Man Candy: A Real Love Novel, page 4
“Ah, the power of sex.”
“Superpower.” His eyes sink closed like that’s the only word he can manage after his five-star performance.
Unlike my sleepy bedmate, I’m energized after that little workout. Satisfied, yes. Knees a little wobbly, check. But energized.
I watch Dax in the light from his cell phone until his breathing slows and he sinks into sleep. I wonder if he always sleeps this deeply or if the long drive, paired with the late night, is the reason for it.
There are a lot of things I’ll wonder but not get the answers to, because that’s the way one-nighters go. An evening of fun and then you walk away with only memories to keep you company. Though the unanswered questions about Dax might bother me more than I’d like—for longer than I’d like. I linger, propped on one arm, and watch him sleep. Unable to resist, I arrange his hair—which is almost dry. Admire the shadows cast on his cheeks by thick eyelashes. He doesn’t so much as flinch.
I slide out of bed, find a light blanket in the closet (there’s no moving him from on top of the comforter), and drape it over his body. I steal one more peek at his physical perfection before turning off Dax’s phone’s flashlight. I get dressed, shivering as I pull clammy, cold clothes over my sex-warmed body. If I was sure the dryer wouldn’t wake him, I’d totally toss these in and warm them up before I go. As it is, I’ll have to make do. He’s earned his sleep.
Out back I fire up the generator, earning pockets full of rainwater for my efforts. Inside I towel myself off. A nightlight in the bathroom and one in the main room provide enough light for me to find my bag and my phone, which dropped to the floor.
I smile remembering why I dropped it. Holding onto Dax was more fun than holding onto my phone.
A text from Tad sits on my phone’s screen reading simply: WHERE R U?
I knew he still cared.
I text back: Be home soon xo.
Then I dig my keys from the recesses of my bag and walk to the door. I hear Dax’s soft snore, and a stab of regret accompanies my thudding heart.
I feel kind of bad leaving. I tell myself that he’s tired and things can only get awkward come morning. I further console myself with the fact that I work here, and he knows where to find me.
A surge of want thrums in my chest. I push it down.
“It was just one night, Bec,” I whisper to myself. It’s rare for anything to last forever—even really good things.
Especially really good things.
It’s a night I’ll treasure for a long, long time.
I wake up alone.
Nothing new there.
After my shower, I wander around my enormous temporary cabin. I check the bathrooms for my date. Check the kitchen counters and the front of the fridge for a note. I even check the front porch and the back. I stand in the center of the living room staring at the upstairs and hearing nothing. Sensing no one.
No Becca. No note.
It’s fine. It is.
Disappointing, but fine.
What we had was last night, and last night was fucking spectacular, and now it’s in the rearview.
I pour myself a cup of coffee and head out to the back porch. The second I kick back on the swing, the sky splits open. I check my phone’s weather app, crossing my fingers that I have reception up here. I do. Aces.
The bad news?
So much rain. I’m talking Noah-go-build-an-ark rain.
Fishing and camping are going to have to wait.
I pocket my phone, sip my coffee, and watch as the sky further darkens and the rain comes down in sheets. It’s splattering off the boards and getting me wet, but I sit here anyway.
Maybe because wet denim reminds me of last night.
Proof that it wasn’t an erotic hallucination.
“It’s monsoon season out there!” I slosh in through the front door of Grand Lark’s greeting-center-slash-restaurant. I slip my jacket from my arms and shake it over the rug.
Dominic is pulling chairs off of tables and setting them on their legs like he’s opening.
“What gives?” I ask, walking in his direction.
The layout is thus: front desk (like at a hotel) giving way to a small restaurant-style bar. Three booths line the wall, six tables surrounded by chairs dot the middle, and the bar seats eighteen.
Grand Lark Cabins is a small affair, with thirteen cabins that aren’t always full, but for the occasion we do have a packed house (unlikely, since most families bring their own food and eat at the cabin, or in town), there are also picnic tables outside under the patio roof.
“Shouldn’t you be open already?” I’m forty minutes late, twenty minutes later than my normal twenty minutes late. Seriously not my fault this time. Blame it on the rain. A song by the same name drums through my head but I have no idea how I came to know the words.
“Opened late because of the rain,” Dominic tells me. “I just got here.”
I’m not the only one who’s late! That’s refreshing.
“Didn’t Tad fire you?” he asks.
“Yeah. But I’m rehired.” I’m convincing when I need to be. This morning at the breakfast table with the fam, I apologized. Tad shook his head and left the room, which I took to mean that all was well. When Lara and I were in the kitchen cleaning up, she confided he was grouchier than usual despite the sex they’d been having. She spared me further details about my brother’s sex life because gross. But when she elbowed me and asked me where I was last night, I couldn’t keep the Cheshire Cat smile from my lips.
I didn’t tell her nothing, but I didn’t tell her everything. A girl’s gotta have her secrets.
