He grinned. “I wouldn’t expect anything less. Go get him, Tiger.”

Molly drew a deep breath. “Yeah, well, wish me luck because I’m going to need it.”

“Good luck, honey.”

Molly hoped words were enough. Because words were all she had to convince Hunter to give them another try.

***

HUNTER DID HAVE a life waiting for him when he returned home and he threw himself into it at full speed, minus the drinking and the women that had been in his life before Molly’s return. His office staff was thrilled to see him. A new capital murder case tied him up day and night. He made time for some friends, though at times it amazed him he still had friends other than Lacey and Ty, and had dinner with the guys one night after work. It was an empty life without Molly, but it was a life. And he’d only been living it for a little over a week.

Lacey had hired someone to come in and clean then stock the refrigerator before his return. He shook his head, still amazed at how she cared for her family, even long-distance. Still, he wasn’t spending that much time at home in his apartment and for good reason. If he worked late at the office, he concentrated on work. If he worked from home, he thought about how quiet the place was, how lonely he was.

He intercommed his secretary and asked her to make a reservation at his favorite pub for dinner at a quiet table in the back. He’d bring his BlackBerry and catch up on e-mails while taking a break from the books and the grisly details of a crime scene.

She buzzed back to let him know they were holding the table for him now. The perks of being a regular customer. He was tossing a legal pad into his duffel along with a few nonconfidential files in case he wanted to look at some things during dinner, when a knock sounded at his door.

He frowned. Talk about a bad time for conversation. Hunter might be a good customer, but not even the local pub would hold his seat for too long. “Come in and make it quick.” He slung his bag over his shoulder, ready to leave as soon as possible.

Hunter ran a casual office atmosphere and his secretary never announced his visitors. So when the door opened wide, he expected one of his associates to walk in and want to talk about their research results.

Instead, he turned to see a vision walk through his door. From the toes of her red cowboy boots to the dark denim of her jeans, up to the matching tomato red, tight zippered hoodie she wore, the woman before him was vintage Molly.

He sucked in a startled breath and dropped his duffel to the floor. “Molly.” He didn’t know what surprised him more, that she was here or what she was wearing.

And damned if he wanted to draw the wrong conclusions or subject himself to any more false hope. But his heart wasn’t listening. It was beating at a rapid pace while his pulse rate spiked.

“Hi.” She raised a hand in a half wave, obviously feeling as awkward as he did. She glanced at the duffel bag at his feet. “Were you on your way out?”

He shrugged. “I was going to get dinner.” Suddenly keeping that reserved table didn’t seem all that important. “What brings you by?”

Molly ran a hand through her tousled but gorgeous blond hair. “I had a question to ask you.”

“And you drove all the way up here to do it?”

“I flew, actually. It seemed faster. Lacey picked me up at the airport.”

Hunter narrowed his gaze. “She’s in town?”

“She and Ty both are. They’re at his mother’s. Listen, can I at least come inside?” Molly knew Hunter’s secretary was right outside and she didn’t want an audience for what she had to say.

He gestured with one hand. “Of course. I’m just surprised to see you.”

She shut the door behind her and walked toward him. “Happy, too, I hope.”

“Always,” he said gruffly.

He looked so good she wanted to throw her arms around him and stay there. But she could see the wariness in his gaze. Too much remained unresolved between them.

Some things had changed though. He wasn’t in a suit or tie. Like her, he seemed to have reverted to something more innately comfortable. She supposed they’d get to that soon enough.

First, there were the internal issues. And though she didn’t know where they’d be when this conversation ended, they had to talk things through.

“When you left, I told myself you were running away.” Molly shook her head and laughed. “That lasted all of five minutes. Then my mother showed up and something inside me snapped. I found myself taking your advice and laying down some ground rules about our relationship. She may not follow them, but at least I can say I tried my best to take control.”

A smile took hold of his sexy mouth. “That’s good. It’s all about how you react to people not how they react to you. You can only control your own feelings and actions, not theirs.”

“It just took me half a lifetime to figure that one out.” Her stomach churned, yet she knew how much had to be said before she could get to the real reason she was here.

“How’s the family?” he asked.

“Good. Good. Even Seth seems to be coping. Everyone else has gone back to their regular lives, thanks to you.” She licked her dry lips.

Hunter shoved his hands into his pockets. “So you’re working with your father now?”

“Actually, I told him that wasn’t what I wanted. Which I have to admit, took me by surprise.” Unable to help it, Molly placed a hand over her nervous stomach.

“Me, too. I thought working with your dad would be the answer to a lifelong dream.” Confusion rang in his voice.

“Things change. I changed.” She inclined her head. “Actually, you changed me.”

He narrowed his gaze. “Oh, yeah? How’s that?”

Molly drew a deep breath. “By accepting me for me, to start with. Except I didn’t realize how much that meant until I lost myself. Which I have to admit is ironic, since I left you to find myself.” She shook her head. “Am I making any sense?” she asked, laughing.

“Surprisingly, yeah. You are. So go on.”

“You’re the trial lawyer. I’m not used to being so long-winded, but you do need to hear all this, so here goes. Once everyone in the house went back to their lives, I was alone and had to really look at where I stood. It was like, at the moment I had everything I’d been looking for my whole life, the most important piece was missing.”

“And that would be?” He leaned closer.

His aftershave surrounded her but didn’t throw her off track. “Me. I was missing me. Here I was at twenty-eight with the family I’d gone in search of, the acceptance I’d wanted, but no real job, no home to call my own, no sense of who I was because I’d buried my clothes and my individuality and most importantly…” Oh, this was the hard part, Molly thought.

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