“How exactly does one become an art appraiser?”
That sexy smile of his came roaring back. “We’re changing the subject?”
She nodded. “Without even an ounce of subtlety.”
The rich sound of his laugh floated through the dark night. “Then the answer is easy—misspent youth.”
“What are you talking about? Art appraising sounds like something wealthy people would be into. Like, I’m looking at you and thinking private-school boy.” She studied his face and hummed as she tried to pin him down, figure out his untold story. “Maybe even a boarding school.”
He snorted. “Your people-reading skills are way off tonight.”
That answer . . . it had her wanting to know more. She beat back the urge to pepper him with questions. If she took a turn, he would want one. No way.
She pointed at the gooey s’more oozing between his fingers. “Blame the marshmallow.”
“They’re growing on you.”
“Not really.” She’d never been a fan. “The sticky thing . . . it’s annoying.”
He held up a hand and wore a look of fake outrage. “Honestly, you keep talking like that and I’ll have to leave the island.”
“I wish I had that option.” She hadn’t meant to say that, but the words were out there now.
His head snapped back as he looked at her. “Do you really have to be here?”
“I owe it to Tabitha.” And it was a debt Gabby took seriously. Her sweet, loving sister deserved so much more than the end she got. The idea of her dying alone and afraid twisted Gabby’s insides into knots. She had faint memories of a man and footsteps that horrible afternoon, but Tabitha was gone by the time Gabby reached her. “Someone needs to care about what really happened to her.”
“Too many, actually.” Someone looking for cash. Some jerk hoping to find a woman alone. Every option centered on the hazy figure she saw leaving the house. The one she’d almost convinced herself she’d dreamed up.
“Are you really not going to sleep inside tonight?” he asked.
“I might sleep on the porch.” That was the plan. There or the boathouse, where there’d be some protection from the wind.
“It’s freezing out here.” Harris rubbed his hands together in front of the fire as if to prove his point.
“I’ll be fine.” When he started to say something, she talked over him. “I’m serious, Harris. I can’t be in the house. Not yet. Tomorrow, maybe. In the light.”
“Have you been in there since . . .”
He didn’t need to finish the sentence because she knew where he was going. “Since I found her body? No.”
He let out a long, loud breath as he wrapped up the chocolate bar again. “Take the guesthouse.”
The idea sounded so much better than any other option. She’d stayed there on and off with Tabitha since their parents died. Her sister loved the solitude of island but Gabby always worried the lack of companionship would prove to be too much. She stopped in. She swung through. She came up with excuses to be there for days at a time with her sister before jumping off again.
“Where would you sleep?” A not entirely unwelcome idea formed in her brain. “Or was that a really sloppy pass?”
“Sloppy?” He shook his head. “Woman, come on. It takes skill to look debonair while having your fingers stuck together with marshmallow.”
He held up his fingers to show her.
“You’re right,” she said, ignoring the fact he pulled off the look just fine.
He picked up the chocolate bar then dropped it again. “Melting chocolate. I mean, I’m balancing a lot over here.”
He really was adorable. Sexy and hot in a want-to-climb-him way, but kind of sweet, too.
Too bad she thought it was all a very calculated act.
“You’re very impressive,” she said in the most condescending voice she could muster.
“Thanks for noticing.” He wiped his hands on a paper towel and put the rest of the s’mores ingredients away. “But the offer still stands. The guesthouse has a couch and a floor. I can sleep on one of those.”
“No.” The offer should have been easy to resist but she had to force the denial out. She stood up, thinking leaving might be the only way she could win this round. “I’ll be fine.”
He glanced up at her. “I get the impression you’re always fine, Gabby.”
“Then you’re not looking very closely.”
HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a…divorce attorney. Not the usual transition, she knows. Good news is she now writes full time and is much happier. She has sold over forty novels and novellas to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Kensington, Harlequin, Penguin Random House, Riptide and Carina Press. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. She is on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and MiraCosta College. You can learn more at her website: www.HelenKaydimon.com