Corinthians 6:11—“And such were some of you…”
across her window, obscuring the view of Chicago’s
lakefront eighteen stories
below. If she’d known a year ago that their relationship would stall like this,
she might have thought twice about accepting his drink. That would have saved
her this roller coaster of pleasure and pain.
of them hiding out in her condo three or four days at a time. No one hassling
them, no one knowing…
a good two hours before he had to be at the ballpark?
bedroom into the living room. “Have you seen my wallet?”
for his phone, his keys, his shoes. Maybe even his toothbrush.
her bed where his duffel sat, and tucked his shaving kit and toothbrush into
He probably had a good reason for leaving early. If she just waited…
risk her inheritance and live house poor. Grant Park, Chicago’s version of
Central Park, spread below her, treetops finally decked out in vibrant spring
green. The washed-out blue of the sky contrasted with Lake Michigan’s cerulean
waters, and a handful of white boats dotted Monroe Harbor.
was Buckingham Fountain. The massive fountain of granite and pink marble held
court in the park’s center. Any second now the fountain would begin the ten
o’clock water show, the first of the year. The center jet would soar a hundred
fifty feet into the air, and dozens of other jets would try to catch it.
share it with him, his hand in hers as the music played and the water danced.
Someday, when he finally belonged to her.
the kitchen island behind her, his bag thumping to the floor, then turned her
way. “What’re you looking at?”
himself to her back. “Mmm. Very.”
air. Smiling, she relaxed against him as the rest of the jets sprayed high then
low, splashing to a song she couldn’t hear.
held her. When the hundred-plus jets fell back to their usual height, she
turned in his arms and slid her palms across his defined chest. Her gaze
trailed over his full mouth and his square jaw, all so tempting.
“Your bag’s packed?”
through his thick blond hair until it stood on end. “It’s too beautiful to stay
inside. We should go out for breakfast—or brunch. For something.”
comfortable with it. Her smile morphed into a grin. He matched it, and she
stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, just a peck so he didn’t get any new
ideas. “Where should we go?”
Best hash browns and French toast anywhere.”
Kate Spade bag—the last purse Mom had bought—lay beside his keys, phone, and
baseball cap. He picked up the worn hat. “Wish I could run with you.”
you’re in town.”
Then another, followed by deep muffled voices. She ignored it as she slipped
her purse strap onto her shoulder, but Mark, filling his pockets, glanced
toward her front door. “What’s going on out there?”
his shoulder, he followed her to her front door where he held up a hand and
hallway. Mark locked the deadbolt with his key. “Ready?” he asked with that
aw-shucks grin that had won her over.
his hand and tugged him forward, flashing him a flirtatious look. “Let’s go.”
to a stop just steps from her door. That longing smile hinted around his mouth.
What would he do? They were in public, after all, even if the hallway was
around her waist. His head lowered, and she closed her eyes with him, already
warm from a barely-begun kiss in a silent hallway where anyone could walk out—
tall, dark-haired man burst out of the door beside Mark and plowed into him.
Mark’s weight fell against her, and she backpedaled into the wall, the back of
her head smacking it. Mark crashed beside her.
hanging open. “Oh, man, I’m sorry.” He offered his hand to Miska where she half
sat, half leaned against the wall. “Are you okay?”
fingers, and let him pull her up. He was incredibly tall—well over six feet,
maybe closer to seven. She scanned his lean face and the scruff he hadn’t
shaved that morning, pausing on his nice brown eyes. “I’m fine.”
looked at Mark. “You all right?”
staring as Mark reached down for the duffel bag. The man’s lips parted. His
similar enough in looks that they had to be related—stepped out of the condo
and started to laugh. He smacked the giant’s back. “Dude, why couldn’t you run
over Mark Scheider yesterday? Before he shut out the Cubs?” He shot Mark a
grin. “Sorry about my brother. You’d have thought he’d grow into those feet by
now.” He shrugged as if it were a lost cause. “I’m Garrett Foster. This is my
brother Dillan. Could we get an autograph?”
back a bit.
pen, the gesture friendly but irritation clear in his voice. “Then we have to
Miska as if seeing her for the first time. “Oh. Right. Didn’t mean to hold you
up. Or knock you down.” He grinned and elbowed his brother.
condo. We’re moving in. Guess it’ll have to be next time. You have a place
here, I take it?”
we’ve got to run. We’re meeting someone.”
you, Mark and…”
clipped nod. “Let’s go.”
as they passed. “Did I hear that right?”
corner into the floor’s lobby where the elevator doors waited. Mark pressed the
call button and stepped back, his face and neck flushed. He adjusted the hat
again and glued his gaze to the floor.
slumping. “I’m fine.”
