Grace Clark is a star at her job as an art director at Boston’s biggest advertising firm. But inside she’s still mourning the loss of her sister two years ago. Losing Mia and a failed engagement have been enough to keep her heart on lockdown ever since.
Luke Arnold is tired of relationships that don’t go anywhere. Usually women are all over him, but it’s been years since he’s met someone he could really fall for.
But when he sees Grace from across the room at the Redview Lodge, he can’t keep his eyes off her. They meet in the New Hampshire mountains over Thanksgiving, and they find in one another something that neither of them expected.
It seemed everywhere she went, his eyes followed her. Not in a creepy way, but intense. It made her feel nervous. She didn’t know what to think about it. At dinner, it seemed that every time she looked in his direction, his gaze was on her again. Was he even talking to his dinner mates? After a while, she realized, she was looking at him, too.
And he was definitely worth looking at. From a distance she could tell that he was tall and broad, and by the way his t-shirt clung to his body, definitely well built. He had wavy brown hair, not long, but not cut short, either. She liked the way it would fall into his eyes and he would brush it away.
The whole thing was really sort of embarrassing, but also intriguing. She liked it that she could look up from the conversation at dinner and always find him staring. And he didn’t seem weird; she could tell by the large group of boisterous friends surrounding him at the table. He just seemed … curious.
Once the meal was over, she hugged her parents goodnight.
“See you in the morning, hon,” her mom said. “Are we going on the hike, then?”
They had been browsing through a brochure the lodge had given them, both an advertisement and a map.
“Yeah,” Grace said. “I think we should, don’t you?”
“Definitely,” her father said. “We need to get out there and take in these leaves before they all fall away. See you at breakfast.”
“Let’s make it eight. We’re on vacation,” he said, elbowing her.
She walked with them to the elevator, then realized she had left her sweater draped over her dining chair.
“Oh,” she said. “I left something. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She turned back and found that their waiter was already headed her way, sweater in hand.
She smiled, taking it from him and wrapping it around her shoulders.
She turned around, back toward the elevator.
And there he was. Waiting.
For a moment, she thought about hiding behind the huge display of flowers that sat on one of the entry tables. Could she get away with it? Would it look like she truly was admiring them and not just avoiding him?
Why was she so nervous?
No, she couldn’t stall, not without being totally obvious. She would look like an idiot.
She took a deep breath and headed over to wait for the elevator, just taking the smallest of glances up at his face. For the first time all night he wasn’t looking at her, and just a hint of a smile played along the corner of his mouth.
The elevator opened and he waited for her to enter first. She hit the button for three, and he didn’t say a thing.
We’re on the same floor.
She didn’t dare look at him now, not when he was standing so close. Her heart was thudding in her chest, and it was all she could do to not check to see if his eyes were on her again.
The elevator reached the third floor and opened.
He was waiting for her to exit first, but she found her feet were stuck to the floor of the elevator as if they were glued to it.
“Goodnight,” he said, his voice deep and silky.
She started and ducked her head to leave the elevator, turning right. She could feel the flush starting in her chest and heading up her neck to her cheeks.
Why hadn’t she said something?
She glanced back and he stood in front of the elevator, this time smiling wide as he watched her leave.
Oh, my God.
She didn’t risk another look, just tried to act like she wasn’t trying to rush away from him.
Suddenly, she realized that she didn’t even know her room number. She had been downstairs since she’d arrived, and hadn’t even bothered to come up to check things out.
She reached into the back pocket of her jeans and found the envelope that held the room key.
She glanced up at the numbers, but as she rounded the corner to the left, she realized that she was going the wrong way, that she should have turned left out of the elevator instead of right.
Now what? What if he was still standing there, somehow knowing that she’d gone the wrong way?
She sneaked up to the corner and listened, and there it was, the sound of his room door closing behind him.
She allowed herself to breathe.
Then, expecting him to appear at any moment, she rushed down the hallway until she found her room number, jammed the card into the slot and launching into the room, pulling the door shut behind her. She stood with her back against it, panting as if she’d been running from a predator. Quickly, she turned around and looked through the peep hole on the door.
The hallway was empty.
She sat down right there on the floor, shaking a little.
What the hell is wrong with you?
Why was he looking at her? She wasn’t so much to see, was she? She had nice, long brown hair, which she wore up in a bun most of the time. Her figure was reasonably attractive, she supposed, and her face was sort of pretty. But Mia had always been the beauty in the family. Mia had gotten her mother’s looks, while Grace had inherited her face from her father’s side of the family. Pretty, but not beautiful.
So why was she so surprised?
It had been the intensity of his gaze that had thrown her. And when she had stood next to him in the elevator, she realized just how big he was. Her heart gave another thud at the memory. Nice arms. Nice smell. And tall.
She shook her head, trying to throw the memory of his scent off of her. She took a deep breath, got up, and walked farther into the room.
The space was beautiful, with vaulted ceilings that mirrored the ones in the dining room. The room was on the top floor, and just visible through the sliding glass door she could see the lake rippling in the moonlight.
On her way into the room she had passed a mini-bar stocked with candy and a couple of those two-serving bottles of wine. She cracked the red one and poured herself a glass into one of the bathroom cups. Walking up to the window again, she started to calm down. She opened the door and almost went outside when she realized it. What if he was standing on his deck, too? Did he have one? One whole side of the building faced the lake, the other side, the trees. She hadn’t seen which room he went into; his could be right next door to her for all she knew.
She settled for leaving the door open and pulling up the desk chair to sit inside and enjoy the view from there.
But she couldn’t handle any more tonight. As the room gradually became colder, she slowly drained her glass, then closed the door and dug around through her suitcase. She was exhausted. It was only nine, but it was just late enough for her to not feel too embarrassed with herself for going to bed.
She changed, slid into the silky sheets, and clicked off the light. She lay in the dark, her mind distracted, able to think of only one thing.
Why shouldn’t he have been looking at her, anyway? She’d had plenty of date offers since Brett, but just as she was starting to get over the heartache she had felt about his lies, Mia had her accident. Since then, her dating life had been easy; she had simply said no to every request. All of them. She couldn’t risk getting into another relationship now, not after all that had happened. Because whoever it was with would eventually leave her, just as Brett had.
Just as Mia had.
She rolled over, her head swimming slightly from all the wine. But just as she was dozing off, the image of the man’s eyes appeared before her.
No. Definitely not a good idea.
I am happy to call the San Francisco Bay Area home, where I lives with my husband, two kids, one dog and three cats. I started writing at an early age, but have only been writing novels for the past five years. I love the idea of love conquering all, and that is what drove me to begin the Great Escapes series, where the reader follows couples meeting up in exotic locations around the world. In this series, each book is a stand-alone, and each can be read in any order.