A heavy dose of guilt smacked him in the gut. They’d accepted without question that he was nothing more than C.S. Hilton, the author of Fatal Deception. And it wasn’t as if he had completely lied to them, but telling him he was also Curt Sherbrooke, the nephew of the president of the United States and a member of the wealthiest family in the country, wasn’t an option. As it was, he wasn’t certain they could keep what he had shared a secret. He hadn’t seen any other choice when he’d told them he was an author. The fewer lies he told, the less likely he was to slip and make a mistake if they spoke in the future. Something told him he’d be seeing Taylor, Priscilla, and Reese Walker again.
“I guess I’d better find the number for Baker and Sons.”
“Can I skate on your pond this winter?” Reese asked. She’d finished her food but stayed at the table, listening to the conversation.
“Mr. and Mrs. Cranston used to let the neighborhood kids ice skate on the pond behind your house. Even after they moved, they let us bring Reese back there to skate,” Taylor said, explaining her niece’s request.
At least as long as he lived there, he saw no problem with it. Once he finished the house and moved on in a year or so, they could take it up with the new owners. “Sure… as long as you have an adult with you.”
“I think you’re going to love living here,” Priscilla said. “It’s a great place to raise a family. Both my daughters grew up here.”
“Do you have any kids?” Reese asked, sounding hopeful. “All the kids on the street are babies. My best friend, Hazel, lives near school when she’s with her mom. When she stays with her dad, she lives somewhere else. I don’t know where. I’d like someone next door to play with.”
“Sorry, no kids. I don’t even have a pet.”
“Do you have a girlfriend? Hazel’s dad has a new girlfriend. She really likes her. She lets Hazel play with her makeup when she stays over. Hazel said her mom doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she talks on the phone a lot to someone.”
Did all children Reese’s age ask questions like that? The only children he spent any time around still wore diapers. “Uh, no girlfriend either. I’m all alone next door.”
Reese smiled, revealing the missing bottom tooth. “Maybe Auntie Taylor can be your girlfriend. I always hear Mimi telling her she should go out more.”
He heard Taylor softly groan, and suddenly her face matched her fingernails. Curt wasn’t sure if he should groan too, or laugh. Both reactions fit the current conversation. And as embarrassing as the conversation had suddenly turned, Reese’s comments answered a question he’d had but couldn’t ask himself. Taylor Walker was single.
“Reese, if you’re done eating, why don’t you go upstairs, get ready for bed, and then do some reading,” Taylor said.
Curt guessed she was afraid her niece would either share some other embarrassing information or ask a question better not asked.
Reese ducked under the table. When she reappeared, she had Stripes in her arms. He hadn’t even realized the cat was under the table. “Yes, I don’t have to help clean the table tonight!” She hightailed it out of the kitchen without another word to anyone.
“Sorry about that,” Taylor said once Reese was gone. “She’ll be seven in June, and often doesn’t think before she asks questions.”
Curt shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. She can ask me anything. Not much embarrasses me.”
“Anyone interested in some dessert?” Priscilla asked, perhaps as a way to change the subject. “Reese and I made some oatmeal cookies after school today.”
“All set, Mom.”
“Thank you, but I couldn’t eat another thing,” Curt answered. “Dinner was delicious.”
Priscilla pushed back her chair and stood up. “In that case, I’m going to make sure Reese did what she was supposed to before she starts reading.” She left the kitchen almost as quickly as her granddaughter.
Curt and Taylor looked at each other, and he struggled not to smile. “She left us alone on purpose, didn’t she?” Curt asked.
Taylor sighed. “Yeah, probably. But it’s not unusual for us to tell Reese to get ready for bed, and instead she sits down and starts reading. The girl is a bookworm.”
If his mother or one of his aunts did something similar, he’d be beyond annoyed. Tonight, it didn’t faze him. “I can picture my mom doing the same thing.”
He considered his next sentence before he opened his mouth. He’d moved here with a simple plan: keep to himself, work on his house, and finish his book. Right now he wanted to add a fourth item to his plan: get to know the sexy DEA agent living next door. If he kept it very casual, she never needed to know who he really was.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish