His cheekbones flushed even redder. “Ty’s the one who played savior while I went along for the ride. I guess I learned from him.”

“Well as far as I’m concerned, you’re both the best.” She grinned at them both. “Thanks for looking into things for me,” she said to Hunter. “I can’t afford to hire anyone without depleting my savings.”

“Which won’t make a difference once you get the trust fund away from the bastard who calls himself your uncle,” Ty said.

She nodded. “Still, having a friend to depend on is so much easier.”

“I’ve got an important trial next month, but I have some time now and I’ll handle it for you.”

Hunter hoisted himself onto the kitchen counter, making himself at home, which considering how often he came by, he was. “So what will you do while I’m researching?” he asked Lilly.

Ty raised an eyebrow and glanced at her. “I’m curious about that myself.”

She shrugged. “I thought I’d reacquaint myself with my hometown. I need to relax and maybe feel like I belong here again.”

“I understand how you feel.” And he sympathized. “But you can’t just go walking around in broad daylight and risk alerting your uncle to your reappearance. You need to be discreet, at least until your uncle’s been told that you’re alive, well and intend to be rich.”

“Man, I wish I could see his face when he finds out he’s waited ten years for nothing.” Hunter rubbed his hands together, his anticipation of the other man’s downfall as understandable as it was shared by everyone in this room.

Lilly laughed but Ty heard the shakiness in her voice. For all her strength, she wasn’t quite ready for the reunion. A few days of breathing room would do her some good.

“So how do you think we should let him in on the secret? I can’t just walk up the front steps, ring the doorbell and say, Hi, Uncle Marc, I’m home! ”

Ty grinned. “Maybe not, but I’d pay good money for tickets to that show.”

“We’ll have to go about this in a more subtle manner,” Hunter said.

“And I take it you have the answer?” Lilly walked up beside him and leaned, one hip propped against the counter.

He nodded. “That I do,” he said, cryptically. “But I’m not ready to explain just yet. In the meantime, you should lay low and relax.”

“I think I can handle that. Starting now. I’m going to walk around out back. It seemed quiet enough. Digger, come,” she called to her dog, who came running from her spot on the floor.

After hooking Digger to her leash, Lilly gave both Hunter and Ty an obviously forced smile.

Then she walked out the front door.

Ty started after her, intending to catch up.

“Let her go.” Hunter placed a restraining hand on Ty’s shoulder. “We can’t begin to imagine what she’s feeling. Give her some time to deal with things.”

Ty clenched his jaw as he turned around to face his best friend. “When did you turn into an expert on Lilly?”

“When did you turn into a jealous son of a bitch?” Hunter asked.

Ty groaned. “Is it that obvious?”

“Only to someone who knows you.” Hunter ran his hand through his hair. “You have no competition from me. No matter how I felt about her once,” Hunter said, shocking Ty by laying his feelings out there for the first time.

“Once and no more?”

Hunter nodded.

“Is that because you don’t want to compete with me?” Ty asked, not comfortable with the direction the conversation had taken.

Hunter shook his head. “I may have felt that way once. Back when we were kids, I knew there was no way I could win against you. I’d never have even tried.” He slapped Ty on the shoulder in a brotherly manner. “But those days are gone. If I had those old feelings, only our friendship would stand in the way. Not my insecurity.”

Hunter’s admission shocked Ty. He gave his friend credit for knowing his mind and admitting the truth aloud. “So what gives?” Ty asked.

Hunter grinned. “My focus is on someone else.”

And Ty knew who. “Molly?”

“The woman’s said no so many times I’m lucky I still have an ego left,” he said, somehow managing a laugh. “But I keep asking her out anyway.”

“Mind if I ask why the hell you haven’t pushed her harder to say yes to a dinner?”

Hunter scratched his head. “Because until now, she was sending vibes that warned me to back off. And now that she seems more open to exploring the chemistry we have, Lilly’s back and I have an ulterior motive for wanting to spend time with Molly.”

Ty shrugged. “Explain the situation. Maybe she’ll understand.”

“Sure. And hell will freeze over and maybe she’ll tell me why she’s said no all those times when her body language was saying yes.”

Ty tipped his head back and laughed. “Which means you’ll never figure it out on your own. No sane man can read a woman’s mind, no matter how much they think we can.”

Hunter smiled. “Now that’s the truth,” he said, his smiling fading. “But by the time I get finished pumping Molly for info rmation about Dumont , she’s not going to want to give me the time of day.” He walked to the refrigerator and opened a can of Coke.

“But you’re going to do it anyway?” Ty asked.

“Yeah.” Hunter downed half the can in a long gulp. “We’re the three musketeers. I just keep telling myself that where Molly’s concerned, I can’t lose what I never had. Not that I won’t give it a shot…..But let’s just say my expectations aren’t high.” He finished the can and slammed it against the counter.

Ty felt for his friend. The guy hadn’t had any long-lasting relationships in his life, though like Ty, he had his share of women. And now the one he obviously could get serious about, he might lose. “Hey, man, how about we find another way to get info rmation on Dumont and leave the field clear for you and Molly.”

Hunter shook his head. “If she was that interested, she’d have gone out with me long before now.

Lilly needs us and that’s that.” Hunter started for the door, then paused and turned. “But when it comes to anything other than my help, when it comes to Lilly, you’re the man. ”

Ty groaned. Sometimes Hunter still showed signs of being the idiot kid who spoke up and thought later. Which was why Ty loved the guy like a brother.

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