Sweet Temptation

Page 13

They probably had the wrong apartment.

She cracked open the door, leaving the chain clasped. “Can I help you?”

The woman in the middle, a brunette with some pretty spectacular cleavage leaned forward. “Angelina?”

So much for them having the wrong apartment.

“Who wants to know?” Angelina asked suspiciously.

David had always said, when in doubt, go on the offensive.

The blonde slipped forward, a sweet smile curving her lips. “I’m Faith Montgomery, Gray’s wife?”

Angelina relaxed. She shut the door, fumbled with the chain and then reopened the door.

“Sorry. It’s just that I don’t know anyone here, and I wasn’t expecting you. Cop’s sister,” she said with a slight shrug.

Faith smiled warmly at her and then looked down at the covered dish she was holding. It was then that Angelina saw that the other two women also carried stuff, including a gallon container of what looked like tea.

“We brought dinner. Hope you don’t mind us barging in on you. We didn’t figure you’d had time to grocery shop or anything yet,” Faith said.

Remembering her manners and that she was clutching the door like a lifeline, Angelina hastily stepped back.

“Come in please. Forgive my rudeness. I just didn’t expect ... You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”

The voluptuous brunette sailed past followed by a taller woman with long black hair and exotic blue eyes. Sleek. Like a cat. It was the first thought that popped into Angelina’s mind.

“Oh, it was no trouble,” the shorter brunette said. “Faith did all the cooking. She’s Miss Domestic. Serena and I are rather hopeless in that area.”

“Forgive our manners,” the woman Angelina guessed had to be Serena said. “We haven’t even introduced ourselves. The rather loud obnoxious one over there is Julie Stanford.”

Angelina raised an eyebrow, but Julie didn’t seem offended by the introduction. Her eyes twinkled with amusement and her teeth flashed as she grinned.

“Faith has already introduced herself, which leaves me. I’m Serena Roche.”

Angelina’s eyes widened. “You’re Damon’s wife?”

The other women’s expressions turned inquisitive. Serena smiled. “Yes, I am. I didn’t realize you’d met.”

Angelina flushed, realizing that she’d opened a door she’d rather have not, especially in front of women she’d just met.

“That blush certainly tells me she has,” Julie drawled. “First Connor, now Damon. Next she’ll be telling us she’s hooked up with Nathan.”

Angelina eyed her uneasily but some devil prompted her to ask anyway. “Nathan Tucker?”

Julie’s eyes narrowed. “You do get around for someone who just came to town.”

Angelina sighed. So this wasn’t a social visit or a friendly welcome-ro-rhe-neighborhood type thing. It was a fact-finding mission.

“Ask what you want to know,” Angelina said wearily. “I never was any good at catty/bitchy games. I haven’t flirted with, spoken inappropriately to, looked at wrong or otherwise propositioned Connor, Nathan, Gray or Damon. I met them through Micah. End of story.”

Julie studied her with grudging admiration. “I like bluntness.”

Serena and Faith both snorted.

Serena stepped between Julie and Angelina and laid a hand on Angelina’s arm. “Ignore Julie. She gets grumpy and possessive when it comes to Nathan. Are you hungry? The food we brought is still warm, and Gray makes the best sun tea. We could sit down and relax. Contrary to what Julie might think, we didn’t come to interrogate you.”

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t quite believe that,” Angelina said as she motioned them toward the kitchen.

“Okay, well maybe our motives aren’t entirely innocent,” Faith said as she took plates down. She glanced around. “You don’t have a table or chairs yet. I thought I still had one in storage. Guess we can eat in the living room.”

“We actually came about Micah,” Julie said with a gleam in her eyes. “We didn’t realize you were so well acquainted with the rest of the guys.”

Try as she might, Angelina couldn’t control the wash of hurt at the mention of Micah. The women went silent, and to cover the awkwardness Faith poured a glass of tea and shoved it toward Angelina.

Faith took the cover off the casserole dish to reveal lasagna.

“Faith makes the most awesome lasagna,” Serena said with a sign.

“Everything Faith cooks is awesome,” Julie said.

They all filled their plates and headed into the living room. Julie flopped onto the couch, next to Angelina, while Faith and Serena sat cross-legged on the floor in front of them.

“You may as well ask,” Angelina said in resignation. “I can practically see the questions rolling around in your heads.”

“What’s the deal with you and Connor?” Julie asked bluntly.

Angelina looked up in confusion. That wasn’t a question she’d expected.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Julie, chill,” Serena reproached. “We’re nosy, yes, but it’s none of our business.”

“Yeah, and if you have a prayer of making her talk, you probably shouldn’t piss her off,” Faith pointed out.

Angelina burst out laughing. “Are you people for real?”

Serena smiled. “We’re really not total bitches.”

“Speak for yourself,” Julie said cheekily.

Serena shot her a dark glance.

“Anyway, as I was saying we’re just really curious about you,” Julie continued. “Micah is special to us all...”

Sudden understanding came to Angelina. If it hadn’t been so patently absurd, she’d have laughed. But what she wanted to do more was cry.

“I think I understand,” Angelina said as she set her plate aside. “You’re worried I’m going to hurt Micah.” She had to swallow back the bitter laugh. “You think I’m fucking with him and encouraging Connor or one of the other guys.”

Faith winced. “Well when you put it that way, it sounds pretty bad.”

It wasn’t as if Angelina didn’t already have her heart on the line. When it came to Micah, she had no pride. And really why should she be ashamed to let it out? She hadn’t done anything wrong, not unless throwing yourself at an unwilling guy was a crime.

