“You don’t think you belong here.” And, as simple as that, Nate expressed the secret fear that Carrie had been trying to ignore, ever since she knew that the Avalon Inn was to be hers.
“This is Nancy’s place. You’re all Nancy’s friends.”
“We’re your friends, too.” Nate reached over to rest his hand on her waist, his fingers long enough to almost reach around to her spine. The heat from his palm through the thin silk of her dress was mesmerising. “If you’ll have us.”
Carrie focussed on the warmth spreading across her torso, and answered without over thinking, for once. “Because I’m Nancy’s granddaughter? Because I’m your boss? Or…”
“Because we like you.” Nate squeezed her waist, and the warmth spread further. Her chest was probably flushed, Carrie realised, and gave silent thanks for the dim lighting in the room. “Because you’re trying to save our home. And we want to help you.”
Which made sense, she supposed. It was just… “This was going to be my big chance to do something by myself. To prove myself.” To Anna, to her parents. To herself.
“And even better than that, you get to do it with friends.” Nate nudged closer, just a few centimetres, but it was enough to bring his lips within her reach, if she just bent her neck forward. “Seriously, though. This is all you. It’s your Inn, your risk, your plan. Well, yours and Anna’s, anyway. We’re just… adding some details.”
But she was still relying on him, and the Seniors, and even her own family’s booking, Carrie thought. Not to mention Anna’s backing. But then Nate’s hand moved up slightly, spanning her rib cage, and Carrie forgot what they were talking about for a moment. When her mind returned, she said, “I do appreciate it, you know.”
Nate raised an eyebrow. “Really? How much?”
Swallowing hard, Carrie asked, “What do you want?”
“My greenhouse,” Nate said, and somehow he was closer again, and she barely needed to move if she wanted to… Carrie stopped herself, and gave the tiniest nod she could manage. “And… this.” And finally, finally, Nate inched forward, and Carrie leant in to meet him before she was even really sure it was happening.
His lips against hers felt different from her first night at the Inn, she realised, even as she wondered how she was managing to think at all. But they did; less sure, softer. Carrie’s hand snuck up to play with the hair at the nape of his neck, ensuring as she did so that he couldn’t escape without her permission.
She’d wanted to kiss Nate like this since that first night on the terrace. She wasn’t letting him go now.