Finding a Hart

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Chapter 5


I curled my hair and did my make-up a bit more elegantly than normal and gave myself a satisfied nod in the mirror. I had just slipped into a pair of red heels when the doorbell rang. I rushed down the hall and grabbed the doorknob before Troy could ring it again and wake up Alyssa.

When I pulled the door open, I couldn’t help but smile.

Troy Walters had been pretty awkward when I first saw him at fifteen-years-old, but he was still the most handsome boy I’d ever seen. His family had just moved up from Tucson and he had been assigned to me as my partner in our English class. His chocolate-brown hair had been so long that it hung in his matching eyes and his smile had been devastating when he turned in on me. After only two weeks of working together, he asked me out on my first date.

More than ten years later, he wasn’t awkward by any stretch of the imagination. He had played football all throughout both high school and college and hadn’t lost the linebacker build thanks to his strict gym regimen. He was big- about seven inches taller than my five-eight and muscular all over. The hair on his head was shorter than it had been in high school, cropped short on the sides and slightly longer in the middle, and he filled out the midnight blue button-up shirt perfectly. It was tucked into a pair of black slacks that had a slight hint of sawdust on the cuffs that he’d likely tracked home from a job site.

He was insanely attractive.

“You look amazing, babe.” His lips were tipped up in a smile as his eyes roamed my body. “You ready to go?”

I nodded and grabbed the black clutch that I’d thrown all of my stuff into earlier. “Let me get my jacket.”

The second I had my jacket in my hands, Troy was taking it from me so he could hold it open. I slipped my arms in and moved so I could press a kiss to his cheek.

“Thanks, handsome.”

With his hand on the small of my back, Troy led me out to where his too-big truck was parked on the street. He took my hand and helped me climb up into the monster before shutting my door and coming around to the driver’s side. He glanced over at me as we drove.

“How are you? How’s work?”

I shifted slightly so I could look at his profile. “It’s good. Busy.”

“Everything still going okay with the new position?” he asked and I nodded.

“Oh yeah. It’s been great. We’ve streamlined a lot of stuff, too. I feel like I’m making a difference in the department.”

“Yeah?” He flashed me a smile. “I’m not surprised. You’re damn good at that job.”

The praise from him in regards to my profession was still shocking. Just a year before, talking about work had become taboo because it always led to an argument. It was a definite improvement. “Let’s hope so. Now tell me about this deal so I’m prepared.”

Troy dove into a quick explanation about who was going to be at dinner. His twin brother and CFO, Liam, would be there but I obviously knew him. Two men from Arizona State University were supposed to attend, though. Troy was hoping to become the university’s primary construction company and I knew it would be a huge win for him.

We pulled up in front of Brimstone, a fancy restaurant that I had eaten at once before when Troy had been wining and dining potential clients. He stopped his truck in front of the valet and someone opened my door, offering me a hand so I could climb down. Troy immediately gave me his arm once he had come around the truck and we walked inside together.

He told the hostess his name at the podium and we were immediately led back to a table. Liam was already there and a grin hit his face the second he saw me. He stood from the table and wrapped me in a bear hug that was so tight I could hardly breathe.

“Stephy.” When he finally released me, he looked down at me with a slight shake of his head. “I’ve missed you.”

Although they were identical twin brothers, I had always thought that the two of them looked insanely different. Liam’s brown hair was shaved down on his head in his usual cut I’d deemed the military buzz. He also was sporting trim facial hair that hid his lips but somehow always managed to have a playful expression on his face. He also wasn’t as muscular as his brother but he still had a pretty good build. Together, they were a panty-melting duo.

He let me go so I could hand off my coat to someone and so he could introduce me to his date, a woman who was completely unfriendly. Liam wasn’t one for serious relationships, though, so I knew I would never see her again.

I had just sat down when two men showed up. We moved back to our feet and Troy placed his hand on my back again after shaking theirs.

“Gentlemen, this lovely lady is Stephanie Gibson. Steph, I’d like you to meet Anthony Culver and Bryan Hammond, the director and assistant director of facilities at Arizona State University. Stephanie is also an alumnus.”

I shook their hands and sat back down. Everyone chatted a bit as drinks were ordered and when Troy leaned over to ask if I wanted an appetizer, I gave him an incredulous look.

“I always want an appetizer. Besides, I only had Pop-Tarts for lunch.”

My health-nut ex-boyfriend rolled his eyes. “That processed food is going to kill you, maybe even before your magic metabolism dies.”

I offered him a brilliant smile. “Just for that remark, I’m going to eat some of that microwavable mac n cheese tomorrow.”

He groaned, pressed a kiss to my forehead, and turned his attention back to the guys.

Two hours passed while conversation flowed around the table. I was able to keep up with the guys in regards to anything ASU related but I zoned out during the business talk. I nursed a glass of wine while the men went through three glasses of scotch, and I finished off Troy’s key lime pie when he didn’t eat it all.

“You’re both good kids,” one of the men said as he placed his empty tumbler on the table, shifting his gaze between the Walters men. “Your work speaks for itself and your bid was a very fair one. We’ll make it official next week but it’s safe to say that Walters Construction will get the two year contract with ASU.”

I let out a squeal and squeezed Troy’s hand excitedly. He looked over at me with a huge smile and gave me a quick, hard hug before turning back to the other men.

“Thank you both so much. You definitely won’t regret it.” He stood and we all exchanged handshakes, thank yous, and congratulations. Troy’s arm remained around me the entire time and the excitement was coming off of him in waves. We said goodbye to them at the podium and Liam gave Troy a congratulatory hug. The two laughed as they separated and Liam shook his head.

“This is huge, bro. It’s going to take us to so many new places.” He turned his gaze on me and tugged me to his chest. “It’s good seeing your fine ass, Stephy. See you soon?”

I just nodded and watched Liam and his date leave while Troy and I waited for my jacket. As soon as they were out of sight, he wrapped me up in a tight embrace.

“Shit, I can’t believe it.”

I laughed as he pulled away and shook my head. “I can. You deserve this.”

We stared at each other for a moment and suddenly, Troy’s mouth was on mine. I was shocked for a second or two, but recovered quickly and kissed him back. He tasted like scotch, limes, and familiarity. Although we’d been broken up for a year, the two of us had gravitated back to one another a few times, having sex without a relationship. The last time had been around Halloween, about two months before, and my body was screaming for attention.

My arms were looped around his neck and his around my waist, both of us holding onto the other tight. After a moment of kissing in the lobby of the restaurant, Troy pulled back and looked down at me while breathing heavily.

“Come home with me?”

I hesitated slightly before nodding my head. “Yes.”

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