They look like they’re very well acquainted—wholesome and happy. They look like a family, and it feels like I’m bleeding inside.
Someone walks past me and into the bar, turning Logan’s attention to the door.
His eyes widen when he spots me, then narrow. He mouths my name like he can’t believe what he’s seeing.
I flee. Bolt. Haul ass.
Cowardly? Yes, but also instinctual. I scurry down the street like I’m seven-fucking-teen all over again. And thirty seconds later, his voice booms behind me.
“Ellie! Hey—hold up!”
I stop, ’cause there’s no point in running. I take a breath and prepare to lie. Because I’m not ready to tell him yet. Not like this, out on the street, next to a Dumpster that smells like it’s got a dead body rotting away inside. I spin around and plaster a big smile on my face.
“Logan! Hey! Fancy meeting you here—it’s a small world after all.”
He’s staring at my dress, looking . . . flustered. Logan is never flustered. “What are you wearing?”
“You look . . . bloody fantastic.”
Just as I’m about to smile, he snaps out of it. And Special Agent Pissed-Off is back in charge. “What the hell are you doing here, Ellie? You’re supposed to be out with Fulton.”
“My night with George ended early. I wasn’t feeling it. So, I decided to go . . . sightseeing.” I lift my hands to the . . . row of crumbling small houses with overgrown gardens and sinking roofs. I should’ve thought that one out better. “And I got lost. You know me . . . silly, flighty Ellie.”
He braces his hands on his hips, frowning down at me in that sexy way of his. “You can’t wander around—especially not here. Come on, I’ve got my car—I’ll take you home.”
A drunk on the corner slurs, “I’ll take ye home, luv. Grab my cock tight and I’ll show ye the way.”
Logan and I yell at the same time.
Then we walk silently for a few moments, side by side, him gazing forward, me gazing at him, trying to work up the nerve to say all that I’d planned to a few minutes ago.
Instead, other words tear out of me. “Is she yours?”
Logan’s brows draw together.
“The little girl,” I clarify, feeling an ownership over him I know I have no right to. “Is she yours?”
And everything inside me loosens with relief.
“No, she’s Kathleen’s girl—the bartender. It’s her husband’s family’s pub. Connor—I went through training with him—he’s still enlisted; he’s deployed right now. I check in on them when I’m around.”
Oh. A friend’s wife and little girl. That’s better. It’s great.
“That’s nice of you.”
We reach the parking lot behind the bar and Logan guides me to a clean gray Nissan Altima. He opens the door for me. Then he walks around, starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot.
“Do you live near here?” I ask, because I only just realized I don’t know the answer.
“No. My place is outside the city—about twenty minutes away.”
We’re quiet for a few moments.
Until Logan asks, “Do you want to see where I live?”
For a second, I have no words. He may as well have asked me if I wanted to see heaven. Or Disneyland, or a really sexy Mars.
“Yeah! I’d love to. Let’s do it.”
We pull up to the curb of a large fenced lot at the end of a quiet street. The moonlight shines down on a two-story brick house, with a wide wraparound porch and a white, three-person porch swing. A single light is on above it. And on one side there’s a round room with a pointed roof, like a tower on a castle. There’s a short driveway, just dirt, with construction materials, ladder and buckets stacked neatly beside it.
I stand outside the car, staring. Amazed.
And Logan’s watching me. Watching my face, my every reaction.
“When did you buy this?” I ask.
“A few years back. My dad left me some money when he passed—turned out to be legally earned, which was surprising.”
“Your father died in prison?” Logan had told me some things about his father when we chatted during my study breaks, while I was pulling an all-nighter at the NYU library and he was on duty. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Wasn’t much of a loss. Most helpful thing the bastard ever did for me was die.” He shrugs. “Anyway, remember when I went to Wessco for that one week?”
I do. I remember it felt like a month.
“Took care of the paperwork then, his burial. And one afternoon it was sunny and I was just driving around, clearing my head, nowhere to go . . . so I took out a coin and started flipping it for directions.”
I laugh. “My GPS! You got that from me.”
His eyes drift over my face. “Yeah, I did.”
Hot little bursts go off inside me—excitement, pride—a thrilling sense that Logan was thinking about me even when he was so far away.
“And it led me here. It was for sale as-is, not even half finished when I first came across it—just the foundation and the ground floor. But it was a good foundation—solid. Something I could build on. Something that would last.”
He gazes up at the house, and I examine his profile. That strong, straight jaw, the full, lush curve of his mouth as he speaks in that accent I adore.
“I hired a builder to finish the job, put a roof on her, used the original plans—they came with the house. And I had a groundskeeper maintaining the property while we were in New York, making sure the squatters stayed out and the vermin didn’t move in. But since we’ve been home, I’ve been working on the inside. Finishing it—making it livable.”
I look up at the house—it’s sturdy, secure, and the land around it is quiet and serene. When it’s done, it’ll be a warm place . . . a safe, happy, wonderful place to come back to at the end of every day.
And it’s like a sinkhole opens beneath my feet and I’m falling.
“Are you staying in Wessco? When we all go home to New York, after the babies are born, are you . . . not coming with us?”
He squints for a moment, like he doesn’t understand the question. Then shakes his head, “Of course I’m coming back with you. You’re . . . I mean, my job with the prince,” he looks into my eyes, “it means everything to me.”
Logan lifts his hand toward his home. “This’ll be for later, a place to eventually settle. Or maybe it’ll be an investment.”
And my feet are back on solid ground again.
“Do you want to see the inside?”
I nod so hard I bounce. “Yes, I’d love to.”
We walk up the path together, side by side. Logan puts his large hand on my lower back, and my skin tingles, burns. “Careful, there’s some debris—don’t want you to fall.”
But he’d catch me if I did.
The inside of Logan’s house looks Victorian in style—a large staircase with a thick square railing in the foyer, an open layout with big rooms, high ceilings, wood floors that have been sanded but not yet lacquered. Logan reaches up and tugs on a cord, lighting the bare bulb that hangs from a long wire where, one day, a chandelier will be. The walls are unfinished, open, exposing the solid wood beams, brick, and electrical wires.
With hushed footsteps, because it feels strangely like walking somewhere sacred, I follow Logan from room to room. In what will be the living room, there’s only a mattress on the floor, covered by a clean sheet and folded blanket. That’s where Logan sleeps—where he lays his head and body every night. Maybe his bare body.
It calls to me—makes me want to lie down on it, press my naked skin against the same fabric his has touched and roll around, bathing my body in his scent.
And I don’t care how crazy it sounds.
Despite the lack of appliances—there are just empty spaces and protruding wires where the stove and refrigerator will be—the kitchen is inviting. Muted, gray marble countertops, cherry cabinets, a tiled backsplash of one-inch white and clear glass squares. There’s a window above the stainless-steel sink, with a view of the backyard that would make even doing the dishes something to look forward to.