Authors: PJ Adams
Tags: #wealthy, #bad boy, #Romantic thriller, #rags to riches, #mysterious past, #romantic suspense, #conman, #double-crosser, #maine romance, #new hampshire romance, #new england romance, #dangerous lover
James Grieve Press
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as she really going to do this?
From the first time she set eyes on him, Denny McGowan had Trouble written all over that gorgeous face. It coursed through his veins, was an integral part of every breath he took.
He’d set Cassie up. Lied to her. Woven her into his twisted trail of half-truths and deceit until, looking back, she realized she’d completely lost track of what to believe about him and what had been a fabrication.
One wild and stormy night he’d walked into her life, from nowhere. Close on his tail there had been armed gangsters and ghosts she’d thought long since buried in her past. She’d stared down the barrel of a gun more than once in the two days since first meeting Denny, and she’d lost everything she had, and then he’d run away, leaving her in the hands of his armed pursuers.
You never knew where you stood with Denny McGowan, but one thing she
learned was that, more often than not, you would be in the firing line.
On top of all this, he’d charmed his way into her bed and into her heart, too, and perhaps that was the most unforgiveable thing of all.
So was she really going to do this?
Was she going to pick up that telephone and dial the number he’d left on his hastily scrawled note?
Life for Cassie Dane had been all about bad luck and worse choices, and now...
Was Denny just a continuation of that cycle, or could he possibly be the way out?
She’d come down here to Marshall and Sally’s front room to make that call. She’d decided she was going to see this thing through, and try to work out what part Denny was going to play in her life. But now...
Now she sat there with her hand hovering over the phone, unable to pick it up but equally unable to pull away.
He’d left the note for her in the early hours of the morning, while she slept. Those few handwritten paragraphs were full of excuses for why he’d fled when the chips were down. For why it had made no sense to wade in there against three armed men to save a woman who had already been turned against him and wouldn’t have gone with him even if he
been able to rescue her.
Worst thing was, it all made perfect sense. Brady Lowe, Denny’s ex-business partner who now wanted his blood, had given her the freedom to walk away from it all. He’d explained how Denny had lied to her and had only wanted to use her. Even though, earlier that evening, she had really thought she was falling in love with him, by the end of the night she would never have gone with him. So saving his own skin really had been his only option.
But he hadn’t been willing to give up.
He’d slipped back in when she slept and left that note. He’d tried to explain himself, tried to convince her that he had fallen head over heels for her.
The note had concluded:
It’s 4am now and you’re sleeping like a puppy. I’ve been out to a place called Conway and found an all-night store: I have a new cell phone now. Call me, babe. Any time. Now. Tomorrow. Six months from now.
Give me a chance and call me.
She had the note before her now, his new cell number scrawled across the bottom.
Her hand still hovered over the telephone. Uncertain. Should she give him one more chance, or would that be her worst choice ever?
She pulled her hand away and rested it in her lap as if it had been stung.
It was then that she understood: the worst choice ever wasn’t calling him or not calling him, it was allowing herself to be rushed. She needed to get her head straight, get her life in some kind of order.
She needed to be in control.
Breakfast of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup tapped from trees in their own backyard was Sally’s answer to pretty much anything. The three of them – Cassie, Sally and Sally’s bear of a husband, Marshall – sat in the kitchen and ate, saying nothing for the longest of times, which just about suited Cassie down to the ground.
Finally, two pancakes down, Cassie raised a big mug of freshly ground coffee to her lips, took a scalding mouthful, and then said, “I didn’t call him. Didn’t feel ready.”
Marshall nodded and drank from his own mug.
Sally nodded, too, and said, “Told you she was a smart one, didn’t I, Marsh?”
“You didn’t think I should call him? You didn’t say anything.”
“You make your own choices, honey,” said Sally. “Good ones. Bad ones. They’re all your choices.”
Cassie took another pancake and a little more maple syrup. She wasn’t hungry, but with Sally and Marshall the food was like punctuation to spending time together around that big kitchen table.
Outside, the morning’s rain had turned to sleet, a sudden, intense downpour. By Thanksgiving it’d be snow, and things at Saco Cabins would be picking up again as the White Mountains ski season kicked off.
“You made any plans?” asked Marshall, hitching the loose strap of his bib overalls over his shoulder and fastening it.
Last night, when Denny had fled, Cassie had been left with no money and only the clothes she was wearing; today, though, she’d realized that it hadn’t only been a note he had left when he snuck in early that morning. He’d left her bag from the Lexus and, tucked into it, that roll of hundred dollar bills he’d been carrying.
So she had some fresh clothes and toiletries, she had some money. Right now she didn’t need plans, just time to breathe a little.
“Not really,” she said. “I have a cabin out on the coast, south of Bangor. Rent’s paid up until January. No work, though: place I was working has two more nights before it closes up for winter. Most of the casual work over there dries up over winter.” She thought of that roll of cash; she had some savings set aside for winter, and she’d been putting a few supplies by, too. “No pressure on me, though: I’ll have a roof over my head and a stove to keep the place warm while I work out what I want to do with myself.”
“Place for you here,” said Sally. “There’s always work looking after the cabins when it’s ski season.”
“Don’t you have someone already?” She couldn’t just breeze in and take someone else’s job.
“Things’ve been tight,” said Sally. “We were plannin’ on doing it all ourselves this year. Me an’ Marshall never been shy of a bit of hard work.”
