Holly's passionate heart overrules her practical minduntil she discovers that Anderson's exactly the kind of player she vowed to stay away from. An ex-fiancée is just one of the skeletons in Anderson's closet, but he's given up his heartbreaking ways. Yet convincing Holly that he's a changed man is next to impossible. Will his past mistakes cost him a future with the woman of his dreams?
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Saying goodbye was always the worst part of a trip for Holly Kendall. She was tongue-tied as she stood there at the Portland International Airport with her brother, Stuart, who was two years older at thirty-three, and his cute-as-a-button seven-year-old twin daughters, Dot-tie and Carrie. What was supposed to be a mid-August weekend trip from Houston had stretched into three days, but still seemed like far too little time. It would just give her an excuse to come back for a visit sooner rather than later.
"Well, guess you'd better get out of here, or you'll have us all in tears," Stuart said, scratching his pate under his short, dark hair.
"I suppose." Holly had sworn she would keep it together at this point. But could she help it if they were the only family she had, aside from her father? Their mother had died suddenly five years ago. A year later, Stuart's wife had left him to raise their daughters all by himself. Who said life was ever fair?
Holly bent down and gave the girls a hug and big kiss. "You take care of your daddy, you hear?"
"We will," Carrie said tearfully.
"Promise," Dottie followed.
"Good girls." Holly stood up and reached to hug Stuart, who towered over her five-foot-nine-inch frame. "Maybe next time Dad will come with me."
"Yeah, right," Stuart scoffed. "I can count on one hand the times he's visited since we've lived here."
"He doesn't like to be too far away from home," Holly said. "At least not since Mom passed away. But hey, never say never."
"I won't. And that includes never saying you won't meet Mr. Right and start your own family someday," Stuart said.
"I'll believe it when I see it." It wasn't that she had no faith such a person existed. It was more a matter of him never quite materializing in her busy world. She hadn't exactly given up trying. But between her work as a weekend anchor, volunteer work and hanging out with her friends, she honestly wasn't sure there was any time left in her life right now for a man.
Holly waved goodbye before going through security and heading for her gate. She had a half hour or so before boarding, so she stopped in a store and purchased an Oregonian newspaper, bottled water and some mints.
When she neared the gate, Holly could see that it would be a full flight. So what else was new these days as airliners consolidated and looked for every cost-cutting measure?
She saw an empty seat in the waiting area right next to a good-looking man. He was bald, well dressed and seemed quite content to stare off into space with his deep gray-brown eyes. Of course that changed when he saw her approaching and he gave her his undivided attention. A moment of self-consciousness swept over Holly as he assessed her from head to toe. She was dressed casually with little makeup, and her shoulder-length wavy black hair was in a convenient ponytail.
What difference does it make if I'm not at my best? she thought. It's not like I'm trying to impress him or anything.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked calmly.
"It is now," he said, an amused grin playing on his lips. He moved a briefcase over that had been sitting on the floor in front of the chair, clearing the way.
"Thank you." The instant she sat down, Holly got a whiff of the man's strong cologne. It was Obsession, which happened to be Stuart's favorite. She preferred something a bit more mellow and on the spicy side. But then she realized it wasn't her that he was trying to impress. He probably had a lady waiting when he reached his final destination.
Holly put the folded newspaper on her lap as she tried to get comfortable in the chair. The man beside her reached to grab the paper.
"You mind if I take a look at the sports section?" he asked.
She shot him a cold stare. Snatching it away, she responded, "Actually, I do mind. Maybe you should ask before you assume."
He cocked a thick brow. "Maybe I should have, but for some reason I didn't think you were into sports."
"That's beside the point," she said stiffly. "I prefer to be asked for something that belongs to me." In fact, she loved sports and had grown up with a father and brother who couldn't get enough football and basketball. They had passed their love for the games on to her, and she had always hated when other men assumed that she knew nothing about sports.
He chuckled. "My apologies. Would it be all right if I took a look at the business section? Or is that off-limits, too?"
Holly had the feeling he was being condescending. Did she not look like someone interested in business? Or did he simply think he was entitled to someone's property when he was perfectly capable of buying his own newspaper?
She met his eyes. "Look, I bought the paper to read myself, without having to share or wait till someone finishes a section when I'm ready to read it. I suggest you go over there and buy your own newspaper. They had plenty left."
"Are you always so possessive of what's yours?" he asked coldly.
"Only when someone's persistent and won't leave it alone."
He took a breath. "I can't believe we're squabbling over a damned newspaper."
"So let's not," she countered, "and we'll get along fine."
He laughed. "Yeah, whatever."
Holly sensed that he was irked and wondered if she should find another place to sit. Trouble was, there were no other empty chairs near the gate. So she was stuck there. Next to someone who probably thought she was acting like a bitch.
Perhaps she had overreacted. After all, it wasn't as if she couldn't share the paper while holding on to the front and entertainment sections, which she most wanted to read.
She pulled out the sports section and put it on his lap. "Keep it," she said. "I can get any sports news I need from my iPad."
He grinned, picking up the paper. "Thanks."
"Forget it." She opened up her water and took a drink before lifting up the entertainment section, trying her best to ignore him, but finding it impossible for some reason. Perhaps it was because she could tell from her periphery that he was staring at her. Against her better judgment, she stared back. "Is there something else you want?"
"Actually, there is " His eyes narrowed. "You look strangely familiar."
I was wondering how long it would take for that to come up, she thought. She was used to people recognizing her from television and pretty much took it in stride. This time would be no different. "I get that a lot," she told him.
"Yes, it seems to be a great pickup line."
