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I want my best friend to raise my daughter!
Georgia would make the perfect mother for Peggy.
My life has been messy since my ex-wife left.
And Georgia is with me every step of the way.
She’s all I have.
Her soft skin intoxicates me.
I can’t ruin our friendship by trying to claim her.
I can’t be that selfish.
Especially since my ex-wife has returned.
She’s threatening to take Peggy away.
Abandoning Georgia is the only way out of this mess.
What will I do if I have to choose between her and my daughter?
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I blink awake groggily, staring upwards. For a moment, I can’t comprehend why two grinning faces, one young female and one older male, are staring down at me, and I frown at them, yawning as I slowly wake up.
Then memory hits and I gasp as my eyes fly open. I fell asleep on the couch!
“Ethan!” I say. “You’re home!”
“Yeah,” Ethan Howard says with a grin, sitting back. Beside me, Lily, her hair as black as her father’s, blinks her twinkling green eyes awake and yawns widely. “Sorry I’m home so late.”
“No, it’s fine,” I say instantly, shaking my head. He’s staring at me with his warm blue eyes, and they turn my insides to mush, as they always do. I would do anything for this man. I glance at Lily. “Looks like both Lily and I needed the sleep.”
Lily huffs and closes her eyes again, snuggling against my side. I hear the telltale click of a camera and I raise an eyebrow at Ethan just as he tucks his phone away, pretending innocence. Ethan has so many photo albums of Lily after ten years that the poor girl’s going to need an entire room to store them when she eventually leaves home.
“What time is it?” I ask with a yawn, moving carefully and laying Lily down on the couch.
“Midnight,” Ethan says, moving back so I can stand. “The television was still on when I came in, and the two of you were lying there.”
“It isn’t the first time we’ve fallen asleep while watching a movie,” I say, amused.
“I have the pictures to prove it,” Ethan agrees with a quiet laugh. “I’ll take her to bed.”
He reaches out and carefully pulls his daughter into his arms. She instantly turns toward him, her forehead pressed against the crook of his neck, and a small, fond smile curves at Ethan’s lips. There’s so much love in his eyes that my heart aches.
Then he disappears down the hall and I draw in a deep breath, closing my eyes.
Ethan and I have been friends since we were children. There are pictures that Ethan’s father liked to show, of the two of us throwing sand at each other, when he was twelve and I was only eight, giggling madly. Our parents, who worked at the same company, introduced us to each other at a business picnic. From then, at almost every moment of my life, from school to graduation, to my first relationships, to getting my first job, Ethan has been by my side.
Once upon a time, when I didn’t know any better, I staunchly pretended that Ethan was my older brother figure. By the time I was fifteen, I had worked out that the feelings I had for Ethan were not sisterly at all.
Which started my downhill slide into being hopelessly, obviously in love with my infuriatingly oblivious best friend.
I look up and smile at Ethan as he returns, Lily down in her bed. He looks more relaxed than he did when he left, as I had hoped; I make it a point of coming by at least once a week to forcibly babysit for him for a few hours so that he has the chance to go out for a little while.
“Thanks,” Ethan says, heartfelt, and I almost wish that he wouldn’t say anything else. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Go mad,” I joke with practiced ease, grinning at him.
Ethan gives me a soft, fond smile that breaks my heart. I’ve known Ethan for twenty years, and not once has he ever looked at me as more than just a friend. Other than…
I shook the thought out of my mind. I swore I would never think about that.
“It’s late,” Ethan says, and I know what he’s about to offer before the words leave his mouth. We’ve done this too many times. “Do you want to stay in the guest room?”
I should say no. I should go home to my bed, curl up and get myself under control before the next time I see Ethan. Being around him these days is almost a special form of torture, but I just can’t seem to stop drifting toward him.
“Sure,” I say with a smile.
Ethan flashes me a grin.
“You know where the towels are,” he says as he heads toward his own room.
I just laugh. Of course I know where the towels are. I know where everything in the apartment is. After all, I helped Ethan unpack most of it when he first moved in.
The guest room is right beside Lily’s room. I peek in at the girl’s room, taking in the clutter of toys on the floor, and smile at seeing the ten-year-old girl curled up under the covers, sound asleep. She pouts in the morning about missing the end of the movie, or not seeing her father when he gets home.