“Who is he?”

Mari didn’t have to guess who Tyler demanded to know more about. She bit back a smile as she swung her bare feet from her perch on the marble counter in his kitchen.

“You know about as much as I do. His name’s Damon. He’s nice. He likes the outdoors and thinks Sakina is beautiful.”

His hand brushed over her thigh, but didn’t linger as he grabbed seasoning and sprinkled it into the pot.

“He tell you anything else?”

His words were short, clipped. She swallowed a laugh and the desire to kiss him. He hadn’t said much since they left the shop and it didn’t take much to pinpoint the problem. It made him all the more adorable.

“He’s on vacation with a couple of friends. He thinks I’m a great guide and probably wants to go on another tour.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet he does.”

His hand tightened around the spoon he used to put rice on her plate and her smile almost slipped free. She only withheld it because he chose that moment to look at her. The slow lengthy perusal made something tighten within her and it became harder to hide her smile.

“How long is he here for?”

She shrugged carelessly. “He didn’t say, just said they might hang around for a while and if they did, they wanted another tour.”

“Nothing else?”

“No, Tyler. It was a hiking trip, not an interrogation. Card night?” she asked hopping down from the counter and pulling open one of the drawers to grab the deck of cards.

“Whatever you want,” he muttered.

“Lemonade or grape Crush?”

The lemonade he started stocking for her and as much as she wanted to, it wasn’t the right moment to tease him about it.

“Whatever you want.”

Since her back to was to him she grinned and carried two sodas into the living room. Once she settled on the floor he handed her plate to her and sat down across from her.

He seemed lost in his own thoughts as she dealt the cards. Even as they ate and played through the first hand of the game, he was distant, his mind obvious elsewhere.

“You’re not paying attention. Again,” Mari pointed out around the rice in her mouth as she picked up the Phase Ten card. She laid it on top of the cards spread out in front of her before dropping another onto the stack. “I’m going to trounce you. Again.”

“That’s because you cheat. You’ve been playing this game since you could hold cards.” He frowned and picked up another card.

She set her plate off to the side, a smile lighting up her face that had him watching her warily. “You know what I think?”

“No.” His smile was small and lazy. “But you’re going to tell me.”

She crawled over the cards to rest on her knees in front of him. “I think you, Tyler Ross, are jealous and it’s been eating at you since you picked me up.”

“Is that what it is?” He dropped his cards and leaned into her until their noses touched.

“Yep. Your nose,” she nuzzled hers against his as she spoke, “is all bent out of shape because Damon liked me just a little too much for you.”

“He was drooling over you.”

“I’m drool-worthy. You do it all the time.”

“I’m allowed to.”

“So is he as long as he doesn’t touch. And he didn’t. So get your nose back in place.” She brushed her nose against his again. “And remember how very lucky you are that you’re the one sitting in front of me right now instead of him.”

“You’re a hard woman, Ms. Drake.”

“You wouldn’t have me any other way.” She nipped his lips.


He muttered it against her lips as he leaned back and pulled her with him, kissing her softly.

“Sorry for being a jerk.”

“It was cute for about the first five minutes. Then it started getting old pretty quick.”

She rested her head in the crook of his neck and nestled in. His hand stroked over her back in a lazy motion. She could get used to nights like this. Who was she kidding? She was used to nights like this.

“I think you just might be good for me, Marielle Drake.”

She smiled against his skin. “You’re just now figuring that out?”

“No, I was worried about it from the beginning,” he returned quietly. “From the very beginning.”


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