For so long she’d lived in this state of distrust.

If she hadn’t known someone from the time she was in grade school, she wasn’t likely to let them into her life. The few times she had, it had ended disastrously. Most of the men she’d dated turned out to be assholes who cared more about social status than her.

She pulled out her cell phone and hit one of her speed dials.

Her dad answered on the second ring. “Hi, sweetie. How are you?”

“Hi, Dad.” She wasn’t exactly sure how to handle this conversation.

There wasn’t a lot she could hide from him and he picked up on her anxiety right away. “Is everything all right?”

“Everything’s great. I want to ask you something, but I don’t want you to jump to conclusions.”

“Okay.” His voice was cautious.

“If I move back home, and this is a strong if,  I want to know exactly what you plan on hiring me to do.”

He was silent for a long beat, but finally he spoke. “I want you in charge of marketing and development. At the start, you’ll have to get your hands dirty so to speak by visiting a lot of the jobsites so you get a feel for what Ballantine Industries is all about. You’re not going to start out at the bottom, but you certainly won’t be at the top either. You’ll have a boss just like anyone else.”


“Larry Hoffman.”

“Oh.” She’d known him since she was five.

And she liked him. A lot. Definitely a plus.

“He’s a good man and more importantly, he won’t micromanage. He’ll guide you. He’s looking to retire in a few years and he wants someone competent— and trustworthy— to take over the reins.”

Marketing was definitely one of her strong suits. She knew how to sell. It was in her blood.

She chose her next words carefully. “That sounds like something I might be interested in.”

“Is this something you’re serious about? Larry has been looking for the past six months and can’t find anyone he thinks is right for the job. I’m not going to tell him about this unless you’re absolutely serious.”

“I am, Dad. I’m ready to move home, but I have to know you’re not going to micromanage my life. Personal or otherwise. I can’t live like that anymore. If I butt heads with someone over something, I have to know that you’ll let me handle things myself.”

He blew out a long breath. “I know I deserve some of that. I’ve already moved your stuff out of the house and into a condo downtown.”

“What are you talking about?” She didn’t know if she should be grateful or very annoyed.

“Don’t jump to conclusions. I knew you’d eventually move home. I didn’t know when, but I knew when you did, you wouldn’t be coming back to the house. Thought I’d save you the trouble. You don’t have to stay in the condo either and I didn’t hire a decorator or anything. I just wanted you to have options and I figured you’d want your space when you moved back.”

For her dad, that was an incredibly big step.

Sure, he technically should have let her pick her own place, but she knew he wouldn’t change overnight and picking a fight was the last thing she wanted. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you’ll move home tomorrow.”

She smiled even though he couldn’t see her. “I can’t do that. I’ve got to put in my notice and pack up my apartment here.”

“I’ll hire movers.”

“Dad, no. I can handle it.”

“By yourself?”

“I didn’t say that.” She wasn’t quite ready to tell her father about Adam. Until she got a grip on her own feelings, she wouldn’t mention him.

“Is there someone in your life?”

“Dad. ”

“Okay, okay. If there is someone, and if it gets serious, you will bring him home?” The way he asked the question tugged at her heart.

Her and her father had always been close growing up. When she was old enough to move out though, she’d started to crave her independence and they’d butted heads. He wouldn’t give her breathing room and she hadn’t been willing to compromise. So for the last couple years they’d fought and bickered more than they’d gotten along. Something she couldn’t handle any longer. She missed her relationship with her father.

“Of course I will.”

“When can I expect a definite answer?”

She raked a hand through her hair. “I’m giving you one now. I might need a week to settle in once I move back, but I’m telling you now that I’ll take the job.”

“I’ll give you two weeks once you get back.

That’s a month over all. I’ll contact Larry in the morning and have him email you what to expect.”

“Shouldn’t you run this by him first?”

“No, he’s seen your resume and he wants you.

