Though Shawn nodded at whatever Stacia whispered in his ear, his gaze sought Rachel"s. Such was their way. She"d always thought an invisible cord connected them, binding them to each other in a manner no one else could understand.
What he would never understand, however, were her plans to go to New York.
She"d yet to decide if she"d kept Ryan"s invitation a secret because she"d known Shawn would disapprove, or because she sensed he was right.
As tempting as the past could be, going back represented more than a chance to add a new epilogue to the ending of her relationship with Ryan. She just might get her heart chipped again.
One way or another.
She smiled at the intriguingly unfamiliar man who had appeared at her side.
“Hi. Do we know each other?”
“No, but I know of you.” He gave her a cocky smile, one that went well with his reflective sunglasses. “Want to dance?”
She took the mystery man"s tanned forearm, her gaze again connecting with Shawn"s. Ignoring the sudden quickening of her heartbeat, she let her partner steer her into the music.
He was watching her again.
If he were being honest, Shawn could admit he"d spent a great deal of his thirty years watching Rachel. But he wasn"t a stalker. Alas, no, he was her closest friend, which in some ways was even worse.
She wasn"t gorgeous in the conventional California sense. Her curves, currently displayed in a black jersey dress, were a shade too generous, her dark hair a tad too unruly as it cascaded over her sun-kissed shoulders. Her eyes weren"t a tranquil blue, but an intense, snapping brown that made any other color seem bland in comparison.
He"d been in love with her for, oh, half a dozen years or so, and in serious infatuation even before that.
But Rachel wasn"t in love with him. Instead, she"d chosen to give her love—or its nearest statistical equivalent—to a number of their town"s eligible men. And now, while Shawn sipped his Grey Goose martini at the latest in the long string of parties that had dotted his summer, she danced with bachelor number thirty-five.
He"d cajoled her to come with him to this thing, but she wasn"t dancing with him. Nope. She preferred to dance with the first himbo who twirled the pretty pink umbrella in her mixed drink.
Maybe she teased guys as easily as she breathed, but she didn"t sleep with most of the men she dated. Nah, his Rachel never held back the deets when it came to her conquests.
Or at least she hadn"t before the last couple months. Lately, she"d been reticent to discuss anything deeper than which movie they should rent.
Hell, it wasn"t like he actually wanted to hear about her lovers. Not that he hadn"t had a couple of his own in the recent past, mainly to make it seem like he wasn"t some lovesick jerk following around a woman who viewed him as the only guy she could watch chick flicks with.
He hated chick flicks, but what was he supposed to do? Thus far, tearing up the sheets hadn"t been on the table.
“You planning on sitting here brooding all night?” Rachel grabbed the seat beside him, then the drink out of his hand. He"d saved her his olive, which she snagged off the tiny sword with a slick lip roll that made him shift uncomfortably in his Armani suit. “Not that it doesn"t work.”
“What works?” Shawn motioned to a passing waiter. Almost immediately, another martini was in his hand and Rachel was again after his olive.