Holy crap. . . He’d killed her.
Carter dropped to his knees and gently shook her the second Emery collapsed. “Emery? Emery, come on now. . . wake up!” Fear had him by the throat when he realized how rough he’d been with her a moment ago. He had no idea anyone was staying here and thought she was a burglar! How was he supposed to know it was Emery? And for that matter, he was still confused as all get-out why she was here.
Giving her another small shake before checking her pulse, he continued to coax her to wakefulness.
His hand getting smacked away was kind of a shock.
“You still know how to make an entrance, Montgomery,” she murmured, slowly sitting up. Looking around as if still a little dazed, she took her time before letting her eyes land on him. And when they did, they were shooting daggers.
“Are you okay?” Hesitantly, he reached out to help her to her feet and once again she moved his hand away. It wasn’t until she was up and steady on her feet that he realized how little she was wearing. “Um. . . Emery?”
“What is your deal, Carter? Why would you attack me like that?” she demanded.
“Yeah, so. . . I had no idea you were here and–could you please go put some damn clothes on?” If he wasn’t so freaked out over what had just happened, he would have laughed at her shocked expression when she looked down and realized she was in nothing more than boy shorts and a clingy shirt.
With a muttered curse, Emery spun around and practically sprinted to her room, slamming the door behind her.
It took a minute for Carter to breathe normally. Resting a hand on the wall, he tried to gather his wits. When had everything gotten out of control? Why didn’t his mother mention any of this to him? How could she not come out and tell him that the one person who’d aggravated the crap out of him for most of his school years was staying in their condo? If it wasn’t so damn late he’d call her himself and find out, but now he had no choice but to talk to Emery and find out from her instead.
Walking back into the kitchen, he finished his drink and waited for Emery to come back out.
It was already after midnight and all Carter wanted was to get undressed and go to bed. His dinner had gone longer than planned because he’d got to talking to the owner, who’d then introduced him to the chef and it became a very lengthy thing. The food had been spectacular, and before he knew it, he’d lost track of time. The entire time he walked home, all he could think of was how satisfied he was and how ready he was to sleep.
That plan was shot to hell now that he had to deal with Emery.
He finally realized she wasn’t coming back out, and that just got him all riled up again. Stomping down the hall, he knocked on the door. “Emery?”
Great, maybe he really had hurt her and she was passed out again. He threw the door open, and she let out a small scream when she spotted him.
From under the blankets in her bed.
Son of a. . .
His first thought was how he was going to strangle her, but then realized he knew exactly how to get back at her.
Leaning lazily in the doorway, he crossed his arms and simply stared at her. The small bedside lamp was on, so he had no problem seeing every emotion play on her face–and he remembered each and every expression from all those years in school together.
First she was shocked.
Then she looked at him expectantly.
When he did nothing but quirk a brow at her, she got mildly annoyed.
Followed by majorly annoyed.
The huff of frustration was next, along with narrowing her eyes at him, and Carter had to fight a smile because he had forgotten how much fun this could be.
“Dammit, Carter! What do you want?”
His eyes went wide. “What do I want? Seriously? I come home to my family’s place and find you here! And I believe I asked you exactly what you were doing here and you chose not to answer!”
“I fainted, you idiot!” she cried, clutching the duvet to her chest.
Then he moved from the doorway and sauntered across the room, looking at all of her things scattered about before sitting on the edge of the bed. “Whatever,” he said casually. “I figured you’d grab a robe and come back out and talk to me like an adult. Clearly only one of us has matured.” He gave a careless shrug and looked at her with an easy grin.
Yeah, she looked ready to spit nails.
And it was awesome.
“Only one?” Emery sputtered, sitting up straighter. “Look, what is your deal, Carter? You knew I was going to be here! We’re working on the cookbook this week!”
For a minute he was too stunned to speak.
“Um. . . what?”
She nodded vigorously. “The cookbook? The one you gave a half-assed effort to? Any of this ringing a bell?”
Now he was annoyed. “Yes, I’m familiar with the project,” he deadpanned. “What I’m not familiar with is what any of it has to do with you.”
Emery’s mouth opened and then quickly closed as she looked at him with disbelief.
They were at a stalemate, continuing to stare at one another. It was making Carter crazy. All he’d wanted was to come back to the condo after enjoying a good meal and get some sleep. Now his mind was racing, he was more than a little ticked off at his mother, and–and what? Studying Emery, he couldn’t quite say what he was feeling.
Annoyance. Always stick to annoyance where Emery Monaghan is concerned.
(C) Samantha Chase, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2019
With a dash of Christmas magic. . .
Two people who have spent most of their lives being rivals. . .
Learn a little something about following their hearts. . .
Carter Montgomery broke the family mold when he went to culinary school. Now a successful restauranteur, he’s at a crossroads: should he continue on his successful path or look for a new challenge? What he needs is time alone to think things through. But his matchmaking family has other ideas. . .
Emery Monaghan’s no-good fiancé has embroiled her in scandal and she needs a way out. When mentor Eliza Montgomery offers her a refuge, she’s relieved–until she realizes that the deal means rubbing elbows with Eliza’s son Carter–Emery’s childhood nemesis.
About Samantha Chase
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Samantha Chase has published more than twenty romance novels, with over half a million copies sold. Visit her at www.chasing-romance.com. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Wake Forest, North Carolina.