Jessie hated her, even if hate was a strong word, as the commander liked to say. She hated the way her dad looked at Molly. Like he could do it forever. And she hated how Molly got along with everyone in the house except for her. Even the bird talked to Molly and the stupid bird only talked to people he liked. Jessie didn’t see anything to like about Molly.
She pulled a tissue from the box by her bed and wiped her eyes, knowing she was messing up her mascara. Deep down she knew she was being a bitch to her half sister, and giving her grandma and her sister a reason to snap and be mad at her. She didn’t care. Nothing was going right. It was even that time of the month.
She flopped onto her bed at the same time the doorbell rang.
“Seth!” Jessie jumped up fast because she couldn’t think of anyone else who’d come by to visit. Excited to see him, she pulled open her bedroom door and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. She needed a friend and she needed one now.
She swung open the door and came face-to-face with a stranger. “Uh-oh.”
If the commander found out she’d opened the door without asking who it was, she’d smack her over the head with her cane, so Jessie immediately slammed the door in the stranger’s face.
The doorbell rang again.
“Who is it?” Jessie asked.
“Daniel Hunter,” the stranger said through the closed door.
She didn’t know anybody named Daniel Hunter, which meant he was still a stranger. She glanced around but neither Molly nor her sister or grandmother seemed to be coming down to see who was at the door.
“I’m a friend of Molly’s,” he said loudly.
Well, that changed things, Jessie thought, and she yanked the door open wide. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“You slammed the door in my face before I had the chance.” He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and grinned.
Jessie’s stomach fluttered like it did when the hottest guy in school winked at her as she passed by his locker. Not knowing what to say, she looked him over instead. He wore a black leather jacket and dark jeans, and behind him on the street she caught a glimpse of a motorcycle. Cool. She didn’t know anyone who rode a bike.
He studied her right back, looking at her for so long, she shifted from foot to foot. His eyes were really a golden color and he was cute for an older guy. Not just cute. Hot.
“Is Molly here?” he finally asked and the flutters in Jessie’s belly disappeared.
Molly. Jessie had forgotten that’s why he was here. It always came back to Molly. “Yeah,” she muttered, not pleased this cute guy wanted her half sister.
She turned toward the stairs. “Hey, Molly, there’s an old guy here to see you!” Jessie yelled loudly because when she’d passed it, the guest-room door had been closed. Jessie refused to think of it as Molly’s room. She couldn’t stay here forever. At least Jessie hoped not.
“Old?” He burst out laughing.
Jessie’s cheeks flamed. “Older than me,” she said, embarrassed.
Molly’s footsteps sounded at the top of the stairs. “Who is it?” she asked.
“A guy named Daniel who wears a leather jacket and rides a Harley. If you ask me, he’s too cool to be your friend.”
“I don’t know anyone who rides a motorcycle or whose name is Daniel.” Molly hit the bottom step and looked up at her visitor. “Hunter!”
“That’s what I said. His name’s Daniel Hunter and you obviously do know him,” Jessie said.
Because her half sister’s eyes had opened wide and she ran her hands through her hair as if she suddenly cared about what she looked like. Jessie’s gaze flew from Molly to leather-jacket man and back to Molly again. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Molly and vice versa.
“You’re going to take my father—our father’s—case?” Molly asked him.
Jessie’s mouth opened then shut again. “He’s the lawyer? The guy you—”
“Do not say it,” Molly said, warning Jessie in a stern voice she’d never heard from her half sister before. Not even the other day when Jessie had deliberately crossed the behavior line.
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to say…you know.” Jessie stepped closer to Molly.
For some reason, she didn’t want to piss off her half sister right now. She wasn’t sure she understood why, but she did know she wanted to watch what happened between these two. It was better than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, she thought.
“Are you saying I don’t look like an attorney?” he asked.
Jessie turned toward him. “I haven’t seen many that look like you,” she said, feeling herself blush at her admission.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” He treated her to that grin again, the one that made her feel all warm and special inside.
“So are you going to take my dad’s case?” Jessie asked. The guy might not look like a lawyer but he had loads of confidence and Jessie would bet he was good at what he did.
“Your…sister and I are going to discuss that.”
Jessie tossed her hands in the air. “So whatever you decide depends on her? That’s just great.”
The hunk raised an eyebrow. “Trouble in paradise?”
Molly sighed. “She hates me, just like you do,” she said to him. “And you’ve both got good reason, but right now the only thing I care about is clearing the general’s name. I’m asking you to put your personal feelings aside, listen to the facts and agree to represent my father. After you do that, I won’t ask anything else from you. Ever.”
“Do I get the same deal?” Jessie asked hopefully.
Molly turned Jessie’s way. She didn’t speak. She didn’t have to. The disappointment in her expression said it all.
IT HAD TAKEN Hunter a few days to wrap things up at work and reassign his cases to free himself up for an extended stay in Connecticut. Taking the time to organize his life had also given him the opportunity to build his walls and immunity to Molly Gifford.
Or so he’d thought. Just like he thought he’d seen all of Molly’s moods. But the mixture of outright hurt and exasperation in her expression when she looked at her half sister sucker punched him in the gut. He didn’t like that despite his vow to remain indifferent, he felt her pain. Didn’t like that each time he looked at her, all the old feelings washed over him.