Authors: Dale Mayer
Tags: #romantic suspense, #Psychic Visions Series, #romance, #suspense, #Dale Mayer, #Sexy, #thriller
(Second Chances...at Love)
Copyright Â© 2013
This is a work of fiction.Â Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidences either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.Â
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er heart racing, Karina pushed open the glass double doors and walked into the almost deserted pub. Her breath quickened as she searched the faces of the few patrons inside. Had he left already? Or was Brian Saunders somewhere here, drowning his sorrows? Breanna, Brian's girlfriend of two years, had broken up with him and taken off for Europe, or some such thing. Karina knew she should feel sorry for him, but instead her mind wouldn't stop pestering her.
Here's your chance. One last shot to make him notice you before you go home and never see him again.
That the timing sucked wouldn't stop her.
Besides, if anyone asked, she was just here having a drink. And she could use one. Her last exam was done. She'd finally finished school and damn if she didn't feel like crying instead of cheering.
"Hey, Karina, thought you'd have booked it by now."
She waved at one of several friends having a good time at a nearby table. Most of the students who'd finished exams had already left, and the few stragglers writing tomorrow were either cramming or here trying to forget about writing in the morning.
"Nah. Leaving in the morning. It's a long drive and I
don't want to deal with that tonight. Or the ferry."
That elicited several nods. Anyone who lived on Vancouver Island knew about ferry woes to the mainland. She'd tossed around the idea of staying on the island, had even looked for work, but nothing had come of it, so she was heading home to Vancouver. Victoria, and the university in particular, would stay a happy memory. And, in some ways, a tough one.
She ordered a draft at the bar and turned around to take another look. Maybe she'd missed Brian in her first skim.
Shit. Ian Blackburn was here, too. And he'd seen her. Shit, shit, and triple shit. He'd always been super friendly to her, but there was something about him that gave her the creeps. And then last week she'd seen another side of him altogether. A professor in one of the classes they'd been in together had given Ian a poor grade on an assignment. Ian had lost it...big time. Someone had even called campus security to get him out of the lecture hall. He'd turned into something that terrified her and probably every other student there. She shuddered at the memory.
Karina turned around, deliberately putting her back to Ian and glanced the other way.
Her heart sighed even as it nervously sped up. She should go over to him. He looked sad, like he'd lost his best friend. Which, after the end of a two-year relationship, she guessed he had. But she was still a friend, right? Albeit a casual one, but still... They'd had classes together, the odd beer-and-pizza night as part of a group. That kind of thing. He had no idea that she'd been in love with him for years. She'd been careful to keep her feelings hidden. He'd been taken and she wasn't the type to break up relationships.
She checked out the other half of the bar before her gaze zinged back to Brian. He lifted his beer bottle and poured the remaining golden liquid down his throat. Slamming the empty down, he reached for the spare waiting. Damn, she hated to see him like this.
All right. She was going to go over there. Just a sip of beer for courage, first. She raised her glass to her lips.
"Karina. I'm glad you're here. I was hoping to see you before you left. May I sit?"
Ian. Shit. He'd somehow evaded her attention and seated himself on the barstool next to her without her knowing. This was what she got for being nice and polite to a guy who took it as encouragement and, frankly, gave her the willies.
She attempted a smile behind her glass as she drowned a big gulp. She had to get away. Now.
"Sorry, I came here to meet someone." She said it lightly, dismissively. She'd planned to wait another minute or two before approaching Brian, but Ian was forcing her hand. "Oh, there he is. Brian."
She got up and waved in Brian's direction, tossing a goodbye smile at Ian.
His brows came together in a dark vee and his lips thinned, the expression causing her smile to falter and her stomach to heave. His thick nose and heavy brows might indicate a Mediterranean ancestry, but the darkness in his eyes gave her the spooks. "I hadn't realized."
Keeping her face averted she took another big step and cast a glance back, relief washing over her as he didn't follow, but instead walked back to his seat.
