Sam couldn’t get Ethan out of her mind. And wouldn’t it figure the one night she hadn’t been visited by Alexis, her dreams had consisted of being held in Ethan’s arms, his mouth teasing, arousing making her ache even after she’d woken. She knew she shouldn’t want him, she shouldn’t even be thinking about him. Colleen was right. He had baggage. Yet he continually popped into her thoughts.
What she needed to do was go to him and set him straight. She couldn’t get involved with him, at least not until after his divorce was final.
Reaching the top floor of the bookstore, she saw Ethan’s office. With her hand shaking, she knocked on his door. She really should just leave, never come back, and avoid the bookstore all together.
Too late, Sam thought as she inched the door open. Seeing him on the phone, she stood patiently and glanced around the room. His office was small, box like, and ordinary. The desk was at the back of the room to the corner by the window, one filing cabinet, and two chairs. Even the walls were bare. It made her think he didn’t spend a great amount of time here.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. That couldn’t wait.” He set the phone down as he spoke. “What a wonderful surprise.”
His smile was so damn disarming that she couldn’t help but smile back. Why had she come here again? Right. “We need to talk.”
“I can’t seem to get you out of my mind, Samantha,” he said as he walked toward her.
So he felt it too. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I should have stayed away. I should have walked away before knocking on your door. I should—” He silenced her with another one of his mind-blowing kisses. And when he pulled her closer, and their bodies pressed tightly together, her mind went totally blank.
His hands slid from her arms to wrap around her body as hers slid up his back to pull him closer. She could smell his cologne, strong yet not overpowering and knew the scent would be ingrained in her system forever.
His taste was something she would never forget. And when his tongue slid between her lips to toy with hers, she felt the sensation right to her toes.
Her back bumped into the door and she couldn’t for the life of her remember moving. He pressed her against the door and then his hands sent her to heaven.
They skimmed along her arms, sliding slowly up, then down before linking her fingers to his. He pulled them to his chest, pressed them beneath the jacket then releasing them to cup her face in his palms. She wanted him more than she wanted air at this point. And that’s when her mind decided to click in.
She pushed him away, took a deep breath before speaking. “We can’t do this.”
“I can’t go on without having you.”
She ducked under his arms, cursing herself for thinking with her brain and not her libido. “Someone saw us kissing the other day in the stock room.” She turned around and that was a big mistake. He was so damn gorgeous, and seeing his lips pursed made her want to run to him and devour them.
But she went with her brain, again.
“You’re still married—I know, you’re separated, but legally, you’re still married.”
“I’m free to be with anyone I want. It’s only a piece of paper that binds me to the woman I married.”
“I love my family, and I value the respect they have for me. They know we kissed because someone here saw us and Colleen found out. I don’t like disappointing my family. We can’t see each other anymore.”
“Would you like some coffee?”
She blinked in surprise. “Did you hear what I just said, Ethan?”
“I did. I’m just not sure what to say to that.”
“There’s nothing to say except…goodbye.” Why did that one word make her feel like the ground had just cracked open beneath her feet?
“I respect your morals, Samantha, but I know there is no way in heaven or hell that I can let you go.”
“Ethan, please.” She backed up when he stepped toward her. “This is hard enough. Maybe when your divorce is final, we could…get together.”
He sat on the front of his desk, his long legs clad in perfectly pressed black trousers stretched out before him. “You’re willing to wait for a year, maybe two, or more, to be with me? I’m not sure I’m that strong.”
“Do divorces usually take that long?”
“They can take longer, depending on if the couple can agree on a settlement.”
“You anticipate yours taking long?”
He stood from his spot and walked to the small cupboard at the opposite side of the room to pour himself a cup of coffee. “Gwen—my soon to be ex-wife—has decided she isn’t happy with the amount of settlement offered to her. She’s decided she wants much more.”
“How much more?”
He turned to her, his cup in hand and spoke blankly. “Millions, plus a share in my company and a spot on the Board of Directors, as well as my home.”
“Millions? Do you have that?” she asked with unease. She knew he owned the bookstore, but she found it hard to believe he’d have that much money.
Her jaw dropped and she found herself just staring at him.
“You’ve never heard of Montgomery Industries I take it?” he asked with a smile
He smiled again and her heart flip-flopped in her chest. “My grandfather started out with one simple business. A clothing store. He worked his way up to own several other properties. When my father took over, he expanded the company to include other properties across Canada and in the United States. I’m in charge of all of that now that both my grandfather and father are gone.”
“And then some.” He grinned.
“And your wife wants to be a part of that?” She looked up at him. “Didn’t you have her sign a pre-nup?”
He took his coffee and sat on the front of his desk again. “Sometimes love clouds the brain. Mine was in a permanent fog with Gwen.”
