Despite her nervousness about moving in here with Kell, she smiled when she stepped into the living room. Kell was leaning back on his couch, his feet kicked up on the coffee table as he watched a football game. The volume was so low she could barely hear it. And Reece was tucked perfectly in the crook of his arm, sleeping soundly.
“How’d he do?”
Kell grinned, supremely satisfied with himself. “Perfect. He fussed a little over the bottle at first but took it after a few tries.”
She’d pumped extra milk for him so she could nap. “Good. You can turn the television up, you know. He’s used to noise. It’s good for him anyway.”
Kell’s eyebrows pulled together in concern. “You’re sure?”
Fighting a grin, she nodded. “Yes. Trust me, you want this kid able to sleep through anything. It will save your sanity later. Are you hungry? Because I’m starving. I’ll cook.” Since Reece was clearly content, she wanted to keep her hands busy and keep her distance from Kell. Not because she didn’t like his company. If anything, she craved it too much and that was dangerous.
“Yeah, but we can order takeout.”
She shook her head. “No, I’ll cook. Before I do I want to go over some rules.” Including a very important one.
His eyebrows quirked up as he slightly straightened. “Rules?”
“That’s right. One, I’ll be paying you rent.” When it looked like he was about to argue she shook her head. “I’m going to be a contributing member of this household. With my savings, my trust fund and Andrew’s life insurance, I’m more than capable.” Some days she felt guilty that she didn’t have to work—though as soon as Reece entered preschool she was going back to teaching—but the fact that she was able to stay home with her son squashed all those feelings. “Second, no more kissing. Once this arrangement ends I don’t want there to be any confusion for either of us. Third, if I’m doing something you don’t like or something that annoys you, tell me right away. We’ve got a baby in the house and we’re two adults who’ve been on our own for a while. This will take some adjustment and I’m all about getting things out in the open so there’s no resentment. Okay?”
After a long moment, he nodded. “Those are good rules—except number two. I won’t promise not to kiss you again.”
She gritted her teeth. “Kell—”
“You liked it,” he murmured, his voice all sin and seduction as it rolled over her. And his expression was heated and almost smug—because it was the truth.
She had liked it. Way too much. Hell, she’d gotten wet from a simple kiss. Of course nothing about that kiss had been simple. It had been hot and dominating. And she knew from experience just how much Kell liked to dominate. But she couldn’t deal with that right now. Not if she wanted to stay sane and in control. “That’s beside the point. We can’t have things get complicated when we have no chance of something long term.”
His green eyes narrowed. “And why is that?”
She rolled her eyes, refusing to be baited. He knew exactly why. She’d been married to one of his friends. Then a month after her husband had died she’d found out about his cheating. She’d had her suspicions before but to her horror, she’d gotten them confirmed by one of his mistresses. Of course that was the night Kell had decided to show up to check on her. So she’d jumped him in an effort to drown her pain and get back at a man who was dead—then the next morning Kell had said he loved her. She still wished she could erase that from her memory. There was no way it was true. The man was too much of a player and she wasn’t going down that road again. Her heart couldn’t take it.
She sighed. “Kell, I know what you’re like and while I adore you, neither of us are cut out for relationships.” It had been part of the reason she’d picked him for a one-night stand. She’d liked and trusted him and had assumed he wouldn’t want more than a night. Then he’d gone and shocked the hell out of her. And she hadn’t been able to deal. Because if there was even a small chance he’d been serious…no, just no. She absolutely could not deal with that right now.
He straightened a little, anger glinting in his eyes. “And what exactly am I like?” He bit the words out.
She swallowed hard, his fierce expression surprising her. It wasn’t like she was saying anything that wasn’t true. “Don’t forget that I knew you before we slept together.”
“And?” One dark eyebrow arched in defiance.
God, was he going to make her spell it out? Reece shifted slightly in his arms and they both froze. When he didn’t wake up, she let out a breath of relief. “And…you’re a player. I’m not judging, but come on, don’t pretend—”
“Just stop,” he ground out. “I don’t give a shit what I was like before you, I’m not your dead fucking husband and I’ve never cheated on a girlfriend. I haven’t actually slept with anyone since you either.” When she started to roll her eyes at the absurdity, his intense look stopped her. “I tried—with that woman you saw in the driveway. It was a while ago, and I simply couldn’t fuck someone else when all I could see was your face. When all I wanted to do was bury myself inside you.”
