"Are you here for the Chaucer-Jones wedding?" The woman at the counter looked over the top of her glasses at them, one eyebrow raised in disbelief. She had the worn, kindly look of a grandmother, but Poppy recognized her and knew she was nothing of the sort. Well, she was probably a grandmother, but not a kindly one. More than once, she'd tramped through the forest toward the Pit with a shotgun, shouting statistics about how likely the police would be to believe she'd mistaken a juvenile delinquent for a black bear.
Poppy squirmed in her too-wet, too-revealing clothes. "No. We just need a room. Two rooms," she hastily amended, refusing to look at Asprey. She'd already made the mistake of following him into the B&B. There wasn't a dry patch of him left. Even though he wore his signature layers of preppy clothing, it wasn't difficult to make out each twitch of muscle under his clothes, his dark jeans heavy enough to hang a bit lower on his hips than they normally did. When he'd leaned in to help her off the motorcycle, she could actually see the line of his tan, where golden skin met the chalky whiteness of an ass whose rounded deliciousness she couldn't stop imagining between her teeth.
She took a deep breath and forced herself to think beyond the body to the meaning below the surface. People in Seattle did not have tans. Asprey Charles, the thieving playboy son of a renowned art appraiser, probably got his sun-kissed glow from jet-setting around the globe on someone else's dime.
That tan line drew more than boundaries in the skin—it separated worlds.
"Unless you're with the wedding party, you're out of luck." The woman—Norma, she remembered now—tapped at her keyboard, though Poppy was pretty sure she gleefully pushed random letters. "They've booked through the weekend. Such a nice young couple." She stared harder at Poppy, who quickly turned her head to avoid recognition, though she was a far cry from the gangly semi-Goth teen she'd once been. "He's a doctor, and she works in interior design. Isn't that lovely?"
Poppy opened her mouth to voice her opinions on interior design as a profession, which in her eyes was almost as bad as being a con artist, but Asprey placed a hand on the small of her back to nudge her out of the way.
She sucked in a sharp breath. What was it with him and that spot? He had to be doing it on purpose—had to be willfully sapping her of her resolve to keep him at an arm's length.
Remember the rules, Poppy. Never get involved.
"I can't tell you how much we'd appreciate it if you could find a place to squeeze us in." Asprey clicked easily into smooth-talker mode even with his soaking wet, muddied clothes and their leather jackets hanging over one arm. Poppy might have been amused if she wasn't so distracted by his hand. "I know we look like drowned rats, but we got caught on our motorcycle tour of the coast and could really use some shelter from the storm."
Norma sniffed loudly. "And if we weren't hosting a wedding this weekend, I'm sure I'd be delighted to accommodate you. You understand. Dr. Chaucer and Miss Jones have requested a private party."
"Oh, we'll keep things private, I promise." Out of the corner of her eye, Poppy saw Asprey wink. What was it with that man and winking? "Surely you have a bat-room hiding around here somewhere. I'd be happy to pay for the privilege of using it."
"Bat-room?" Norma's look of disdain only deepened.
Asprey let go of Poppy then, freeing her from the naughty-doe-in-the-headlights position she'd been stuck in. He leaned on the counter, a lock of his dark hair falling into his eye. He couldn't have oozed sex appeal any harder if he tried.
"It's not as strange as it sounds," he said, flashing his signature smile—the one plastered on a hundred Internet photos. "A friend and I once rode our motorcycles up through Glacier National Park—it's an incredible trip if you ever get the chance—and we got caught in a storm just like this one. The only place to stay was this big, old hotel with no vacancies left."
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Asprey Charles has always assumed he would one day take his place in the family art appraisal and insurance firm. "His place" meaning he plans to continue to enjoy his playboy lifestyle, lavish money on his Cessna, and shirk every responsibility tha...