Read It Was Only a Kiss Online

Authors: Joss Wood

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It Was Only a Kiss (8 page)

BOOK: It Was Only a Kiss
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‘I did. I have two of her paintings,’ Piers said. ‘Such an amazing artist—and a lovely person. Threw herself away when she married your father.’

Luke’s eyebrows rose at Piers’s frank statement. He felt Jess’s hand on his arm and was grateful for the contact. ‘Uh—’

What was he supposed to say to that?

‘Sorry, but unlike a lot of people in the industry I didn’t like your father.’ Piers shrugged thin shoulders in a dark grey suit.

Well, this was interesting. ‘Why not?’

Piers looked around to check who was listening before continuing. ‘I thought he was arrogant, condescending and generally a conceited ass.’ He looked up at Luke and pulled a face. ‘Sorry. I knew him for a long time.’

Luke’s mouth kicked up. Finally, here was a man who saw Jed clearly. He wouldn’t verbally agree with him—that would be disloyal—but inside he was cheering him on.

Piers sighed and shook his head. ‘My late wife would be jamming her elbow into my side now, telling me to keep my mouth shut. God, I miss her.’

‘How long were you married?’ Jess asked, changing the subject.

‘Forty-five years. Five kids.’

The mind boggled. That was what he’d woman, one life, one marriage. Lots of kids. Now he knew that some dreams weren’t supposed to come true. He didn’t know how to do marriage and family—after all, he hadn’t any experience of one and his father had been an anti role model.

Piers looked over Jess’s shoulder and smiled. ‘And here comes one of my favourite shopkeepers, purveyor of some very fine wines.’

And Luke’s some-time, part-time lover.

Oh, crap on a cracker.
Since Jess’s arrival he hadn’t given Kelly much thought—okay, any thought—and the notion that she might be at this wine-tasting hadn’t even crossed his mind. They’d had an easygoing, no-hassle...
...going for many months; Kelly was his go-to person when he needed a date, or sex—or even on occasion an ear. He’d meant to contact her and explain things, but with one thing and another—mainly Jess—he’d forgotten. And the thought of introducing a woman he’d recently slept with to a woman he
to sleep with made his skin prickle.

It was so Jed.

Luke, thinking that this day couldn’t get any worse, quickly excused himself and stepped up to Kelly. Gripping her elbow, he steered her away from Jess.

‘Kel, I—’

Kelly laid a hand on his arm and sent him a warm smile. ‘Luke, sweetie, take a breath. It’s all good.’

‘You don’t understand. I need to—’

‘Call it quits?’ Kelly’s warm blue eyes crinkled up at him. ‘Luke, when I heard via the grapevine that you had a blonde staying with you I kind of caught a clue. Honey, I’m ten years older than you. I’ve been expecting this for a long time. Besides, didn’t we agree that we’re just friends who occasionally sleep together?’

Luke shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. ‘Uh...okay, then. Well...’

Kelly laughed. ‘You are looking very flustered. Tough day or tough girl?’

‘Both. She drives me nuts.’

Kelly stepped forward and dropped a kiss on his jaw, holding her cheek against his to talk into his ear. ‘Good. You deserve a girl who will drive you nuts. It makes for very interesting sex.’

If we ever get anywhere near the bedroom,
Luke thought darkly as Kelly drifted back to Piers and Jess.

Piers took Kelly’s hand and pulled it into the crook of his arm. ‘It’s so nice to see you, Kelly, and if these two lovely people don’t mind, I’m going to steal you away to taste a rather nice Cab from Chile. Not as good as yours, dear boy, but palatable.’

When they’d left, Jess tipped her chin up to look at him and Luke felt like a bug under a microscope. She sipped her wine and just went on looking at him, her brown eyes wary.

was interesting.’

Jess’s voice was so bland and so even that Luke knew she was seriously ticked. Joys of joys. Would this day never end?

He resisted the urge to tug at his collar. ‘Uh...’

‘How long have you been sleeping with her?’

Luke took a deep breath as he prepared to explain that he wasn’t sleeping with her any more, that they were just friends, that he had no intention of resuming their arrangement.

Smart girls. Dammit, you just couldn’t get anything past them.

* * *

Jess, with Ally asleep in the passenger seat, turned into the gates of St Sylve and steered her SUV down the long driveway. She’d deliberately not thought about Luke while she was away, and being insanely busy had helped. There’d been decisions to be made at work, projects to give input on, meetings to take. She’d had drinks with a potential client and dinner with another, and had returned to the office around ten to put in another couple of hours’ work.

