He’d tripped over the hole in the wall bar—his favorite kind of bar, truth be told—on an impulsive drive. The studio should be calling his name. The need to get back to the familiar and the tactile board of his studio had distracted him for the last four weeks.
But as soon as he’d gotten back to the Sanctuary it was obvious that wasn’t what dragged at him. Restless, he’d tried the ocean and his family. The kids filled the void as always. His boys and the indulgent half smile of his daughter that mirrored his own had eased the ache for a while. But as always, August moved too quickly. School and the promise of football packed away some of the yawning days.
Until it didn’t.
Until the lines of the road offered his only solace. He’d followed the coastal roads until he’d seen signs for New York. Thinking he’d go back into the city, to the penthouse suite he’d purchased in the spring, he’d crossed the border. But instead of the city, he’d followed the water again. Through towns and roads he’d never traversed. With all his years on the road, he was surprised there were roadways he’d never been on.
The coastal town had lured without fanfare. They didn’t give two shits about who he was. In fact he was greeted with a skeptical brow instead of the maddening gasps of recognition.
He was a stranger here. And he liked it that way.
So close to his life, but far enough away to feel like he could start over. At least for a little while. All he needed was a little while.
It was off season. Hell, he wasn’t even sure there was a true season here. All he knew was that he’d driven until he found the eclectic lighthouse with the weathered sign. He’d called and rented it on the spot for two months.
The woman stood up, dragging him away from memories and his own twisting thoughts. She tipped the last drops of her whiskey back. Her elegant neck worked with each swallow. He knew it burned. Missed the burn sometimes, but didn’t miss the free fall into stupid. He gulped instead of sipped. And when you gulped, you went with wine. He liked his liver and intended on being buried with all his original organs.
A jangle of copper chains and beads curved over her wrist, peeking from the layers of thermal and plaid she wore. A cross dangled into her palm before she clenched her fingers around it. Dressed like a local and yet not quite. Butter soft cords hugged her hips, giving a hint of curves under the bulk of warmth. She was no fisherman, and definitely no long shore worker. He wasn’t sure what she was, but the woman didn’t seem to fit in with any of the familiar working class people that were growing roots into their bar stools.
She walked toward him, her butterscotch eyes finally resting on his face. No trace of recognition, not even a hint of interest. Instead of walking on by like she’d done the night before, she stopped.
He looked up at her. “Hello.”
She scanned his face, his shoulders, his neckline. His heart kicked at his breast bone and pounded at his temple. Finally her gaze slid back up to meet his and held. “Hello.” Her voice was as smoky as her choice of liquor. Then she turned and pushed through the door.
He tapped the stem of his glass and wished for a cigarette for the first time in over a year. He forced himself to stay in his booth. To finish the bottle and not chase after the woman, but her hauntingly steady gaze stayed with him. And the wine lost its soothing quality.
“Shit.” He stood and left a pair of twenties by his glass. Outside, the bite of the water soaked air slapped at his face clearing his head. He hadn’t expected the gnawing lust. Hell, he was half convinced that he’d tapped himself out after the divorce. A string of women and too many parties had filled the first two years after he and Dot had divorced.
He was tired. He couldn’t remember a day when he hadn’t been tired.
And now with a third year of single status under his belt, he couldn’t be bothered with anything more than schmoozing. He’d been certain his dick was in retirement. And he was happy to leave it there most of the time. Now, with a single word he was back in play.