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From Temptation to Twins(5)

By:Barbara Dunlop

“Inappropriate? To acknowledge your father might have wished my grandfather dead?” She shrugged her slim shoulders. “We can pretend if you want.”

“I meant to joke about your grandfather’s death at all.”

“He was ninety. He wouldn’t mind. In fact, I think he’d like it. You’re still mad at me, aren’t you?” She tipped her head to one side.

Heck, yes, he was still mad at her. But he was also massively attracted to her. Gazing at her in the dim glow of the trail light, anger was a pretty difficult emotion to dredge up.

“We can pretend I’m not,” he said.

She smiled, and his chest contracted. “You do have a sense of humor.”

He didn’t smile back. He hadn’t been joking. He was perfectly prepared to pretend he wasn’t angry with her.

She stepped unexpectedly closer. “I used to have such a crush on you.”

He stopped breathing.

“I have no idea why,” she continued. “I barely knew you. Only from afar. But you were older, and it was summer, and I was nearly sixteen. And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that our families were feuding. Nothing like the Montagues and the Capulets, or the Jets and the Sharks, to get a young girl’s heart going. It’s kind of funny now that you—” She blinked at him. “Caleb?”

He couldn’t kiss her. He couldn’t. He could not...


There was no way she was doing this by accident. She had to guess what it would do to him, to any mortal man. She truly was an evil genius.

“You know exactly what you’re doing, don’t you?” he managed to force out, annoyance in his tone.

She searched his expression. “What am I doing?”

The woman deserved an acting award.

“Putting me off balance,” he said. “Dancing around on your balcony, tight shorts, tight shirt—”

“What? Dancing where?”

“You’re twenty-four years old.”

“I know that.”

“You’re standing out here in the woods, alone, telling a grown man that you once had a crush on him.”

Her expression fell, and she took a step back. “I thought it was a sweet story.”

His voice came out strangled. “Sweet?”

“Okay, and a little embarrassing. I wanted to open up. I was trying to get you to like me.”

He closed his eyes for a long moment. He couldn’t let himself believe that. He couldn’t let her get under his skin. He didn’t know what to do with this, what to do with her, how to put her in any kind of context. “I’m not going to like you.”


“You should go.”

“Go?” She actually sounded hurt.

“I think we’re on two completely different wavelengths.”

She didn’t answer. The woods around him fell silent.

He opened his eyes to find her gone. He breathed a sigh of relief. Then the relief turned into regret as he second-guessed himself. He could usually read the signs with women—tell the difference between flirting and an innocent conversation. With Jules, he couldn’t.

* * *

“You told him you’d had a crush on him?” Melissa asked from the bottom of the stepladder the next day.

Jules removed the next in a cluster of ’50s movie star portraits that hung on a wall of the restaurant. “I was trying to... I don’t know.” She’d had more than a few hours to regret her words.

“Did you not think it would sound flirty?”

Jules handed the portrait of Grace Kelly down to Melissa and reached for Elizabeth Taylor. “I didn’t mean for it to be flirty.”

“It was flirty.”

“I realize that now.”

“What were you thinking then?”

“That it would be charming. I was being open and honest, sharing a slightly embarrassing story. I thought it might make me seem human.”

“He knows you’re human.”

“In the end it was just humiliating.” Jules handed down the Elizabeth Taylor.

“So, you learned something.” Melissa crossed the room to set the portraits in a cardboard box on the bar.

“I learned that he has zero interest in flirting with me.”

“I was thinking maybe a broader point about relationships, time and place, and appropriate comments.”

Jules climbed down and moved the ladder, settling it into place where she could read the next three portraits. “Oh, that. No.”

Melissa grinned. “Tell me more about the crush. I wish you’d told me about it back then.”

“You were too young.”

“It still would have been exciting.”

It had certainly been exciting for Jules. “I was fifteen. He was tall, and he shaved, and he lived in a mansion on the hill. And I was fresh out of grade nine English class. Between the Brontë sisters and Shakespeare, I spun a pretty interesting fantasy.”