“Just as you’d expect,” Kerry told him. “She has a splitting headache and pretty much feels like dirt.” Colleen hadn’t seemed to remember the things she’d said about how cold Kerry was. But all of that was better forgotten, even if there were never going to be any apologies coming. “Hopefully by the time she heads in to her emergency-dispatch job tonight, she’ll be back to her usual self.” And hopefully she wouldn’t hit the repeat button again next Friday night.
“And how are you?”
Kerry barely kept the words Better now that you’ve called from falling out. “A little tired, but I was actually just about to call to thank you again for everything you did to help last night.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop thanking me?”
She’d particularly liked the way he’d stopped her last night, with a kiss that had melted down her brain one cell at a time.
“Now,” he said before she could even try to answer his question, “for the other reason I’m calling.”
Ugh, this is it. The part where he said, Thanks for a few hot hours in the sack, but your situation is way too complicated, so let’s call it done now. She’d agree with him, of course, and wouldn’t ever let on that she felt otherwise. In fact, now that she thought about it, wouldn’t it be better if she were the one to end things first?
But before she could, he was saying, “Do you have a wedding next Friday night?”
Surprise had her answering before thinking better of it. “No, not next Friday.”
“Good.” His voice had lowered even more, the one word so warm and sexy she felt as if he’d reached out through the phone to touch her. “How about keeping it free for me and another fun hotel visit?”
Her heart skipped, leapt, sang! And her smile was so big that she was glad he couldn’t see it. Not when it gave away far too clearly just how thrilled she was to know that he didn’t want to stop their sexy no-strings fling just yet.
Soon, she knew it would end. But any woman who had experienced the kind of pleasure he’d given her would have wanted more. She wasn’t weak for wanting him again, she was simply human. Human enough, evidently, that she continually had to remind herself that it was just sex. Really phenomenal sex, of course, but just sex nonetheless.
She was about to agree, when she remembered. “Colleen and I were talking about staying in, watching a movie, and eating pizza together next Friday. That’s the night that’s always the hardest for her.”
“You’re a good sister. Tell me, how does she do on Thursday nights?”
“Pretty good, usually.”
“Then how about you and I aim to make it really good?”
Her breath caught in her chest. “Yes, let’s.”
* * *
The skies were clear and blue on Thursday afternoon as Adam stood with his father, Max, in front of a big old Queen Anne that had seen better days. In fact, at this point, it actually felt like knocking it down would be putting it out of its misery. But something about the place kept pulling at Adam, so he’d decided to get a second opinion from the man he most respected. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Max Sullivan knew wood carvings better than pretty much anyone.
After his father had lost his job a couple of decades ago, when he’d come home from another crappy interview, he’d disappear into his workshop in the backyard and would carve wood until he was able to smile again. Adam and his siblings all joined his father in there over the years—even Mia, who ended up with some mad carving skills—and Adam was glad for what he’d learned from his father. But a job like this, with turned porch columns and hand-cut trim around the eaves and windows, needed a specialist’s opinion.
In his typical way, his father hadn’t said much as Adam took him through and around the outside of the house. They’d both worn hard hats, and although that hadn’t helped when his father’s foot went through a stair riser, it had made Adam feel a little safer walking through the place.
The neighborhood had been quiet when they’d arrived a couple of hours ago. Now, as kids got out of school, it wasn’t quiet anymore. But it was a good kind of loud—kids having fun, moms and dads chatting as they wheeled strollers past each other, dogs barking excitedly as their little owners finally came back home to play with them. It reminded Adam of his childhood neighborhood, where his parents still lived on the other side of town.
And yet, at the very end of the street where the pavement turned to forest, this house had been left neglected. He hadn’t dug too far into its history yet, but from what he could tell, it looked like a fairly standard story. The couple who owned it hadn’t had any children and the nieces and nephews they’d left it to hadn’t lived close enough to want the house, nor had their heirs been able to agree on what to do with it. Over the years, it had been left forgotten until someone in the family had finally realized they were sitting on valuable Seattle property in a great family neighborhood. The house was being sold as a teardown, but when Mia had emailed the listing to him from her realty office, she’d told him to take a look before he made up his mind.
Even as an adult, Adam relied on his family for so much. Not only their professional support, but support on every other level, too. Friendship. Respect. Love.
All of which brought him back to Kerry, the way so many things had since he’d met her a little over a week ago. She’d taken care of her sister without even a moment’s hesitation, just as he would have any of his siblings.
But that was where the similarities ended. Because his siblings had never been as cruel to him as her sister had been to her. If they had, he wouldn’t have stood there and taken it. Of course he would have helped them get back home and into bed—but he also would have told them where they could shove their crappy attitude.
His chest hurt every time he thought about the way Kerry had withstood Colleen’s harsh words, and his jaw clenched every time he thought about the fact that she hadn’t seemed at all surprised by them. He’d wanted to find out what else her sister had said to her so that he could tell her none of those bad things were true, and that she should never believe what someone so messed up had to say about her.
Only good things. All good things. That was what he wanted for Kerry—all the good and beautiful things that she gave to everyone she planned weddings for.
Actually, more sizzling-hot sex was right at the top of the list, too. Especially when five days had turned out to be way too long to go between their hotel meet-ups. Hell, given how good they’d been together, they could have spent the last five days naked together in the penthouse suite without needing more than a little food and water every now and again.
His father cleared his throat, drawing Adam back to the sidewalk they were standing on and the house in front of them.
“If you take this on, Adam, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of work.” His father turned away from the house to look at him. “You’re looking for a challenge, aren’t you?”
Again, Adam found himself thinking of Kerry. He hadn’t thought he was looking for a challenge with her, but from the first moment he’d set eyes on her and realized she wasn’t like any other woman he’d ever known, he’d immediately wanted to find out more. The more he found out, the more he wanted to know. Not just because the sex had been mind-blowing, either. But because she continued to fascinate him in every way.