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Authors: Peggy Bird

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Trusting Again

BOOK: Trusting Again
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Trusting Again
Book 4 in the Second Chances series
Peggy Bird, author of
Beginning Again
Loving Again
, and
Together Again

Avon, Massachusetts

This edition published by

Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, Ohio 45242

Copyright © 2013 by Peggy Bird

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6419-1

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6419-2

eISBN 10: 1-4405-6420-5

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6420-8

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © Nakic

For Anita, Beryl, Ruthann, and our handsome date at the Heathman who made the opening scene of this book easy to write.



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

About the Author

More from This Author

Also Available

Chapter 1

“I love it when she has the men in the audience sing the chorus to ‘Eight Miles Wide,’” Liz Fairchild said. “Hearing deep voices sing about the size of their vaginas never fails to amuse me.”

Cynthia Blaine had known Liz for years and, although she wasn’t surprised by anything the other woman said, she was sometimes still astonished by where Liz chose to say it. However, shushing her was a waste of effort. So was pointing out the startled expressions of the people who’d heard the comment. Liz had never learned to care about keeping her voice down or her opinion to herself.

“You like saying that out loud, don’t you?” Cynthia said.

“No one objects to that word anymore, do they? And if they do, maybe it’ll clear out the place so we can get a table. Otherwise, we’re out of luck. The bar’s full,” Liz said.

They’d just come from a matinee of the Oregon Symphony featuring Storm Large, a performer with a great voice and an amazing repertoire of songs, not all of which were appropriate for the faint of heart, a category which included Liz’s favorite, her signature song. Now, standing at the entrance to the Heathman Hotel bar, the women were hoping to find a table so they could have a glass of wine.

This girls’ afternoon out also included Amanda St. Claire, who was doing a recon for a table in the back. Amanda hadn’t been out much since the birth of her baby and Liz, whose art gallery exhibited both Amanda’s art glass and Cynthia’s designer jewelry, had, as she described it, “arranged the excursion to rectify that.”

Amanda rejoined them just in time to catch the last part of the conversation. “It’s full there, too,” she said waving toward the other room. “There are three empty chairs at a table for four, but there was a guy sitting there. I guess he’s waiting for people to join him.”

“Did you ask?” Liz said.

“No, it seemed rude.”

“If he has the only empty chairs in the place, it’s not rude. If you can’t do it, I will.” Liz headed to the area that served as overflow bar, tearoom, and place to lunch for the hotel restaurant.

In a few minutes, she reappeared in the door to the back room and motioned to the other two to join her.

“Oh, my God. Did we get lucky,” she said in a low voice. “And not just by scoring a table. The man we’ll be sitting with is one of the most beautiful creatures ever to walk the planet.”

“So, Liz, when did you say Collins will be back in Portland?” Amanda asked, trailing behind Cynthia.

“I didn’t and you’re usually more subtle than that. I love Collins but I’m not blind. You’ll understand when you see this man,” Liz said. “And to answer your question, however rhetorical it may have been, this is his week in Portland. He should be home now. With any luck, he’ll even have dinner — ”

“Holy hell.” Cynthia stopped so suddenly, Amanda ran into the back of her. “Is that the guy you’re talking about?” She nodded toward a man sitting alone at a table for four, a glass of red wine in his hand.

“Yup, isn’t he gorgeous?” Liz asked.

“I know him,” Cynthia said. “He commissioned a piece of my jewelry a month or so ago for his girlfriend.”

“Damn. There goes my plan to set you up. I figured I might find a way for Amanda and me to leave without you so he’d ask you to dinner.”

“Don’t you dare do anything like that,” Cynthia said, raising her voice slightly and emphasizing the “dare” part of the sentence. The last thing she needed was Liz’s heavy-handed matchmaking. It was uncomfortable enough when Liz tried to fix her up with one of her artists. Cynthia definitely didn’t want any attempts to get her together with this man.

Not when he woke up a hatch of butterflies in her stomach every time she thought about him. Ever since he’d walked into the Erickson Gallery, she’d been full of fluttery things on a regular basis. As she was now.

She smoothed the skirt of her plain lavender linen maxi dress, trying to get rid of the wrinkles, then tied the ends of the deep purple shrug she wore over it a little tighter around her waist. It was too late to wish she’d worn something sexier. Or had put her tawny blonde hair up in some intricate roll, rather than a simple braid down the middle of her back. Worn fuck-me shoes instead of the flat sandals she had on. Put on a little more make-up; put on any make-up at all.

Oh, for God’s sake. Wearing something else wouldn’t have made any difference. He has a girlfriend. One he spent big bucks on for a birthday present. And what the hell was she thinking, anyway? Even if he wasn’t attached, he was way out of her league. After the whole Josh disaster last year, she’d vowed never to get herself in a similar situation again. She’d barely gotten out of that relationship with any shred of ego intact.

As the three women approached the table, the subject of her fantasies stood to greet them. Cynthia was sure his picture was in the dictionary next to the phrase “tall, dark, and handsome.” Cliché it may be but, in his case, true. He was well over six feet tall, with skin the color of a latte, and thick, black-brown hair that curled around his ears and at the back of his neck. The first time she’d seen him in Seattle, she’d immediately wanted to thread her fingers through that hair. Lick up the side of his neck until she got to his jaw line, an earlobe, his full-lipped mouth, whatever she could reach to kiss. Put her arms over those broad shoulders. Earn one of those sensuous smiles.

