If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1) (3 page)

BOOK: If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1)
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“I’m betting he never bothered to tell you about that. Did he, Mari?” Eric asked. “I know Ryan wanted to keep that story from you—how Kavanaugh clobbered your brother in the parking lot of the courthouse after the judge made his final decision about the lawsuit?” His upper lip curled in contempt, Eric glanced at Marc.

Marc closed his eyes in what appeared to be frustration and mounting anger. After a second, he met her stare. She read regret on his features.

“I thought Ryan would have told you,” he said, for her ears only. “I thought maybe that was part of the reason you avoided me all these years.”

Something about her expression must have told him the truth—that Ryan never
had
told his little sister about their fight.

“I was twenty-two years old at the time, Mari. It was a long time ago.”

Marc and Ryan used to be inseparable, the best of friends.
A powerful sadness swept over her.

“Is there a problem?” someone called out sharply.

Eric turned and saw the youngest male Kavanaugh stalking toward them. Mari had heard from Marc that Liam had become a decorated police detective. She could easily believe it was true. He looked like he was about to make a drug bust in a Chicago alley as he stormed toward them.

“Walk away, Reyes,” Liam barked, blue eyes blazing. “Why don’t you hurry back to that slick house on Buena Vista Drive that my mom’s money paid for?”

Eric’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You son of a—”

“I wouldn’t finish that if I were you,” Liam muttered, jaw rigid.

Mari was distantly aware of Jake’s front door opening and closing again, but her attention was on the sparks flying between Liam and Eric. Eric’s hands were still balled into furious fists.

“What’s the matter, Reyes? Worried about bruising those delicate surgeon’s hands?” Liam taunted softly. His cocky grin dared Eric to hit him.

Mari groaned when she saw the flash of fury in Eric’s dark eyes as he started toward Liam.

“Eric, don’t—” Mari called out, but Marc was already moving to intercept them.

“Cut it out, you two,” Marc barked. He reached to restrain Eric, his muscles flexing hard beneath his shirt.

But someone else got to Eric first. A hand tapped him on the shoulder. Eric turned, his back to Mari. He remained firmly planted on his feet, but jerked when someone landed a punch on his jaw.

“Leave my brothers alone, Reyes.”

Mari gaped when she recognized Colleen Kavanaugh.

“Get her inside right now,” Marc growled at Liam, his eyes blazing.

Liam looked like he was chewing nails as he regarded Eric. For a second, Mari worried he’d refuse to obey Marc’s taut command, but then he grabbed his sister’s arm and murmured to her.

Colleen stumbled on the gravel, her sandaled feet moving reluctantly as Liam led her back to the bar. She twisted around and pinned Eric with a baleful stare. He didn’t move, just stood there as if frozen, gazing after the retreating Kavanaughs. Mari heard him curse softly
beneath his breath as he stared at Colleen’s beautiful, tear-dampened face.

Soon only she, Eric and Marc remained in the parking lot. She couldn’t fully identify the expression on Marc’s face as his gaze flickered over her, then Eric, then her again. It was as if every imaginable emotion frothed inside him at once in that charged moment. His mouth looked set and hard when he turned and walked toward Jake’s Place.

Mari exhaled shakily.

Eric and she regarded each other silently in the dim parking lot lights as the band finished a raucous tune. The final chords faded off in the hot, still summer night. She sensed that Eric knew, as she did, that they’d just narrowly escaped a volatile explosion of emotion.

Nausea rose in her like a striking snake, taking her by surprise. She gagged and bent over, coughing.

“Mari?” Eric’s voice sounded shocked and concerned. He touched her back. “Are you okay?”

She swallowed with effort and straightened shakily. “I…I don’t know. I just felt sick there for a minute.”

“Come on. Let’s get you home. This is the last thing you needed to deal with on top of not feeling well.”

But as Eric led her to his car, she turned to watch Marc disappear inside Jake’s and willfully tamped down the desire to go after him.

Chapter Three

T
he second Marc joined his mother on the front porch his gaze immediately traveled down Sycamore Avenue to the sandstone, Arts and Crafts-style house down the block. A dark blue sedan sat in the driveway. Mari’s car had been notably absent when he’d returned this afternoon from their annual visit to Harbor Town Cemetery.

