This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars #5)(11)


by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

"Not enough snow."

"I'm going to find that airfield?" He shot toward the coat closet.

"No! We'll—we'll hike."

"Hike?" He looked as if she'd suggested bird-watching.

She thought fast. "There's a really treacherous path along the bluffs. It's so dangerous that it's closed off when there's wind or even a hint of snow, but I know a back way to get to it. Except you need to be really sure you want to do this. It's narrow and icy, and the slightest misstep could send you plunging to your death."

"You're making this up."

"I don't have that much imagination."

"You're a writer."

"Children's books. They're completely nonviolent. Now, if you want to stand around and talk all morning, that's up to you. But I'd like a little adventure."

She'd finally caught his interest.

"Let's get to it, then."

They had a good time on their hike, even though Molly never quite managed to locate the treacherous path she'd promised Kevin—maybe because she'd invented it. Still, the bluff they crossed was bitterly cold and windy, so he didn't complain too much. He even reached out to take her hand on an icy stretch, but she wasn't that foolish. Instead, she gave him a snooty look and told him he'd have to manage on his own because she wasn't going to prop him up every time he saw a little ice and got scared.

He'd laughed and climbed up on a slippery pile of rocks. The sight of him facing the winter-gray water, head thrown back, wind tearing through that dark blond hair had stolen her breath.

For the rest of their walk she'd forgotten to be obnoxious, and they had far too much fun. By the time they returned to the house, her teeth were chattering from the cold, but every womanly part of her burned.

He shrugged out of his coat and rubbed his hands. "I wouldn't mind using your hot tub."

And she wouldn't mind using his hot body. "Go ahead. I have to get back to work." As Molly rushed toward the loft, she found herself remembering what Phoebe had once said to her.

When you're raised as we were, Moll, casual sex is a snake pit. We need a love that's soul-deep, and I'm here to testify that you don't find it by bed-hopping.

Although Molly had never bed-hopped, she knew that Phoebe was right. Except what was a twenty-seven-year-old woman with a healthy body, but no soul-deep love, supposed to do? If only Kevin had acted shallow and stupid on their walk… but he hadn't talked about football once. Instead, they'd talked about books, living in Chicago, and their mutual passion for This Is Spinal Tap.

She couldn't concentrate on Daphne, so she flipped open her laptop to work on "Making Out—How Far to Go?" The subject depressed her even more.

By her junior year at Northwestern she'd grown sick of waiting for her Great Love Story to come along, so she'd decided to forget about soul-deep love and settle for soul-deep caring with a boy she'd been dating for a month. But losing her virginity had been a mistake. The affair had left her depressed, and she knew that Phoebe had been right. She wasn't made for casual sex.

A few years later she'd convinced herself she finally cared enough about a man to try again. He'd been intelligent and charming, but the wrenching sadness following the affair had taken months to fade.

She'd had a number of boyfriends since then, but no lovers, and she'd done her best to sublimate her sex drive with hard work and good friends. Chastity might be old-fashioned, but sex was an emotional quagmire for a woman who hadn't known love until she was fifteen. So why did she keep thinking about it, especially with Kevin Tucker in the house?

Because she was only human, and the Stars quarterback was a delectable piece of body candy, a walking aphrodisiac, a grown-up toy boy. She moaned, glared at her keyboard, and forced herself to concentrate.

At five she heard him leave the house. By seven "Making Out—How Far to Go?" was nearly done. Unfortunately, the subject had left her edgy and more than a little aroused. She called Janine, but her friend wasn't home, so she went down-stairs and stared at herself in the small kitchen mirror. It was too late for the stores to be open, or she could have run out for hair color. Maybe she'd just cut it. That crew cut a few years ago hadn't been so bad.

She was lying to herself. It had been horrible.

She grabbed a Lean Cuisine instead of the scissors and ate at the kitchen counter. Afterward she dug the marshmallows out of a carton of Rocky Road ice cream. Finally she grabbed her drawing pad and settled in front of the fireplace to sketch. But she hadn't slept well, and before long her lids grew heavy. Kevin's arrival sometime after midnight made her bolt up.

"Hey, Daphne."

She rubbed her eyes. "Hello, Karl."

He hung his coat on the back of a chair. It reeked of perfume. "This thing needs to air out."

"I'll say." Jealousy gnawed at her. While she'd been drooling over Kevin's body and obsessing about her own hangups, she'd ignored one important fact: He hadn't shown the slightest interest in her. "You must have been busy," she said. "It smells like more than one brand. All of them domestic, or did you find an au pair somewhere?"

"I wasn't that lucky. The women were unfortunately American, and they all talked too much." His pointed look said she did, too.

"And I'll bet lots of the words had more than one syllable, so you probably have a headache." She needed to stop this. He wasn't nearly as dumb as she wanted him to be, and if she didn't watch herself, he was going to figure out exactly how much interest she took in his personal life.

He looked more aggravated than angry. "I happen to like to relax when I'm on a date. I don't want to debate world politics or discuss global warming or be forced to listen to people with unpredictable personal hygiene recite bad poetry."

"Gee, and those are all my favorite things."

He shook his head, then rose and stretched, lengthening that lean body vertebra by vertebra. He was already bored with her. Probably because she hadn't entertained him by reciting his career statistics.

"I'd better turn in," he said. "I'm taking off first thing tomorrow, so if I don't see you, thanks for the hospitality."

She managed a yawn. "Ciao, babycakes." She knew he had to get back for practice, but that didn't ease her disappointment.