“I’d like to set this aside for now, because I’m going to find Todd and kill him with my bare hands.” Ty clears his throat and swallows hard. “Why today? What happened?”
I take a deep breath and close my eyes, pulling my mind back to the reason I’m here.
“What is it about me that makes men think it’s okay to walk all over me?”
“Did Zack . . .”
“Zack either likes to play mind games, or he doesn’t know what the fuck he wants, but either way, I’m not interested in dealing with it.”
Ty sighs and rubs his hands over his face.
“You’re in love with him.”
“Hell no. He’s a hot piece of ass, Ty. He’s never let me get close enough to him to see if he’s someone I could fall in love with.”
“My guess would be that you haven’t let him get close either, Jill.”
I stop pacing and turn to stare at my brother and think back on the past few months.
“I’ve seen you. You brush him off, laugh at him, or just avoid him altogether.”
I shrug and look down at the floor. “So maybe neither of us knows what in the hell we’re doing.”
“You’ve both had a rough year.”
I nod and cringe. “It doesn’t matter anyway. It’ll never work with Zack. He just hit a nerve tonight, and I needed to vent.”
“Do I have to kick his ass?” Ty asks with a hopeful grin.
“He’s taller than you and outweighs you by a good twenty-five pounds.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
My spine tingles at the edge in his voice, but I laugh and shake my head. “No.”
“Hey, Jill. I didn’t know you were here,” Lauren says as she comes into the room. She sits next to Ty, kisses his cheek, and grins over at me. “What are you up to?”
“Just thought I’d come over and raid your fridge, watch some TV. Basically be a freeloader for the night.”
Ty winks at me as Lo laughs.
“Good idea. Let’s see if we have ice cream.” Lo takes my hand in hers and leads me into the kitchen.
This is what I needed. A night with my family, where I don’t have to guard my feelings and my heart.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, but I have a feeling it’s Zack, so I ignore it and settle in to enjoy two of my favorite people in the world.
I always take Friday afternoons off, usually because I inevitably have to show houses on the weekends, so taking a few extra hours on a Friday afternoon for just me is important. So far, I don’t even have any properties to show this weekend either. Though bad for business, it’s not uncommon to be slow in the winter in Montana.
No one wants to move during a blizzard.
Looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home, I bundle up in my winter gear and carry a red plastic tote full of Christmas lights outside and set them on the porch, then trudge through the now-crunchy snow to the shed at the side of the house to dig out a ladder.
I could hire someone to come do this for me. I’m sure there’s a high school kid around who could use an extra fifty bucks, but I like decorating and taking care of my little home. I’m thankful that Cara offered it to me when she moved in with Josh last summer. I’ll eventually buy my own place, but in the meantime, this is home.
I take a deep breath in and out, and watch my breath float through the crisp December air as I lean the ladder against the eaves of the house, ensuring that it’s planted solidly in the snow and won’t slip.
Coming home was the best thing I ever did, even knowing that I’d run into Zack King on a regular basis. His brother is marrying my best friend, and we hang out as a gang often. At first I dreaded facing him after spending one amazing night with him over the Fourth of July weekend, and for good reason.
The man rocked my world and then cut out before I woke up. To say it was a hit to my ego is an understatement. Being in his company over the past months has been difficult. The man oozes raw sensuality, and keeping my hands off his tight, firm ass is a test of my self-control. He’s always been perfectly polite, and before our fight the other night in the restaurant parking lot, we’ve never spoken of it.
And then I find out that he didn’t mean for it to be a one-night fling? Is this not something he could have mentioned months ago?
I grab a strand of multicolored lights—I changed my mind about the color, again—and climb the ladder carefully. Because my arms are so short, I have to climb up and down repeatedly, repositioning the heavy metal ladder every few feet.
After the third climb, I pause at the top, already winded. Geez, I should buy a treadmill or something. If climbing up and down a ladder three times has me winded, I’m out of shape. I secure the lights to the gutter and then lean on the top rung and stare at a shoe on my roof. How did that shoe get up there? Cara just had this roof rebuilt, after a tree fell through it in a summer storm.
Must have been kids playing around.
I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, but can’t pull my gloves off and maintain my balance, so I ignore it and chew my lip as I stare at that wet, black shoe.
Zack has called or texted at least once every day this week. He probably wants to apologize for yelling at me, or come up with some lame excuse for not coming in with me that night, and frankly, I don’t want to hear it.
Rejection doesn’t taste good twice.
But, God, it felt divine to have his lips pressed to mine, his tongue exploring my mouth, and those large, strong hands braced on my hips, pulling me into him. Zack King can kiss.
And I mean kiss.
But he’s stellar at the rest of it too. The touching. The whispering. What that man can do with his mouth should be illegal.
And it just might be.
“What in the bloody hell are you doing up there?”
I gasp and clench my hands around the ladder, knowing exactly who is standing below me, as if I conjured him from my thoughts.
How did I not hear him approach?
“You scared me!”
“If you’d answer your damn phone once in a while, I wouldn’t have startled you.” I look down into deep brown eyes that have dark circles under them. His hair is stuffed under that beanie and his hands are braced on my ladder.
“What are you doing?” he asks again.
“I’m curing cancer, Zack.” I roll my eyes and secure another plastic clip to the gutter. “What does it look like?”
“You shouldn’t be on a ladder in this weather.”