I didn’t come back to Harbor Town for you,
he vividly recalled her saying last night. He leaned against the porch railing and crossed his arms below his ribs. What
had
she come back for, then?

He inhaled deeply of the fresh air. It always seemed to take several days into his summer vacation to get the city soot out of his lungs. The sky had turned a pale blue, tinged with lavender, but above the beach at the end of Sycamore Avenue, crimson, pink and gold splashed across the horizon. It would be sunset soon—Harbor
Town’s most famous tourist attraction. How many of those sunsets had he watched with Mari in his arms?

He jerked his mind into the present.

“When did you say you were headed back to Chicago?” Brigit Kavanaugh asked. She’d placed her sneakered foot on the pavement, stopping the porch swing’s movement.

Marc knew she’d noticed him staring at Mari’s house. Not that it was odd for him to look at the Itani vacation home on his rare visits to Harbor Town. His eyes had been trained long ago to stray toward that house. Even his ex-wife, Sandra, used to take note of it, usually with a flippant, sarcastic remark, on the few occasions she’d accompanied him to Harbor Town.

“I was thinking about staying on a couple days past Brendan’s party,” Marc said, referring to his nephew’s tenth birthday celebration.

“Really? Do you think work can spare you that long?”

He shrugged. “The county can undoubtedly do without me.”

“Marc,” Brigit scoffed with a smile. “You’re a state’s attorney, for goodness’ sake. You have over a thousand employees working under you.”

“Most of whom are gone for the holiday. I’ve never taken off more than day here and there since entering office. I have the vacation time. I might as well use some of it. It’s not like I haven’t been working from here, anyway.”

All of the Kavanaugh children had taken jobs that would somehow prove they were hard-working, sacrificing,
worthy
members of society, Marc mused. His sister Deidre was an Army nurse on her fourth tour of duty. Liam was a twice-decorated detective on the organized crime squad of the Chicago Police Department, and
Colleen was a psychiatric social worker who worked with high-risk teenagers with emotional and substance abuse problems.

Survivors’ guilt.

Their father’s final actions had left its mark on all of them.

His mother usually wanted her sons to stay on as long as possible for these annual Independence Day visits. She seemed to want Marc long gone at the present time, though. He tried to ignore the flare of irritation he felt at that fact. Brigit loved him. She remembered how much he’d been hurt by Mari’s refusal to see him after the crash. Maybe she just didn’t want to see him get hurt again.

The porch swing resumed the rhythmic squeaking noise that blended so hypnotically with the sounds of the locusts and the Lake Michigan waves breaking on the nearby beach.

“You’d do best by staying away from her,” Brigit said, finally saying the words he knew she’d been thinking since the parades yesterday.

“Maybe you’re right. But that doesn’t seem to be stifling the urge to do the exact opposite.”

Brigit exhaled at his quiet admission. “After all they did to us—”

“Mari never did anything to us. As for what Ryan and his aunt did, it’s not that different than what most people would have done in the same situation.”

“She ignored you! She took that money—blood money! After all this time, you’ve forgotten the effect it had on me—on
us.

“I haven’t forgotten,” he said, stung. “Maybe it’s never occurred to you that Mari and I might have memories, too, Ma, memories outside of Dad and the crash and the deaths—and the
grudge.

Her face pale and tense, she brought the swing to a halt and stared at him. He hated seeing her pain, but damn it, what he’d said was true. He exhaled heavily, trying to rid himself of his anger. He wasn’t mad at his mother, necessarily, but at this whole situation.

He almost heard Brigit building her arguments in her mind. Marc had become a lawyer like his father, but it was his mother who’d taught him the skills for making an airtight case.

“You want Mari because she’s the only thing you’ve wanted and couldn’t have.”

Marc started. “That’s a hell of a thing to say. Do you really believe that?”

“I do,” Brigit said quietly. “You’re my oldest son, Marc. I carried you in my body, and I watched you grow from an infant to a man. Do you really think I’ve never noticed that once you set your mind on something, you make it happen, no matter what kind of storm you cause in the process?”

