CHAPTER ONE

LOGAN

 

I pace back and forth, my shoes hitting the pavement as I cross my arms over my chest and look over at the schmuck sitting down in front of me. The same schmuck I helped put behind bars just six months ago—Tony “Killer” Black. He’s leaning back in the chair with his legs spread wide and his arms lax over his body as if this interrogation is an inconvenience to him.

“Where were you last Saturday at eight p.m.?” I repeat, louder this time. This guy has a criminal background that goes back to his teen years, and yet, he sits here all smug as if he’s smart enough to get out of it.

He chuckles, keeping his eyes everywhere except on mine, and finally replies, “I don’t recall.”

The corner of my lips tilt upward, knowing damn well he’s lying through his teeth. We’ve got him on surveillance camera and have enough to keep him for the next forty-eight hours until we can clear a warrant.

“Think harder,” I press, leaning down so my mouth is mere inches away from his ear. “Or I’ll make sure they put you in with Papa Bear.”

His shoulders noticeably tense and his breathing stills. He knows by the seriousness in my tone that I’m not playing. Clyde “Papa Bear” Hernandez may be behind bars, but everyone knows he still runs his empire. Ever since Killer testified against Papa Bear, he’s been a target on his hit list. You’d think he would’ve been smart enough to stay away, but, then again, he wouldn’t be a repeat offender if he were.

Fine,” he grits, his jaw ticking.

I smile slightly, knowing that’d do the trick. “I figured you’d have a change of heart.”

Once the interrogation is over, my shift is close to being done, but I still have stacks of paperwork to finish. Deciding I’ll take it home with me, I head to a cafe and grab a coffee before my long night begins.

“What can I get for you this evening?” the barista asks, biting her lower lip and giving me googly eyes. She’s here every night I stop by after work and always manages to flirt with me over a simple coffee order.

“Just a large brew, Clarissa,” I tell her, flashing a wink in her direction because I know it makes her blush. She also throws in a free pastry. She’s sweet and attractive, but the truth is, there’s no room for dating in my life right now. There’s too much going on with work and the center of my whole world—my daughter, Skylar. I hate that she lives two hours away with her mother, but I plan to change that very soon.

Just as I pick up my order at the bar, I turn around and tense when I see my friend, Kayla. I just saw her in Texas over the weekend for our friend’s wedding, yet it feels like I haven’t seen her in weeks.

She’s sitting uncomfortably at a table with some guy. Her leg is fidgeting and she looks like she’s getting ready to bail. We met through mutual friends a year or so ago, and as much as she’s tried pursuing a relationship with me, it’s something I’ve kept at a friendship-only level. I haven’t allowed myself to get involved with anyone since Maggie.

Kayla’s eyes are glancing down at her phone more than at her date, so I take the opportunity and send her a message.

L: Your date looks like a forty-year old virgin. Also, corduroy bibs? I hadn’t realized we traveled back to the old west.

I watch as she looks around for me and grins once she finds me.

K: I’m on a date from hell. He’s been talking to me in ubbi dubbi and I have no idea what the hell he’s saying.

L: What the fuck is ubbi dubbi?

K: Exactly! Now HELP me!

L: I don’t know. He looks really into you. Maybe you just need to give him a chance? 😉

K: I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW.

I stifle a laugh and shake my head at her when she looks up at me again.

L: Liar! It’s not my fault you know how to pick’em!

K: It’s not my fault either! Stupid eMatcher website set us up. It said we were eighty-five percent compatible!

L: What was the other fifteen percent? Lives with his mother and jerks off to picture books?

I hear her gasp from across the room and fight the urge to laugh out loud. She looks up once again and narrows her eyes at me, scowling as she shakes her head and mouths I hate you but her lips curl up into a smile.

Deciding to help her out, I walk over to their table and pretend to recognize her.

“Kayla Sinclair?” I ask in a British accent as I approach the table, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I can’t believe it’s you!”

“Uh…yeah. It’s me,” she responds, playing along. “It’s been a long time.”

“It sure has. Since freshman year in college, I think.”

“Right. Ethics class,” she adds.

“When you dumped me for Professor Hayes,” I say, glancing over at her date who now looks horrified. “I take it you two didn’t work out, huh?”

She sits up taller in her chair and narrows her eyes at me. “No, it didn’t. Hence why I’m on this date,” she grits between her teeth, shooting daggers at me.

“I’m Fred.” The guy interrupts our stare down and my attention is brought to him. Oh look, he can speak English. He’s holding his hand out for me to shake, and I gladly take it, knowing it’ll drive Kayla mad. “Who are you exactly?” he asks.

“Oh, excuse my manners.” I make sure to lay the accent on extra thick just to mess with him. “I’m William Prince. Kayla’s first love. We go way back.”

“How’d you two meet, if you’re from England?” He furrows his brows, and I can tell he’s getting suspicious.

“My family moved to America when I was thirteen and the accent just stuck,” I explain. “Not complaining though. Works wonders on the ladies.” I flash a wink and he shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

“Speaking of your parents, how are they?” Kayla asks with a fake smile on her face.

