The Hotel Magnate's Demand(4)

By: Jennifer Rae

Willa’s eyes were soft, her expression so readable.

‘Don’t look at me like that, Willa. I’m fine.’ Amy said it firmly. With one of her signature smiles. Before turning to the bearded, tattooed bartender.

‘Dave, darling. You look hot tonight! Sweet haircut. Sharp.’ She smiled with all her teeth and winked. It was the smile she used when she wanted people to smile back.

She wanted everyone smiling tonight. She wanted everyone talking and happy. She needed her heartbeat to return to normal so she could turn around and face Luke. She wasn’t even sure what she was getting so wound up for. Luke was an old friend—that was all. Sure, she’d had some silly little crush on him once. But that had been years ago. She’d only been eighteen then. A teenager.

She was a woman now. With a lot more confidence and plenty more experience. She’d changed. She’d moved on. And she was sure he had too. He probably barely remembered her. Or what had happened. That feeling again. Swooping through her. Every time she thought that feeling had finally disappeared a night like this would come. A night when it would return and lurk and keep tapping at her like an insistent salesman at a door.

‘Go away!’ she whispered to herself.

‘Not exactly a warm welcome. I’ve only just got here.’

Amy felt him before she saw him. His warm, dark presence behind her. That slightly gruff and very deep voice in her ear. When she was eighteen it had made her melt and giggle. But today she wasn’t melting. She wasn’t giggling. She’d just landed a highly coveted three-million-dollar PR account, for God’s sake. She was strong and powerful and in control. Strong, powerful women didn’t melt.

But Amy grabbed the bar anyway—just in case.

‘I wasn’t talking to you.’ Her voice came out all breathy and high. Dammit. Amy schooled it into something deeper. Her best PR voice. ‘How have you been, Luke? It’s been for ever!’

‘Eight years.’

Luke didn’t move. Amy had used to love that about him. How he was so still and solid. Big. Brave. Everything she wasn’t.

At best she remembered herself as being flaky during the months she’d spent working at Weeping Reef as a receptionist for the tropical resort. At worst selfish, self-centred and a right little brat. No wonder Luke wasn’t smiling. She’d always been his little sister’s troublemaking friend. He’d never seen her as anything but that. And she’d always seen him as Willa’s annoyingly controlling big brother. Hot big brother. As in smoking hot.

And right now, up close, Amy realised that hadn’t changed. Actually, if anything, he was even hotter. He’d always been tall, but now he’d filled out more. His jaw was wider, his shoulders broader. His voice was even deeper. His hair was still thick and dark, but it was clipped a lot shorter than in the old days, when unruly curls had fallen carelessly over his forehead.

And gone were the board shorts and the resort polo shirts he’d used to wear. Luke stood tall in an expensive-looking suit. Complete with tie. Somehow, even though he looked a little restrained by all the neatness and correctness, it suited him. It definitely suited the grim look on his face.

Amy lifted her eyes to his. His eyes were still the same. Green. They were like those old mood rings they’d used to peddle in the gift shop. When he was happy they’d turn bright, like the Whitsunday ocean, and when he was angry or upset they’d come over a shade of stormy dark green. She remembered the stormy green. Luke had always seemed to be upset with her over one thing or another. But she’d only ever seen them violently green once. That one time...

Amy clung to her stomach, willing it not to swoop again. She didn’t want that unwelcome feeling to reach her eyes as it threatened to do each time. She wouldn’t cry. She’d never cry over that. Not again.

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