Read Dakota Homecoming Online

Authors: Lisa Mondello

Tags: #Dakota Hearts, Book 10

Dakota Homecoming (10 page)

BOOK: Dakota Homecoming
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“AWOL?”

Grace scraped the bottom of the chafing dish of the leftover food and put it the remaining food in a smaller plastic bowl. “No one has seen Julian’s face in nearly nine months.”

“I knew it had to be a pretty girl,” Sam chimed in. “It’s always a pretty girl.”

“Oh, really?” Summer said. “Is that all I am?”

He hooked Summer around her neck and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “It’s not
all
you are, but I do love your pretty face, sweetheart. Among other things.”

Summer’s cheeks turned a bright crimson as she glanced at everyone who was within earshot of them.

Georgie glanced at Kate. “Nice. Go ahead and embarrass my future daughter-in-law again. She might just change her mind and decide to go back to Providence.”

Summer shook her head. “Not a chance, Kate. Someone has to keep him in line when you’re not around.”

Kate laughed and pointed to her. “Good girl! You learn fast.” Kate glanced at Georgie and said, “I want to hear the story. How did you and Julian meet?”

Georgie lifted her gaze and searched the room for Julian. He was standing by the door with Ian, Luke, and Gray. The conversation they were having was one they were all engaged in. He was completely oblivious to the scrutiny she was under with his aunt and his sister.

Being on her own, she decided to answer honestly giving enough details to satisfy them without giving herself and Julian away. “I saw him from across the parking lot and he followed me into the store. I’d gone in to get a few things and saw him following me around. When I went back out into the parking lot, I asked him why he was following me.”

“He followed you around the store?” Grace asked.

“He didn’t buy anything?” Kate asked.

Georgie shook her head. “No. I had a big paper bag in my arms and when I spun around the bag split right down the middle and everything spilled out onto the ground. Cars were driving around us as we tried to pick everything up.”

“What did he say to you?” Grace asked.

She thought back to that day. It seemed so long ago but it was only a few weeks. “He told me that he'd been searching for me for a long time.”

Grace looked as if she were about to melt. “My brother said
that
?”

Georgie nodded. Of course, they didn’t know the context of Julian’s words. He had also told her he knew she was running and that she must be tired of doing it alone. He knew she’d reached out to the FBI for help and then she’d bolted. But now that he’d found her, he’d work day and night to make sure she was safe.

She’d been the one to melt that day. Or whimper. It didn’t really matter what kind of fool she’d made of herself. For the first time since she’d heard that Angela was afraid to leave Eduardo’s compound for fear of what might happen to her, since Georgie had finally learned the truth about her mother’s murder, that she’d felt hope. Her mistake had been going to the compound blindly, to convince Angela to leave with her, only to meet up with Eduardo Sanchez instead. Instead of rescuing her cousin, Georgie had put unwanted attention on herself. She’d escaped Colombia and returned to the United States like a scared dog with her tail between her legs.

“Well, Julian sure does surprise,” Kate said. “But then, all these boys have been a happy surprise.”

She didn’t know why, but the conversation between Grace and Kate had left a bad taste in Georgie’s mouth for the rest of the evening. She was happy that Julian’s parents had left the diner early. With any luck, they’d be asleep by the time she and Julian made it back to the house.

Julian pulled the car into the driveway and killed the engine. “It’s much colder than it was earlier. You should button up your jacket.”

He got out of the car and walked over to the passenger side door. Georgie had seen his father open the car door for his mother. Julian had done it countless times for her. That type of chivalry was taught and she was sure John McKinnon had set a good example for his sons.

However, it wasn’t the type of behavior Georgie was used to. And while it was flattering to have a man treat her with respect, it still made her uncomfortable. Everything she and Julian had done since she’d arrived in South Dakota had been for show. They hadn’t gone out of their way to pretend they were an actual couple. The closest she’d come to suggesting that was telling Grace and Kate how she and Julian had met. But after days of being in South Dakota, spending time with Julian’s family and…liking them, Georgie was beginning to feel like a fraud.

A rush of cold air startled her as Julian opened the car door. He held out his hand to help her out of the car.

She took his hand, but once again, felt uncomfortable. “You don’t have to do this.”

He frowned. “Do what?”

“No one is watching us. There’s no need to pretend with me now. The only light that is on in the house is the kitchen light. You don’t have to pretend for your family.”

She didn’t wait for Julian by the car. Instead, she pulled her jacket tighter against her chest and headed to the house. When she didn’t hear the car door slam, she turned around. Julian was still standing by the car.

“Are you coming?”

His look of bewilderment made her pause. She retraced what she’d just done. It had been a kneejerk reaction, one she’d had many times in her life when a man had given her unwanted attention. But Julian wasn’t doing that. He’d been nothing but a gentleman despite the difficult circumstances they’d found themselves in.

“I’m sorry.”

He shut the car door and walked up the walkway she’d just traveled. The cold was biting into her exposed cheeks and her fingers, but she waited.

“What happened?”

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

“I’m tired. I know that’s no excuse for my snapping at you,” Georgie said.

They walked to the porch and climbed the steps to the door in silence. Julian unlocked the door and pushed it aside, waiting for Georgie to walk inside before he did. Then he shut off the outside light and locked the door behind him.

He felt the familiar mix of emotions he always felt when he came home. He took in the scent that assaulted his nose. His mother always burned eucalyptus during the day and Julian had come to associate that smell with home. He’d missed the familiarity of it.

