The One Real Thing Page 71

Cooper suddenly reached over and took my hand. “The problem is, we don’t know what Devlin is really capable of. He’s shady. Ruthless. If he becomes part of this community, throwing his weight around, at the very least our lives will be more stressful.”

“Surely George won’t sell to him,” Dahlia said, sounding worried.

Vaughn straightened from his spot beside me. His look was grim. “Beckwith is moving to Canada permanently. He’ll sell to the highest bidder.”

Bailey made a face at him. “George isn’t just a businessman, Tremaine. He’s a Hartwell man. He won’t sell to Devlin.”

His answer was to grunt in disbelief.

“Worst-case scenario . . .” Cooper said. “He might.”

“Well, you’ve got a ton of money,” Bailey said, gesturing to Vaughn. “You buy it.”

“I am a businessman. I’m a hotel man. I don’t need a second hotel here. I don’t go after what I don’t need.”

“What about going after what you want?” she huffed.

Those steely eyes of his suddenly narrowed on her and his tone turned low, sexy, and more than a little dangerous. “Oh, Miss Hartwell, you don’t ever want me going after what I want.”

My eyes bugged out at the insinuation and I tried to peek at Bailey surreptitiously. For once he’d completely silenced her. Her lips were parted in shock and I could tell she was trying to work out what the hell he meant by that comment.

I looked at Cooper, who was looking down at the bar, wearing an amused smirk. Feeling my perusal, he glanced up at me, caught my bugged-out expression, and grinned.

“Um, the point, anyway”—Dahlia threw Vaughn a bewildered look—“is that we need to do something to stop this. Ideas?”

“And that’s my cue to leave,” Vaughn said.

“Of course,” Bailey bit out. “Of course you’d leave.”

“I just came as the messenger.”

“Well, messenger of doom suits you. Good job,” she said sarcastically.

He rolled his eyes toward Cooper and gave him a beleaguered look.

Cooper struggled not to laugh. “Thanks for the heads-up.”

Vaughn nodded before turning to me. “Good night, Dr. Huntington.”

“You know you can call me Jessica,” I said.

I heard Bailey squeak in indignation behind me.

He heard it, too, and smiled. “Jessica.” He flicked his gaze to Dahlia. “Miss McGuire.” And without looking at her, Vaughn began walking away and called over his shoulder, “Good night, Miss Hartwell.”

“Tremaine,” Bailey growled under her breath.

It took everything within me not to burst out laughing.

“Well, hell,” Old Archie suddenly called from the other side of the bar, pulling us all out of the moment. “That put a damper on things. But I still remember you said next round on the house, Coop.”

“You would, Archie,” Cooper drawled as he headed over to serve him.

As soon as Archie spoke, I immediately thought of Anita and wondered how she was doing. Archie didn’t seem too perturbed so I guessed her results weren’t back yet.

“Hey, Archie.” Dahlia slid onto the stool beside Bailey. “How’s Anita?”

“Oh, she isn’t feeling so good. The doctor is doing some tests or something, but I’m not worried.” He gave a tired smile. “You know Anita. That woman is made of steel. She’s with me, isn’t she?”

Dahlia smiled at his crack. “Tell her I’m asking for her.”

He nodded and took the draft Cooper shoved toward him.

“Okay, ignoring for a second the dramatic bombshell Tremaine dropped,” Bailey said, still sounding aggravated, “proper introductions are in order.”

Sitting between us, she touched my arm and looked at Dahlia. “Dahlia, meet Jessica.” She looked at me and touched Dahlia’s arm. “Jessica, meet Dahlia.”

I grinned and reached past Bailey to shake Dahlia’s hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

She grinned at me. “Same to you. Looks like you’ve sparked some excitement around here.”

Dahlia McGuire, I soon noted as we all began to chat, was an intriguing mix of an adorable personality and beautiful features. For the most part she was cute because there was a slight goofiness about her manner—the way she pulled exaggerated faces whether she was laughing or pretending to be horrified or surprised—but when she was still and serious she was beautiful. Her hair was the stuff of envy. It was thick and black and fell down her back in luscious waves. Thick bangs (adding to the cuteness) framed her large crystal-blue eyes. She had a delicate nose and lush mouth, and that with her big eyes reminded me of the Bratz dolls my goddaughter loved collecting. Dahlia and Bailey shared a similar peaches-and-cream complexion—except Dahlia didn’t have cute freckles over her nose like Bailey did.

What added to Dahlia’s cuteness was her height. She was a couple of inches shorter than me, but like me she was curvy. My height stretched out my curves. Dahlia’s height seemed to emphasize hers and she was dressed in a tight summer dress that captured her sensuality. I wondered if there was a man alive who didn’t drool when Dahlia McGuire walked by.

“Jess has been wanting to get into your store since she got here. I told her about your jewelry.”

“You’re welcome anytime,” Dahlia said.

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