Two days later…
Jack paced in his condo, waiting for Keely to arrive.
Why had she insisted on seeing where he lived?
Because you’re supposed to be engaged, dumbass.
He inhaled a deep breath. For Christsake, he shouldn’t be embarrassed. He’d paid a shitload of money for this high-rise condo with a view of the Rocky Mountains.
Jack gazed at the jagged peaks that were covered in snow year round. As a South Dakota farm kid, raised on the flat prairie, he was amazed every time he looked at the majestic mountains.
Yet the view outside presented his living room in an even more pitiable light. He hadn’t spent time or money decorating besides adding two black leather reclining Lazy Boy chairs. True, Jack had forked over serious bucks for the top of the line entertainment system with a gigantic digital flat-screen TV, and theater quality surround sound. His massive collection of DVDs was arranged alphabetically on the shelves of the entertainment center that encompassed the entire wall.
The phrase “entertainment center” caused a snort. He’d never entertained here. Never cooked. Aside from his cleaning lady, he’d never invited a woman over. He feared looks of pity or worse, calculated looks of home improvement ideas.
Working out of his home meant no water-cooler type conversations with his coworkers—but after the ugly situation with Baxter and Martine, he considered that a benefit.
Since Jack had moved to Colorado from Chicago, making money took priority over making friends.
And yeah, maybe he had crawled into a hole after Martine ditched him for Baxter. No one could blame him for holing up and licking his wounds.
It’s been three years. Get over it. You’ve got a chance to have a better, fuller life.
With Keely McKay? Despite her sexual appeal, the sweetness she masked beneath insults, her thoughtfulness, her ambition, her sly sense of humor and her tendency to give all of herself to those she cared about, Keely was not the type of woman he expected he’d spend his life with. She’d never leave Wyoming, never venture far from her family, which led him to believe she had a narrow view of the world.
Any narrower than yours?
Jack admitted spending the last few weeks with Keely and her family and friends proved his life was empty outside of working hours. No real relationships. No group of male buddies to invite over to catch a Broncos or Rockies game.
The one solid friend he’d kept throughout the years was Carter McKay. Jack figured after Carter married Macie the friendship might cool. But if anything, they’d gotten closer. Carter and Macie welcomed him into their life. In the last six years he’d enjoyed every moment spent at their house in Canyon River with their three wild boys.
Maybe you aren’t as allergic to the notion of home and hearth as you’ve deluded yourself into thinking you are.
Then again, maybe Carter continued their relationship because of Jack’s ability to track down art commissions. If that perk ended, would Carter still call him? Or worse, what happened after the engagement with Keely went south? Would Carter blame him and cut all ties?
That thought absolutely paralyzed him.
The intercom buzzed and his heart rate rocketed. He depressed the button. “Yes?”
“A Keely McKay here to see you sir.”
“Thanks. Send her up.”
He paced, feeling edgy and nervous in his own skin.
Two brisk knocks. Jack opened the door, took one look at her beautiful face and everything inside him calmed. “Hey. Come in. How was the drive?”
She skirted the plain white wall dividing the entry foyer from the living space. In the living room she wandered to the floor to ceiling windows. “The years I lived in Denver I always wondered what the view looked like from up here.”
“Still makes you feel far away, doesn’t it?”
He didn’t quite know how to respond to that.
Keely meandered to the dining room, which didn’t have a table, but a drafting table, a Bowflex and weight sets. She moved through the kitchen. Her gaze swept over the breakfast bar. The double sink. The double ovens. The built in dishwasher. The island with a Jenn-aire range inset into a marble countertop.
The sub-zero refrigerator. She didn’t say a word—good or bad—as she rounded the corner and headed down the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
Jack’s whole body went on full alert.
She poked her head into the main bathroom. He could almost hear her assessment: nothing fancy.
Boring white walls, white sink, white toilet, white tub/shower combo and white tiled floor.
She entered the second bedroom, which served as Jack’s office. Two oversized drafting tables lined the longest wall. A mahogany desk anchored one end of the room. He’d converted the walk-in closet with shelves for storing building plans and to house his collection of books on restoration as well as photographic books. The only wall not covered in shelf space was plastered with an enormous map of the U.S. dotted with colorful pins.
