Return of the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon

“Before you find out from everyone else,” Donny said, a small smile creeping onto his face. “She’s pregnant.”

“Fuck off.” He took back being shocked over matrimony—Donovan being a father was the second most unbelievable thing he’d heard in the last year.

The smile didn’t leave Donny’s face. “She’s it. She and I are going to have a family in that big house and a dog and I’ll build her a white picket fence if she asks.”

Asher leaned forward and slapped Donny on the arm. “Congratulations, man.” He looked happy. Ash couldn’t get over it. Had his brooding friend ever been this happy?

Donny eyed Tank, who had plopped down on a dog bed in the corner of the room. “How’d you end up with that tiny little dog anyway?”

“Same way you ended up with Gertie,” Ash said of Donovan’s giant mutt. “He adopted me.”

Donovan shook his head but chuckled when he said, “And you think you’re not staying? You have a dog and a house in the Cove. All you need now is the girl.”

Chapter 3

The next afternoon was bright and sunny and perfect when Gloria met Brice for brunch. Sun Up was packed, but he’d made reservations and snagged an available table outside on the patio. Now she perused the menu while Brice stirred a heaping spoonful of sugar into his espresso cup.

“You don’t fit in here,” he piped up.

Eyebrows arched over her sunglasses, she replied, “Thanks a lot.”

He smiled. “You’re too savvy. Too sexy.”

“You’re just saying that because you’re buttering me up for something.” She lifted her menu. “Speaking of which, the buttermilk pancakes sound good.”

“I’m saying that because it’s true. You’re Chicago through and through. Don’t you miss it?”

Of course she did. She’d called Chicago home for so many years, she’d have to tick them off her fingers to figure it out. “I don’t not fit in here,” she said instead.

The waitress returned to get their orders and Gloria splurged, going for the spinach and mushroom eggs Benedict while Brice ordered the chicken sandwich with a fried egg on top.

“The whole life cycle between two slices of bread,” he commented after the waitress left.

“Gross! Stop.” Gloria sipped her coffee and enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake. Weather like today’s was ideal. Cool breeze, hot sun. “Evergreen Cove is like a more approachable Hamptons. The elite feel without the caviar. I like it here.”

That was true, but while the Cove snuggled everyone she knew into its arms, Gloria sometimes felt as if she’d been left out of the group hug. Like she was forcing it by being here, struggling to belong while the evidence around her suggested otherwise.

Brice, for example.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll admit I’m being selfish because I want you.”

She sputtered into her mug.

“To work with me.” He grinned.

“Oh, aren’t you cute.” She dabbed her mouth with her napkin.

“You think so?” Yeah, and he knew it. Brice was dressed in a suit sans jacket. A pale gray shirt was unbuttoned at the collar, revealing his clean-shaven neck below an equally smooth face. His belt and shoes were shiny black and his watch cost more than her car. His style was so different from Asher’s. When Asher put on clothes, it was because he felt like wearing them. They called to him. Brice looked as if he’d preplanned every outfit with the day’s purpose in mind.

It was odd how she found both options so attractive.

Like Chicago and the Cove.

Today she’d worn her usual micro-mini and a V-neck purple shirt that plunged low enough that her lace bra kept peeking out. She’d tugged up the neckline a few times since she sat down.

Brice noticed. She was used to male appreciation, so she didn’t flinch. Can’t put the girls on a shelf and expect the boys not to drool. Simple creatures that they are.

“Whatever offer you have, it’d better be a sweet deal.” She lifted her mug to her lips. “I like working for myself. I enjoy making my own hours. Not reporting in at an office that sprawls over five floors.”

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