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An Excerpt From: LONGING FOR KAYLA
Copyright © LAUREN FRASER, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Maybe this wasn’t the best idea. Fueled by nerves, she rocked back on her boot heels and waited. Moments later she heard the deadbolt turn. When the door opened, she sucked in her breath at the sight of Jesse Thomas standing in the open doorway wearing only a pair of jeans, the top button undone. A towel, clearly just used to wipe his wet hair, rested loosely in his hand.
“Hey Kayla,” he said and stepped a foot out the door to glance around. “Where’s Matt?”
“Umm, we, uh, broke up,” she stammered. Shuffling her feet, she looked down at the ground.
Jesse placed his finger under her chin and forced her head up. “You need a place to crash?”
“Yeah, if that’s okay. I mean, if I’m not imposing too much.”
When she tried to look back at the ground, he held her head high with his hand, forcing her to meet his stare. The kindness in his eyes was almost her undoing. Why couldn’t she date someone like him? Why did she always go for such losers? Oh yeah, because guys like Jesse didn’t date girls like her.
Jesse reached out and took her bag from her shoulder. A smile slid across his face. “It looks like you have some collateral damage,” he said, tilting his head toward her broken ski where it rested precariously against the cabin wall.
She snorted. “You could say that. I guess better my ski than Matt’s head.”
Jesse shrugged. “I don’t know. He always seemed like such a putz to me.” He stepped back and gestured inside. “Come on in, Tiger. Drop your stuff, we can move it later. Chris should be showered and ready pretty soon. Have you had dinner yet?”
She shook her head.
Jesse wrapped his arm around her and propelled her down the hallway. “All right then, let’s get you something to eat.”
She rested her head against his shoulder and laughed. “Of course, food and beer cures all.”
He winked. “What can I say? I’m a guy—we’re pretty simple.” He tightened his arm around her. The warmth from his bare body radiated through her. Yep, Jesse was definitely all man. She pulled away from him to put a little distance between them. Jesse’s eyebrows scrunched up as he looked at her. “You okay?”
“Yeah sure.” She laughed nervously and cringed. God, she was pathetic. She knew better than to come anywhere near Chris and Jesse when she was feeling vulnerable. All she needed was to make a complete ass of herself in front of her two best friends and let them see how much she wanted them. She looked at Jesse. Her gaze landed on his muscular chest and swept down his stomach. Wow! She couldn’t take her eyes off the treasure trail that teasingly poked over the top of his jeans.
“Clearly, I interrupted you getting dressed.” Her voiced hitched when she spoke. Yeah, great job not letting him see how he affects you. “You can go grab a shirt or something if you want, and I can just get started on dinner.”
“I’m fine,” he replied, still looking at her.
Kayla glanced around anxiously and was afraid to meet his eyes for fear he would see how much she wanted him. How much she had always wanted him. What had she been thinking coming here? Matt had planted way too many ideas in her head with his ménage suggestions and anger about her relationship with Chris and Jesse. For years she had been able to bury her feelings, but today they bubbled way too close to the surface.
“Kay.” His tone urged her to look at him.
“Put a shirt on, man. We get it, you look good, but it’s the middle of freakin’ winter.” Chris’ mocking voice chimed in from behind Kayla. The familiar byplay between the two friends immediately eased some of her tension. Her two best friends, this was exactly what she needed.
Jesse glared over her shoulder. “Ha ha, you’re so funny.” He stepped toward Kayla and bent down so they were on eye level. “I’m going to finish getting dressed then we’re talking about what happened.” He waited until she nodded. Jesse placed a kiss on her forehead before disappearing down the hallway. With Jesse out of sight, she turned to face Chris. His wide shoulders spanned the hallway. His wet, dark hair gave her an unobstructed view of his green eyes. Oh he was beautiful.
“So, Kay, what are you doing here? I thought Matt had some big plans this evening for you two?” Chris asked.
“Hmmpf.” She rolled her eyes. “He had big plans. I just didn’t happen to agree with them. Jesse said something about grabbing a beer?”
“Sure, of course. Follow me.” Chris led the way into the kitchen. He grabbed two beers out of the fridge, popped the cap and handed one to Kayla. He hoisted himself up onto the counter. “So Matt’s birthday celebration plans for you were a bit of a dud?”
“Something like that. Let’s just say we broke up and move on, okay?”
Chris hopped off the counter and came toward her. Anger radiated off his body in waves. “What did that asshole do?” His eyes burned into her. Sheesh, she could see why he was such a good cop, suspects didn’t stand a chance against him in interrogation.
“Nothing, Chris, I’m fine. Don’t worry. I just realized he is definitely not the guy for me.”
“Well, he must have done something if it had you running here to us, instead of sticking it out. I know how excited you were about this weekend.”
Jesse walked into the room before she had a chance to reply. “Why do you always go out with such losers, Kay?”
Chris glared at him. “Yeah, that’s helpful, Jes.”
“What? It’s true. You need to date guys who know how to treat a woman properly.”
“Right, like you guys do? Thanks but I’ve given up on finding that unicorn.”
Jesse flashed her his devil-may-care-smile and waggled his eyebrows. “I’ve never had any complaints.”
“I’m sure you haven’t,” she mumbled. This was so not the conversation she wanted to be having. Kayla stood up and rubbed her hands together. “All right, what do you guys have to eat around this place?”
The partially opened cupboard on her right drew her attention. A bag of pasta was half in, half out. Typical bachelors, they just throw stuff in but never really bother to tidy up. Kayla fully opened the cupboard door and tilted her head to look at her friends. “Really, guys? Pasta, Kraft Dinner and beer…that’s all you brought for your weekend?” She walked over to the fridge and pulled open the door, expecting it to be empty. The sight of shelves filled with vegetables and fruit shocked her beyond belief. “Why do I feed you guys so often if you know how to cook?”
Chris shrugged. “I know how to cook, but why bother when you do it so well?” He flashed her a grin and his eyes glittered with amusement.
“Ha ha. Fine. Then let’s see what you can do.”
Chris pulled vegetables and cheese out of the fridge and tossed the ingredients onto the counter. “Jes, make yourself useful and chop those would you?”
Kayla’s mouth dropped open at the sight of her two best friends deftly moving around the kitchen. Who knew? Prepared to enjoy being waited on for once, she eased her butt onto the counter behind her and set her beer down at her side. “Now this I could get used to. From now on we take turns cooking.”
Jesse and Chris exchanged a look. “Damn, I guess it was only a matter of time before you caught on. Looks like our grocery bill is going to get bigger.”
She threw the tea towel that sat beside her at him and laughed when it hit him square in the face.
“Seriously, Kay, why do you always date such assholes?” Jesse asked her.
Chris scoffed and raised his eyebrow. “Come on, Kay. You know you have terrible taste in men.”
She heaved a sigh. That didn’t last long. “I don’t.” Even as the word slipped out of her mouth she knew it was a lie. The guys seemed nice when she first started dating them, but then something always seemed to happen to prove her wrong.
“Yeah you do. If you didn’t, you would have at least tried to date one of us,” Jesse joked.
Kayla took a gulp of her beer. If they only knew. Hoping to keep things light, she pasted on a sweet smile and batted her eyelashes. “But how would I have chosen which one of you to go after?”
Jesse winked at her. “Who says you’d have to choose?”