“Camel flaunting,” he said very solemnly. “Me and Tommy needed to camel flaunt.”
This baffled her for a beat; then she had to laugh. “Camouflage?”
“Yes,” he said.
“For a battle.”
Grace had never really pictured herself with kids. She didn’t know why, exactly. Maybe because she’d never been around them, or because she figured she’d be married to her career as her parents were. But in that moment, sharing a grin in the mirror with Toby, something deep inside her squeezed hard in yearning.
They’d just walked in the front door and let Tank loose when Grace got a call from Anna.
“Need a ride,” was all Anna said.
Grace could hear something in the girl’s voice. Tears? Whatever it was, Grace’s stomach dropped. She knew that Anna was supposed to be at physical therapy, but she also knew that Devon was a weasel, and once Anna was in his car, she was pretty much at his mercy.
Grace had tried talking to Anna about it twice since the other day, but Anna was good about avoiding talking.
A definite Scott thing.
Still, Grace couldn’t get past the gut feeling that Devon was pushing for things Anna didn’t want to give him. “Where are you?” she asked.
Anna rattled off an address that was just outside of Lucky Harbor. It was an area that Grace knew from delivering flowers, and it was not an especially good neighborhood. She looked at Toby, who was swooshing his Jedi lightsaber and making Tank nuts. “On my way.” She disconnected. “We’re going for a ride, Tobes.”
“Tank and I are in the middle of a battle.”
“You can finish when we get back.”
“A good Jedi never stops in the middle of a battle.”
She hunkered down and looked him in the eye. “We have another battle to fight.”
He looked excited. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Picking up your aunt.”
His face fell. “Aw, that’s no fun. And you promised we’d go to the park.”
“Yes, but sometimes things happen.”
“Not to Jedis. Bad things like not going to the park never happen to Jedis.” Still holding his saber, he took off, his little feet pounding down the hallway. The next noise was the slam of his door.
Okay, so someone needed a nap. Though technically, that could apply to Grace as well. She followed him to his room and opened the door. She saw a little boy tush and a little pug tush, both adorable, sticking out from behind Toby’s large beanbag chair. The classic “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” pose. “Toby? Tank?”
“Don’t answer,” came a little boy whisper, and then a muffled snort.
A pug snort.
“Gee,” she said. “Wherever could the Jedi warriors have gone?”
Another pug snort.
And then a giggle. “What a shame I’m all alone,” she said. “’Cause I’m really in need of a couple of Jedi warriors, the very best of the best. There’s an epic battle ahead. We have to save Aunt Anna.”
The two tushes wriggled free, complete with warrior yells and lots of barking. Grace was just leading Toby outside when Josh pulled up.
He got out of his car looking like the day had already been too long. “Need my laptop,” he said, eyes shadowed, face drawn. He made time to stop and crouch down to hug Toby before straightening and meeting Grace’s eyes.
She wanted to ask him if he was okay. She wanted to give him a hug like he’d given Toby. She wanted to give him a chocolate cupcake and warm milk. She wanted to have him beneath her again, shuddering, her name on his lips as he came.
But mostly she wanted to ask him if there was any chance that he was feeling like this thing might be getting uncomfortably close to being a lot more than just fun. “Hey,” she said, and then rolled her eyes at how breathless she sounded.
He’d been pretty far gone last night, both in alcohol and exhaustion, and she suddenly realized he might not even remember what had happened.
His dark gaze searched hers for a long beat, but he gave nothing away. Something else he was extremely good at. “Where are you guys going?” he asked.
“Anna needs me to pick her up.”
“Devon flake on her again?”
“I don’t know. This is where she is.” She showed him the address she’d scrawled onto a piece of paper.
He frowned. “That’s nowhere close to her PT.” He looked at his watch. “My car. Let’s go.”
They drove in silence. Well, except for the noises Toby and his Zhu Zhu warriors were making in the backseat. Josh turned onto a run-down street, and they all eyeballed the apartment building. Weeds in the asphalt cracks, dead lawn, peeling paint, and bars on the windows of the lower floors. Nice.
Anna was in her chair waiting on the front walk. At the sight of Josh’s car, she scowled, and then again when he got out to help her.
