Bringing Home the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon



Evan pushed out of his casual lean, uncrossed his inked arms, and stomped up the three steps separating her from him. “Missed you, Ace.”

Him being close made her feel better instantly. “Missed you, too.”

He slid the door aside and motioned for her to go in, but when he ran a hand through his shaggy, mussed bedhead, she felt her heart kick against her chest in the slightest show of appreciation.

And for that, she should be ashamed.

Sorry, Rae.





CHAPTER TWO




One week later, Evan’s new house was beginning to feel like home. No, better than home. Like the place he was supposed to be but never knew it.

Floor-to-ceiling windows offered an amazing view of the hill of evergreens on the opposite side of the lake, and the lake herself.

This house was nothing like the old one. That’d been the whole point in coming here. Its best feature being his art supplies were no longer stashed in a cramped back room barely holding his drawing desk and easel. The front room, formerly dance studio, also had floor-to-ceiling windows and was twenty times the size of his art corner on East Level Road. It held not only his desk, but three large easels, a stack of canvases—some full, some empty leaning against the wall—and a tall black shelf packed with supplies.

The space may have been designed for a dancer but transformed perfectly for a former tattooist with a budding illustration career. The “former” part was in name only. He hadn’t been able to resist setting up his chair, table, and inks in the corner. He couldn’t completely trade out one passion for the other. Wasn’t the way he was built.

The AC kicked on as he rounded the wall—the only privacy for his open loft bedroom—and took the stairs, laundry basket in hand. Lyon was on the floor in the living room, settled on a rug in front of a twenty-foot stone fireplace likely responsible for keeping this room cooler than the others.

“Laundry, buddy.”

Lyon sighed over the iPad where he played some battling clan game a magazine article recently claimed was “as addictive as meth.” Evan had laughed the claim off at first. Now he was beginning to see the signs.

“In a minute,” Lyon responded in a zombie drone.

He stood over his son and toed his ribs with one shoe. “Bud.”

Lyon frowned up at him, miraculously tearing his eyes away from the game for two seconds to argue, “I’ll lose this battle if I stop now!”

God. The look on his face. Evan’s heart clutched. Pulled brows, set mouth. He looked like Rae whenever he did that. Which was probably why he let the kid get away with murder.

“After this battle. But right after. Do not play another or no more iPad today.”

As a single parent, he’d dealt a lot with the issue of being too soft or too hard. Sometimes it was best for both of them if he rode the middle.

Lyon ignored him, the yells and hollers coming from the game an annoying cacophony.

Evan pushed his foot into Lyon’s side and rolled him over, wiggling his shoe into his son’s belly. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, Dad,” Lyon confirmed, smile intact, eyes returning to the screen.

Bleary-eyed from a sleepless, and artless, night, Evan headed to the washer and dryer on the opposite side of the house and loaded in towels, sorting the whites from the colors and pulling the washer button on. Unlike everyone assumed, he didn’t have to learn how to do laundry after Rae died. He’d always done the laundry.

He grunted a dry chuckle as he recalled why: early on, she had dyed every last one of his whites pink. Rae Lynn Downey. Epic in the kitchen, disaster in the laundry room.

The memory of her face, smiling wide as she’d pressed his newly stained T-shirt to his chest, slammed into him, making his next breath impossible to draw.

Last night, a dream, more memory than dream, shook him awake. Rae’s smiling face losing its light, his inability to bring her back. In a habit he wished he could shed, he’d reached for her side of the bed. Empty as expected, but worse because it wasn’t “her” side at all. When he moved, he’d replaced their bed.

He told himself a second chance meant starting over, and bringing history into the new house wasn’t good juju. So, he’d dragged the old pillow-top, queen-size bed he and Rae had conceived their son on out to the curb and ordered a new mattress to be delivered the day after he arrived. And he’d been fine with that.

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