But having her intense gaze locked on him made his chest ache.
Fuck, he’d missed her. Missed her friendship, her laughter, her quick mind. He hadn’t realized until now, their gazes locked yards apart, just how hollow he still felt without her in his life.
Her brow pulled tight. Emotions flashed in her eyes. And Josh felt a direct connection between them across the space. She started forward, never breaking eye contact. Josh took a slow, deep breath and tried to smooth the edge of raw nerves.
Stephie showed up and set his third drink down with a perky “I’ll check back.”
Josh had never seen Grace look so absolutely stunning. This was not the girl he’d left last year. She’d always been strong and smart. But this woman was more—more secure, more confident, more in control. Josh had never imagined finding that so damn hot, but watching her walk toward him with all that self-possession was sexier than a brand-new M4 submachine gun.
She paused two feet away, searching his face as if she still couldn’t believe he was real. The alcohol had definitely flooded his veins. He couldn’t get words out of his mouth while his head and heart were swimming with monologues he wanted to spill all at once.
“Josh?” She dropped to her knees, right there in front of him, hands on his thighs. Those clear blue eyes he’d known so well for so long searched his. “Are you okay?” Her gaze darted to his shoulder, his arm, back to his face. “Is your shoulder okay?”
He managed a nod.
Her hands tightened on his legs. “Has something happened to Isaac?”
His gaze slid lower, to her chest and the way the dress pulled her breasts up and together. She was luscious. A whole different woman than he’d expected to encounter. One that made him crazy with lust.
She cupped his jaw and lifted his gaze to meet hers. “Josh? Is Isaac okay?”
The sweet gesture pulled at all those buried memories. He covered her hand with his. It was small and warm, just like he remembered. “Beck’s fine.”
“Oh, thank God.” Tension drained from her shoulders and the fear in her face cleared as she sat back on her heels. But only a moment of relief passed before confusion…and a little suspicion…filled her eyes. “Then why are you here?” she asked. “And how did you find me?”
Grace glanced at the two empties sitting on the table beside Josh as he reached for another half-filled lowball glass. He was drinking faster than the waitresses could clear.
“Josh?” she asked, prodding him to answer her earlier questions.
“I’m in town on business,” he said, voice rough, gaze staring into his drink—which probably meant he was lying. “I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer.” Now he looked at her, those beautiful eyes of his filled with barely veiled accusation. “So, I stopped by your town house to say hello and found you don’t live there anymore.”
All her muscles tightened up.
“The new owners,” he said, “were nice enough to give me your forwarding address.”
Her fingers curled into fists against her thighs.
“And your new neighbor tells me you work nights at this club. I’m dying to know how you managed to pick an apartment in the only ghetto in San Diego. But we’ll get to that later.”
His bossy tone set her on edge, and she brought one foot under her to stand. But Josh wrapped his fingers around her forearm and leaned forward, his face just inches from hers. And God, he smelled good. Just a touch of spice left over from the day and a whole lotta signature Josh. The scent brought memories swimming back—of long, quiet nights sleeping in his hospital room, of slow, challenging days of physical therapy. Of trust built, friendship forged, laughter shared…
“Gracie,” he said, his voice softening, his eyes stormy. “What’s going on?”
She tried not to bristle. Logically, she understood he was worried. Emotionally, his concern felt a lot like judgment.
“Nothing’s going on.” She pulled from his grasp and stood, struggling to balance on her ridiculously high heels. “I’m just working, that’s all.”
His eyes narrowed. “That’s all? Seriously? That’s what you’re giving me? That’s all?”
Grace gritted her teeth to keep from saying something she’d regret, but his attitude stung.
The songs changed, and Grace met his gaze with a serious one of her own. “Look, I have to get back to work. If you’re still in town tomorrow, maybe we can have coffee…or something…”
“Coffee? Are you fucking kidding me?”