Soaring on Love(3)

By: Joy Avery



Everything, she ruefully admitted. So why in the hell was she about to marry another man? Because Cyrus is the right choice. She eyed the gaudy diamond on her finger. So why didn’t she feel the same exhilaration when she looked at Cyrus as she did when she eyed Roth? It’ll come, she told herself. Give it time.

The air in the room grew thick, and she struggled to breathe. Was she having a panic attack? Fresh air. She needed fresh air. Weaving her way through the crowd, she escaped unseen through a side door. On the massive stone patio, she sucked in a few deep breaths. After several minutes her pounding heart returned to its normal steady beat. But she still felt as if she were plummeting.

The chill of the winter night air jarred her, making her regret not grabbing a jacket. She cradled herself in her arms to generate some heat. Closing her eyes, she appreciated the stillness of the night. But even the tranquil setting couldn’t silence her thoughts and they popped right back open, the world rushing in.

Fools rush in.

She wasn’t sure why the phrase blared at full volume in her thoughts. Fools rush in. Was she rushing into this? At thirty-four, shouldn’t she be married? Some of her friends were already married with several kids. Her mother’s voice played in her head and she smiled. If your friends jumped off a roof, would you jump, too?

No, Mommy, but… She sighed. Her biological clock was tick, tick, ticking away. She wanted kids. A houseful of germy, whiny, adorable, lovable kids. She thought about Jamison and her eyes burned with impending tears. Pushing thoughts of the boy away, she refocused.

Cyrus is a good man. An honorable man. A respectable man. So why did it feel like she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life?

Tilting her head heavenward, she whispered, “God, please give me a sign.”

“Escaping your own party?” The voice came from behind.

Tressa flinched. That was fast. Ignoring Roth as the sign—for now—she turned toward him. No man should have been allowed to look that damn good in a simple black suit. On any other man, it would have been forgettable apparel. Something told her this image would linger in her thoughts all night.

Finding her words, she said, “Um…no. Not escaping. I just needed some fresh air. So many people inside. It’s a bit stuffy. How’d you know I was out here?”

Roth leaned against the banister, crossing his legs at the ankle. “Instinct, I guess.”

Instinct, her ass. She’d felt the caress of his eyes on her all night. She may have escaped everyone else, but she hadn’t escaped his watchful eye. “And here I am, believing I’d made a clean getaway.”

“Getaway, huh? What—or who—are you running from?”

Curious eyes probed her. “No one.”

“Hmm.”

Why did that hmm sound so accusing? Roth straightened to his full height. They stood in silence for a moment, simply staring at one another. The intensity in his eyes made her knees wobble, but she refused to turn away. If he wanted to assert dominance, he’d have to find a less willful opponent.

Then he folded his arms across his chest and the move rattled her, because his biceps blossomed into cannonballs and strained against the tailored suit coat—it fit him far too well to be off-the-rack.

“So, fresh air is the only reason you’re out here?” he said.

Regrouping, Tressa said, “What other reason would there be?”

He shrugged one wide shoulder. “I don’t know. It looked like you were having some kind of anxiety attack. I came out to check on you.”

Tressa released a nervous laugh. “What? No. An anxiety attack?” She brushed his accurate words off. “No.” How was he diagnosing her with anything? He was an aerospace engineer, not a doctor. But the fact that he was concerned about her warmed her insides. “I’m fine. Like I said, it was stuffy in there. I came out—”

“For fresh air,” he said, completing her sentence.

“Yeah.” A corner of his mouth lifted into a sexy smile and she chastised herself for staring so hard at his lips. Lifting her eyes to his, she mumbled, “I’m just fine.”

“Good. You’re going to catch your death out here, Nurse Washington.” Roth removed his suit coat and draped it over her shoulders. “Better?”

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