After years of crushing and many failed seduction attempts, Palmer Montlake had finally scored the sexy Cade Crawford. Both a little drunk when they got back to her place, they were frantic with need, their desire intense. But as the night progressed, the hot-mess hookup morphed to sweet lovemaking. The kind neither had ever experienced. But they were destined for heartbreak. She was his best friend’s little sister. He was her talent agent. And they were dating in secret. When they got into a wicked fight and broke up, all hell broke loose. The kind neither have recovered from. Six years later, they still hate each other. But the universe seems to keep throwing them together. When they catch the bouquet and garter at a mutual friend’s wedding, sparks fly between them — their chemistry undeniable. Will they get a second chance? Or will they be left with a broken love?
The charter I use suggests changing our flight plan to land in Reno as opposed to the small Truckee airport I previously requested, due to high winds. We make the switch, take the flight, and I rent an SUV at the airport there.
I know the area is expecting some flurries today, but by the time I cross into Truckee, the snow is coming down hard and heavy. It’s getting dark, the roads are slippery, and I find myself slowing down and taking each turn very carefully.
As I round a corner, I spot a car that has slid off the road. A gorgeous woman is standing outside the car with a phone to her ear, her collar turned up, shivering against the cold.
Even though she tried to called me late Halloween night, I haven’t called her back. I wasn’t sure what to say, and I didn’t want to hear whatever dumb excuse she had for not showing up. My plan was to come up here and figure out what to do regarding her.
Part of me wishes I could drive right by and pretend I don’t see her.
But, I can’t.
When I saw the woman on the side of the road, my heart skipped a beat, recognizing her before I realized it was Palmer.
I put my flashers on, pull over, and roll down the passenger-side window. “Hey!”
“Cade, is that you?” she asks, her eyes wide with astonishment.
“Yeah, you need a lift?”
She glances at her car, then at me, like she’s trying to decide which may be the lesser evil.
After a few seconds, she nods her head. “Yes, thank you. That would be great. The tow truck can’t be here for at least an hour. I guess it’s worse just west of here.”
“You know, you shouldn’t be out on roads like this all alone,” I say, chewing her out a little. “You should have put on chains.”
“I thought I could make it,” she replies, causing my mind to tumble back in time.
“I thought I could make it,” she says. She’s wearing a sundress, and the tip of her nose and her shoulders are a little pink from our day spent on the shores of Lake Tahoe. She’s just fifteen, and I’ll be turning twenty-one in a few days. She’s going home with her family tomorrow, and then all our college buddies are coming up for a weekend party. To celebrate my finally being drinking-age legal.
What’s not legal is the girl standing in front of me. But you’d never know it from looking at her. Palmer Montlake has been modeling. Already tall with the perfect body for hanging clothes from, she’s just back from a European modeling trip.
And, boy, has she ever grown up. In more ways than one. Most importantly, is the fact that I’m sure she’s flirting with me.
I know I need to make her stop.
But I’m a little drunk, and she’s way too pretty for her own good. Not to mention the fact that she was running around in a skimpy bikini all day long. But having her cover up doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about how she looked.
I chastise myself.
She’s just a kid. She’s fifteen. Not only that, she’s my best friend’s kid sister—the holy grail of what you don’t mess with.
She runs her hand down my arm, laughs, and says, “Will you put a Band-Aid on it for me?”
When she was trying to jump from the boat to the dock like her brother and I did, she caught her flip-flop on the edge and crashed—cutting her knee.
“It’s not that bad,” I hesitate, knowing that under no circumstances can I can allow myself to touch her. I’m afraid if I do, I won’t be able to stop.
“Come on, Cade,” she pouts, puffing out her sexy bottom lip. “I’ve helped you before. Remember a couple years ago when you were bleeding after sliding into home plate? I fixed you all up.”
I remember it, alright. But she didn’t look like this back then. She was gawky and awkward like a gelding, not the gorgeous gazelle she is today.
She jumps up onto the kitchen counter, immediately causing my mind to think about what naughty things I’d do to her on this counter if she were as old as she looks.
I take a deep breath, calm myself down, and put the Band-Aid gently across her knee.
She kisses me on the cheek in return. What should be a quick thank-you peck is long and drawn out, and her scent lingers on me.
