Something more than friendship
Being a single dad was never on Michael Young's agenda. Yet with the sudden loss of his wife, that's exactly the role he has. On his best days, he thinks he can handle it. On his worst... Luckily, family friend Angie Bartlett has his back, easily stepping in to help out.
Lately, though, something has changed.
Michael is noticing exactly how gorgeous Angie is, and how single she is. She's constantly in his thoughts and he feels an attraction he never expected. Does he dare disrupt the very good thing they have going? If they have a fling that goes nowhere, he stands to lose everything-- including her. But if they make it work, he stands to gain everything!
The familiar heaviness settled over Angie as she parked in front of Billie's house. Every time she came here, she saw the same image in her mind's eye: the flashing blue and red ambulance lights reflecting off the white stucco facade, the shocked neighbors gathered on the sidewalk, Billie's too-still body being rushed to the ambulance, an EMT working frantically to keep her alive.
Angie reached for her purse and the bag containing the gifts she'd bought in New York and made her way up the drive, noting the mail crowding the letterbox. The lawn needed mowing, too.
A pile of shoes lay abandoned on the porch--two pairs of child-size rubber boots and a pair of adult sneakers. She hit the doorbell, checking her watch.
After what felt like a long time, she heard footsteps on the other side of the door. It swung open and Michael appeared, his features obscured by the screen.
"Angie." He sounded surprised, but she'd emailed him three days ago to tell him she'd be coming by to see him and the kids once she arrived home.
"Hey. Long time no see," she said easily.
He rubbed his face. "Sorry. I forgot you said you were coming over." He pushed the screen door open. "Come in."
His hair was longer than when she'd flown out six weeks ago, his jaw dark with stubble. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, both hanging on his frame.
"How are you?" she asked as she kissed his cheek.
"We're getting by." His gaze slid away from hers and he took a step backward, one hand gesturing for her to precede him up the hallway to the kitchen. "How was New York?"
"Good. Busy. Hot and hectic." She'd gone to train with an American jewelry designer and show her work at an arty little gallery in Greenwich Village. She'd also gone to get away, because she'd needed to do something to shock herself out of her grief.
She blinked as she entered the dim kitchen and living space. The blinds had been drawn on all the windows, the only light coming from the television and around the edges of the blinds.
It took her eyes a few seconds to adjust enough to see that Charlie was ensconced on the couch, his gaze fixed on the flickering TV screen as Kung Fu Panda took out the bad guys.
"Hey, little man," she said, crossing to his side and leaning down to drop a kiss onto his smooth, chubby cheek.
He glanced at her and smiled vaguely before returning his attention to the movie. She took in the stacks of books on the floor, the dirty plates on the coffee table, the clothes strewn over the couch.
"Eva should be home soon. She went to a friend's place after school," Michael said. "You want a coffee?"
She returned to the kitchen, her gaze sliding over the dishes piled in the sink and the boxes of cereal and other foodstuffs lined up on the island counter. Paperwork sat in a cluttered pile, and an overloaded laundry basket perched on one of the stools, leaning dangerously to one side. Everything looked dusty and ever-so-slightly grubby.
"Coffee would be good, thanks," she said slowly.
The house had been like this when she'd visited before she'd flown to New York, but for some reason it hadn't made the same impression as it did today. Then, she'd talked with Michael amidst all the dishes and laundry and not registered the darkness and the mess and his gauntness. It had all seemed normal, because in the months since Billie's death it had become the norm as she did her best to help Michael any way she could.
Today, she saw it all--the disorder, the dullness in Michael's eyes, the air of...