Was Dalton reacting to the cold…or to her?
At the latter possibility, warmth suffused her, turning to a streak of desire. She’d missed being appreciated, missed the stimulation of being attracted to someone. She stroked his face, realising how full his bottom lip was, how soft.
“Allaire,” he whispered, his gaze filled with a longing so intense that her entire being trembled. Then, before she realised what was happening, he slid his arm to the back of her head, drawing her down to meet his lips.
She pressed against him as he buried his fingers in her hair and spread his other hand over the small of her back, urging her even tighter against him.
So this was what it felt like to kiss her best friend…
To Beverly, whose art is eternal, too.
lives near Las Vegas, Nevada, where she writes for the Cherish and Blaze® lines. She loves to read, over-analyse movies, do yoga and write about her travels and obsessions on her website www.crystal-green.com. There, you can read about her trips on Route 66, as well as visits to Japan and Italy.
She’d love to hear from her readers by e-mail through the Contact Crystal feature on her web page!
Young love. True love. A love that hasn’t faded over time.
The moment I was given this story to write for the MONTANA series, I adored Dalton Traub. He’s the best friend from school who always stayed loyal, who would do anything for his “pal,” Allaire. The thing is, she never knew how he felt about her – not even when she ended up marrying his older brother.
What a heartbreaking premise, and when I was given the chance to see how their reunion plays out over ten years later – after Allaire is divorced and Dalton returns to Thunder Canyon – I felt my heartstrings getting tugged without mercy. I hope this story does the same for you… especially if you’ve ever had a Dalton in your life.
Her Best Man
One would think Allaire Traub would be smart enough to recognize her best friend across a parking lot. But when she first saw him, she had no idea it was the man she used to call “her D.J.”
Tori Jones, Allaire’s friend and fellow teacher, spotted him first as they walked into the parking lot of Thunder Canyon High School. Both her and Allaire’s arms were loaded with lesson plans and workbooks, their cheeks already reddened by a cool September wind.
“Please tell me that’s one of my students’ parents just dropping in for a conference,” Tori said.
Trying to get a bead on who her friend was referring to, Allaire whisked a strand of blond hair out of her eyes. Across the lot, the school band practiced their competition show. A coach’s whistle trilled from the football field to the east.
Her gaze soon fell on a man standing with his back to them, hands in his jeans pockets while he watched the band easing into formation. His shoulders were broad beneath his suede-and-sheepskin coat, his dark brown hair tufted by the same breeze that was presently sending a shiver over Allaire herself.
Without quite knowing what she was doing, she ran her eyes over his body. Nice. Jeans molded over well-muscled legs. His stance was casual, confident. Her art teacher’s fingers itched to shape him, to sculpt and feel.
But…nope, not for her, even if she did like what she saw. These days, Allaire didn’t have the will to invest herself in dating, much less the emotion it took to be intimate with someone. Divorce had sapped the energy right out of her and, even if her marriage had dissolved four years ago, it didn’t feel like enough time had passed to “get out there” again.
However, four years was enough time to get into the habit of being a single woman who depended only on herself, and Allaire had discovered she hadn’t minded that so much.
She shot Tori an encouraging grin. “You’d better hope he’s not the parent of a failing student. That’d be fun.”
The strawberry-blonde shrugged good-naturedly, wrinkling her nose as she smiled, too. A light spray of freckles added a pixie-like vibe to Tori’s short, wispy haircut. She was so hip that you could tell she’d moved here from a big city like Denver.
“Please,” Tori said. “I don’t mix business with pleasure. Look but don’t touch. That’s what I say—unless the looking comes during my off hours.”
“More power to you then….” Allaire trailed off as the man across the parking lot turned around.
It was as if he’d been tuned in to her presence, sensing the moment she’d walked out of the school. Then again, it’d always been that way with the two of them.
A couple of peas in a pod, Allaire thought, as the man in the sheepskin coat smiled at her.
“D.J.?” she whispered.
He sauntered toward them while the band started to play, horns blaring and echoing through a big blue sky already painted with strokes of pinkened clouds.
“Who’s D.J.?” Tori asked.
Good question, Allaire thought. Who was Dalton James Traub nowadays? She’d thought she’d known the answer all those years ago, when they’d been best friends throughout school.
When he’d been the best man at her wedding to his older brother, Dax.
Allaire paused, then smiled, the gesture weighing on her lips. “D.J.’s a…pal. Someone I haven’t seen in a long, long time.”
“Then I’ll leave you to him,” Tori said. “I need to get home and grade a batch of essays about Moby Dick, anyway. And, truly, I just can’t wait to read all the veiled phallic jokes in store for me. Wish me patience and good humor?”
All Allaire could do was nod as her friend headed toward her compact car. The wind flirted with Tori’s oversized coat and jaunty red scarf as she left Allaire to fend for herself.
Not only had she not seen D.J. in years, she hadn’t talked to him in a long, long time, either. They’d started floating apart ten years ago after graduation, when he’d gone across the country for college. She’d seen him at her wedding, of course, but things had been too crazy for them to really enjoy each other’s company. Then he’d left Thunder Canyon for good, except for a quick trip to his dad’s funeral five years ago, just before she and Dax had divorced. Even then, she and her old friend hadn’t talked to any extent—she’d just seen D.J. at the service, and he’d disappeared immediately afterward.
Stung, she’d been reluctant to call or e-mail, thinking he was avoiding her for a reason, probably because of her strained marriage to his brother. She’d even believed that D.J. might be taking Dax’s side, even if they weren’t the closest of brothers. She didn’t know why that was—neither D.J. nor Dax ever wanted to talk about it. Still, blood was thicker than water, so she hadn’t chanced the contact with D.J., afraid of how much an official rejection from him would hurt.
Now, as he approached, his gait slowed. He actually seemed more self-aware with each closing step.
Would he be uncomfortable around her now that she and Dax were kaput? And what would she and D.J. have to say to each other after all these years?
As he got closer, Allaire’s pulse picked up speed. It was a new feeling, at least around good ol’ D.J., and she didn’t understand why a mere glimpse of him across the parking