“Thank you, Cade,” she says, my name sounding like warm butter melting off her lips.
“The snow is coming down fast,” she says, bringing me back to the present.
“There’s no way we can make it to your cabin,” I say. “I assume that’s where you’re going?”
“Yeah, I was.”
“Are you supposed to meet anyone there?” I inquire. Please say no.
“No. I have some scripts to read, and Pike kind of wanted some time to himself.”
“My place is closer,” I say, thanking whatever divine intervention allowed her to go off the road. “You can stay there until the roads get better.”
“Okay,” she says with a shy smile. “Thanks for rescuing me, Cade.”
“You’re welcome, Palmer.”
She gets in the car and shakes the snow out of her hair. “I’m sorry about the other night. Why didn’t you call me back?”
“I don’t know. I just—”
“You were pissed I didn’t show up, right?”
“I sort of explained what happened in the text. Did you read it?”
“I did. Look, you know your brother hates me. He’s staying at your house. It would be awkward, so I decided not to put you in that position.”
“I see,” she says, putting her head down.
Which makes me feel bad.
We drive in silence for a few miles then she says, “Can you even believe how gorgeous this snow is? Don’t you just want to lay in it and make a bunch of snow angels?”
I grip my wheel tighter as the car fishtails on a patch of ice. “Let’s hope we make it there first.”
“Where are we going?” she asks. “I didn’t know you had a place up here.”
“I’ve been looking for the right place for a quite a while. Just closed a few weeks ago.”
“Is it furnished? Are we going to have any food?”
“I have some basic furnishings and linens. Not much yet. I wanted to get a feel for the place before I order any more. And groceries were delivered earlier today.” I turn and give her a wink. “Along with a few cases of wine.”
“So we can get drunk, and we won’t starve. Sounds like the perfect weekend.”
I drum my fingers on the steering wheel, excited about how she mentioned the weekend. Does she want to spend the weekend with me?
Could I get so lucky?
I look over at her. Her cheeks and nose are red from the cold, but her eyes are bright with excitement about the falling snow. She’s bouncing in the seat a little, like she’s excited about something.
Probably just glad not to be standing on the side of the road anymore.
After winding up the mountain into the ski resort area of Truckee, I pull into the driveway of my new home.
“Cade! It’s so pretty!” Palmer screeches. “You literally bought the house of my dreams. Don’t you remember that time when I told you about it? That night when we laid under the stars in that hammock in Belize?”
I remember, alright. I remember everything about that trip. How soft her skin felt, the way her ass looked in a skimpy little bikini, the way she fit perfectly into my arms, and how amazing it felt when I was inside of her.
“We were happy then,” I say flatly, the memory both blissful and painful as I open the door and pull into the garage, knowing that’s why this house took years to find. When she passionately described it to me, it became my dream, too.
She jumps out of the car quickly, her face flush with excitement.
“Leave the bags, Cade. Give me a tour.”
Give me a tour. If I had my way, a tour would involve christening each room by making love in it.
Love. Not sex. That’s how it always was with Palmer. Even when the sex was completely dirty in nature, it always felt different.
I shake my head, take her outstretched hand, and follow her into the house.
After giving her the tour of the place, I unload our luggage, putting hers in one of the guest bedrooms and praying she’ll lock herself in and read her scripts, so I won’t have to keep looking at her.
Because if I have to keep looking at her, I’m going to end up fucking her.
My mother says love is based on strong emotions and that strong emotions polarize us. That’s why I can both love Palmer and hate her at the same time.
And right now, I hate that I still love her.
She’s standing next to one of the big picture windows, looking outside.
“The snow is really coming down now,” she says. “This is crazy beautiful.”
“You’re crazy beautiful,” I mutter.
“I said you’re crazy beautiful, Palmer.” I say it flatly, with no emotion. I’m afraid to say it any other way.
She blushes and self-consciously pushes back a strand of hair. I love that about her. How she isn’t even aware of how truly stunning she is.
“I think we need some of that wine,” she says.
“Wine won’t help things between us.”
“No, it will probably make me want to sleep with you,” she says with a sigh. Like she thinks it’s a really bad idea. She walks over to the cabinet under the television and starts rummaging through it. “Do you have any cards?” She laughs, pulling out a big box. “I should have known you’d have Scrabble.”