Marc scowled. He couldn’t believe he was hearing this from his own mother’s mouth. “You make me sound like a spoiled brat. I’ve worked like hell to get anything I’ve ever had. And I’ve failed at plenty of things. What about Sandra?” he demanded.

“I said anything you ever
wanted.
If you’d wanted Sandra more, the two of you would still be married.”

Marc gave his mother a hard stare, warning her not to tread on that private territory. He’d heard her out after he and Sandra had decided to split, but that decision was his and his ex-wife’s business, not Brigit’s. His mother changed gears, just like that.

“Mari never married, I hear,” Brigit said levelly.

“No,” Marc conceded, not sure where his mother was going with her comment.

“Her brother is the only family since her aunt died a
few years ago. I don’t think Ryan would take too kindly to having Mari get involved with you again.”

“You really care about what Ryan Itani thinks?”

“No. But if you care about Mari,
you
should. Would you really consider alienating her from her only relative?”

Marc rolled his eyes and stood. “You’re assuming Mari would even be interested. I haven’t seen any indication of that so far,” he muttered bitterly. His mother’s comment hit home, even if he tried not to let her see it. He knew he should leave Mari alone. He knew he shouldn’t stir up the frothing cauldron of their shared history.

Problem was, he already
had.
He’d touched Mari again. He’d held her naked against him while her shudders of pleasure and release had vibrated into his body and mixed with his own.

It was too late, Marc realized with a grim sense of amazement. Something had happened in those ecstatic moments that couldn’t now be ignored.

He noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He swung around like a hound catching the scent and he saw Mari walking toward her car, her long brown hair bobbing in a ponytail. As she was opening the car door, she paused and looked furtively down the street. Their gazes locked for a few electric seconds before she ducked into the car.

The screen door squeaked open. Combing his longish blonde hair with his fingers in a distracted fashion, Liam sauntered onto the front porch. He looked a little taken aback when Marc charged him.

“Give me the keys to your bike,” Marc ordered tersely.

Liam’s bewilderment dissipated when he glanced over Marc’s shoulder and saw Mari’s car backing rapidly
out of the driveway. He dug into his short’s pocket and handed Marc the keys to his motorcycle.

“Fill it up with gas while you’re out, will you? Unless whatever you’re doing gets too interesting, that is,” Liam said with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. Marc grabbed the keys and jogged down the porch steps, ignoring his mother’s burning glance of disapproval.

 

Mari had risen early the morning following the Jake’s Place fiasco, determined to refocus on her mission. She breakfasted with Eric and Natalie Reyes to discuss more plans for The Family Center. Afterward, she and Eric went to the real estate office to sign a lease, and then to an office furniture and supply store to arrange for items to be delivered to the Silver Dune Bay facility.

She spent the rest of the day making the old house presentable to prospective buyers. Without really knowing why she did it, she paused in her manic scrubbing at 5:17 p.m., walked to the front door and cautiously peeked out a window. A silver sedan passed with three people in it, Marc at the wheel.

She’d somehow known he was near, even though she’d been doing her damnedest to deny his presence in her mind all day. She returned to her cleaning and tried to turn her thoughts in another direction, but failed.

Later that evening, she stood at the front door and gazed onto the tree-lined street. How the hell had she ended up here at this point in her life? Mari wondered. Seeing the crimson sky at the end of the street caused hundreds of other remembered sunsets to blaze to the forefront of her mind. She was hyperaware of the handsome, white house built in the Colonial Revival style up the street.

After the end of a doomed, four-year relationship with James Henry, an investment banker from San Francisco,
Mari had experienced a desire for a fresh start. That inner push had set her plans into motion. She’d wanted to be free of her past once and for all and that meant returning to Harbor Town.

Too bad her grand scheme for a clean slate and healing had turned into a maelstrom of mixed emotions.

By late evening, her stomach had started to growl. She took a shower, pulled her hair into a ponytail and dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. Her heart was skipping rapidly when she exited the house and headed for her car. Something compelled her to look up the street at the Kavanaugh house.

