to blow it because of some hang-up she had from when she was a teenager.

Her crush on Vin had come right before her life was changed forever. Who knows if she would’ve pursued something with him. God knows her backbone had been stronger before.

“You okay, Evelyn?” Vin asked. “I lost you for a second and you went pale.”

She brushed a stray hair off her forehead and smiled. “Sorry, just thinking.”

“I don’t know that I’ve ever made a woman look as if she was going to pass out.” He sighed, taking her hand in his. “If you’re uncomfortable with this one-on-one working arrangement because of our personal relationship—”

“No.” There was no way Evelyn would let this opportunity pass her by. “I want this. Working with you will be a huge step in the right direction for my new business. It’s not every day a brand new company gets asked to collaborate on a plan with a hotshot hotelier.”

A warm smile spread across his face. Damn, those dimples kept mocking her and the things she couldn’t have.

“That’s good to hear,” he told her. “We’ll be leaving for Italy in two days.”

Evelyn came to her feet. “Italy? In two days?”

Vin’s rich laughter filled the room as he came to his feet and towered over her. “I don’t believe in wasting time. It makes me…twitchy.”

His eyes held hers and they didn’t travel down her body, or even to her lips, but remained locked on her eyes. She shivered as if he could see straight into her thoughts, her soul.

Evelyn swallowed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you weren’t just talking about work.”

“I’m not. Wasting time is a step backwards.” He slid his finger along her forehead, pushing aside the wayward strand that kept slipping from her clip. “Wouldn’t you agree, Evelyn?”

Oh man. Maybe she could get past her demons and take charge of her personal life. If anyone could help her overcome her fears, Vin Hawk could. The man personified sex appeal, but he did it in such a gentle way. Yeah, if she could let lose and just let nature take its course…

Years had passed and she’d dropped enough money with a shrink in Miami to know what happened hadn’t been her fault and that she was a healthy, single woman who deserved to find happiness.

But she’d die of humiliation if she and Vin started getting down to it and she freaked out. Right now all she could do was concentrate on her new business and Vin’s resort.

“Then Italy in two days it is,” she told him with a smile. “How long will we be gone?”

He shrugged. “However long it takes. You can pack light and if you need anything else, we can pick it up there. Just make sure you bring a couple of nice gowns or cocktail dresses.”

Evelyn mentally ran through her closet, already nixing several things. She wanted to appear professional, yet still young and fun. She wasn’t into the Hoochie Mama club clothes, even though—unfortunately—halter tops and mini skirts were made in her size.

But Vin was used to flawless, shapeless women on his arm, not women who had real curves and muffin tops. Perhaps she should hire a model to go in her place?

“Then I better get going,” she told him. “Should I meet you at the airport?”

“No. I’ll pick you up Monday morning. Seven too early?”

Um…yeah, considering she stayed up until nearly two in the morning working on her private designs, but she wouldn’t tell him that.

“Perfect,” she lied with a smile. “I’ll see you then.”

He leaned in, kissed her cheek and shot her the double-dimple grin. “Can’t wait.”

 

 

With boxes stacked all throughout each room of her new seaside cottage, Evelyn sighed. Might as well just pick a box and dig right in. They all needed her attention, so it didn’t matter where she started.

Her front door opened suddenly, jerking her attention from the large stacks.

“Anyone home?”

Evelyn smiled. “In the living room, Dylan.”

Her brother stepped through the wide opening off the foyer and cringed. “Good Lord, you’ve got a lot of work to do.”

She blew her long side bangs from her face. “Aren’t you just the positive attitude I needed. Thanks for stopping by.”

“Just being honest,” he laughed and moved over to one of her boxes. He removed the lid and started pulling out pictures. “Where do these go?”

She rested her hand on top of a box and raised a brow. “Did you really stop by to help?”

“I want to see you and I know you have a lot of work to do, so…yeah.”

“You have an ulterior motive.”

Holding a black-and-white picture in a thick black frame, he nodded. “I want you to come see the house with me.”

Evelyn had been waiting for that. She’d been in town not even twenty-four hours, but she knew that would be one of the first things Dylan wanted from her.

“I can’t, Dylan.”

“Damn it, Evie. I know losing Mom and Dad was hard—it was hell for me, too. But don’t let the scars from your past keep you away.”

If only he knew about her scars he wouldn’t pressure her.

“I promise I’ll see it.” As soon as she was stronger. “Just give me some time. Is that fair?”

He gripped the frame, his eyes searching hers. “That’s all I can ask. It needs so much work, Evie. It sat empty for so long.”

Evelyn couldn’t even imagine her old Victorian home being anything less than stunning. Her mother had always prided herself on the flower boxes and beds, and her father had always made sure the porches were clean and painted, the siding without a chip and the lawn perfectly manicured.