“It is a Crawford family tradition.”
“Not our kind of Scrabble.”
“You’re right. I don’t play dirty Scrabble with Mom and Dad. I’ve never played it with anyone but you, actually.”
“So,” she says, giving me a sexy grin, “shall we?”
I look out at the snow still falling heavily. “Sure, why not. You’re not going anywhere for a while. I thought you had a script to read or something?”
“Scrabble sounds more titillating.”
“I’ll be impressed if you can get that word on the board. Why don’t you set up the game and open some wine. I’ll go get some wood and get a fire going.”
Although the wood I had delivered is stacked neatly next to the house, I wish it wasn’t. Staying outside in the bristling cold wind for a few hours chopping wood might be the only thing that could keep me from kissing Palmer.
Hell, who am I kidding? I’d do way more than kiss her. Visions of carrying her to my new four-poster bed cause me to immediately harden. I slam my hand against the wall. Stop thinking about that. You can’t.
Why not? a voice inside my head wonders.
She hates you, for one. Only it doesn’t really seem like she hates me anymore. Not like before when she wouldn’t even talk to me.
I put the wood in a carrier, take it in the house, and get a roaring fire going.
“The fire is so pretty,” she says from the kitchen.
“Thanks,” I reply.
“I have an idea,” she says, sashaying her way toward me with a big smile on her face. Palmer’s smile makes my knees weak. And I know that makes me sound like a fucking girl, but whatever, it’s true.
“Pick the coffee table up for me,” she instructs. I pick it up while she pulls the grey shag rug out from under it and moves it right up to the fireplace. “Perfect!” she exclaims, then strips all the pillows off the couch, tossing them to the ground. She carefully places the Scrabble game on the center of the rug, bending over and giving me a great view of her incredible ass. Seriously, it’s the perfect shape. If I could just strip her naked, get behind her, and grab those hips, we’d have a lot more fun than playing a stupid board game.
“I thought you might be hungry,” she says, scooting the big wooden coffee table toward the rug then grabbing a tray from the kitchen and setting it down. “Cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, caviar, and caramel popcorn.”
“That’s quite the combination,” I tease.
“I had to work with what you had. At least there’s plenty of wine. Will you grab it?” she asks as she sits her ass on my rug and doles out little square letters.
I set the bottle and the glasses on the coffee table, pour the wine, and sit down across from her.
The lights flicker, then go out, enveloping the house in darkness.
She nervously twists her hair. It’s an old habit, something she’s done since she was a kid. I remember so clearly her lying in bed after the first time we made love, twisting her hair and wondering out loud if our sleeping together was the right thing to do.
I didn’t want her to second guess us then, and I don’t want her to now.
I reach out and take her hand, just like I did then. “We’ll figure something out,” I say, repeating the words I told her that night. Her eyes flicker with surprise at my touch, but then she softens.
“You’ve always known how to make me feel better,” she says, gazing into my eyes and expressing more feelings than the words that came out of her mouth.
When she finally breaks eye contact, she smiles. “I don’t think the lights are coming back on. I saw candles in the pantry.”
“I’ll grab them,” I say, quickly getting up. I have to fucking do something besides stare into her eyes, or I’m going to—no. Get that out of your mind. It’s not going to happen. It can’t happen. Her brother hates you. You can’t do that to her.
Using my phone to light the way, I get candles and matches along with a couple flashlights.
“Here, let me help you,” she says, getting up and attempting to grab a couple candles from my full arms. But when her hands brush my chest, I stop and stiffen—everywhere.
“Um, that’s okay, I’ve got them,” I say, attempting to unload the candles onto the table only to have half of them topple to the ground. “Shit.”
“It’s okay, Cade,” she says, dropping to her knees in front of me—her head now at dick-sucking level.
Fuck my life.
Why did I stop to pick her up again?
Jillian Dodd grew up on a farm in Nebraska, where she developed a love for Midwestern boys and Nebraska football. She has drank from a keg in a cornfield, attended the University of Nebraska, got to pass her candle, and did have a boy ask her to marry him in a bar. She met her own prince in college, and they have two amazing children, a Maltese named Sugar Bear, and two Labrador puppies named Camber Lacy and Cali Lucy. She is the author of the That Boy Trilogy and The Keatyn Chronicles Series.