“Hey, Boo.” Teague buried his face in her shoulder, hugging her tight and using her childhood nickname. The wetness on her lashes was a surprise. She wasn’t a crier, and she wasn’t really sure what they were about. But there were so many damn things to cry about lately. “You didn’t tell me you were coming.”

“Your last voice mail sounded like you were going to set fire to everything and watch it burn if you didn’t get some help.” She released him, the awkwardness once again edging back into the space between their bodies. “I hitched the first plane off the big island. You know how much I love a bonfire. I even brought marshmallows.”

“Right.” Teague stepped around her, easing behind the desk to lower himself into the chair. He looked so much like their father at that moment—successful, confident, the king of the world—or at least this little corner of it. In fact, he looked really good. Life in DC was treating him well, she supposed. When he smiled, she saw a little bit of the big brother she remembered, and it eased the residual tension in her chest.

“How long are you here?”

“About three weeks. It’s all I can spare from the spa.” She paused to laugh at the face he pulled, his lips twisting into a grimace. She wasn’t sure if it was aimed at the shortness of her visit or her choice in occupation. Teague didn’t think she was using her college degree to the level she should—another thing that contributed to the distance between them. “But I wanted to come help with the house. I figure I can get it packed up and cleaned out.”

“Oh, thank you baby Jesus.” He reached up and loosened his tie, relaxing back into the leather seat. “I hired packers, but I didn’t know how I was going to get it all sorted. There is a ton of shit in that house—expensive shit, but a ton of it.”

“No sweat. I’ll trash what needs to go, store what we want to keep, and sell the rest. I’m highly motivated. I need the money.” Taylor plopped down on the couch, her feet going up on the coffee table. She gave Teague points for not telling her to take them off. It was killing him. His jaw tightened and the muscle jumping there gave away the effort it took to remain quiet. She stretched, loosening up her lower back from a night spent in a strange bed. “With the cash from the sale, I can buy into a spa in Honolulu. I’ve got a group of investors and they’ve given me a sweetheart deal with a tight deadline to accept or reject it. Can you look at the papers for me?”

“Sure, no problem.” He rummaged in the desk drawer, emerging with a stick of gum he popped into his mouth, and offered her one as well. “So, you won’t be staying?”

“Now you sound like Lucky.” She tried to keep the pout out of her voice.

“Oh, hell. Lucky’s staying at the house.” Recollection flashed across his face, quickly replaced by an apology. “You okay with that? You can stay with me in the apartment upstairs if you don’t want to stay there with him. I’m back and forth to DC so we won’t be tripping over each other.”

She waved him off, the movement hopefully masking the flutter in her stomach and the heat rising in her cheeks. “We’re good. After I put the gun away, we worked out the sleeping arrangements.” She left out the groping on the floor and her invitation to share a bed. Teague would freak if he knew how different their sleeping arrangements had been in the past. It was part of his brotherly bossiness.

“What gun?”

“Father’s Smith & Wesson from the study.” She waved off his look of horror. Hell, Teague had taught her to use the gun when she was kid—he better believe she was going to use it if needed. “It’s a long story.”

“Shit, Taylor. Can you try not to cause any trouble while you’re here? Some of us still care about what people think about the Elliotts in this town.” His expression hardened as he barely kept his temper in check. “I’m fixing the mess he left behind with this practice, and I don’t need anything else on my plate.”

Ouch. She sat up a little straighter, refusing to give an inch on this argument. Teague applauded her choice to leave Bobby—her cheating bastard of a fiancé—at the altar, but he disapproved of everything she’d done after that day. Her lifestyle, her occupation, and her decisions in general didn’t live up to the Elliott family standard of decorum.

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