“Hey you,” Lacey said, patting the dog’s head.
With the pooch at her heels, Lacey tossed her purse onto the bed and hit the Play button on her answering machine. The only message was from Alex Duncan, an investment banker she’d met and recently become close to thanks to an introduction by a client. He treated her well, took her to Broadway shows and upscale restaurants, and bought her expensive things that reminded her more of her upbringing prior to her parents’ deaths than her life since. He brought forth a longing for things she missed, like security and caring, luxury and stability.
He wanted to take care of her in the old-fashioned sense by providing her with a home and a family. Lacey had craved those things ever since she’d lost her parents. Her mom, Rhona, had been home every afternoon when Lacey returned from school and her dad, Eric, had tucked her into bed each night. Losing them had been traumatic, and had upended her entire world. In her innocence she’d turned to her uncle Marc and he’d betrayed her.
Other than Ty and Hunter, she hadn’t allowed anyone to get close to her in years. But she desired intimacy with another human being. She needed affection and wanted someone to come home to each night. Alex was a good man. The best, really, yet he hadn’t breached her barriers. And she hadn’t accepted his marriage proposal…...
Not yet. Something she couldn’t define was missing and no matter how much she cared about him, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite say she’d fallen in love with him. They’d even been intimate for a while now but still, a deeper connection was missing.
But Alex understood she had a rocky past—though he didn’t know all the details—and he was willing to give her time to come around because he loved her. And because he was convinced that love could grow over time. Lacey wanted to believe, so she hadn’t given up on a future with him.
With a groan, she pressed the delete key on the answering machine and quickly stripped for a long, hot shower. She’d spent the afternoon food shopping for a busy working mother, then she’d walked an array of dogs down Fifth Avenue , before heading out to solve the crisis between Serena and Amanda. Lacey had been looking forward to some downtime all day. Time that didn’t include worrying about her business or dissecting her feelings for Alex.
Half an hour later, she was wrapped in a terry robe and scrambling eggs, enjoying the low hum of music and cooking in her own kitchen, when the doorbell rang. Digger immediately began her obsessive barking and ran for the door.
Lacey sighed. She could only hope Alex hadn’t decided to pay her a visit to talk things over.
Shutting off the burner on the stove, she moved the frying pan away from the heat.
Then she stepped up to her door and glanced through the peephole. Alex had blond hair and wore suits or buttoned shirts. The guy outside her door had long dark hair, an old jean jacket slung over his shoulder and looked eerily familiar.
She blinked and focused on the man once more, recognition dawning. Oh. My. God. Ty.
With shaking hands, she opened her apartment door. “Ty?” she stupidly asked. She’d know him anywhere. She saw him not only in her memories, but in her dreams.
He nodded but before he could reply, Digger began sniffing at Ty’s feet and nudged his leg with her nose, begging for attention.
“Digger, off!” Lacey chided but the dog didn’t listen.
Lacey had always thought she could judge a man by his reaction to a dog, so she grinned when Ty bent down and petted Digger’s head. Ty obviously hadn’t changed. He still had a soft spot for those in need, like she had been, Lacey thought. Which brought her back to the niggling question that lingered long after she’d left Hawken’s Cove. Had Ty felt those same crazy feelings of desire and young love she’d felt for him or was she just another stray, like Hunter, that he’d taken under his wing and protected so well.
She glanced at Ty and realized in one quick instant that he still had the ability to affect her deep inside. Her emotions soared, from elation over seeing him again to a fuzzy warmth in her heart to a quickening in her belly that she hadn’t experienced in years.
Enjoying the attention from a stranger, Digger lifted her front paws onto his legs, begging for more.
“Okay, you shameless hussy. Leave Ty alone,” Lacey said, pulling the dog off of Ty.
“He’s a she?” Ty asked, obviously surprised.
Lacey nodded. “She doesn’t have a body any female would want, but she’s a sweetheart.”
“She doesn’t have a name any woman would want, either,” he said, laughing.
His voice had grown deeper, she thought, the husky sound providing a rush in her veins.
“I found her digging in the trash, hence her name. The poor thing was starving. I took her in, fed her and tried to locate her owners. No luck.” She shrugged and scratched under Digger’s chin.
“She’s been eating me out of house and home ever since.” Digger was Lacey’s in all her bad breath glory. She freed the dog’s collar. “Go!” she directed and the dog finally ran into the apartment.
Lacey edged back so Ty could enter and he stepped by her, treating her to a whiff of warm, sexy cologne. Her body tightened at the unfamiliar, yet welcoming scent.
Once inside, she let the door slam shut and Ty turned to face her. He studied her without shame, his gaze swallowing her whole, his curiosity evident. She pulled the collar on her fluffy robe together but nothing could change the fact that beneath it, she was nude.
Unable to resist, Lacey looked him over, as well. He’d been a sexy kid when she’d seen him last.
He’d matured in the last ten years. His shoulders were broader, his face leaner and a somberness lingered in his hazel eyes that ran deeper than she remembered. He was all male and drop-dead gorgeous, Lacey thought.
And when he resettled his gaze on her face, she couldn’t mistake the slight smile that tilted his lips. “You’re looking good,” he said at last.
Her face heated at the compliment. “You’re looking pretty good yourself.” She bit down on the inside of her cheek and wondered why he’d shown up now.
What exactly did fate, and even more, sexy Ty, have in store for her?
LACEY EXCUSED HERSELF before disappearing through a doorway leading to what he assumed was her bedroom. She’d instructed him to make himself comfortable, something he’d have an easier time doing if she changed out of that bathrobe. Though the fluffy material covered her well, the deep vee left him wondering exactly what lay beneath the material while the short hem had revealed long, toned legs.