"I absolutely love having the Wild Sullivans back next door, too."
Instead of grinning at her, Adam simply stared at her for a moment, long enough that she asked, "Do I still have paint on my cheek?"
"No, you’re perfect just the way you are." She felt her eyes widen at his words, but they were nothing compared to his saying, "My brother’s one hell of a lucky guy."
Before she could even begin to figure out how to react, Adam was heading out of the room to help carry in the new flooring.
* * *
The sun had begun to fall in the sky by the time they’d put down the new wood flooring in more than half of the small lake house. On top of that, Brooke and Mia had finished painting the living room and kitchen. Rafe was amazed by how much ground had been covered in the past three days, especially with the help of his siblings. He’d be out of Brooke’s house a heck of a lot sooner than he’d thought.
Women had always complained that he liked his own space too much, but he hadn’t even come close to getting his fill of Brooke. Maybe after they’d had sex a few times...
No, there was no point in lying to himself when he knew sleeping with her was only going to make him want more of her, not less.
Brooke was back at her house working to finish up a couple of last-minute orders when Adam told Mia, "We’d better hit the road." Rafe’s brother looked around the lake house with clear satisfaction. "The place is starting to come together."
"Once the furniture is in,” Mia said, "it will look even better." When Rafe groaned at the thought of having to furnish an entire house from the ground up, his sister grinned at him. "I already ordered most of the furniture you’ll need. They said they’ll deliver by the end of the week, so you should probably make sure the rest of the flooring is in by then. I told them my big brother deserved the very best."
It was one heck of a surprise. A really good one, given that she had saved him the pain of furniture shopping. Then again, he had a feeling he was going to be a whole heck of a lot less glad when he saw how much of his money she’d spent.
On top of helping him lay the new flooring, Adam had made notes for the handful of renovations he was planning on implementing in his spare time throughout the summer when he could get back up to the lake. Considering his brother was already overloaded by clients who wanted his magical touch on the historic homes they’d purchased, Rafe knew how big a deal this was.
Despite how grouchy he’d been about their abrupt appearance the night before, it meant a hell of a lot to him to have his brother and sister here, all of them working to put their old lake house back to rights. He might have been the one who’d paid for the place, but as far as he was concerned, it was as much theirs as it was his.
"Thanks, guys." He didn’t say for what, but he knew he didn’t have to. Not when his family had always understood all the things he didn’t know how to say.
They found Brooke in her kitchen, putting the lids on a couple of large gold truffle boxes. "We’re here to say good-bye for now," Mia told her, "and to thank you for putting up with all of us on absolutely no notice whatsoever."
"I know we’re not family," Brooke said in a soft voice filled with emotion, "but I’ve always felt like we were. And I love that you came without calling first, just the way family should."
Brooke hugged both Mia and Adam, gave each of them a box of chocolates, and then they were grabbing their overnight bags and heading off to Adam’s truck, leaving Rafe and Brooke alone once again, standing almost exactly where they had been twenty-four hours ago.
* * *
"Our brother has it bad for the girl next door," Adam said to his sister as they left the lake behind in the rearview mirror.
"Of course he does," Mia replied. "Who wouldn’t? I saw the way your eyes nearly popped out of your head when she opened the door last night, and then again when we went swimming this morning."
"She’s gorgeous," Adam admitted, "but he’s dated plenty of pretty girls before."
"She’s also intelligent. Sweet. And, most important, she knew him before everything got warped by his job and all of those scumbags he finds cheating."
"True, though I’m sure whatever she did with him inside while the two of us were out at the bonfire last night doesn’t hurt, either."
Mia made a face. "Seriously, can we not talk about Rafe’s sex life with our friend?"
"Okay," Adam readily agreed.
Too readily, Mia thought. She smacked him on the arm. Hard.
"Ow!" He lifted his left hand off the wheel to rub his tricep. "What was that for?"
"Just because you’re not talking about the two of them having sex, doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re still thinking about it. Probably in play-by-play detail."
He pretended to be playing a bass guitar as he sang a parody of a bad p**n soundtrack. She covered up her laughter with a sound of disgust.
"Seriously, stop it. She’s your brother’s almost-girlfriend. And if he doesn’t manage to totally screw it up, she could be more than that someday."
"Doubt that will stop me," he told her, then pretended to play the bass guitar some more.
Men. They were all pigs. Especially her brothers.
Still, she hoped against hope that Rafe wouldn’t screw things up with one of the most amazing women she’d ever known, and that Brooke could be the one to finally break through the thick wall Rafe had put around himself. Every time Mia tried to talk with him about the knife attack, he immediately shut her down. Something told her that if anyone could break down that wall and heal the inner wounds he wouldn’t admit to, it was Brooke.