I left for work, but I was the only one. Tad has the day off. Lara asked if I was sure I wanted to risk the drive in the downpour, but I told her I wasn’t afraid of a “little rain.” Turns out the rain was more than a little and I had to reroute not once but twice to get here due to flooding. The main road was drivable only if I stayed in the middle, since the edges were already pooling with water. I climbed the mountain in my little-car-that-could. The hill resembled a Slip ’N Slide, but I’d come this far, so here I am.
“I hope it stops soon,” I tell Dominic. I walk from the restaurant to the office and he follows me.
“No end in sight,” he says with a head shake. “You might have to bunk in the supply closet if we get rained in.”
The supply closet is actually a bedroom, given the main office is a rehabbed cabin. Tad keeps a twin bed in there for emergencies or if he stays late.
“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” I say. “And if it does, you are sleeping in the supply closet, not me. I can curl up on a booth or something.”
“Forget it, Bec. I’m a gentleman.”
Dominic is a gentleman. A rare breed. He’s a good thirty pounds overweight on his top half, but it only serves to make him look cuddly, not doughy. Dark hair, tall. Deep brown eyes and nice hands.
“I appreciate the chivalry, but I wouldn’t kick you out of the only bed big enough to possibly support your frame.”
“Okay, fine. But I offered.” He puts a palm on the swinging door leading to the kitchen. “Hey, let me know if you want something from the kitchen. I’m the cook today too, since Steve couldn’t make it in.”
In the office I sit at the desk and turn on the laptop. My mind wanders to last night. I think about Dax. Wonder if he woke up looking for me. Wonder if he was angry that I left. Or if he was relieved. I’d prefer no reaction at all.
No texts. No calls. No strings, worries, or attachments.
It’s easier that way. I’m capable of being responsible for myself, but being responsible for the other half of a (gulp) relationship? Yikes.
Still, as I check my email and the incoming bookings—two! score!—I find my mind retu
Provided he doesn’t hate me.
Six hours later, Dominic and I are sitting at the bar eating grilled cheese sandwiches that he made.
“Pretty good for a bartender,” I comment around a bite. “But you forgot the tomato.”
“Disgusting, Bec. Pickles go with grilled cheese, not tomatoes.”
We turn our attention to the television. On the screen, flood warnings dot the surrounding area, the map a swath of blue and green “flood zones.” Grand Lark is right in the center of the mayhem.
“Damn,” Dominic says, and really, what else is there to say? “Supply closet for me it is. You gonna sleep on the bar top?”
“Ha-ha.” My phone rings. It’s Tad. “What’s up, big bro?”
“Maintenance called me with an update,” he says, cutting right to it. “Cabins one through seven—”
“I know the status of our cabins. Ray called me.”
There’s a pause. “Really?”
“Yes, Tad. I’m at work. Working. Ray told me about the flooded roads, the trees that have fallen, and he mentioned that there are a few cabins where the generators aren’t working, which makes us lucky no one is in them.”
“Right.” Tad sounds surprised. Or suspicious. Funny how I can’t differentiate between the two when it comes to him. “Our only guests are the family in number twelve, the honeymooning couple in nine—”
“And Dax in thirteen,” I finish for him.
“Guess you’re caught up.”
“Just doing my job,” I remind him. I may run late most of the time, but it doesn’t mean I’m inept.
“Tell Dom to let you stay in the supply closet.” Tad’s authoritative tone is back in full force. “The main road washed out.”
“Why don’t we call it a bedroom, since that’s what it is?” I know the main road washed out. I saw it on the news. They’re guessing we’ll be trapped for a day or three depending on when the rain stops. Thankfully, I think as I polish off my sandwich, we have plenty of cheese.
“Dom can sleep standing up, like a horse,” Tad says. “I’ve seen it when we go hunting.”
I laugh. “I’m not asking Dominic to sleep standing up.”
Dom smiles. I smile back.
“What are you going to do, then?”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“I’ll be safe. I promise.”
I end the call and stare down at my phone for a long, long while the news drones on in the background. To text Dax or not to text Dax? That is the question. I don’t want him to turn me down, and I don’t want to appear overly eager. But I really, really want to text him.
I retreat to the office and do the next best thing. I call the remaining residents (except for Dax) and make sure they have what they need. They assure me that everything is in working order, which is good news. We’re in the midst of a major emergency, but at least there aren’t a bunch of smaller emergencies to contend with. I then call our maintenance manager, Ray, who is safely ensconced in his maintenance cabin. He tells me he has enough food to last until the apocalypse. I ask him if he means zombie apocalypse and he answers, “The nuclear fallout,” with so much sincerity, I begin to wonder if he’s also built an underground room. Best not to ask.
The restaurant is eerily quiet, the office dim. It’s just Dominic and me. And no, I’m not sleeping on the bar top. Or a booth.
I have a better idea.
A frantic knock at the front door jolts me out of the nap I was taking. I didn’t know I fell asleep. It sounds again as I jump off the couch, disoriented for a good bit. It’s dark, I’m in a house I’m not used to, and I’m sure as hell not expecting anyone.
Especially in this weather.
Unless . . .
