you, but it’ll always be out of love. Okay?”

His little girl, who at eleven looked much older, stood in front of him, merely staring.

“Do you understand what I said?” he asked, wanting to be clear.

She nodded and sniffed. “I think you said you want to buy me those sheets. You just used a long explanation to get there.” She shuffled from foot to foot, her excitement tangible. “Can I pick them out now?”

He laughed, and despite knowing better, he pulled her into a hug.

She froze and his heart felt as if it had stopped. It had been too long since they’d been that comfortable around each other and he held his breath, waiting for her reaction. Inch by inch, she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him back. His heart began to beat again.

She bent back down and handed him the items-sheets, pillow cases and, of course, the extra throw pillows and dust ruffle that added to the cost but increased her smile by a yard.

“You need pillows to fit inside the odd shaped shams,” he told her. “I saw them over there by the sample bed.” His arms were full with her choices.

“I’ll get them.” She ran back to the display and returned a minute later with three small pillows in her arms.

Once again, she began squirming, obviously excited about something new.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“While I was there, I heard two women talking,” she whispered. “One was Ms. Merchant, the librarian. The other was a lady I met while checking out my books at the library.”

Derek wasn’t sure where she was going with this. “Well, this is the only real mall in town. It isn’t that odd she’d be here.”

Holly nodded. “I know. I was going to tell you about her because she was really cool. I liked her clothes and all.”

He grinned, not surprised his daughter had noticed that.

“But then Mom called and I forgot all about it until I saw her again just now. I didn’t realize she was Ms. Merchant’s friend because they weren’t together at the library,” Holly continued, rambling at ninety miles an hour. “Anyway, I heard her say your name! So you already know her. She’s wearing Manolos, like Mom’s.”

“They aren’t Manolos, they’re Christian Louboutins,” a hauntingly familiar voice said.

Derek drew a deep breath and lifted his gaze, meeting the eyes of the woman he’d reluctantly pushed out of his life years ago. And he’d regretted it ever since.

GABRIELLE AND SHARON HAD been taking the escalator down to cookware to find Sharon a new coffeemaker. They’d been discussing Gabrielle’s purchase of chocolate truffle creme body wash, body creme and candle in contrast with Sharon’s choice of French vanilla. In Gabrielle’s opinion, there was no comparison. Chocolate was the most decadent thing in life next to sex, and she’d said so.

Then she’d caught sight of Derek.

Older and more mature, but no less handsome. His dark brown hair wasn’t as long as she remembered, but the tousled locks were vintage Derek. Styled to look as if he had no set style. And those eyes, those deep-set hazel eyes looked at a woman as if she were the only person in the world that mattered. A pair of baggy khaki shorts hung to his knees and a white T-shirt accented his tanned skin. Razor stubble covered his rugged yet defined face.

God, the man was still sexy.

Unaware, Sharon walked beside Gabrielle into the sheet department without questioning her motives. Gabrielle continued extolling the virtues of chocolate, something she could discuss easily while distracted.

She’d wanted to be in control when she ran into Derek again. She’d even thought about ambushing him, the way she used to after school, pulling him behind a tree for a surprise kiss, and see whether those old sparks still burned.

Then she heard him. And she’d been the one caught by surprise. Her toes curled in her pointy-toed shoes and her stomach did one of those sensual turns only he’d ever caused.

She pulled to a stop and placed her finger over her mouth, silently asking Sharon to keep quiet.

Gabrielle had tiptoed toward him and realized he was talking to the inquisitive young girl she’d met in the library. A child, she realized now that she saw the two side by side, who was clearly his. Her hair and eyes might be a different color, but her mouth, those white teeth and full lips were all her dad’s.

Derek’s daughter.

Gabrielle’s stomach dropped as she faced the little girl who could have been theirs if…

She gave herself a mental shake. There were no ifs. Only the here and now. She had to face the fact that while her life had gone on, so had his. Until now she’d never let herself think about how. True, Sharon had told her he had a child, but hearing about it and facing it were two different things. She knew now she’d pushed the child out of her mind, unwilling to deal with what the little girl meant-that he had fallen in love with another woman not long after saying goodbye to Gabrielle.

She placed her hand around her stomach. God, it hurt badly. And that’s when she knew that the old feelings were still there, as strong as ever.

“Go get your coffee machine,” Gabrielle whispered to Sharon.


“I’ll fill you in later. I don’t want any witnesses,” she said.

Sharon hesitated, so Gabrielle gave her a gentle shove. “I’ll be fine. Go.” She waited until her friend was on her way to the kitchen department before she walked over to where the father and daughter stood, in time to hear the preteen extol the virtues of Gabrielle’s shoes.

She hadn’t even seen the girl checking her out.

“They aren’t Manolos, they’re Christian Louboutins,” Gabrielle heard herself say.

Two sets of eyes glanced up at her. One in awe. The other in recognition.

“Christian Louboutins,” the young girl said, shaking her head. “My mom doesn’t even own a pair of those.”

“I’m sure that will change while she’s in Paris with her new husband,” Derek said, his stunned gaze still firmly on Gabrielle’s face.

He cleared his throat. “I heard you two met at the library,” he said a little awkwardly.

“Not officially. Just long enough for me to tell her we had the same taste in books when I was her age.” Gabrielle never tore her gaze from his.

“Hey! Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Derek’s daughter asked as she dropped her armful of pillows onto the nearest counter and tugged on her father’s sleeve.

He unloaded the items in his arms, too. “Holly, this is an old high-school friend of mine, Gabrielle Donovan. Gabrielle, meet my daughter, Holly.” He gestured between the two.

“You two knew each other in high school? Wow!”

Derek met Gabrielle’s gaze.

And as his daughter spoke, about what Gabrielle couldn’t focus on, Gabrielle’s shallow breathing eased. The heat simmering between her and Derek did not.

“And you have the coolest clothes on the planet,” Holly added.

“Or at least in Stewart.” Derek laughed.

Gabrielle remembered that smile too well. She recalled what he could get her to do with that charm of his even better.

“How old did you say you were, Holly?” Gabrielle asked.

“I’m eleven and three-quarters,” she said proudly.

“When is your birthday?”

“August 15,” she said.

“I think that makes you more than eleven and three-quarters,” she said to the bright-eyed girl.

Derek nodded. “Someone has a birthday coming up next month.”

Holly grew more animated. “Ooh, I do. I need to think of a gift, don’t I?”

He laughed. “Yes, you do.”

“Clothes,” she said, drawing out the word.

“That means more shopping?” Derek asked, a mock grimace on his face.

Вы читаете Lucky Charm
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату