“But regardless of what your dating history looks like,” his father finished for him, “if Ms. Dromoland doesn’t know that she can count on you as a friend, then she doesn’t know you very well.”
“As a friend, I’m pretty sure she does know I’ll always be there for her. But as more?” Adam walked to the doorway of his father’s wood shop to look out at the oak tree in the backyard. It was big, but not quite as big as the one he and Kerry had just picnicked beneath. “When we first set up our...our arrangement...I told her she didn’t have to worry about me falling for her. I promised her things wouldn’t get messy. I said we would keep things simple, just two friends having fun.” Adam appreciated his father holding his silence while he collected his thoughts. “But when we were over at the house today for lunch to celebrate her signing on the dotted line for it, I realized I wasn’t just happy for her because she’d found her perfect house. The real reason I’m happy is because working on the house with her means we’ll get to spend time together over the next year. A lot of time.” His father joined Adam in the doorway as Adam laid it all on the line. “Before Kerry, I’d find any way I could to avoid entangling things with a woman. But now I’m going out of my way to find ways to tangle things up.”
Now that Adam had started talking about Kerry, he couldn’t stop, couldn’t find a way to stuff it all back in. “Seeing her is the best part of any day, the best thing that happens all week. I think about her all the time. I have to stop myself from showing up at her office and dragging her out to the park or for a sail or just to hang out doing nothing. Kerry shouldn’t have been different. I wasn’t expecting her to be different. Anyone but her, actually. But she is.” By the time he finally finished talking, Adam realized Max was grinning at him.
“Look,” his father said, “I’m not going to lie and say it’s not terrifying. I’m not going to pretend it’s not confusing as hell to feel something so strong that it rocks your world off its axis. Especially when it’s something you might have thought you were never going to feel for anyone.”
“We have an arrangement,” Adam explained again. “One she’s been really wed to.” Just the way he’d been wed to it at first, too. It had seemed so perfect—getting to spend nights with a gorgeous woman who didn’t want long term any more than he wanted it. “But then, somehow, somewhere along the line, things changed. And I don’t want to stick to that arrangement anymore.”
“Your whole life, when you’ve wanted to fix things,” his father said in a serious voice, “you’ve fixed them. It’s one of the reasons you’re so good at what you do. Just as you’ve always known when something is so beautiful, so precious, that you can’t possibly walk away without regretting it.”
Max gave Adam a warm hug, one he was surprised to realize he’d really needed. Sometimes it didn’t matter that you were a grown man with a hugely successful business—you needed to be reminded that the people who loved you most were there for you.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting her,” his father said, “more than ever now. Friend or lover or girlfriend, however the two of you work things out, she’ll always be welcome.”
“You’re going to love Kerry.”
“I know we’ll love her, because you do.”
The truth of it hit Adam like a lightning bolt, and not from nearly as far out of the blue as he would have expected.
“You’re right.” He paused, reeling. “I’m in love with her.” He let the word take hold in his head first...and then deep down in his heart. Right where Kerry had already gone. “Love.” Amazingly, it didn’t sound, or feel, as strange as he’d thought it would falling from his lips. “I love her.”
His father was clearly beyond pleased, grinning ear to ear while he toasted Adam with his beer bottle. “So, now that you’ve got one big part of the equation figured out, what are you going to do about it?”
Maybe someone else would have given Adam more time to get used to the idea of having done the impossible: actually falling in love. But the Sullivans weren’t like other people, and when love struck, they didn’t waste any time before they did whatever it took to make sure it lasted.
And hell, since he’d already gone and done what should have been impossible, how much bigger a leap was it to jump headfirst into crazy, too?
Adam grinned back, the answer as obvious now as his love for her. “I’m going to tell her.”
He’d already been counting the hours until Thursday night, when he and Kerry were going to meet again. But now the anticipation was nearly going to kill him, because he couldn’t wait to officially change the rules of their arrangement.
Adam Sullivan had finally fallen in love. And now that he had, there was not only no going back, there was also no one else he would ever love the way he loved Kerry.
She was his one. His only.
The following afternoon, Colleen was almost sparkling as she walked into the café where Kerry was meeting her for a cup of coffee. It had been so long since Colleen had looked happy—truly happy—that Kerry’s heart filled with hope. Maybe her sister had finally turned the corner!
Kerry was really glad she’d moved her meetings around when Colleen had texted from out of the blue asking if they could have lunch. Two unplanned lunches in two days made Kerry’s once perfectly rigid calendar look like a thing of the past, but it actually didn’t bother her all that much. Not when she was feeling kind of sparkly herself lately.
“You look amazing,” Kerry said when they hugged hello.
“I feel amazing.” Colleen couldn’t stop smiling as she sat down. The waiter came by and took their coffee orders, with Colleen adding a big piece of chocolate cake for them to share. “I swear this must be the best day of my life.” She hugged herself. “Payton came back to me.”
Kerry was so surprised that everything froze for a moment. Her brain. Her smile.
But especially her heart.
It was suddenly all too clear why Colleen was sparkling and filled with joy: The man she’d never gotten over had returned.
Kerry tried to find words, any words, to say to her sister. But she couldn’t even seem to pry her lips apart at this point, not unless she wanted her sister to see her growling over Payton’s return.
Fortunately, Colleen was too far over the moon to notice Kerry’s reaction. “He was waiting on my front step last night with flowers. The most beautiful bouquet you’ve ever seen. He said he was sorry. So sorry that he ever hurt me. He said he’s missed me every second we’ve been apart. He said he never stopped loving me, and then he begged me to forgive him.” Colleen put her hand over her heart and sighed happily. “We weren’t even inside the house and he said all of that. He couldn’t wait another second to let me know that he’s a changed man.”
It was the best Kerry could do right then, but she knew she needed to do better. Adam had helped her with her sister enough times that now she found herself wishing he could be there with them again. Maybe he could have helped her figure out what to do and how she could possibly help her sister now. The strangers her sister met at bars had all been horrible, but Payton had never been much better. In fact, he was probably worse, because when he told Colleen he loved her, she believed him, and then she fell apart when he cheated on her repeatedly, stole from her, and then left her.