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Stone Mitchell—my worst nightmare.
The muscles of his back rippled against his tight-fitting black t-shirt like he’d been molded into it. He had thick brown hair that was made of silk, softer than silk…my hands remembered exactly how soft.
In a complete stupor, I let go of the handle of the suitcase, causing it to crash against the tiled floor. He spun around, tossed a dish towel over his shoulder, and froze mid-spin. Icy topaz eyes met my disgusted glare head on.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he bit out.
“Stone…” My heart screamed for me to bolt, but I didn’t take a single step.
“I asked you what the hell you’re doing here.” He tossed the kitchen towel across the countertop and folded his arms across this chest.
“I-I’m supposed to be here. Why are you here?”
“This is the last place you’re supposed to be.”
This had to be the most jacked-up karma in the world. Nausea rolled into the pit of my stomach and my nails dug into the palms of my hand. The cocky bastard wore the same expression he’d worn all those years ago.
“Dovie sent me.” My voice was barely above a whisper.
“Why the hell would my grandmother send you to my house?”
Behind him, foamy liquid spilled over the rim of the stockpot, filling the room with popping sounds as the contents ran onto the burner and sizzled. “Shit!” He whirled around, quickly moving it.
My mind formulated a hundred different scenarios to rationalize what was happening, but one thought screamed louder than the rest: Get the hell out of here. I seized the opportunity, grabbed my bag, and ran like hell. Bolting out of the house, I took the steps off the deck two at a time, my suitcase bouncing all around behind me.
Halfway down, wind whipping my hair against my face, I heard the door slam above then heavy footsteps closing in behind me. Sheets of rain blew underneath the house, stinging my skin. Adrenaline fueled my feet as I reached the sedan’s door handle, seconds away from leaving the biggest mistake of my life behind.
“Why are you here? No way did Gammy send you here,” he called out as he kept walking toward me like a predator.
“I’m here because she offered me this place for the summer. I don’t know… She didn’t send me here knowing you were here.” She couldn’t have. My Dovie would never have done that to me…or to him.
Only steps away, he showed no sign of stopping, so I spun back around to make my great escape. He caged in my body against the car, not touching me, but so close that if I moved at all, I would land against either his arms or chest. He pressed the frame of the door closed.
“Get away from me. I’m leaving, and I just want to forget I ever saw you.”
“Liar. You won’t forget. I don’t think you’ve ever forgotten…” He leaned in closer, stopping when his mouth was against my ear. “You’ve never forgotten how you whispered my name into my ear, over and over again.”
His words repulsed me. I hated him.
“I remember you being the biggest mistake of my life.”
“Go to hell.”
“I earned my free ticket to hell a long time ago. Turn around, Avery.”
The way my name rolled off his tongue caused my breath to catch; it always had. I despised the fact that he still possessed the power to make my traitorous body react. He was and always would be toxic. Forbidden. Poison. I’d had a taste, and it had nearly killed me. Now, I knew better than to bite the apple.
He pressed his chest against my back, and old memories trespassed into my mind. No matter how hard I’d tried, I’d never forgotten the last night we’d spent together. Under an audience of a million twinkling stars, we had slept on a blanket on the edge of Cotton Wilson’s private lake. That night had been beautiful. Perfect. Two days later, Stone was long gone, and thanks to social media and gossiping texts, the people in my small community knew why before I did.
“Leave me alone,” I whispered.
“I can’t do that. There’s a bad storm coming with high winds and a lot of rain. I know for a fact that the only two motels are full, and by now the ferry has already closed.”
There had to be somewhere else for me to stay. A shelter. A church. Hell, even in my car. Another large gust of wind sailed through the air, knocking over the trash bin by the driveway and causing a piece of some sort of metal to blow down the street.
He placed his hand on my upper arm in a gentle touch. “Come inside, Avery, before you end up getting hurt.”