She slipped an arm around his waist just as the Foster brothers walked around
to buy. “Off to bring up more boxes. Dillan says you’re our neighbor.” He stuck
out his hand. “I didn’t catch your name.”
Mark seethe beside her. Easy for him to be rude. He didn’t have to live next
door to these guys. “Nice to meet you both.”
think I left my phone at your place.” He glanced at the brothers as he pulled
her toward the hallway. “Have a nice day.”
backs. “See you later.”
doing? Just regrouping? Or…
him a moment before pulling out her keys and unlocking the door. Their first
time in public, and they hadn’t even made it to the street.
eased the heavy door closed, leaning against it while he emptied his pockets,
phone included, onto the island. He dropped his bag by the barstools and walked
past her dining room table and white leather couch until the wall of windows
stopped him. He stood there, hands on hips, staring toward the lake.
in front of the world. Her jaw clenched. If only they hadn’t run into those
grabbed eggs and milk. She could still make pancakes, still finish their days
together on a good note. But next time he was in town, she’d make really bad
French toast and they’d—
it. Darcie flashed across the screen.
couldn’t take her eyes off it, even though Mark’s footsteps approached. He
snagged the phone and walked away before answering. “Hey, babe,” she heard as
he entered her bedroom.
her body but not her mind. She set the milk down and opened the egg carton.
Scrambled eggs sounded good. Or maybe sunny-side up. She cracked an egg against
the counter, then threw the whole thing into the sink.
toward the bedroom. She really shouldn’t listen. But she was already there,
waiting for her pounding heart to quiet, her ears straining.
Darcie was going through was his pain too. But she knew what he thought of
Darcie. He’d told her.
of those things…”
marched back to the island. Hash browns and bacon. Maybe she’d hunt down that
diner herself. See what kind of company hung out there. She passed his duffel
bag and kicked it.
her face in her hands. Maybe she should call Darcie and tell her how her
husband had hit on her last spring. How he’d pretended to be single long enough
for her to lose her heart to him. If only she knew how Darcie would react—and
whether or not Mark would return.
She couldn’t live like this forever. He had to make a choice. It was long past
time for that.
sounded. Miska pulled herself up, wiped her cheeks just in case. She faced him,
fighting the tension in her jaw. “How’s Darcie?”
Mark. A year of you waffling on whether you’re going to commit to me or not. To
your wife or not. You need to decide.”
“Is this an ultimatum?”
her over Darcie once he thought it through. “Nothing’s keeping you with Darcie
except your wedding band. If she were your girlfriend, you’d have been done
with her as soon as you found out she’d cheated.”
Darcie—he’d said they were done. “Mark, we can’t even go outside these four
walls without you freaking out over being seen together. How do you expect—”
this or don’t take me at all.”
throat. He couldn’t mean it. “You said—” She pressed her fingers against her
mouth. “When I found out about Darcie, you said the marriage was dead already.
That you’d give it a few months.” But twelve months wasn’t a few. What an idiot
she was to let it drag on this long.
her to keep waiting? For what? To see if his wife got pregnant? What kind of disgusting
relationship was this?
nothing. She swallowed, the weight of his hands increasing. What kind of a
woman was she? Her arms circled herself, her hands sliding up to her shoulders
and knocking his fingers away. He turned her, and she folded into herself, nose
tucked into the crook of her elbow.
She squeezed her eyes shut. This wasn’t what she’d planned to be—or do. This
was not who she was.
She pressed her face against the soft cotton T-shirt and took him in—his faint
cologne, his broad chest, the feel of his arms tight around her. His cheek
rested on top of her head, and he toyed with the ends of her curls. Was she
strong enough to risk losing him? Could she survive without him?
happened to me.”
end date. July? August? When?”
worked, and finally he spoke. “The end of August. By then…” He shook his
days home with Darcie. So few here with her. But she’d take it. “I’ll wait
through August. And not a day more.”
middle. He adjusted his hat and tucked his phone, wallet, and keys into his
strap onto his shoulder. He pushed the bag behind his back, then stood beside
the island and fingered the counter’s edge.
tender. “You know if I could do things over…”
when she’d confronted him about the wife he’d failed to mention. His words had
melted her. She’d known he’d choose her soon.
him out of her condo before her heart was too far gone to think straight,
before he kept her a prisoner in this messed-up relationship.
