Holly’s eyelids fluttered open as the first golden rays of sunrise drifted through her curtains to rest on her face. She groaned and shoved herself out of bed, stopping when she felt the cold air of the fan across her skin. Her very naked skin. She chanced a glance down at herself and squeaked in embarrassment. How did she manage to end up naked in bed? She always wore a nightgown when she slept. She rushed to her dresser and slipped into her favorite ice blue nightgown, then trotted down the stairs. She walked into the living room on silent feet, and then stopped when she saw the form on her couch. Lachlan. What the hell was he doing in her house? She started to turn away, and then realized that he was only wearing a pair of black boxers.
Holly tiptoed around the front of the couch, intent on shaking him awake. She stopped when she saw the very His broad, ripped chest seamlessly turned into twin rows of rock hard abs with the manly “V” of muscles between his hip bones. There wasn’t a single hair on his chest or stomach, hiding nothing from her gaze. His thighs and calves looked like they could lift hundreds of pounds easily. His whole body looked like it was carved from solid granite. Holly chanced a glance at his boxers, noticing the bulge stretching the front. Did he have a boner? Or was he just naturally that large? His face wasn’t the only sexy thing about him, Holly thought. No wonder the women threw themselves at his feet in droves.
Then another thought crossed her mind. How did Lachlan end up in his boxers on her couch? And her in bed, naked? She backed away from him and scurried into the kitchen to the coffee maker. Holly started the coffee brewing, then traipsed to the kitchen island to lean against the counter. She listened to the machine slowly chugging out the liquid, straightening when the gurgling stopped and going to the cupboard that held the mugs. She pulled down the mug that her father had given her. Plastered on the front of the mug were the words ‘I love you, Holly’ surrounded by roses. Her father had had the mug designed especially for her when she got home from college. She’d always thought the mug was lucky.
Holly was filling the mug with steaming black coffee when Lachlan appeared in the doorway, fully dressed. “Morning.” He said his voice thick with sleep.
“Morning,” Holly replied, sipping from the mug in her hands. “How did you end up on my couch?”
“You mean you don’t remember?”
“Uh no. What am I supposed to remember? We went out, had dinner, you gave me a gift. The next thing I know I’m waking up in my bed with not a stitch of clothing on.”
“You got drunk.”
“What?” Holly cried. “Did you do it deliberately so you could do whatever you wanted with me?”
“No, Holl. I would never take advantage of you.”
“I don’t believe you. I woke up naked.” She slammed her coffee mug on the counter and marched to the other side of the island, putting the space of the kitchen between them. “Then I came downstairs and found you on my couch in your boxers.”
“Holly. It’s not what you think.” Lachlan said pleadingly.
“Yeah, and the moon is made of Limburger cheese.” Holly huffed.
“Please listen to me. Nothing happened.” Lachlan begged.
Holly wasn’t buying it. The man was a well-known womanizer. “I don’t believe you!” She yelled, her face turning red.
“Holly. Honey, I promise nothing happened. I brought you home and you invited me in.”
“That doesn’t explain why I was naked this morning.” She’d never woken up with a man on her couch or in her bed and no memory of what had happened the night before. Then again, she didn’t have affairs very often.
“That was your doing,” Lachlan said pointedly.
“Oh please. Everyone knows you’re a womanizer,” Holly said sarcastically. “And I would never do something that stupid.”
Lachlan balked as though she’d slapped him. He turned on his heel. “I never should have agreed to this marriage. Goodbye, Holly.” He said with a deathly calm and marched out of the room. A minute later, Holly heard the harsh slam of the front door.
Holly made a frustrated noise that was a mix between a growl and a shriek and stomped back up the stairs to her bedroom. She sat down heavily on her bed, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
Her anger at Lachlan was so great that she was physically shaking with rage. Slowly, her rage turned to sadness. So much so that she called Faith and put her in charge of the boutique for the day. She went to the grocery store and bought a shopping basket of Haagan Dazs Dulce de leche ice cream and boxes of tissues, not caring what people would think. She’d messed up completely. And she couldn’t do anything about it.
Lachlan was furious as he drove home from Holly’s house. Holly couldn’t have been more wrong about him and what had happened that night. Lachlan knew the truth.
The night before, Holly and Lachlan had gone on their date. Dinner at the garden restaurant. Lachlan had given Holly the custom diamond necklace. And they’d eaten. Then Lachlan had taken her for a stroll through the surf of Santa Monica beach and they’d watched the sunset. After the sunset, Lachlan had brought Holly home and she’d invited him in for a drink.
