Finding a Hart

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Chapter 27

Stephanie

As soon as the doors to the elevator closed, I let out a shaky breath. In the ten years I was with Troy, I noticed other guys, of course. I wasn’t blind. But with Jared, the attraction almost made me dizzy.

It wasn’t even just a physical thing, either. I mean, Jared was handsome in a way that was very opposite of the only man I had ever truly dated. Troy was muscular and large and his presence constantly made me feel petite. Jared was almost as tall as Troy, but his frame was a lot different. Troy was built like a mixture of a linebacker and a defensive tackle and Jared was more like the quarterback. Both men were good looking but in completely different aspects.

The attraction went deeper, though. Conversing with Jared was always easy and I felt a desire to know more about him. The thought of having a fun, lighthearted conversation with him was thrilling and I really missed those ten minutes we would spend together in the morning.

Angelo greeted me and I thanked him when he handed me my keys. I made it back home and went right back to my bedroom. It was almost one when I pulled off my pants and sweater to put my pajamas back on.

Despite running on little sleep, I had another great day at work. I got a lot done from my desk and met Alyssa for lunch at a sandwich shop downtown. She hadn’t noticed my late night visit the night before and I didn’t tell her about it. I could have told her some of it without breaking client confidentiality but for some reason I just didn’t. I wasn’t ready to analyze the dynamic between the two of us but I also didn’t want to share our private moments.

I had just sat back down at my desk after lunch when my phone vibrated to alert me to a text. I opened it and was surprised to see it was from Jared. A picture of Chris cuddled to his father’s chest as he slept was attached. The brown shirt I had been wearing was pinned between dad and son’s bodies and the text following the picture made me grin.

Jared: I told you. You’re his comfort. He was out in minutes. You might have to leave more clothes here for my sanity’s sake.

Me: Well, I’m glad it helped. Makes me feel like less of an idiot for leaving it.

Jared: A man never finds it idiotic when a woman takes clothing off. True story.

I chuckled and locked my phone without responding.

Yeah, I had no idea what our dynamic was anymore but I liked it.

–––

I spent the first hour at work on Thursday trading calendars with the others before I left to do the home visits I had to do for the day. When the home visits were basic placement check-ins like the Harts, we did them solo. The ones where we were anticipating issues from or had seen issues before, we were required to do in duos for safety reasons. My small caseload had a mixture of both but the ones I did that day were easy.

I did my first two of the day and was very satisfied with them both as I left. The second one I was able to announce to the couple that I was officially closing their file and they both hugged me tight. I slid in my seat behind the steering wheel and started the car before grabbing my phone. I hesitated for a moment before pressing Jared’s name to call him. He answered quickly and I could tell he was smiling.

“Hey, Stephanie.”

“Hey. I know I’m about thirty minutes early but I just finished my last appointment. Is it okay if I come over now?”

His quiet chuckle filled my car though the speakers. “You don’t even need to ask. Come on over. You can park your car in the gated lot. My code is three-nine-three-one and you can take any spot you want. The doorman on duty today is Howie. I’ll let him know you’re coming and he’ll swipe you into the elevator.”

“Three-nine-three-one,” I repeated quietly. “I’m on my way.”

“See you in a minute.”

We ended the call and I headed towards downtown. When I made it to the familiar building, I pulled in and punched the code into the box at the entrance to the covered parking lot. There were a lot of empty spots so I picked the first one and went in the side door that led to the lobby. The friendly doorman smiled when he saw me.

“Ms. Gibson, I’m Howie Twill. It’s good to meet you. Mr. Hart says you’re a miracle worker.”

I followed him to the elevator with a smile of my own. “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

He gestured to the open doors and I thanked him before pressing the twenty-one on the display. I was nervous as it rose and had no idea why. I had to remind myself that I was doing my job. Even if I was attracted to Jared, I still needed to be professional.

The elevator dinged before the doors opened and I stepped out into the hallway. I’d been in such a hurry the other night that I really hadn’t had a chance to look around.

The halls were decorated with sleek, modern designs. The brown, plush carpet looked brand new and the walls were painted a deep red color. Watercolor paintings were adorning the walls and different plants that looked like a classier version of the Ficus filled the space between paintings. I went right to door A and knocked softly. It opened about thirty seconds later and Jared appeared, wearing a pair of jeans and some sports t-shirt. He smiled before stepping back and beckoning me in.

“Hey.”

I returned his smile and moved into his living room, which was completely baby-proofed even though Chris was nowhere near mobile. “Hey. Thanks for letting intrude a bit earlier than planned.”

“No problem at all.” He gestured to the bag on my arm. “You can drop your stuff wherever.”

I draped my jacket on the back of the couch, put my bag on the sofa table by the door, and kicked my heels off where a few other pairs of shoes already were. I reached into it and pulled out my iPad before turning back to Jared. He was watching me carefully from where he stood near the kitchen entryway.

“Do you have another appointment after this?”

I nodded and tucked the tablet under my arm. “Kind of. I scheduled your visit from eleven to noon and I have lunch at noon. My next appointment isn’t until one.”

“Got it.” He used one of his hands to gesture towards the kitchen. “Do you have lunch plans? I was going to order some food in and I’d be happy to get something for you, too.” When I started shaking my head, he continued. “Please don’t say ‘You don’t have to do that’ because I want to.”

That had been exactly what I was going to say. I held his gaze for a minute before nodding. “Okay. Thank you.”

“Do you like Mexican food?”

“I love it.” I shrugged my shoulders slightly. “Surely you realize by now that I’ll eat about anything.”

With a chuckle, he stepped away to order lunch and I took a second to look around.

The building he lived in was beautiful and his condo was amazing. With a corner balcony that you could enter from the living room, the views of the city were breathtaking. You could see the entirety of downtown with the mountains in the background. He also had a spectacular view of Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks played, and you could see the building where our professional basketball team played, too. Hell, I could almost see my office from his windows.

I ripped my eyes away from the view and pulled up the Hart file on my tablet. I began marking off what I already knew about his place and looked up when I heard Chris crying. I peered into the kitchen and Jared’s eyes collided with mine as he spoke on the phone. He nodded in answer to my silent question and I grinned before walking down the hall towards the master bedroom.

He was in the bassinet next to the bed and his cry was so relaxed compared to when I first found him in the box. He was in a pair of green and white sleeper pajamas and he held his little fists by his head, obviously having broken out of his swaddle. I scooped him up and cradled him in my arm carefully. His crying immediately began to settle down and I pressed my lips to his forehead.

“Hey, handsome. Long time no see.”

His cries stopped completely and he peered up at me with his dark blue eyes. I was amazed at all of the different changes he’d gone through in the almost-three weeks since he’d been born.

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