“They’re lovely. Ask about you still, but I can’t really blame them. You were like a daughter to them, and then you just ripped my heart out and stomped all over it and they enjoy reminding me of that.” I lay it on thick with pitiful eyes.

She cocks her head, pursing her lips tight. “Well, it was a long time ago. Surely they’ll get over it.”

“Unless you’d like to try things again? See where they go?” I arch a brow with a side smirk.

Her eyes widen at my words, and I regret them the moment I say them. The last thing I want to do is lead her on and give her the wrong idea, but she proves she’s up for the challenge as soon as she responds.

“I think I’d like that…” she purrs, placing a hand under her chin and gazing up at me.

Fred loudly clears his throat, grabbing both of our attention back to him. “We’re on a date, mate.” He sits up taller, although he’s probably no more than five-feet-five inches tall. It’s comical.

“Not anymore,” I blurt out, holding my hand out to Kayla and nodding my head at her to take it. “Let me take you on a real date. One that doesn’t require clothes.”

I don’t see Fred’s reaction because I don’t look back once Kayla grabs my hand. I don’t know what comes over me; perhaps it’s the accent or just being in character, but once she’s standing in front of me, I cup her cheek and press my lips to hers.

She whimpers against me, and I know this isn’t fair to her, but I can’t stop. Her warm lips create a buzz inside me I haven’t felt in years—a feeling I’ve pushed away since the moment I laid eyes on her.

We’re better off as friends, I remind myself. I can’t get mixed up in a relationship while dealing with Maggie, not when she holds my daughter over my head like she’s a ball of string. Especially with Kayla Sinclair. She’s too sweet for her own good—the poster child of Mother Teresa. She deserves someone who’s uncomplicated and can devote all their attention to her. She deserves better.

We don’t stop kissing when Fred scrapes his chair across the floor. We don’t stop when he slams the door shut, clearly pissed I picked up his date. We don’t even stop when people walk past us and brush against us. We should stop—and yet—we don’t.

 

KAYLA

Every part of my body is on fire, fueled by the electricity between Logan and me as his lips glide across the softness of mine. The low hum in my stomach aches when he pulls us apart, and I fight the urge to press my lips back to his.

His lips are red and swollen, probably just like mine are right now. I don’t know what got into him, but Logan and I have never, ever kissed before. Hell, we’ve slow danced before at weddings, but nothing this intimate—ever.

“I think that did the trick,” he finally says, catching his breath. Fred left over two minutes ago.

“Yeah, I think so.” I take a small step back, trying to act unaffected, but the hard beating in my chest gives me away. I know he feels it, too. I just don’t understand why he pretends he doesn’t. “Thanks for your help,” I say, breaking the tension.

“Anytime. It was fun watching him sweat.” He grins, rocking back and forth on his feet, gripping the coffee cup tight in his hand. He’s just as nervous as I am.

“Don’t you get enough of that at work?” I tease.

“Can never have enough.” He flashes a pleased smile.

“You do have some sick fetish for that, don’t you?”

“I do. Gets all my juices flowing,” he quips.

And just like that, we’re back to our platonic friendship as if the kiss never happened. However, the ache between my legs knows otherwise. It happened, and it was hot as hell.

“What are you doing on a dating website anyway?” he asks after I grab another cup of coffee and sit across from him at the table.

“How else am I supposed to meet guys?” I ask, although it’s really a rhetorical question. “Guys in bars just want sex and one-night stands. I have a strict no-dating-guys-from-work rule and everyone else is taken or just wants me to be a part of their ménage à trois.”

His brows lift. “What kind of people are you hanging out with?”

I sigh. “This city literally has no available, decent, single men. I might as well just move to another planet. Like Pluto. Get as far away from here as possible.”

“Actually, Pluto isn’t a planet anymore,” he tells me matter-of-factly.

I blink, unamused. “Great. Looks like I’m destined to be single forever then.”

He chuckles, and I only slightly hate that he finds my pathetic dating life entertaining. “You’re still young. No need to panic until you’re like…thirty.”

I grab a piece of his pastry and throw it at him. “You suck.” I scowl. “I’m twenty-six, which means I’m almost thirty, and almost thirty means I should be with the guy I’m planning on marrying. Otherwise, I’ll be forty, my looks will be gone, my boobs will have fallen to my feet, and I’ll have gray hair,” I ramble, knowing I’m over exaggerating, but right now it feels true. Every date is a disaster. More than the last.

“Okay, before you go picking out your tombstone and flowers, rein it back a little. This isn’t the nineteen fifties where you get married after high school graduation and pop out five kids before you’re twenty-three. A lot of millennials aren’t getting married until their thirties or even forties. They’re also not having kids until later—focusing on their careers first and then doing the family thing.”

His words are reassuring, yet I still feel that panic that by the time I find my Mr. Right, I’ll be gray and wrinkled.

I shrug, not wanting to admit he’s probably right. “At least I’ll always have my fur babies. Adam, Philip, and Kristoff love their mama no matter how old I get.” I grin, thinking about my dogs back home waiting for me. “Maybe I’ll adopt another dog instead.”