Despite Lachlan’s best intentions, he’d agreed. The night had started innocently enough. Holly had poured him a glass of 1961 Chateau Latour, and they’d settled on the couch. Then Holly had begun to complain about being cold, and Lachlan had wrapped his arm around her shoulders and their innocent evening had taken a turn for the sexual.
Holly had initiated the make-out session, and Lachlan had been an enthusiastic participant. The clothes started to come off quickly. She’d ended up naked, but he’d managed to keep his boxers on. Yet he’d managed to stop before they had sex. Holly had been drunk, and her hands had been everywhere on his body, but he’d been able to keep his wits about him. He’d carried her up to her bedroom and left her sleeping in her bed. And decided to stay the night to make sure she was alright. So, he’d slept on the couch. Not his best move. He probably should have left and put her clothes back on her. Or her pajamas. Or something. If he’d done so, she wouldn’t have blamed him for something that wasn’t his fault.
Lachlan’s intentions of being romantic had backfired. He might have promised her father that he’d marry her, but he really didn’t care anymore. She’d made a fool of him. And if that was how their dating relationship was, he didn’t want to know how their married relationship would have been.
He pulled his car into the garage of his house and parked, then gathered his suit jacket, pushed open the door and unfolded himself from the seat. Lachlan marched into his house and into his bedroom, throwing his suit jacket onto the bed. He pulled out his cellphone and opened the address book. Scrolling through the numbers, he looked for the number for Claire, the beautiful, busty woman he would call whenever he needed a night or three of hot and horny sex. If he and Holly were still together, it would be considered cheating. But he really didn’t give a damn.
He tapped the green button next to Claire’s number and placed the phone to his ear. Claire answered on the first ring. “Lachlan!” She exclaimed. “I missed you.”
Lachlan chuckled. “I missed you too, Claire. What are your plans for tonight?”
Claire inhaled. “Nothing actually. But what about your girlfriend?”
“What girlfriend?” Lachlan asked nonchalantly. “Oh, you mean Holly. She was never my girlfriend. I’m a free man.”
“Good,” Claire said cheerfully.
“Do you want to come over tonight? I have a stiff cock and a box of condoms with your name on them.” Lachlan said enticingly.
Claire squealed. “Absolutely. But why wait until tonight. I’ll be over in an hour.”
Lachlan smiled to himself. “Perfect.” He said, then hung up.
He tossed the phone on his bed and strode to the master bathroom, shedding clothes as he walked. Lachlan showered and dressed in the black T-shirt that stretched across his muscular biceps and chest, and a pair of dark wash jeans. He shaved and dabbed the aftershave Claire liked on his jaw, then brushed his teeth.
Lachlan left his bedroom and swaggered casually to the living room, sitting on the couch with one of his favorite books. He looked at the pages of the book but didn’t really see them. His mind on the situation with Holly, instead of the mind-blowing sex he was about to share with Claire.
He forced the thoughts of Holly out of his mind and focused on the pages, putting down the book when the doorbell rang. “That’s Claire.” He said to himself.
And went to answer the door. Anticipating the day, or three, ahead.
Holly lay curled in a ball on her living room couch, watching the five o’clock news. A barely touched container of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de leche ice cream sat on the coffee table, completely melted. She couldn’t seem to find the heart to care about the story being discussed. The local animal shelter had received another huge donation. She crumpled the tissue in her hand and dropped it on the floor to join the dozens of other tissues that had found their way to the floor since she’d come home.
Holly reached for the container of ice cream, now covered in condensation, and sighed in resignation when she saw that the ice cream had melted into a runny mess. She uncurled her feet from under her thighs and stood.
She was walking through the kitchen to the freezer when she thought about how she’d treated Lachlan that morning, not giving him a chance to explain anything that had or hadn’t happened last night. She wasn’t a loose woman. And she knew that Lachlan wasn’t the kind of man to take advantage of a woman.
“Oh God, what have I done?” She cried to the empty house. The ice cream container slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor, splashing liquid across the grey tiles. She ignored the mess as she felt tears prick her eyes.
