Finding a Hart

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Chapter 37

Jared

Chris cried the entire way home. I wasn’t kidding when I told Steph that he hated the car. My son was generally a happy baby but putting him in the car was like torture to him.

Stephanie met me at the car once I was parked and when she went to the popped trunk, I shook my head.

“Why don’t you grab Chris? Since the weather’s so nice, I’ve been leaving his seat in the car rather than lugging it up.”

“You twisted my arm,” she teased as she brushed by me to open the door to the backseat of the car. I unashamedly watched her bend down and almost groaned at the way the black slacks she was wearing tightened around her perfect ass. Chris’s cries had reduced to whimpers but they picked back up the second he saw Stephanie. I knew the moment she had him in her arms because he went completely silent.

I grabbed all of the groceries and closed the trunk, smiling at my son and the gorgeous woman who was holding him. She held him so they were chest to chest and gestured to the car with her head.

“I think you need to raise his base a little bit so it’s at an incline. That might help reduce his fussiness.” The look on my face must have shown my confusion because she chuckled slightly. “I’ll explain more later.”

Howie was waiting for us with a grin on his face. He looked at Stephanie with affection and she halted in her steps to kiss his cheek. Once she was through the door, he turned his friendly eyes on me.

“Good evening, Mr. Hart. How was your first week back?”

I clapped him on the shoulder and nodded my head. “It was good to be back but I’m glad it’s the weekend.”

He laughed softly and hustled to the elevator so he could call it for Stephanie. She thanked him quietly and we both stepped inside. I turned to look at her, ready to make a comment about how my doorman liked her better than me, but someone stopped the doors from closing before I could.

A pretty, young woman stepped inside and her face lit up when she saw me. “Jared.”

“Hey, Carla.” I wanted to pat myself on the back for somehow managing not to wince at her overly excited voice.

Carla Swanson was another resident of the building and someone that had been dropping less-than-subtle hints about dating me for months. Hell, she had even done the cliché and asked to borrow a cup of sugar the week before. I had been trying to let her down gently but she didn’t seem to be quite grasping my cues. She was nice enough but I just wasn’t interested. I only had eyes for one woman and she just happened to be in that elevator, too.

“What are you up to this evening?” She paused for about one second before rushing on, her voice still chipper. “My sister and I ordered some Thai food and there’s plenty. You and Chris should join us.” She frowned, as if realizing for the first time that I didn’t have Chris.

Her gaze settled on Stephanie, who was huddled in the corner with her cheek pressed to the top of my son’s head. Gone was the smiling woman from a few minutes ago and a closed-off person was left in her place.

The look on her face was one I was familiar with because I had been sporting it just thirty minutes before.

Jealousy.

“Actually, I have plans tonight but I appreciate the invitation,” I said, stepping closer to where Stephanie and Chris were. Carla narrowed her eyes ever so slightly as she appraised the woman next to me but recovered quickly, plastering a smile on her face.

“Another time then. You know where I am.” She stepped out onto the sixth floor and winked in my direction. I released a long breath when the doors closed and glanced over at Stephanie.

She refused to look at me and was making faces at Chris instead, who was eating up all of her attention. I didn’t try and force her to talk and just placed my hand on the small of her back when we exited the elevator.

I unlocked the door to my condo and gestured her in first. She stepped through the door and started to head down the hall as I placed the groceries on the kitchen counter.

“I’m going to change his diaper.”

I opened my mouth to respond but before I could, Stephanie stopped. She whirled around until she was staring at me. Her face was determined and I felt like I needed to brace myself for what she was about to say.

“You were jealous. Before you realized Austin was my brother, you were jealous.”

“I, uh, I… What?” I stammered, completely taken aback and unsure of how to reply.

I mean, she was right. When I had been walking through the grocery store and spotted Stephanie, happiness had hit me hard in the gut. That happiness had been swiftly shoved away when I watched a man walk up and wrap his arm around her. A minute later, he was affectionately kissing the top of her head.

Jealousy like I’d never felt had hit me. That was the moment I realized that only being Stephanie’s friend was going to be harder than I ever thought it could be. I wasn’t sure I could watch her be happy with another guy. So when I found out he was her brother? Well, that was the best news I’d heard in a while. Stephanie watched me stumble over my words and she moved back towards the living room. I stayed rooted to where I was near the entrance to the kitchen and tracked her as she placed Chris on his play mat that was set up on the living room floor.

She straightened up and walked towards me, only stopping when she was about a foot in front of me.

“Are you dating her?”

I blinked at her several times as I tried to catch up on the conversation. “What? Who?”

“That woman from the elevator.” She used one hand to gesture towards the front door. “Carla. Are you and she together? I saw you two flirting in the mail center a few days ago and not knowing whether or not you’re together has been driving me crazy.”

I scoffed and shook my head, balling my hands into fists to keep from reaching out to touch her. “I’m definitely not dating Carla, Steph.” I paused and raised my brows. “Are you jealous?”

She threw her hands up into the air, almost hitting my face in the process as she let out a noise of frustration. “Yes! I’m jealous, okay? I’m so jealous that I want to scream! I wanted to grab her by her perfect hair and shove her pretty little face into the elevator doors!”

“And before I realized that he was your brother, I was ready to rip you from Austin’s arm and throw him into the meat case,” I growled, unclenching my fists and stepping forward. My hands moved on their own until they were resting on Stephanie’s hips and her palms pressed to my chest at the same time. “I was jealous. I don’t like the thought of another man touching you, Stephanie.”

Before she could say another word, I covered her mouth with mine.

I almost expected her to be shocked, to freeze underneath me, but that didn’t happen. Stephanie responded by wrapping her arms around my neck and parting her lips almost immediately. When our tongues touched, it was like everything had been unleashed. She tasted like something I could never name and felt like perfection.

I ran my hands up her sides, feeling all of her amazing curves under my palms before wreathing one arm around her back so I could pull her flush against me. I nipped at her bottom lip, loving the sexy little whimper she released, and used my other hand to tilt her head slightly. I deepened the kiss, pouring months of wanting into my movements, and I knew she could feel exactly what she was doing to me against her stomach.

A shrill, happy squeak from the living room penetrated my haze of lust and I slowed the kiss down until our movements were languid. I placed a hand on her cheek and pulled back just enough so I could rest my forehead against hers.

“Wow,” she murmured and I opened my eyes to find hers still closed. I nodded slightly and released a long breath.

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