I’m exhausted, hungry, and haven’t looked this bad in a long time. The last year and a half of wearing silk suits and fucking beautiful women with abandon didn’t make me soft. I still have what takes to operate at a high special-forces level, but it did fucking make me appreciate being clean.

It also made me miss Trista so badly I would get distracted, and that wasn’t good.

I have no clue what is in store for Trista and me, but if it works out, I know that was absolutely my last mission with The Jameson Group. Hell, I’m ready to hand the reins to Kynan now so I can concentrate and enjoy building something with the woman I’m meant to be with.

My Range Rover swings into Trista’s small driveway and I note the sale sign has been removed. I smile to myself. Kynan does excellent work. I had him make a decent offer under a shell company, and Trista took it. According to Kynan, she, her mom, and Corinne are going to move into an apartment in a nicer area of town.

Or so they think.

Going to be different if this works out for me.

Putting my car in park, I see the front door open and Corinne comes running out the door. For a split second, I think she’s coming out to say hello to me, but she cuts left and runs over to a large tree that’s providing some ample shade from the hot sun. She has a blanket laid out with some stuffed animals perched around in a circle, and she takes a seat in between two of them as I get out of my vehicle.

My glance goes to the front door, but it’s shut. I know Trista is in there because her car is in the driveway right in front of mine, and Kynan’s been keeping close tabs on her. Been easy since she apparently muscled her way into the receptionist job I promised her. No clue how Kynan handled terminating our current receptionist, but I’m sure he did just fine.

Corinne’s head comes up when she hears my car door shut, and she turns to look at me as I walk around the back. “Hey, Corinne. I’m Jerico. I met you a few weeks ago when I picked up your aunt.”

She smiles shyly at me. “I remember.”

I look down at the blanket and see she has little teacups and saucers in front of each stuffed animal. There’s a purple dinosaur, a brown bear, a Mickey Mouse, and a gray rabbit. “You having a tea party?”

Corinne’s eyes brighten as she nods. “You want to join me?”

My eyes flick to the front door, but it remains closed. While I’m anxious to see Trista, there’s no reason why I have to do it right this second. In fact, perhaps a moment or two before I’m face to face with her to collect myself would be good. So without any further hesitation, I say, “Sure. Where do you want me to sit?”

“By Barney,” she says as she nods to the purple dinosaur. Reaching over, she moves the bear and rabbit to make room for me. I sit down on the blanket, groaning slightly because my back is a little sore from the extended plane travel, and manage to get into a cross-legged position without too much effort. I sit quietly while Corinne takes a teacup and saucer from the rabbit and pretends to pour tea it in. She hands it to me, and I take it with a smile. “Thank you. It smells delicious.”

I pretend to take a sip, and then I dramatically roll my eyes upward. “Wow. This is the best tea I’ve ever had. What’s your secret?”

Corinne giggles and takes a sip before she says, “Lots of sugar.”

“But of course,” I say with a smile. As Corinne giggles, I hear the front door open. My eyes slide over to Trista standing on the stoop with a guarded expression, but thankfully, there’s a small smile on her face.

Holding my cup up, I say, “We’re having tea.”

Her lips twitch. The amusement in her voice is evident when she says, “So I see.”

“Want to join us?” I ask.

Corinne adds, “Yeah… come on, Aunt Trista. Come have tea.”

Trista’s smile automatically beams at Corinne, but she shakes her head. “Not now, sweet pea. I’ve got some packing to finish.”

“Okay,” Corinne says in a chirpy voice, so I take it she’s not too disappointed.

Trista’s eyes come back to mine. “When you’re done, come on in… we’ll talk.”

“Be there soon,” I reply softly.

Her smile turns wistful, and she nods before opening the door and disappearing inside. I have no clue what to expect from her. She certainly didn’t run and jump in my arms, but she didn’t scream at me to leave her property either. I’m only slightly disturbed to hear she was packing, and I’m not sure exactly what that means.

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