Gabrielle met his tortured expression with a grin of her own. “What’s your favorite store?” she asked Holly.

“Different places. I got these flip-flops today at Abercrombie.” She waved her foot in the air.

“Ever hear of Isaac Mizrahi?” Gabrielle wondered if she sounded as silly as she felt, talking to a child about fashion.

Holly shook her head. “Who is he?”

“He’s a designer,” Gabrielle said. “If you love these bright-colored things,” she said, pointing to her choice in bedding, “I think you’d love the line he does for Target.”

“Now I know why the name rings a bell,” Derek said. “The guy began designing for Target around 2003. Their stock skyrocketed when he launched his line of affordable clothes with designer flair.” Derek folded his arms across his chest, looking like a man pleased to be finally participating in the conversation.

Holly rolled her eyes. “Dad,” she said with a groan.

Gabrielle chuckled at both father and daughter, but somehow kept her focus on Holly. “Maybe your father would let me take you to Target one afternoon and show you.” As soon as she spoke, Gabrielle couldn’t believe the words that had escaped her mouth.

She and Derek hadn’t said more than hello. She had barely gotten over meeting his daughter, yet she’d already invited her shopping.

“Oh, wow, Dad. She’s amazing!”

“Yes, yes, she is,” Derek said, his gaze never leaving Gabrielle’s.

Her body warmed beneath his stare. The sexual undercurrent between them was as strong as ever, but thankfully his daughter didn’t seem to notice.

“Can I, Dad? Please?” Holly tugged on his sleeve, bouncing with the enthusiasm of a soon-to-be teenager.

He smiled at her, the love and indulgence in his eyes doing crazy things to Gabrielle’s heart. He’d once looked at her with that intensity and devotion.

“We’ll see,” Derek said, wanting to spare his daughter any hurt. For all he knew, Gabrielle was just being nice to Holly for the moment, having been caught off guard by their sudden meeting.

He was still trying to get over the shock. She’d changed. And she hadn’t. Her chestnut-colored hair no longer hung long and straight down her back but instead brushed her shoulders in a sexy sweep. Long side-swept bangs dangled enticingly over one eye, and he’d noticed she often tucked her hair behind her ear as she spoke. Though her features were more defined, her makeup more seductive and professional, her beauty was still evident, inside and out.

“When did you get back to town?” Derek asked. He’d seen the flier, but there hadn’t been any whispers of her return, at least none that he’d heard.

She inclined her head, and the ends of her hair brushed at her shoulders, reminding him of the times he’d kissed her bare skin. Their encounters had usually been rushed, due to their inexperience and the fear of getting caught. If Derek had his way with her now, two adults with plenty of time on their hands, he’d take things slowly, savoring every sensual touch and taste…

“Derek? Did you hear me?” Gabrielle’s voice along with her hand on his shoulder brought him out of his daydream.

He shook his head. “Sorry,” he muttered, embarrassed.

“That’s okay. As I was saying, I drove in today to visit with Sharon. I’m giving a lecture at the local library tonight as a favor.”

“I heard about your talk.”

“Really? People are discussing it?” she asked hopefully.

“You could say that,” Derek said.

“My grandpa pulled out his old shotgun!” Holly joined in on the conversation again with exactly the point Derek had been hoping to avoid.

Gabrielle’s cheeks flushed red. “He what?”

“He wouldn’t really use it,” Holly said. “At least, I don’t think he would.” She wrinkled her nose in thought. “Dad?”

Derek groaned. “Why don’t you start moving all this stuff up to the register,” he said, pointing to the far wall where there was a small line.

It would take Holly a couple of trips, giving him a few minutes to talk to Gabrielle alone.

“Okay. I can take a hint. Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” She winked at him.

It was his turn to flush. “Hey! Just how old are you, anyway?”

“I’ve been around Mom and John long enough to learn a few things”

He waved his hand toward the register. “Go! If you behave, I’ll take you for lunch afterward.”

“Okay. Can Gabrielle come with us? Please?”

His daughter’s request took him off guard. It was one thing to see Gabrielle again, to realize she still had that punch-in-the-gut impact on him. It was another to get to know her. To let his daughter get to know her.

To hear Gabrielle laugh and let the old feelings and yearnings resurface…knowing he’d have to let her go again.


DEREK LOOKED AT HIS daughter’s pleading expression and cleared his throat. “I’m sure Gabrielle has to get ready for her talk tonight,” he said to Holly. “She probably doesn’t have time for lunch.”

Gabrielle met his gaze and folded her arms across her chest. “Actually I’m well prepared.”

He shoved his hands into the front pocket of his jeans, hoping his discomfort wasn’t obvious. “But you can’t very well leave your friend stranded.” He knew he was grasping at straws, but he really didn’t want to navigate a three-way lunch that included his daughter. Holly was obviously smitten with Gabrielle.

Not that he blamed her. She’d been surrounded by men the past few weeks and Gabrielle’s warmth was contagious.

Even Derek was finding Gabrielle hard to resist. Though he knew all the reasons he shouldn’t get involved, he felt drawn to her. As if he were seventeen all over again.

“Right?” he asked, seeking confirmation that Gabrielle knew better than to accept the invitation.

But instead of agreeing, Gabrielle straightened her shoulders and frowned.

Uh-oh. Derek recognized that stubborn look and immediately realized his error. The girl he’d known didn’t take well to being told what to do.

Gabrielle shook her hair, let it sway in defiance. “Actually, Sharon’s having lunch with her fiance. She won’t mind if I don’t join them. Besides, since I’ll be around for a while, she and I can catch up anytime.” Gabrielle’s fiery gaze met his, as if daring him to come up with another reason she should opt out.

He swallowed hard. “Then I’m guessing you’re free for lunch?”

“I’d love to join you,” she said, speaking past him to his daughter.

“Excellent!” Now certain she wasn’t going to lose out on time with her new idol, Holly turned her attention to the packages of sheets and pillows, grabbed as many as she could carry and headed for the register.

Derek turned to face Gabrielle, but before he could think of what to say now that they were alone, she spoke.

“You don’t want me to come for lunch.” Her glossed lips turned downward in a luscious pout.

“I’m not sure it’s such a good idea,” he admitted.

She stepped closer. A sensual whiff of what smelled like chocolate assaulted his senses, giving him a craving for so much more than food.

“Is there something wrong with two old friends catching up?” Her mouth hovered close to his cheek.

He clenched his hands into tight fists. “Is that all we are?” he asked her, his body stiff from her nearness, his defenses against her nonexistent.

“Isn’t that what you told Holly?”

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