Tess escapes from Florida with a secret as big as Miami. She needs to find someplace to lay low and be on hide from her overbearing family. Mackinac Island, Michigan, should be the perfect place to hide out. However, her timing is a little off, it’s the dead of winter and she’s never been in temperatures below fifty degrees.
Just her luck, her landlord, Lukas, is as hot as the sun. He’s also moody and hiding secrets as well. Which suits Tess fine. A man is the last complication she needs. A Michigan blizzard leaves them trapped in the same house together and things heat up, fast. Tess finds herself falling for Lukas, in spite of the secrets that could ruin everything before it even begins.
Tess took a few deep breaths and splashed some water on her face. She needed to be on full alert tonight. It would be rude to turn down the meal, and she wanted to spend some time with him or at least not be at home by herself.
But she was aware that this was how bad things happened. At least she wouldn’t be drinking tonight.
She wiped off her face and put on light make up. Nothing that made it look like she was trying, but enough that he wouldn’t think she looked like a zombie.
He had put on Dio’s ridiculous clothes, and she pranced by the door. Tess grabbed for her coat at the same time he did.
“Let me help you with that.”
Tess nodded, and her heart beat in double time. He didn’t have to be such a gentleman.
His fingers brushed the back of her neck as he helped her into her coat, and she shivered. She zipped it herself, not willing to let him go that far. She slid on a pair of light gloves since they were only walking a few yards.
Dio bounded out in front of them. They were quiet as they walked, both lost in their own thoughts. He held the door open for Tess, and she smelled the tomato and garlic.
“Thanks,” he said, taking her coat from her. “I make a pretty good chicken parmesan.”
He cooked too. Tess creased her eyebrows. This guy was too good to be true.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, but is there anything you aren’t good at?”
He chuckled. “Plenty. Stick around long enough, and you’ll see my faults. Trust me.”
She followed him into the kitchen and hoped for a second that there might be a chance for the two of them to develop into more than just friends. But that seemed highly unlikely. He pulled two plates out of the cupboard.
“Do you mind if we eat at the bar?”
Tess shook her head and hoisted herself on one of the stools.
He pulled a huge pan of chicken parmesan out of the oven.
“Were you planning on feeding a family?” she asked without thinking.
He frowned. “No, I like leftovers. That way I only have to cook once a week.”
“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. “I’ll try not to eat too much then.”
He grinned. “Eat all you want. But you owe me dinner next week.”
“I can do that.”
He dished up and settled in next to her. Dio put her front paws on his lap and stuck her nose on the bar. Lukas pushed his plate away.
“Dio! You know that’s not appropriate behavior for a lady. You’re embarrassing me. By the way your acting, I might have to start calling you Deka.”
Dio put her ears back and whimpered on the floor.
“Who’s Deka?” Tess asked.
“Dog number ten. She’s the worst behaved of the bunch.”
That’s right. His fraternity brothers. “How often do you and your friends get together?”
“Everyone? Once a year. We rotate locations, but we spend every Fourth of July together. The dogs love it.”
“You never told me the story behind the dogs.”
He fidgeted with his chicken. “The story isn’t that great. Why don’t you tell me about your family?”
“Oh please. What’s so bad about this story? I know you all wanted one because you had a Doberman in your frat house. But why wait several years? And what’s with the Greek numbers?”
“I can’t tell the story without sounding like a prick.”
Tess took another bite of her chicken. She could eat the whole pan. It was delicious.
“I’ve been warned. Now spill.”
“You are demanding, aren’t you?”
“Guilty. Stop trying to change the subject.”
He laughed, but gave in. “Fine. Have you ever heard of Omega Mu Alpha?”
“No, I don’t think I have.”
“It’s a super exclusive fraternity, and most of the recruits are legacy. Across the whole country, only a handful of recruits are new blood each year. We produce more millionaires than any other college frat in the U.S.”
He paused and looked at her. She wondered what he was looking for. Shock? Disgust? She settled for indifference. She still didn’t understand what this had to do with the dogs. She couldn’t give a rip what their fraternity did.
When she didn’t say anything, he continued.
