She’s a grown woman who can take care of herself.
But I’ll be damned if I can stay away from her.
I bypass my office and head straight for home. I don’t live far, so I typically walk to and from work. Summer is dragging on nicely, although a hint of the bite of fall is in the air. The tips of the maple trees lining the boulevards are beginning to yellow.
As I pause to pull my suit jacket off, a car honks as it passes. I wave and roll my sleeves, drape the jacket over my arm, and continue toward home.
Where is she?
If Lauren’s ex-husband hadn’t just threatened her the other day, I wouldn’t be so worried.
But he did.
And she never did get around to telling me exactly what he threatened to do to her.
My first instinct is to drive to her house and check on her. What if she’s fallen? Sick?
Or maybe she’s just gone on vacation, you idiot.
I shake my head and cross the street leading to my house. The neighborhood is older, but the houses are well taken care of and nicely spaced. I approach my sister’s home and smile when I see Jillian sitting on her porch, absorbed in a book.
“Hey!” I call out, and wander up her sidewalk.
She looks up in surprise and smiles when she sees me. “Hey, yourself. How was your day?”
I set my briefcase down and loosen my tie. “Long. You?”
“It was good.” She gestures to the chair beside hers and I sink into it with a deep sigh. “Want some sun tea?”
“No thanks.” I shake my head and push my hands through my hair, then glance down at the book in her hands. “What are you reading?”
Her eyes light up and she shows me the cover. “A Spark of Passion by Peyton Adams. It’s the second in the series.”
I raise my eyebrows and smirk at my little sister. Her dark hair is pulled back in her usual braid and she’s in shorts and T-shirt, her new uniform since returning home from LA. She looks much younger than her twenty-eight years.
“You’re reading porn now?”
“It’s not porn,” she sniffs. “Besides, they’re gonna be made into movies, and I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.”
“They’re so good. You should read them.”
I laugh and hold my hands up as if in surrender. “No, that’s okay. I’ll leave the romance novels to you girls.”
She shrugs and lays the book aside. “Your loss. You never know, you might learn something.”
“I’ll take your word for it. How are you settling in, brat?”
She smiles, reclines back in her chair, and lays her hands on her belly. “I love it. I’m so happy that Cara shacked up with Josh and let me live in her house.”
“So kind of her,” I reply sarcastically. Cara Donovan is Jill’s best friend, and when Cara moved in with her fiancé, Josh King, she offered her house to Jill, who’d just moved back to town.
“So, what’s up with you?” Jill asks, eyeing me carefully.
“Just a lot on my mind.”
“No.” She shakes her head and narrows her eyes. “You have that look you get when you have a woman on the brain.”
“I don’t get a look.” I chuckle and cross my arms over my chest.
“Yeah, you do.” She turns in her chair, facing me squarely. “Who is she?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me, Tyler Sullivan.” She shakes her finger at me, making me laugh. “Spill it.”
“No woman.” I shrug and watch a cat scurry across the road. “Just work stuff on my mind.”
“Well, whoever she is”—Jillian ignores my sigh of exasperation—“she’s not good enough for you.”
“Of course she’s not. She’s imaginary because there is no woman.”
“Okay.” She smiles smugly. “Is it someone I know?”
“Oh my God!” I exclaim, and pull myself out of my chair. “I’m going home. I was going to take you out to dinner, but you fucked it up.”
“Oh, don’t be like that,” she pouts, then lets out a belly laugh as I grab my briefcase and walk toward my own house just a few doors down. “You know you love me!”
“You annoy the hell out of me!” I respond over my shoulder with a laugh.
I jog up my porch steps and into my house, toss my keys on the coffee table and briefcase on the chair. I change into jeans and a T-shirt and saunter into the kitchen, open the fridge, and try to decide between leftover Chinese or pizza, then slam the door with a curse.
Unable to stop myself, I pull my phone out of my pocket and dial Lauren’s number again.
I grab my keys and jog down to my car. I’m going to make sure she’s okay. Her house is at the edge of town, so it only takes me about ten minutes to get there. I can’t explain the pull I feel toward her. Hell, we grew up together, but it’s only been in the past six months or so that I feel drawn to her in ways I can’t put into words. My body yearns for her, I need to feel her, kiss her.
Jillian would laugh at me and accuse me of finding another broken woman to try to fix, but she’s wrong. Lauren isn’t broken, not by a long shot. The woman has more fight in her than just about anyone else I know.
Knowing her divorce was almost final, and seeing her around town, smiling shyly, trying to blend in—as if she ever could!—has had me in a permanent state of arousal since I saw her help a lost little boy find his mom on Main Street months ago. She’s been in my head, and I can’t seem to shake her loose.
Lo’s Mercedes is parked out front when I pull into her drive, and I feel a surge of both relief and anger. Why the hell isn’t she answering the phone?
I ring her bell and wait, my eyes moving over the house and property. There’s no movement.
I ring the bell again and then pound on the door. She has to be here. Just as I’m about to back away and search the side of the house for another entrance, she pulls the door open, and the air leaves me.
Her big blue eyes are wide and glassy. Her gorgeous hair has been pulled on top of her head, but half of it has escaped out the back and is falling down her shoulders. She’s in a skintight, black tank top and yoga shorts. No shoes.
“Are you sick?” I ask, instantly concerned.
“What?” She scratches her head and frowns. “No, I’m working.”