Smolder: The Wildwood Series - Karen Erickson

Chapter One

THE MAN WAS a complete idiot.

Like straight-up ignorant, ridiculous, gorgeous, stubborn, infuriating, sexy, elusive, and arrogant . . . yet sweet at the oddest times.

Delilah Moore frowned, tapping her fingers against her desk. She was at the dance studio trying to get some work done and failing miserably. And she definitely didn’t like that bit about him being sweet intruding on her mental hissy fit. She wanted to hate Lane Gallagher right now. Hate him with the built-up anger of a million frustrated women because that’s exactly what she was. A frustrated woman who was sick to death of being rejected by the only man who had ever given her true, real butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

Well, not real butterflies. Just that fluttery sensation one had when one saw the person she had feelings for. Not lust, not infatuation, not any of that shallow crap she’d experienced time and again as a way to try to rid her system of Lane once and for all. That stuff never lasted.

Nope, irritatingly sexy, aloof Lane Gallagher was the only one who ever made her feel something real.

No one else had ever done it. Not Weston—Lane’s younger brother—when they were briefly together. They’d been in high school and in lust; that was it. None of the other guys she’d gone out with had ever made her feel much either—and she’d gone out with more than a few. She wasn’t a celibate nun. She was a woman with needs, damn it. Had even had a couple of steady boyfriends over the years. Though for the past two years, she’d been so consumed with running her own business she’d sort of forgotten all about her own needs.

And she was too damn young for that sort of thing. She should be living it up! Having the time of her life! Look at West and Harper. Those two were up to no good in the best possible way. Harper glowed. That’s what regular bouts of sex with the man you’re madly, passionately in love with did for a girl.

Delilah’s frown deepened and she rested her chin on her hand, all computer work forgotten. Right now she was extremely jealous of her friend and all that regular sex she was having that made her glowy and dewy like a blushing bride. No wedding discussions were on the table yet, not even close but . . . yeah. Those two would end up married someday. Everyone knew it.

Okay, maybe she was feeling envious of Harper, not jealous. West had come back into town after being gone for years and boom. They were in a great relationship filled with love and passion. Easy peasy.

Delilah, on the other hand, had thrown herself at Lane time and again. She’d barely escaped a horrific fire three weeks ago. Lane had seemed so relieved to find her, had held her so close and whispered comforting words in her ear while she’d practically trembled with nerves and adrenaline and fear. She’d savored the sensation of his thick, muscled arms around her. The way his lips had moved against her temple when he spoke and how he’d stroked her back with his big, capable hands. She’d melted into him, closing her eyes on a sigh, imagining all the delicious ways he might kiss her. Lips she’d never touched before but that she knew would taste like heaven . . .

And then he’d set her away from him, offered up a gruff, “Glad you’re all right,” and practically ran away from her, never once looking back.

Jerk.

That had been the final straw. She hadn’t really seen him since. And she was glad for it. So incredibly glad. Maybe she could finally purge him from her thoughts for good. She’d been kicked to the curb for the last time. The very last time . . .

The bell above the front door chimed, letting her know someone had entered the studio, and she sat up straighter at her desk, pretending she was actually getting work done versus daydreaming—more like day scheming—about Lane. She figured it was Wren, her best friend and business partner, coming in to work. Wren did the books for a couple of businesses in town and was an investor in Delilah’s dance studio so she was pretty busy, always crunching numbers. Spreadsheets were her life, while dance was Delilah’s.

“Did you bring coffee with you?” Delilah yelled when Wren still hadn’t made an appearance in the back office that they shared. There were no students in the studio