“We decided that when all ten of us made our first million, we’d get the dogs. It had to be our own money, not anything from our parents. Three years ago, we finally made it.”
Wow. That wasn’t what she was expecting. “What about the names?”
“That’s the order in which we hit the milestone.”
“Well, that explains Deka’s behavior. Her owner probably feels like a loser, being last.”
As if she knew they were talking about one of her friends, Dio drug a cow chew toy into the middle of the kitchen floor and attacked it with a vengeance. She put on quite a show.
Lukas laughed. “You don’t seem to think there’s anything odd about this?”
Tess frowned. “Should I?”
“Most people get squirmy talking about that kind of cash.”
She snorted. “I’m from Miami. Everyone is filthy rich there.”
“Oh. And Seth isn’t a loser.”
“Deka’s owner. He knew he’d be last or close to it. He was the only one in our group that wasn’t a legacy. He didn’t have his parents’ money to help out.”
“But I thought you couldn’t use your parents’ cash,” she said as Dio found the squeaky end of her toy. The poor dear didn’t like being ignored.
“We couldn’t. But it’s much easier to earn that kind of money when you have a background that includes it. Seth was truly starting from scratch.”
“You don’t come across as a prick at all. Based on Dio’s name, I’m guessing you were number two.”
It was probably rude of her to ask how he made his million. She took another bite and chewed on it for as long as she could. Would he think she was prying?
“Now I’ve told you my story. It’s your turn. What the hell is a beach babe from Miami doing in northern Michigan in the middle of winter?” he asked, and the choice was made for her.
“I needed to get away from my family for a while. Everyone expected me to fall in and do what was expected. My mom is the superintendent of the Miami-Dade school district. She had a job lined up for me in a good school. So I did what any daughter would do when she’s handed everything she could possibly want. I ran away to prove I could do it on my own.”
It was his turn to chew in quiet contemplation. “Doc says you are a good teacher. He made me promise to be nice to you so you wouldn’t leave.”
Tess laughed. “Now I understand the dinner invite.”
Lukas brushed her hand. “No, I did that because my dog loves you and your stomach rumbled so loudly. Plus I thought I’d like to spend some time in your company myself.”
He grinned, and her breath caught. She liked him, and not just looking at him. This was the first indication he might feel the same way, but he’d ditch her as soon as he found out her secret.
For a second Tess had a crazy thought. Her pregnancy wasn’t that far along. If she could seduce him tonight, she might be able convince him he’s the father. After the conversation they just had about money, she knew he’d support her.
She immediately hated herself for thinking such a thing. Tess pushed her plate away, her appetite gone. This needed to end now.
“I should go. Thank you for dinner.”
“No, wait. I could make coffee. Stay a little while longer.”
She shook her head. “No. That’s sweet, but I am tired from my week.” He didn’t need a woman with baggage. She knew it would be polite to offer to help with dishes, but suddenly, she couldn’t get away fast enough.
Lukas looked at her with his expression closed off and nodded.
She didn’t let him help with her coat and escaped quickly. Once back in her own apartment, she stood against the door, taking deep breaths.
What was she thinking? This was the first time in a long time a guy showed her as much respect as Lukas had, and her first thought was, “How can I take advantage of him?”
That was cruel and unlike her. The secret of her pregnancy was getting to her. She hadn’t told anyone. Not her mom. Not her sisters. Not her best friend. No one. She was glad her first doctor’s appointment was next week so she could tell someone and find out more about her options. Hopefully, her doctor wouldn’t judge her.
Tess put her hand on her stomach. It hadn’t grown much. How long would it be before people noticed? How would she tell her mom? Hopefully, she’d have the courage to at least tell her before the baby was born. Or, if she chose to give it up for adoption, her mom would never find out.
love to travel the world together. From the hills of Scotland to the beaches of
Thailand, their wanderlust takes them on adventures all over the world. But
their favorite corner of the Earth is their home on Nova
Scotia, that they share with their two Dobermans, Calcifer and
Turnip. Kierra dyes hair by day and at night she loses herself in the worlds of
her romance novels. She loves to cook, binge watch Netflix, and cuddle up with
her boys and watch storms roll in over the ocean.