Authors: Annie Seaton
Tags: #enemies to lovers, #artist, #small town romance, #Mira Lynn Kelly, #opposites attract, #forced proximity, #San Francisco, #Kristan Higgins, #Category Romance
She held the phone in her hand, took a deep breath and pressed speed dial for Georgie. She should have gone up to Nebbiton tonight and not given in to the temptation of being with Jack. She should have known that Marietta couldn’t be trusted. No one could.
Georgie’s voice broke as soon as she answered the call. “No matter what she’s done, she can’t destroy our relationship. We’re still sisters.”
“She did tell you.” Sienna fought back the dismay that flooded through her. “What about…have you seen Uncle…Renzo?” she asked. She was still having difficulty coming to terms with him being her father and not her uncle.
“No, but Marietta said she told him she was going to tell both of us.”
“She promised me she wouldn’t tell you. I wanted to tell you.”
“You don’t always have to be the strong one, you know. I’m not as weak as you seem to think.”
Sienna put her hand up to her eyes. They seemed to ache constantly these past few days. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to be there when you found out. After all”—she tried to inject some mirth into her voice to lighten the mood—“I am the oldest.”
“You are. But I’m okay. It makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Sienna wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Yes, it does.”
“Are you coming up to see Uncle Renzo?”
“No, and I’m not going to call. I’ll see him at Faith’s party.”
“Love ya, sis. Remember I worry about you, too. You don’t have to do all the worry for both of us.”
They ended the call and Sienna stared out at the lake. No matter what Georgie thought, she didn’t feel very strong at the moment. It was time to find that strength again and get on with her life. How could things have changed so much since their birthdays such a short time ago?
The rest of the week passed quickly. Sienna avoided Jack on the odd occasion he came into the gallery. Luckily the gallery was busy, and she’d been with customers each time he walked in. He must have been staying in the studio because there was no sign of him at the house each night.
Sienna started to clear out the studio, and she packed up the frogs and took them home. Her car hadn’t let her down, and she decided it was a glitch she’d ignore. Hopefully it was all right, because she couldn’t afford to get it fixed.
The gallery was quiet this morning, and there had been no sign of Jack since yesterday. She stared at the display on the shelves in front of her, flicking a duster without really seeing what was in front of her. A couple more days in the gallery, and then Faith’s party to get through and then she could leave Jack behind. Maybe things weren’t going to be too bad
But as much as she tried, she couldn’t put Jack out of her thoughts. The worst part about the week had been his absence. Even though it had been only a few days since she’d told him she was leaving, she’d seen him only from a distance and she missed him around the gallery and the house. He was obviously avoiding her, and that was something she was going to have to get over. She’d booked her flight to Milwaukee the night of Faith’s party and she wondered if Jack had found someone to look after the place. He couldn’t shut it, no matter what he said. That would be bad for business. She typed him an email asking if he had found her replacement. It was safer than talking to him.
A reluctant smile tugged at her lips. But would he check it?
Sienna leaned closer to the mirror and drew a perfect circle on each cheek before filling it in with bright pink lip gloss. Being an artist and having a steady hand helped with getting into costume. Hopefully, she’d remember to keep her hands away from her face while she was driving up to Nebbiton. She’d figured it was easier to get dressed in the fairy costume and wear it, and carry a change of clothes for the plane in the backpack she packed for the trip to Milwaukee. She was catching the red-eye from San Francisco tonight and had already asked Georgie to take her to the airport.
Smoothing down the stiff tulle of the short skirt, she pirouetted and grinned at herself in the mirror. She could just see little Faith clapping her hands when the three fairies arrived in costume for her party. The low throb of a motorcycle engine caught her attention and her hands stilled on the skirt of the costume; her heart sped up. She tried to tamp down the excited anticipation that curled in her stomach. Jack hadn’t been there when she’d left the gallery yesterday with one long, last look at what might have been. Harder than leaving the gallery was the knowledge that she was leaving him behind.
I wonder why he’s here?
She waited for him to come through the house. She hoped he still felt comfortable enough to come in. A couple of taps at the front door sounded rather than the expected turn of a key she waited for.
Holding her breath, and with her hands clenched together in front of her, she took one last look in the mirror before she crossed the hall to open the door.
At least the fairy clothes might lighten the situation
“Wow, a fairy princess.”
Sienna held the sides of the tulle skirt and dropped into a little curtsy. Jack’s face lit up in a wide grin and a pleasant shiver trembled down her back. If anything, he was more tanned and relaxed than he’d been earlier in the week when he’d last been in the gallery. It was impossible to upset the man. He was always so damned
“That’s me. What can I do for you, Jack?”