“So, you’re going to be a dog lady who adopts dogs and names them after Disney Princes?” His brow arches as his lips curve into a knowing grin.

Shrugging, I respond, “Might as well. At least I know they won’t leave, cheat, or break my heart.”

His lips turn down slightly, but rise again before responding. “I think you’re giving them too much credit.”

“Maybe I’ll name my next one Tarzan. Sounds like a good name for a big, burly-sized dog.”

“Technically, I don’t think Tarzan’s a Disney Prince,” he tells me with a straight face. I roll my eyes at his stupid technicality. “I mean, if you’re not going for true princes, then I’d suggest Logan because, let’s face it, that’s a brilliant name.”

My head falls back in laughter and immediately decide to stop being sour about it. If Logan can do anything well, it’s make me laugh and forget about my pathetic dating life; or rather, lack thereof. Being around him used to be difficult for me considering my feelings for him, but after a while, I got used to it and learned to push it away. However, kissing him has now done the exact opposite. On the outside, I’m pretending as if it didn’t faze me and it’s already been forgotten. On the inside, I’m dying. Dying for his lips on mine again. Dying for his hands and body on me. Dying to feel that electricity burn between us.

Once I’ve long finished my drink, Logan tells me he has to get going and my heart sinks because I can’t help wanting to be around him. Even if it won’t lead to anything, I just love talking to him.

“I have a briefcase of paperwork to look over. Still catching up from being gone last week,” he tells me. The mutual friends we have in common, Drew and Courtney, just got married in Texas last weekend and are now on their honeymoon in Hawaii. We both flew there to stand in their wedding and watch them say their I Do’s.

“Oh, no problem. I should get back and let the dogs out before I head in for the night.” I’m just about to stand up when he tells me he’s going to get a coffee refill and to wait.

I watch as he walks up to the counter, and I can’t help but admire the way his black suit hugs him in all the right places, especially the curves of his ass. Vibration takes my attention to the phone on the table that’s currently lighting up. I grab it, about to tell Logan his phone is ringing, when I notice the name on the caller ID—Maggie & Skylar.

Shortly before Courtney and Drew’s wedding, Courtney asked if I had ever heard him talk about someone named, Skylar. I hadn’t, and I assumed whoever it was, he wouldn’t tell me, or anyone else for that matter, even if I had asked. Courtney assumed it was an ex, but according to the picture flashing on the screen of Logan wrapping his arms around a little girl, I can now only assume it’s his daughter. She looks around five years old, no older than seven for sure, and I can’t wrap my mind around how he hasn’t ever mentioned he has a kid.

Not wanting Logan to know I saw the name and picture, I set the phone back down and pretend I didn’t notice it. Pretend I’m not freaking out on the inside now that I know his secret. It was a complete accident, but I still feel guilty.

The call is sent to voicemail and the vibration stops just before Logan comes back to the table.

“Here,” he says, handing me a small brown bag. “Considering your Tuesday night was an epic fail, I wanted to make sure you at least got some dessert before heading back home.” He winks at me and it takes every ounce of willpower to leave my feet planted on the floor. Whether he realizes it or not, every time he makes a sweet gesture of friendship, it makes me fall even harder for him.

I smile, taking the bag and opening it. Inside is a donut with pink sprinkles on top.

“Good choice. You know I can’t deny my love for sweets.” I flash a genuine smile at him.

“Or sprinkles.” He winks.

I furrow my brows at him. “How’d you know that?”

He chuckles and it warms my heart all over again. “Because every time I’ve seen you with a pastry or donut, it’s lathered in sprinkles.”

I’m shocked he’s noticed and even more shocked he’d remember.

“Well, thank you. Now I have something sufficient to stuff my face with as I cry my eyes out watching The Fault in our Stars.” In bed. Surrounded by my dogs, of course. With a box of tissues.

Oh, God. I’m so pathetic.

“The pleasure is all mine.” His mouth does that half-curve smirk thing again and fuck, I hate when he flashes that smile. It’s a panty-melting smile if I’d ever seen one. Panty-vanisher. That’s what his smile does. Panties vanishing since 1985.

He walks me out and to my car, even holding the door open for me as I slip inside and buckle myself. I look into his deep blue eyes, the color of the Pacific Ocean, and I almost get lost in them.

“Thanks again for saving me. You’re like my real-life Knight in shining armor.” I blush the moment the words spew out of my mouth. I doubt he’s going to think it’s part of my charm, so I quickly say something again. “I had no idea you had such a great British accent.”

“Me neither. Do you think he bought it?” He flashes a knowing smile.

“Probably not.” I laugh. “Now I need to reconsider those stupid profile answers and pray I don’t get stuck with another weirdo.”

He wraps his fingers around the door, and I watch as they tighten. “You don’t need a dating site. The right guy will come when it’s meant to happen.”

I stare up at him, wishing he’d say he was the right guy for me, but the words never come.

“Goodnight, Kayla.” He nods his head at me and releases his fingers before walking off. I sigh, resting against the headrest as the sound of his voice saying my name lingers in my mind.

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