“You’d be helpin’ us out,” said Marshall. “We’d give you room and feed you good, an’ if things start to pick up some...”
“I’d need to head out to Maine to pick up my things.”
“You could borrow the station wagon.”
“A fresh start,” she said, more a thought out loud than anything that needed answering. She topped up their coffee from the jug and outside the downpour eased, and all of a sudden this morning seemed a long way removed from everything that had led up to it.
he lasted a week.
A week of getting back into the old routines of life here with Marshall and Sally. Prepping the cabins for the first winter guests. Airing and cleaning the rooms, dressing the beds and getting the heating in order. Helping with some of the routine maintenance: touching up the paintwork, filling potholes in the track and changing the glass in a cracked window.
It was good to be busy, and to occupy her mind so that she wasn’t going round and round in circles twenty-four seven.
But in the long night hours, as she lay awake, her head just wouldn’t let up. Going over those two days she’d been with Denny. The highs and lows, the lies. The way he’d made her feel. Not just the obvious physical things – although it was hard to get away from that – but in her head and heart. The way she’d so quickly moved from the wild abandon of a one-night stand with a complete stranger to that moment when she’d realized she couldn’t see a future for her that didn’t feature Denny McGowan.
It hadn’t been a planned thing. It hadn’t been a thing she understood or even felt complicit with.
It had just happened.
He’d got under her skin and into her heart like no-one ever had before.
And the physical... Lying in bed at night, blankets pulled tight against the chill night air, how could she not keep coming back to the physical?
That first night, when he’d come in out of the storm, and she’d handed him a towel and shown him through to the bar’s back room. Standing there, shirtless, toweling himself down. The square shoulders, the neat ripples and lines of chest and abs. The dark fuzz of body hair across his chest and thickening down his belly to wear he’d freed his belt and undone the top button of his pants. That image was frozen like a snapshot in her head, as if he’d just stepped out of a glossy magazine or a movie.
Later that evening, when everyone else had gone.
They’d flirted, they’d chatted and kissed, and then... he’d just picked her up and put her on a table, pushed her back down and removed her little black skirt.
That first touch, his knuckles against the lace of her thong... his face against her, buried in her heat, teeth and lips and tongue working her through that fabric until, finally, he’d pulled the thong aside and driven his tongue deep inside her.
She’d never been a screamer until that night with Denny. She’d never been a one to actually, Goddamn it, black out when she hit her peak, but she had with him.
All he had to do was give her a particular look, touch her in a certain way, and she needed him, had to have him.
She’d never known anything like that before, and now, late at night, alone, she would press and squeeze and grind her body as she remembered how it had been, physical echoes of a passion that now seemed such a long time ago.
A week... A week of aching and missing and that big, unresolved uncertainty: too much remained unanswered; there were too many what ifs and could have beens.
She was on the porch of one of the cabins, taking a break. It was one of those blue-sky White Mountains days where the late fall air tastes of winter already and bites you to the bone.
How long had she been standing there, leaning against one of the wooden posts by the door and staring out over the trees? Mind wandering, miles away from the here and now.
Marshall stood there before her, studying her, the two of them on eye-level as the porch was two steps up from the track where the big man stood.
“Jus’ call him, Cass.”
“Thought you said I’d be a fool to?”
“That was Sally said that, and it was before you’d spent a whole week pining all day long, like you’ve been doing. I’ve seen how you’ve been. An’ I saw how you were when you showed up at our door with him in tow. I saw that spark in you that I’d never seen before. An’ I saw the way he looked at you, the way he was when he was around you.”
That was a big speech by Marshall’s standards: that many words from him were worth so many more from someone else.
“You got it again now, just talkin’ about him, Cass. That look in your eye. Only time before I ever see chemistry like that it was me an’ Sally. She an’ her city ways an’ her snooty folks all disapproving. Put it down on paper an’ we had nothing going for us: she was at college, her family had expectations, she had ambitions. An’ I was just fixin’ automobiles and drinking with my buddies like we’d invented it.”
He shrugged, and paused a while, then went on: “But there was that spark in her eye, an’ she said she saw the same thing in mine. You lay everything else aside when there’s that spark, is what I say, Cass.”
“So why didn’t you say all that a week ago?”
“You have to see it for yourself, Cass. That ain’t a journey anyone else can make for you.”
“So why are you telling me now?”
“You’ve made that journey, haven’t you? You’re
She didn’t call him.
She went back to dressing the bedroom in the cabin, to occupying her head with anything but the question of whether or not to call Denny McGowan. That night at dinner, Marshall said nothing about their exchange, and Sally didn’t act as if she knew about it either.
They ate meatloaf, with mash and greens and then, while Cassie cleared up the remains of the meal and its preparation, Marshall and Sally made their excuses and set off in the station wagon on some errand or other involving a trip in to Conway for the evening.
Whether by intent or not, that left Cassie a short time later on her own in the front room with a book and that telephone just sitting there on the shelf by the window.
Jus’ call him, Cass.
It wasn’t as simple as that.
She had to go all the way up to the spare room she’d been told to consider her own. Had to rummage through her things and find that scrap of a note he’d left, the one with his new number on it. The note that was wrinkled and soft with balling up and smoothing out, over and over through the week as her mood had swung like a pendulum.