But she wasn’t about to explain all that, so Sorrow just shrugged. “It wasn’t exactly true love with us, you know?” Feeling vulnerable, she flopped onto her back, staring at the ceiling instead of meeting her sister’s probing stare. “Please. I just need some advice. I’m not good at this flirting thing.” She put a hand out to stop Laura’s denials, meeting her eye. “Listen. You don’t understand. It comes naturally to you. Me, I’m the girl guys confide in. I’ve always been Sorrow Bailey, The Buddy.”
“You’re being serious, aren’t you?” Laura’s expression softened as she seemed to see Sorrow for the first time. “Well…first off, you’ve got to let him know you’re interested. Give him a sign.”
“Guys don’t need much. Billy looks at you all the time. Next time you’re alone, just…don’t look away. Trust me. The man will take it from there.”
“Okay. I can do that. Wait.” Sorrow’s heart skittered in her chest at the thought. “Where should I be when this happens? Tell me how I should begin, exactly.”
“How, exactly?” Laura scanned her critically. “Change that shirt, for starters. And wear something other than hiking boots.”
Sorrow stuck her legs in front of her, rolling her ankles. “These aren’t hiking boots. They’re all-weather sneakers.”
“Yeah, whatever. Lose them. And wear a shirt that fits.”
“Okay, check that. I meant, wear something fitted.” Laura popped from the bed and grabbed her sister’s arm. “Come with me. We’re raiding my closet.”
“Really?” Sorrow stumbled down the hallway behind her. “You’ll help me?”
Laura flung open her closet door. “If you mean, will I dress you up then shove you out the door, then yes, gladly. I’ll help you.”
Sorrow briefly registered the surprising amount of clothing Laura had brought for what was supposedly a “short visit.” But then her sister’s words sank in. “Wait, you’re going to shove me out the door? Where am I supposed to go?”
“To his house, dummy.” Laura flipped through her closet, grabbing random items and tossing them on the bed.
She felt a fluttering in her belly, excited to be getting actual help, but a little nervous, too. “What should I talk about when I get there?”
Laura stopped what she was doing to give her a long, hard look. “You really don’t know, do you?”
She gave her sister a rueful shrug. “I can talk, I’ve just never gotten how to, you know, flirt.”
Laura turned and, putting hands on hips, studied her. “You know how to flirt. You just don’t know that you know. You know?”
“Just talk about something you feel strongly about. Like food. Only spice it up.”
“No, dummy. Spice up your banter. Make it sex-ay.” Laura raised a naughty brow, making Sorrow laugh. “And make some sexy food while you’re at it.”
“Sexy food? You mean, like how they say stuff like oysters and foie gras are aphrodisiacs?”
Laura grimaced. “It needs to be easy and edible. Like, something drizzly and chocolaty and whipped creamy.”
“Got it,” Sorrow said. Food was her domain, and talk of it gave her confidence. “And then what?”
Laura rolled her eyes. “Seriously? If you haven’t figured that part out yet, you’re in more trouble than I thought.”
“You know what I mean.” She joined Laura at the closet and picked out a purple dress, holding it in front of her before a mirror.
Her sister snatched it away and flung it on the floor. “Makes you look like an eggplant.”
Sorrow plopped on the edge of the bed. “So, what will my excuse be, for showing up?”
“I don’t know. Make it up. You bought too many groceries or something.” Laura picked out one black high-heeled boot and tossed through her closet to find its mate. “Isn’t the fastest way to a man’s heart through his stomach? You’re the chef, so…go chef.”
She nodded. She could do that. “I can do that.”
“You can do that.” Laura’s eyes lit, and she plucked a gauzy black top from her closet. “A-ha.”
Sorrow frowned. “You want me to wear that? It’s see-through.”
Laura foisted it at her. “Wear it. And don’t leave until he kisses you.”
Billy knew he should do something, but there was nothing he felt like doing. It was too early in the evening to pop in a movie. He’d already gotten in a workout, just the free weights he kept in his garage, but his heart hadn’t been in it. Considering he wore only an ancient pair of jeans, it seemed he couldn’t even finish getting dressed.
