Return of the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon

She’d sent Ash a quick text that she was coming over to drop off a royalty check the publisher had accidentally sent to her agency instead of him. She could have mailed it, but then that was silly. No sense in delaying the inevitable. If they were kind of, sort of going to be neighbors, she was going to have to get used to—

The door swung open and Asher stood on the other side of it, all tall, dark, and sexy wearing a dark gray tank. His tattoos were on display, his torn-at-the-knee jeans slung low and fitting in all the right places. As usual, his wrists were adorned with hemp and leather bracelets, but he only wore a few rings today. Both on his left hand—the hand holding the phone.

He tipped his head, motioning for her to come in, glancing away before she had time to really get pegged by those bourbon-colored eyes. Phew.

“Yeah. I can handle it,” he said into the phone. He strode away from her, barefoot, pant legs frayed, and Gloria’s heart clutched. She hated her heart sometimes. Sure, she appreciated the whole “stay beating so I can live” thing, but where Asher Knight was concerned, her heart veered from its routine and decided to take up tap dancing instead. It was his gelled, sort of shaggy hair and the lazy way his eyes never opened all the way. It was the cross inked on his left arm and his who-gives-a-fuck style.

It was him. All of him.

She’d just have to learn to deal with her hectic-patterned heart because she was here to drop off a check and that was it. There wasn’t any other reason for her to hang out in his house. Especially while he looked so—

He leaned on his kitchen island and she enjoyed the way his jeans showed off his ass. The way he crossed one bare foot over the other. The way he propped his chin on his palm and carried on his conversation…What had she been saying?

Oh, right. Yummy. She’d just have to learn to deal with him looking yummy. It was a fact of life. Like the weather. It was eighty-eight degrees and only nine a.m. and there wasn’t a thing she could do but endure it. She’d have to do the same with him.

“Because. I’m Hawk’s father and completely capable of handling him longer than a few hours.”

Hawk. Father. At the mention of the name, and Asher’s newfound role as parent, her stomach twisted. The envelope crunched in her hand. Asher turned in her direction, straightened, and pointed to the blender. In it sat some sort of green sludge she guessed was a nutritious drink. She wrinkled her nose. He mouthed the words “it’s good for you” but she only shook her head vehemently. Good for her or not, she needed coffee.

“Listen, Jordan, I have to go. Check with your mom on that weekend and get back with me. I want him here. I want to get to know him.”

Jordan. That name didn’t make Gloria’s stomach twist; it made her stomach toss. Like a tiny boat in a big, angry ocean.

“Yep,” Asher was still speaking to Jordan as he moved across the kitchen to a single-serving coffeepot. He put the pod into the machine, pulled a mug from the cabinet, and pressed a button. “Okay. Later.”

He ended the call and leaned a hip on the counter as the coffee sputtered into the mug.

“You really should drink my Green Goodness shake instead of a cup of acid.” He gestured to the beautiful black brew rapidly filling the mug.

“I live on cups of acid.” Gloria smiled brightly.

“Sarge. I want you healthy. Good agents are hard to find.” A sideways smile tugged at his lips and it took everything in her not to remember kissing his mouth.

She accepted the mug from his outstretched hand, trading him for the envelope. “Your monies.”

He tore it open and was silent for a handful of seconds as he studied the check. “Holy fuck.”

“I know. It’s bigger than we thought. Hitting lists makes big money, honey.” She’d tacked on the “honey” with most of her clients, but with Asher, it sounded a tad…inappropriate? Probably because she didn’t sleep with any of her other clients. It was a rule she’d enforced years ago, but then Asher came along and broke it. The way he broke everything else.

Like my heart.

She sipped her coffee, then blurted, “So, how are things with the coparenting?”

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