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If He Only Knew... - fb3_img_img_a375c704-d105-5393-88bc-6dea690f164f.jpg

If he Only Knew…

Debbi Rawlins

If He Only Knew... - fb3_img_img_03df92f8-1090-59bd-8c97-cfa363418724.jpg
www.millsandboon.co.uk

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Epilogue

Prologue

H EADS TURNED toward the door of Mist, the chic Manhattan bar where high-priced attorneys hung out after work and didn’t mind paying twenty bucks for a peach martini. Brisk early-spring air rushed into the cozy burgundy-accented room, but that wasn’t what commanded the attention of the tony crowd.

Sara Wells’s heart started a slow, torturous pounding. She didn’t have to look to know who’d just walked in. The last person she’d expect to come to her going-away party. Why would he? After all, she’d been a lowly temporary worker. Showing up wouldn’t help his career or get him in tomorrow’s society pages. And that was about all Cody Shea seemed to live for.

Even so, she’d foolishly wished with all her heart he’d show up. That she’d see him just one more time before she got on that plane tomorrow. God, but she wanted to look. Of course she wouldn’t stoop to even the tiniest peek.

“I want you to know that if you change your mind, the job is still yours.” Dakota, who’d been her boss until an hour ago, slid into a seat across from Sara at the small table.

“What? Oh, um, thanks.” With incredible willpower, she kept her eyes away from the door and stared at the huge green concoction Dakota had set in front of her. Chunks of salt clung to the rim of the glass. “A margarita?”

“You haven’t had a margarita until you’ve had one here.”

Not that she’d tell Dakota, but in truth, she hadn’t had a margarita. She stuck with wine. White, mostly. A glass with dinner since she was seventeen. But not during the last ten months she’d been living in New York. With rent being what it was, she hadn’t been able to afford wine. Not the good stuff, anyway. And she’d rather drink tap water than cheap wine.

Dakota touched her hand, and Sara met her eyes. “I hope Cody isn’t the reason you’re leaving New York.”

“No,” she said truthfully. Her year of “dangerous” living was up. It was time to go home. She sighed. “Does everyone in the office know about my silly crush?”

“No, not even my idiotic brother.” Her smile turned into a slight frown. “Although Cody has been acting pretty strange for the past couple of months.” She gave a small shake of her head. “I told him some of us were coming here for a farewell drink, but I wouldn’t count on him showing up.”

Sara couldn’t help it then. She turned her head slightly, enough to see Cody in his navy blue Alexander McQueen suit, standing at the black polished bar, listening to another attorney from the firm. Staring at her.

Their gazes collided. He didn’t smile. Didn’t look away. Just stared.

Dakota’s gaze followed. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

Sara swung back around to face Dakota, her breathing obstructed by the growing lump in her throat. God, she didn’t understand him one bit. Staring at her like that in front of everyone.

“Won’t this be the topic of conversation in the office on Monday?” Dakota said, her gaze moving between Sara and her brother.

“Glad I won’t be there.” Sara’s mouth was so dry the words almost didn’t come out. She picked up the margarita and took a long cool sip. It was surprisingly good, and not just because she was parched.

Dakota’s lips curved in a wry smile. “Sure you don’t want to stay?”

Sara nodded. “Not that you haven’t been the best boss ever.”

“That could get you a raise.” Dakota studied her for a moment. “You really should think about finishing law school. If tuition is a problem, the firm would—”

Sara shook her head, wanting to tell Dakota the truth. That she not only didn’t need the money, but that she already had her law degree. That most people went to Europe when they graduated, footloose and fancy-free, but that Sara had chosen instead to come to New York and get a traditional job for traditional pay, just to see what it was like to be normal. To not be Sara Wellington, at least for a while. Of course, it didn’t matter now. Tomorrow she’d be on the first flight back to Atlanta. Back to her real life. She supposed she could tell Dakota who she really was, but that would just invite a lot of questions, and frankly, answering them was the last thing she wanted to face at her going-away party.

“Okay, no pressure. I just wanted—” Dakota’s smile widened as she looked past Sara. “Tony’s here. I asked him to stop by.”

“Good. I’d like to say goodbye.” Sara looked over her shoulder. Cody was the first person she saw. Standing closer this time, talking to a paralegal two tables away.

He looked over at Sara and a slight smile lifted the corners of his mouth. She quickly turned away, suddenly warm and not so thrilled he’d come. What would it accomplish? Except to make her wish that they’d had a chance to get to know each other.

But then he would never allow that to happen. Careful about his image and personal life, Cody liked to keep himself removed from the rest of the staff. He was good at it, too. No one would think of approaching him unless it was work-related and absolutely necessary. People who’d worked with him for years didn’t really know him.

Sara’s perception of him had changed one night after hours when she’d overheard him talking to his secretary. The woman had been crying.

Sara’s first reaction was outrage but as she listened she realized the tears had been in gratitude. Cody had spent his own money and time to track down her ex-husband and secure the woman’s delinquent child support payments. His only condition was that the woman agree never to speak of it again.

After that, everything changed, at least in Sara’s eyes. Too bad he never let others see that human side of him. Did he think it made him look weak?

Soft jazz filled the air, and Sara tried to focus on the soothing sound of the keyboard and not Cody. Socializing, talking to his subordinates. Being human. Reminding her of that night four months ago. Better to remember that than if they had hooked up, then leaving would be a hundred times more difficult than it already was.

“I don’t think Tony sees us. I’ll go get him.” Dakota got up. “We’ll be right back.”

Sara nodded, and feeling her throat tighten again, picked up the margarita. The icy coldness soothed the inside of her mouth and the heat that had started in her chest. Now would be the perfect time for Cody to approach her.

The thought had barely crossed her mind when she felt him behind her. She forced herself to breathe as she pulled back her shoulders.

“Hey, Sara.” Wrong voice. It was one of the junior attorneys from the firm who claimed Dakota’s seat.

“Oh, Barry.” What did he want? He’d hardly said a dozen words to her in the past six months.

He hesitated. “You expecting someone?”

“Dakota went to get her fiancé.” Sara casually glanced over her shoulder, ostensibly to look for Dakota. Cody was gone. She twisted all the way around. No sign of him.

“I just wanted to buy you a drink.”

Only a lifetime of Southern hospitality stopped her jaw from dropping to the table. “ You want to buy me a drink?”

He looked a little sheepish and quickly turned to signal the waitress.

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