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Surrender My Love(6)

By:Melissa Foster

She dropped her eyes in an effort to center her thoughts, because his eyes were dangerously alluring in a safe and seductive way, which made their threat even harder to escape. Especially since she didn’t want to escape them.

But she had to.

For his sake.

“No,” she finally managed. She blinked up at him through the cover of her bangs and withdrew her fingers from his grasp, instantly missing them. She had Tegan’s support, and even though she had no family to fall back on, she hadn’t realized how alone she’d felt in the nightmare that had become her life until that very second. She wanted this connection with this wonderful man so badly it frightened her.

He must have seen it written all over her face, because he gave her arm a gentle squeeze and said, “Okay, but I’m here if you need someone to talk to, or you just want to take a walk.”

“Thank you.” She took a step away, needing the space to gather her thoughts again. Her past was dangling off the edge of her tongue, trying to reveal itself. Did he have that trusting effect on everyone? She’d never felt so comfortable—or so disarmed—by anyone.

He slid his hands in his pockets and smiled. “Can I walk you back to Tegan’s?”

Oh God, yes, please.

“No, thank you. I…Thank you for the offer.” She felt his eyes on her as she turned and headed back the way she’d come, and at the exact second she stopped to thank him again, he called her name—her new name, which went along with her new life—Leesa.

She turned and found him smiling, his eyes still warm and welcoming. One hand slipped from his pocket, and he wiggled his fingers in a silent wave.

“Thanks for spending some of your alone time with me. Think about it. The date, I mean.”

She couldn’t find her voice but managed a grateful smile and a nod before starting down the beach again, wondering why walking away from Towson, where she’d lived for twenty-seven years, was easier than walking away from a man she’d just met.

Chapter Three

“FIFTY SHADES OF sweetness at your service.” Jon Butterscotch, Cole’s business partner, stood on Cole’s front porch bright and early Saturday morning for their weekend run. His longish dirty-blond hair was still wet from his shower and finger combed, making him look more like a surfer than a doctor. They’d met in medical school, and at first sight—Cole, with his short-cropped hair and collared shirt, and Jon in board shorts and a tank top—were as different as could be. But they’d quickly learned that appearances didn’t mean shit when it came to work ethic and motivation. They were as alike in their determination as they were in their career goals, and they’d been best buddies ever since that first meeting. Jon was as flamboyant as Cole was serious, and at the moment the bare-chested, overly tanned doctor was beating his fists against his muscular chest and grinning like he’d just found the treatment for cancer.

Cole shook his head. “Fifty shades of way too early for this, maybe.”

“Shit.” Jon scoffed. “I’m going to raise so much money for the homeless, you’ll wish you’d been a slave to your body the way I have been to mine these last few months.” He crooked his arms and flexed his biceps. “Go ahead. Touch ’em.”

“Thanks, but I’ll let you know when I get the urge to feel up a guy.” Cole stepped off the porch. “Are we going for a run or what?”

“Hell yeah, we’re running. I’ve got to be in prime shape for the auction.” They took off down the dune to the beach and headed toward town for their six-mile run.

“I still can’t believe you’re doing that. Why don’t you just donate like I do?” Cole had no interest in putting his body on display for a roomful of random women, most of whom he’d grown up with. Jon, like Cole’s brother Sam, would take any and all attention he could get.

“What fun is there in that? You keep that killer bod of yours hidden all the time; you bury your nose in your books at night. When are you going to go out and get some snatch?”

“Snatch? Okay, Madonna. You’ve known me for how long?” Cole shook his head. “You know I’m done with one-night stands. I’m looking for more.”

“Snatch is more.”

Cole laughed as they ran down the beach. “Do people even use that word anymore?”

It was only seven o’clock in the morning, and already families were making their way across the dunes. Cole watched a young father spread a blanket out while his wife cradled a baby in her arms and a toddler sat in the sand beside her. That was what Cole wanted.

Jon rambled on about the glory of women’s bodies and the young father yawned up at the morning sun.

