In earshot of her first lover.


And that that was her only concern at the moment told her everything she needed to know about her real feelings for Trevor. Clearly, it would never have worked out. Not that this eased her embarrassment one little bit. Honestly, she couldn’t see how this night could get any worse and with a sigh, she met Sean’s gaze.

And holy cow, an age-old tingle of awareness and heat sliced through her. She decided to attribute this to the fact that he was still sex-on-a-stick, maybe even more so now. Back then he’d been trouble with a capital T, but with such charisma that he’d been like the Pied Piper. She’d followed him right to her own undoing.

And she had a feeling not much had changed.

“Is there a problem with your room?” she asked politely, hoping to get rid of him quickly.

But she should’ve known better. Sean smiled that smile that had once had her panties melting right off. “Yeah,” he said. “The bed’s too small.” He was taller than she remembered and leanly muscled. His hair was still dark but with some lighter streaks from the sun and messily tousled, most likely courtesy of his own restless fingers. His eyes still shined with more mischievousness than any one man should hold.

Not going there, she told herself just as a gust of wind knocked the house like a bolt of lightning. The lights flickered as the electricity surged and she held her breath. This old building could barely tolerate the electrical needs in decades past, so the demands they put on it in the here and now were always a gamble. Luckily the guests they had always seemed charmed if the electricity went out, and she made sure to keep lots of candles and lanterns around. Plus, she had a generator if she needed. But tonight she didn’t want any problems. Not when her biggest problem was standing in front of her looking good enough to eat, damn him.

Another gust of wind hit hard and again the electricity blinked on and off again. Please don’t go out, please don’t go out . . .

It went out.

“Are you serious with tonight?” she asked karma or fate, or whoever was in charge of such things.

She heard a rough laugh and then Sean accessed the flashlight on his phone. “This is your fault,” she said.

His brows went up and she sighed. “Don’t ask me how, it just is. It has to be.”

She could see him smiling through the glow. It was that patented bad boy smile and in spite of herself, her heart gave a treacherous little sigh. She hardened both it and her voice. “Thank you,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster, leaning on her desk in order to keep her hands off the guy who still had a solo starring role in her every sexual fantasy, and had since high school. A fact she’d take to the grave, thank you very much. And okay, not every single fantasy—the Chrises had occasional starring roles as well; Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt . . .

With a sigh, she turned to her desk, a hundred-year-old hand-carved piece, the top inlaid with time-worn leather, the edges rough with life’s battle marks. It’d been her father’s, a man who’d never wavered in his love for her mom, not once in the thirty years they’d had before he died last year. And yet he’d died of cancer that he hadn’t told a soul about, not her mom, not Lotti, no one, nor had he had it treated.

Because that thought led to a dark tunnel that she hadn’t yet found a light for, she shook it off and pulled open a desk drawer to grab a Maglite and a box of matches. She’d already had a bunch of candles lit on the mantel so they weren’t in the complete dark, but she needed to check on everyone. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a different room to switch you to,” she said to Sean. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go check on the other guests.”

“It’s late,” he said. “Everyone’s in their rooms. Trust me, they’d come out if they needed something from you.”

She cocked her head to listen, but not a soul was moving.

“Not even a mouse,” he said with a smile, reading her mind. Then he took her Maglite and beamed it up the stairs. “See? No one. They’re all in bed. Tell me what else you need to do, I’ll help.”

“Hmm,” she said.

“And that means . . . ?”

“The last time you ‘helped’ me, it’d been to remove my jeans,” she said, then bit her traitorous tongue. Where had that come from? Oh yeah, it’d come from her very, very stupid side.

He winced, like the memories of their past hurt him as much as they did her. Whatever. She wasn’t going to be drawn in. She’d lost more than just her virginity that night. She’d lost a chunk of her heart. Not that she wanted it back . . .

Grabbing her flashlight back, she headed for the stairs. “I want to walk the hallway just in case someone needs something.” When he followed her, she gave him a long look. “I can handle this.”

“Humor me,” he said.

So they walked the hallway together, didn’t hear a peep out of anyone, and went back downstairs. Because the house was so old, she moved to the front door. She needed to go outside to check the electric panel to see if she’d blown any fuses. She pulled on her jacket and was surprised when she opened the door to find Sean once again coming with her.

He pulled up her hood for her, tucking her hair in, which felt oddly . . . intimate. “You don’t have to do this,” she yelled. She had to. The wind and rain had whipped up the night so that she could hardly hear her own voice.

“You blame me for this mess. The least I can do is see it through with you.”

They ran along the path and around to the side of the house, all while being pelted by the storm. Under the roof’s overhang, Lotti stopped, panting for breath. “Here,” she said, handing him the flashlight to hold for her so she could pry open the electrical panel. “And I don’t really blame you for tonight,” she admitted grudgingly to the panel, not wanting to let him off the hook entirely.

Sean moved in closer so that his front brushed her back, protecting her from the worst of the storm with his body. “But you blame me for hurting you, as you should. Trust me, I blame me too. I wish that I’d done things differently.”

She closed her eyes against the onslaught of emotions that battered her at his close proximity. “No,” she said. “It’s not all on you. I wanted you that night. But I do blame you for turning me into a serial monogamist.”

He turned her to face him. He’d made sure to pull up her hood, but he didn’t have one. His dark hair was drenched and looked midnight black, his way-too-handsome face a perfect backdrop for those startlingly sharp green eyes. “Explain.”


“Try again.”

She tossed up her hands. “Fine. You were my first one-night stand and it didn’t work out, okay? I mean not even a little! First, it wasn’t all that great and second, I thought we were going to be a couple, which you clearly never intended. Because of you, I learned to be cautious and careful and became a—”

“—serial monogamist,” he repeated, eyes narrowed. “I get it. But back up a second. It wasn’t . . . ‘all that great’?”

Okay, so she’d totally lied there. She’d thought it might put a halt to this awkward conversation. “This conversation is going to have to get in line behind my other more pressing problems.”