My suspicions are confirmed when I open the door to find Becca on my doorstep. She’s standing on the porch, but rain comes in at an angle, further soaking her. Her blond hair is plastered to her cheeks, her teeth are chattering, and her mascara is smudged under her eyes.
“What the hell? Get in here.” Not my most charming greeting, but I’m too alarmed by her appearance to say anything different.
She steps inside, shivering while I grab a blanket off the nearest chair. I wrap it around her and she sets two big bags on the floor. She shivers more.
“I had to park my c-car at the top of the d-d-driveway,” she says, shuddering. “So I hoofed it the rest of the way d-down.”
“Holy shit, Princess, that’s gotta be fifty yards.” I rub her blanket-covered arms, futilely trying to warm her up.
“Only fifty?” She beams up at me, her humor intact. She looks like a drowned rat, if a drowned rat were the cutest, most welcome sight you’ve ever seen in your life.
“What’s going on?” I have a million questions but that one seems safest, if the most generic.
She explains that the main road is flooded and adds that it’s a good thing most of the cabins are empty, since those roads are impassable too.
“Soooo,” she says after sharing the details, “I can either sleep in my car or at the restaurant with Dominic. Or try my luck on the cabins nearest you, though eleven’s driveway is a swimming pool . . . Or”—she shrugs—“I could stay with you. You have two bedrooms. Two bathrooms. I’m a great roommate. I’m neat. I can cook. I can—”
“Skip out on me in the middle of the night?” I finish, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Yes.” She nods, owning it. “I can do that too. Quite well.”
When I don’t respond, she adds, “We might be stuck for a few days, so I brought food.” She gestures at one of the two bags at her feet. I lift the enormous tote off the floor—it weighs a good thirty pounds.
“You hefted this from the end of the drive?”
“There was too much water. I didn’t want to risk driving down and then not be able to leave. Just in case . . . In case.”
In case I rejected her? I carry the bag to the kitchen counter.
“I knocked for a while. Were you asleep?”
“I was taking a nap,”
“You’re a deep sleeper all the time, then.” She picks up the other bag—an overnight bag—and follows me to the kitchen. “Not only after a long drive and . . .”
She trails off, resting her teeth on her plump bottom lip.
I wonder if she was going to finish that statement with “and really great sex.” That’s how I would’ve finished it.
Coming out from behind the counter, I stand over her and lift my palm to her face. She rests her chilled cheek in my hand and peers up at me with bright green-gold eyes surrounded by smudged mascara.
“Sorry about leaving,” she says. “And crashing your vacation.”
“I believe you about the leaving part. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But the second half . . .” I shake my head. “You came to me first, I assume? Or did you do an inventory of every empty cabin before trying me?”
There’s a weighty pause, as if she’s deciding how much to reveal. “I came to you first.”
The news has me pulling my shoulders back. She’s here because she wants to be, not because she has to be. I like that. I hide my smile, not wanting her to see what it means to me that she wanted to come back. To see that I wanted her to come back.
Hell, I never wanted her to leave.
I gesture to the bedroom on the opposite side of the cabin from mine. “Help yourself. Plenty of hot water for a shower, and I have food, but I’ll add what you brought to the cabinets and fridge.”
“Thank you.” She gathers the blanket around her shoulders and heads for the guest bedroom.
“You always travel with an overnight bag?” I call after her.
“Yeah.” She nods from the hallway. “You never know.”
Is it me, or was her smile a little sad before she closed the bedroom door?
By the time I shower and dress in the en suite the next morning, I’ve realized my mistake in showing up at Dax’s cabin.
The reason one-night stands work is because they last one night. One exquisite, perfect, no-regrets night before you each return to your respective lives. I should’ve thought about the consequences of sleeping with a guy who’s on his first day of his vacation. Hard to go back to your respective anythings when you live on the same mountain.
There was no sexy sex last night like the first night. There wasn’t so much as a kiss. I came back out of the bedroom and sipped half a beer until it grew warm, then excused myself to bed. I should have suspected that outcome. After all, I’ve never heard of a two-night stand.
I have no excuse for my showing up here rather than bunking in a variety of other places at Grand Lark. Other than the real reason: I wanted to see him. I wanted to see his handsome face and hear the low rumble of his voice. When he tossed that blanket around me last night and zeroed those gorgeous eyes in on me, I nearly started purring.
I should’ve prefaced that by saying I’m not the clingy type. I don’t mind temporary, or moving forward. Heck, I love it. I’ve made several moves—changed states, made new friends, switched roommates. Not only do I not mind change: I thrive on it.
However. There’s no denying I’ve made things awkward by being here. I could’ve muscled Dominic out of the restaurant’s spare bed—he’d have let me. Then I’d be awake and in my office working away. Instead I have to walk out into the common area of cabin 13 before canoeing up the driveway to my car.
I was hoping Dax liked to sleep until noon so I could escape without seeing him. Cowardly, I know, but that was my hope. Until I heard him puttering around in the kitchen.
Well. Here goes nothing.
I turn the doorknob and whip open the door, stepping into the living room. Dax stands in the open kitchen, hip leaning against the countertop, fingers wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee.
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