The Devil She KnewBy: Talia Hunter
“You’re coming back?”
She shook her head, leaving Cousin Ronny pouting. Then she went to Laura and forced a smile back on. “Everything okay, sis? Great speeches, and I loved your dance. You two are so sweet together.”
Laura drew her to one side, waving Luke away. With a shrug, her new husband wandered off toward the bar.
“What are you doing?” her sister hissed.
“What do you mean?”
“Ron’s engaged. His fiancé is right over there.” She nodded to a woman sitting at the table Suzie had collected Ronny from.
“Oh. Well, it was just a dance. Besides, I don’t think she minds.” The woman wasn’t even looking in their direction, but talking to the person next to her.
Her sister sighed. “I sat you next to Nate for a reason, Sue. He’s single, successful, and smart. Just this once, why can’t you go for someone who’ll be good for you?”
“Thanks, but I don’t need you to set me up with anyone, especially—”
“I’m trying to look out for you. Those bad boys you like so much aren’t good for you.”
Suzie blew out her breath. The effort of pretending she wasn’t drunk and defending herself was almost too much. “I’m fine on my own. Better than fine. Did I tell you about the wedding I’m catering on Friday?”
“Yes, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to share these things with? I want you to be as happy as I am.”
Her sister meant well, but she’d been dating Luke since she was in high school. She’d never really been on her own.
“I don’t need a guy to make me happy.” Suzie declared, probably a little too violently. “If one comes along, then fine. But I’m not—”
Laura grabbed her arm, looking over her shoulder. “Look, there’s Nate. He’s coming along. In fact, I think he’s coming after you.”
Suzie turned. Sure enough, Nate was making his way through the crowd of dancers. Was it her imagination, or did the fire torches pushed into the sand around the dancing area burn brighter as he walked past them?
“I wouldn’t date him for a million dollars,” Suzie started to say.
But it was her sister Nate stopped in front of, not Suzie. He leaned in to kiss Laura’s cheek. “Congratulations, Laura. I’m afraid I need to excuse myself early.”
Laura frowned. “You’re going back to your room already? But I’m about to toss my bouquet, then we’ll cut the cake.”
“I have work to do, and a deadline to meet.”
“Don’t you at least want to dance with Suzie before you go?” Her sister put one hand on Suzie’s back and pushed her toward Nate, sending her stumbling into him. As Nate steadied her with his hands on her upper arms, she breathed in his delicious cologne. He was taller than her, and it was only because his chest wasn’t far below eye level that she was forced to admire the way his shirt stretched over his muscles.
He drew in an audible breath and his hands squeezed her arms. When she lifted her eyes, his gaze was on her mouth. Her heart started beating so hard, she was afraid he’d see it trying to break free of her chest.
“I don’t want to dance,” she managed, though her mouth had gone dry.
“We should talk,” he said, his voice sounding as strained as she felt.
“That’s right,” said Laura. “You two should talk. No need to leave just yet, is there, Nate? You can talk while you dance.”
“I don’t want to dance,” Suzie said for the second time. Why did her sister refuse to listen to her? Though Laura was a year younger than Suzie, her smarty-pants little sister always assumed she knew best.
She put her hands up to push Nate away but instead of pushing, her traitorous hands rested on his chest. It felt as hard with muscle as it looked.
“Then let’s talk away from the dance floor,” said Nate. For some reason, he was still staring at her lips, and somehow the intensity of his gaze was dragging all her air away. That had to be why she felt so breathless.
She opened her mouth to tell him to go to hell, but what came out was a weak, “Fine.”
It was only when he took her hand and tugged her out of the crowd, away from the wedding party, that her lungs managed to inflate again.