Lachlan was the man she was supposed to marry as per her father’s final wish. And she’d failed her father. Because she’d pushed Lachlan away. Holly looked down at the puddle of melted ice cream on the white and cream tile, not really seeing it. She turned and walked on unsteady legs out of the kitchen, through the living room, and to the stairs, her bare feet treading through the liquid ice cream. She trudged up the carpeted stairs to her bedroom, and collapsed onto her bed, sobbing into the blankets.
Her entire world had taken a nosedive in less than a day.
Lachlan lay on his back in the middle of a tangle of Egyptian cotton sheets, Claire’s warm, supple body curled around his side. He looked down at her sleeping form and instantly felt regret swirling in his chest. What have I done? He thought.
He slipped his arm out from under her neck and sat up, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration.
He’d just done the most asinine thing of his entire life. And with the world’s loosest woman. And he knew for a fact that she would brag to everyone she had in her address book, about the past few hours. And eventually, it would get to Holly.
Claire stretched and opened her eyes. “Are you ready for another round?” She purred, running her palm along his leg, getting very close to his now limp cock. Which, like the rest of him, wanted nothing to do with her.
“Stop, Claire,” Lachlan said. He ran his hand through his hair. “What am I gonna do?” He muttered, picking up her hand and dropping it a safe distance from his crotch.
Claire propped herself up on her elbow, her generous breasts displayed for all to see. “You can lay back down and bang me again.”
Lachlan grimaced, the thought of touching Claire again making him sick to his stomach. “How could I do this to Holly?” He whispered.
“Who’s Holly?” She asked sweetly, replacing her palm on his thigh.
“A woman I really care about. Now get out of my house.” He snapped.
Claire sneered. “If you really care about her, why did you just spend hours screwing me and not her?”
Lachlan was fuming. “I dunno, Claire. Maybe because I felt sorry for you. From what I’ve seen in the newspaper, you haven’t gotten a date in months. Because you’re a clinging vine and get jealous if any guy who takes you out even looks at another girl. Last I heard you got into a catfight with a twenty-two-year-old socialite at a party and pulled out some of her hair, just because your date smiled at her.” Lachlan grabbed her wrist and yanked her hand away from his thigh. “Now get the hell out of my house. You’ve caused enough damage.” He stood and marched to the closet door, grabbed his bathrobe, and threw it on. “Out.” He shouted. “Or do I have to throw you out naked?”
Claire reluctantly slipped from the bed and dressed. She pulled on her shoes, impractical five-inch spike heels, and walked proudly from the bedroom.
Lachlan followed her and watched her gather her purse and sashay to the front door. She turned with a saucy look on her face. “You’re sure you won’t change your mind?” She said sweetly.
“Out!” He yelled.
Claire squeaked and scurried out the door.
Lachlan sighed in both relief and sadness when the door closed behind her. Relief because Claire was gone. Sadness because Holly was gone.
He had to talk to Holly. He dialed her cellphone and waited impatiently as it rang. And rang. And rang. When her voicemail message ended, he said to the machine, “Holly, its Lachlan, please answer. Or call me.” Then he called her house and got the same results.
He called Faith next. If anyone knew where Holly was, it was her best friend.
Faith answered on the fifth ring. “What do you want, Jacoby?”
“Faith. Where’s Holly.”
“Avoiding you,” Faith said angrily. “You broke her trust.”
“I didn’t do anything to her. I swear. Will you just listen to me? Please.” He pleaded.
Faith sighed. “Fine. You got sixty seconds.”
Lachlan laid out exactly what happened the night before, all in one breath. “And I need to find her.” He said, out of breath.
Faith was silent.
“Please. Faith.” Lachlan said desperately.
Faith finally spoke. “She’s at home.”
“I just called her house and her cell. She’s not answering.”
“She probably doesn’t want to talk to you.”
It was Lachlan’s turn to sigh. “I know. And I know why too.”
“Whatever it is, it’s between you and Holly. I’ll call her and try and see what’s going on.”
“I need to know that she’s okay,” Lachlan said determinedly. “Call her. I’m going over there. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“Lachlan. I’m sure everything’s fine.” Faith said soothingly.
“I need to talk to her. ” Lachlan said.
“Don’t. You’ll only make it worse. Let her come to you.” Faith said sternly. “Holly has already been through a lot. Don’t you remember that she just lost her father?”
Lachlan raked his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. I remember. Shit. What am I going to do?”
“Be patient. That’s all you can do.”
All he could do?
Lachlan didn’t really agree with that.
