Chapter 7

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The fluid laughter of women filled the windowless stone cocoon of a dining room. Sounds were amplified, scents of meat and potatoes wound through the air, and glowing light shimmered from inside the bold iron chandelier.

"Liam!" A trio of more blondes that had joined around the table greeted the only man in the room with a chorus of excited sentiment.

Emerson watched as Liam welcomed the obviously related ladies—their platinum hair and sky blue eyes gave away their relation in an instant. The Getty sisters, as they were introduced, cheerfully greeted her and settled into conversations that crossed over one another.

Refusing to feel out of place around a table of exquisitely glamorous women who each looked as though they belonged in the pages of a magazine—even Grace with her pointy fangs looked ready for a photo shoot—Emerson restrained herself to a position of listening and observing.

She figured the good news about the latest additions of women meant Grace was no longer locked onto her. Either she'd been dismissed as a threat, which was entirely likely, or the targets had been split.

Whatever the reason, she was ready to eat a hot and hearty meal. She'd worked up an appetite, she though with a small and sneaky smile. No, they'd worked up an appetite.

As far as she was concerned, her feisty spirit had taken her over the line of friendly competition—what else was new—but from her perspective, she'd won. She'd gotten great sex with a phenomenal lover.

She frowned at the word that crept into her. Lover. Was that what he was? He did have a presence, a depth, a sadness to him that made her want to connect with him and share her heart, her love, her energy with him. There was a connection, wasn't there?

No, there couldn't be. It was just sex. The evening would end soon enough, morning would come, and she would be on her way home to her family.

Making the best of it, she exhaled and glanced around the room.

The Getty sisters—Evelyn, Genevieve, and Caroline—explained their attempt to make dinner in the dark as their power had gone off, then, deciding to see what Liam was up to, they trekked through the cold to come to the castle they'd nicknamed "Camp Castle."

Happy to hear the women weren't there for some sort of orgy that Liam had covertly orchestrated—which had entered her imaginative mind—she comfortably dove into the conversation.

"Why do you call this place a camp?" Emerson asked. "I must admit, I pictured tent cabins."

"You're definitely not a New Englander." Evelyn's face bounced into a youthful smile. "Camp, here, is a glorified vacation house. Not everyone uses the term. Just the fun people."

"And we're fun people," Genevieve added.

"The funnerest!" Evelyn exclaimed then lifted a defiant shoulder. "I make up words when I drink wine. So what? I'm fun."

Liam's smile was a genuine reaction to the company, the layered laughter, as he looked around the table.

He thought of his brother tucked into the hospital bed, beeps and tubes around him. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right.

Spending days and nights in the hospital with him wasn't enough—Liam's insides kicked and screamed to do more but he'd been flattened by helplessness. He'd come back to the castle to take a break, to clear his head. To see Emerson.

"I'm a lucky man, tonight."

His gaze settled on Emerson as he spoke. Her flowing mane of red surrounded a daintily featured face that watched him—the feisty upturned nose, expressive blush in her perky cheeks, generous lips that accompanied her generous spirit, and wide, warm tawny eyes that turned colors every time he looked at them.

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