Sure enough, Marc was leaning against the porch railing, his head turned, watching her. For a few seconds, it felt as if she couldn’t breathe.

She got in her car and drove to a little diner on the edge of town called The Tap and Grill. After the friendly counter lady had brought her an enormous turkey sandwich to go, she drove aimlessly through the town’s quiet, tree-lined streets, finally ending up on scenic Vista Point Drive, overlooking the beach.

A motorcycle roared, breaking the sleepy silence, as she parked at the side of the street. She opened the car door and leaned over to the passenger seat to grab her sandwich. A shadow fell across the steering wheel.

She turned around to see Marc standing between her car and the open door.

“I hope whatever’s in that bag is enough for two.”

Mari glanced out the back window, noticing the gleaming black and chrome motorcycle parked down the street. She’d peeked out of her windows enough lately to know the vehicle belonged to Liam. Apparently Marc had forsaken a bike years ago for the handsome, conservative sedan she’d seen him driving. Memories of Marc and her brother, Ryan, tearing down the street
on their motorcycles, looking like young summertime gods with their deep tans, sunglasses and wind-tousled hair, washed over her.

“Did you follow me?” she asked him warily.

He shrugged, his stare never leaving her face. “I figured you wouldn’t answer the door if I knocked at your house. When you finally broke cover, I thought I better take my chance or risk not seeing you for another fifteen years.”

She gave him a hard look. He quirked one eyebrow.

“We need to talk, Mari. Please.”

Against her will, her gaze lowered to his shadowed jaw and tanned throat. She shivered when she recalled how the stubble had felt brushing against her neck that night in Chicago, grazing ever so lightly against the sensitive skin covering her ribs. The sight of his insouciant male good looks only increased her caution.

Or her reaction to them did.

“So if I let you come with me to Sunset Beach, that’s all you’ll try to do? Talk?”

He sighed. “I’m not planning on coming on to you on the beach,” he replied drily.

She rolled her eyes at him as she aggressively swung her legs out of the car, daring him not to move back and give her the space she required.

His only reaction to her wary acquiescence was a slight grin. They said nothing as they made their way down the private sidewalk that ran between two mansion sized homes. When they hit the white sand beach, Mari led them over to the manmade break water that consisted of stacked lengths of cut, unfinished logs.

She plopped down on the breakwater. Marc sat down next to her. She studied him through the corner of her eye. He wore a pair of cargo shorts and a dark blue shirt that failed to hide the breadth of shoulders or
hint at the sleek muscles Mari knew lay just beneath the soft fabric. He managed to make the casual beachwear look sexy as hell. She could just see him as a tall, lanky, cocky fourteen-year-old sporting a new pair of sunglasses, standing on Sycamore Beach and clutching his skimboard, the sunlight turning his hair into a havoc of incandescent gold waves.

She handed him half of her sandwich wrapped in a napkin.

“I was only kidding about sharing. Eat your supper,” he murmured, giving her a sideways smile.

“You know how they make sandwiches at The Tap. It’s huge.” She insistently pushed the sandwich toward him. Maybe he noticed the irritation in her expression, because his eyebrows rose, and he accepted the food, probably to avoid an argument.

The fiery, orange-red sun looked like it was slowly quenching itself in the shimmering, dark blue water. They ate without speaking. For the first time, it struck her how odd it was that the beach was empty.

“Isn’t Sunset Beach public anymore?” she slowly asked Marc as she held up the paper bag so he could deposit his rumpled napkin inside it.

He shook his head. “Mom told me the home owners hereabouts bought it from the town a few years back. It’s private now.”

Mari stopped chewing and glanced warily at the affluent residences nearby.

“Don’t worry. They aren’t going to call the cops on us. Unless we make an ugly scene or something,” Marc said when he saw her uneasiness over trespassing.

She took a swig of the bottled water she’d ordered with the sandwich. She offered the bottle to Marc, and he drank, too. Mari glanced away from the strangely
erotic sight of him placing his mouth where hers had just been.

BOOK: If You Come Back To Me (If You Come Back To Me #1)
9.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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