"I enjoyed, for a change, reading a romance that I not only wanted to be involved in, but I could actually see the love they shared as something I could have in my real life."
Doing her best to hide the trembling of her fingers, she snatched the photo and clutched it with both hands. “Thanks. Come on in, Sam wants to talk to you.”
As he passed her, the clean scent of soap filled her nose. She breathed deep, savoring the aroma, picturing the way his dark hair clung to his head, just grazing his shoulders, in the shower. God, she missed him. Even if he was a disaster to her heart.
Kirstin took the photograph to her card table and returned to the kitchen. “Can I get you some tea, Mason?”
He turned around as if her simple question surprised him. The faintest hint of a smile graced his mouth. “Sure.” His gaze lingered a heartbeat too long before he turned and greeted Sam with a hearty handshake. But it had touched her long enough to sear her from the inside out.
Maybe he wasn’t totally indifferent.
She choked the thought aside. Going there wouldn’t accomplish anything. She’d invest in him again, only to discover another year from now that he appreciated her as much as he did his old plaid recliner. He wouldn’t part with the thing, but he’d moved it into the basement when he’d become obsessed with newer, more modern furniture.
Resolved to ignore him, she filled a glass with ice and poured his tea, adding two spoonfuls of sugar to sweeten it the way he liked it. As she set the spoon back in the sugar bowl, it dawned on her what she’d done, the automatic way she knew exactly what he liked. Oddly, she couldn’t count a single time where he’d remembered to dump in the extra spoonful of sugar she preferred. Every time he brought her tea—hot or cold—he sweetened it the way he drank it.
Sighing, Kirstin picked up his glass and took it onto the back deck where Mason and Sam poured over the grill. “Here you go.”
He looked up, and those icy blue eyes connected with hers. Only this time they weren’t so glacier as they drifted down her midriff top, lingered at the waist of her low-rise shorts, touched her thighs, then jerked back up to lock on her eyes once more. A touch of white fire glinted in his eyes before he deliberately turned back to the grill.
Kirstin set the glass on the patio table and returned inside, determined to ignore his thorough perusal. The bedroom had never been their trouble. Just because Mason knew how to devour her with a single glance didn’t mean he wanted her—well, for anything other than great sex. She’d been guilty of appreciating him earlier, and it didn’t mean she wanted to crawl back home and pick up where they’d left off.
She sat back down at her table and picked up the photograph. How in the world was she ever going to accomplish this job? With Mason unwilling to help, that left one other option—hire out the work. Problem was, the going rate for app design exceeded the zero balance in her non-existent savings account.
Time passed in a vacuum as she stared at the photo, mentally going through a redundant list of options and people she knew in the graphicals design world. Before she realized she’d disappeared into a private oasis of mental solitude, a shadow dimmed her tabletop, and Mason’s warm voice was at her ear.
“I have a working prototype on the tablet at home if you want to see it.”
She blinked, certain she’d heard wrong, that his statement was a product of her wishful thinking. But his deadpan expression made it impossible to question her hearing. “You’re serious?”
He nodded. “I reconsidered.”
Elation surged through her, and Kirstin found herself fighting the overwhelming urge to throw her arms around his neck and hug the life out of him. “Oh, Mason,” she murmured. “Thank you.”
Straightening to his full six-foot two height, he gave her a shrug. “Work’s work. You know my rate.”
All the joy that had swelled inside her heart plummeted out her toes, hollowing her insides out. She stared, unable to believe his self-satisfied smirk and laughing eyes were real.
Mason set his hand on her shoulder, gave it an affectionate squeeze. “You know how to reach me.”