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Colt (Guthrie Brothers)
Author: Lori Foster

 

CHAPTER ONE


   EARLY AFTERNOON SUNSHINE streamed in through the open drapes of Heidi’s bedroom. After a long, lust-filled night with her, Colt Guthrie had slept the morning away. As he stretched out atop her rumpled sheets, his mind should have been blessedly blank, as replete as his body.

   Unfortunately, the house next door, visible through the window, seemed to taunt him—since that’s where Charish used to live.

   It annoyed him to wake with one beautiful woman, a woman who’d wrung him out, only to dwell on another.

   Back in high school and early college, he and Charish had found so many ways to spend time together, until six years ago when her parents moved to Georgia to be closer to her ailing paternal grandmother...and she’d gone with them.

   He didn’t want to think about that, though, so he looked away from the window and instead watched Heidi dress.

   Tall, slim, with black hair and bright blue eyes, Heidi should have held all his attention. When they were both naked, while he drove into her, pushing her toward a climax, she did. Now, with sunlight showing the house next door? Not so much.

   In bed, they were compatible. Out of bed, they were only friends. His laid-back attitude clashed with her always-on-the-go motivation. Didn’t matter. Brief sexual relationships were the only type he indulged these days.

   Heidi glanced over her shoulder at him. “Thanks for agreeing to come by last night.”

   Colt gave her a slow, sensual smile. “That was my pleasure.”

   With a dramatic sigh, she murmured, “It’s unfair for you to wake looking so scrumptious when you know I need to get to work.”

   “Actually, I need to get going, too. Diesel is going to wonder where I am.” His dog, Diesel, had camped out at his dad’s house overnight, something he did often as the mood struck him, but his father and stepmom had likely already left for the diner where they worked. After spending some time with the dog, Colt planned to grab lunch with them.

   Again, his gaze went to the window. The house looked different now with new paint and modernized landscaping from the last owner.

   Didn’t matter; he would always think of it as Charish’s home, regardless of who lived there.

   Since it had been empty for two months, he asked Heidi, “You sell it yet?”

   “I did.” Arms up, she twisted her inky-dark hair behind her head and secured it with a big clip. “Already closed on it. New neighbor could be here any day.”

   Colt sat up and stretched. “Good for you.” Not that he really cared if it sat empty or strangers moved in.

   Turning, Heidi let her gaze track over him, lingering on his chest, then down to his stomach...and lower. “You are a beautiful man.”

   Distracted by that outrageous compliment, Colt grinned. “Beautiful, huh?”

   “Very. It’s a shame we’re so ill suited.” Shrugging that off, she hooked the strap of her designer purse over her shoulder. “Lock up when you leave, okay?”

   “Sure thing.”

   Without another word, she pecked his cheek and hurried out, leaving the bedroom door open. As a Realtor always looking for the next big commission, Heidi was one of the most driven people he knew.

   Maybe because of his mellow mood, he envisioned Charish as he’d last seen her. Petite, cute in her cutoffs, and wearing a shy smile. As easygoing and relaxed as him. The way her dark eyes used to stare at him whenever he was near...

   Those had been good times. Healing times. After the turmoil his mother had created with her affairs, then her death, he and his dad had finally found peace here.

   Colt still loved the area, still called it home, but the serenity of those early years in Clearbrook were long gone.

   Hearing the chatter of squirrels, he went to the window to see them chasing each other before shooting up the biggest oak. August in Clearbrook meant kids playing in the street, birds singing in all the mature trees, neighbors mowing their lawns and sitting on their front porches to chat.

   It used to mean him and Charish walking hand in hand, swimming in the creek together, stealing moments to make love.

   Love. He hadn’t related sex to love since she’d left. From the ages of seventeen to nineteen, they’d been an item. When he’d been young and idealistic, he’d thought they’d be together always.

   Young love, Uncle Jason called it, saying it was a powerful thing.

   Colt could agree with that. Except that for him, he’d known it was the real deal. He’d loved her, and she’d left anyway.

   His dad thought he’d moved on. So did everyone else. That’s how he wanted it.

   But had he really?

   If looking at an empty house caused so much introspection, then likely, no, he hadn’t.

   Yes, he’d loved her, but he hadn’t asked to marry her. College, then a good job, and independence—those had all been uppermost on his mind. He’d figured he and Charish would work a long-distance relationship, and once he’d graduated, she’d move back to be with him.

   They’d stayed in touch for quite a while, but college and work kept him busy. Family responsibilities kept her busy, too. Eventually her interest had waned...until it faded away.

   Disgusted with himself, Colt put an abrupt halt to the trip down memory lane. After pulling on jeans, he cleaned his teeth, finger-combed his hair, but decided to wait until he got home to shower and shave.

   Finding coffee in the kitchen, he poured a cup...and heard a car door close. Going to the side door in the kitchen, curious about possibly spying the new neighbors, he peered out.

   A woman leaned through the open back door of a minivan.

   Nice ass, he thought, while sipping his coffee. Pretty legs, too. She straightened with a high stack of boxes in her arms that mostly hid her from view. A sloppy topknot listed to the side over one ear.

   So that she could see where she stepped, she kept her face averted and headed for the front door.

   Knowing she was overloaded, Colt set aside the coffee and went out the door. Barefoot, he jogged across the lawn. “Hold up.”

   The woman froze, then quickly twisted around—and dropped her load. He watched as one box spilled clothes, another shoes. A few books and magazines. Towels...

   “Colt?”

   His gaze shot up, and everything in him went still, even his heartbeat. “Charish?”

   It took her a second to find her voice. “Hello.”

   More slowly now, he approached, visually devouring her. From her simple flip-flops to those legs he knew so well, the short shorts and the fitted T-shirt...even the tremulous smile—she was different, and yet she was the same.

   Her hair seemed a little lighter, maybe something from a salon? She’d put on weight, too, enough to take her from a kid to a woman.

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