Yet he’d never once turned his back on Molly and he’d tried to be there for her. He’d offered her his life, his soul, his love, something he’d never given to another woman—and she’d rejected him. His entire post foster-care world had been about making something of himself, yet by dumping him, she’d proven his greatest fear to be correct. Nice clothes and the right choices in drinks and silverware couldn’t change who he was deep inside. She’d enforced his belief that no woman could love the real Daniel Hunter, and he’d spent the last year drinking and partying and working like a demon in order to forget.

So now he knew the truth about how little he was worth to the female species as anything other than a short-term guy. But Hunter had worked too damn hard to make something of himself to let his self-destructive tendencies take over for good.

Which brought him back to his game plan for getting over Molly. They needed closure. At least he did, even if that meant allowing himself to soften toward her while working on her father’s case.

He’d just let nature take over, he thought wryly, glancing at the bird in the cage. He’d wanted Molly for too long to deny his desire, especially since it looked as if he’d be in town for a good amount of time. These types of cases never ended quickly. Giving himself permission to cozy up to Molly and see where things went felt good.

Damn good.

The thought lifted the sour mood that had plagued him. He could smile a bit more, enjoy his time here while working on what promised to be a challenging case—and on Molly. As long as in the end, this time he was the one to walk away.

Game on.

***

MOLLY RETURNED from her morning run with her friend Liza, someone she’d met during one of her many Starbucks trips. Thanks to Liza, Molly had begun her volunteer work at the senior center in town. Liza was the one person she’d met apart from family, someone she could confide in and talk to, and Molly appreciated the shoulder to lean on. Especially now that Hunter was back in her life.

As soon as she returned home, Molly immediately hit the shower. She’d learned to move quickly before Jessie woke and monopolized the bathroom in the hall for a solid hour, as she did every day. After years of living alone, Molly found the adjustments to family life—like sharing a bathroom—amusing, and she rarely minded the inconvenience because it meant she was a part of something bigger than herself. Today Molly didn’t mind because she had more than her sister to worry about.

She had Hunter, and she wanted to be functioning and ready for the day before he woke and she had to deal with his guarded attitude and simmering resentment. Not to mention her own longing for the way things used to be, as well as the physical awareness she couldn’t deny.

He was so sexy, just looking at him left her hot and bothered. He was so intense, his mood became her mood, and the need to penetrate his walls and defenses became her mission. A useless mission since he obviously didn’t plan to forgive her and she knew better than to beat her head against a brick wall.

Freshly showered, Molly retreated to her room and after drying her hair, dressing and putting on makeup, she stepped into the hall—directly into Hunter, who’d obviously just finished a shower of his own. Wearing jeans and a mint-green collared polo T-shirt, he whistled, drying his hair with a bath towel as he walked.

He stopped just short of bumping into her. “Hey there!” He sounded surprisingly pleased to see her.

“Good morning,” she said warily. “Did you sleep okay on the pullout?”

“Not bad at all.” He propped one shoulder against the wall, obviously settling in for a conversation. “I slept well enough to start working on your dad’s case with a clear head this morning.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.”

“How about you? How did you sleep?”

Not bad considering the man of my dreams was under the same roof, she thought. “I had a great night’s sleep,” she lied.

As if he could read her mind, a sudden, sexy smile pulled at Hunter’s lips and his gaze settled on hers.

Unwilling to squirm, she folded her arms across her chest, squared her shoulders and stared right back. She raked her gaze over him, slowly, deliberately letting herself see what she was up against.

No doubt about it, Molly thought, she was dealing with one gorgeous man. Although he was fully dressed, as far as her senses were concerned, he might as well have been naked. His damp hair reminded her he’d just showered, and in case she tried not to think about him naked beneath a hot stream of water, the moist air trailing from the open bathroom put the image vividly in her mind.

The scent of soap and shampoo, of clean, musky male enveloped her in a humid fog. She was completely aware of him and her body’s response. Her ni**les tightened beneath her T-shirt and she was grateful for the hooded sweatshirt she wore that covered the evidence.

She cleared her throat and shifted positions to alleviate the sudden throbbing in unmentionable places. “So what’s your plan for the day?”

“I’d like to meet with your father at the jail and get a bail hearing set up as soon as possible.”

Molly opened her eyes wider in surprise. “You make it sound so easy,” she said, her hopes rising already.

“It shouldn’t be difficult. I have my office working on filing notice with the court that I’m now the attorney of record and getting copies of everything in the public defender’s hands. They’ll send it on to me. Thank God for fax and e-mail,” he said, laughing.

Laughing? She narrowed her gaze. Where was the man who’d arrived yesterday full of attitude and anger?

“So what are your plans for the day?” he asked, throwing the question back at her.

She shrugged. “My usual routine.”

“Which is?” He leaned in closer. “Come on, share your daily habits with me,” he urged in a playful tone.

“Why?”

“Because I’m curious.”

She shook her head. “Wasn’t it just yesterday you said you were here for my father only? You didn’t want to touch on anything remotely personal.”

A cloud passed over his eyes and lifted just as quickly. “I changed my mind.”

“Obviously. The question is why and don’t tell me that a good night’s sleep did wonders for your disposition.”

The bastard grinned, a sexy, heart-stopping grin.

She ran an unsteady hand through her hair and leveled him with her best glare. “I don’t like playing games. Maybe you forgot that about me but it’s fact. Yesterday I apologized and you shut me down and this morning you’re happy and flirting—”

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