“It’s nothing,” Rose said softly. “Besides, it was a long time ago.”

“A year and a half isn’t that long,” Skye reminded her.

No, no it wasn’t. “Water under the bridge, honey. Now go spend time with your man.” It was easy to forgive Skye or anyone else she loved. Maybe if she actually took the time to talk to her, then they would have more insight into each others’ lives.

“Call me,” Skye said as she left.

“I will,” Rose said and she meant it. She scooped up a very sleep Ivy and headed to her office.

She laid the baby down for her afternoon nap, and gently shut the door. As she started to turn, something caught her by the arm and spun her around. Her heart bungy-jumped to her toes, hitting her throat on the bounce back up.

“Sasha,” she gasped, her heart pounding. With adrenaline or happiness, she wasn’t sure.

Before she could stop him, he pulled her flush against his body. His palm slowly slid up her spine and cupped the back of her head. Mesmerized by the fierce longing in his eyes, she allowed him to rub his thumb across her bottom lip.

“I’ve missed you, Rosebud.” Sasha covered her mouth with his.

Chapter Fourteen

Sasha was kissing her. Right here, right now in her store. After being gone forever and a day. After making her cry, and—

“Kiss me back,” he murmured and sealed his mouth over hers again, his tongue slipping past the defenses of her lips and seemingly daring her to bite him as it coasted over her teeth.

She gripped his arms, the lean muscles gathering and bunching under hands. For a moment she melted against him, rubbed her body along the hard planes of his and reveled in the low sounds he made in his throat. How their lips moved in perfect synchronization, like old lovers.

Digging her fingers into his arms, she tore her mouth away and shoved. Hard.

He stumbled back. “Rose.”

She took in great gulps of air, her br**sts rising and falling. And, damn him, he wasn’t even following the movements. He was too busy staring at her face.

Sasha started for her again.

The bells on the door rang and he froze.

Skye walked in with Ivy’s diaper bag and a huge smirk on her face. “I’m really sorry to have interrupted your reunion, but I left this in Tristan’s truck.” Turning to Sasha she asked, “Is everything okay with your family?”

His brows drew together. “My family?”

Skye’s smile contracted. “Rose said you had a family emergency.”

He looked at Rose and she lifted her chin, daring him to call her a liar. Finally, he settled his gaze back on Skye. “Sorry, still recovering from jet lag. My mother’s stable. Thank you for asking.” He almost looked like he was telling the truth.

“What’s wrong with her?” Rose asked before she could stop herself.

He stared over her shoulder. “She’s been in a coma for the past seven years. And she’s not getting any better. Or any worse for that matter.”

“What about your dad?” Skye asked.

Sasha glanced at Rose, found her watching him and quickly turned, but not before she’d seen the emotion on his face. She wanted to comfort him, wanted to take away the pain she’d witnessed in his eyes, but she couldn’t. Not now. Maybe not ever.

“He was killed in a car crash when I was eighteen.”

A heavy silence filled the room.

Skye’s expression turned thoughtful. “Have you ever considered—”

Oh God, not this. The last thing Sasha would want to hear about is Skye’s theories on holistic medicine. “Not now, Skye,” Rose said, holding up her hand.

“Fine,” Skye huffed. “I need to go anyway. Class at four, then work at seven.”

Rose waited until everyone had said their good-byes and Skye was halfway down the street before she turned to the man she had wanted to kick out of her store. Her house. Her life.

She reached for her necklace, but settled for the space over her heart. “Why are you here if your mother is sick?”

“There’s nothing I can do for her.”

“Is somebody else in your family taking care of her?”

“She’s in a long-term care facility.”

“Still, she needs family.”

“Her needs are being met,” Sasha ground out.

“It’s not the same,” she insisted.

Their eyes met, hers beautifully blue and full of questions, but he refused to elaborate. Rose would never understand. Hell, the less she understood the better off she was. “I brought cheesecake,” Sasha said, gesturing at the bag on the counter and smiling brilliantly. Running a hand through his hair, the small lump on his head painfully throbbed when he touched it.

Rose’s dark brows raised fractionally. “Is that supposed to be your apology?”

“Yes.” But he was quite sure that it would take more than dessert to make it up to her. “I’d like for you to be my date for the fundraiser to make up for missing our date this weekend.”

Pale cheeks turned pink before his eyes. “Um.” She licked her lips.

This was not the reaction he’d been expecting from her. He would’ve thought she’d yell at him or kick him out of the house by now. Jason Everett had been right about one thing: Rose was an exception to every rule.

“I can’t.”

“You can,” he said, leaning his hip against the counter. “I’ll kick out the first ass**le that so much as looks at you wonky-eyed.”

“It’s not that,” she said after long moments of hesitation.

Relief filled him. For a dark moment, he thought she had a date. “Fantastic. I’m going as a stunningly handsome—and let’s be perfectly honest—fashionable man in black. You?”

“A date.”

He wobbled his head from side to side, pushing out his lips a little and scratching his chin. “I reckon I can change my costume. Perhaps go as a bowl and carry you around all night, shall I?” He’d rather hoped she would have picked something sexier. There had to be a law somewhere that said women had to dress in the most erotic way possible on the thirty-first of October.

She shook her head, her pretty curls dancing around her head. “No, I’m not going as a date. I have a date.”

His mouth dropped. He couldn’t help it. Severe jealousy stabbed him in the heart along with the panic of losing her. No, not her, the opportunity to find the right damn spring. If she was distracted by another man, then she couldn’t spend time with him and he couldn’t earn back her trust. “With whom?”

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