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Playing With Fire

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(bonus chapter-rated R)


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Playing With Fire
by
OKDeanna

     

Chapter One ~ Six months later

Antonio Lopez-Fitzgerald walked into the Harmony Book Cafe, the day after his brother's wedding to Sheridan Crane, and ordered his favorite drink, a mocha cappuccino. Then he sat down to read the morning paper. In the society section, a huge article on Sheridan and Luis' wedding covered the front page along with a photo of the happy couple locked in heated kiss.

Antonio shook his head. He never thought he'd see Luis get married, much less get married to a Crane. But he had to admit, he liked Sheridan. She was spunky, not to mention brave. Any other woman that had been through what she had would have given up a long time ago, but not Sher. She fought and she won. He admired that. He knew she and Luis were going to be very happy. If they could keep from arguing that is. Theresa and Ethan had filled him in on all the arguments they used to have. He still couldn't believe it took them so long to realize they were in love.

Antonio took a sip of his cappuccino, then turned to the next page of the paper. He didn't notice that Ethan and Theresa were there until they walked up to his table and said hello. "Hey little sis, Ethan, what are you guys up too?"

"Nothing," Theresa replied taking a seat across from him. Ethan sat down in the chair next to her. "We came to get a quick bite to eat before we head into Boston for the day."

"Ah, yes. You're supposed to look for a building for your fashion business, right?"

"Yes," Theresa said smiling. "Do you want to come along? You could give us your expert opinion on it. After all, you are one of the best architects around."

Antonio smiled. He knew Theresa was proud of him and that meant a great deal to him. Still, he knew Ethan wanted to spend time alone with Theresa. It was written all over his face. "Nah, I think I'll stay here and look around town. There is a house listed in the paper and I'm thinking of going to check it out."

"Oh, are you planning to move out?" Theresa asked.

"Well, yeah. If I'm going to stay in town, I'd kind of like to have my own place. You know, have my own privacy. No offense, but living at home kind of cramps my love life."

"You are such a player." Theresa said rolling her eyes. "One of these days, Antonio, some woman is going to give you a taste of your own medicine!"

One already has, he thought, recalling the beautiful blond that never strayed far from his thoughts. Gwen. He couldn't stop the smile that formed on his face as the memories came flooding back to him. It had been six months since that night in his New York City hotel room. He had never forgotten her. He only wished she hadn't left while he was sleeping. That was a definite first for him. Usually, he was the one that left in the middle of the night and he damn sure didn't like being on the receiving end of it.

"Earth to Antonio." Theresa said interrupting his thoughts. "That's some smile you've got on your face. Who is she? Do I know her?"

Antonio gave her a mischievous grin. "Which her are you talking about, Resa? There have been more than one you know."

Ethan laughed. "Are you sure about that? You have the exact same look I do when I'm thinking about Theresa."

Antonio groaned inwardly. The last thing he needed was Ethan and Theresa thinking he had the hots for some woman. God, he'd never hear the end of it. "I'm positive. There is no way I'll get involved with some woman long term. I'm not cut out for that."

"Why not?" Theresa asked. "What is wrong with wanting to share your life with someone?"

"I didn't say anything was wrong with it." Antonio replied. "I just said I'm not cut out for it. I don't want to be tied down to some woman. I'm perfectly happy with my life the way it is."

"If you say so." Theresa said. "But I still say you were thinking about a woman and there is nothing you can say that will change my mind."

He shook his head. Great, now he would never hear the end of it. Since he had arrived in Harmony four and a half months ago and told his family he was there to stay, Theresa had been determined to find him the 'perfect' woman. He tried telling her there was no such thing as perfect, but she was a woman in love and she wouldn't listen.

Antonio rubbed his temples as he once again listened to his sister talk about fate. Fate, schmate, he thought, he didn't believe in it. Just as he didn't believe in love at first sight. An image of a blond flashed in his mind and he forced it right back out again. She was just a woman, he thought, she didn't mean a thing to him. Sure, they'd had a great time together and yes it had been hot between them, but it hadn't meant a thing. It couldn't have. Hell, he didn't even know her last name.



