Home > Trouble(7)

Author: Tia Louise

Courtney and I met in massage therapy school, and we’ve been there for each other through the pain of getting established in a new town. I’ve kept her son Oliver when Ozzy, her ex, started harassing her…

“If he would throw what you had away for a bimbo secretary, he deserves whatever he gets.”

I wipe a fresh tear away. “We hadn’t had sex in three months. I knew he was sleeping with someone else. I just couldn’t let everyone be right.” Shaking my head, I look down at my lap. “I’m the idiot.”

“You loved him. I remember how giddy you were the day he asked you to move in with him.” She gives my hand a squeeze. “You’re not an idiot for loving someone. He’s a loser for not valuing what you had.”

“It was too fast. I’m so impulsive. I moved in with him after only three weeks. Who does that?” Falling back on the couch, I curl my legs under me. “That’s it. No men for a year.”

She starts to laugh. “You’ll find somebody new tomorrow.”

“Nope. This chick is off the market.”

Courtney gives me a wink. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

I sit up and hug my friend. “Men are rats. They’re fleas on rats.”

“He’s probably a Clemson fan.” That makes me laugh, and I squeeze my eyes shut. “Two of my best friends went to Clemson.”

“Oh, well. He’s a USC fan, then.”

We laugh more, and fresh tears fill my eyes until we spot a little visitor standing in the hallway watching us.

His mother gives him a gentle frown. “Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”

Courtney holds out her hands and seven-year-old Oliver closes the space between us, crawling into her lap.

I pass him the pint of ice cream and grab a tissue, quickly blotting my eyes and pasting on a smile. “Hey, buddy. Are we being too loud?”

He takes a big bite of vanilla with chunky cherries. “Why are you crying?”

Taking a deep breath, I try to conjure a reason he can understand. “I thought I was getting a present, but I got a kick in the pants instead.”

He scoops more ice cream, eyes wide. “Mom says kicking is bad.”

“Your mom’s right. I should’ve known better.”

“Somebody kicked you?”

“No…” My eyes meet Court’s, and she rolls hers. “It’s a figure of speech. Like an unpleasant surprise. I found out somebody wasn’t who I thought he was. Or he was who I thought he was, and I didn’t want to admit it.”

Oliver’s little brow furrows, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only succeeded in confusing the shit out of him.

Court jumps in and saves me. “Aunt Sly is going to stay with us a few days. Isn’t that fun?”

His confusion disappears, and he hops onto his feet between us. “Can she sleep in my room?”

“You’ve got the twin beds, so I guess I will.”

He bounces again, throwing up both hands. “We can build a fort and tell ghost stories and I’ll let you hold Chartreuse and—”

“Tonight, you need to go to sleep.” Court stands, putting him on the floor, and I stand, too. “Aunt Sly will be along later. You’ve got school tomorrow.”

And I’ve got to find a place to live. “I wonder if I could afford a place in The Vista?”

She shrugs. “It’s pretty expensive.”

“Yeah, and I’m down to three clients now.” Shame squeezes my chest. I hate when Daisy is right. “I’ll probably have to move back to Fireside. Live with Ma.”

“You’re staying right here until you’re back on your feet. You can’t build a client list from three hours away.”

“Two and a half hours.” She narrows her eyes, and I concede. “You’re right. If I want to work here, I have to live here. Just promise me one thing.”


“When you’ve had enough, you’ll kick me out.”

She laughs, giving me another hug. “Shut up. I’m not kicking you out. Free babysitting!”

That makes me smile. “You know it. What else will I be doing all year?”


* * *


I never got a photo of your gorgeous new ring. Daisy’s text glows in the darkness, and I roll onto my side so it doesn’t wake Ollie.

I moved out of Elliot’s place. You were right. My phone starts to ring, but I silence it quickly. Can’t talk. Sharing a room with Oliver.

Want a job? I’m meeting Miles and Spence tomorrow about a gala. I need a florist.

Chewing my lip, I think about it. I quit doing flowers so long ago. I don’t have any contacts here.

They want to do it in Oceanside. You know everybody there.

I do need the money…

Real anticipation tickles my stomach at the prospect of seeing Spencer again. I actually turned him down because of Elliot—and after that kiss.

Heat replaces anticipation as I remember his smoky eyes, the scruff on his square jaw… His angry square jaw that moves when his teeth clench.


No men.

Two tomorrow. I’ll pick you up. Text me the address.

Chewing my lip, I hesitate. I should say no. I should tell her it’s not a good idea… Only, it’s a job, and God knows, I’m broke. Tamping down my libido, I send her Courtney’s address.

I’m a mature, professional woman. I never get involved with clients.

Besides, I’ll be working with my cousin. It’s perfectly safe.



Chapter 4





“Eleven-ten.” Miles gloats, and I shake my head, rubbing the towel through my damp hair.

“I tweaked my back.”

We’re in the luxury locker room of the Palmetto Lake Club downtown, where I’ve been kicking his ass at our weekly game of racquetball—until today.

“I beat you fair and square. Admit it.” He closes the pine door of his locker, securing it with a thumbprint.

“I have no problem admitting if you beat me fair and square.” I pull my suit coat over one shoulder and toss my tie around my neck while doing the same. “I tweaked my back when I hit the wall in our second match.”

“Tweaked your back,” he scoffs, tossing his racket under his arm. “Don’t be a poor loser, Freeze.”

Exhaling a laugh, I drop the thick white towel in the bin and grab my racket. Winning is so commonplace to me, I let it go—even though my right side is hurting like a mother. “Congrats on your win.”

His elfin face pinches. “You’re patronizing me.”

“Good God, Miles.” I stretch to the side as I flip my tie around, fastening a small Windsor knot. “Don’t be a poor winner.”

“Fuck, look at the time.” He slaps his Rolex. “We’ve got to meet Daisy in twenty minutes.”

I give myself one last check in the mirror. I don’t tell Miles I couldn’t give a shit about winning or losing today. Daisy texted me she’s bringing her cousin to the meeting this afternoon, and that old itch is driving me mad.

I pop an ibuprofen and follow him out of the ancient, red-brick edifice to where a black Lincoln waits to return us to the office.

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