When they’d thought Audrey’s life would be very different.

If only some pharmaceutical company could come up with a cure. Carly would give most anything to see the strong, vibrant woman her mother had once been.


Maybe some day a cure would exist, but, realistically, Carly knew any such treatment wouldn’t be in time to save her mother.

Tears pricked her eyes. Stop it, she scolded herself. She had no time for self-pity. Especially when the woman lying in the hospital bed never showed any. No complaints, just acceptance that life was what it was.

Was there a connection to Carly having mentioned Stone and the sudden request for grandchildren? If so, her mother would be sadly disappointed. Last night with Stone had been wonderful but Carly didn’t expect anything more. Probably, truth be told, the best thing that could happen would be if Stone realized how problematic her life was and forgot she existed.

Certainly, that would be best for him.

After running through a few stretches to protect her spine, Carly sat back down in the chair next to her sleeping mother’s hospital bed. She glanced at her watch, wondered where the morning had gone, then dove back into the insurance claims.

Tedious work, but someone had to do it. Since she could work from home and had some control over when she worked, Carly was the woman for the job.

When a knock sounded at her door, Carly jumped, almost dropping her laptop.

She hadn’t realized just how much time had passed.

Which was to her advantage because if she had, she’d have been distracted with wondering if Stone would show or not. Would have been anxiously listening for sounds of his arrival and wondering if she was being foolish.

He’d come.

Well, it was possible someone else was at her door, but it was unlikely. She didn’t have company. Just Joyce, herself, and her mother were ever at the house.

But Stone had come. He’d said he would and he had. Her crazy life hadn’t scared him away.

Standing up, stretching once again because of how long she’d been curled up in the chair and the fact her legs were numb, she then headed to her front door.

Her heart pounded and she felt breathy.

As if she were running a race rather than casually walking through her house.

She stepped up to the front door. Through the screen window, she could see Stone.

A very gorgeous Stone.

The man was really too good-looking to be real. Those eyes belonged to some paranormal hero in a supernatural television show.

And his mouth. A lush, kissable mouth that curved into such an amazing smile. Must come from being a dentist’s son.

Friends. They were just going to be friends. Nothing more.

This was okay. Sort of.

“I see there’s no need for me to call 911,” she teased, opening the door. Then, taking in the number of bags he held, she frowned. “Good grief, how much do you expect me to eat?”

He grinned. “I decided to cook dinner, rather than bring take-out.”

She blinked. He was going to cook? “Which doesn’t answer my question. Do I look like I have that big of an appetite?”

He laughed. “You’re perfect just as you are, so whatever your appetite, it suits you.”

Perfect. Her. Ha.

“If I didn’t know better I’d think you were Irish and blessed with the Blarney Stone.”

His grin was breathtaking. “I wasn’t sure what you had in your kitchen,” he admitted, “so I bought everything I’d need.”

What if she didn’t want him in her barren kitchen?

What if take-out felt less personal than him cooking?

What if she was so glad to see him, that he’d shown up, that she wanted to throw her arms around him and hug him? As a friend, of course.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I’d say ‘thank you’, but you should probably wait until after you’ve eaten.” He waggled his brows. “My mother and sisters are good cooks. I’m a decent cook, but make no promises on edibility.”

“What are we having?”

“Homemade spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and I brought a couple of different wines to choose from.”

She rarely drank alcohol as it tended to make her sleepy, but she nodded. “Sounds good.”

“Point me to your kitchen and I’ll go back to get the rest of the bags.”

She blinked. “There’s more?”

“I told you, I wasn’t sure if you’d have all the ingredients. Now, give me directions on which way to go.”

She pointed down the hallway. “The house is only two bedrooms, so I doubt you’d get lost, but the kitchen is the first door to the right.”

“Perfect.”

She followed him into the kitchen, watched a little in awe as he set down the bags on her once bright yellow Formica countertops. “Can I help?”

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