Authors: Brenda Jackson
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
“Yes, but I’m sure she reminded them that in the beginning Syneda and Clayton had been friends, too.”
“Yes, but things between us are different. Surely they know that.”
He smiled. “They do. Don’t worry about it. They’re just trying to mollify the old gal.”
Kenna sighed softly and rested her face on Reese’s chest again. She couldn’t understand why his great-grandmother would say such a thing when everyone knew the kind of women Reese was usually attracted to—tall and slender, which was something she definitely was not.
The song ended much too soon, but instead of leading her off the dance floor, Reese tilted her chin upward to meet his gaze. His brown bedroom eyes scanned her face with concern. “Hey, you’re okay?” he asked in a voice that was so low it was barely audible. It was lower than she’d ever heard before.
She nodded and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine. What about you? Are you beginning to think my moving in with you isn’t such a good idea after all?”
“No, I still think it’s a good idea. What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t let you stay with me? And don’t worry about my great-grandmother. We know the real deal regardless of what others believe is going on between us, right?”
She nodded, keeping the smile plastered on her face.
Yes, he was right. They knew the real deal. He would never look at her the way he looked at other women. They would never be anything more than best buddies.
“Right,” she said, smiling. “We know the real deal even if they don’t.”
He returned her smile. “True.”
She drew in a deep breath as he led her off the dance floor, and she wondered how she was going to remain level-headed living under Reese’s roof for thirty days.
A month later…
eese leaned in the doorway with a cup of coffee in his hand and looked behind Kenna to the moving truck parked in front of his ranch house. It was a truck he knew was loaded down with heaven knows what.
He had offered to fly to Austin and help her make the drive to Houston, but that independent streak in Kenna—which annoyed the hell out of him at times—had refused his help. She claimed she needed to do things herself, since it was her way of turning another page in her life. A part of him understood that, mostly because he understood her.
“So how was the drive?” he asked, offering her the cup of coffee in his hand. Like him, she needed the caffeine, especially during the early morning hours, and it was early. At four in the morning most of Houston was still asleep, including the men who
worked his ranch. Kenna preferred driving at night, although Reese had been concerned about her safety.
She took a sip, closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She opened her eyes and met his gaze with sparkling eyes. “I hope you never lose your knack for making coffee. Starbucks has nothing on you, Reese Madaris.”
“Glad you think so,” he said, chuckling, taking the cup back from her and taking a sip himself. “There’s a pot inside, waiting for you.”
She smiled and he couldn’t help but chuckle again. Kenna was easy to please. Before walking inside she glanced over her shoulder. “Do you want me to move the truck and park it somewhere else instead of right in front of your door?”
“It’s fine right there. My men and I will unload it after breakfast,” he said, pulling her into the foyer and closing the door behind them.
She turned to face him. “Aren’t you going to work today?”
“No, I took the day off to help you get settled.” He could tell from her expression she didn’t like that. It was that independent streak again.
“You didn’t have to do that, Reese,” she said, frowning. “Remember our agreement? I don’t want to disrupt your life or your lifestyle by moving in.”
“You’re not. Now go into the kitchen and pour yourself some coffee. You’re usually in a bad mood until you’ve had your first cup.”
“I’m not in a bad mood.”
He grinned. “Yes, you are.”
Her mouth curved in a smile. “Okay, maybe you’re right.”
“As usual. And while you’re getting your caffeine fix, I’ll be in my office checking my emails. After that I’ll join you in the kitchen.” He turned and walked down the hallway, headed toward his office. Kenna’s gaze followed him as he walked away.
The foyer opened up to a spacious living room that had a spiral
staircase leading to a second floor where most of the bedrooms were located. As Kenna made her way through the dining room and into the kitchen to get the cup of coffee she so desperately needed, she took in the decor.
She loved Reese’s home and remembered when he had purchased the land for it. They had talked about it endlessly before he finally made up his mind to build his house. He had shown her the floor plans for the design of the house that his cousin Slade—the architect in the family—had drawn up. She had fallen in love with it immediately. It was a sprawling two-story ranch-style house surrounded by more than seventy-something acres of land. Reese was down-to-earth and enjoyed being in the great outdoors. He could never be happy living in a condo in Houston.
Kenna had been the one to pick out the furniture for every room. It was at a time when Reese had been out of the country working for Remington Oil. When he’d returned to the States, it was to find the house completely furnished and ready for him to move in.
In the kitchen were sleek granite countertops and sparkling stainless-steel appliances. It was a huge, spacious kitchen compared to the one she had in Austin. As she reached for the coffeepot, she couldn’t help but think about how happy she’d been to see Reese when he’d opened the door. The moment he smiled, all the problems she had encountered on the road from Austin had faded away.
She’d gotten so sleepy while driving to Houston that she decided to check into a motel to get a couple of hours sleep. Although Reese had volunteered to help her drive from Austin, she felt she needed the time alone to think. She wanted to be sure the decisions she had made had been the right ones.
She would be the first to admit she was nervous about her new job. She had gone to work for the Austin Police Department right out of college, and for the past seven years the place had
practically become her home. The people she worked with had become her family and she had enjoyed being a part of that. Now she would have to start over, meet new people, make new friends, and get used to her new environment.
She knew accepting the job in Houston had been a smart move, especially since she’d be earning almost double the salary she made in Austin. The Houston Police Department hadn’t just considered her value as a sketch artist, but they had taken into account her ability to gather details others might overlook. With all the new technology, she figured it was just a matter of time before her job would be done by a computer. But there were some things computers just couldn’t do, like factoring in things that required more than just sketching a suspect’s face. Kenna was adept at obtaining seemingly inconsequential details from witnesses and victims—clues to solving crimes that might be missed. She had a way with people. And she had the ability to understand the human psyche in subtle ways.
