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"No way!" Her eyes went huge. "We didn't have the beach there, and the seals and stuff, or the big carousel in town, or Ana living next door. This is the best place in the world."
"I like it here, too." He sat up and kissed her brow. "Now beat it, so I can get dressed."
"You'll come right downstairs for breakfast?" she asked as she slid from the bed.
"Absolutely. I'm so hungry I could eat a whole loaf of cinnamon toast."
Delighted, she rushed for the door. "I'm going to make more, right now."
Knowing she would take him at his word and go through an entire loaf of bread, Boone hurried through his shower, opted not to shave, and pulled on cutoffs and a T-shirt that would probably have done better in the rag pile.
He tried not to dwell on the dream. After all, it was simple enough to interpret. He wanted Ana—no big revelation there. And all that white—white on white—was obviously a symbol of her innocence.
It scared the hell out of him.
He found Jessie in the kitchen, busily slathering butter on another piece of toast. There was a plate heaped with them, more than a few of them burnt. The smell of cinnamon was everywhere.
Boone put on the coffee before he snagged a piece. It was cold, hard, and lumped with sugary cinnamon. Obviously, Jessie had inherited her grandmother's culinary talents.
"It's great," he told her, and swallowed gamely. "My favorite Sunday breakfast."
"Do you think Daisy can have some?"
Boone looked at the pile of toast again, glanced down at the pup, whose tongue was lolling out. With any luck he might be able to pawn off half his Sunday breakfast on the dog. "I think she could." Crouching, Boone held out a second piece of toast close enough for Daisy to sniff. "Sit," he ordered, in the firm, no-nonsense voice the training books had suggested.
Daisy continued to loll her tongue and wag her tail.
"Daisy, sit." He gave her rump a nudge. Daisy went down, then bounded back on all fours to jump at him. "Forget it." He held the toast out of reach and repeated the command. After five frustrating minutes—during which he tried not to remember how simple it had been for Ana—he managed to hold the dog's hindquarters down. Daisy gobbled up the bread, pleased with herself.
"She did it, Daddy."
"Sort of." He rose to pour himself some coffee. "We'll take her outside in a little while and have a real lesson."
"Okay." Jessie munched happily on her toast. "Maybe Ana's company will be gone, and she can help."
"Company?" Boone asked as he reached for a mug.
"I saw her outside with a man. She gave him a big hug and a kiss and everything."
"She—" The mug clattered onto the counter.
"Butterfingers," Jessie said, smiling.
"Yeah." Boone kept his back turned as he righted the mug and poured the coffee. "What, ah, sort of a man?" He thought his voice was casual enough—to fool a six-year-old, anyway.
"A really tall man with black hair. They were laughing and holding hands. Maybe it's her boyfriend."
"Boyfriend," Boone repeated between his teeth.
"What's the matter, Daddy?"
"Nothing. Coffee's hot." He sipped it black. Holding hands, he thought. Kissing. He'd get a look at this guy himself. "Why don't we go out on the deck, Jess? See if we can get Daisy to sit again."
"Okay." Singing the new song she'd learned in school, Jessie gathered up toast. "I like to eat outside. It's nice."
"Yeah, it's nice." Boone didn't sit when they were on the deck, but stood at the rail, the mug in his hand. He didn't see anyone in the next yard, and that was worse. Now he could imagine what Ana and her tall, dark-haired boyfriend might be doing inside.
He ate three more pieces of toast, washing them down with black coffee while he fantasized about just what he'd say to Miss Anastasia Donovan the next time he saw her.
If she thought she could kiss him to the point of explosion one night, then dally with some strange guy the next morning, she was very much mistaken.
He'd straighten her out, all right. The minute he got ahold of her he'd—
His thoughts broke off when she came out the kitchen door, calling over her shoulder to someone.
"Ana!" Jessie leapt up on the bench, waving and shouting. "Ana, hi!"
While Boone watched through narrowed eyes, Ana looked in their direction. It seemed to him that her hand hesitated on its way up to return the wave, and her smile was strained.
Sure, he thought as he gulped down more coffee. I'd be nervous, too, if I had some strange man in the house.
"Can I go tell her what Daisy did? Can I, Daddy?"
"Yeah." His smile was grim as he set his empty mug on the rail. "Why don't you do that?"
Snatching up some more toast, she darted down the steps, calling for Daisy to follow and for Ana to wait.
Boone waited himself until he saw the man stroll outside to join Ana. He was tall, all right, Boone noted with some resentment. Several inches over six feet. He drew his own shoulders back. His hair was true black, and long enough to curl over his collar and blow—romantically, Boone imagined a woman would think—in the breeze.
He looked tanned, fit and elegant. And the breath hissed out between Boone's teeth when the stranger slipped an arm around Ana's shoulders as if it belonged there.
We'll see about this, Boone decided, and started down the deck stairs with his hands jammed in his pockets. We'll just see about this.
By the time he reached the hedge of roses, Jessie was already chattering a mile a minute about Daisy, and Ana was laughing, her arms tucked intimately around the stranger's waist.
"I'd sit, too, if someone was going to feed me cinnamon toast," the man said, and winked at Ana.
"You'd sit if anyone was going to feed you anything." Ana gave him a little squeeze before she noticed Boone at the hedge. "Oh." It was useless to curse the faint blush she felt heating her cheeks. "Good morning."
"How's it going?" Boone gave her a slow nod. Then his gaze moved suspiciously to the man beside her. "We didn't mean to interrupt while you have… company."
"No, that's all right, I—" She broke off, both confused and disconcerted by the tension humming in the air. "Sebastian, this is Jessie's father, Boone Sawyer. Boone, my cousin, Sebastian Donovan."