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Mr. Tall, Dark, and Cocky is my baby’s daddy. He’s finally back after all these years. He just doesn’t know he has a daughter.
He didn’t know I was pregnant when he left our small town. Neither did I.
My heart is more guarded than Fort Knox. I was prepared to tell him to shove those sexy eyes where the sun doesn’t shine.
My heart is broken, but there’s room for him in it. Maybe he’ll stay once he knows the truth?
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I could’ve spotted him in a crowd of thousands. The massive shoulders, the long strides that insinuated he owned the ground he walked on.
Cocky. So fucking sure of himself.
Damn him! Why was he back?
To screw up my life some more.
When I left work, I’d desperately—achingly—wanted a few quiet hours at home. That’s what I looked forward to: doing absolutely nothing. This adrenaline rush through my veins was not welcome.
I darted up the steps leading to my front door and flattened my back against it. Thank Jesus it was dark.
But God, it was Jax. I’d counted on Jax Decker staying away from me for as long as I lived.
But here he was, disappointing me. As usual. Why was I even surprised?
Even with the hoodie pulled low over his head and his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, there was no mistaking it was Jax sneaking into the house next door to mine. Like a thief. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again.
Nope. No ghost. It really was Jax. I really wished it were a ghost. I’d scream and shake and be done with it. This man, though—he was capable of putting his hand right through my chest and clawing at my heart.
I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t have to. Jax and his body and his presence were emblazoned on my mind—and I’d tried hard to get him out of it.
But the jerk. He stayed. What had he done to me?
I winced as I bit my lip too hard, tasting blood. I peeked at an angle to stay out of his sight and rubbed my lip.
Jax Decker, the star running back for the Seattle Redhawks. My high school boyfriend, my first love. Sheesh. The shit I used to believe in.
Childish, stupid, teen love.
Jax disappeared into the house. I saw the light turn on in the living room, the window a bright yellow square. The curtains were drawn, so I couldn’t see inside. Lucky for me. Knowing me, if I could’ve seen, I’d probably sit out there all night watching him.
Get inside, stupid. Just pray he leaves before finding out you live next door.
I made my way inside my house and found the sitter, Janice, watching TV. I gaped at the screen. What was with Janice and her watching TV on mute all the damned time? She was weird.
“Hey, Janice. Sorry I’m late. We had eleven wedding cake orders, and things were kind of crazy.”
“No problem. I was catching up on my new favorite show, Sisters. Have you seen it?”
I bit my lip as laughter bubbled up inside me. “Seen it.” When Janice said “seen it,” she literally meant seen it. Because I knew she didn’t hear a single word. “Yeah. I was planning to. Didn’t get a chance.”
I handed her thirty dollars and smiled as she waved goodbye. I locked the door behind her and made sure all three of the locks were in place.
My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.
“Dammit.” I slapped the heel of my right hand against my temple to smack the man out of my head. It didn’t work. I opened the bedroom door and peeked inside, where my daughter was fast asleep. Tiptoeing to the edge of the bed, I watched her as if seeing her for the first time. My eyes darted—begrudgingly—over her dark brown hair.
What if Jax saw Anna?
I didn’t want him anywhere near my child. Anna was uninterested in anything except unicorns and glitter, and she didn’t ask about her dad. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t a miniature, female version of him.
“Would it have hurt you, Jesus, to give Anna my red hair and green eyes?” I hissed under my breath as I pulled the light duvet up Anna’s shoulder. “Would’ve made things so much easier.”
My shoulders were stiff and my legs wobbly as I went into the bathroom to run the bath. I stripped, throwing my clothes into the laundry basket. I was about to get in the water when I decided I needed something to help calm me down. A drink.
I wrapped the towel loosely around my body, padded barefoot through the living room, and swung open the kitchen door with my shoulder.
A scream ripped from my lips, and I stumbled backward when I saw the dark, looming silhouette of a man in my kitchen.
“Whoa, whoa. Relax!”
If I was terrified before, I was rigid with fear now. My fingers slapped against the light switch, and blinding yellow light flooded the kitchen.
Shit, shit, shit. I know that voice. No, please don’t be—
“Sorry, I’m not a criminal. What—Liv?”
“Jax! Why are you sneaking into people’s homes?”
I tried to stop shaking. But this wasn’t fear. This was something else. I couldn’t put my finger on this exasperating emotion.
Happiness, mixed with a generous helping of sheer panic.
I didn’t want Jax in my kitchen! Oh god, please! Rewind and send him back to Seattle. I can’t deal with him. Not now. Not ever!