Using the hand he had tangled in her hair, he drew her in closer. Meeting him halfway, she went up on her tiptoes and snagged an arm around his neck. He already knew she kissed like she appeared to do everything else: with her entire heart and soul.

In other words, amazing.

He was halfway to heaven, his tongue buried in her mouth, his hands full of warm, soft, curvy Becca, when a throat clearing had her jerking away from him.

Sam was much slower to lift his head, to let go of her sweet, hot body and register that Amelia stood there, smile in place, brows arched in that way mothers the planet over had nailed down.

“I brought you cookies,” she said, “but you look like you’re already having your dessert.”

Sam bit back his sigh. “Amelia—”

Amelia arched her brow further.

Years ago, maybe the second or third time he’d landed in her house, she’d tried bossing him into a curfew. He’d been a smart-ass and had called her Mom. He’d been joking, but she’d liked it, preferred it, and to this day she made him call her that. “Mom,” he corrected.

“Better. Now, don’t mind me,” she said, coming into his shop the way no one else ever did.

Well, except the woman who’d been in his arms only a few seconds ago, the woman now staring at Amelia, gaze confused, probably wondering at the “Mom” thing.

Amelia smiled a warm welcome at Becca as if she was the hostess at a tea party. “And you are. . .?”


“Ah,” Amelia said, offering a hand. “The new hire.” She sent Sam a long, hard glare that wasn’t all that hard to interpret. It said: Why are you tangling tonsils with the new girl?

Sam scrubbed a hand over his face and took the container of cookies from Amelia. “Becca, Amelia is Cole’s mom and—”

“Just Cole’s mom?” Amelia interrupted, eyes flashing.

Well, shit, here we go, Sam thought. “And okay,” he said. “Also a sort-of mom to me.”

Amelia snatched the container of cookies back, making Sam grimace.

“You know what I mean,” he said.

“No,” she said. “You’d best clarify. Immediately, if you want these cookies. And let me just tell you right now, they’re your favorite—double fudge with chocolate chips—and they’re my best batch yet. And also, keep in mind that what I just saw going on in here is blackmail material, so make it good, sweetheart. Real good. Sort-of mom?”

There were few people who’d ever gone out on a limb for Sam, and he didn’t even need the fingers of one hand to count them. Amelia was one. “How about you were the only mom I ever had?” he asked.

“Oh.” Her beautiful blue eyes filled, and she sniffed as she stepped toward him, her arms outstretched. “Oh, Sam, you’re so sweet.”

Sam endured her hug and a kiss to each of his cheeks, and then she was gone. “Sorry about that,” he said to Becca, who was nibbling her lower lip, her thoughts seemingly far away. “You okay?”

“She was like a mama bear with you,” she said, sounding a little bit awed. “She’d probably fight to the end for you.”

“Would, and has.”

When she just looked at him, he let out a breath. “My mom died when I was five. My dad was never real great at being a dad. I landed in foster care. A lot.”

Her eyes softened. “Oh, Sam.”

“Amelia used to take in the occasional foster kid, and the minute I ended up at her place, she . . . claimed me.” He gave a small smile. “She’s protective.”

“That’s where you met Cole.”


“He claimed you, too,” she said.

“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree there,” he agreed. “But we claimed each other.”

“That’s incredibly sweet.” Her eyes were suspiciously shiny, but before he could get a good look, she turned to the door. “I gotta get back to work.”

And then she was gone, too, leaving him to wonder at the sadness he’d seen in her gaze. Had no one ever been willing to fight for her?

Chapter 13

Becca tossed and turned, one odd and uncomfortable dream chasing another. Her parents were there, only they weren’t her parents. They were her employers, asking her to take care of Jase.

“I already do,” she said.

“You left him. You walked away,” they accused.

And then Jase was standing there with him. “You did,” he said. “You left me.”

“No, I—” But she broke off when Jase turned into Sam.

She reached for Sam but he took a step back and was flanked on either side by Cole and Amelia.

“We’ve got him,” they said.

She stared at them, seeing the bond, and turned back to her family.

Her parents and Jase had vanished.

She was alone. Feeling an odd sensation in her chest, she looked down and saw her heart crack in half. With a gasp, she sat straight up in bed.

She looked down at her heart. Still in her chest. That was good. As to whether or not it was cracked in half, that was another question entirely.

It was four thirty. Since there would be no more sleep, she checked email and saw that she had one from the ad agency.

Her Diaxsis jingle had been accepted, and she’d been sent her next assignment. Eagerly, she’d loaded the doc and read.

The assignment was for a line of personal hygiene products.