Hunter locked the doors, jammed the truck in reverse, backed away, then tore out of the parking lot. “Where to?”
“I don’t know,” she said, peering out the back window at the women behind them. “I’m not ready to go back to my parents’ place.”
It played right into his hands. Not that he’d planned this… whatever this was: Ashleigh sit-ting in his truck as if the last fourteen years had never happened. As if a time machine had taken them back to the days when everything was still right between them, when they’d been young and full of hope, when Ashleigh had still loved him. Before he’d betrayed her.
“Is this your father’s old truck?” she suddenly asked, touching the dashboard.
“The one and only. This beauty is a workhorse.”
“And it still runs?”
“Hums like a well-oiled machine.”
“I guess some things don’t change that much.”
He cast her a sideways look and noticed the confident set of her jaw and the overwhelming power of her femininity. “And some change a lot.” Just like they’d both changed in so many ways, internally and externally. He wasn’t the poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks anymore. And she wasn’t the innocent teenager who’d looked up at him with adoration. She was worldly now, confident, and, if he had to guess, not as trusting anymore.
They rode in silence for a moment. “So you’re still in construction?” she asked.
“I pick up a job here and there.” It wasn’t a lie. Neither was it the truth. He owned his own company now. But it wouldn’t make a difference. Ashleigh hadn’t been the one who’d been worried about his lack of money, but her parents. For the Welsleys, or rather for Mrs. Welsley, he’d never be good enough, never be worthy, no matter how successful he was, or how much money he had. He and his sister Jill would always be considered townies, and no amount of nice clothes or fancy houses would change that. Maybe to prove that he didn’t care what anybody thought, he still drove his dad’s old pickup truck and wore Levi’s more often than not. It was who he was, the secret bil-lionaire in blue jeans. And he liked it that way.
“Where are we going?” she asked finally.
He hesitated, wanting to tell her the truth but not wanting to open up a whole conversation he didn’t want to get into. “To a job I’m working on. It has a great view. We can get a bite to eat there.” He pulled into the circular driveway of one of East Hampton’s oceanfront homes, and his greatest source of pride. Whether they liked it or not, this townie was playing with the big boys now.
“Are you sure it’s okay?” she asked, looking around her.
“This is your job site?”
He had to admit, he liked seeing the look of appreciation in her eyes. Seeing her sitting here, in his old truck, staring at his house, filled him with an immense sense of pride. No, he didn’t want to let her go. What he wanted was to touch her—the silkiness of her hair, the softness of her skin, and to feel her touching his skin, running her fingertips over him in a slow caress. But he didn’t.
“Yep, just finishing up the pool house,” he said. “Want to see it?”
“Sure,” she said, her tongue peeking out to moisten her luscious lips, as if she was trying to tempt him.
Shit! He was hurtling toward heartbreak, could see the flashing warning signs, but he couldn’t turn back now, even if he wanted to. No brakes on his heart.
His eyes met hers and connected. They held there for a moment, her gaze piercing through his protective layers and reaching right into his heart.
He tore his eyes away, trying to forge some sort of armor around himself, but it was no use. He’d already lost this battle.
She would always be the one who got away… the one who took his heart with her. The one who could easily crush it with her bare hands and destroy what was left of it. If he gave her the chance.