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Thursday, June 03, 2010
Michelle Miles, TAKE ME, I'M YOURS, author interview on June 3!
Moments later, as Marion grasped the warm cup of coffee in her hand, she turned to find someone she knew sitting in a corner of the coffee house. Graeme Butler hadn’t noticed her entrance, since he had his head buried in his laptop.
With a deep breath, Marion headed over. There wasn’t any reason why she couldn’t say hello to an old friend. Was there? And she hadn’t seen Graeme since… She mentally calculated how long it had been. Several months, to be sure. The last time being a night of shooting pool and drinking beer not long after Ethan left a horrendous aftermath in his wake.
Determined not to allow the painful memory of that day to cloud her thoughts, she pasted on a bright smile and sauntered over. She’d forgotten how good looking Graeme was, with his strong jaw line shadowed by a goatee. He shoved his hand through his dark blond hair, which had golden highlights that didn’t come out of a box—Graeme wasn’t that kind of guy.
“Well, hello, you,” she said in her sweetest voice.
Graeme looked up, question then surprise flickering through his devastating blue eyes. His mouth broke into a wide grin, and he looked genuinely happy to see her.
“Are you as surprised to see me as I am you?” she asked as he rose and came around the table.
“You have no idea.”
He folded her into his powerful arms, hugging her tightly and squeezing her to him, then kissing her soundly on the cheek. He smelled of soap and something else—a spicy scent she didn’t know. It made her knees weak, which was totally unexpected, because Graeme wasn’t the weak-in-the-knees kind of guy…or was he? Stepping back, he looked her up and down, his gaze sweeping over her.
She should have been incensed that he looked at her that way. But somehow, it wasn’t the same creepy look Ethan had given her only moments before. This one was less on the lascivious side and more on the…well, since he was a man, his intentions were probably less than honorable. She found she didn’t mind so much when Graeme did it.
“You look fantastic. I haven’t seen you since—”
“I know.” She cut him off and put up a Don’t-Go-There hand, refusing to allow him to speak aloud the words of those fateful events. “It’s been a while. How are you?” She smiled, incredibly happy to see him.
He waved her to a nearby cushioned chair, and she gratefully sat down. After saving his document, he shut down the computer and closed the laptop, then leaned back in the chair, propping his ankle on his knee. He gave her his full attention. “I’m great. Couldn’t be better.”
Damn, he looks sexy. There was something ruggedly handsome about him, yet she knew underneath that tough exterior was a sensitive guy. Of course, he never liked that to be common knowledge. He liked to keep up the rough façade. In the few years she’d known him, he’d always been super nice to her, and she found she could be herself with him.
A vision of him dressed in a tux with a blush colored tie and cummerbund flashed through her mind. He had looked so handsome that day. So suave and debonair. And now she couldn’t stop looking at him. He had the best forearms and hands. Nice, strong looking hands.
She held her cup in her hands to keep them from fidgeting. “What are you up to these days?”
“Just working. I’ve got some new clients lately, so the business is going really well.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” She forced her gaze back to his face, noticing for the first time the new facial hair. One corner of his mouth was upturned in a grin. She resisted the urge to reach out and run a finger down his stubbly chin. “I like the goatee.”
He ran his hand over the beard, his skin bristling against the coarse hair. “It’s something I’m trying out.”
“Well, it looks great,” she said. “And how’s Charlotte?”
“Uh…” He cleared his throat. “That was over a long time ago. Shortly after you and Ethan—”
“Stop.” She held up her hand. “Please don’t say it.”
“Sorry.” Looking sheepish, he picked up his paper cup and sipped his coffee. “I don’t mean to keep bringing it up. I figured after that day in the church, you’d never speak to me again.”
“Why’s that?” She quirked an eyebrow and leaned forward, placing the cup on the table. She wondered why Graeme thought she would shun him.
“I was the one who delivered Ethan’s bad news,” he said.
“Oh, right.” She twisted the edge of her worn shirt around her forefinger. “Speaking of the devil’s spawn… I actually ran into him this morning.”
“Here?” Graeme sat up straight and glanced around the nearly deserted coffee house. He looked as he if were ready to fight.
