Risk taker Christine has been in love with her best friend, Hunter, all her life. She’s fun, smart, and pretty in an average sort of way. Hunter, on the other hand, hides his Mr. Yummy Self underneath his boring three-piece suits with his wingtip shoes. They say opposites attract so these two should get on together like house on fire. Except for the small problem of Hunter being oblivious to Christine’s pining (yes, pining!) because he’s been grieving the death of his beloved wife for 5 years. Fed up waiting for Hunter to start living again, Christine decides to move on. Finding his best friend suddenly unavailable, Hunter’s well-ordered life turns upside down. Desperate to have Christine back in his life again, Hunter finds that he too can throw caution in the wind, consequences be damned.
Christine Emerson wrapped her coat tighter around her, cursing the cold East Coast winter. For the love of all that was holy, she did not understand how her parents put up with such miserable weather. She was very close to going back inside the warm airport terminal and flying back to her apartment in sunny LA when she saw a familiar car stop by the curb a few feet from her.
Seeing her ride did not make her any happier to be back in New York. Which was fine, because he did not look happy to see her either. Christine didn’t wait for him to get out of the car. She grabbed her small suitcase and threw it in the back seat of his pristine sedan. She slammed the door with the grace of a sullen child. He stood by the driver’s side door, lips compressed, probably angry at the way she manhandled his vehicle but he didn’t say anything. Christine had a sudden urge to kick his stupid, old man car to get a rise out of him. But it would be useless. She would get zero reaction, and end up with a sore foot. Nothing riled Hunter Rhodes. The quintessential quiet type, people often mistook his silence for arrogance.
She plunked herself, with the refinement of a tuna can, inside the dim interior of the Lexus. Even its warmth did little to lift her spirits. “Got the short end of the stick, eh?”
He waited for her to put on her seatbelt before he started the car. He was such a rule stickler, never a wrong move in his life, which irritated Christine more. Her sisters didn’t call him Hunter the Rock for nothing. Although they found Hunter positively boring with his three-piece suits that never got wrinkled, Christine, God help her, found everything about Hunter sexy as hell, even down to his wingtip shoes. “No stick. Nancy asked me to pick you up.”
“And as the dutiful boy that you are, you happily obliged my mother.” She was so morose, at the rate she was going, she was going to need a stiff drink to keep a happy face for her parents.
“Yes,” he said, refusing to be baited. So this was how he was going to play it—ignore her sullen behavior until she went away. Well, she wasn’t going anywhere. At least not for an entire week.
“Yeah, no need to stroke my ego and flatter this girl into thinking you couldn’t wait to see her.”
“Is this how this whole week is going to be?”
“Not happy to see me? Don’t worry, I can read the big neon sign tattooed on your forehead.” Christine wrapped her arms around her. The car was warm, but a chill came from somewhere deep within her.
“There’s no sign.”
“Please. I could practically see the ‘Back off Emerson’ sign from the plane.”
“I hope we can still be friends,” he said with a tone that was meant to placate, but somehow achieved the exact opposite.
“Keep telling yourself that,” she said, almost to herself. Friends. That hurt. It really did. She thought she was done being hurt. Apparently not.
“I’m not sure how to talk to you when you’re in this mood.” He didn’t bother looking at her. His attention was on the busy airport traffic.
“You expected me to be happy to see you after the last time?”
“I apologized for that.”
“That was precisely the problem, you uptight, self-righteous ass.” Her palms itched. She wanted to throw something at him. Anything to get a reaction. Anything to perversely share some of the pain she was feeling.
“Sometimes, Christine, the things that come out of your mouth.” He shook his head, reprimanding her as if she was a child.
“I remember you quite liked what I did with my mouth,” she sneered.
“Goddammit! Are you ever going to let me forget that?”
Well, there was a reaction. Not quite what she wanted, but she would take it. It was better than the cool politeness they had descended into since ‘that night,’ as if what happened was so awful neither one of them could articulate it.
“Why? Do I get you all hot and bothered?” This time she lowered her voice to a whisper, leaning closer to him. It was meant to push his buttons, rather than to entice him. She knew she held no allure for him. It was a bitter realization, one of the many she had in the last year.
“No.” There he went again—his beautiful lips compressed, but he said nothing more.
“Liar. You liked me well enough before. Admit it, I made you feel alive. Perhaps for the first time since Melanie died.” Shut up, Christine, shut up. But she couldn’t stop herself even as she knew she was crossing a line.
“I know what you’re doing. You’re not going to get a reaction from me by bringing Melanie into this conversation.”
She must be pettier than she ever thought, more certifiable than anyone could have guessed. How else could she feel this much jealousy and resentment toward a dead woman? Like the child she felt she was, all she could say was, “I hate you.”
He shook his head at her hostile behavior. “You’re not one of my favorite people right now either.”
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