Gwen Hotchkiss arrived at the Boston airport and couldn't help but wish she were somewhere else. Anywhere else, as long as she didn't have to go back to Harmony. An image of a dark skinned man with a rogue's smile and a body to die for flashed in her mind and she felt her pulse start to accelerate, the same way it did every time she thought about him. She wasn't sure what it was, but something about him had seemed familiar to her.

She shoved the thought away just as she had every other time since she'd walked out of his hotel room six months ago. She knew she'd been a coward, unable to face what she'd done in the light of day. Sneaking out had seemed like the best plan at the time, but looking back, she wished she had at least gotten his last name. Maybe she would run into him again someday, she thought smiling. But then just as quick as the thought came, she forced it back out again. She didn't want a man like that in her life. He was a player and she certainly didn't need to be played. She'd had enough of that with Ethan.

Ethan. Even the thought of him and what he'd done made her blood boil. How could he have chosen Theresa over her? And on their wedding day of all days! That day five months ago had been a nightmare for her. That was why she left town. She'd been devastated after their breakup. She knew most of Harmony had been glad that Ethan had chosen Theresa, after all, Theresa was a hometown girl and Gwen, well, she was an outsider.

Gwen shook her head to clear the unwanted thoughts, then went to the baggage terminal to claim her luggage. Wouldn't everyone be surprised to see her, she thought. If her father hadn't sent her back to Harmony to look after their Harmony Real Estate branch, she wouldn't be here at all. She still didn't understand why an associate couldn't have come. Deep down she knew her parents were worried about her. She knew they were sending her back to Harmony in the hope that she would finally find some closure, but what they didn't realize is the pain coming back to Harmony was going to cause her. If she ran into Ethan or Theresa, or especially them together, she didn't know what she would do. She prayed she wouldn't see a Crane or a Lopez-Fitzgerald the entire time she would be in Harmony. In fact, if she never saw a member of either one of their families again it would be too soon for her.


"Oh come on, Antonio." Theresa was saying for the third time. "How can you not believe in fate? Look what happened to Ethan and I. He was engaged to another woman, but fate ended up bringing us together instead. Don't tell me there is no fate, because I know for a fact there is."

Antonio sighed. They'd had this argument many times before. In fact, it was fast becoming an unwanted habit. "Resa, fate does not exist. Ethan and you met and because you wanted to be together you were. Fate has nothing to do with it."

"Nothing to - " Theresa started to say, then stopped and looked at Ethan. "Would you say something please?"

Ethan laughed. "No way am I getting involved in another Lopez-Fitzgerald argument. You guys are on your own."

"I'll remember that." She said playfully hitting him on the shoulder. Antonio just shook his head. He could see how in love they were, but he still didn't believe fate brought them together. It would take a lot more than Theresa and Ethan, or Luis and Sheridan for that matter, finding each other to convince him that fate existed.

The door to the cafe opened just as Antonio took a sip of his second cup of coffee. He wouldn't have noticed the woman that entered had it not been for Theresa's gasp of surprise. Antonio looked up to see who his sister was so shocked to see and found himself staring into a pair of golden brown eyes. Images of staring into those same brown eyes and making love came to him in an instant. Oh my god, he thought, it was her. It was Gwen.

"What is Gwen doing back in town?" Theresa asked interrupting his discovery.

It took all of Antonio's energy to pull his eyes from Gwen's, but he finally managed to do it. He'd seen the shock in her eyes when she'd noticed him. Her eyes had widened to the size of baseballs and he knew she was just as shocked to see him and he was her. And of all people, his sister knew her. He couldn't believe his luck. "You know her?"

"Of course I know her." Theresa said whispering across the table. "That's Ethan's ex-fiancé, Gwen Hotchkiss."

His Gwen was Ethan's Gwen? Oh god, he thought realizing in a split second that his world had just shifted off it's axis. This was not happening, he thought glancing back at Gwen. Her eyes were no longer friendly. In fact, they seemed almost hostile. Was that because her ex-fiancé and his new girlfriend was in the room or because he was sitting with them? Antonio couldn't help the feeling of regret that washed over him. And as he continued to look into Gwen's golden brown eyes, one thing became crystal clear to him, if fate did exist it certainly was cruel.

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