“I called Grace,” she said unhappily. “Not you.”
“Hello to you too.” He crouched in front of her, gaze narrowed. “You okay?” He reached out to touch her cheek where her mascara had run as if she’d been crying.
She slapped his hand away. “I’m fine. Just get me out of here.”
The drive home was tense, with Josh keeping an eye on a silent Anna, who was huddled in the backseat. Back at home, she rolled into her room, slammed the door, and all went quiet.
Toby picked up his lightsaber. “Can we go to the park?”
“Not right now,” Josh said.
“Not right now.”
Toby tossed up his hands. “You don’t let me do anything.” And then he walked down the hall and slammed his bedroom door.
In a perfect imitation of Anna.
Josh looked like maybe he wanted to tear out his hair. He moved down the hall and knocked on Anna’s door.
“Go away!” she yelled.
Josh strode back into the living room, looking as if he needed a long vacay.
“You okay?” Grace asked him.
“I don’t know.” He lifted his head and pinned her with his gaze. “Tell me about last night.”
“What about it?” she asked carefully, not wanting to fess up to anything he couldn’t remember.
He looked at her for another long moment, during which she did her best to look innocent.
“You could start by showing me the rest of that sexual fantasy list,” he said.
Okay, she thought with a blush, so he did remember.
Gaze dark, he stepped toward her, but his phone went off. Josh swore, grabbed his laptop, then strode to the door.
Grace let out a breath, then sucked it in again when he turned back and lifted her up so that they were nose to nose.
“Now I owe you,” he said softly, then set her down, brushed a kiss over her mouth, and vanished.
I would give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.
It was a long day. At the office, every patient Josh saw wanted to talk about Mrs. Porter. They were devastated. His staff was devastated. By the time he got home, he was more done in than he’d been last night, and that was saying something.
He’d called ahead. Toby was asleep. Anna was heading out as soon as he got home. He could have done whatever he wanted with the evening.
But there was only one thing he wanted to do.
The lights in the guesthouse were blazing. Through the windows, he could see Grace sitting on the couch, but she wasn’t alone. She was with Mallory and Amy, talking and laughing. In front of them on the coffee table was an opened file box, and papers were scattered across the entire table, bookended by an open laptop and an adding machine.
It was a visceral reminder that Grace had a whole other life outside of his.
She’d taken on two more clients, which he’d heard from Dee, who’d heard it from Lucille, who’d heard it from Anderson at the hardwood store, since he was one of those clients. The other new client was the ice-cream shop on the pier and the two brothers who ran it. Lance and Tucker probably had no bookkeeping system at all, so Grace had her work cut out for her—not that it would be a problem. She seemed to have a way of getting to it all, making everything all work out. He admired that. She was just a sweet, smart, hard-working woman doing her best to find herself. No complaining, no feeling sorry for herself, doing what she had to do to get by.
She had her hair pulled up in a ponytail, but a few pale silk strands had escaped, framing her face, brushing her throat and shoulders.
Just looking at her had his body humming. And though she couldn’t possibly see him standing in the dark night, she went still, then turned her head, and peered outside.
Unerringly looking right at him.
She said something to Mallory and Amy, then rose in one fluid motion and stepped outside, shutting the door behind her.
They met in the shadows near the shallow end of the pool.
“Hey,” she said, looking like a vision in a loose white top that fell off one shoulder and white shorts showing a mile or two of sexy leg.
“Hey yourself,” he said. “How did your day go?”
“Well, I didn’t kill Tank, Toby continues to master the English language, and Anna didn’t run off today. Progress.”
“Great, but I meant you. How are you?” She looked surprised, which he didn’t like. “You think I don’t want to hear about you too?” he asked.
She nibbled on her lower lip.
“This thing between us…it’s still just fun, right?”
He studied her a moment. “How does that translate into me not caring about you?”
She blew out a breath and looked away. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m not very good at this. I don’t mix well with a guy like you.”
“A guy like me,” he said, trying to figure out what that meant.
“Look, it’s all me, okay? I knew going into this thing that it couldn’t possibly work, but I just kept…” She broke off and looked away. “I’m sorry.”