By Rachel Carrington
Her toes curled, an amazing feat considering the pointed toe sandals she’d chosen for her evening date, but given the circumstances, her toes had no other option.
Rex Hammond was kissing her.
There was a God.
Ashton cracked open one eye while his sensual lips slid over hers. Even this close he was perfect. All taut, bronzed skin and a dimple in his right cheek.
The wind rustled her hair, lifting if off her shoulders, and Rex lifted his hand to brush the strands away from her cheek.
Ashton leaned into him, wanting more. And who could blame her? The one man she’d wanted since high school was now kissing her like he wanted more than just a kiss. And she’d gladly give him more.
Rex lifted his head and fixed those amazing, blue eyes on her face. “It’s getting chilly. You’d better get inside.”
She nodded her agreement and flashed him her most brilliant smile, more than a little relieved she’d taken the extra hour off from work that afternoon to get her teeth whitened.
“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Rex’s additional words kicked her heart into overdrive.
With a sigh of pure pleasure, she turned the doorknob behind her. “Okay. Drive carefully.”
He ran his finger down the bridge of her nose and winked before turning away.
Ashton watched him jog down the driveway back to his gleaming, silver pickup truck. Then she floated into her house.
“I have some bad news for you.” Ashton’s sister, Monica, greeted her in a solemn tone.
Ashton held up one hand. “Not tonight. I’m too happy.”
Monica stepped in her path to prevent escape. “Yes, tonight.”
Ashton glared. “What is it now? And please don’t tell me the dishwasher is broken again. That, to me, is not bad news. It’s an inconvenience.” Her sister was such a drama queen. “So what is it?”
Monica clamped her hands on her hips and jutted her chin out. “He’s married.”
Strolling into the kitchen with her lips still tingling, Ashton barely registered the words. “Who’s married?” She tugged open the refrigerator door to retrieve the carton of orange juice. She was starving. Having eaten like a bird on her date with Rex, she now needed sustenance.
Her head popped up. “What about him?” The dreamy aura around her was starting to fade.
Ashton’s mouth fell open. “Rex? Married? No way. Believe me, my radar would have told me that the second he asked me out. You know me! I can pick out a married man at twenty paces. Am I not the one who told you that jerk who was trying to pick you up at O’Henry’s was married? And I was right, wasn’t I?”
Feeling slightly hysterical, Ashton forgot all about the orange juice as she stomped into the living room to face Monica. “I can pick out a married man.” Her voice rose an octave on the last syllable, and she gathered steam. “I mean, I would know these things. I’ve never been wrong before and I…” She broke off as a paper dangled in front of her eyes. “What’s that?”
“A copy of his marriage certificate.”
Ashton’s breath left her lungs in a long rush of air. “How did you get that?”
Monica continued to waggle the paper until Ashton snatched it from her hand.
“You’re not answering my question.” Her exquisite night was starting to unravel. God, she couldn’t have been wrong about him, could she?
he’s going to start interfering in my love life, too? Hasn’t he done enough? I
mean, seriously, he threatened a store manager for making a pass at me, almost
knuckled a guy who bumped into me, and lambasted our next door neighbor when he
asked me out on a date. Okay, granted, Charlie is a little off, but there was
no reason for
Monica gave her a sly grin. “Why don’t you just face the facts? The man is in love with you.”
Ashton glowered at
“Hello!” Monica pointed to the marriage certificate. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Yeah, it means
I’ve got a bone to pick with
His office door reverberated with the slam. Ashton stormed forward and slapped her purse down on the edge of his desk. “What right do you have to go poking around into my love life?”
He sat back and stacked his hands behind his head. She wore a silk, purple blouse which enhanced her green eyes. God, she was beautiful. “By poking around I assume you mean the production of Rex Hammond’s marriage certificate?”
Her blonde hair swung forward, creating a silky curtain across her face. “That’s exactly what I mean.” Her eyes narrowed. “So what do you have to say for yourself?”
