I’m poised to protest his brazen attitude when we enter the kitchen and I fall deeply in love. With the kitchen. Just the kitchen.

Right.


“Oh wow.” I can’t take in the professional-grade appliances, rustic touches and sunshine-bathed marble fast enough. “Do you cook in here?”

“The cook cooks in here, baby. Helen!”

A middle-aged woman in a plaid apron breezes in with an air of annoyance. “Well,” she begins briskly. “You hollered, sir? What would you like—” She cuts herself off, gaze widening on me where I’m still being held in Walker’s arms. Pleasure travels across her face and she claps her hands together. “Who is this now? What have you brought me?”

“My wife. As soon as it can be arranged.” I’m still sputtering over that statement when he keeps going. “Helen, this is Meadow. She’s mine and she’s starving.”

“Oh, we can’t have that!” Helen scrambles to pull a pan out of the cabinet. “What am I to make her? A roast? Biscuits and gravy?”

Walker grins. “Cheese toast.”

Helen slumps.

I wiggle until Walker sets me down. “It’s nice to meet you, Helen,” I say, scowling at Walker while I attempt to brush the wrinkles out of my romper. “Your boss is holding me against my will. I would appreciate anything you have handy to feed me, if only so I can build enough strength to escape.”

Helen beams. “I like her.”

“She hasn’t accepted her fate yet,” Walker says, discreetly swatting my ass. His frown deepens thoughtfully. “Helen, you’re the only one allowed to prepare her food. No one else. Please don’t leave it unattended between the time it leaves your hands and reaches her mouth.”

“Yes, sir.”

Helen makes me a cheese toast masterpiece that I eat at the kitchen island while Walker stands behind me, seemingly fascinated with individual strands of my hair. “Are you from Boston, Meadow?” Helen asks.

I finish chewing and swallow quickly. “Florida, actually. I’ve only been in Boston a short time.”

“And how did you meet our Mr. McManus?”

“Just bad luck, I guess.”

With a growl, Walker tickles me in the ribs and I yelp, twisting in his arms, giving him the access he needs to plant a kiss on my forehead, my cheeks, my neck. “You’re going to pay for every smart thing that comes out of your mouth.”

“I say a lot of smart stuff. No one is that rich.”

“You are, gorgeous. Soon as you say I do.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” I gasp, because he’s tickling me again and I’m laughing. And dammit I really don’t want to like Walker on top of this inferno of attraction I’m sitting on for him. This is getting really complicated.

“Boss! Hey, boss man.”

A man I don’t recognize stumbles into the kitchen, holding a Sox cap down by his thigh. He stops short and gapes when he sees Walker and me tangled in a tickle war. His lips slowly spread into a delighted, almost childlike smile.

“Who is she?”

“Hey Richie.” Walker tucks me into his side and plants a kiss on my temple. “This is Meadow. You’re going to be seeing a lot of her.”

“That’s still being taken under advisement,” I say, elbowing Walker in the ribs. “But it’s still nice to meet you, Richie.”

“Under advisement, huh?” Walker’s smile at me is slow and adoring. “You’re already softening up.”

“Maybe I’m lulling you into a false sense of security.” I split a glance between Richie and Walker. “So…you’re friends? Brothers?”

“Brothers?” Richie shifts from side to side. “I wish! Just friends, though.”

“Best friends.” Walker reaches his fist out for a pound and Richie regards him with absolute hero worship as he completes the fist bump. “You know, you’re the one responsible for me meeting Meadow, Rich. I owe you big time.”

The man seems confused for a moment, until understanding bursts across his features. “Did she give you the massage?”

Walker hums. “More or less.”

I elbow him again and he pulls me closer, nuzzling my cheek. “Did you finish today’s sudoku puzzle in the paper, Richie?”

“No, that’s why I’m here.” He looks down at the floor. “I got stuck.”

Walker nods. “Hey, no big deal, man. Everyone gets stuck on those things. Come by tonight after dinner and I’ll help you finish, huh?”

“Yeah. Good.” Richie backs toward the door, appearing relieved. “Thanks, Walker. See you then. Thanks!”

Minutes later, after I’ve assured Helen I’m no longer hungry, Walker scoops me back up in his arms and carries me through an uber-masculine, gray and black accented living room toward an elevator. After he punches in a code, we go up two floors and walk out into the most palatial bedroom I’ve ever seen. One wall is made entirely out of windows and it looks over the bay. Soft, cream-colored area rugs lie at angles, deep, brown leather chairs sit arranged in front of a fireplace. It smells like Walker. Like expensive aftershave and classy liquor. Gauzy, gold curtains float in through a sliding glass door that leads to a patio, a fire pit and Jacuzzi beyond.

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