“First, there is nothing going on between me and Connor. I just met the man a few days ago when he and Nathan came by Micah’s apartment. Then at lunch Connor, Nathan and Gray came by the café where I work.”

“And they say women are nosy,” Julie said dryly. “I’ll have to give Nathan shit over this.”

“I asked if they knew of any cheap places to rent. I can’t—couldn’t stay with Micah. Connor told me about this place and then he and Gray moved the stuff in.” She glanced over at Faith. “Thank you by the way for the furniture. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

Faith smiled. “Was glad to help.”

“So that’s it?” Julie asked, a confused look on her face. “I mean Connor’s calling you sweetie and shit. It’s not like the man to get all soft like that.”

Angelina sighed, knowing this tale was only going to get more involved and more humiliating for her. Part of her wondered why she didn’t just tell them to mind their own damn business and get the hell out. The other part of her latched on to the possibility of understanding and friendship. Even if that was a naïve notion.

“If I had to guess, Connor feels sorry for me,” she said carefully. “They all feel sorry for me.”

The three women exchanged puzzled glances.

“Why would they feel sorry for you?” Serena asked gently.

“Because Micah couldn’t be more obvious in his disinterest in me. And apparently I’m too obvious with the fact that I want him.”

Faith’s mouth formed an O, and Julie frowned, sympathy and understanding flashing in her eyes.

“What the hell’s wrong with Micah?” Julie demanded. “You’re flipping gorgeous.”

Angelina smiled wanly. “Thank you. I should correct my statement. He’s attracted to me. There’s plenty of chemistry, but he doesn’t want to want me. He’s quite adamant about it. And the thing is, he’s still living in the past. There’s a lot you guys don’t know about him from before he came to Houston. I hadn’t realized how much he’s kept buried.”

The others exchanged glances again, and Serena looked decidedly guilty. “Well we know about his past. Now, I mean. We didn’t before.” She looked unhappily at the others. “You see? I should have never let you guys pry that information out of me. It wasn’t mine to share, and now it’s going to get back to both Damon and Micah, I know it.”

“Micah won’t hear it from me,” Angelina muttered. “We aren’t exactly speaking very much.”

“He feels so guilty over what happened,” Serena said gently.

Angelina flushed and wished the floor could open up and swallow her.

“What does he feel guilty for?” Julie demanded. “Clearly you didn’t tell us everything.”

Serena shook her head at Julie.

“He shouldn’t feel guilty,” Angelina said softly. “Everything that happened was at my instigation. I know Micah. So much better than he knows me,” she added wistfully.

“You know about his, um, proclivities then, huh,” Julie hedged.

Angelina smiled. “I believe the question here is how you know about them.”

Julie had the grace to flush.

“There’s nothing about Micah I don’t accept,” Angelina said. “We’re the same, he and I, but he’ll never see that as long as he refuses to see me as anything more than David’s little sister.”

“So you’re giving up?” Julie challenged.

Serena and Faith shot her sharp glances, but Julie barged ahead.

“Believe me when I say I know all about pursuing an oblivious, hardheaded man. God knows I should have given up on Nathan eons ago. The man’s as thick as a brick.”

Angelina couldn’t help but giggle as she imagined big, badass-looking Nathan with brash, outspoken Julie. He probably cowered in terror.

“I’m not giving up on Micah,” Angelina said. “It’s complicated. Just have to give him space. He hasn’t let go of Hannah, and until he does, there’s no room for me in the equation. That’s assuming he can ever feel anything for me beyond raging lust.”

“Lust is good. Nothing wrong with lust,” Julie said.

Serena laughed. “Shut up, Julie.”

“So what are you going to do?” Faith asked.

“I wait,” Angelina said.

“Fuck that,” Julie said rudely. “I’m making it my self-appointed mission to make damn sure you don’t sit around pining for his ass. It’s not like he’s been celibate while he mourns his dead wife.”

Faith winced. “Damn, Julie, could you try to be a little tactful?” Julie shot them both a look of bewilderment. “What? It’s the truth. Besides, a man takes a woman who sits around totally for granted. She needs to get out, meet people. Have some fun. It can’t be fun moving to a new city where the only person you know has decided to ignore you.”

Angelina’s lips twisted into a rueful smile. “You certainly have a way with words. No wonder Nathan is so smitten.”

Serena and Faith burst out laughing.

“Oh my God we have another Julie on our hands,” Faith exclaimed.

Julie grinned. “I knew I was going to like her.”

Serena rolled her eyes. “Oh please. You were ready to scratch her eyes out when you thought she was Micah’s woman and she was having a thing with Connor.”

“Seriously?” Angelina asked with a laugh.

Julie slanted a sideways glare at Serena. “Yeah well, at the time my info wasn’t up-to-date. And now that it is we need to discuss jazzing up your social life, which means I will be the one who has to save you, because these two are boring old maids now that they’ve married.”

“Oh Lord,” Faith groaned. “Be afraid, Angelina. Be very afraid.”

“What are you doing next Friday night?” Julie asked.

“I think you know I’m not doing anything,” Angelina said dryly.

“Okay, well I’m dragging Nathan to this really great club for some dancing. Why don’t you go with us?”

Serena’s mouth fell open while Faith looked a cross between horrified and hysterically amused.

“You’re taking Nathan where?” Faith asked.

“You heard me,” Julie said.

“Poor Nathan,” Serena murmured. “What did he do to you to deserve this? Are you still punishing that poor boy?”

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