“I’m not positive. I was going to study a map today. Make a decision. I have a few ideas. Friends I’d like to visit.”

So, this adventure she’d spoken of hadn’t been something I dreamed up.

“You’re traveling alone?” I asked. I still didn’t think that was a good idea.

She barely glanced at me and gave a tight nod. “Yes.”

She went very stiff. Her shoulders went back, and her head tilted suddenly in a very regal pose. Interesting. She looked like a Kennedy as she answered, “Yes.”

“Lila Kate can pull a pistol and not miss under pressure. She’s unassuming but lethal,” Nate said with a crooked grin.

“You carry a gun?” I asked incredulously. I didn’t even carry a gun, and I was a male in Alabama.

She gave a dainty lift of her left shoulder. “Of course.”

“You must have brothers like Bliss,” I offered thinking that had to be the only excuse.

“My mother gave her lessons. Harlow, Lila’s mother, was nervous when Lila Kate started driving. So my mom offered to teach her how to handle a gun,” Nate added.

Nate chuckled. “Oh, yes. My mother is feminine, beautiful, and a complete badass.”

Bliss laughed with him. “Yes, she is,” she agreed.

“Story goes, my mom’s first night in Rosemary Beach she pulled her gun on Lila Kate’s dad. Scared the shit out of him,” Nate was smiling as he said it.

That brought a small tug at the corners of Lila’s mouth. She liked the story too. I watched hoping she’d smile that bright smile from last night where her eyes lit up. But it never came.

Bliss and Nate began laughing over his first meal at her parents’ house when one of her brothers brought a gun out to threaten Nate. I listened to them talk, but my attention stayed on Lila. Once she finished her meal, she told Bliss how delicious it was and that she would clean the kitchen. She then excused herself to make a couple of phone calls. One was an important call to her mother.

After she’d left the room, Bliss glared at me. “What did you do to her?” she whispered.

I shrugged innocently. “I didn’t do anything. I swear. We ate, drank and danced a couple of dances. That was it.”

Bliss didn’t look convinced. “She was quiet and nervous. Very uncomfortable.”

“That’s just Lila Kate. She’s not a big talker. She doesn’t draw attention to herself. She listens but rarely joins in. You’ll get used to it,” Nate explained. But I disagreed with him. The girl from last night hadn’t been like that. Something had been wrong this morning. I just didn’t know what.

“I want her to enjoy her stay here,” Bliss said her voice sounding sad.

“She will, baby. I swear Lila Kate is just quiet. I’ve known her my entire life, and that’s just her.”

Bliss sighed then nodded. “Okay. Well, it’s obvious she doesn’t care for you,” she said looking back at me. “Maybe I could take her shopping and invite Crimson instead. I bet she’d like your sister.”

This was starting to annoy me.

Nate gave Bliss a smile that said he adored her and wished they were alone. Normally, that made me uncomfortable or nauseous, but right now I couldn’t seem to care. I needed to know why I’d pissed off Lila. I didn’t like Bliss being frustrated with me either. Or let down.

“If you’re finished eating you’d better go. So she’ll feel more comfortable coming out here,” Bliss said with an apologetic frown.

I was done. I needed to talk to Larissa anyway.

“Yeah, I’m finished. Thanks for breakfast,” I said although I hadn’t wanted to eat in the first place. So now my stomach felt even worse. “It was delicious.” I stood and looked at Nate. “I didn’t mean to make her uncomfortable. Last night I thought we got along fine.”

“No worries. Seriously, that was typical Lila Kate. Bliss just doesn’t know her yet. She’ll get used to it.”

Again, I disagreed and felt like maybe Nate didn’t know her that well. I’d seen a much different girl last night . . . didn’t I? Was that all an illusion from the drinking? Had I thought she was different because I’d been so sloppy drunk?

But damn if I could make up that smile and laugh. That had been real. I know it had.

“Okay, well, thanks for having me,” I said again and then headed for the door. I wanted to find Lila and talk to her alone. But with these two in the house that wasn’t going to happen. I could just hope I found her again before she took off on her trip.

Closing the door behind me, I walked out to my truck. Before I got in, I paused and glanced up at the windows. I’m not sure why, but I had sensed her. Sure enough, there Lila stood watching me in the window to the left looking down. She had her arms crossed over her chest defensively, and there was hurt in her eyes I could see from all the way out here. That was going to bother me.

I waited there. Staring back at Lila. Wishing she’d come out here but knowing she wouldn’t. Finally, the curtain swung back, and she was gone. I didn’t leave right away. I waited a moment to see if she was gone or just hiding from me. When nothing happened I finally climbed into my truck and left. I needed to some answers.

I WATCHED THROUGH the curtains until he left. Our encounter shouldn’t be a big deal. I’d thought he was a one-night stand. A guy I’d never see again. Just because he was too drunk to remember me that well or that we’d had sex—which was blatantly obvious—shouldn’t bother me. Besides, I’d be leaving here in a couple of days. It wasn’t like I was going to see him again.

He was in love with Bliss. I imagined most guys were in love with Bliss. She was the kind of girl guys fell in love with. Beautiful, smart, outgoing, confident, and still kind.

I had watched Nate Finlay date so many females over the years I’d lost count. Even when he was engaged, I hadn’t seen him look at a woman like he did Bliss.

It still stung. I hadn’t been a wild one-night stand. I had been a drunken rebound. If I had truly had sex with a guy I would never see again, then I wouldn’t have known exactly what it had been for him. What I did know were the things he had said to me, the way he’d made me feel desirable and sexy had all been crap. He had just been drunk, and apparently a master with words while intoxicated.

I couldn’t hate him for that. I could, however, keep my distance. That was best. I didn’t think Bliss would be scheduling any meals with him again while I was here. She’d hoped for something with that setup. I guess deep down Bliss knew her best friend was in love with her and was trying to move his attention elsewhere.

A knock on the door to the bedroom I was staying in interrupted my thoughts. That would be Bliss coming to check on me. To see if I wanted to do something. I was expecting that.

“Come in,” I called turning to face her as she entered the room.

Her smile was genuine. She was the sort of person that you saw the kindness in their eyes. I didn’t know many people like that back home. At least, not females. If they weren’t close friends or family, they were rather vicious. A curse that came with growing up among the elite.

“I hope I didn’t interrupt. I know you needed to call your mother.”