Dashing (Unleashed Romance #2) - Kylie Gilmore
“Would you like to dance?” a cheerful voice asks, and an alarm goes off in my mind.
I should’ve anticipated this, a slow song at our siblings’ wedding reception. I meet the bright and eager brown eyes of my only woman friend ever, Kayla Winters.
She’s a goddess, no question, wearing a sleeveless black dress for the occasion, exposing creamy skin from her delicate throat to her collarbones and the swell of her cleavage. Her dark brown hair falls in a wave over one bare shoulder. Her plump lips are a luscious red. I swallow hard.
Ridiculous. We’re friends. No cause for alarm. Of course I can slow dance with my woman friend. Neither of us is interested in a relationship. She specifically said she wasn’t ready to even consider dating after getting left at the altar. It’s one of the first things she told me, and she continues to stick by her firm stance, as she’ll share with anyone who suggests she get back out there. As for me, just the idea of a committed relationship sets me on edge.
I take her hand and walk out to the dance floor. It occurs to me she only dated her ex-fiancé for two months, while Kayla and I have known each other for four months now. Since last February when she decided we were friends.
She actually said that back then. You seem like a really nice guy, and I’d like to be friends. What could I say? She’s my client’s younger sister, and I was on the job for weeks. I’m a master carpenter. Of course I agreed, even though I never have women friends. Truthfully, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf. My work, my family, the people I know in town, that’s enough for me. I guess you could say I’m friends with the guy next door I sometimes go fishing with, but it’s not like we share deep confidences. Kayla did right from the beginning. My quiet nature seems to make her comfortable enough to share.
I find us an open spot on the dance floor and bring my hands to her narrow waist, holding her lightly. She puts her arms around my neck instead of holding my shoulders, bringing us so close I can feel her heat. Or maybe that’s my heat. I’m burning up in my dress shirt, the blazer discarded long ago. She’s petite, even in heels, her head level with my chest.
I subtly shift her away from me. It seems more appropriate for friends. Even if she was over her sleazeball ex, I’d never cross the line. It’s important to keep that boundary so no one gets hurt.
“It’s a beautiful wedding, isn’t it?” she asks, looking around us. We’re under a white tent in the groom’s backyard, an expansive piece of land with rolling hills edged by woodlands. My younger sister, Sydney, married Kayla’s older brother, Wyatt. I guess Kayla and I are related now. Some kind of in-law thing. That’s cool since we’re good friends.
I glance around. “Yeah. And they lucked out getting a sunny day.” It’s May, typically sunny. I’m barely aware of what I’m saying I’m so focused on keeping a safe distance. She keeps shifting closer.
“I ordered it special,” she declares. “You know, if I weren’t going to be a biostatistician, I think I’d make a good wedding planner. I helped Sydney plan this one.”
I incline my head. I don’t know anything about either career. All I know is she’s whip smart and just wrapped up her master’s degree in biostatistics. She’ll be looking for a job soon, probably moving far away from Summerdale, New York. Right now she works part time as a waitress at The Horseman Inn, the historic restaurant and bar that’s been in my family for generations. My sister, Sydney, owns it now. Kayla is a terrible waitress, constantly dropping dishes, but she’s so damn cute and apologetic everyone forgives her.
She smiles. “You look very handsome in your crisp white dress shirt. Nice contrast with your dark hair and tanned skin. Still got the scruffy jaw. No shaving for the wedding, huh?”
She never talks about my looks, always my skill as a craftsman. I’m suddenly hyperaware of her, of me, every nerve ending on edge. “Uh, thanks. I trimmed the scruff a bit to make it look neat.”
“Mmm-hmm. Got a haircut too.”
I go stock-still at the surprising sensation of her fingers running through the hair at the nape of my neck, sending tingles down my spine. She’s playing with