She flashed a bright smile as she slid into the booth. “Sorry. I got held up.”
“Hey, beautiful.” He laid his phone down and took her fingers in his. The lines around his whiskey brown eyes creased when he smiled. “I don’t have much time. I’ve another appointment with Penny and her mother. I ordered you the BLT.”
“What about this time?”
“She wants to change the flowers. Again. From red roses to pink Asiatic lilies. Of course, the roses were already ordered.”
“Mix the roses with the lilies,” Tala suggested.
“Genius.” He lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a sweet kiss over her knuckles. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
A shaft of light shone through the window, striking her eye, and she turned toward it, squinting. Sunlight caught more chrome as the throaty growl of the motorcycle echoed down Main Street. A warm glow spread through her. Tala pulled her fingers free and leaned forward. She knew that sound, as she knew the beat of her own heart.
She waved an absent hand in Derrick’s direction, keeping her eyes on the road. She smiled when the familiar Triumph rolled into view. Matte black and gunmetal gray with enough chrome to shine and flash, the bike brought as much attention as the throaty growl of the pipes. She did not need to see the rider to know he looked like a modern-day knight riding a dangerous steed. She launched herself from the booth and ran from the diner as the bike pulled up and parked outside Benickie Animal Clinic. He had already dismounted by the time she hit the street, and Tala slid to a stop when he turned and faced her. Sawyer.
He stood with his hands hooked in his jeans and a smile that lit her up inside. She loosed a loud whoop of joy that made heads turn in her direction as she broke into a sprint. She ignored the looks, the smiles sent her way as she ignored the blare of a horn from an indignant motorist. Sawyer stepped toward her in a familiar, casual, wide-legged swagger. His jeans hung loosely around narrow hips. The chain looped from his belt to behind his hip bounced against his leg under an unbuttoned flannel and a bright white T-shirt.
A few feet from him, she leaped into the air, confident he would catch her. He did. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist and hugged him tight as he spun them both. He smelled of cigarettes, spearmint, the cologne he preferred, and sweat. She pulled back and, with both hands on his cheeks, studied him. His blonde hair was longer than it had been when she had seen him last. It hung over his collar, the ends near to brushing his shoulders. He sported a neatly groomed mustache and goatee beard that framed his perfect smile. His blue eyes blazed.
“What are you doing here? I thought you wouldn’t be back until your mom’s wedding; that’s not for six more months.”
“I missed you, too.”
“I missed the hell out of you. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” she asked.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Would you mind getting your hands off her ass?”
Derrick. She had forgotten all about him. Tala peeked over Sawyer’s shoulder and smiled. He did not return the gesture.
“I said…” Derrick repeated.
“I heard you.”
Sawyer was not quick to temper, but she recognized the tone of his voice and the note of warning under the words. She had imagined a better introduction.
“Put me down,” she whispered. Sawyer let her go but slow. Her body slid down his and the friction of his torso against hers caused a confusing sensation deep in her stomach. Shaking it off, she stepped between them.
“Derrick, I’d like to introduce you to Sawyer Gavin. Sawyer, this is Derrick Sloane. He’s the manager over at the inn and a friend.” She said it with enough force Sawyer would understand Derrick was more than a friend.
Derrick extended his hand. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Your mother is a lovely woman.”
“Thank you. I’ve heard of you, but that’s about it.” Sawyer looked at her. Derrick’s hand fell to his side. “Are you dating this guy?”
Sawyer walked away. Her jaw dropped.
“That was the Sawyer you’re always talking about? Not impressed.” Derrick took her hand.
She watched Sawyer until he disappeared inside the veterinary hospital. Tala turned and laid her hand on Derrick’s chest. “I’m sorry about that. He’s normally not rude. I don’t know what got into him.”