“Nothing?” She began to tap one foot against the expensive rug lining the hardwood floor.
Did she even know what the fire in her eyes did to him? He stood, forcing himself to think of baseball, the weather, tires, anything which would take his mind off the woman standing in front of him.
“Ashton, the guy is a bum. You need to stay away from him.” In reality, Rex Hammond was far more than just a bum, but he figured the less she knew, the better. Hopefully, the marriage certificate would be enough to quell her interest in him.
Her breath hissed out from between clenched teeth. “Did you really think I’d believe Rex was married just because you have a certificate which could have been manufactured anywhere?”
His jaw clenched. “It’s the truth.”
“Well, I don’t believe it. Now, I want you to stop telling me who I need to stay away from. You’re driving me nuts.”
He came around from behind the desk. “Isn’t that what friends are for?” Unable to resist the urge to touch her, he brushed a lock of her hair away from her cheek.
Ashton grasped his wrist and looked into his eyes. “You’re impossible. I don’t know what my brother saw in you as a best friend.”
“Hey! Daniel has
very good taste, and,” he fixed the collar of her shirt, “he did ask me to keep
an eye on you when he moved to
She pushed away from him and stormed to the door. “Keep an eye doesn’t mean stalk.”
The door banged
against the wall, and
“Flowers!” Ashton met Rex at the door with a smile on her face. She’d had a hard time deciding what to wear, and after an hour, had finally settled on the red sheath with the slits up both sides. It showed flashes of her legs when she walked, and by the look on Rex’s face, she knew she’d chosen well.
She swung the door wider. “Come on in.”
Rex sauntered in, smelling like cigarette smoke. “You look sexy as hell.”
He actually thought he was going to get
lucky! Ashton tried not to grimace. She’d only brought him here for a
well-deserved lesson. She hadn’t wanted to believe
Rex really was married. The bastard. Well, nothing like a lesson you buy and pay for yourself.
“Would you like a glass of wine?” All smiles and little giggles, Ashton sashayed toward the kitchen, feeling his eyes on her rump.
“Actually.” His voice was close behind…too close. “What I’d like is some of this.” He yanked her close against his chest, so he could wrap his arms around her. “Isn’t that what you want?”
She wrinkled her nose. Why hadn’t she noticed the cloying scent of his cologne when she’d kissed him outside her front door? “I thought I wanted it…at least I did last night.”
He gave her a sly grin. “So what changed in the last twelve hours?”
Ashton swiped the damning piece of evidence off the kitchen counter and waved it in his face. “I discovered this.”
His face turned a ghastly color gray which only slightly mollified her. “Where did you get that?” The words came out hoarsely, like he’d had a sore throat for days.
“I never reveal my sources.” She pointed toward the door. “Now, get the hell out of my house, and thank you for the flowers.” Common courtesy dictated she add that.
Anger flashed in Rex’s eyes, and for a moment, Ashton thought she was going to have to use one of those neat little moves she’d learned just last week in kick-boxing class. But then he backed off, hands up in the air. “Okay, fine. I don’t hang around where I’m not wanted.”
“Thank God,” she muttered underneath her breath. Although, he was a good kisser. That was a little disappointing.
The front door slammed shut, and Ashton carried the roses to the sink and began shoving them into the garbage disposal.
“What in the hell was Rex Hammond doing here?”
The voice startled
her, and with a shriek, she whipped around. A thorn gouged her palm, and she cursed
as tiny drops of blood gathered on her skin. “
“You haven’t answered my question.”
She ran her hand under water and fixed her eyes on his angry face. Why hadn’t she noticed before how dark his eyes got when he was in a temper? His hair she’d always noticed. Thick and black, it curled against his collar, giving the ruthless district attorney a boyish air.
“Why are you so upset? I was giving Rex the boot.” After drying her hands on a paper towel, she tapped the marriage certificate with one finger. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you yesterday.”
hands on the counter facing her,
“Actually, you gave it to, Monica, and I had to let him know why I was dumping him. That’s the first rule of dating. You don’t just dump someone without telling them why. I mean, honestly, don’t you even know the ins and outs of dating?”
