Smith Ramsey knows all about hard knocks. So when his newest client gets dumped by her boyfriend, he gets her an apartment in his complex. He tries to steer clear of her, having enough troubles of his own. He’s got estranged brothers to deal with on top of learning his mother wasn’t his mother. But he can’t forget pretty Erin Briggs. And soon he’s addicted to more than her cookies…
Erin thought she’d been in love, but now independent and looking at life through clear eyes, she realizes what she felt for her ex in no way compares to what she’s feeling for the tough ex-Marine who picked her up when she was down.
Actions speak louder than words. Smith’s kindness and gentle core lay buried under old hurts. But can he forgive and forget the past to make a future with Erin? And is she making a mistake by trusting in love for the wrong man all over again?
- Publisher: Sourcebooks
- Length: Novel
“We’re having a dinner thing and you said you’d come. Don’t be late.” The snarled order came loud and clear through Smith Ramsey’s cell phone.
Sitting in a moving van parked in front of the client’s home, Smith pulled the phone away from his ear and stared it for a moment, wondering if he’d heard right, before responding. “First of all, I said maybe I’d come.” If he didn’t have anything better to do. Like stare at the walls until his eyes bled.
“We have shit to talk about. You know it, we know it. Don’t be a pussy.” Cash Griffith was Smith’s older, meaner look-alike. They’d learned they shared the same DNA.
And a bigger asshole Smith had yet to meet.
“Seriously? That’s your invitation?”
Cash swore again. “Fuck it all. Look, just get your sorry ass to dinner so we can try to get along.” He gave a long, drawn out sigh. “And I’ll do my best not to bash your brains in when you piss me off.”
“Do you even hear yourself talking? I know I’m not the smoothest when it comes to dealing with people—”
“You got that right.”
“But even I know the difference between asking and telling, dickwad.” Smith could all too easily envision steam coming from Cash’s ears and smiled, feeling better about life.
“You have to come because I’m apparently annoying when I’m upset. Or so everyone keeps telling me,” Cash muttered.
“You’re always annoying.”
To his surprise, Cash chuckled. “That’s what Reid said.”
Reid, their other brother. The one Cash had grown up with, the one who’d hired Smith in the first place.
“Oh, and Evan might be there with his girlfriend. Like I said. It’s a family thing.”
Smith suddenly found himself hip deep in relatives who wanted to get to know him. After a lifetime of not mattering to a mother who hated him and a tough time making friends, he didn’t know how to handle this new togetherness. The Marine Corps had been his attempt at forging connections. But now, living in the civilian world, he had to deal with all the extraneous emotional crap that came from having a “family.”
Frankly, it gave him a massive headache.
“Look, Smith.” Cash sighed. “If you don’t come, everyone will blame me. And I don’t want to hear it. Seven tomorrow night. Don’t be late.” Cash disconnected before Smith could answer.
Huh. Now Smith apparently had dinner plans. If he didn’t go, he’d end up getting badgered about it; he just knew it.
Smith liked being alone. He was good at it, and he enjoyed the fact that his stupid bosses—his brothers—hadn’t assigned him a partner for the day’s job. With any luck he’d lose himself in work and forget worrying over a dinner that didn’t mean anything anyway.
Focus on the now, moron. This you can handle.
Today he’d used one of Vets on the Go!’s shorter moving vans to pick up the client’s possessions from a storage facility. Mostly boxes with a few pieces of medium-sized furniture, enough to not quite fill a small apartment. Nothing he couldn’t handle by himself. He had just arrived at the assigned address when Cash had called.
Smith sat in front of an older home in Capitol Hill, a decent enough area in Seattle, and waited for the client to meet him. He checked his paperwork and in Finley’s barely legible handwriting managed to read Aaron Briggs, 12:00.
He tapped the steering wheel to the beat of heavy drums, content to let Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk fill the confines of the moving van, the windows up to keep out the chilly, early October temps. A study of the single-level home showed him he had nothing but two small, wide steps leading up onto the porch to hurdle. Not bad. A glance at his dash showed the time had nearly reached noon, so he figured to head to the door and get this move on.
Before he could reach for the handle, the rumble of a car signaled its approach, and an ancient Jeep rolled to a stop in the home’s miniscule driveway. A woman exited the car. On the small side, with long, dark hair that blew in the wind, she looked girl-next-door cute. She glanced his way, smiled, and waved. He automatically waved back, entranced by her happiness he could almost feel.
Those eyes packed a punch, noticeably gold in contrast to her brown-black hair. Hmm. His estimation went from cute to pretty, though he could only speculate on her figure under that long red coat. And totally not his business anyway, he told himself, though he gave Briggs props for having a hot friend.
Smith left the truck with his clipboard, and the brunette darted over to him.
“Hi. I’m so glad you’re here.” She took his hand in hers and pumped it like drawing water from a well.
“Ah, o-kay.” He cleared his throat when she refused to let go of his hand.
She laughed. “Sorry. I’m just so excited to—oh wait.” She hurried back to her car and let herself in to get something.
The front door to the house opened, and a blond guy who looked to be in his early thirties walked toward Smith wearing a frown. “Can I help you?” The guy had his jacket on and a carryall slung over one shoulder, as if he planned to go out. “I’m kind of in a rush.” The frown darkened.
This was going to be one of those moves—the pain-in-the-ass kind. Smith could feel it. He bit back a sigh. “Aaron Briggs? I’m Smith Ramsey with Vets on the Go! I have your stuff.”
The guy blinked. “What?”
The woman returned with a large duffel over her shoulder. “I’m Erin. You have my stuff,” she told Smith.
He mentally berated Finley for writing down wrong information. Smith hated to be ill-informed. “Oh, right. So E-R-I-N Briggs?” At her nod, he struck the wrong name from the invoice and corrected it.
“Erin?” The man asked in a reedy voice. “What are you doing here?”
She dropped the duffel, squealed, and threw herself in his arms. “Cody, I’m finally here!”
Over her shoulder, the stupefied expression on Cody’s face turned to one of horror.
Smith took a step back, anticipating the hot mess to come.
Cody pushed Erin away. “But…why?”
The joy on her face faded, and Smith felt a pang to see such pleasure snuffed. Not my problem… He glanced back at the moving van then at her and the immovable Cody. Not my problem yet.