I moan as I turn onto my back and realize that I’m on the couch, covered in the brown blanket from my office. I grin, brush my hair off my face, and stare sleepily at the ceiling, remembering my evening with Ty.
It was . . . surprising.
I can’t believe I told him about the books. I haven’t told anyone I know in fear of its getting back to Jack, giving him a whole new set of reasons to freak out and come after me for more money. Only my agent, publisher, and Cary know about my success as an author.
I can’t explain why it was so easy to confide in Ty, except that I was still deep in a writing fog and he exudes safety. Confidence.
I naturally trust him, and that alone is enough to put me on edge because trust isn’t something I’ve ever given easily.
I sit up and toss the blanket aside, finding a note on the nearby ottoman.
I hope you slept well. Thank you for letting me stay. Next time, you’ll be waking up in my arms rather than to a damn note.
I fold the note with a grin and then make my way upstairs to pull on some jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, along with a green scarf to ward off the early-fall chill. If I’m going to be productive today at all, and I need to be with a deadline looming in just three weeks, I will need coffee.
The kind with chocolate and sugar, all in a really, really tall cup.
A smile hovers on my lips as I drive to the café in the heart of downtown. Drips & Sips is an early-morning hot spot in Cunningham Falls. Businesspeople stop in for pastries and drinks on their way to work, and others hold meetings or just pop in to sit and read the newspaper while they enjoy their coffee.
Things are in full swing when I saunter inside to the smell of freshly baked muffins and coffee. Just the scent of the place energizes me.
“Hey, Lauren.” Cara Donovan is smiling widely as she joins me in line.
“Hey, Cara. How are you?” I grin back at her, but keep my walls firmly in place. Cara is a nice girl, but we don’t exactly run in the same circles.
“I’m good. I thought I’d grab coffee before heading to the grocery store.” Cara is a beautiful woman. She’s much shorter than me, with pretty blond hair and hazel eyes. She and I grew up together. “Want to join me?” she asks, surprising me.
“Oh, I don’t want to intrude,” I murmur.
“Trust me, I’d love some company.” Cara laughs as we approach the barista to order our drinks. “Now that I’m living with all those guys out at the ranch, I welcome girl talk whenever I can get it.”
“How are things going out there?” I ask after we gather our drinks and pastries and make our way to an empty table by the window. Cara moved out to the Lazy K Ranch with Josh roughly two months ago.
“Good.” She takes a bite of her huckleberry scone and sighs in happiness. “How are you?”
“I’m fine.” I hesitate, then decide to forge ahead. “Cara, I’d like to clear the air.”
“About what?” she asks, surprised.
“Well, I just want you to know that I’m sorry for all the hell Misty put you through when you were first dating Josh.” I frown as I fiddle with my fork, not meeting Cara’s gaze. “You didn’t deserve that.”
“Lauren, you have absolutely nothing to apologize for.” Cara rests her hand on my arm. “Misty’s a bitch. It doesn’t make you one.”
I shake my head in frustration. “Well, she’s certainly not my friend anymore.”
“Why was she your friend in the first place?” Cara takes a sip of her coffee.
“She really wasn’t. She and Sunny work together, and Sunny’s my cousin, so it’s always felt natural to hang out with her.” I shrug, not sure how to explain my poor choice in friends further.
“Well, I don’t mean any offense, but Sunny is a bitch too.”
I laugh, relaxing a bit as Cara and I share breakfast and girl talk. I don’t remember the last time I felt this comfortable.
“Yeah, she is. I’ve cut some very toxic people out of my life recently.” I can tell that Cara wants to ask me more, but she doesn’t pry, and I don’t offer any more of an explanation.
“I also have a question,” I add.
“I know you and Jill Sullivan are supergood friends, and I was wondering if you know her brother, Ty, well?”
Her eyes widen and she offers me a small smile. “I do.”
“Do you know if he has a girlfriend?” I ask in a whisper, not willing to look her in the eye. God, this is mortifying.
“No, he doesn’t.” She tilts her head as she watches me. “Jill called me last night, said she delivered dinner and flowers to your place at Ty’s request.”
I flush scarlet and stuff a bite of my own scone in my mouth, not even tasting it.
“Trust me, if Ty had a girlfriend, he wouldn’t have done all of that.”
“He’s been very nice to me this week,” I murmur. “I don’t know why.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know why he’s being so nice to me.”
“Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that he must like you.”
It makes perfect sense when she says it. “I’m not used to receiving kindness with no strings attached.” I clear my throat and chuckle ruefully. “That sounded so . . .”
“Horrible. I think you should just enjoy someone doing nice things for you, Lauren.”
“Call me Lo,” I say with a small smile.
Cara meets my smile with a wide one of her own. “Ty doesn’t play games. He’s not an asshole. Enjoy him.”
I nod as I take a sip of my coffee. “Okay.”
“Also, I’m going to give you my number so you can text me all the dirt that happens from here on out, and Jill and I can torture him mercilessly.”
I laugh and shake my head. “I’ll take your number, but can’t confirm that you’ll get the dirt.”
“Oh, come on, throw us a bone once in a while.” Cara winks. “It’s our job to make his life a living hell.”
“You love him,” I observe quietly.
“He’s the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. So, yeah, I love him. And it goes without saying that if you break his heart, Jill and I will have to kill you.”
“Of course,” I murmur. “But I have a feeling it’s my heart that’s in danger of being hurt.”