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Authors: Kristi Gold

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BOOK: His Best Mistake
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CHAPTER ONE

O’Brien’s Sports Scene
June Edition

O
VER THE
past several months, I’ve learned one important lesson—facing death will definitely change your life

He immediately highlighted the text and punched the delete button with a vengeance. He had no business personalizing a syndicated column targeting a readership focused on fantasy teams, play-off berths and trade deadlines. But the fact that he’d even considered revealing his life-and-death battle to the general public indicated exactly how much his life had changed. How much
he
had changed.

During his battle with the disease that had nearly killed him, Kevin had become much more introspective, more settled. Hell, he’d even bought a house in a Houston suburb. A year ago, he never would’ve envisioned exchanging cross-country jet-setting for a home office. If he hadn’t gotten sick, he wouldn’t have spent so much time contemplating his mistakes, either, and
he’d made plenty. One particular mistake continued to haunt him daily, but he couldn’t dwell on that decision now. Not if he wanted to make his Monday-morning deadline.

When the doorbell chimed, Kevin leaned back in his chair and released a rough sigh. Most likely his mother had dropped by unannounced to question why he hadn’t attended the traditional O’Brien Sunday lunch, when in reality she’d come to make sure he hadn’t suffered a relapse. As much as he appreciated her concern, he’d become increasingly annoyed by her obsession over his well-being. Then again, Lucine O’Brien had that obsession down to a fine art where he was concerned.

The bell sounded again and for a moment Kevin contemplated ignoring the summons. Not a good idea. His car was parked in the drive, which could cause his mom to panic and place an unnecessary call to the paramedics. Leaning to his right, he pulled back the curtain to the window facing the front lawn. But instead of finding his mother’s minivan parked at the curb, he caught sight of another car. A very familiar car.

No way could it be her. First of all, she didn’t know where he lived. Secondly, she hated him, which is what she’d said verbatim the last time he’d spoken to her by phone all those months ago. Then again, he didn’t know another solitary soul who owned a cherry-red Volkswagen convertible.

Curiosity sent Kevin to the front entry to seek verification that his past had in fact landed on his doorstep.
Verification that came when he peered through the sidelight window and laid eyes on the woman standing at the edge of the walkway, motionless, as if her feet were frozen to the cement.

He’d recognize that body from a football field away, even though it was encased in a loose, flowing, sleeveless aqua dress instead of her standard scrubs. He couldn’t mistake those exotic, almond-shaped hazel eyes that almost matched the tone of her skin. He’d witnessed those eyes grow heavy and hazy when he’d made love to her—and darker when he’d riled her temper. He also couldn’t forget that silky, brown, chin-length hair streaked with blond, either. He recalled in great detail how it had felt against his bare skin.

From the moment he’d met her, Dr. Leah Cordero had become one of his major weaknesses. Not only was she beautiful and smart, she had been the best lover he’d ever known. Sexy as hell. Wild and uninhibited. Incredible. The kind of woman who brought a man to immediate attention. Every part of him.

And he’d better make damn sure he was decent before he faced her again, which is why he waited a few moments before opening the door. He also needed time to assess why she might have sought him out. Maybe she’d decided to give him another piece of her mind, this time in person. Maybe she’d somehow learned he’d been sick, the lie he’d lived with—and almost died with—for twelve long months. And just maybe, if luck prevailed, she wanted a second chance. And believing that would make him the ultimate fool.

 

L
EAH HAD
only one reason to confront Kevin O’Brien, even though she’d been tempted to hold off the revelation until another day. Yet she’d recently decided that taking the high road seemed the prudent thing to do. Unfortunately, it didn’t look as though she’d get the chance to speak her mind today because either he wasn’t at home or he was avoiding her. That meant she would have to return later, if she didn’t lose her nerve.

Leah started back to her car but paused in the middle of the walkway to turn and take one last look at the massive abode Kevin had purchased in her absence. An amazing house, to say the least. And the fact he’d settled in a family-friendly neighborhood was also remarkable. That caused her to question whether he lived with someone, namely, a woman.