He chuckled. "I suppose. Not this time, though. Seriously, could we have met somewhere before, or"
Holly had a mind to satisfy his curiosity and get back to reading the paper, but she knew that would likely open the door to more questions that invaded her personal space. "I doubt that," she assured him. "I never forget a face." She certainly would not have forgotten his, for better or worse.
"Neither do I," he insisted, staring at her. "Especially one so striking."
"Oh please " Holly was somewhat flattered, but she had a feeling that he was a player who used lines that probably worked on most women. Not her, though. Many men had found her attractive, even beautiful. But in most instances, they were more interested in what was below the waist than above. Was that his intention, as well?
"Maybe we could start this conversation over," he said coolly. "My name's Anderson."
Holly looked at him as she considered the name. It somehow suited him, and maybe even piqued her interest a tad. Did he live in Portland? Houston? Or neither?
"Holly," she said simply.
"Nice to meet you, Holly."
"You too." She responded as she would to anyone she was talking to at the airport. Even if Anderson was drop-dead handsome and seemingly interested in her. Or was he simply just passing the time waiting for their flight to board?
Anderson Gunn tried to read the sports section. But the truth was, he was captivated by the beautiful lady seated next to him. Even without being overly dressed up or wearing much makeup, it was obvious that she had the complete physical package: tall and slender, with just the right amount of curves and bends. He liked her butterscotch complexion and heart-shaped faced. Her lips were full and seemingly created to be kissed. He imagined if her hair were down, it would be silky smooth were he to run his fingers through it.
Though his attraction to her was undeniable, there was more about her that piqued Anderson's curiosity. There was no question that he had seen her before. But where? Maybe at a bar? On the street? At a social event? Then it hit him like a bolt of lightning.
"Wait" He leaned forward, peering into eyes that were like black pearls and just as enchanting. "You're Holly Kendall! You do the evening news on KJTW."
Holly frowned. "You've got me. Except that I'm the weekend anchor in the morning on KOEN."
Damn. Blew that one, he thought. "My apologies. To tell you the truth, I get most of my news from CNN and Fox, along with my iPhone. But I do catch some local news and recognized your facealbeit the wrong time and wrong channel."
"Don't worry, I won't hold it against you," she said, even if it bruised her ego just a bit. "It happens."
He feigned a sigh of relief. "Glad to hear that."
"So I take it you live in Houston?"
"Yep, born and raised there. Spent some time living in Dallas, Sacramento and Memphis along the way."
"I see." She wondered if he was a military brat. Or did his family just move around a lot?
"I'm guessing you grew up in Houston, too, by the accent." He'd detected it right away. It was subtle but unmistakable nonetheless, just as he supposed his accent was.
Holly raised a thin brow. By most accounts she didn't have an accent, per se. Especially not on the air. Admittedly, she did let her guard down somewhat when being herself and conceded that maybe she did have a slight Southern drawl.
"Yes, I'm from Houston," she said, sipping her water. "And I've never lived anywhere else, though I've traveled to quite a few different places."
"It's a great city to hang one's hat," Anderson said.
"You didn't happen to attend the University of Houston, did you?" Anderson asked.
"Yes, in fact, I did. I received my bachelor's and master's degrees in communication there," Holly said proudly. She looked at him, guessing he was about two or three years older. "Did you?"
"Yeah, I did my time there as an undergrad before moving on to the University of Houston Law Center."
Her eyes grew wide, impressed. "So you're a lawyer?"
"Not a practicing one," he told her, not wanting to bore her with the details of his change from a high-powered corporate attorney to a less stressful and time-consuming occupation. "Actually I'm a legal consultant."
Either way, Holly imagined that he was making good money. She wondered who he was spending it on. As if that was any of her business.
"Is that why you're in Portland?" she asked.
He nodded. "I have a client here. How about you?" He hoped to hell she didn't say she was carrying on a long-distance love affair, though he couldn't imagine any guy wanting to be that far apart from such a smoking-hot woman.
"I have a brother and two nieces living here. I was just up for a short visit."
"Cool." Anderson found that he'd lost all interest in reading the paper. Especially when he'd rather read into Holly Kendall and learn as much as possible about who she was. Would she be okay with that? Or would he be pressing his luck by continuing the conversation?
Before he could say anything else, Anderson's phone rang. He took it out and saw that it was his Portland client, Dodson Paul, who ran a very successful law firm.
Anderson frowned at Holly. "I have to take this."
She batted her lashes. "Don't let me stop you."
Holly watched him shoot to his feet before answering the call. It gave her a moment to further assess him. He was tall at around six-four, and appeared very fit, as though he worked out regularly. She thought his pecan complexion suited him, and his square-jawed face with a prominent nose and wide mouth only added to his physical appeal.
He stepped farther away, turning his back, as though to block anyone from hearing the conversation. Not that she wanted to hear him saying sweet things to his wife or girlfriend. A tiny piece of Holly felt envious, since she had no one at home waiting for her. But she had put loneliness on the back burner in favor of the rich life she had otherwise.
When it was announced that first-class passengers could board, Holly stood. It had been nice to have the brief chat with Anderson, but she doubted either of them had any room in their lives for one another in Houston.
She stood up and looked his way. He was so absorbed in his conversation that he didn't even notice. She grabbed her bag, leaving the paper behind, and took her place in line.
What People are Saying About This
...the romantic and heartwarming story of two individuals who cross paths more than 20 years after a life-changing tragedy. It has wonderful, well-written characters and a story that flows." - RT Book Reviews on Christmas Heat (4 stars)