“That’s more, Jon.” Cole nodded toward the family as they jogged past.

“Seriously? You’re going to go from workaholic to married with children?”

“I’ve had my fill of game playing.”

“That you have,” Jon agreed. “But I’ve still got plenty of wild oats left to sow for the both of us.”

He and Jon had gone carousing together more times than Cole could remember, but Cole’s work had always taken priority over his social life. When he was in medical school, he’d studied every night and kept his social calendar to the weekends, having sowed enough wild oats for twelve men before dating Kenna. Since starting his practice, he’d been focused on growing the business, and now that he had a steady practice, he was ready to think about the part of his life he’d been ignoring.

They jogged past Mr. B’s and the marina, where boats were leaving wavy wakes as they made their way out to sea, and continued toward the pier that marked the halfway point in their run. The morning sun, now high in the sky, beat down on their heated bodies as they headed up Main Street. Sunlight reflected off the windows of the shops. Joey was straightening tables in front of the café and waved as they passed by.

They talked about their practice and sports, falling quiet as they turned down Eighth Street and headed back toward Cole’s house.

“Hey, check it out.” Jon nodded toward Leesa, jogging half a block ahead of them, wearing a pair of skimpy blue shorts and another clingy tank top.

This was the fourth time Cole had seen her in two days. Was the universe trying to tell him something? Guess what, God? You’ve got my full attention. He watched her run. Her hair was pinned up in a ponytail, swinging with every footfall. Her strides were long and even, her tanned skin glistened with sweat, and Cole felt the blood in his head rush south.

“Now, that’s one fine ass,” Jon said.

The blood rushed back up to Cole’s brain, kicking his possessive urges into high gear. He tugged Jon’s arm and pulled him down the next side street.

“What the hell, man?” Jon snapped. “I was enjoying the view.”

Cole debated making up an excuse and decided he’d be better off giving Jon a hard limit. Even though Leesa wasn’t his to claim, he wanted that line drawn in Jon’s mind.

“I asked her out last night.”

“Ah, so you’re not totally out of the game after all.” Jon’s brows lifted in quick succession.

This feels like anything but a game.


IT DIDN’T TAKE long for Leesa to fall into the swing of things at Mr. B’s. She’d been waitressing there for a few days, and already she’d gotten to know a number of the regular customers. The brewery overlooked the marina, allowing Leesa to really feel the difference between working in Towson and working here. It was almost seven, and the restaurant was already packed. The other waiters and waitresses had warned her that by the time the auction started there would barely be room to maneuver between tables. She was glad for the distraction, after a fitful night’s sleep. Last night, after she’d gotten home from her walk on the beach, she and Tegan had stayed up talking for hours. Tegan had pushed her to accept Cole’s dinner invitation, and the more Leesa claimed not to be interested, the less Tegan believed her. Hell, the less she believed herself. Cole was handsome and charming, and he had the most compassionate eyes she’d ever seen. But she’d been down that path before, and she wasn’t about to get tangled up with a doctor who would surely run the other way once he heard about her past.

She tried to push thoughts of Cole away as she served a young couple, and spotted Maisy Braden putting up the final preparations for the bachelor auction. Her thick, curly blond hair fell wild and free past her shoulders. Her long colorful skirt whipped around her legs as she hurried from one side of the restaurant to the other, setting up the tables along a wall of windows.

Now that Leesa knew Maisy and her husband, Thomas, who went by the nickname “Ace,” were Cole’s parents, she found herself searching for similarities. Maisy’s eyes were sea blue and always seemed to be smiling. Cole clearly took after his father. Ace’s dark eyes were serious as he watched her approach. Ace was as conservative as Maisy was artsy. Like Cole, he wore his dark hair cropped short and brushed away from his handsome face. Cole shared his height, broad shoulders, and strong features. And, apparently, his style, too, because like his son was wearing when Leesa had first met him, Ace had on dress pants and a white button-down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, revealing thick forearms and large hands.