Everything about the man was burned into her brain including what was, she was pretty sure from watching it walk away from her, the best ass in the Northwest. So she knew if she wasn’t careful, before this little unexpected encounter in Portland had ended, she’d likely be drooling all over him like a St. Bernard.

When the man recognized Cynthia, a broad grin spread over his face and lit up his brown eyes. “If I’d known you were one of the women who were table-less, I’d have carried it out to you. With a bottle of champagne.”

“So, the birthday gift was a success,” Cynthia said.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It was the hit of the evening. I’ve been out of town on business or I would have let you know how much my friend appreciated it.” He turned the smile on the other two women. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to be rude. I’m Marius Hernandez. Cynthia created an amazing piece of jewelry for me to give a friend as a birthday present.”

“This is Liz Fairchild, Marius. She has a gallery in Portland where I have some of my work. And this is Amanda St. Claire. She shows her work at The Fairchild, too.”

“Everyone knows Amanda St. Claire’s art glass. And I’ve read about your gallery, Liz. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the pleasure of three beautiful and talented women joining me but whatever it was, I hope I do it often.” He gestured toward the table. “Please. Sit. Let me flag down a server and get you something to drink.”

Liz took the chair next to Marius and Amanda sat opposite her, leaving the place across from him for Cynthia. She moved the chair back from the table a bit, sure that if he went back to the slouch he’d been in before he stood, she’d be brushing knees with him and she didn’t think she could handle that.

But instead of inhabiting the chair with a casual sprawl, he sat up straighter, his forearms on the table in front of him which put her hands, not her knees, in danger. Even without touching him, Cynthia was unnerved by being this close to him. She played with the strap of the shoulder bag in her lap, twisting her fingers in it, trying not to watch him. But she wasn’t able to keep herself from sneaking peeks at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Cyn, what do you want?” Amanda’s voice broke through the heated mist that had obscured every other thought as soon as she’d seen Marius. “We’ve ordered our drinks and some food to share. The server’s waiting for you.”

“Sorry, a glass of house red, please.”

“Make that a bottle of the Malbec I’m drinking,” Marius said to the server before asking Cynthia, “Is that okay with you? I’m drinking red wine, too, and with you and Liz ordering red, it makes sense to have a bottle.”

“I’ve never had a Malbec,” she said, “but sure. Sounds fine.”

“Most Northwesterners who drink red wine stick to local pinot noirs. But this is one of my favorites. It’s from Argentina, from a high altitude vineyard in the Andes. I think you’ll like it.”

“So, Marius, now that we have that settled,” Liz began, clearly finished with the wine discussion, “I’d love to know more about you. You commissioned a piece from Cynthia in Seattle, but are hanging out in Portland. Do you live in Washington or Oregon? Or do you slide back and forth across the Columbia at will?”

He seemed to take Liz in stride, merely smiling at her as he answered. “I live in Seattle. I’m in Portland for a coffee convention.”

“There are conventions for coffee?” Liz said. “Who knew?”

“Coffee’s big business. Especially now that Starbucks has taken it out of the supermarket and made it gourmet. My family has been in the business for several generations and we’ve seen the change. Benefited from it, to be honest.”

“You sell coffee?” Liz asked.

“Not in the sense I think you mean. We’re brokers for coffee plantation owners in Central America. We arrange the deals between coffee roasters here and plantations there.”

“Coffee roasters like Starbucks?”

“Don’t I wish. No, we have several dozen clients in and around Portland, same in Seattle, and a growing number in California.”

“Is your family in Seattle?” Amanda asked.

“Miami. My family came from Cuba when Castro took over.” Before Liz could ask another question, he went on, “My grandfather started the business. My father and uncles run it now and my brother, a cousin, and I are next in line. I was sent to Seattle to open a West Coast office to handle all the business your coffee culture was bringing us. It’s only me, a couple computers, and an assistant but … ” His self-deprecating smile didn’t really match the rest of his confident body language.

Which was what Cynthia was staring at — his body. Especially his shoulders. His gorgeous shoulders were clad in a jacket that never wrinkled when he moved, like it was part of his skin. She was sure he had his suits made for him. The one he wore today was brown, the perfect complement to his milky-coffee skin. The fabric looked expensive, imported from someplace like Italy. His cream-colored shirt had French cuffs held together with chunky gold cuff links. She wanted to touch the fabric of the shirt; it looked so soft, so smooth. Maybe it was silk, like his tie, which she thought was Prada.

What the hell was wrong with her? First obsessing about her clothes, now his? What men wore had never been of any interest to her. Women’s clothes barely held her attention for more than the ten minutes it took for her to throw on jeans and a T-shirt every morning. She had to pull herself together. Liz and Amanda were having a normal conversation with this man while she sat like a lump, too busy thinking about things like his clothes — or what was under them — to say anything, much less anything intelligent.

BOOK: Trusting Again
5.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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