Her breath caught in her throat when she realized he was completely serious. Since she couldn’t even think about dwelling on what he’d just admitted, she decided not to comment directly. After living with her husband, she’d gotten pretty damn good at weeding out lies. Kell was telling the truth and that scared her. “Why was she here?”
At that, he looked frustrated. “I have no idea, but it won’t be happening again.”
“I mean I believe you. But that still doesn’t mean you’re ignoring rule number two.” She couldn’t deal with a relationship right now. Absolutely not.
Kell laughed under his breath and as he did, Reece stirred and opened his eyes. When he saw her he started cooing and wiggling. Probably time for a diaper change then feeding. It was like a vicious cycle. And one she wouldn’t give up for anything. Without her having to ask, Kell handed him to her. When Reece immediately went for her breast, she started to unclip the snap on her nursing top, but stopped when she realized Kell wasn’t giving her any privacy. “Do you mind?”
“I’ve seen them before,” he murmured, his voice holding a mischievous quality that should have frustrated her.
“Fine.” Let him see how non-sexy she was right now. Maybe it would help convince him there was never going to be anything between them. But as she pulled her top down, for the briefest moment before Reece latched on, Kell’s eyes flashed with pure lust. Just as quickly, he shoved up from his seat and strode from the room, leaving her feeling more confused than ever.
How the hell was she going to keep her sanity while living with him?
Kell strode down the sidewalk toward Red Stone’s building in the business district. He hadn’t wanted to go to work today, but Charlotte had made it pretty damn clear he would be. Hell, she’d been insistent. Part of him was annoyed, but he knew he was getting under her skin.
All part of his plan to get her to realize they were meant for each other. Last night he’d intentionally walked around with his shirt off and he hadn’t missed those covert looks she’d given him. Wide-eyed, full of lust and hunger before she quickly shut down and turned away from him.
He still couldn’t believe she was living in the same city, much less under his roof, but he wasn’t going to balk at this second chance.
“Kell, wait up!” He turned to see Travis, another Red Stone employee, jogging down the sidewalk.
While he didn’t know Travis that well, Vincent and him were tight, and since Kell trusted Vincent’s opinion on most things that didn’t involve women, he figured the guy was all right. The Garcia party was the only job they’d actually worked together so Kell didn’t know what he was like in the field in a large scale sense.
Standing on the sidewalk, he gave a half-nod to the tattooed former Marine. “What’s up?”
Travis had a covered Styrofoam cup of coffee in one hand and two brownies wrapped in cellophane in the other. He handed him the brownies. “Noel said you left these at the shop.”
Shit. He’d stopped at the local coffee shop that almost everyone in the business district frequented for a quick lunch, and had been so distracted by thoughts of Charlotte he’d forgotten what he’d bought for her. The woman had a wicked sweet tooth. “Thanks, man.”
Travis grunted a response then tilted his head toward Red Stone and they resumed walking. “You working local right now?”
“Yeah, Harrison’s got me doing only local stuff the next few weeks.” Because he’d requested it so he could be near Charlotte—but he didn’t tell the other guy that.
“Me too. Makes Noel happy.”
He knew Travis was recently engaged to the coffee shop owner, but that was about all. “I bet.” He also knew it made Travis happy too.
The travel was the only downside to this job for anyone in a relationship, but most spouses of Red Stone’s employees dealt with it well. They had to or their relationships would tank. Relationships. He nearly snorted at the word. Overnight he’d gone from missing a woman so bad he ached for her on a daily basis to living under the same roof as her and their son. But they weren’t in a relationship.
He needed to keep his shit together if he was going to make sure Charlotte and Reece stayed under his roof. His phone buzzed in his pocket. When he saw Charlotte’s name on the caller ID he felt like a horny teenager with his first crush. Yeah, way to keep it together.
* * * * *
Charlotte tucked Reece’s blue and white blanket tighter around his little body as they stopped on the sidewalk next to Lummus Park. Of the two parks with the same name, the one in South Beach was her favorite. All the greenery, wide sidewalks and historic views of the art deco style buildings across from the beach/park area made her feel as if she’d stepped back into 1950s Miami. She loved all the older model cars lining the street, especially the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville Sport Coupe sitting in front of the Avalon Hotel she’d been in love with since she was a teenager. Yeah, she’d definitely missed Miami. Coming back here was the best decision she could have made for her and her son.