“I’m on my way to the birthday party, but my Prince Charming costume is here.”
She stepped back to let him inside.
“I was going to get in my costume when I got there. Maybe I should get changed here?”
A little devil poked her as she thought of Jack riding up the highway as Prince Charming. “Definitely. Ana made it quite clear on the invitation that we all arrive in costume.”
“Hmm. I’m going to look ridiculous riding on Highway 1.” His nonchalant grin sent a tremble down her back.
“You are.” Sienna looked up at him. She felt so much better now that he’d stopped by, and she could tell him that she wasn’t coming back. It was cowardly to just leave. “I’m going straight to the airport after the party.”
“Okay. A vacation will do you a lot of good. ” He grinned and her heart started at triple time as the sexy crinkles around his eyes deepened.
“Why didn’t you use your key?” She followed him down the hall. “You didn’t have to knock.”
“I thought it was more polite.”
“Have you been sleeping in the studio?” If he had, he’d been gone every morning when she’d got there.
“No, I’ve been staying at a hotel.”
Guilt ran though her and she frowned. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“No problem. Now that you’ve finished up, I’ll stay in the studio.” He stared at her. “You know yourself how convenient it is to work and sleep there.”
“Yes, I do.” Heat filled her cheeks as she thought of the last time she’d spent the night there. “It’s a great space. It’s got everything you could need.”
The last couple of days had passed in a blur, but the time she’d spent finalizing the bookings and the accounts had been hard, especially not knowing where she was going to go after she left here. Every time the phone had rung about her canceled exhibition, Sienna’s confusion deepened and she was almost—only almost—beginning to regret her quick decision to leave.. Once she went to Milwaukee and visited her mother’s grave, she was going to find closure and think about her future.
“Sienna?” Jack’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “I’ve parked behind your car. Can you wait till I get changed?”
“Sure, I still have to pack the cakes up.”
Jack disappeared into the apartment. “I’ll be quick.”
Sienna went to the kitchen and transferred the fairy cakes from the fridge to a large container. She hummed a nursery rhyme as she worked; Mitzi and Thelma would be proud of her—a domestic goddess and cook she was not. She stepped back and surveyed her creation. As much detailed work had gone into decorating each cake as she put into her sculptures. Each cake was topped with a couple of little fairy-tale characters in a profusion of bright primary colors.
“They’re not for eating, are they?” Jack must have been standing close behind her, because she could feel his breath on her neck. “They’re fantastic. Make sure you get a photo of them.”
Sienna stepped sideways away from the warmth of his arm when he pointed to the cakes. She walked around to the other side of the table and reached for the lid of the container before leaning across and snapping it shut. “Will you carry…oh my goodness!”
Her hand flew to her mouth to stifle the giggle that threatened to spill over.
With his sun-lightened hair and his tanned face, not to mention the skintight costume, Jack made a stunning Prince Charming.
“You like?” He grinned and dropped into a bow. Hot–pink tights encased his long muscular thighs, and a deep green slim-line satin top was tucked into the waistband of his tights
“You look like the guy in
.” She stumbled over the words when heat reached her cheeks; she was grateful for the pink makeup.
“Which one? Not the Mommy’s boy one?”
She let the giggle spill out. “Yes,
one. I think that’s the costume they’ve sold you.”
“But is it okay?”
“Yes, I love it.” She lifted her gaze to meet his as her giggle broke into a laugh. “You’re not really going to ride your bike like that?” She looked down at the heavy motorcycle boots he held in one hand. “I guess you are.”
“It’s good to see you smile again, Sienna.” He held her gaze. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
No, he sounded way too serious. She ignored his words and the tremble that ran down her back. “You’ll certainly attract some attention on Highway 1.”
“I’ve done worse,” he said with a sexy grin, and the tremble hit her legs.
It was good to have him back around. She liked the happy way he made her feel, but wasn’t so sure about the shaky feeling that went with it. “I don’t think I need to know.”
“Come on. Time to go to the party.” He held his free hand out for the cake box. “And we are going to find time for a talk sometime this afternoon before you leave.”
Jack waited beside Sienna’s car as she lifted a red backpack into the trunk. He hated the thought of her leaving and wondered where she was going on her trip—she was traveling light—but he didn’t want to pry. He’d done a lot of thinking over the past few days and he’d decided he was going to back off, but one look at her in that fairy dress and he was smitten again. He had fallen for her, and he didn’t know what to do about it. All he knew was that he didn’t want her to leave. She seemed a lot happier today, and it had been great to hear her laugh ring out. But he was going to tell her how he felt before the day was over.
