He dreamed of footsteps in the dark.
The surreptitious whisper of soles drawing steadily closer…
His heart began to pound in dread.
His eyes popped open. He woke, confused and alarmed—a feeling that was becoming all too familiar—to blinding light and noise.
The chandelier—chandelier?—over the bed—where the hell was he?—was ablaze, and from across the room, a man’s startled voice exclaimed, “Jesus! Who the hell are—”
Miles was out of the bed in a single bound, blinking at the tall, dark figure in the doorway.
“Miles?” Linley sounded as bewildered as Miles felt. He recovered faster, though, saying accusingly, “My God, it is you. What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t coming until Monday.”
“Oliver had a key.”
Linley repeated blankly, “Oliver had a key…”
He would be thirty-four now, but he had the kind of bony, elegant looks that didn’t change much over time. His hair was black and straight, his eyes were a blue that seemed to pierce you through the heart like a pin through a butterfly. His brows were straight and formidable, but the line of his mouth was sensitive, almost pretty.
When Miles had been a kid, he had thought Linley Palmer was the most handsome, confident, stylish man he’d ever known. Which was especially funny, given that when they’d first met, Linley had been a teenager, not a man, and had presumably suffered from all the insecurities and uncertainties inherent in puberty. Not to mention acne.
In fact, he wasn’t classically good-looking. His features were too sharp, too fierce for handsomeness. He did have something, though. Even in the middle of the night, looking weary and rumpled in jeans and a gray fisherman’s sweater, he had a certain polish. No, savoir faire. That was the word.
He had always seemed more French than Oliver, although both were Anglos. Only Capucine’s final and briefest marriage had been to a French-Canadian.
“What are you doing here?” Miles shot back, because he wasn’t a kid anymore and he wasn’t so easily impressed, savoir faire or no savoir faire.
To his surprise, Linley pushed his hair off his forehead and laughed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I came to move my stuff out before you took possession of the, er, baronial manor.”
Baronial manor. That was vintage Linley. Always a little flippant, a little sarcastic.
“I arrived last night,” Miles said.
“Ah. I see. If I’d realized you’d already moved in—”
The smile made him look younger, less formidable, much more attractive.
“Not officially,” Miles admitted. “Oliver thought it would be all right if I stayed here.” He added uncomfortably, “Sorry for taking your bedroom. Most of the other rooms aren’t made up. I didn’t feel comfortable in your m—in Capucine’s room.”
Linley considered this, tilting his head, cocking an eyebrow—all at once very French. “Your bedroom now, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Well,” Miles said. It had been awkward covering this same ground with Oliver, and at least he felt he knew Oliver a little. It was worse with Linley, whom he really did not know at all.
But Linley’s thoughts seemed to be running on different lines, because he gave another of those funny, surprisingly charming smiles and said, “I almost didn’t recognize you. You’ve grown up, Miles.”
“I should hope.” He knew exactly what Linley meant, and it wasn’t a compliment. Yeah, he’d changed, all right. He was no longer the gawky, painfully shy, and desperate-for-approval boy he’d been. Thank God.
Linley’s thin mouth quirked at Miles’s tone as though he too understood the unspoken message. The sudden appraisal in his gaze made Miles self-conscious.
He glanced down at himself. He was wearing red-and-black check boxers and a black T-shirt—not enough of either, given the chilly autumn night. “I wasn’t expecting company.” He reached for his sweatshirt, dragged it on.
“Don’t get dressed on my account,” Linley said. “I can take one of the other rooms—if that’s okay. I wasn’t planning to pack tonight.”
Miles picked his jeans up from a chair and stepped into them. He couldn’t imagine falling asleep now. “Of course it’s okay. You can stay here whenever you like.”
Maybe that was too generous. Linley arched an inquiring eyebrow, started to say something, but apparently thought better of it.
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