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“It’s late and we should get some sleep.” He rose from his seat, lifting his hand away from hers.

Disappointment clogged her throat even as she appreciated his hold on common sense.

Obviously she had none. “You still like to call the shots, I see.”

He shrugged without apologizing for his controlling nature. “You have some big decisions to make and I’m sure sleep will help,” he said, his voice softening.

“I’ve already decided.” She nodded firmly, knowing she had no choice.

He raised an eyebrow. “You’re coming home?”

Swallowing hard, she nodded. “But I just can’t pick up and leave without settling some things here first.”

“The business?”

“Primarily. I need to get someone to run things until I get back.” Mentally, she’d already begun to make a list of people to call and things to do. “I also have neighbors that will worry. Friends and—” Alex, she thought, knowing he’d panic if she suddenly disappeared.

She knew she’d hate it if he just took off on her. They were beyond the dating stage. Way beyond. He wasn’t the first man she’d been intimate with but he was the only one she truly cared for. Yes, she realized something was missing and being with Ty, she knew the sizzling sexual attraction was just one part of their problem. Or at least a part of her problem, Lacey thought.

Alex obviously had no such issues.

He also had no idea Lacey had a past that could someday come calling, disturbing her life and rousing compelling emotions she didn’t feel when she was with him, she thought, guiltily glancing at Ty.

“And what?” Ty asked, picking up on what she hadn’t said.

She shook her head. “Nothing. There are just people who’d miss me and be concerned.”

He let out a slow, patient groan. “I’m not dragging you out of here kicking and screaming. Take the time you need to get your things here in order. Then if you forget anyone, you can always call from the road.” He paused, his eyes narrowing. “Unless there’s someone important that you haven’t mentioned?”

“Such as?” She hedged, knowing the coming conversation was going to be difficult.

He massaged his forehead with his fingers. “Boyfriend or someone you need to check in with?”

His words sounded brittle as he spoke.

She drew a deep breath. “As a matter of fact, there is someone.” Guilt immediately swamped her.

“I see,” he said stiffly.

She’d been living on her own for ten years and had no reason to feel as if she’d betrayed Ty by seeing someone else. Yet looking into Ty’s eyes, she did feel guilty. Terribly guilty.

“His name is Alex,” she said, forcing herself to admit the truth and hopefully keep the other man real to her in the process. “And I can’t just pick up and leave without getting in touch with him.”

Ty inclined his head, the motion curt. “Well, nobody’s stopping you from checking in with the important people in your life.”

She swallowed hard, the sense that she’d somehow hurt him filling her with intense pain. “Fine.

We’ll talk more tomorrow, okay?”

Without answering, he strode past her and headed back to the couch. He lay down and Digger jumped on top of his legs, settling in.

“Hussy,” Lacey muttered to her pet as she walked back to her room and closed the door behind her.

She wasn’t comfortable with how she’d left things with Ty but then she wasn’t comfortable with the state of her life these days. It was a tough thing to admit, seeing as how she prided herself on survival and doing well. But she hated feeling unsettled and her inability to commit to Alex was but one symptom.

A few short hours with Ty and already she sensed the difference in her reactions to both men.

She shivered, knowing in her heart that difference meant something important. And knowing, too, that her time in Hawken’s Cove would define exactly what.

Ten years ago, Lacey had left a life behind and hopped a bus for New York City with no idea what to expect there. Tomorrow she was about to go back to where it all began except this time, she knew exactly what awaited her. She tossed and turned for the rest of the night.

The only thing that kept her from changing her mind was her parents. If she didn’t go back, nothing would be left of her family and their legacy. Nothing good, anyway. She owed it to them to take control of what was rightfully hers. She owed it to herself to finally put the past behind her by facing it, not running away.

Even if that past included Ty.

TY AWOKE with Lilly’s ugly mutt stretched out on top of him and the sun streaming in through the open window blinds in Lilly’s apartment. He hadn’t slept well but who could blame him?

Between his smelly couch mate and Lilly’s revelation that there was someone special in her life, sleep had eluded him.

It wasn’t like he’d expected her to become a nun. Hell he hadn’t been celibate, either. Nor had he come back to Lilly looking for a relationship of any kind. Yet when he thought of her with another guy, every protective instinct he possessed kicked into high gear. Those same instincts never took over when it came to other women, not even Gloria who he’d been sleeping with for the past few months. Yet those damn instincts were alive and well with Lilly, full-blown and making him crazy. Despite the fact that he had no right to feel anything at all.

He’d helped set her on the path to this new life, but she’d opted to stay in it. To not come home for the past ten years. To stay out of touch, secluded and alone. The best thing for everyone involved was to bring her home, let her handle her personal affairs and then allow her to return to New York City . To her boyfriend, her business, her life. Maybe in settling Lilly’s past, he’d find a way to settle his own and move on. Because if seeing her again proved anything, it was that he needed to put her behind him, this time for good.

He glanced toward her still closed bedroom door. Since he was up first, he showered and changed before letting himself think about his growling stomach.

He glanced down at the mutt who’d followed him loyally around Lilly’s apartment, going so far as to push open the bathroom door that wouldn’t lock and lick his damp legs when he’d stepped out of the shower. “I wish I could feed you, but I don’t know where your food is.”

“She needs to go out first,” Lilly said, stepping out of her bedroom fully dressed.

Ty cocked his head to one side. “I thought you were sleeping.”

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