Well, she'd started down this road, so...
"Hey." She slapped a bright, friendly smile on her face and sat down across from Brian. Now that she was safely seated her unease over Ian abated, even while her heart lurched at the deep unhappiness on Brian's face.
He looked up at her, a lopsided attempt at a smile peeking out. "Hi, Karina. I'm not good company right now."
"Oh." She didn't know what to say. His pain was a palpable thing. Impulsively, she reached across the table and laid her hand on his. "I heard and I'm sorry."
Surprise lit the dark depths of his chocolate eyes.
When he didn't say anything, she stood. She'd intruded on his private pain, and that wasn't right. She turned to leave.
"Wait." His husky voice reached out to her. "Please, don't go."
She sat back down in her chair and stayed there for several more rounds as they talked deep into the night. Once or twice she glanced over at Ian. Every time she looked he appeared to be staring, seething toward her and Brian, waves of anger washing her way. She shuddered.
"This place is closing soon." She tugged him to his feet. He needed to go to bed before he collapsed. "Come on, you look ready to drop."
"I'm not that bad," he protested, but allowed himself to be shuffled out the door. The cool night air hit them and snapped much of the buzz away. Karina looked at the stars, her heart full and happy. Not exactly a dream date, but it was Brian...and her...alone.
"Let's go to my place. I think I have a bottle of wine."
"You're going to fall asleep before you ever get it open," she scoffed as she fell into step beside him.
He looked at her, his expression the same as a little boy pleading that it couldn't possibly be bedtime already. "I don't want to be alone tonight," he admitted softly. "Please come share a bottle of wine with me." There was only a slight slur to his voice and she'd had just enough to drink it barely registered.
Besides, she didn't want the night to end either. It might not be the wisest move but she couldn't come up with any convincing reasons why she shouldn't spend the last few hours available with him.
She gave in.
He grinned at her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "How come we didn't do this before?" His sloppy grin made her heart laugh. "We should have. I've always liked you."
They walked toward his room, arms around each other, talking, murmuring in low voices. The heat of his voice, the tenor of his words, the glow of moonlight, Brian's touchâit was magic. And she wanted it all. Tonight.
Satisfaction thrummed through Karina's body as she collapsed beside Brian in the wee hours of the morning. Her skin was damp and her body buzzed from their heated lovemaking. "Who'd have thought?" she whispered into the darkness.
A deep rumble rolled out from his chest as he attempted to speak but couldn't. She grinned. She'd brought him this. She'd been the one he'd turned to tonight. Not Breanna, but her, Karina. Maybe she shouldn't have jumped at the opportunity...but she'd needed the chance to show him how good they could be together. How perfect.
And given that exams were over and all students going their separate ways, it had been now or never.
She'd loved him for so long. Always an acquaintance, never quite a friend and always on the outside...the last place she wanted to be.
She could no more stop the words blurting free than she could stop the tidal wave of love that swept through her, giving the words their freedom.
"I love you," she whispered and dropped a kiss on his bare chest, before nestling her head on his shoulder and falling asleep.
Morning dawned bright and clear. Karina woke slowly, her body still warm and achy from the night's activities, only to bolt upright as memories flooded back. Brian. She'd had the most wonderful night of her life. She grinned and bounded out of bed.
Wrapping herself in the sheet, she walked out to the communal room, grateful that Brian's roomies had already left. Empty. She stood in the middle of the room, dread forming a sinking ball of steel in her stomach. An engine started outside.
She raced over to the glass doors, stepping out onto the small verandah in time to see Brian's car disappearing down the drive at a good clip. He was coming back, wasn't he? She stood there, waiting, for a long time after his car had disappeared from view. Hope faded away as her heart broke into a dozen tiny pieces. The small sedan was gone.
And he hadn't once looked back.
10 years later
he'd done it. Mary had actually followed through on her threats and had left him. Ian stared at the empty closet in shock. There was no way she'd have done that on her own. She wouldn't dare.