Bringing Home the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon



Until last night.

In the barren emptiness of three a.m., the massive king bed with a black iron headboard and plain white bedding, the bed he’d told himself would be a “blank canvas” for his life in Evergreen Cove, felt… wrong.

Sheets soaked through with sweat, his hands shaking, and Rae’s blank, open eyes flashing in the forefront of his brain, a sick realization washed over him. No longer was she merely missing from his bed. He’d erased her entirely.

Unable to sleep, he’d traipsed down to his studio, knowing what came out of his paintbrush would be the opposite of productive, but at least would get him through to morning.

Demons exorcised, the images he’d created were like the others he painted in the wee hours. Dark, broody, and having no place in a children’s book.

Evan dropped the lid of the washer as Lyon marched into the laundry room, dropped off his clothes, and started out again.

“Bud. Sort.”

“Daaaad.”

His response was to point at the hamper.

Lyon’s shoulders slumped until he resembled a melting Wicked Witch of the West, but at Evan’s silent stare, he finally obeyed and began to sort.

The attitude was something he could live without, but at least the kid was doing his chore.

Good enough.

In the land of single parenthood, it was the national anthem.

“Oatmeal or eggs?”

“Eggs,” Lyon answered, exasperated.

“You got it.” Evan tracked to the kitchen to fix his boy eggs, and reminded himself he was raising an independent man who would eventually care for himself. Since their small family had decreased by one member, it’d been Lyon and Evan as a unit. A team.

Team Downey.

That was how this was gonna work… the only way this was gonna work. Especially as they settled in to a new town, Lyon went to a new school, and Evan adjusted to his new career.

A second chance. A fresh start.

As he put the pan on the burner, Rae’s beautiful face flashed in his memory again. In the light of day it was easier to convince himself a blank canvas wasn’t a bad thing.





CHAPTER THREE




Shit.”

Propping a hand on his thigh, Evan slouched on the wheeled wooden chair in his studio and stared down the fat, blank pad of newsprint. Like the tan, soft paper in front of him might have an answer for what to try next.

Whenever he ran up against the equivalent of writer’s block for painters—artist’s block, if that was a thing—he refused to let it stop him. He drew through it. As a result, the floor was littered with sketches of farm animals. Fifteen, no—wait—sixteen if he counted the one he’d wadded up and tossed to the other side of the room.

He scratched the scruff on his jaw. Defeated by a cartoon pig. He blew out a frustrated breath.

When grief took him in the wee hours, he had no problem unleashing his creative instincts on canvas. But when it came to work—keeping food on the table, a roof over their heads—bam! Roadblock.

Last summer, his agent, Gloria Shields, persuaded him to attend an immersion class with her other illustrator clients in Chicago. He had, leaving Lyon in the care of his oldest brother, Landon. Evan took the break and used it to focus on his art. Surprise, surprise, he’d tuned into a muse that didn’t solely lurk around in the dead of night.

He came back home and life started up again, with its monotonous schedule and repetitive requirements like trash day, dental appointments, and grocery shopping, and that fresh-faced muse grew bitchy, donned fangs, and became nocturnal once again.

If she showed up at all.

Then he got a visit from another muse entirely—a real one, by the name of Asher Knight.

Every year when he was a kid, his family vacationed in the same area of Evergreen Cove. A group of cabins lined the public beach, and though his parents hadn’t succeeded in getting the same cabin every year, they did manage to go the same week.

They weren’t the only ones.

The youngest in his family at age fourteen, Evan had been the rebel without a clue. Wasn’t any wonder he’d sought out trouble when he came here on vacation. His brother, Aiden, had been all about the girls; their sister, Angel, busy keeping her girlfriends away from Aiden; and Landon—well, hell, he was out of high school by then and didn’t associate with the “kids.”

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