MATT REED IS HIDING
…from his fans
…from his past
…from a failure too painful to contemplate
Most of all, Matt is hiding from himself.
VIVIENNE FORRESTER IS A WOMAN WHO GIVES HER ALL
…to her friends and family
…to her online food blog
…to the man she loves
Vivienne will try anything and everything to coax Matt out of his self-imposed exile. But for this to work, Matt is going to have to meet her halfway…
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“What if I’m already too far gone?”
“You’re not,” she replied softly. “You’re sitting her and telling me what you see in yourself. If you were really too far gone, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” She paused. “Now you can be whatever kind of guy you want. It’s totally up to you.”
He straightened and looked her straight in the eye – his expression less angry and more pleading. “I’d like to be the kind of guy you don’t cringe away from.”
Well damn. “I didn’t cringe,” she said, going for light and teasing. She even forced herself to grin.
Rather than speak, he simply held out his hand to her again. His gaze held hers as he waited.
There wasn’t an option. Doing her best to have no reaction at all, Vivienne stood and walked toward him and placed her hand in his.
And felt more alive than she had in years.
His hand was large, his skin rough and warm. Her eyes met his and if she wasn’t mistaken, he looked just as shaken as she was. Her lips parted and she took a slow, shaky breath. Matt’s hand closed around hers and he gently tugged her down onto the sofa beside him. She sat stiffly for a moment and then – as if of one mind – they relaxed against each other. Vivienne’s head was on his shoulder, his arm around her and it felt…nice.
Like everything she’d been waiting for.
Now what? How was she supposed to act? What was she supposed to say that didn’t come out as her begging Matt to kiss her? Touch her?
She should have stayed in the cottage and let him have his meltdown and recovery on his own. Now she was stuck here and had no way to get up and leave without it being completely obvious that she was no better than the hundreds of girls he’d been with over the years.
She visibly shivered even as the proverbial bucket of cold water was dumped on her in her mind.
“You okay?” he murmured, his voice low and gruff against her ear.
Not trusting her voice, she nodded.
They sat in somewhat companionable silence for several minutes. Vivienne’s mind wasn’t quiet for even one of them. When she noticed the sheet music out on the piano, she twisted slightly and looked up at him. “You play the piano?”
He chuckled softly and – if she wasn’t mistaken – placed a light kiss on her temple. “Sort of.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, forcing herself to laugh even though all she could think about was the fact that his lips had just touched her.
“I’ve tried it several times over the years, but while I was sitting here today doing nothing, I decided to give it a try. It was a little intimidating and I still basically suck at it, but I’m better at it than I was yesterday.”
“I was forced to take lessons for years. My mother was obsessed with me learning. I was relieved when I moved out on my own and didn’t have room for a piano in my apartment. Then Aaron went and built this house and bought one. Every time our parents come to visit I’m obligated to play a little. If I’m not mistaken, that’s their old sheet music you’re using.”
“That would explain why Aaron didn’t have anything from the last decade or two.”
She chuckled. “He really didn’t even need it. I think it was just something my parents passed on to him. Lord knows I didn’t want it.”
“Sounds like you hate it.”
She shrugged. “I think hate is a strong word for it, but it’s very different when you play for pleasure and when you’re doing it because you’re expected to. I used to love to play the popular songs – I have an ear for it now and can play a lot of them without sheet music – and it used to make my mother crazy!” She couldn’t help but laugh at the memory. “Whenever she was nearby, I’d be playing Mozart or Beethoven, but as soon as she would leave I would break into some N’Sync or Backstreet Boys.”
“Ugh! Not the boy bands!” he cried in mock disgust.
“What can I say?” she said, unable to control her laughter. “It’s the music I was listening to!”
“Please tell me you don’t still listen to it?” he begged. “If you could sit down and play anything right now, what would you play?’
“Oh…don’t do that…”
“Because now I feel like I’m under the microscope. Like you’re going to criticize my choice in music – especially if I pick something that’s not one of your songs or something.”
Matt pulled back and shifted so they were fully facing one another. She immediately missed the heat of his body pressed up against hers.
“No pressure. Just honesty. I’m genuinely curious. If no one was here, what would you play?”
“Classic Elton John,” she said without hesitation. “I love his music. All of it. But his earlier stuff is my favorite.”
“I was working on one of his songs earlier, and I have to admit, it didn’t sound half bad.”
“Prove it,” she challenged, a grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye.
“No way,” he replied, shaking his head. “That’s not fair.”
“How is it not fair? You’re a musician. You play music in front of tens of thousands of people all the time. Why can’t you play one song on the piano for me?”
“Because I barely know how to play it.” Then he stopped, and Vivienne did not like the look on his face. Matt stood and held out his hand to her again. “Play it with me.” His voice was so soft as was his expression and, this time, she fit her hand into his without hesitation.
Together they sat on the piano bench and Matt set up the sheet music and started to play.
At least, it’s how it seemed to Vivienne.