Frankly, what Kevin O’Brien did or didn’t do wasn’t any of her concern. He could live with ten women, for all she cared. He didn’t matter to her anymore…at least that’s what she thought until he walked out the front door and came toward her.

As hard as she tried to ignore the impact Kevin still had on her, Leah couldn’t. Couldn’t ignore his steady, self-assured gait, his aura of strength—it had captured her attention the night they’d met in a premier Houston nightclub on one of the very rare occasions when she’d been out on the town. She surely couldn’t ignore the longer length of his hair or the shading of whiskers on his normally clean-shaven face, although those unexpected aspects didn’t detract from his incredible looks. But she had to remember her mission. Remember that
what had once existed between them had ended in the span of a three-minute phone conversation almost a year ago.

Kevin paused a few feet before her and hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. “Hey,” he said in a voice that sounded almost remorseful.

Leah mustered all the fortitude she possessed, using recollections of their last verbal exchange to bolster her courage. “Hello, Kevin.”

He sized her up with one lengthy, slow visual excursion. “You look great.”

So did he. Nothing better than a sexy man dressed in white T-shirt and faded jeans. But she didn’t plan to pay him any compliments, even if she did intend to be coolly polite. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

“I’m all yours.”

At one time, Leah had honestly believed that. But not now. Not ever.

When she noticed a few people milling around the front lawn next door, she decided the last thing she needed was an audience when she lowered the boom. “Can we go somewhere more private?”

“We can go inside,” he said. “I’ll give you the grand tour.”

“I wouldn’t want to bother anyone else who might be inside.”

Kevin frowned. “I’m the only one here.”

“You don’t have a roommate?”

“Nope. It’s just me.”

At least that answered her question. Still, she didn’t
dare spend a moment alone in a house with Kevin O’Brien. Particularly in a house with a bed. Or a sofa or a floor, for that matter. “I’d prefer the front porch.”

“It’s a lot cooler in the house, Leah.” He studied her through narrowed eyes. “Or are you afraid I’m going to make a move on you if we’re alone together?”

Yes, and equally afraid she might forget that he’d trampled her emotions and make an inadvisable move on him. “That wouldn’t be a first, Kevin.”

“You know me well enough to know that I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do, Leah.”

Aside from breaking her heart. “I still think remaining outside would be better.”

His expression showed a hint of impatience. “Could we at least go into the backyard and sit in a chair under some shade?”

That sounded like a solid plan to Leah. Kevin might need a chair once she was done. “Okay.”

He gestured toward the drive to his left. “Right this way.”

“Just a minute.” Leah returned to the car, opened the door and grabbed a bag from the backseat. A bag that contained two items representing her reasons for the spontaneous visit.

After slipping the strap over her shoulder, she walked with Kevin down the lengthy drive, keeping a reasonable berth between them. Even a brush of arms would bring about old memories she didn’t care to relive, although at times she had relived them in her mind. Each wonderful, exciting and heartbreaking
moment. She’d foolishly been bowled over by his easy charm, intrigued by his complex personality. Completely drawn in by his expertise as a lover. She’d learned quite a bit about him in their eight months together. Clearly she hadn’t learned the most important detail before she’d fallen totally in love with him—he wasn’t in the market for a permanent commitment.

Once they rounded the corner of the house, Kevin opened a black iron gate that provided the entry through a white brick wall surrounding the backyard. When he motioned her forward, Leah stepped into what she would deem a perfect oasis, right down to the rock waterfall feeding into a crystal-blue diving pool and a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen adjacent to a small cabana.

“Wow.” That was the only thing Leah could manage around her surprise.

“Pretty great, huh?”

She turned and caught Kevin’s smile. Big mistake. That smile had been the death of her determination to resist him on more than one occasion. After a brief mental pep talk, Leah said, “It’s very nice. Great for entertaining.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t had a chance to do much entertaining yet. I’ve only been here a month.”

As if she really believed a month wasn’t enough time for him to entertain various bikini-clad beauties. “Corri told me you’d only recently moved in.” The only solid information his sister-in-law had provided when Leah had worked up the nerve to contact her.

His smile faded into a frown. “Is that how you found me?”

