Heat radiated from the stone fireplace, warming the room. The temperature in the cozy, modern hotel lounge was a welcome contrast to the frigid wind outside. Mesmerized, Rachel Ashberg stared into the flames, watching as they danced around the logs, consuming the wood with hungry licks.
She sipped the last of her wine, relishing the tranquility that settled over her. Tomorrow that peace would be stripped away like old paint.
It had been a good idea to drive up to the Blue Mountains from Sydney a day early. The ninety-minute car trip through winding roads and national parkland had given her a chance to decompress a little. Twenty-four hours of rest and relaxation, away from the stress of work and failed relationships, was proving to be a much-needed tonic. Plus, she was building up her energy reserves for the weekend. She was going to need them.
The walk down to Wentworth Falls earlier had helped too. All that crisp, wintry air, lush eucalyptus forest, calming birdsong and getting back to nature had either cleared her mind of any remaining despondency or frozen her brain and heart enough that those issues no longer worried her. So what if things hadn't worked out with Paul? She'd known from the beginning he wasn't the right guy for her, but she'd tried anyway.
Just like she'd tried with James and Ethan and a whole host of other men who hadn't quite cut it. Hell, none of them were the right guy.
How could they be, when she'd already met the right guy--and he was the one man she couldn't be with? Of course, fate dictated he was also the man she was about to spend two days and two nights with, in a romantic boutique hotel.
He, his sister and ten of their closest friends.
God, it was going to be hell. Torture to the nth degree. How would she ever make it through to Monday?
Rachel shook her head, chastising herself for her negativity.
She would make it through to Monday. Her strength and her resistance had been fortified today, and she'd be fine. The weekend would pass without her once pining for Jackson Brooks. Without accidentally brushing up against him. Without sneaking outside in the blistering cold to steal secret kisses as they once had.
Rachel fidgeted with the cover of her book, considered opening it, but in the end just wasn't in the mood for reading.
"Mind if I join you?"
The question registered, but Rachel didn't respond. Since she was here alone, whoever had spoken must have addressed someone else. Pity. The voice held appeal. It was a deep rumble, smooth as old scotch. And accented. American?
She smiled to herself. Her relationship skills may be shot to hell, but her body still worked just fine. It didn't matter that yet another relationship had failed as a result of her feelings for Jackson. Her sex drive obviously hadn't suffered for it.