Length: 31,000 words
Nolan knocked on the already open door to Miranda Flores’ office at the local community center in Holly. Miranda usually kept the door open, wanting everyone to know they could talk to her at any time.
Phone against her ear, she glanced up and gave him a blinding smile that was a punch to his solar plexus. Which was pretty standard for every time he saw her.
She held up a finger as she continued talking. As she spoke, she was looking at something on her laptop.
Leaning against the doorframe, he crossed his arms over his chest and took the rare opportunity to drink in the sight of her. Her light brown hair was down around her face in soft waves. As she talked she was smiling, which was standard for her. Whenever they talked on the phone, he could hear the smile in her voice. Rolling his shoulders once, his gaze stayed on her mouth, even as he told himself to look away. He’d fantasized about nibbling on her bottom lip too many times. Hell, he wanted to kiss her everywhere, to claim her, to let the whole damn town know she was his.
But that wasn’t happening anytime soon.
She’d made it very clear nearly ten months ago when they’d first met that she wasn’t looking for any sort of relationship. At the time, she’d just taken her nephew, Mateo, in when her sister had dropped him off and bolted. Her sister had made Miranda his legal guardian. Only recently had Gloria gone into rehab for drug addiction.
As Miranda laughed, there was a little sparkle in her brown eyes. But they weren’t just brown. He’d studied them enough to know there were little flecks of amber in them. Every chance he got, he studied the woman. Watching her, being around her, was his own personal addiction. One he didn’t plan to give up.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Miranda’s sweet voice pulled him out of his head.
He blinked once and realized he’d been staring, and that she was off the phone. Clearing his throat, he pushed up from the doorframe as she stood and stepped around the desk. He started to answer when she frowned and closed the distance between them in record time.
Frowning harder, she cupped his cheek. “What happened?”
Nolan wanted to lean into her touch, to savor the feel of her smooth, soft hand on his skin. Today she had on knee-high boots and a red sweater dress that hugged all her curves. “Ah… what?” he wanted to put his own hand over hers to hold her there, but managed restraint. Somehow.
“You have a bruise. Did you get hurt at work?” Concern rolled off her in waves, her distress clear.
Bruise? “Oh, this is nothing. Maguire did this during our last hockey practice.”
“Aren’t you guys on the same team?”
He snorted. “Yeah. My brother is an equal opportunity bulldozer when he plays.”
She stroked her thumb over his bruise and he felt the sensation all the way to his dick. God, this woman had him all twisted up in knots. He’d get hurt more often if it meant she would touch him like this. Feeling her hand on him was heaven.
Abruptly she dropped her hand and her cheeks flushed pink, as if she realized how intimate that hold could be construed. “I might exchange words with Maguire later.”
He laughed, but it felt strained. Having her touch him like that, whether she meant it intimately or not, affected him. Physically and otherwise. He’d been respecting her boundaries because hell, he wanted to be her friend. She was a sweet, sexy woman and in the last year they’d become friends. Best friends, even. Other than his brothers and family, she was the person he wanted to call with any sort of news first. “I’m sure he’ll be very scared of you,” he murmured.