stood near the poolside in her father’s lavish backyard,
keeping an eye on her four-year-old son as she chatted with another guest.
so stinking cute,” said Cassie as the two of them watched Logan walk up to his
grandfather and proudly presented the worm he had just found. Marcus Williams,
dressed in khaki slacks and boat shoes, crouched down to eye level with his
did you find there, Logan?” she heard him ask. Elle could just make out Logan’s
small voice above the sound of the crowd, but she couldn’t catch any of his words.
Whatever they were, they caused her father to break into a warm, hearty laugh,
and her chest ached knowing that Logan should be having these same moments
every day with his own father. But Jason had clearly made his choice.
pointed to a nearby planter, where Logan gently deposited his new friend before
making a beeline for the dessert table.
you excuse me?” Elle asked Cassie, who nodded with a chuckle.
so fast, buddy,” she said, blocking Logan’s path. “You need to go wash your
hands.” Logan frowned. “And then you need to eat some real food before you
attack the sweets.” This time he groaned.
took his tiny dirty hand in hers and together they walked towards the house.
They were a couple steps from the open French doors when a man she didn’t
recognize came striding through her father’s expansive home.
I help you?” she asked, standing between him and the backyard.
just here for the party,” he said and started to step around her, but she moved
in his way again.
sorry,” she said, “but this is a private function.”
know. It’s Marcus Williams’ annual barbecue. I work for him.”
jaw dropped. His dark hair was looked like it been styled with only gel and his
fingers, and the sleeves of his button-down shirt were partially rolled up,
revealing tattoos on his forearms. As she took it all in, she wondered exactly
what kind of work this man did for her father’s prestigious law firm. She met
his eyes, and the stranger gave a little smile, clearly pleased to have caught
her off guard.
see the worm I found?” Logan asked from her side.
found a worm?” said the stranger, turning his attention to Logan.
Elle regained her composure. “No, Sweetie, I don’t think he wants to see a
I do,” he said as he casually shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
I’m afraid he needs to wash his hands and eat something,” Elle said, feeling
the warmth in her cheeks.
man frowned. “Sorry, little man. Maybe later.”
watched him saunter out to the backyard before escorting Logan to the bathroom.
they came back out, the man was standing with her father, who called her over.
would like you to meet Raiden,” her father said. “Raiden, this is my daughter,
a pleasure to meet you, Elle,” Raiden said, extending a hand.
she accepted it, Elle’s eyes fell upon an intricate compass tattoo on his
well-defined forearm. She frowned, not really sure why his ink bothered her.
She’d never had anything against tattoos before. She lifted her gaze to find
Raiden’s piercing blue eyes staring right into hers.
smiled at him as he released her from his strong grip, unable to make her
see the worm now?” Logan asked, eliciting laughter from everyone but Elle.
if your mom says it’s okay,” Raiden said, raising an eyebrow at her. She
a disapproving eye on the pair, Elle leaned in closer to her father.
exactly does Raiden do for you?” she asked in a low voice.
Kane happens to be my newest junior associates,” he said.
associate? You mean that man is a lawyer?”
Marcus answered with a frown. “Is there something wrong with that?”
long has he worked for you?”
two years now. What’s with all the questions?”
curious about the man my son is talking to,” she said with a shrug.
really?” her father asked. “Because you wouldn’t be the first woman to take
notice of him. You should see some of the ladies at the office.”
be ridiculous, Dad.” She crossed her arms and ignored the small smile appearing
on his face. “I’m just concerned about who my son is hanging around, as you
should be.” She continued to watch Raiden, who was thoroughly engaged with her
son. “Why are we just meeting him now?” she asked. “Why hasn’t he come to any
of the other barbecues?”
father’s smile disappeared.
to do with his wife. Well, soon to be ex-wife. He’s presently in the midst of a
divorce.” He cocked his head. “I guess that means he’ll be a divorcee soon,
just like you.”
not a divorcee,” she snapped. Marcus gave a sigh that she ignored as she walked
over to where Raiden was crouched down next to Logan, listening to him talk
about his Lego sets.
you,” she said, and they both looked up at her. “You still need to eat
adorable,” Raiden said as he stood, and she caught a whiff of his woodsy,
masculine cologne. It was faint, but it was enough to stir something within her
that had been long forgotten.
thanks,” Elle said with a half-smile as she took a small step back. Why
couldn’t she function properly around this man? “Let’s go, sweetie, before you
starve to death.”
Logan said as he took her hand.
you around,” Raiden answered.
wondered if he was talking to her or her son.
grabbed some food from the buffet and found a table to sit at. As they ate,
Elle absentmindedly looked around the crowd and caught the eye of Raiden, now
flanked by two co-workers who were laughing at something he must have said. He
gave her a little smile and she looked back down at her plate, fully aware that
she was blushing.
hours later she said goodbye to her father and step-mother and poured a cranky
Logan into his booster seat. The whole drive from Woodinville to her home in
Seattle, she kept thinking about Raiden Kane and wondered why someone she
barely knew could rattle her like this.