He hadn’t been able to get events at the lodge out of his mind. The Bailey family had scoffed at his suspicions. Fallen trees, the errant road closure, car and appliance troubles galore—they blamed it all on coincidence. Just a slew of innocent incidents that came with mountain living. But the cut freezer lines had cast all those emergencies in a new light. He had a hunch something was going on. Somebody was playing a dangerous game.
And, one of these days, one of those innocent incidents could turn lethal.
He couldn’t bear the thought that Sorrow might get caught in the cross fire. He’d done some poking around, but it’d been no good. Bear had been right on one count: Sierra Falls was a friendly town, where everybody knew their neighbors. So who on earth would want to mess with the lodge?
He balled up his T-shirt and tossed it onto one of the kitchen chairs. As much as it killed him, he had to let it go for the night. All he wanted to do was storm the lodge and protect her, but it wasn’t his place.
He had to get his mind on other things before he drove himself nuts. He opened the fridge to stare inside. Food. He needed food.
There was nothing to eat. And he didn’t feel like cooking anyway. He slammed the door shut.
He’d already had pizza once that week, which just about covered the delivery options in Sierra Falls. He thought about the tavern, but there was no way he could go there.
Even though that was all he wanted to do.
The early birds would be showing up for dinner right about now. Sully had probably made some sort of meaty special—meat loaf, Prospector’s Pie, or maybe his Southwest burgers. He hadn’t made those in a while.
Billy could get a hot meal, keep his eye on things. Sorrow would be in and out, probably working on her own creation in the family kitchen.
Sorrow. If he went for dinner, he probably wouldn’t even see her. He could just swing by, grab a quick bite, make sure nothing was amiss. It wasn’t like he’d be paying her a visit. If he saw her, he saw her, and if he didn’t, well, it’d be no big deal. He grabbed his T-shirt, decided.
And then he stopped. He wadded the shirt back up and tossed it back onto the chair. He couldn’t go back to the tavern again. People would start to talk, if they hadn’t already. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d “dropped by” the Bailey place that week.
Something had happened on that car ride. A shift. It went deeper than him wanting to keep her safe. It was that he wanted her.
More, that it was okay to want her. That maybe he even needed her.
Except there was that damned boyfriend. He’d never compete with someone like Damien Simmons. Rich, young, powerful, good-looking…the list went on and on.
But then again, Sully had said Sorrow would be giving the guy his walking papers any day now. Could that possibly be true? And, if it were, would she possibly be interested in him?
He could always look elsewhere. If he’d made his decision to start dating again, he could try going to that bar across town—what was that ridiculous name, Chances?—and stop spending so much time at the tavern.
But who was he fooling? Sorrow was the only woman he had his eye on. Sorrow, who’d managed to burrow her way beneath his shell.
The doorbell pulled him from his thoughts. He glanced at the clock. Five was late for someone to be showing up at his doorstep. He raked his hand through his hair a couple of times. People come by a man’s house after hours, they had to take what they got.
He opened the door, and his jaw dropped. It was her. “Sorrow. Hi.”
He drank in the sight of her. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold and her sandy blond hair danced in the breeze. She was wearing a fuzzy bluish green hat that was an exact match to the color of her eyes.
She got prettier every time he saw her. Was there something different about her today, or was it just him, seeing her differently?
“Laura kicked me out of the kitchen, but I bought too many groceries,” she said, sounding nervous, “and they’ll spoil if I don’t do something with them, so I was hoping maybe, I mean, I thought that maybe you might be hungry. If you’re free. And hungry. I could cook for us.”
He’d been feeling listless, but now he felt rooted to the spot, his entire focus consumed by her. Seeing her there before him, it struck him just how powerful a presence she’d been in his thoughts. And now she was here. On his doorstep. It was strange—like he’d summoned her somehow.
Her gaze flicked down, taking in his clothes—or lack thereof.
“I hope I’m not bothering you,” she said hesitantly.
“God, yes. I mean…no, of course you’re not bothering me. And yes, I’m hungry.” Hungrier than you realize. He laughed and stepped back. “I’m sorry, let’s try that again. Hi, Sorrow, please come on in.” He noticed her canvas bag overflowing with groceries and took it for her. “Let me get this.”
What was she doing there? She was like an angel who’d appeared at his door, and now she was walking through his house as though it were something she did all the time.