Rafe stood in the middle of her kitchen feeling as if he’d just been hit by a hurricane.

He’d had plenty of good sex in the past fifteen years, but nothing anywhere close to as hot as what he and Brooke had shared. Sure, he was just a clueless guy, as his sister had pointed out at least a hundred times to him over the years, but he hadn’t missed the fact that even in the midst of the heat between him and Brooke, there’d been something more.

Only, instead of angling for more of a commitment or wanting to define whether they’d shifted into officially being boyfriend/girlfriend now, she’d hopped into her car and headed to the city alone.

Hell, he thought as he ran his hands roughly through his hair, he’d practically begged to tag along. But she very clearly hadn’t wanted him to come with her.

He chewed the situation over. Was it because she didn’t want him to meet her business partner? Rafe had developed an irrational hatred just for the guy’s name. What kind of legitimate businessman was named Cord? After pulling out his phone and doing a search on the guy, Rafe didn’t much care for the way he looked, either. Why the hell did her partner have to be so good looking?

He thought about Brooke hooking up with the man, but he couldn’t get a clear vision of it, for one really good reason: She would never in a million years leave his bed to go to anyone else’s. Rafe was a cynical bastard, but he wasn’t blind. Brooke had surprised him over and over during the past few days, but she wasn’t, and would never be, a cheater.

But while he wasn’t worried about her hooking up with her partner behind his back, he was still worried. Particularly with regard to the money she was continuing to hand over. She was too smart to walk naïvely into a business partnership with a stranger, and while he assumed she’d done her due diligence on the guy, the truth was that Rafe and his employees could find out things about Cord that she never could. Particularly if her new partner had anything he was trying to hide.

It was one thing for Brooke to risk her hard-earned money on her own talent—which she had in spades. It was another entirely for her to risk it on someone else.

Angry with himself for not making this phone call earlier—he’d been so wrapped up in wanting Brooke, and then when he’d failed to keep a handle on that need, he’d been even more caught up in taking her every which way he could—Rafe’s voice was gruff as Ben picked up at the office.

"Hey, boss, I hope you’re calling me from a fishing boat to brag about your latest catch."

Normally he would have shot the shit with his employee, who was also a longtime friend. But today Brooke was all that mattered. "I need you to check into a guy called Cord Delacorte."

Ben immediately switched into business mode. "Anything you’re looking for in particular?"

"I want to know everything about the guy."

Ben knew precisely what everything meant in their business: where Cord went and who he went there with, everything he bought, everyone he called, and where his money was coming from and going to as far back as they could trace his activities.

"I’ll make this my top priority and will both call and email you immediately with anything that looks suspicious."

With Brooke in Seattle, Rafe had nothing to distract him from putting in the rest of his new flooring, along with the kitchen cabinets that the hardware store would be delivering today. But instead of being glad to have so many uninterrupted hours to set his lake house to rights, he was already counting down the minutes and hours.

Not for sex this time, but simply for the chance to see Brooke’s smiling face...and to hold her in his arms.

Chapter Seventeen

Brooke stood on the muggy main street in Kirkland at dusk and waved good-bye to Cord and his wife. Just as Rafe had predicted, she was exhausted. The hours she’d already put in driving to Seattle, combined with actually signing the papers with the lawyer and Realtor for the storefront, would have been tiring enough. But doing all of that after making love with Rafe for half the night and then twice this morning had left her with rubbery limbs and a mind that kept drifting back to him. On top of that, after a quick wrap-up drink with Cord and his wife in which she’d learned more about their fertility problems, she dearly wished she could help them in some way. They were clearly deeply in love with each other and desperately wanted a child, but all the love and wanting in the world hadn’t yet made a difference.

Love, she’d always thought, could make magic happen. But could it?

Yet again, her thoughts swung around to Rafe, just as they had every other minute or so during her long day. From the first moment she’d seen him get off his motorcycle and look at her with his darkly intense eyes, she’d wanted him. Needed him, woman to man. From the way he touched her, kissed her, made love to her, she knew he wanted and needed her in just the same way. But it was everything he’d told her about his job, and the scar he wore across his ribs, that made her believe he needed her for something more than just the quenching of desire. For more, even, than friendship.

For love?

A young boy whizzing by on a skateboard had her jumping out of the way with a hand over her racing heart. Of course, it had already been racing from the thought of falling in love with Rafe...

Reminding herself that nothing was certain about their relationship going forward, that they purposely hadn’t made any promises to each other beyond making sure they didn’t hurt their friendship, Brooke refocused her attention on the present. She had one more very important errand at an address she’d looked up on her phone earlier that day. In fact, she was hoping to bring a present home to Rafe tonight.

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