I knew he was only trying to be nice, buying me all this stuff. I’d witnessed many examples of his extreme generosity in the past two months. It was part of his nature. He was an unrepentant spoiler.
But I couldn’t keep the dress. I couldn’t keep any of it.
It was too personal, too intimate to allow him to buy clothing for me.
The lines were already too blurry with my attraction to him growing stronger every day.
Besides, I was still furious at him for the things he’d said. A “frumpy old lady?” I had half a mind to open the second-floor window and dump the whole collection of haute couture out on the front drive.
And the thing he’d said about my hair?
The fury intensified, blended with a heaping measure of hurt. The more I thought about the sneering tone of his voice and the challenging look on his stubborn face, the more my blood boiled.
Instead of stuffing more garments into the bag, I dropped it and picked up one of them to examine more closely. The orange bikini.
It was tiny. Really tiny.
I’d told Sully I wouldn’t wear it if my life depended on it, and I’d meant it.
But now it felt like something else depended on it. My pride. My self-respect. I wanted to show Mr. Sullivan Reece that he couldn’t bully me, that I wasn’t cowed by him. I wanted to show him how wrong he was.
I wanted to shut that beautiful, infuriating mouth of his.
I’d show him what a “frumpy, old lady” I was. I’d make him sorry he’d ever dared to say such things to me. I was going to make his head spin around.
Hurriedly stripping off the shapeless blouse and shorts ensemble, I yanked the tag off the swimsuit—before I could change my mind—and put it on.
Then I turned to look at the full-length mirror on the closet door.
The woman in the reflection looked like someone else. I wasn’t sure who exactly, but not me. This woman looked bold. She looked fun. She looked young and vibrant, not to mention sexy in the way a man like Sullivan Reece might appreciate.
But that wasn’t the point of this exercise, was it?
No. Not at all. I only wanted to make him eat his words and maybe a side of crow to go along with them.
Something was still wrong with this picture though. With sharp, nearly frenzied motions, I yanked the pins and elastic from my hair, freeing it to fall to my bottom and stream over my shoulders.
There. I nodded, stunned at my own actions but filled with a strange new sense of satisfaction.
There’s your “great-grandma Olive,” Mr. Smartypants.
They were in the middle of a game of Marco Polo when I reached the pool. Sully was the finder, yelling out “Marco,” every few seconds while his elated daughters scrambled and splashed to a new location before yelling, “Polo” back at him.
One of his large hands was over his eyes, but I knew he was peeking because there was no way he’d take his eyes off his kids in the water.
Also, he spotted me coming.
How did I know? As soon as I came into view, his hand dropped to his side and he stared.
“Can I play?” I asked in a happy-go-lucky tone.
“Angelina!” Skyla and Claire reacted with screams of delight, not even noticing my attire.
His eyes roamed over me, taking in the sight of my long hair hanging loose and all the newly exposed skin. It tingled everywhere his gaze landed. I forced myself not to look away or wrap my towel around myself.
When he spoke, Sully’s voice sounded rough. “You…” He cleared his throat and began again. “You changed your mind.”
“Yes,” I said, purposely missing his meaning. “I decided not to let you three have all the fun when I’m the best Marco Polo player around.”
With that, I ran and leapt into the pool, splashing him. The girls laughed like it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.
“Look at your face, Daddy,” Claire said. “You’re all red.”
He swiped at it. “Yeah. I guess I’m… sunburned.”