Every Little Thing

Page 14


“Miss Hartwell. Miss Saunders.”
Emery gave him a flustered half smile, half nod.
“This is my father, William Tremaine. Dad, this is Bailey Hartwell; she owns Hart’s Inn at the end of the boards, and Emery Saunders owns this establishment.”
His dad held out his hand first to Bailey and then Emery. Bailey raised an eyebrow (Vaughn assumed at his father’s congeniality) but she shook his hand. Emery flushed bright red as she shook his father’s hand and refused to meet his eyes as she murmured, “Hello.”
William grinned harder at her shyness. “You have a lovely property, Miss Saunders.” He glanced around at the feminine, cozy bookstore and coffeehouse. The coffeehouse and its shy owner had a way of making a man fully aware of his masculinity. Vaughn always felt too large, too alien in the pretty store. To some men, like Cooper who had expressed his discomfort around Emery, that was off-putting. Not to Vaughn, and he imagined not to some others. In a way both Emery and her place were altogether alluring in their utter femininity and mystery. If he were a different man who wasn’t encumbered with a debilitating fear of commitment or an annoying infatuation with a certain redhead, Vaughn might have tried to draw Emery Saunders out of her shell.
And he had no doubt there were other men who would feel that compulsion. Vaughn just hoped when the time came it wasn’t a man who would use her to get to the considerable wealth she’d inherited from her grandmother—information that was for now only known among the trusted community of the owners of boardwalk businesses. Unfortunately, it was also known by the Devlin family, which had researched Emery when she inherited the property on the boardwalk, property that was part of a number of investments her grandmother had made over the years.
Ian Devlin and his sons hadn’t tried playing mind games or using underhand tactics in order to gain her property as they had done with Cooper and Bailey in the past. In fact Emery wasn’t even aware the Devlins had looked into her when she took over the place. But Vaughn was aware, and he was keeping an eye on the situation.
Emery Saunders was vulnerable.
And he didn’t like that she had no family watching her back.
“Thank you.” Emery’s quiet reply was a vast improvement considering it involved actual words, and Vaughn wondered if Bailey was partly responsible for helping Emery gain some social confidence.
William smiled at Bailey. “So, Miss Hartwell. I hear you’re keeping my son on his toes while I’m not around to do it.”
Bailey’s eyes widened in surprise as Vaughn inwardly groaned.
“I don’t know about keeping him on his toes but I certainly try to deflate his ego when I can.” She smiled.
Bailey Hartwell had the most stunning smile of any woman he’d ever met. It was full and glamorous and completely spellbinding.
Vaughn felt a spike of envy toward his dad and shook his head in disbelief.
William laughed. “Glad to hear it. I saw your inn when I took a walk on the boards early this morning. It’s beautiful.”
One tiny compliment and Bailey blossomed, preening under the praise. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked between father and son. “If you two didn’t look so damn alike I would question the relation.”
While his dad laughed, Vaughn squirmed, fighting the urge to respond in turn. He had to remember she was going through something traumatic and he had to be extra careful of her feelings.
Bailey seemed surprised by his lack of response. “Are you on your best behavior in front of your father or is something else going on?”
“Excuse me?” He feigned polite ignorance.
Her features tightened, her pretty lips pressing into thin, hard lines. When she did that it made him want to kiss them to soft and full again. He jerked his gaze from her mouth only to meet his father’s stare. A stare that was bright with curiosity and speculation.
“Someone told you, didn’t they? About my breakup with Tom. Was it Cooper? Well, he probably realized that it would be all over town by the end of the night anyway. So yes. I broke up with Tom because I found him in nothing but dirty socks, rutting with a twenty-three-year-old.”
And that was just like Bailey to ignore social decorum and put the upsetting business of her breakup, and the circumstances of it, out there. Vaughn’s dad was hiding a smile, apparently amused by her candidness.
Vaughn cleared his throat, not knowing whether to laugh, strangle her, or pull her into his arms. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Bailey raised an eyebrow as if to indicate, Yeah, right.
“Breakups are difficult,” his dad said. “I’m sorry to hear you’re going through that, Miss Hartwell.”
Like most women who met William Tremaine, Bailey melted under the blast of his warm charisma. “Thank you. And please call me Bailey.”
“Then call me Liam,” he returned.
Kill me now, Vaughn thought. As much as he didn’t want any kind of congenial relationship with Bailey he had to admit it stung more than a little that upon meeting him she took an instant dislike to him, but upon meeting his father she treated him with the same friendly warmth she did everyone else.
“Liam it is then.”
“I hope you’re doing okay,” his dad continued.
Since Vaughn wanted to know the answer to that he didn’t interrupt and demand two coffees to go from Emery like he probably should have.
“I am, thank you.” She slumped against the counter. The seriousness of the new subject seemed to drain her. “The change is hard. We were together ten years. But . . . we weren’t right for one another.” She gave his dad a sad smile that Vaughn felt deep in his chest. “It’s kind of a relief actually.”