Lachlan was standing in front of his bathroom mirror in a black, terry cloth robe, spreading shaving cream along his jaw, when he heard the doorbell ring repeatedly. As though someone was leaning on the button. He grabbed a towel and wiped the white foam off his face as he walked out of his bedroom and through his house to the front door.
Glancing through the thin window on one side of the door frame, he recognized Kim, and quickly closed the neckline of his robe, covering his chest. He twisted the doorknob and pulled open the door. “Hey, little sis.” he said casually. “To what do I owe this visit?”
Kim didn’t speak but drew back her fist and punched him in the stomach.
Lachlan’s breath left his body in a sharp whoosh, and he curled into himself, clutching his stomach where her fist had made contact. “Shit, Kim. What the hell was that for?” He stepped away from the door, both to get out of range if Kim decided to hit him again, and to keep his neighbors from seeing his sister whaling on him.
“You know damn well what it was for.” Kim hissed. “I heard about you cheating on Holly. With Claire.” If looks could kill, Lachlan would be on the floor, dead as a doornail.
Lachlan swallowed. “Who told you?”
“Who do you think? The bragger herself.” Kim looked at him with a mixture of anger and disgust. “She called every female in her address book. How could you? Holly is a hundred times the woman Claire is.”
Lachlan couldn’t form an answer, his tongue immobilized by his embarrassment.
Kim pressed forward. “I’ve always looked up to you, Lachlan. And you’ve had plenty of lows in your life. But this is a completely new one that is much, much, worse than your previous lows. I wouldn’t blame Holly if she doesn’t forgive you. I wouldn’t forgive you if I was in her position.”
Lachlan opened his mouth, and then closed it. He couldn’t form a reply to his sister’s tirade.
“I don’t understand you sometimes Lachlan. When are you going to start thinking with your brain and not the little thing between your legs?” She drew back her fist, aiming at his face this time.
Lachlan finally found his voice, and his anger. “Let’s get some things straight, Kim. One: I do think with my brain. I have a high sex-drive, but that doesn’t mean that I think with my dick. If I only thought with that part of my anatomy, I would be as stupid as a piece of driftwood. Two: I immediately regretted sleeping with Claire when it was over. And three: I know I don’t deserve Holly’s forgiveness.”
Kim lowered her fist, “Well, it’s nice to know that you’ve owned up to your assholeness.” She scowled. “But I still can’t believe I’m related to a man slut.” She said angrily.
“And I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.” Lachlan retorted. “You’re the last person I would talk to about my sex life.”
“Well too bad. We’re gonna talk about it. Because you really screwed up this time, Lachlan Andrew Jacoby.”
“Do you have to use my middle name?” Lachlan huffed.
“Since it’s one of the only ways to get things through your damned thick skull, aside from punching you again, yes, I have to use your middle name.” Kim said pointedly.
“Well, please refrain from punching me again.” Lachlan replied, putting all his big brother authority in the tone of his voice.
Kim rolled her eyes. “I’ll do my best to restrain myself.” She said tartly, “But you’re not off the hook yet. I’m still mad at you for screwing around on Holly. That woman doesn’t deserve to be cheated on. Especially by someone who’s supposed to be marrying her.”
Lachlan sighed. “We’re not engaged yet, Kim.”
“So, what? You could still fall in love with her. And her with you.”
Lachlan scoffed. “I thought you were mad at me.”
“I am. But that doesn’t mean I can’t wish for a sister-in-law that my idiot brother loves more than life itself.”
Lachlan shook his head. “You’re a hopeless romantic Kim. You know that, right?”
“One of us has to be. Back to the reason I’m here. You’d better grovel on your knees to Holly like your life depends on it. Grovel until she forgives you.”
“I know I have a lot of groveling to do for Holly before she forgives me. But I know I want this marriage.”
“Good. Don’t forget it. And you had better make this marriage happen. Soon.” Kim said over her shoulder, walking down the sidewalk toward her sleek, silver convertible. Lachlan watched as she grasped the side of the car and swung herself into the driver’s seat, not bothering to open the door. With a roar of the engine, she cranked the gears and peeled around the bend of Lachlan’s circle driveway, waving at him over the back of the seat.
Lachlan waved back, then turned and strode back into his house with a shake of his head. “Ah, Kim. Someday she’ll find a man who can handle her.” He said to the empty house.
Now he just had to figure out how to get Holly to forgive him.