Mark, in the beauty he brought her each time his team came to Chicago. There
had never been anyone like him before, and there could never be anyone like him
she vowed to do everything in her power to make Mark choose her. Everything.
brother’s head thump against the elevator’s paneled interior. Garrett chuckled.
“Wow, that was fun.”
neighbor’s messing around with a pro athlete. He wasn’t happy about being seen
here, was he?”
was hot. Stunning. Long black curls, silky skin, the perfect shape—
still work. I wonder sometimes.”
game? Remember his wife was there afterward and you said she looked just like
something. That guy knows how to pick ’em.”
bronzed Art Deco elevators. Tracy, Garrett’s fiancée, leaned against the wall,
safeguarding boxes while she messed with her phone.
his arms, and Dillan looked away.
guy couldn’t do much better—unless a quieter version was out there, because for
the next five months he’d get an up-close view of their relationship. He ran a
hand over his hair. Garrett’s suggestion that Dillan move in with him until the
wedding, rent free, had seemed perfect at the time. He could handle anything
for five months, right? And by the time he moved out and Tracy moved in, he’d
have enough to buy a fixer-upper of his own. How bad could it be?
elevator. Today he had a really sick feeling he’d find out.
eat.” Garrett filled Tracy’s arms and then his own with boxes. “Or maybe we can
knock over the celebrity couple again. What do you think, Dill?”
followed Garrett inside, Dillan on her heels. Tracy flashed him a grin. “Do we
have famous neighbors?”
having a fling with our neighbor.”
imagine how she must feel.”
on the elevator’s buttons. Why had he volunteered that?
Felt the woman’s soft hand in his, remembered her big dark eyes with all that
makeup women wore. Saw her hair around her shoulders, her toned arms bare
beside the snug white shirt—
woman like her, a woman so opposite the blonde beauty at home. But he couldn’t
remember anything past how she looked. Had she been angry they’d been caught?
picture. “Didn’t have time to tell.”
are next door to her for a reason. Wouldn’t that be something?”
neighbor—a neighbor he’d never see again five months from now and probably
wouldn’t see much in between. What reason could there be for living next door
to her? Because clearly she was a temptress, a woman who made men lose their
minds and souls. Mark Scheider had to know all about that.
their boxes to the living room while Dillan entered the smallest bedroom by the
front door, the room that would be his office until the church addition was
finished. Next time he moved his not-so-small library, he’d get a dolly.
above the ground.
the exotic beauty of the woman next door filled his vision. He jerked his foot
from beneath the boxes and grabbed his toes with one hand while he leaned
against the wall with the other. Great. Too late. She was already in his mind.
some snide remark. But Dillan had seen where his brother’s life had taken him.
He remembered perfectly the shock and anger they’d all felt, remembered Mom’s
tears and Dad’s stony grief. Saw firsthand the pitiful looks people at church
sent his parents’ backs—and probably his—before Garrett returned from the East
Coast in shame. He had no idea how deeply his choices had affected them. But
Dillan did. He’d lived through the nightmare of wondering if Garrett would be
arrested or not.
with the way he talked lately, full of innuendos and double meanings. With each
one Dillan found himself stiffening, then catching the glance his parents shot
each other. They had to feel like he did, that the old Garrett, the one he said
he’d left back in New England, had followed him home and lingered just outside
their vision, waiting for the right moment to mess with them again.
Then again, why would someone like Tracy fall for him if he hadn’t changed?
That had to mean something.
muffled voice floated into the room. Tracy laughed. Dillan dug into the top
box, pulling out commentaries and youth curriculum. He stacked them on his
desk, ignoring the sudden quiet.
flattened it. The ripped packing tape clung to his hand, and he yanked it loose
and flung the box at his doorway. It banged against the thick white molding and
flopped to the ground.
distant, hope-things-work-out-for-you-knucklehead kind of way. Right now,
though, all he wanted was to escape to Grant Park and explore the lakefront and
brand-spanking-new greenery. Anything to get away from Garrett.
Garrett, who had it