Story of Us (Love Unexpected)(13)

By: Jody Holford

“Don’t be mad at her. She took one look at how you all but salivated over Sophia and knew you were smitten,” Adam said.

Declan put his hands on his hips and forced himself to breathe through his nose. His buddy was teasing him. Trying to get a rise out of him. But the fact that it felt true pissed him off. “I was not salivating. I am sure as hell not smitten. Pretty sure you should have your guy card revoked for saying it.” He leaned forward and added, “She’s an employee and the sister of a friend.” You reminding yourself or Adam?

Adam just grinned. His friend had smiled more since Megan than Declan could remember. “Both hard no-fly zones. I get it, man. But some rules were meant to be broken.” With those words, he looked down at Megan with such affection, Declan’s heart muscles tightened painfully.

Megan had been Charlie’s—Adam’s son’s—nanny. He knew all about not wanting to cross lines and blur boundaries. But this was different.

“Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?”

Megan laughed and boosted herself up on the seat, leaning over the bar so Declan could reach her to kiss her cheek. “I like her. I like the way you look at her. See you Saturday.”

Adam took her hand, ensuring she didn’t fall. His pal was a worrier, but even that had lessened some with Megan at his side. He watched them leave, hand in hand, and wondered if he was fooling himself thinking he could find the person who made him feel like Megan made Adam feel. She’d literally made him a better man. A better father.

Nothing wrong with my life the way it is. Yet, as he looked around the bar he’d brought to life through endless hours of sweat and hard work, he knew it wasn’t enough anymore. He didn’t want to go home to an empty house or jump from bed to bed. Rubbing the back of his neck, he sighed. If anyone had told him even a year ago that he’d want to settle down, he’d have laughed in their face.

Sophia walked back out, and Declan’s muscles tensed up. Fuck. Maybe he needed to get more serious about finding forever. If he could focus his energy and attention on the actual settling part of settling down, it would take his mind off the fact that Sophia Strombi was the kind of woman he never thought he’d meet—one who could bring him to his knees.

Chapter Five

Sophia made a list of things she wanted to accomplish the next day as she bit back a yawn. Being tired and weepy made her feel weak, so she fought against it. When the letters on the page started to blur, she knew it was time to head out. Declan had insisted she didn’t have to stick around all day, but truthfully, she had nowhere else to go. It wasn’t that her parents wouldn’t be thrilled to see her. Oh, they would. But between the guilt trip they’d lay on over her leaving—because God forbid they let that go—and the expectations they’d have for her next steps, she just wasn’t ready.

Putting the list in the folder she’d snagged from his filing cabinet, she stood and gave in to the need to stretch. She was so exhausted that lifting her arms above her head and arching felt like dragging herself backward through mud. Declan walked in mid-stretch, and his eyes roamed to her belly, then up to her breasts, before coming to her eyes. The hint of lust she thought she saw was gone in a nanosecond, making her unsure it had been there at all. Not that it mattered.

Sophia had no desire—or room—to feel the sparks that fired through her body when they were in the same room. Not something she could have planned or prepared for. As if she didn’t have enough trouble hanging over her head.

“I can’t believe you stayed all day,” he said, watching her lower her arms.

He’d said goodbye to his staff and locked up, refusing her offer of wiping down tables. She hadn’t pushed it because her energy was already on empty. She liked that he closed early on Sundays. It made sense financially, since the start of the day was a lot busier than the end.

“Didn’t you expect the person you hired as manager to put in full-time hours?” She closed the binders she’d gone through and started putting them away on the wall shelves behind his desk.

“Of course. I didn’t think I’d get around to hiring anyone just yet, though. And definitely not on the first day of the new year.”

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