It’s been a long couple of months since Scarlett has seen Bobby, so she decides to surprise him for Thanksgiving. It’s a test – while she’s away, is he playing around? She has to find out before she makes an even more serious commitment than her heart already has.
The surprise is hers when the other woman in his apartment is his daughter. It’s love at first sight between her and the pre-teen, and after a day spent with father and daughter, Scarlett knows it’s time to make a decision. Time to take the final plunge…or walk away forever?
Scarlett Morris sipped her latte and stared at the cell phone resting on the café table, waiting for Bobby’s morning text. Once in a while she would glance out the window at the high-rise condo across the street, and her tummy would flip with a combination of excitement and trepidation.
She was here, in San Francisco, and about to surprise him. The past few days had been busy, and she’d had little time to contemplate the fact he was within reach for the first time in weeks. But now, she was terrified she’d made a huge mistake.
Not only was she showing up unannounced, she was here on a holiday. The biggest of holidays. He had plans to spend the day with his friends. He thought she was going to her parents’ house for dinner. What if…?
The what ifs were killing her. When they had last been together in New York, they’d professed their love for one another. Bobby had been willing to sell his company and move to Chicago to be with her. But still, even after all that, she had her doubts, her worries.
She blamed her ex-husband for her insecurities. He’d been cheating on her right under her nose and she hadn’t known for a full year. What if Bobby had someone else here? What if he was a…a typical guy…and needed someone more than once every couple of months?
Rubbing her forehead, she stared at the black screen of her smartphone and prayed she wasn’t wrong about him. Hoped to God he wanted to see her. If he didn’t, if he wasn’t the person she thought he was, the last three days had been a total waste of time. They were probably a waste of time anyway, since no one seemed to be hiring, but the job hunting had been a start. A start to her moving to the West Coast and being with Bobby. If he didn’t prove to be a philandering asshole like her ex.
Her phone buzzed, startling her when Bobby’s face popped up on the screen. She touched the message icon to read his text.
Bobby: Good morning, my darling. I assume you are on your way to your mom and dad’s. Call me when you get there and let me know you’re safe. Love you!
She responded with: Actually, there’s been a change of plans and I’m not going to my parents’ today.
She took a last swig of her now tepid coffee, picked up her purse and phone and made her way out the door of the café into the cool, damp air of a San Francisco fall morning.
Bobby: What happened? Don’t tell me you had to work today. You have to take Thanksgiving off. Your parents will be so disappointed. Are you at work now? Do you have time to Skype? Sarah’s here and would love to say hello to you.
Scarlett’s heart clenched. His daughter was there? Shit! He hadn’t told her his daughter was with him for the holiday. Now what? Damn, damn, damn. This was not the way to meet his kid. At least she knew now that he wasn’t with some otherwoman.
Scarlett: I’m here.
Bobby: I’m calling you.
Before she could respond, her phone rang. She swallowed hard and touched the screen to accept the call. “Hey.”
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you going to your parents’? Did something happen?”
God, she loved his voice, that sexier-than-sin Irish brogue, the deep tenor.
“No, nothing bad happened.” Before he could say anything else, she took a deep breath and asked, “Can you see that little coffee shop across the street from the front of your building?” She knew he could. One night they’d been instant messaging on their computers, both from their workplaces, and he’d sent her a screen capture of Google Maps of the front of his building, with a red arrow pointing to his balcony. She was looking at it now.
“Um, yes.” He sounded confused.
“Do me a favor. Go to your balcony, and look down at the coffee shop, would you?”
She heard him say something, she assumed it was to Sarah, and then the sound of a sliding door opening. There he was, shirtless, phone to his ear, looking down at her.
“Scarlett! You’re here?”
She held up her hand and waved. “Surprise.” Her stomach clenched.
He was on the fifth floor, but even at that distance she was sure she saw a wide grin spread across his face. And then a girl with long blonde hair appeared next to him and waved. Sarah. His twelve-year-old daughter.
“Come up. Come up. I’ll call down and tell security to let you in.” The call disconnected and he disappeared inside the apartment.
“Hi, Scarlett!” she heard Sarah shout.
