“No worries,” I say. “Juice is fine.”

He grabs the bottle from the fridge and pours some into a glass, handing it to me.


“I’ll show you around so you can get a feel for the house, then I’ll introduce you to Bailey.”

The house is two levels. We start on the first level, walking down a long, narrow hall. “If you’re downstairs, this is the guest bathroom,” he says, showing me a small half bath with just a sink and toilet. “And just behind it is the mud room and washing machine in case you need to wash anything. Bailey can be messy and I don’t have much in the way of clean clothes for her at the moment. Everything I have is in storage until I can find a place of my own. I didn’t want to bombard my brother with all of our stuff. I don’t plan to stay too long. He’s not big on kids.”

“I’m so sorry about what happened,” I blurt out without thinking. “With your wife, I mean.”

He turns to look at me, and even though his face still looks friendly, I immediately regret saying it.

“I shouldn’t have said that. It was dumb,” I say, trying to erase whatever damaged I caused by opening my big damn mouth. “I shouldn’t have brought that up. I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s just my mom told me about your conversation with her yesterday, and …” I let my words trail off, not wanting to say anything else just in case I dig the hole deeper and make things worse.

“No, it’s okay,” he says with a gentle smile. “I’m glad it happened when it did. Bailey is young enough so she won’t remember her mother and she’ll be able to move on from this. If it were to have happened when she was older, it might’ve been devastating. I’m actually excited about moving forward. My marriage was horrible from day one. I lived in a house I didn’t love, with a woman I didn’t love, and I was stuck at a job I hated. This change is actually a good thing.”

I let out a sigh of relief. “Good. I’m glad. You don’t have to worry about Bailey while you’re out working. I love kids and I’m really excited about being here.”

I’m gushing. I can hear the longing in my voice. He has to hear it too. I sound desperate. Maybe he’ll assume it’s just because I need the job and not that I long for him. He can’t possibly know that.

“I’m happy to have you here too,” he says. “Should we go meet Bailey now?”


“Yes, please.”

We head upstairs. As we’re walking, he stops abruptly and turns to me. “Oh, and one other thing—”

The quick stop makes me bump into him and I catch the glass in my hand before it falls, but not before it splashes red juice all over his work clothes and on the floor.

“Oh my god. I’m so sorry,” I say, practically in tears. I’m touching the front of him, trying to wipe the juice away but only making it worse by spreading it around. How many times will I have to apologize to him before he leaves the house?

He looks down at the front of his shirt, arms out. He doesn’t look mad like I thought he would. Instead, he laughs. “That is not your fault. Not at all. I’ll just toss this in the wash before it stains.”

He takes his shirt off right there in front of me. My jaw falls open and I can’t help but stare. I think he notices, because he’s looking at me differently too. Shy, almost. Maybe he’s not used to being shirtless and alone with girls.

“There’s still some on your chest,” I say, fighting the urge to reach out and touch his smooth skin. His body is as perfect as I imagined it would be. Thick, corded muscle, but not all sinuous like a body builder. More like a man who stays busy and maybe goes to the gym a day or two a week. There’s a small patch of hair on his chest, and that stomach … I have a thing about men’s stomachs. His is a lovely washboard. I want to lick him from the trail of hair below his belly button up to his sexy full lips. Wait, who am I kidding? I want to lick everything. I want to taste everything about this man.

“It’s fine,” he says. “I’m always covered in some kind of mess. It’s just part of the territory when you’re a parent.”

I’d like to cover him in my own kind of mess. I can already feel myself getting wet with him standing here half naked in front of me.

I start to speak, but I’m interrupted by Sam as he comes up the stairs behind me. “What’s going on here?” he says.

I hadn’t heard him until he spoke. He’s a sneaky guy. Makes sense because he looks kind of sneaky. He just has that weasel appearance that I don’t like. Maybe it’s because he’s the one who bought Deacon’s house and ruined my most cherished childhood fantasies. I secretly blamed him for Deacon leaving, even though I know it wasn’t his fault.

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