“Is it hard for you to be back?” she asked.

He nodded. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I think the fact that it’s run-down right now is what got to me. But I’m looking forward to getting into it and really making it mine.”

Evelyn nodded and popped the lid off her box and tossed it to the floor. “I’m really glad you bought it back. I guess I’m just all mixed up about going back. I know once I get over the initial shock I’ll be fine.”

Going back to her childhood home was just another step in moving back. And like everything else, she had to take baby steps to get to that giant leap beyond her past.

“You ready to work for Vin?”

Evelyn froze. “How did you know already? I just agreed to it this morning.”

Dylan shrugged, setting the picture down in the chaise. “I ran by there before I came over here. He’s pretty excited to have you working on his new resort.”

“Yeah, well, I just hope he’s happy with my results.” Evelyn waded her way through the white, fluffy packaging and pulled out a small accent lamp. “He’s wanted a resort on Maui for years and I’d hate to clash with him over this. I have an image, but I’m sure he does too.”

“You’ll be fine,” Dylan assured her. “He’s so damn picky, if he had doubts about you, he wouldn’t have asked.”

That made her feel somewhat better, but still it was hard to work closely with people you were related to or were such good friends with. And she and Vin would be working much closer than they had when she’d been with Marshall’s Design Group. This time she’d be traveling and doing more one-on-one working than ever.

And while the idea thrilled her, she was also scared. Scared both professionally and personally.

This was her first big job on her own. She had confidence in herself or she wouldn’t have taken such a drastic career step. Not only was her first big job with Vincent Hawk, world-renowned hotelier, but he was also her brother’s best friend and a good friend to her…a friend whom she’d just so happened to have a slight crush on as a teen. Those adolescent feelings had only grown as the years had passed. Only, she knew she couldn’t act on her feelings. Ever.

She was a hot mess.

“You okay?”

She glanced back at Dylan, who had stepped closer to her, and was now frowning.

“Oh yeah,” she answered with a smile. “Just lost in thought.”

Dylan returned her grin and reached out to wrap an arm around her shoulders to pull her against his chest. “I’m glad you’re back, little sister. I’ve missed you.”

Evelyn’s eyes burned at his familiar embrace. “I’m glad to be back too, Dyl.”

And she was. She just wished all her demons hadn’t been waiting for her upon her return.

Chapter Two

They’d reached cruising altitude when Vincent came to his feet and moved toward the back of the jet. He needed to stay busy, stay focused on the task at hand, especially now that he had a traveling companion. No one knew about his fear of flying. Silly for a man of his stature, but there it was. An idiotic secret he kept to himself. He did have an image to uphold.

Evelyn, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to stop staring out the window. She’d already commented on his “flying mansion”. He’d watched as she’d taken her seat after boarding and run her perfectly manicured fingertips along the cherry finish and smooth leather seats.

And every stroke of her fingertips had him growing harder and harder by the minute.

If Dylan had any clue as to the willpower Vin had had all through the years regarding Evelyn, he wouldn’t have asked him to work so closely with her. If she’d stayed in Pebble Cove, he would’ve made a move a long time ago.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

Damn. He’d been caught staring, but whatever. It wasn’t like they’d never flirted. Since they’d met years ago, if they weren’t innocently flirting, they were arguing. Evelyn was such a fun opponent to battle with. He couldn’t imagine how they’d tackle a bedroom. God, he wanted to find out. Wanted to know how she acted, reacted to a lover’s touch. To his touch. Wanted to know if that’s the one place she let her guard down. But wants didn’t always turn into reality.

“Everything,” he told her, pulling a bottle of water from the fridge. He held one up with a lift of his brow, but Evelyn shook her head.

“How about you?” He took a seat directly across from her and twisted the lid off his water. “What thoughts are swirling around in your mind?”

“I’m always amazed at the amount of work you’ve accomplished at such a young age. I mean, I’m not that much younger and I’m just now getting my business going.” She sighed. “I can’t believe you don’t want to share your life with a special woman.”

Interesting how she kept bringing up women in his life. Was she hinting that she wanted to cross the friend barrier? They had weeks of alone time together. Eventually they would circle around to more personal, intimate topics.

“My determination stems from my childhood. I want to have a family one day and not let my kids go hungry as I did more times than I could count. As for a lasting relationship, at first I was too busy working to make that first bit of money multiply. After that, well, I didn’t believe any woman was interested in me for the right reasons. I’m perfectly fine with being alone for now. I won’t settle until I find the one.” He grinned, hoping to see her radiant smile in return. “Besides, I’ve had plenty of companionship.”

BOOK: Sins from Her Past (Scandalous)
12.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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