Caught Up in You

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In Shady Grove – Book Three

Harlequin Superromance December 2013

His teachers were never like this!

As a single dad and a partner in the family construction company, Eddie Montesano’s days are jammed. Then he discovers his son Max’s teacher is none other than Harper Kavanagh. Gorgeous and smart, single mom Harper is even more captivating than she was in high school. Plus it’s clear she’s dedicated to helping Max with his learning issues. How can Eddie resist making time for her?

Too bad there are clear rules limiting the relationship he and Harper have. But with their attraction out of control, Eddie is about to break those rules. Because if it means the chance at a future with her, he’ll take the risk of getting caught!

EXCERPT

Harper squeezed the cloth so hard, water dripped off her wrist. “You came over here, to my home, on a Friday night to discuss your son? How did you even know where I live?”

“Sadie told me.”

Her cousin always did have a big mouth.

“Do you have any idea how…unusual…this is?” Unusual. Weird. Inappropriate. Did she mention weird? “Most parents don’t simply…show up at their child’s teacher’s house without warning.”

“You’re not just Max’s teacher.”

“I’m not?”

“You and me, we’re old friends.”

His tone was low and somber, his expression just this side of grim. Jeez, he could try and charm her with a grin, or at the very least not to look so foreboding. “We’re not friends, old or otherwise.” And where did he get off, using her words from their meeting the other day against her like this, trying to turn them around on her now? “So far, during the brief time we’ve been reacquainted, you’ve informed me—in no uncertain terms—that we are not, and never were, friends. That you don’t need my help with Max and don’t agree with my assessment of what his needs are.”

She wasn’t going to hold his accusing her of taking away Max’s recess since he’d apologized for that. Plus he had showed up today to help in class and had done a good job of it—despite her initial prediction being right that he’d be a distraction to her.

“Now, you’re here, interrupting my dinner because you’ve…what? Changed your mind?”

He grabbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your evening.”

She sighed. A man of few words. She did not get why some women found that attractive. “If you want to meet to talk about Max, we can set something up for Mon–”

“I back,” Cass announced happily as she dragged a doll stroller behind her, four dolls piled in the seat. In her other arm, she carried a naked Barbie which she shoved at
Eddie who took it without even blinking. “Dress her.”

“Cassidy,” Harper said sharply, “don’t be so bossy. It’s not nice to tell people what to do.”

“Okay, Mommy.” She sidled up to Eddie. “I the boss,” she whispered. “Dress her.”

Eddie’s lips twitched and Harper realized she’d never seen him smile, wondered, briefly, inappropriately, what it would be like if he did.

Probably swoon-worthy, if she had to hazard to a guess.

“What do you say when you want something?” Eddie asked so kindly, Harper had her mouth open to answer him before realizing he didn’t mean her wanting to see him smile.

He was talking to Cass.

“I say please,” Cass told him, holding out a tiny bright blue dress.

He took Barbie’s clothes. “That’s a good girl.”

She nodded. “I Mommy’s best girl. I your best girl, too.”

Well, it was easy to see that her daughter had become quickly infatuated with Eddie. And that wouldn’t do. Harper stepped forward, ready to shove Eddie out the door if necessary. Then possibly move to some secret location so secluded her cousin wouldn’t be able to find her and spill her whereabouts to any of her students’ parents.

But Eddie looked at the Barbie in one hand, the dress in the other and did something so unexpected, so damned shocking, all Harper could do was stare in shock, horror, and yes, maybe a little bit of appreciation.

He sat cross-legged on her kitchen floor, held out his arms and settled her daughter onto his lap.

Talk about swoon-worthy.

“What’s your doll’s name?” he asked Cass as he lifted his cap, turned it around and settled it back on his head.

“Katrina.” Cass named pretty much every Barbie, doll and stuffed animal after her favorite teacher at daycare.

“Pretty,” Eddie said earning him an adoring grin. After dressing Barbie, he fluffed the doll’s hair and handed her to Cass. “But not as pretty as you.”

Cass nodded solemnly. “I know.”

Harper covered her eyes with her hand. At least her child didn’t have any problems with lack of self-esteem.

“You’d be even prettier if you let your mommy wash some of that sauce off your face,”
Eddie said, tapping Cass’s red cheek.

“You do it.” Then Cass stuck her head forward like a turtle, her chin lifted.

“That’s okay, Cass,” Harper rushed out. “I can do it.”

“No!” She threw her arms around Eddie’s neck. “You!”

Patting her baby girl’s back with one hand, Eddie reached out the other. What choice did Harper have but to give him the cloth?

He took it, gently disentangled himself from Cass’s arms then washed her face.

It was so sweet, so unexpected, that Harper couldn’t take her eyes off of him. His brow was knit in a subtle, contemplative frown, his eyes a warm caramel color. Stubble covered his cheeks and jaw, making the angles of his face seem sharper, more pronounced.

She slid her gaze down to his scuffed work boots, over his faded jeans. The sweatshirt he wore—the same one he’d had on when they’d met in her class Monday—hugged his shoulders, the pushed up sleeves revealing his muscular forearms.

His hands, oh, his hands, were large and tan, his touch sure and tender as he wiped Cass’s face. Harper imagined what it would feel like to have those hands on her, to feel the rough pad of his thumb rubbing against the sensitive skin under her ear, his fingers splayed against the nape of her neck as he held her motionless for his kiss.

The tips of her fingers tingled, her mouth went dry.

Reality crashed in, brought with it shame. And guilt. Shaken by her thoughts, by the flush suffusing her body, the heat skimming along her skin, she averted her gaze. Tried to catch her breath. It was just hormones. Nothing more. She was a woman, made of flesh and blood and flaws. She’d had a healthy, normal sexual appetite with Beau, had enjoyed kissing, touching and being intimate with her husband.
This was nature’s way of telling her she was healing. That she could, someday, enjoy all those things again. Want them again. But the thought of wanting them with another man had always left her cold.

Until now.