She waved and smiled. Neither seemed upset she’d dropped by unannounced on a holiday, although maybe dropped by wasn’t the perfect expression since she’d traveled two thousand miles to get here. After crossing the street, she stepped inside the lobby, surprised at how plain it seemed. She’d assumed someone with Bobby’s money, even though he claimed to live in a two-bedroom apartment, would have chosen a higher-class building.
“Ms. Morris?” said a man near the elevator.
“I’m Richard.” He pushed the elevator button and the door opened. “Mr. O’Brian is expecting you.”
With a smile, she thanked him and stepped into the elevator.
He reached in and hit number five. “Have a happy Thanksgiving, ma’am.”
Her stomach flipped again once the door closed and the car began to move. She should have called. Should have let him know she was in town. Should not have done this. He had Sarah for the holiday; he had plans with his friends. What an idiot she was to think surprising him would be a good idea.
Okay, she had to admit it to herself. She’d wanted to catch him off guard. She’d rather know he was a rat now than after—
The door opened and there he stood, all six feet of him, shirtless, wearing dark blue pajama bottoms and nothing else. Her heart skipped a beat. Then it stopped altogether when he pulled her from the elevator and wrapped her in a tight, warm embrace.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” he whispered in her ear just a second before he pulled back and captured her lips in one of those mind-melting, body-sizzling kisses.
Bobby pulled back, grinning, touching her face, her hair, looking at her as if he couldn’t believe she was real. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Her body hummed with arousal, and he’d managed to take her breath away with just one kiss.
Scarlett peered around his shoulder to see Sarah standing in the open doorway with a huge grin on her face. Trying to calm her thudding heart, Scarlett pulled away from Bobby’s arms and smiled at the girl—almost a young woman.
“Hi, Sarah,” she said a little nervously. This was not how she’d wanted to meet the girl. They’d Skyped a few times, just briefly on the weekends that she was with Bobby, but other than that they were strangers, and here she was crashing their Thanksgiving.
Bobby took Scarlett’s hand and urged her toward Sarah. The girl wore plain blue pajama shorts and a T-shirt. She’d just turned twelve two weeks ago but seemed much older, much more mature. Scarlett had sent her a sterling silver and opal necklace for her birthday. Sarah wore it now, and Scarlett’s heart melted. Tears rushed to her eyes when Sarah threw her arms around her and hugged her. She’d never expected that kind of reception.
“This is so cool you’re here,” Sarah said, taking Scarlett’s hand and pulling her into the apartment. “We were just going to go have breakfast and then we’re going over to the church to start preparing food. You’re coming with us, right?” She’d dragged Scarlett into the living room.
“Sweetpea,” Bobby said, a chuckle in his tone. “Let go of the woman.”
His daughter turned around with a grin, letting go of Scarlett’s hand. “Sorry. You will, won’t you? Go with us? That’s why you’re here, right?”
Finally getting hold of her tongue, Scarlett said, “I’m here to see you and your dad. I’m up for whatever you’ve got going on.”
“How long are you staying?”
She glanced at Bobby, looking for help.
“Sarah, go take your shower. Let her breathe a minute.”
Sarah’s grin was huge, her big, blue eyes alight with happiness. That the happiness seemed to be because of Scarlett’s presence confused her. “Be back in a minute.” She turned and practically skipped down a hallway, disappearing through a door.
“Hey.” Bobby laid a hand on her arm.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “You didn’t tell me you had Sarah for the holiday. I shouldn’t—”
Bobby cut her off with a hard, quick kiss. “Can’t you see how happy she is you’re here?”
It didn’t make sense. She didn’t know the girl, was intruding on their father/daughter time.
“And me. I’m ecstatic you’re here.” He pulled her into his arms again and kissed her until she moaned and melted against him. “How long are you staying?” he murmured against her lips. There was no mistaking the hard bulge pressed against her belly, even though she still wore her coat.
Forever, she thought, but instead said, “My plane leaves Sunday afternoon.”
The kisses moved down her neck as he pushed her jacket open and reached under her sweater to touch the bare skin of her back. “That’s not long enough.” The kiss deepened, his hands pressing her against his chest, and only the sound of the shower coming on down the hall kept her from shoving him onto the sofa and having her way with him. It seemed an eternity since they’d touched.