“Yes. I called her after I stopped by your loft and discovered you’d moved.”

“Didn’t she give you my new phone number?”

“She did, but I decided we needed to speak in person.” She’d actually considered delivering the news by phone, affording him the same non-courtesy that he’d afforded her when he’d ended their relationship. Instead, she’d opted to be an adult and engage in a face-to-face meeting, although at the moment she questioned her wisdom.

But she was here now, so she might as well get down to brass tacks. On that thought, she asked, “Can we sit down now?”

“Sure.” Kevin guided her to a table situated beneath a copse of pines and oaks and pulled out a brown-striped chair.

Leah took the designated seat while Kevin chose the chair across from her, thankful for the table that put much-needed space between them. She set her bag on the ground at her feet and tightly clasped her hands on the glass surface. “These trees help with the heat.” At least from a meteorological standpoint. Noticing all of Kevin’s finer details didn’t help Leah’s internal heat in the least. It seemed he’d lost some weight, but he’d undeniably gained some muscle. He’d always been in great shape, but his biceps looked larger. His chest looked broader. His abs looked tighter beneath the T-shirt. And if she knew what was best, she’d keep her eyes off his attributes.

“The Houston heat in June’s always brutal, especially at four in the afternoon,” he said, drawing her attention back to his face.

“I had a busy morning, otherwise, I would have been here much earlier.” She’d spent the better part of the day engaged in an internal debate, until she’d forced herself to stop procrastinating.

After another brief bout of silence, Kevin asked, “How’s your fellowship going?”

Though she was avoiding the news she’d come to deliver, Leah saw no reason not to be civil. “It’s going well. The hospital rotations can be tough, but I work part of the time in a clinic.”

“Which means more normal hours,” he said.

Odd that he remembered all the details they’d discussed during their time together. Then again, he had been very attentive, both in and out of bed. “I’m really looking forward to finishing in August so I can finally start utilizing what I’ve learned.” She would have been finished now had she not taken a necessary break in her hometown before returning to Houston two months ago.

Kevin brushed a leaf from the table with a sweep of his hand. “Have you decided where you’re going to practice?”

In some ways, that decision had been made for her. “I’m going home to Mississippi. Since my fellowship has focused on healthcare for the indigent, I plan to work part-time in a free clinic, and possibly open my own practice to pay the bills.”

“You won’t miss the big-city lifestyle?” His tone
hinted at disappointment, or maybe she was reading too much into it.

“I’d miss my family more.” She also needed their support, now more than ever.

“I’m sure you’ll do great, wherever you land,” he said. “Good luck.”

For some reason, she’d wanted him to say he would miss her. That he’d made a huge error in judgment by letting her go. That he wished she would stay in Houston. And that was insanely ridiculous. Even if he did say all those things, she couldn’t believe him.

The conversation died for a time until Leah sent a quick glance in his direction to find him rubbing his eyes. “You look tired. Obviously you’ve been burning the midnight oil.” Or burning up the sheets with his latest babe.

“Just been busy with work.”

“Traveling a lot?”

“Actually, no. For the most part I’m working from home now. I write a nationally syndicated column and I maintain a sports blog for the magazine.”

That surprised her almost as much as the longer length of his hair. “You’ve always loved interviewing all those sports superstars. What on earth happened?”

His expression showed definite discomfort. “Things change, Leah.”

Yes, but she suspected he hadn’t. Maybe he wasn’t traipsing all over the country searching for his next female conquest, but she had no doubt women were still seeking him out on a regular basis, and he was
gladly accommodating them. That didn’t matter to her any longer, or it shouldn’t.

She’d come here to say something important, and she needed to say it now. Yet when Kevin centered his dark eyes on her, Leah temporarily misplaced her train of thought. And when he leaned over and traced a fingertip along her jaw, she stiffened and muttered, “Don’t.”

If he so much as touched her again, Leah might momentarily forget how badly he’d wounded her, heart and soul. She refused to do that. Refused to succumb to his charm that he wielded like a net to ensnare unsuspecting females. She’d already been there and she wasn’t going back.

BOOK: His Best Mistake
11.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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