D.J. loved the thought of having a part of her in his restaurant. It was like a gift.
She must’ve taken his silence for disapproval, because immediately she seemed worried.
“Is that all right?” she asked.
He latched his gaze to hers, connecting, settling into what was more of a home than he’d ever had. “You shouldn’t wonder about my opinion,” he said. “I’ll always appreciate your work.”
And you, he tacitly added. I’ll always appreciate anything you see fit to give me.
Her gaze brightened, as blue and vivid as the mural’s waterfall, and D.J. told himself it was enough.
At least for now.
Four more days passed, filled with nights that Allaire spent perfecting the Rib Shack’s mural.
Nights that Allaire spent wondering what was going on between her and D.J. as he continued to oversee the last-minute details of the opening.
Whenever he was in the same room, she felt him on her skin, under it. But she never looked back at him. Instead, she became a part of her mural, losing herself in its fantasy.
Tonight she was working the Roman Colosseum into a red dress worn by Lily Divine, the infamous was-she-or-wasn’t-she town madam back in the early days. Just a touch of shading here, a dab of texture there, and Allaire almost had it.
But then she sensed D.J., and her thoughts went up in smoke. Heat seemed to undulate in her tummy as the sound of careful bootsteps thudded to a stop behind her.
She sent an inquisitive glance over her shoulder, finding D.J. there, all right, dressed in his jeans and flannel shirt. There was nothing big-city or rich-boy about him, and when she remembered that he was a wealthy businessman, it always came as a bit of a surprise.
“Are you here to remind me to eat again?” she asked.
“Am I that predictable?”
He said it as if being constant was a bad thing. But Allaire wanted to tell him that his kind of predictable was nice, welcome, exactly what she’d been lacking in a marriage that had always seemed to shift beneath her feet.
D.J. hitched a thumb toward the rear entrance, where a man in camouflage was painting the wide door frame.
“I was thinking we could grab a bite at the Grubstake,” he said, referring to the grill in the main lodge.
“Sounds good to me.” Allaire stood, then went to clean up and grab a jacket before recalling that the main lodge was connected to one of two Rib Shack entrances via a hallway. But since she wasn’t dressed to the nines—not even to the ones, really—she slipped her jacket over her paint-dotted shirt anyway, merely to cover up.
She and D.J. took off then, passing a corridor filled with high-end shops featuring winter wear in the windows. A few slender, coiffed women milled inside, choosing their finery with care. Open storefronts languished in between the franchises, spaces that the resort would be renting out in the future.
Allaire was fascinated. “I hadn’t actually toured this place until you came along, and I never realized it’d be so much like falling down the rabbit hole.”
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