“No, no. Down the street at the café. I was having brunch—”
“Yes.” She paused, unsure why that mattered. “Anyway, he just showed up out of nowhere. Told me he made a mistake and he wanted me back.”
“Fuck him.” He scowled, clearly unhappy with his friend’s actions. His face had lost the light he’d had only moments ago and turned dark and serious. Snatching his coffee, he sat back in the chair again, relaxed.
“No, thanks.” She snickered at her own joke then blushed for laughing at herself. “I’m not sure what makes him think I’d want him back, especially after what he did to me.” Looking back up, she met his gaze. “All that time we were together, he lied to me about his business dealings.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean he did Web design for a…” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “…porn Web site.” Clearing her throat, she glanced around to see if she had been overheard. “Did you know that?”
When Graeme was silent, she was certain it was from sheer shock. That was her first reaction as well. “I had no idea. And all that time we were together, he hid it from me. Talk about a scumbag!”
“Yeah,” he agreed, his voice muffled behind his coffee cup.
“I wouldn’t have made it such a big deal if he hadn’t cheated on me with half the girls from the Web site. Of course, I found out about that after we broke up, but still…the nerve of that guy.”
This time, Graeme cleared his throat. “How did you find out about all that?” He carefully placed his coffee cup on the table, then fixed his gaze on his computer. Was he avoiding her gaze on purpose?
Marion gave him a pointed look of disbelief and snatched up her cup, taking another sip of the tepid liquid. Either he really didn’t know, or he was just as guilty as Ethan was for pretending not to know. “You never knew, Graeme? You were his best friend, after all.”
Graeme kept his eyes on his laptop monitor. “Ethan and I shared a lot, yes. But he never shared that information with me. It’s sort of written in the Man Rules.”
“Man Rules?” She had to chuckle.
“Yeah,” he said with a cocky smile. “Never share information that can incriminate you.”
“Ha, ha.” Marion first wanted to smack him for the remark, but his big, silly grin made her fall into laughter.
“Anyway, Ethan had his chance with you, and he blew it. His loss.”
Her eyebrows shot up. She was surprised to hear this from the man who was supposed to be Ethan’s best man and best friend.
“You deserve better than him, Marion. I always thought so.”
“I…don’t quite know what to say.” A heated flash went through her, and her palms felt as though they had suddenly caught fire, forcing her to put down the cup once more.
“He’s an idiot for letting you go.” He snatched his coffee again, the liquid sloshing, and sipped. “What’d you tell him?”
She smirked, remembering her lie. “First I told him too bad, and then I…” She stopped, waving the thought away. “Nothing. It’s silly.”
“If you said something that will make that asshole suffer, please share. I haven’t spoken to him since that day in the church.”
She blinked. Graeme, it seemed, was full of surprises. She had no idea the two of them hadn’t spoken in the last six months. So, Ethan had lost his fiancée and his best friend all in one day. Interesting.
“No, I haven’t.”
She wanted to press further, to find out exactly why the two hadn’t spoken to each other in so long. Was Graeme sore because Ethan made him do the deed? Or was there something else underneath the cool façade he wasn’t telling her? She suspected the latter. What did Graeme care, really, if Ethan ditched his girlfriend? Unless…
Unless deep down, Graeme had feelings for her. The notion seemed so ridiculous, she quickly pushed it away. Graeme wasn’t interested in her any more than she was interested in the guy who owned this coffee house.
She stared down at her lap, toying with a string on the edge of her shirt. “Anyway, I sort of told him I was seeing someone.” Looking up through her lashes, she added, “And that I was almost engaged.”
“I see.” Graeme downed the rest of his coffee and set aside the empty cup. He reached for his laptop and shoved it in its case.
She suddenly worried she had somehow upset him. “But, you know, I was just lying to get him to leave me alone. I’m not seeing anyone. I’ve tried to date, but it’s just…too much. I haven’t been able to do it. I don’t think I’m ready.”
He stopped, looking at her with those blue eyes, and smiled. She wanted to melt into a puddle. “Marion, you don’t have to explain yourself to me. I’m not Ethan.”
“You want to go for a walk?”