“These pins are where you’ve done restoration projects?”
“What a cool way to see all you’ve accomplished.”
Jack smiled. Keely would see it as a positive. Whenever he was frustrated with project plans, he saw the pins denoting finished projects and it motivated him to continue.
“This is a great space and all cozy with books, but where do your clients sit?”
“I don’t bring clients to my home, Keely.”
She faced him. “But you don’t have another office someplace?”
“No. Most of the initial business is conducted over the phone. I travel to where I’m needed, hence no need for a formal office space. A PO box, an Internet connection, a phone and I’m good to go anywhere.”
“Oh. Well, I thought…” Her eyes darted away. “Never mind.”
“I thought since you’re a historic preservation specialist you’d have a funky, cool office in a nifty building you restored. With pictures of the work you’ve done. Nothing fancy, just…”
“Something besides an overfilled second bedroom in a modern condo in Denver?”
She blushed. “I guess.”
“I had an impressive office when I worked in Chicago. Evidently the conference table in the meeting room was a favorite place for Martine and Baxter to fuck, so I’m soured on formal office suites.”
“You don’t have to snap at me, Jack, for asking a simple question.” She wheeled around.
Jack caught her wrist as she stormed into his bedroom. “Sorry. My place isn’t anything remotely cool… Basically it sucks and I’m embarrassed. There’s no personality and I’ve lived here for three years.
It’s like I just moved in.”
“Or are expecting to move out,” she murmured.
He hadn’t thought of it that way.
“Is this your bedroom?”
How he wished he could lie, because this was one ugly-ass, bare-ass room too. A plain boring brown comforter on the king-sized bed. One nightstand. One dresser. Both brown wood. No chairs. “At least the shitty décor in here fits with the rest of the place.”
“You do live here like you’re waiting for your life to start someplace else.”
Another perceptive, yet jarring comment.
Keely moseyed into the closet. “Omigod, GQ. Do you really wear all those suits?”
He squinted at the orderly line of jackets, suit pants and shirts. The dozens of ties folded over tie racks, separated by color. The pairs of dress shoes in black, light black, brown and light brown. His casual clothes were stacked on the opposite side, a considerably smaller selection.
“Yes. I wear them all.”
“Since you don’t have clients come here, when you get up in the morning to go to work in your office, in the next bedroom over, do you actually put on…an entire suit?”
That would seem ridiculous to her. Hell, it seemed ridiculous to him. “Sometimes,” he admitted. “If I have to go out later I usually wear a suit. I’m more comfortable in suits than I am in jeans, Keely. It’s just the way I am.”
“Which is a damn cryin’ shame, because you fill out a pair of jeans very nicely. However, I can hardly see your very fine ass or your impressive junk when a suit coat covers the front and the rear.”
“It conceals a big problem whenever I’m around you, buttercup.”
Keely fingered a pile of sweaters, arranged by color. “I live in jeans. I hate getting dressed up. But I will, when the occasion warrants it.” She jammed her hands in her pockets. “Did you have help organizing your closet? It’s so tidy.”
“I have help choosing my wardrobe, but I manage to hang things up all by myself,” he said wryly.
Keely gaped at him. “Someone helps you shop?”
“I’ve dealt with two men’s clothing stores in Chicago for a few years. My personal shopper knows what I like.”
“I’ve never met anyone with a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant. My God, you must be filthy rich.”
He skirted the rich issue. “Do you think I’m a pansy-ass because I care how I look?”
“No. Those shoppers are worth every penny because you always look smashing.”
“Smashing?” Jack groaned. “Fuck. That word makes me sound like a metrosexual.”
“You’re all hunky, hot, real man, in my experience, so not to worry.” Keely ducked out of the closet to sit on the bed. She wore a strangely pensive look.
Shit. Maybe she did think he was a fucking pussy because he didn’t have a closet full of Wranglers, shitkickers and flannel. “What?”
“I’m going out on a limb here. You don’t have a revolving door to your bedroom, do you?”
He shook his head, less self-conscious about his pathetic sex life than his dismal apartment. “As a matter of fact, you’re the first woman I’ve ever asked into my bedroom, Keely.”