One Real Man

By: Coleen Kwan

Through his spread-out legs, she glimpsed her clothing next to her suitcases. “Really? You’re going to stand there and watch?”

One corner of his lips lifted briefly. “You used to like me watching, didn’t you?”

Oh God, why did he have to bring that up? Years ago, his clear green eyes had tracked her faithfully as she’d sauntered around the pool in her skimpy bikini, aware of the effect she had on him and excited by her strange new power. But even then, she’d sensed the force behind his reserve, and in the end she’d found out that she couldn’t tease him with impunity.

“But I’m not wearing anything,” she protested, flustered by his eyes, her memories.

“So I noticed.”

Oh, he was so infuriating she wanted to stamp her foot. Which was hard to do when she was in a pool, buck naked in front of her former pool boy.

She tilted up her chin. “You know, I’ve drunk about a gallon of coffee today and haven’t visited the bathroom for hours. If you keep me waiting here in your pool, I might just have to go here…”

His eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”

“Oh, I would. I can’t hold on for—”

“Yes, you can.” He pivoted on his heel and walked to the door, where he halted with his back to her.

Shivering, she hoisted herself out of the pool and hurried to her clothing. With no towels around, she had no option but to yank her clothes on over her wet skin. The jeans chafed her legs, and a whiff of chlorine clung to her hair. She really needed a warm shower, but if Owen was the rightful tenant, she’d have to leave. Where could she go at eight o’clock at night? She couldn’t afford a hotel, but—

“Are you decent yet?” Without waiting for her reply, Owen spun around. Those rapier-sharp eyes scanned her from top to toe. Did he like what he saw? Hard to tell… Wait, why did she care at all what he thought of her?

“Didn’t you say you needed the bathroom?” he asked.

“Did I? Oh, that can wait.”

“I thought as much.” He continued to stare at her, like he always had, only this time he purposely wanted to disturb her. And he succeeded. Tiny prickles raced up and down her spine.

“Tell me what’s going on,” she burst out, unable to bear his scrutiny any longer. “Why are you renting my parents’ house? Don’t you live in Sydney these days?”

Sighing, he jerked his head toward the house. “Let’s go into the kitchen. Then you can tell me what you’re doing here.”

The ominous tone in his voice had her back stiffening, even as she knew she had no choice but to obey his command. Head held high, she picked up her handbag and stalked out of the conservatory. She’d meant to leave her suitcases behind, but a clacking noise alerted her that Owen was pulling her luggage along. She walked into the main house and through to the kitchen.

Although her mother never cooked, she’d always had the kitchen renovated every few years. It made for good publicity to have Crystal Kerrigan, the TV chat show host, photographed in her kitchen doing homey things like lifting out a batch of fresh scones, never mind that her mother didn’t know how to bake and wouldn’t let such fattening food past her lips anyway. The kitchen was currently done up in French provincial decor. The limewashed cabinetry and the enormous chandelier hanging from the artfully distressed rafters were familiar, but the vast oak refectory table in the center of the room wasn’t.

Owen motioned her toward the heavy ladder-back chairs. “Take a seat.”

She sat at the table. He took the seat opposite her and rested his arms on the polished wood. He linked his fingers together, the shrewd, assessing expression returning to his eyes.

“How did you get into the house?” he asked.

“The spare key hidden in the garden.”

“Spare key? Where’s it kept?”

“Under the stone crane just outside the conservatory.”

“So you just walked in and disarmed the alarm system.”

“I used the old code.” She looked at him pointedly. “You can’t have changed it.”

“I’ve been meaning to do that.” He frowned at her. “Where’s your car? I didn’t see it in the driveway or the garage.”

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