“Oh, hey, Alison.”
Good fucking God.
If you designed the perfect man, it would be Lincoln Derby.
Hair, the color of midnight, is peppered with grey, his icy blue eyes flickering over me briefly as he smiles.
He’s dressed in grey joggers and a white shirt, and I can’t stop staring at his heavily tattooed arms.
He must be double my age, but if Kurt looks anything like this at his age, I’m in for a treat.
I realize I’m staring and clear my throat.
“Uh, hey, Mr. Derby. Is Kurt in?”
“Alison, I’ve told you a million times. Call me Linc.”
I can’t help but smile, tucking my hair behind my ear. There’s a moment of silence between us, but he soon jumps back, waving for me to come in.
“Do you want a soda?” Lincoln calls over his shoulder, heading into the beautiful kitchen I’ve fallen in love with over the years.
All gleaming white surfaces and solid, dark wood cabinets dominate the space, while in the middle of the room, there’s an island with a wraparound transparent fridge. Lush fruits, lean meats, and salads make your mouth water, but right now, Lincoln is reaching down with his muscly forearm to grab a can of soda.
I allow myself the opportunity to appreciate the contour of his body, visible through the thin fabric of his t-shirt.
He looks up at me, catching me off guard with his startling eyes, and I nod furiously.
“That would be great, thanks, Mr—”
Lincoln raises an eyebrow at me expectantly, and I suck in a sharp breath.
“—Lincoln.” I finish breathlessly, reaching out to grab the can he’s offering to me.
Our fingers brush against one another, and there’s a zing of something between us—something chemical and otherworldly.
But then I remember he’s my fiancé’s dad, and I’m probably imagining the whole thing.
Lincoln is gorgeous, pantwettingly so, but I’m being entirely inappropriate.
But I can’t help it. He’s a god.
“How’s work?” Lincoln asks, leaning back against the island. His hand grips the countertop behind him, and all I can do is stare.
I want to be that countertop.
Cringing inside, I smile at his interest in my job.
Working with animals at a rescue center is something I’d always dreamed of doing, and every day I’m there, I’m reminded of how wonderful animals are.
They never judge you, they listen intently, and when you stare into their eyes, you can feel their love and loyalty.
“Good,” I say, cracking open my can. “We’ve got a new crossbreed called Kiki, who I’ve fallen in love with….”
“Lucky dog,” Lincoln murmurs, and I look up with surprise.
Lincoln is smiling at me with his eyes, but his mouth is set in a firm line like he’s disappointed. I can’t work out if he’s disappointed with himself or me, but I can’t think why.
Sipping my soda, I wrap one arm across my stomach and lean forward on the counter nearest to me.
“Yeah, she’s really not. She’s had an awful start to life, and she deserves the best. She’s such a beautiful soul.”
Lincoln watches me, swallowing hard.
The silence falls between us again, and I’m wondering whether to continue. My nerves get the better of me, and I keep on babbling.
“I’m trying to convince Kurt to let me adopt her,” I confess, leaning forward with excitement. “She follows me everywhere at work, and I hate leaving her there. It hurts more than leaving any of the others, and I don’t know why.”
“Animals are incredible,” Lincoln says, pushing himself away from the counter. “But a lifetime commitment. Kurt would probably forget you guys had her or something.”
He rolls his eyes, and we snicker in the way that only two people who know someone mutually can.
“I’d commit to her for life.” I shrug, wondering how he’d react if he knew I’d already applied to adopt her.
My boss wants the okay from Kurt, seeing as we are in the process of saving for a house together, but for now, we’re both living at home.
“That’s nice. A girl who knows what she wants.”
Without thinking, I laugh throatily. The sound seems to bother Lincoln, who looks at me with a strange expression on his face.
“That I do,” I confirm, turning at the sound of my fiancé’s footsteps on the stairs behind us.
“That you do what?” Kurt passes me, heading for the fridge to grab a soda. “Love me? Aww.”
Kurt makes a face at me, standing beside his dad.
Now I’m really hot and bothered.
The two of them look alike, sure, but Lincoln has the tattoos and chiseled jawline, and the sheer width of his body outweighs Kurts.
Beside his father, Kurt looks like a pretty boy.
“Sure she does, son. That’s exactly what we were talking about; you,” Lincoln teases, elbowing his son playfully.
I can’t help but grin, but Kurt looks annoyed.
“Where’s Timea?” Kurt lifts an eyebrow at his Dad, who jumps up.
“Shit, I’ve got to pick her up from dance. Gotta go!”
Lincoln drains his soda before throwing me a wink. My insides go all fluttery, and I bite my lip to stop me from giving him a gooey smile.
What the fuck am I doing?
Kurt seems to have the same question.
“Are you drooling over my dad, babe?”
“No, don’t be absurd.”
Kurt grins, walking over to me.
“You look all dazed and happy. You sure you don’t prefer my dad?”
“Kurt, don’t be gross. We were talking about Kiki.”
He rolls his eyes and reaches out to stroke my chin.
“You and that dog.”
I prickle at his tone, but I resist the urge to slap him, instead changing the subject.
“Six days till your birthday! What would you like to do?”
Kurt reaches out to examine my engagement ring, his eyes softening.
“I’m out with the boys on Saturday, so maybe we could spend Sunday together.”
Getting fucked up with his boys was always going to be his priority, and I knew this.
But it still hurts.
In my mind, now that we are engaged, we can spend more quality time together at times like these, but it isn’t the way for Kurt.
Visions of me planning a little surprise party complete with a cake vanish from my mind, and I sigh heavily.
We’re so different.
“Great!” I lie, turning to see the calendar on the wall beside me.
Scribbled notes and circles fill the dates, but my heart sinks when I see the dates and weekends away Lincoln has planned.
Probably all for his lucky girlfriend, Timea.
“Who pissed on your Cheerios?” Kurt laughs, reaching out to squeeze my cheek.
“Nothing. No one.” I shrug.
Kurt sighs, tugging his phone out of his pocket. He taps away, leaving me to spy on the calendar again.
Francellos, 7 pm. Roses.
Order suit for Mel's wedding.
Dinner at Jax & Jolie’s.
All everyday things, but also the lifestyle I want. With Kiki thrown in, of course.
“Do you want to check out some houses? I saw a beautiful one on Melbourne Rise.”
Kurt is grinning at his phone, ignoring me altogether.
“It’s got a great yard for Kiki.”
“And I can set fire to all of your clothes and dance naked around the bonfire.”
Kurt finally looks up, frowning at me.
I grit my teeth with irritation, turning on my heel.
I give up.