UNDER HER SPELL Excerpt (Welcome to Havenport Anthology)

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An uneasy silence settled over the room, disturbed only by the swift thunking of his knife as he chopped vegetables. Should she say something? Wait until they sat to eat? The chopping grew rougher, harder. She better say something before he cut off a finger.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I had to leave.” Lame. Step it up, girl.

“Cell phone broken, no service, forgot my number?” He threw a handful of angel hair into a pot. Boiling water splashed, and he cursed under his breath.

“I am sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t know what to say. Especially after…”

He sighed. “You told me you loved me. Don’t you think you should have stuck around to find out how I felt?”

“Oh, I knew what you thought.” She’d tried to forget for the past eight months. “You looked at me like I shot your dog.” She cast a glance at the setter, asleep with her head propped up against Christa’s leg. “Sorry, Daisy. Besides, I fully intended to talk to you before I left, but from the look of things, you’d already moved on.”

“What are you talking about?” The timer buzzed and with a muttered oath he shut off the burner and drained the pasta. “I had to hop a flight to Chicago to meet with Thomson Sports. I didn’t run off for a lovers’ tryst. How was I supposed to know you wouldn’t be here when I got back? Why would you think I moved on?”

“I stopped by your house the night you got back, or rather, in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t feel like taking a number, so I left.”

He stared, brow furrowed. His hand paused midstir; jarred sauce dripped off the wooden spoon into the pot of cooked noodles.

“Lana? Remember? Tall. Blond. Model. Somewhat enhanced—” She held her hands out in front of her breasts, “—upper body.”

He ran a hand over his face with a soft groan. “You saw Lana come over.”

“Yeah.” She stooped to pet Daisy, blinking back tears. “Really? I mean, you’d slept with me only a few days earlier. You couldn’t keep it in your pants another day or two and talk to me first?”

Warm arms wrapped around her. A tear slipped down her cheek. She furtively swiped a hand across her face.

“Nothing happened with Lana.”

She kept her back stiff. She wanted to lean into him. Savor the warmth of his arms, the spicy scent of his aftershave. But she couldn’t. Her heart had already broken once and hadn’t completely healed. “Sure.” She cleared her throat, trying to mask the tears in her voice. “Then what was she doing at your house at four a.m., borrowing a cup of sugar?”

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