She was good at what she did and very thorough. With Kenna, the typical three-hour interview was more than just a way to make a composite sketch. She had the ability to draw out subconscious details from witnesses that were important to the investigation. She had received several commendations from the police department for helping to crack a few cases. That was one of the reasons the Houston Police Department had wanted to hire her, making an offer any sane person couldn’t refuse.
That had been a few months ago. She had come to town and found the perfect place to live. Her condo should have been ready by now, but bad weather had delayed completion of construction on the building.
Temporarily moving in with Reese had been his suggestion. And it had been a no-brainer, since she’d crashed at his place whenever she came to town anyway. She considered him family, especially after her grandmother—who’d raised her after her
parents were killed in a car accident—died while Kenna was still in college. After that, the Madaris family adopted her as one of their own.
She leaned against Reese’s kitchen counter as she took another sip of coffee. The other reason for her move from Austin was to be near Reese. Although he visited her fairly regularly in Austin, the need to be closer to him had been a motivating factor in accepting the job.
It was a decision she was already beginning to regret.
She knew how she felt about him. But he didn’t have a clue, and she intended to keep things that way. Lately, she had begun seeing him through different eyes. And she knew why. This was the first time in eleven years that neither of them was involved with someone else. For her, that meant she had too much idle time on her hands and no man to keep her occupied. With Reese, she was nothing more than a dear friend, someone he could trust completely. Someone he could share anything with….except his heart.
She took another sip of coffee trying to recall just when she’d realized she was attracted to him. She’d been attracted to him since college, but her feelings had escalated when they’d taken a trip to Las Vegas together. It had been his present to her on her twenty-fifth birthday.
Had it been almost four years?
She shook her head remembering that weekend. It was a couple months after she’d broken up with Lamont. Although she’d never told him, her relationship with Lamont ended after he’d questioned her friendship with Reese one too many times. She had warned him that if he brought it up again that would be the end of things between them. He hadn’t taken her seriously, and in the end she’d shown him she meant business.
Reese figured she needed cheering up after her breakup, and to this day she’d never told him about Lamont’s accusations. But Lamont wasn’t the only man who had thought that something
more than just friendship was going on between her and Reese.
“You’re tired. I can tell.”
She glanced up as Reese entered the kitchen. A smile touched her lips. “I am tired.”
He angled his head and looked at her. “I’m going to be real upset if I find out you didn’t take my advice and check into a motel for the night when you hit the halfway point.”
She rolled her eyes. “It was only a two-and-a-half-hour drive. It was nice with no traffic. However, I did get sleepy and pulled into a motel for a few hours,” she admitted.
“I’m glad. So, do you want to go to bed before or after breakfast?”
She smiled, knowing he hadn’t meant it the way it sounded. But she could hope. “It’s too early for breakfast, and I could use a couple of hours’ sleep.”
“Go on up. Your room is ready.”
“Thanks.” She took another sip of coffee, thinking the room he was referring to was just that—her room. And it had her signature all over it. She had decorated it to her liking and it was the one she always slept in whenever she came to visit. It was right across the hall from his.
She placed the cup in the sink. “I’ll be up before the ranch hands are ready for breakfast.”
“You don’t have to. We can handle things without you. Your luggage comes in the house and everything else gets stored in the barn, right?”
She didn’t have to tell him that most of the stuff in the truck was what she didn’t trust the moving company to take care of. They were keepsakes—things that had sentimental value and had once belonged to her grandmother but were now hers.
“Thanks for letting me stay here, Reese.”
He glanced over at her as he poured another cup of coffee for
himself. She felt his gaze and it stimulated something inside her. “You don’t have to thank me, Kenna. What’s mine is yours.”
Something stirred deep within her again and she drew in a sharp breath before nodding her head. She turned to leave the kitchen and had almost made it to the dining room when Reese called out to her.
She stopped and turned around with a practiced smile. “Yes?”
“I’m glad you’re here.”
Something in Kenna’s chest tightened and a part of her wanted to race across the room, throw herself into his arms and declare that she was glad to be anywhere he was—always. Instead she said. “I’m glad I’m here, too.”
Before she could say something else, something she would later regret, she quickly walked in the direction of her room.
Reese slid his hands down his face as he watched her leave. They were both tired, and maybe that was the reason he had picked up on the tension between them. He knew there was something going on. He could tell by the firm set of her lips and her body language.
He took a sip of his coffee and tried replaying everything that had happened since she’d arrived. For some reason he needed to clear his mind of a few things and make heads or tails of the situation. She had arrived at his door a little past four o’clock in the morning. He hadn’t been able to sleep knowing she was on the road at night and driving a rented U-Haul truck alone, so he was relieved when he’d heard the sound of the truck pulling into the yard.
Even though it took less than three hours to drive from Austin to Houston for most people, he knew Kenna wasn’t like most people when it came to driving at night. When she was tired and sleepy, she couldn’t stay awake. She had promised him that she’d
get plenty of rest before making the trip, but he knew she hadn’t done that. When he had talked to her before she’d left Austin, several friends were still at her place seeing her off.
The original plan was for her to leave Austin around six o’clock in the evening. That way she would have arrived by nine o’clock that night. But instead she hadn’t left Austin until well past midnight, which had annoyed the hell out of him. He had been ready to bite her head off when he’d opened the door at four in the morning. However one look at her and he had been so glad to see that she had arrived safe and sound that he had pushed his anger aside. But now he was getting mad again.
Taking another sip of his coffee, he moved away from the counter to glance out the window. The sun was just starting to rise, which meant that the ranch hands would be up and stirring soon. Although he worked full-time for Madaris Explorations, he still maintained a working cattle ranch. His spread wasn’t as big as his uncle Jake’s or his brother Chancellor’s by any means, but a part of him would always be a rancher.