I’m sure the fact that you’re my daughter has a lot to do with it, but he’s been dragging his feet hiring someone. You’re more than qualified for this job, Izzy. Don’t get hung up on your last name. I have faith in you and so does Larry.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

After they hung up, she slipped her phone back into her apron. The bathroom was still quiet when she exited the stall so she splashed cold water on her face.

She might be making a huge mistake, but she had to take the chance. Not just with Adam, but with her life in general. She had to stop running away from her heritage. Deep down she knew that’s what she’d been doing these past couple of months. Hiding.

It was time to face up to her life and actually challenge herself. Working for her dad excited and terrified her at the same time. But maybe that was a good thing. And the thing with Adam, well, she’d just figure that out too.

She patted a paper towel over her face and went back out to relieve Adam. She found him building a pyramid out of straws. “Bored?” she asked as she ducked under the hatch to join him.

He nodded. “Just slightly.”

“Did Don already leave?”

“Paid and gone.” He patted both his pockets, then pulled a lighter from one and handed it to her. “I forgot. He said to say thanks and he’d see you in a day or two.”

“Thanks.” She slipped it into her back pocket.

“Have you seen Toby yet?”

“Still no sign of him.”

She glanced back down at the near empty bar then back at Adam. “Would you mind watching the bar one more time?”

He shook his head and lightly gripped her hips, pulling her against his body. “Did you start dating me so you could pass off your workload?”

“Ha ha.” She leaned up to kiss him.

His eyes flared with surprise for a moment but just as quickly his lips hungrily covered hers.

Holding onto his shoulders in a tight grip, she savored his taste and the way his big hands slid up her back as he devoured her. Pressing her body tighter against him, she let out a tiny moan as heat pooled between her legs.

Adam jerked back suddenly, his green eyes dark with passion. “Shit, Izzy. Save that thought for later.”

She definitely would. This shift couldn’t end soon enough. Smiling, she wiggled out of his embrace and made her way through the kitchen.

She felt a little bad quitting on her boss now, but the sooner she got it over with, the better for everyone.

Adam watched Izzy walk away and fought his physical response. The woman could get his blood pumping with a short kiss. Simply watching her hips sway had him reacting like a randy teenager.

Hell, he even found her light snoring adorable.

That alone told him how far gone he was. He scrubbed a hand over his face and glanced down at the two customers. He started to go check on them when his cell phone buzzed in his pocket.

After he saw at the caller ID, he looked back toward the kitchen entrance.

“Will you two be okay for a minute?” he called down to the two customers.

Barely looking up from the game on the television, they both nodded so he picked up the phone. “Hello.”

“Adam, how are things?” Edward asked.

He ducked under the bar hatch and headed for the front door. There was no way in hell he could risk Izzy overhearing this. “I’ve still got time, sir.”

He hadn’t told her father about the stalker in Coconut Bay yet and he planned to keep it that way. He was handling things his own way and he didn’t want Edward interfering.

“I was calling to congratulate you on landing the Forester deal.”

“What?” he asked as he walked down the sidewalk. He took a seat on one of the benches, unsure if he’d heard right.

“Just got a call from Izzy and it looks like she’s moving home in a couple weeks. Don’t know how you did it, but you held up your part of the bargain so I’m holding up mine.”

He paused for a long beat as he digested the other man’s words. Izzy had made a decision? Since when? More important, why hadn’t she told him? “Sir, I don’t know if I had anything to do with her decision.”

“I expected a different reaction.”

Me too.  “Sorry sir, it’s just…I don’t want the job. Either we have the right numbers and proposal or we don’t. I don’t want this job based on some crazy deal.”

“Nonsense. I’ll send our standard contract to your office and let you and your brother take a look at it before we get started or make any more decisions.”

“Sir, I don’t want—”

“Take a night to sleep on it. You’ll see that this is the best decision for your company.”


But he was talking to himself. Sighing, Adam snapped his phone shut and scrubbed a hand over his face. He wasn’t taking the job. He’d have to tell his brother and he already knew how that was going to go over, but he didn’t care. Izzy was everything he’d ever wanted and they had a shot at something real.