Luke and St Sylve had been put on the back burner, but now she was back and she had to deal with them. Luke had told her he wasn’t sleeping with Snow White... The woman looked exactly like the popular children’s character: black hair, white skin, blue eyes. Curvy. He had been, but he wasn’t any more. That was all the explanation he’d given her and she admitted that it was all she was entitled to. But she wanted to know more. How long had they been together? How had they met? Had he ever loved her?

Why did she even care? It wasn’t as if she had any claim on the man—she wasn’t in love with him. She liked him—a lot—but she liked a lot of men... She just didn’t want to have hot sex with any of them but Luke. She couldn’t possibly be thinking about him as being something more, someone important...could she?

If she was, then she didn’t have an IQ higher than a tree stump. She didn’t want a relationship, and he certainly didn’t want anything more. Did she have to draw herself a picture to explain the concept of going nowhere? Honestly...

Jess parked her car in the empty garage and switched the ignition off. Ally woke up, stretched and yawned. ‘Are we here?’

‘Mmm-hmm.’ Jess tossed her sunglasses onto the flat surface of the dash and rubbed her eyes. ‘Luke’s not back yet. His car isn’t here.’

Ally released her seat belt and opened the door, greeting Luke’s two dogs as she hopped out. ‘So where does Owen live?’

Jess rolled her eyes and pointed to the stable block. ‘Luke converted the stable block into a two-bedroom apartment for him.’

Ally squinted at the building and then back at the manor house.

Jess rolled her eyes before laughing at her friend. ‘Yeah, the walk of shame won’t be that long,’ she teased.

Ally looked completely unabashed. She’d come to St Sylve to sleep with Owen, and the poor guy didn’t stand a chance. Jess opened the back door and pulled out her suitcase and then Ally’s. Ally had a very masculine way of looking at sex and men: bag ’em, tag ’em and toss them back.

Love and feelings didn’t form part of the equation.

Jess still couldn’t work out whether she found that sad or smart.

* * *

Jess hummed softly as she padded her way to the kitchen door. She was exhausted, and it felt as if every muscle in her body was protesting against Ally’s idea of heading to a pub this evening and
Jess draped her shoulder bag over the back of the chair and headed straight for the kettle, suddenly desperate for a cup of tea.

‘Head up the stairs. Second room on the left. I’ve put you in the room next to mine,’ Jess told Ally.

‘How old did you say this place was?’ Ally asked.

‘Early eighteen hundreds.’

‘Encountered any ghosts yet?’

Jess knew that Ally was pulling her leg about the fact that she believed in ghosts and wanted to see one. Like Luke, Ally was a firm non-believer.

She wrinkled her nose. ‘Nothing. A house like this
have a ghost or two.’

‘And it probably would, if ghosts existed,’ Ally responded. ‘Up and left?’

‘Tea?’ Jess asked.

‘God, no,’ Ally responded. ‘Wine. Got any?’

‘I’m currently living on a wine estate...’ Jess looked around. ‘Actually, I don’t. Nor do I have any food. We might have to raid Luke’s kitchen.’

Ally leaned against the doorframe. ‘Do you do that often?’

‘More than I should,’ Jess admitted.

‘Oh, baby girl, you have it bad,’ Ally said before disappearing upstairs.

Jess poured water into a cup and poked at the teabag with her teaspoon, thinking of Luke and wondering how today’s filming had gone.

She splashed a little milk into her tea and wrapped her hands around her cup, blew across the surface of the hot liquid. Hearing Luke’s car pull into his spot outside the kitchen door, she put down her tea and walked to the door. Luke’s smile widened as he saw her standing in the doorway and Jess felt her breath hitch.

It was frightening to realise how good it felt to be back.

Luke jumped down from his seat and, leaving the door open, took two strides to reach her. He cupped the back of her head in his large palm. His mouth covered hers in a long, slow, deep kiss that melted her organs from the inside out. Jess responded without thought, draping her arms around his neck and pressing up close to his body.