The house was quiet. His parents had gone to bed. They usually went to bed early and he’d stayed up and watch television until the wee hours of the morning. It had been a habit of his since he was in high school.

They hung their jackets up in the mudroom. Before Georgie could disappear upstairs, he clutched her arm and kept her from leaving the mudroom where he knew they’d be alone in case someone got up and walked into the kitchen.

“You didn’t answer me,” he said, looking down at her face. She was tired. He could see it in her eyes. But he wasn’t sure if it was mere fatigue or if being with his family had been an emotion drain for her. All he knew for sure was that he was tired too. Tired of this game. Tired of holding his emotions at bay.

“Didn’t I?” Her voice was quiet, but it still sounded loud with no other sound in the house competing with it.

“Did something happen that I should know about?”

Her gaze drifted lower.

“Did Eduardo call you tonight?”

She glanced up at him quickly. “No. I would have told you if he’d called. Besides, you said my phone was being monitored.”

“It is. But I thought…”

“What?”

“Are you worried about Angela?”

She nodded. “I wish she would call. It’s the only way I know that she’s okay. Not hearing from her is killing me. But I know she won’t call unless it’s safe.”

“You’re worried. That’s natural.”

Georgie sighed. “Your aunt and sister asked me how we met. I didn’t know what to tell them.”

“What
did
you tell them?”

“The truth.”

His mouth dropped open.

“Not everything. I just told them how we met at the store. When you first approached me and how the grocery bag broke.”

He nodded, feeling relief at her answer. “That’s good.”

“I didn’t know what else to say. But I feel guilty. I don’t like lying. I don’t like all this pretending. I want it to be over.”

He reached out to her, touching her chin with his fingers lightly to make her look up at him. He hated seeing her this way. “It will be soon. They’re close.”

Georgie was so beautiful it took his breath away. He’d been fighting the urge to touch her all night. Just to take her hand, touch her cheek, bend his head and kiss her. To do so seemed natural. Everyone already assumed they were a couple. They’d fooled them all. That had been the plan.

But they weren’t a couple. Not in the true sense. The regret that had filled Julian out at the car when Georgie had clearly brushed him off for something as simple as opening the car door and helping her slammed that reality home.

He smiled down at her and looked straight into her hazel eyes. “You didn’t lie. We did meet that way. There’s nothing to feel guilty about.”

“But it’s still a lie. We’re still a lie.”

“Are we?”

Her eyes widened as the realization of what he’d just said registered. Georgie’s lips were parted and she looked up at him as if she needed him. Well, hell, he needed her and he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to let her know how much.

With all thoughts of reason gone, Julian bent his head and brushed his mouth against Georgie’s soft, sweet lips. They were moist and soft and tasted sweet. He remembered the way they felt. The tender kiss they’d shared out on the hill was still burned into his brain. He still felt the ache in his body for wanting her. And he wanted more of her. All of her. As need built inside of him, he found it harder to remember where he was and why he was there. He forgot all the reason why he should let her go and just do his job.

Instead, he wrapped his arm around Georgie’s waist and pulled her against his body. Her full breasts pressed against his chest and made him grow hard. His body ached as Georgie squirmed beneath his touch.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer. The little murmur he heard bubble up from her throat as he kissed her deeply only surged him on. He pushed her forward so her back was against the wall and he could feel the full length of her body against his. She was tiny and soft and wonderful and just touching her electrified him.

His mouth made a moist trail of kisses along her neck. He slipped the fabric on her shoulder aside and kissed her collarbone, lingering there and relishing in the feel of this incredible woman in his arms.

She dug her hands in his hair and pushed him lower. Knowing what she wanted only fueled the frantic need that threatened to tear him in two. Julian cupped her breast over the fabric of her dress and he heard her cry out in pleasure. He wanted more. As his lips reached the soft skin of her breast, he felt her body stiffen beneath his touch.

Still breathing heavy, Julian lifted his head to look at Georgie’s face. She had a faraway look in her eyes.

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

He listened for a few seconds. There were footsteps upstairs.

“Someone is coming,” she said.

He shook his head. “My father probably heard the car and was just checking to make sure I turned off the porch light. It’s a habit of his.”

He cupped Georgie’s cheek and smiled at her. But the look in her eyes told him the moment was gone.

“We should go to bed. I mean, turn in for the night,” she said.

He forced a smile through his disappointment. “I knew what you meant.”

She nodded.

“It’s been a long day,” she said, as if she needed to convince him further.

Julian took a step back. His body was still on fire and he wasn’t completely steady on his feet.

“Yeah,” he said.

She brushed her hair back with both hands and looked directly at him. “You’re a good man, Julian McKinnon. You’re too good a man to get mixed up with a woman like me. You deserve better.”

Anger surged through him. “Too good?”

“You’re wonderful,” she said, her bottom lip trembling. “You’re decent. You’d never think of hurting me. You…you make me feel safe.”

His whole body stiffened as he held on to his control. “What if I told you I wanted to have you right here, right now. I want to be inside you, Georgie. I’ve wanted this for weeks.”

He saw the rise and fall of her chest as she looked at him. If she was shocked, she didn’t’ show it.

“If I could have you right now, I would. If you’d have me. But I know it wouldn’t be enough. I’d want more.” He leaned in closer and lowered his voice. “I want my mouth on you. I want to taste you. All of you. Do you understand?”

She nodded slowly.

“Do you still think I’m too good for you? A man who is so crazy for you that I’d make love to you in a damned mudroom if that’s all I could have? I’m just a man, Georgie. Just like any other man. You’re the one who deserves better.”

BOOK: Dakota Homecoming
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