Cassie avoided his question. He couldn’t dislike weddings any more than she did but she felt no need to speak about Tim and the aborted ceremony. Matt’s arrival coupled with her ex-fiancé’s actions had brought her past into the present. She curled her hands into fists.
The voice message to her had turned her world into tatters. “I married Rhonda this morning. Could you cover my patients tomorrow?”
The one to the partners had omitted the request for coverage and added he would be in on Monday to explain.
She had fled to the cabin in upstate
not far from the Vermont
After sliding from the couch she glanced at her watch. Six thirty. She needed a way to divert Matt’s curiosity and to aid her resistance to his appeal.
“Are you hungry?” The flare of interest in his eyes made her regret the question. “I mean for food.”
He winked. “Among other things but I can eat.”
She entered the kitchen area. “Won’t be fancy.”
He followed. “Most of the time I eat out or order in.”
She opened the chest freezer. “Chicken or fish?” She had brought them with her.
He closed the distance and stood close enough for her to feel warmth radiating from his body. “What about the steaks?”
“Belong to the owner. I’d rather not use them.”
“We can replace them.”
She removed a package of chicken strips. “This is healthier. The cardiologist speaks. I’ll do a stir fry.”
At the refrigerator she removed an assortment of fresh vegetables. Tomorrow she would need to shop for more than clothes. She started a pot of wild rice, gathered herbs and spices, defrosted the chicken and chopped vegetables. Keeping busy held temptation at bay.
“Am I allowed one of the beers in the fridge?”
“Go ahead.” Dr. Evans had said she should feel free to use anything she found but she decided the gourmet steaks were too pricy.
Cassie finished the vegetables and cut and seasoned the chicken. A bit of oil into a skillet and she was ready to cook. A wok would have been better but she could improvise. Before long the food was ready to serve. She carried the dishes to the table and discovered Matt had found plates and silverware.
He served himself, tasted and grinned. “Seems you like spice.”
“In my food.”
The cocky challenge alerted her. They would see. She feared she would take the dare. She stared at her plate. Had he seen the flash of interest she couldn’t deny.
Enough. You’re not in high school. Nothing has changed. You’re the same person he rejected back then.
Matt cleared his throat. “So why don’t you like weddings?”
Cassie drew a deep breath. “I just don’t.”
“That’s no answer. I’ll keep asking until I know. Are your friends dragging man after man into your life telling you each one is perfect for you?”
“Spill your reasons. You’ll feel better.”
Would she? A bubble of anger surfaced. “Why do you want to know?”
“Curiosity and maybe I can help.”
He seemed sincere. As yet no one would know until she didn’t show up at the shower. “Tonight would have been my wedding shower.”
“At a colleague’s home. As you can see I won’t be there.”
“Did you call the wedding off?”
Cassie shook her head. “No.”
A frown wrinkled his forehead. “Why skip the shower?”
Her face burned. “He married our office nurse yesterday.”
Matt half rose. “That man’s an idiot.”
“Or he realized he’d made a mistake and found someone more interesting.”
“No way.” Matt clasped her hand. “How long has he been seeing this woman?”
“Socially I don’t know but four days a week at the office. When we needed a nurse, he recommended her so we hired her.”
“And you didn’t ask him any of these questions.”
Cassie pulled her hand free. “Not when you receive the news by voice mail.” Her fork clattered on the table. Her chest felt tight. Tears burned her eyes.
Matt groaned. “Then I crashed back into your life and reminded you of another incident.”
“You could say that.” She pushed her chair back. Before tears erupted she had to hide. She dashed away.
Matt caught her and pulled her into an embrace. “Listen to me. The man is a jerk and a fool. So was I all those years ago.” He turned her to face him and tilted her chin with a thumb. His lips touched hers.
Cassie felt ribbons of heat sweeping along her skin. Before she’d realized who Matt was she’d been attracted to his voice and his body. There were high school days and the fantasies woven before and after the move. Could she trust herself not to dive into another relationship headed nowhere. But she had thought Tim was safe. Then he walked away.
She could refuse what Matt offered. That was a wise choice but being in his arms felt good. Could she handle the storm of emotion she would experience when he walked away? Dare she take a chance?
He deepened the kiss running his tongue over her lips and slipping inside her mouth to stroke. All logic fled. She didn’t want to fight the fires of passion.
His hands slid down her back to circle her waist. His tongue danced along hers and slowly withdrew. He raised his head and drew a breath. “I want you.”
“Are you sure?” She hated the shakiness of her voice. She could handle this.
“Feels right to me.” He met her gaze. “The moment I saw you crouching beside me I wanted you. Let me show you how much.”
She closed her eyes. Sex wouldn’t mend a broken heart. Had hers been broken? Her pride had been shattered and her self-esteem bruised. Had Tim’s action really surprised her? He’d been reluctant to name a wedding date until the senior partners had pushed. Deep down she’d expected him to walk away. She’d refused to admit his actions had been reminiscent of her father’s lack of affection and his neglect. She had never met him.
Anger bubbled to the surface. She’d wasted years waiting for Tim to agree on a date. Then he had lied. She drew a deep breath. Matt was honest. He wanted sex and no promises of more than one night.
Matt nibbled on her earlobe. “How long were you engaged?”
“And you never pushed for marriage.”
She shrugged. “Several times.”
“What was he waiting for?”
“The right time. We had to finish our residencies since long distance marriages don’t work. We had to be established in our practice of medicine. Then we had to be made full partners. Was to be a wedding present from our partners.”
He stroked her nape. “Did you live together?”
She shook her head. “We each had our own place.”