“I’ve got more than enough on my plate right now,” he told his father. “Too much to even be considering taking on a house like this, where something tells me I’d have to give it one hundred percent focus.”
Adam always worked on multiple projects at once. When he started to get a little bored with one, he could jump to another. He’d never actually focused on only one building, figuring that split-focus was just who he was. But could he change for this house? Or, rather, could this house change him?
Despite its current wrecked state, there was something about it that told him once upon a time it had been someone’s special place, and he couldn’t quiet the voice inside that wanted to make it special again.
“No one would blame you if you decided to let this one go. She’s going to be damned prickly,” his father said. “Parts of her will probably fall down around you right when you’re trying to put her back together.”
It hadn’t escaped his notice that, though Adam’s working with the house was still in a very hypothetical—and unlikely—stage, his father wasn’t speaking in maybe and might. No, Max Sullivan had already moved on to will and are.
And Adam couldn’t miss that tug in his own gut that told him this place might be the ultimate diamond in the rough. Not for an investor or even a Realtor like his sister, but for Adam himself.
“Still,” his father added in his deep, steady voice, “it’s always hard to walk away from something beautiful, isn’t it? Especially when you can sense that giving her your full attention will make both of you happy.”
“We still talking about the house now, Dad?” Or had Rafe or Brooke said something to his parents about Kerry—and the sparks that had very clearly been jumping between them at dinner on Friday night at the hotel?
“I don’t know. Are we?” His father grinned. “Or is there something you brought me here to talk about other than this house?”
Adam had never been one to kiss and tell. And he’d never wanted, or needed, to pull his parents aside to talk about love and broken hearts, either. But, strangely, instead of outright brushing off his father’s question, he realized he actually did have another question for him.
“There’s someone I want to help with something personal, but she’s pretty tough. Pretty stubborn, too. She doesn’t think she needs anyone to help her, but—” Constant frustration and worry had ridden Adam since Saturday morning. Because if anything happened to Kerry while she was helping her sister...
“Tough and stubborn, huh?” His father looked more than a little taken aback at hearing that. “Doesn’t sound like the kind of woman you usually date.”
Adam wasn’t surprised that his father was fishing for details—it was just the way of things. Not because his father wanted to control his kids’ lives in any way. Max and Claudia Sullivan only wanted them to be happy. And his parents believed, with one hundred percent certainty, that true love was their children’s surefire path to happiness.
“We’re not dating,” Adam clarified. “I’m not even sure she wants me to be her friend, actually. But I need to be there for her anyway.” Because if Kerry kept letting her sister wound her the way she had at the bar… Adam had to deliberately unclench his jaw.
“Of all the kids,” his father said after a moment, “you were always the one who immediately reached for the hammer and nails. Or the glue and staples. You hated to watch things fall apart, not if you thought you could save them before that happened. Even if that meant trying to hold things together with your bare hands, like that bird’s nest that you wouldn’t let go of when you were eight because every time you put it down it fell apart. But sometimes, all you can do is trust that people are going to figure out how to rebuild things for themselves, and let them know that you’re always there as a true friend if they ever do want to reach out for you.”
“I wish I could use glue and staples to fix this situation.” Even though Adam knew his father was right, that didn’t make it any easier to stand by while Kerry got hurt.
A few minutes later, after his father had gotten into his car and was about to drive away, he rolled down his window. “I’m not sure I was as much help as you’d hoped I’d be, but if you need anything else—”
Adam could easily finish his father’s sentence. “You’re always there.”
That evening at the hotel, Adam checked his phone half a dozen times for a message from Kerry. But at forty minutes past seven there was nothing—no email, no text, not even in response to his. He hoped she hadn’t bailed on him, even as he worried that something might have happened to hold her up. Something worse than just a meeting that had gone on too long. An accident or—
Thank God, she came in from the sidewalk just then, her long dark hair blowing back as she moved quickly toward him. “I’m sorry I’m so late. The traffic was horrible. I could have gotten out and walked here faster if not for my heels. And my stupid phone was dead.”
His only response was to grab her hand, taking her overnight bag in the other.
Despite the question in her voice, she let him pull her past the reception desk and the bar and into the elevator that was conveniently open for them. He jammed in the room key that would take them straight to the penthouse suite.
The doors were closing as she asked, “Is everything okay?”
“No. But it will be soon.”
His hands were already in her hair, and he caught the flash of surprised pleasure in her eyes just before he slammed his mouth against hers.
There was no sweet ramp-up tonight, no gentle whispers. Only the rawest, hottest need.
In both of them.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and met his kiss with such fierce passion that he groaned into her mouth. “More.” He could barely wrap his brain around anything other than that right now. “I need more of you.”
“Yes.” She tore at the buttons on his shirt, and a few popped off and landed on the marble floor of the elevator. “God, yes.”
Permission granted, he put his hands on her hips and lifted her so that she could wrap her legs around him. She was wearing something pretty and likely expensive that he knew he shouldn’t tear off her. But when her skirt caught on her thighs, there were just way too many layers of fabric between them.
And he wanted her naked.
The back seam of her skirt tore open with one hard tug of his hands, and she immediately took advantage of the freedom, wrapping her long legs around his hips. The heat of her—and the soft press of her curves against every inch of him—made everything flash to white in his brain for a few seconds. And when one of her hands moved from around his neck to his belt buckle, he nearly lost it completely, right then and there in the elevator.
The soft bell that rang as they made it to the top of the building almost wasn’t enough to pierce through. Lust had never held him so tightly in its grip before, but he’d worked on enough of these buildings to know that there had to be a video camera in the elevator. The last thing he was going to do tonight was share Kerry in all her gorgeous, naked beauty with the guys in the security room. Especially when he knew she would be the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen.