The Best Friend Incident (Driven to Love)

By: Melia Alexander

To Kevin. Thank you for bourbon tastings…Beauty and the Beast…chasing waterfalls…Napa…midnight laughter…and morning smiles! Mostly, thank you for inspiring me to be the best version of myself possible. I am forever grateful.

Chapter One

Stacey Winters stopped outside her apartment door, steeling herself with a breath of cool, central Oregon air. This was it. Her boyfriend was back in Milestone, and tonight, they were taking their five-week relationship to the next level. Leo had texted that he’d picked up the key she’d left at the music venue where he’d perform this week, and would be on the other side of her door, waiting.

For her.

Stacey shivered. With anticipation, of course. This guy was “the one,” she was sure of it.

It didn’t make her any less nervous, though.

Focus. She slid her key into the lock. Seriously. How come the first time with a guy was always so nerve-racking? Leo was rock-star hot—fitting, since music was, in fact, what he did for a living. Really, she needed to just relax and enjoy the ride.

She paused in the doorway. Wait. Was that an Ariana Grande ballad drifting down the hallway from her bedroom? She blinked, and fluttering butterflies took flight in her belly. He’d put on something she enjoyed instead of playing his own music on a constant loop? That was…unexpected. And very, very sweet.

Softly closing the door behind her, Stacey surveyed the dim room…and spotted a trail of rose petals leading down the carpeted hallway. She pressed a hand to her chest, like she could actually touch the melty giddiness coursing through her. That was exactly the kind of romance she loved, and here he was, serving it up on a rose petal–covered platter.

Further proof that she and Leo were meant to be together, right?

She grinned. The rest of her life was clicking into place—all that was missing was her lifelong, hopelessly romantic dream of being part of a head-over-heels-in-love couple. After a string of failures, it was about time she found her real match.

Anticipation gripped her heart as she followed the trail of fragile petals. Tomorrow she’d gather them and preserve them in a keepsake box. It’d be fun to have something to show her and Leo’s grandchildren. But right now, it was time for the best kind of adult fun.

Her bedroom was like the deep end of a cave, thanks to the blackout curtains she’d installed, but soft snores filled the space. From the sound of things, Leo was jet-lagged. Three weeks touring with his band in Asia was bound to catch up with him. At least he was here.

She bit her lip. Should she wake him up or let him sleep? He’d been just as eager to do this when they’d last spoken…

Seize the moment. The phrase might be clichéd, but Stacey had sworn by it since she was a child. In a world that only rewarded action, you had to create what you wanted. Case in point, she was in the middle of turning her passion project, Dinners for Two, into a thriving company.

Waking him up it is. If he wasn’t interested, she’d settle for a night of snuggling.

She pulled off her boots and socks, then moved on to her jeans. Leo would have plenty of opportunities to take her clothes off tomorrow. It was a shame he wouldn’t see her new coordinated panty and bra set, though. The lace brushed against her nipples when she pulled her sweater off to join the pile of clothing on the floor, and she shivered. She’d felt bold, brazen, and totally in control the second she’d slipped on the pieces earlier that afternoon, and she clung to that confidence as she stood in her pitch-black room, trying to decide the best way to tempt a sleeping man back into consciousness.

Hands out, she shuffled forward, groping for her bed. It wasn’t quite the same thing as strutting across the room in a thong and high heels, but that was okay. She’d rock his world once she got into bed. If she could find the dang thing.

Her hands found their target and she crawled in. But instead of warm male skin, she encountered denim. Stacey frowned. Leo was still fully dressed and lying on his side, facing the framed print of Chinaman Hat that hung on her wall.

That he was facing that particular print made the situation even more exciting. At her sister’s urging, Stacey had followed local folklore and burned an offering at that very mountain a couple of months ago, all in order to find her true love.

Shortly after that, she’d met Leo when he and his band played at the resort near Chinaman Hat at the exact time she’d set a Dinners for Two event. It seemed fitting to have found the love of her life on the same night she’d helped another couple with their own happily ever after.

How was that for fate?

She leaned toward him, breathed in deeply, and frowned. The allergy meds she’d taken earlier must be messing with her because he smelled…different. Familiar, but not what she expected. Maybe she’d forgotten what he smelled like. It had been a few weeks, and they hadn’t spent that much time together before he left.