“Wow, that really sucks.”
“That’s putting it mildly.” He took a sip from his cup, swallowed before speaking. “What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room.”
“Okay.” He sounded so serious.
He set his cup down on the desk, took a breath then began. “She claims to have papers indicating me in embezzlement of my own company.”
“Is it true?”
His eyes went a little wider. “Of course not!”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“She has documented evidence. For the life of me, I have no idea where she would have gotten it. I certainly didn’t withdraw money from my company for my own gain, but my signature is on the documents. She claims if I don’t give her what she’s demanding, she’ll take it to the media.”
“If it’s not true, and you have proof, then so what?”
He let out a long breath. “The problem is the doubt she will cast upon me not just to the public, but to the board members. The investigation alone could…Well, it’s all just very complicated, and I don’t want to bore you with it.”
“I’m not bored. So what are you going to do then?”
“Look into her claims and find out how she came about some of the documented reports.” He stood now, then knelt at her feet, taking her hands in his. “I understand your point, Samantha, and I would hate to besmirch your honor.” He lifted their joined hands to his cheek and rested his face on them. “You’ve done something to my heart, Samantha Dowling, something I never thought possible. To have you walk away now, would only rip it out.” He kissed her fingers before releasing them to stand. “But I’ll honor you and let you walk away.”
When he stepped back, she felt her heart crack.
“I have to attend a meeting downtown.”
She sat where she was as he walked to his desk and grabbed his briefcase. When he came back beside her, she wanted to stand up and beg him to take her in his arms.
And when he simply planted a kiss to the top of her head, she nearly melted away.
The door closed and he was gone.
“Not now, Ed.” Standing, Sam took a breath before leaving the office.
Sam had the list of names and acquaintances of the Donaldson family beside her on the floor. She’d picked it up after she’d left Ethan’s office, her mind still reeling from what he’d said to her.
She needed to concentrate on finding Alexis Donaldson and her killer. Not on Ethan and the way he made her feel, how he’d turned her heart to mush and muddied her brain. She needed to solve this before it drove her crazy. Sleep did not come peacefully for her these days. And she was pretty sure after what Ethan had said to her in his office would only make matters worse.
How was she supposed to get him out of her mind, and out of her system?
She gave her arms a shake, blew out a deep breath, then focused on the task at hand.
“Okay Alexis, show me who it is.” So far she hadn’t seen anyone with the initials of D.B.
“It’s not healthy to talk to yourself. People might mistake you as crazy.”
She kept her eyes on the names and not her ghostly roommate. “No one’s here to see me.”
“I’m here,” Trent pointed out, setting himself down beside her.
“You don’t count. You’re dead.”
“Boy do I feel the love.”
She looked up, pursed her lips. “You know what I mean.”
“That’s a lot of names.” He pointed to the paper on the floor.
“And then some. So how come you can’t help me? It would make things so much easier if you could go talk with Alexis, gather the information for me, and help me close this case?”
“Because it doesn’t work that way. We’re both in different dimensions of death. Alexis is in the realm of torment because her soul is still captured in the living.”
She nearly choked on her own saliva. “Seriously?”
“Oh my God!” And here she was, complaining about not getting sleep when the child who was keeping her awake was in torment.
“I know it’s hard for you to hear that, but there was no other way to tell you why I couldn’t help than the truth.”
She swallowed the pain forming in her throat.“What dimension are you in?”
“Oh, my soul’s fine. I can go any time I like.” He smiled sweetly at her.
Sam narrowed her eyes. “Then why are you still here bugging me?”
“Because this is my home and I refuse to part with it.” He leaned in so close that she could feel him slip inside of her. “And because you look so good when you’re naked.”
She shook him out of her, shuddering. “If my father heard you joke like that he’d banish you in a second.” She tossed the paper on the floor. “This isn’t getting me anywhere.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Anyone with the initials of D.B.. Alexis spelled it out for me, but I woke up before I could ask any questions.”
“And you’re thinking those initials are for the person that killed that little girl?”
“Yeah. Why else would she spell it out for me?”
He shrugged. “See anyone on that list with those initials?”
“Not so far. Damn it!” She pushed up from the floor to pace. “This is so frustrating. I feel so helpless. She takes me to her and I can feel her, I can smell her and I know the pain she endured. I even know what her favorite color was, but I have no clue who killed her. What good am I if I can’t help her?”
“You’re there for her and she knows it. You’ll find the person, Sam. You always do.” With that he vanished.
Yeah, she always did, but it was never easy.
Looking down at the names on the Donaldson’s list, Sam frowned. This was getting her nowhere. She hadn’t done enough research. She needed to do more.
Grabbing her keys, Sam flew out the door.