Sore but pleased with a very hard day's work she showered before retiring to her back porch with a novel and a cup of hot tea.
"Wow, you've done some major work here."
She turned and saw Kyle Chase standing there, hands in his pockets. He looked so handsome it took her breath away.
"Idle hands and all of that." Her words were wary, even as her pulse sped at his presence.
He grinned and raised one hand in a casual wave. "Now that I've said, hey, you gonna invite me up there for a cup of tea? You're a southern woman after all-it's hardwired in your genetic code."
"Tea?" She began to lose her battle against a smile.
"No. Unfailing courtesy, even when you don't want to be courteous."
Laughing, she put her book down. "Come on up and sit, then. I'll go and get another cup." Motioning to the couch she disappeared into her house.
With a secretive smile of his own, Kyle made himself at home on the small couch gracing her back sun porch. As a landscaper, he knew just exactly how much work she must have done to make her yard look so great. Somehow, knowing she was such a hard worker only made him want her more.
Within moments she appeared again, carrying a tray with two steaming mugs of tea and a plate of muffins. She bent to put it down on the low table in front of him.
He smiled, grabbed the tea and breathed deeply, letting the heat from the cup warm his hands.
She motioned to the plate of muffins. "Blueberry muffins. I've been baking for the retirement home. Have one, they're still warm."
The porch was enclosed and had a fireplace at one end that sported a warm blaze. The popping of the wood accompanied the soft clinking of his spoon against the mug as he stirred in sugar. She looked comfortable and beautiful as she sat, curled into her chair.
"These muffins are criminally good," he said around a mouthful. Hot damn, was there nothing this woman wasn't good at?
"Thanks." Her smile faded as she got down to business. "Okay, niceties out of the way. What brings you here, Kyle?"
"I don't know." He hesitated. "Yes I do. I wanted to see you."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "You wanted to see me?" she repeated blankly.
"Yes. Maggie Wright, I wanted to see you. I can't stop thinking about you. I should you know, but I can't."
She sat utterly still, staring at him for a few moments. Pleasure warred with panic inside her. She couldn't deny she'd been attracted to him from the start. But she kept telling herself he was out of her league and also related to someone she'd dated, however briefly.
"You should what? What do you mean?" Her voice was careful.
Leaning forward, he sat his mug down, wiping his hands on his jeans nervously. "I mean that I can't get you out of my mind. Your lips, your beautiful amber eyes. God, the way you smell-rain and vanilla. Is it a perfume or do you just naturally smell that way? Your skin, it's like milk. That dusting of freckles across the bridge of your nose, it makes my hands itch to want to run a finger over them. Your smile, you're so genuine, Maggie. It's a very appealing total package. And I can't stop thinking about you."
She closed her eyes slowly and put her head down. "Please don't do this. I can't take it."
He came to kneel in front of her and slowly raised her face to his with a hand on her chin. "Don't do what?"
"This! Damn it! You heard my story that night and now you feel even sorrier for me. You had to get on your white horse to come over here to try and make me feel better."
He brushed his lips along hers and she stilled again as his taste warmed her. "First of all that was way over a month ago. I don't feel sorry for you, Margaret Wright. I feel something else for you. I want you. I want to get to know you better. I've tried not to think about it because of Shane. But since that night when he made you spill those fries, I've been crazy about you. I've gone out with a dozen women since then to try and push you out of my mind and it hasn't worked.
"The story you told me about your sister and the professor, it did change things but not in the way you think. It made me realize just how stupid I was being for letting you go because of Shane. Especially when Shane was such an ass. Life can be about taking chances and finding really great things and yes, failing sometimes. Or it can be about wondering what if because you never dared to try. Now see, I look at you and I kick myself because I was willing to say what if because of Shane. And damn it, he doesn't deserve you." His eyes looked deeply into hers. Her heart quickened but not out of fear. Instead she let go and fell into his gaze.
"No more, Maggie. I want you. I don't care what Shane thinks at this point. I would have come earlier but I wanted to give you some time to deal with how he treated you. It was about the hardest thing I've done in my life so far, watching you and wanting you but waiting. But as far as I'm concerned, Shane's loss is my gain. Give me a chance to show you that not all Chase brothers are bad. Let me get to know you, show you who I am."
Maggie looked at him and she felt her heart open back up, just a tiny bit. "I don't know. What about Shane? He's your brother."
"What about him? Are you in love with him? If you are, I'll back off, but only for a while because I'll be waiting for it to wear off. If not? Well, I've talked with Matt and Marc about it, to get their opinion on the matter and they're under the same impression I am. If Shane wants to continually close himself off because of an ex-fianc