But he packed up my paints!

Standing outside the truck, all I could do was stare at him like a doofus until one side of his lips tipped up. “Babe, you going to get in this truck or not?”

I gripped the door, feeling my heart expand in my chest until there was a good chance it would burst from what seemed like not a big deal to Reece, but it was to me.

He chuckled that smooth, deep laugh. “Roxy?”

“I’m going to get in the truck,” I told him.

A brow arched after a moment. “Anytime this year?”

“I’m taking my time.” I flushed, because I knew I looked stupid. “Don’t want to pull a muscle climbing into this monster. I need a freaking ladder to get into this thing.”

Reece laughed while I made a face at him. Finally, I stopped acting weird and got in. As I was buckling up, he asked, “Who’s that?”

I looked out the window as Kip crossed the front porch of the Victorian, the vestibule door swinging shut behind him. “Oh, that’s Kip. I can’t remember his last name, but he’s the guy who moved in upstairs.”


Kip looked up, and I lifted my hand, giving him a jaunty wave, which was returned with a little less enthusiasm.


Adjusting the seat belt strap so it wasn’t choking me, I looked at Reece as he pulled away from the curb. His gaze flicked to the rearview mirror and then over to me. He winked. I narrowed my eyes at him. He laughed, and now my lips were twitching. Something about the way he smiled and the sound of his laugh was infectious. I leaned my head back against the seat. There was just something about him.

You need me.

The words floated through my thoughts and even though I wanted to ignore them, they didn’t offend me and I didn’t take them as a symbol of me being weak, a woman needing a man or any kind of crap like that. It meant something far deeper than that, something I wasn’t sure I was ready to delve into.

“Thank you,” I said.

He glanced at me quickly. “For what? The orgasms I gave you last night?”

I laughed. “Yeah, well, thanks for that, but that wasn’t what I was referencing. It’s for the paints. That was really thoughtful of you.”

“That’s me. Mr. Thoughtful.”

Shaking my head, I fixed my glasses as they started to slip. “You’re also Mr. Arrogant.”

“It’s called being well rounded.”

I let go of a very unattractive snort. “Keep telling yourself that.”

By the time we reached my parents’ house I’d almost forgotten why we were going there. The insults we’d tossed back and forth on the way there had me thoroughly and happily distracted, but when we pulled in behind my older brother’s black Volkswagen sedan, I wanted to crawl under the truck seat. Of course it couldn’t just be my parents. Oh no, it was Murphy’s Law at its finest.

Reece grinned as he glanced at me. “Want to make a bet?”

“That by the end of this visit I’m going to want to toss myself under a train?” I unbuckled myself.

Skin crinkling around his eyes, he laughed. “No. That your mom welcomes me to the family by the end of the visit.”

“God,” I groaned, shaking my head. “I am not making the bet, because she totally will. She’ll probably start making booties for the nonexistent baby.”

He laughed again, and that right there made him all kinds of awesome all over again. Most guys would break about a dozen laws to get away from a marriage- and baby-obsessed mom. I’d never tell him that though.

Sighing, I forced myself out of the truck and we didn’t even make it across all the flagstones before the front door flew open and my mom barreled out, her eyes wide as they darted from me to Reece to me and back again.

I swallowed a curse.

Mom stopped at the edge of the porch, clapping her hands together. Literally. She actually clapped. “Honey,” she said, smiling so widely that I thought her face might split into two. “Are you about to make your momma proud?”

“Oh my God,” I moaned.

Reece laughed under his breath as he stepped around me and climbed the steps. Before he could say or do anything, Mom enveloped him in a hug I knew could kind of be painful and dizzying, because when Mom hugged excitedly, it involved a lot of squeezing and swaying side to side.

“Mom,” I said, sighing. “Reece probably can’t breathe.”

“Shush it,” she replied. “It’s not often I get to hug a good-looking young man that’s not my son.”

“Oh dear God,” I muttered.

Reece’s laughing didn’t help, but when he was finally able to pull away, he glanced over his shoulder at me and winked. I shot him a look as I came up the stairs, but he spoke before I could. “I have a feeling my girl is about to make you proud.”

My mouth dropped open.

“My girl? Oh!” Mom flapped her hands in front of her face as she called for my dad. “Best news I’ve heard all—”

“Mom.” I was going to hurt them both. “That is not why we came here and—”

“Don’t ruin this for me.” She turned as I rolled my eyes. Dad was at the front door, brows raised. “Wit, you’re not going to believe this! Reece called our baby girl his girl!”

“Okay,” Dad drew the word out, then nodded at Reece. “It’s about time, son.”

As I passed Reece on the steps, I shoved my elbow into his stomach, nice and hard, too. He grunted, and that gave me a measure of satisfaction.

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