“So does that mean you’re not going to see him again?”
“What does dumping mean to you?” She turned and leaned against the counter. “Now do you want to tell me the real reason you had it in for him?”
“He’s married.” The hedge was evident in his voice.
“Yeah, but you would have told me that to my face if that was all it was. I saw the look on your face yesterday. There’s more.” She waggled her fingers. “So out with it.”
cabinets for medication, Ashton paused to look over her shoulder. “What? Bond? For what?” Forgetting all about
“That’s why I gave you the marriage certificate. I thought that would convince you to stay away.”
“You gave it to Monica,” she corrected again.
“Ashton.” His teeth snapped, or at least that’s what it sounded like.
“So he’s out on bond for…” She let the sentence hang.
“I’m not supposed to reveal that,” he hedged.
“Oh, knock that off. I know what color underwear you wear on Fridays. Just tell me.”
Ashton’s eyes widened, and her heart began to thump hard against her breastbone. “Murder?” Her voice squeaked. “Why didn’t you just tell me that?”
“Weren’t you just listening? There are things I’m not supposed to talk about outside my office!”
“Well, you took a big chance! You can’t just wave a marriage certificate in someone’s face and think they’re automatically going to drop the guy they’re with!” Ashton shouted back at him.
“Wait, that didn’t
come out right.” She rubbed her face with her hands before peeking at
“Cross my heart.”
He made the symbol as they’d done when they were kids. Then he smiled at her.
“I’m just glad you’re okay. When I saw
Ashton rubbed her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and led her to the sofa she’d gotten on sale at Pier One Imports. “Here. Sit down. Do you want some water?”
She harrumphed. “Why do people always assume an upset person requires water? Do I look dehydrated to you?”
He took hold of her hand. “Actually, you look beautiful.”
With a sniff, she turned her head to look at him. “I do?”
“Yeah, you do.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever said that to me before.”
“That’s because you’ve always been Daniel’s little sister.”
She squinted at him. “Always?”
The tips of his ears turned red. “I guess I should go.” He smacked his knees before standing. “Are you going to be all right?”
He was nervous. The thought set her to wondering. Why would Chad Kelsey, the most self-assured man she knew, be nervous around her? She pressed her back into the cushions and pondered.
Could Monica have
been right? No. Surely, she would have realized it long before now. Although,
she’d never been quick on the uptake when it came to
Sexy? Where had
that come from? She’d never considered him sexy before. At least not in
conscious thought. He was always just
“You haven’t said why you came here tonight,” Ashton pointed out with a studious look up at his chiseled profile.
“Oh, that. Well, I just wanted to see if you were all right.”
“And you didn’t want to use the phone?”
He looked even more uncomfortable. “I-that’s-never mind. I’m going to go.”
Ashton stood up and caught hold of his arm. “Thanks for being worried about me.”
He covered her hand with his. “I’ll always worry about you, Ashton. Your safety is very important to me.”
“Why’s that?” She took a step closer to him and caught a whiff of that manly soap she’d always loved. It made her toes tingle.
He turned to face her fully and palmed her face. “Because you’re important to me.”
dilated, and Ashton saw his head dip lower. “
“Are you going to kiss me?”
He hesitated. “Do you want me to kiss you?”
“Why, yes, I believe I do.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “But you do realize this may change things between us. I mean, once you kiss someone there’s no going back. If it’s a good kiss, that’s one thing, but if it’s a bad kiss−”
And she melted. It was definitely a good kiss. More than good. It was better than eating chocolate-covered cherries in the bed while watching Gone with the Wind.
He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”
Her body was tingling in all sorts of places. “Yeah? Then why haven’t you done it?”
“Because you’ve been too busy with guys like Rex.”
She locked her arms around his neck. “Rex who?”