Return of the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon

His eyebrows shot up like he was surprised she’d asked. She’d surprised herself, too. She’d made it her job not to bring up Jordan or Hawk. But she was trying to get back to normal—whatever the hell that was—and if he were any other client, she would ask how his personal life was going. It just so happened that this bit of his personal life intertwined with hers.

Which was unfortunate in every way.

Jordan was the groupie he’d slept with in his rented cabin in the Cove during Gloria’s visit a few years ago. The same year Evan and his son, Lyon, moved here permanently. See, Gloria had made the epically bad decision—fueled by whiskey and undeniable attraction—to get physical with Asher. She’d shared his bed more than once…and then, one fateful night, the unthinkable happened. She couldn’t sleep, so she went over to see him in the wee hours, and Jordan answered the door of his cabin wearing next to nothing.

Gloria had run straight to Evan’s now-wife, then-friend, Charlie, and had a lovely and completely humiliating breakdown. Asher tried to convince her he hadn’t taken advantage of Jordan’s offer, but really, what was Glo supposed to believe? That a rock star with a penchant for easy women had turned down a cute groupie in a nightie?

No matter how many times he’d actually taken Jordan to bed, there was one undeniable, indisputable fact: It only took one time for them to conceive Hawk.

“She lets me see him for an hour or two,” he said, “and half the time won’t leave him with me. I was trying to put off bringing in a lawyer, hoping we could work it out for Hawk’s sake, you know?”

This was the part she couldn’t be selfish about. He wanted to do right by his child, and that meant something to her—like way down deep. Glo knew too well how easy it was for some parents to discard a child, and here was Ash, fighting for time with his son. Every part of her admired that about him, and at a time she was trying not to admire him physically, knowledge that he was so much more wasn’t easy to swallow.

“I’m an adult,” he continued. “Hawk is my kid. I don’t need supervision. I need time. Living in LA, I haven’t spent a lot of time here. When I am here, she should let me see him.” His brows arched in anger.

She nodded her understanding. For years, the biggest issue they’d had was arguing about whether or not he’d cheated on her. He’d been as adamant about his innocence as she had been about his guilt. Though, now her adamancy resembled petulance, because his story had never changed. Which meant he was telling the truth about sleeping with Jordan only once. Which also meant Gloria had blamed him unfairly for years.

She’d found out a few months ago, right around the same time Asher found out, that he’d fathered a child with that girl—Hawk was conceived prior to the nightie nightmare—and their biggest issue was suddenly dwarfed. Asher had a son. No matter how proud of him she was that he’d stepped up, that still hurt.

Gloria didn’t do hurt. She was strong and tough and completely sure of herself.

Most of the time.

“You’ll work it out,” she said, but the sentiment sounded forced. She focused on her coffee mug, aware of him coming closer. So close she could smell his freshly showered, soapy scent. So close, she could almost recall what it was like when there had been no barriers between them. When, even before they’d slept together, he’d loop an arm around her neck and tug her close, and she’d lay her head on his shoulder. The way, after they’d slept together, his fingers would coast over her leg while they were sitting side by side and she’d smile at him and see all that dark, delicious intent blooming in his brown eyes.

Her thighs tingled. Don’t go there, Shields.

“Wait’ll you meet him,” he said.

She snapped her eyes up to meet his. Asher having just settled in meant she hadn’t had a chance to be around him. Not being around him meant she’d yet to meet Hawk.

“Hawk’s great.” Asher’s face split into a grin. “I’ve hung out with him enough to know little dude rocks. Like his dad. You just wait.”

There was evident pride in his voice and on his face, but her reaction was the opposite. Her shoulders curled in, her hands tightened around her mug. Meet Asher’s son? Ho boy. Last thing in the world she was qualified to do. It wasn’t that Gloria didn’t like children; it was more that there wasn’t a lot of proof she was good for them. Her history was comprised of two of the worst parental examples in the world and a handful of foster parents who hadn’t won any awards either.

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