Return of the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon



“Gloria.”

Over and over, he said her name until his voice was hoarse and scratchy. Until he dropped his forehead onto hers. He pulled out and fell to his side, his breaths shallow and labored.

“God. That was incredible.” He wrapped a tattooed arm around her waist and tugged her close. She went, even as tears pricked the backs of her eyes—blue eyes he’d said he wanted to write a ballad about. Eyes she’d given him as requested while he’d literally rocked her world.

Eye contact during sex was a line they’d never crossed before, and now that they had, it was like a little piece of her had torn wide open. Her heart, if she had to guess. And Asher had taken advantage, reaching inside and extracting part of her.

Shit.





Chapter 1





Present day

The envelope in Gloria’s hand was damp. Her palms were sweating, which was not attractive, but what was she supposed to do? July heat combined with walking toward Asher Knight’s new Evergreen Cove vacation home had given her nothing but jittery nerves.

And not for any reason one might think. Yes, seeing him was hard and talking to him difficult after they’d “done the deed” last Christmas. Not helping matters, she’d since learned the reason why he’d settled on a second home here in the Cove.

He wanted to be closer to his son.

He’d purchased his house back in May, and then had deliveries made: equipment for the recording studio he was setting up. Furniture trucks from Cozy Home. His vacation home was beginning to look a little permanent, and Gloria wasn’t sure how she felt about that. On the one hand, she got it…Asher wanted to be close to his son, and his son lived in the Cove. Which she couldn’t think about without admiring the hell out of him.

He also wanted to be closer to his buddies, and one by one, Evan, Donovan, and Connor had settled here for the long haul. Hell, even Gloria had relocated from Chicago at the beginning of the year. The Cove had a way of doing that. Vacuuming you in and not letting go. It had the wealthy air of a vacation hot spot, and the laid-back small-town vibe without feeling like Mayberry. In a word, it was perfect.

Was being the key word. Before her client-slash-ex-slash-best-lay-of-her-lifetime moved in down the road, into the very house she’d dreamed of owning herself.

Before she’d moved here, she had her eye on this place. Her eye, her good credit, and every penny she could scrape together for an offer barely over listing price. She’d dreamed of moving into the luxury lakeside house, setting up her office in the back, facing said lake and the sea of pines, and living and working in the comfort of this gorgeous retreat.

Then the owner accepted a higher offer. A higher offer from Asher Knight.

Of course, Asher hadn’t known that Glo had been waiting for an acceptance on the very same house, and of course he called, ecstatic about finding the “perfect” lake house. She casually asked him how much he offered and determined that coming up with enough to trump his offer would require her selling an organ. Or two. She didn’t tell him he’d outbid her. Why? Easy. He’d have rescinded his offer. She did not need Asher Knight’s pity house.

Since he’d moved in three weeks ago, she’d been avoiding coming over. Him she could deal with, even if she was uncomfortable. But here? Where she’d crafted a number of future dream scenarios in her head? That was going to be harder to get over…

“Come on, Shields,” she grumbled to herself. It wasn’t like her to become this attached…to anything. This pile of lumber was not hers, and that was something she’d have to get used to.

Asher’s home away from LA sat on the edge of the lake, not a new build, but an older cabin that had been recently remodeled. The entire back wall was windows, so no matter what room you were in—dining room, living room, and kitchen—you could see out to the patio, to the dock, and the lake beyond.

At the front door, she took a steeling breath and knocked three times. She straightened her shoulders and tossed her hair, down in spite of the heat. Hey, a good hair day was a good hair day. When her long, black locks deigned to lie straight and smooth, she wasn’t about to waste a ponytail holder.

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