Hot, randy, slow, sexy, tender... How many ways could this man kiss? Jess held the back of his neck and thought that she could read his mood in his kisses almost as well as she could in his eyes. In this one she tasted fatigue...and a layer of stress. Happiness that she was back, relief that she was in his arms and, as always, the pulsing heat of desire. Kissing him in return, she rubbed her hand up and down his back, instinctively trying to ease the stress from his muscles, arching her own back to tell him silently that she wanted him as much as he seemed to want her, trying to tell him that she was thrilled to be back at St Sylve, with him, in the strong circle of his arms.

God, this was getting far too deep, too quickly. She should pull away, take a breath...

Luke read her mind and yanked his mouth off hers.

Jess licked her lips and tasted him there. ‘What?’

Luke stepped away and put an inch of air between his thumb and index finger. ‘I’m this close to yanking you into the back seat of my car and whipping your clothes off.’

Jess thought that she could go for that. It was crazy, it was wild, it was... Luke slammed the car door closed and she came back to her senses. Impossible.

She hauled in a breath and found her voice. ‘Hi.’

‘Hi, back. Good to see you.’ Luke ran his thumb across her lips before placing his hand on her lower back and ushering her into the kitchen.

Jess wrinkled her nose when she heard her mobile ringing in her pocket. It was Lee, the five-hundredth cousin once removed, the man her mother had set her up with. They exchanged pleasantries and Jess was deeply conscious of the sardonic look in Luke’s eyes. His eyes narrowed and his eyebrow lifted.

This was stupid, Jess decided. He knew and she knew that she wasn’t interested in anyone else but him, so she quickly ended the conversation with Lee, declining his invitation to dinner as politely as she could. Trying to use him as a distraction was so high school and, frankly, beneath her.

She raised her brows at Luke. ‘Satisfied?’ she asked.

‘Marginally. Take me to bed and I will be.’

Heat arced between them. She could so easily sleep with him and damn the consequences...

Owen rapped on the frame of the kitchen door and ambled inside. ‘Hey, Jess, good to have you back.’

Jess returned his greeting and was amused when his eyes didn’t connect with hers. He was too busy looking for Ally.

‘Ally around?’

Jess grinned. ‘Up the stairs and to your left.’

Owen didn’t need to be told twice. His long legs took him across the kitchen in a couple of strides and then he was running up the stairs. They heard a feminine squeal, a large thump, the slam of a bedroom door...

Jess shook her head. ‘You do realise that she’s going to gobble him up and spit him out?’

‘He won’t have a problem with that.’ Luke sent her a direct look. ‘You ready to gobble
up and spit me out yet?’

He said it with such a mixture of humour and hope that Jess had to smile. ‘Nope. Sorry.’

‘Ah, well.’

Jess leaned back against the counter and cocked her head. ‘So, how was filming today?’

‘Long and tiring. I walked up and cycled down the mountain most of the morning,’ Luke replied. Gloria, one of his dogs, whined at the door, and Luke looked from her to Jess. ‘The dogs want their walk. Want to join us?’

Jess lifted one shoulder before nodding. ‘Yes, let’s do that.’

Luke lifted the heavy jacket of his she’d taken to wearing at St Sylve off the hook at the door and helped her into it. Opening the door for her, he waited for her to walk out before closing it behind them and whistling for the dogs. Two huge canine bodies shot down the driveway like bullets, tails thumping.

Luke jammed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, idly noticing that they had a day, maybe two more, of pruning.

Jess picked up his train of thought. ‘Pruning’s nearly over?’

‘Yep. Time for the vines to rest and rejuvenate.’

Jess looked around her, smiled and pulled in a big breath. ‘The air tastes different here.’

Luke squinted at her. ‘What do you mean?’

Jess scratched her jaw. ‘Back home you can taste the soot, the pollution in the air. Here I can taste fruit: the peaches and the plums, the grapes.’ She turned around and walked backwards, looking at the houses in the setting sun. ‘It’s so beautiful, Luke. You are so lucky to own this place, to
this place.’ When he didn’t answer, Jess placed a hand on his arm and made him stop. ‘You don’t believe that, do you?’

Luke looked at St Sylve and then he looked away. ‘No, not really.’

‘Why not?’

He felt his shoulders lift towards his ears and made a conscious effort to drop them. ‘I guess it’s because I was never made to feel welcome here.’

Luke heard Jess’s swift intake of breath and carried on walking, looking for the dogs, who’d disappeared down a bank. Jess’s shoulder bumped his as she fell into step with him.

BOOK: It Was Only a Kiss
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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