Dana let go of his hand and sat back, hoping she’d said something to make him feel better. She could tell he was worried but a part of her believed Sarah Westmoreland would come through this just fine.
“How did your parents meet?” she decided to ask, wanting him to dwell on happier memories.
She watched the corners of his lips turn up into a smile. “My mother and Aunt Evelyn were best friends growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. When they graduated from high school, Aunt Evelyn came to Atlanta to visit her aunt. During her first week here she went on a church outing and met Uncle John. She wrote back to my mom telling her she had fallen in love and asking her to come to Atlanta to be her maid of honor. She’d only known her new groom a little more than a week!”
Jared gave her a lopsided grin. “My mother, being the levelheaded person that she is, caught a bus that same day and arrived in town to talk some sense into Aunt Evelyn. She didn’t think love at first sight was possible.”
Dana chuckled. She could just imagine his mother doing that. “What happened next?”
Jared smiled. “She got to town, met John’s twin brother, James, and fell for him just as hard as Aunt Evelyn had fallen for my uncle. My parents got married within a couple of weeks of my aunt and uncle’s wedding.”
A smile softened Dana’s lips. “That’s a beautiful love story.”
Jared shrugged as he took a sip of his drink. “Yes, it is, isn’t it?” It had been a long time since he had thought about how his parents had gotten together. They had met and fallen in love immediately. They hadn’t thought about any of the ups and downs they would face. They had simply loved each other and had wanted to be together. To them that was all that had mattered.
Sighing deeply, Jared glanced down at his watch. “Are you ready to leave? Tonight is a nice night to walk around the park. Would you like to do that?”
“I’d love to.” Dana met his gaze, suddenly understanding his need to get away for a few days and making a quick decision. “I’d love your company this weekend if you’re serious about going with me to Brunswick.”
He smiled warmly. “I am.”
She returned his smile. “Good.”
Over an hour later Jared returned to Dana’s home and walked her to the door. She turned and looked at him.
“I enjoyed being with you tonight, Dana,” he said, taking her hands in his.
Jared’s words, spoken in a soft husky voice, immediately reclaimed Dana’s attention. And his touch sent all kinds of sensations escalating through her body. “I enjoyed being with you tonight, as well,” she said honestly. “Would you like to come in for something to drink?”
He shook his head. “No, it’s late and I’d better go.”
Dana let out the breath she’d been holding. A part of her was glad he had turned down her invitation but then another part was disappointed. She wanted to be alone with him. She wanted him to kiss her again. And more.
She gazed up at him. “Then I guess we need to say good night.”
He gently tugged on her hand, pulling her from the shaft of light shining down on them from the porch light to a darkened area of the porch. She saw the kiss coming, wanted it and moaned with pleasure the moment their mouths touched. Intense heat, overwhelming pleasure shot through her as his tongue masterfully mated with hers. She could only stand there and grip his solid shoulders for support as he took her to another world, feasting on her lips as if they were a meal he had to savor.
When he finally released her mouth she had to rest her head on his chest while she caught her breath. Jared Westmoreland could incite passion with a mere touch, a kiss, a look. And she had felt his solid hard erection pressing against her, through the material of her skirt. He was as aroused and as she was.
“Go into the house, Dana,” he whispered against her lips after slowly releasing her. He took a step back.
She swallowed. His voice sounded hoarse, husky, and sexy. “Good night, Jared,” she said and turned to unlock the door.
“Good night. I’m playing pool with my cousins and Reggie tomorrow night, but I’ll be by early Saturday to pick you up. Is seven o’clock a good time?”
She turned to him and wished she hadn’t. He had stepped back into the light and stood tall and looked handsome. His coat jacket was slung over his shoulder and held in place by his fingertips. The pose was unforgettably sexy.
She cleared her throat. “Yes, seven will be fine. I’ll be packed and ready to go.”
Giving him one last look, Dana opened the door and slipped inside. She leaned against the closed door when she heard him walk away, and then moments later the sound of his car leaving.
It was only then that she was able to slow down the beating of her heart and breathe easy again. How would she ever survive a weekend alone with Jared Westmoreland?
Jared stood next to Dana and watched as she placed the bouquet of fresh flowers on her mother’s grave.
When he had picked her up bright and early she had been friendly and perky, the complete opposite of him first thing in the morning. He could be a bear until he downed at least two cups of coffee. But she had opened the door all smiles, packed and ready to go.
During the drive they had talked about a number of things including early memories of the time she’d spent in Brunswick, backyard cookouts with her parents, going to church together as a family on Sundays and how she would greet her father at the door whenever he’d come home from work.
They stopped once for lunch, but otherwise they had driven straight to town. Once there they had found a florist shop to purchase the flowers and had then driven to the cemetery.
He had considered remaining in the car, letting her have her private moments, but a part of him wanted to be with her, to stand beside her and let her know that he was there and that he cared. After a few moments of silence she straightened and automatically, as if it was the most natural thing to do, she leaned up against him and he offered her the support she needed.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held her close to him. “You okay?” he asked softly.
She tried to smile and the effort made Jared’s throat tighten when he saw the tears in her eyes. “Yes, I’m fine. It’s just harder this year more than ever because today would have been their thirtieth wedding anniversary. They got married on my mother’s birthday.”
Dana gazed up at him through misty eyes. “Mom always reminded Dad that she should get two gifts that day instead of one, and of course he always came through. They loved each other very much, Jared. In a way I think if they had to die it was better for them to go together. I can’t imagine my father living a normal life without my mother or vice versa. They had dated since high school and were so close, so connected. But the beauty of it all was that they never made me feel like I was an outsider. Dad used to say that I was the greatest gift of their love.”
Jared nodded, knowing she needed to talk, get her feelings and emotions out. He was jarred into the realization that some marriages endured. Her parents’ had. So had his parents’ and his aunt and uncle’s marriage. For a long moment they didn’t say anything, they just stood there, needing the silence. He admired her ability to do this, to come here twice a year and face the pain of her loss with the poise and grace he had come to associate with her. He couldn’t imagine getting a call, saying that both his parents were gone—unexpectedly, just like that. And if that were to happen, at least he had his brothers, the entire Westmoreland family. Dana had no one.
But today she had him and he wanted her to know that. He reached for her hand, linking their fingers. He was glad he had come, pleased that he was with her in this place, sharing such a personal and private moment. It meant a lot to him that it was his shoulder she was leaning on, his hand she was holding. And for the very first time in his life he felt he was in danger.
Danger of losing his heart.
He tipped his head and looked at her. “You don’t have to thank me, Dana. At the moment, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than here with you.” And he meant it. “Ready to go?”
“Yes, I’m ready.”
Back in the car, Jared headed toward Jekyll Island. His secretary had made hotel reservations for them. If Jeannie had thought it odd that he’d told her to get two separate rooms she hadn’t said anything.
He glanced over at Dana. “Are you hungry?”
She shook her head. “No, in fact I think I’m beat and going to take a nap when we get to the hotel and check in.”
He smiled. She might feel tired, but she didn’t look it. She looked great dressed in a pair of slacks and top. He spared her another quick glance. There hadn’t been one time he’d seen her that he hadn’t gotten turned on by what she was wearing.
Jared could see them in one bed, in each other’s arms doing a number of things, and taking a nap wasn’t one of them.
Dana woke up from her dream with a start, her breathing uneven, a wave of heat slowly building and touching her in her most intimate places. She closed her eyes to recapture the moments when she had imagined Jared in bed with her, naked with his arms around her, holding her, and his aroused body pressed intimately against her pelvis, sending her over the edge as he tried to connect with her.