Once her bag was stowed, he handed her the cake box and she opened the door and placed it carefully on the backseat. “I’ll follow you,” he said. “I don’t quite remember where Blake and Ana live.”
“Okay.” She slipped into her car and Jack walked across to his bike. He pulled his boots on, swung his tights-clad leg over the seat, and waited for Sienna to start her car. After a couple of minutes, she opened the door and stood by the car.
“One, two, three,” she muttered under her breath as he got closer.
“You haven’t had your car fixed yet, have you?” he asked.
“No, I didn’t have time.” She frowned. “Shoot, I didn’t need this today of all days. Four…five…” She finished counting to ten. “It must have something to do with the battery, because if I get out and wait it always starts when I get back in.”
Jack shrugged and waited for her to get back in. “That’s not very logical. Make sure you have it serviced as soon as you get back from your vacation.”
Sienna tried the engine again, but the only sound was a loud
. He waited while she tried again. As she climbed from the car, she shot him a regretful smile.
“I guess I’m going to miss the party after all.”
Jack looked at her. Her brightly painted pink lips were clamped together tightly and her forehead was still wrinkled in a frown.
“Have you got a couple of smaller containers?” He grinned as the solution hit him.
“The cakes. If you’ve got some smaller containers they’ll fit.” He pointed to the panniers on each side of the bike.
“That’s thoughtful of you,” she said. “At least Faith won’t miss out on the cakes. Show them to Thelma and Mitzi before they get eaten. And make sure they know I made them. Oh, I forgot, do you know them?”
Jack grinned at her. “No, I don’t. But you can tell them yourself.”
“Open your trunk.” With a curious look, she did as he asked. He walked over and lifted out her backpack. “You’ve only got the cakes and that bag?”
“You think I’m going to go there on the bike?”
“Yes. You can wear the backpack and we’ll put the cakes in there.” He hoped like hell that she’d agree. “And then you won’t miss out on the party. I’m sure someone will give you a lift to the airport later. And if not, I can take you on the bike.”
His breath caught in his throat as her face broke into a wide grin.
“Serves me right for laughing at the thought of you riding up the highway in your costume. I guess you’d call it poetic justice. But I’ll do it for Faith. I won’t miss her birthday.” She shook her head. “You know what? We’ll both look ridiculous. But that’s just what I need.”
Her laugh tinkled around him and he watched in appreciation as she grabbed the cake container from the car and hurried up the stairs. She wore pink tights beneath the short skirt, and her feet were encased in dainty silver slippers.
“You’ll have to change your shoes,” he called after her, trying to ignore the anticipation that was curling in his gut. Things were going his way.
A couple of minutes later, Sienna pulled the front door shut and ran lightly down the stairs. He waited at the bottom and took the two containers she passed him.
He looked down approvingly at her feet. She’d shed her sparkly slippers, and the pink tights were tucked into a pair of purple Doc Martens boots.
“Nice,” he said. He couldn’t take his eyes from her as she stared at him with a smile.
God, she is so beautiful.
“Take me to the party, Prince Charming.”
Trying to keep his attention on the winding curves of Highway 1 was one of the hardest things Jack had ever done. Sienna’s soft breasts pressed into his back and her hands clung to his waist. Every time a car honked at them, she leaned forward and laughed in his ear, pressing even closer. It got to the point that he prayed no one else honked at them and she’d move back, because he’d be in no state to get off the bike wearing his pink Prince Charming tights. He knew now why they were called tights.
Sienna leaned forward and called out. “Two more driveways and then turn left into the third one. It’s the driveway with the yellow mailbox.”
Thank God, we’re almost there.
Jack focused on the road, the bike, the sky, the trees, and the occasional glimpse of the silvery water of Half Moon Bay—anything to forget the soft swells pressed up against his back. Up until he’d met Sienna, he’d been happy to be a loner. Life by himself had satisfied him. In fact, he’d needed the space. The thought of her leaving wrenched at his heart. If it meant keeping her by his side, he’d give up the gallery, his commissions, and if it was what she wanted of him, hell, he’d even go back into business and take life more seriously. Since he’d been out on the coast, and since he’d fallen, yes, fallen in love with Sienna, he was prepared to change his ways.
Now could he convince her that he could?