“Thanks,” I say, grateful that he’s letting it go. I cut into the onion, and Cason moves around the kitchen, searing the scallops in the hot pan. My entire body is in hyperdrive, fully aware of his presence, his movements, his every damn breath. Once again, unbidden memories from our college days infiltrate my thoughts and skip down my tingling spine. How I’ll make it through the next two weeks is beyond me. The alternative is to go home empty-handed, which I’m not about to do. But hey, after two weeks cooped up with a man who doesn’t really want me here, well, that might work out to my advantage. Maybe when we’re done, I’ll be able to go home with my heart back in my chest, instead of in his palm. It’s not like he wants it, or even knows he has a tight grip on it, right? So yeah, maybe something good will come out of all this. My lips twist at that thought.
“Something funny?” Cason asks, and I lift my head. He takes the board full of chopped onions and tosses them into a sauté pan.
“Yeah, what were you thinking about?” he asks and leans against the counter, his body so close to mine, it generates instant heat and my stomach takes flight. I resist the urge to squeeze my thighs together to help quell the building ache and the last thing I should be thinking about is my G-spot and how I’d bet top dollar he’d be the first man who could find it.
“Nothing important,” I say.
He reaches out and drags the rough pad of his thumb down my cheek, his capable fingers creating a bone-deep warmth inside of me.
“Tears,” he explains.
I sniff and pray my voice doesn’t come out as shaky as I feel. “Onions. Cutting them always does that to me.”
His smile is soft, so damn full of love when he says, “When Peyton was young, she used to put on swimming goggles when she helped me cut onions.” He goes quiet, like he’s remembering old times, and he chuckles softly. “She was a funny kid.”
His eyes lift, meet mine, and the admiration I see shining there steals my next breath. I remember when he used to look at me like that, but now that adoration is reserved for his sister. But it does remind me how much I loved and respected that about him. Those he cares about always come first—he’d run through fire for those people. Those who crossed him however...look out.
I crossed him.
“So Peyton has no desire to get serious with anyone?”
He frowns. “No, and she had the nerve to ask me to set her up with someone on Penn Pals to help with the teaching job in Malta.”
“She’s my kid sister. I don’t want to set her up with anyone.”
I chuckle at that. Peyton is going to have one hell of a time with her brother when she eventually falls in love.
“She was always beautiful, Cason. Why does she need an app to find a guy?”
“She’s not looking for anything serious.” He laughs, like he understands fully, and I take it he’s in no hurry to change his bachelorhood—or ever. “But she needs it for work and I want her to get her dream job.”
“I can understand that,” I say. I know exactly what she’s going through. I come up against someone wanting me married every day.
“If I don’t help her out, she’ll just find someone else to pretend to be her fiancé. Some guy I know nothing about.”
“You’re going to do it, then?”
“As much as I don’t want to, I’ll set her up with someone who knows the ground rules and understands the consequences if he breaks them.” He cracks his knuckles, and reaches above my head to pull out a bowl. His warm scent wraps around me, and as I lose my sense of balance, I wobble, bang into his body. He falters, and nearly loses the dish in his hand as I wrap my arms around him.
“Whoa,” I say. “You okay?”
His throat makes a strangled gurgling sound, and he coughs as he breaks from my arms. “It’s just been a long work week. Exhausted on my feet.”
“Maybe we should get you to bed?” I shake my head. “Wait, I don’t mean we. I mean you. You should get to bed.”
“I’m fine, Londyn.”