Come to Me
Come to Me
Linda Winstead Jones
Of all the offices in all the world… Why did Lizzie Porter have to waltz into his? Wary loner Sam Travers always had a soft spot for Lizzie – and now she’s grown up, with the curves to prove it. But to move on his old partner’s daughter would be oh-so-wrong… Except that Lizzie won’t take no for an answer. She’s discovered that she might have a half-sister. And she’s not going to let anyone stop her on her search – even Sam!The plot thickens when someone takes a shot at Lizzie and Sam volunteers to move in with her – just to protect her, of course. And, as they puzzle out the truth, he wonders just when he’ll dare move out…
“I’m supposed to be seducing you.”
“You’ve been seducing me all night,” he said, leading her into the living room, slipping her purse off her shoulder and deftly tossing it aside.
“That dress, the way you smile, the curve of your neck, the way you plucked at your skirt in the car as we got closer to the house… all seduction.”
“I had no idea those little things could be considered seduction,” Lizzie said, and her mouth went dry.
Sam sighed. “Neither did I.” He sat on the couch and pulled her onto his lap. She did not land gracefully, but lost her balance at the last second and landed pretty hard. He caught her, held her, guided her into a leaning position and began to kiss her throat. One hand slid slowly up her thigh, just barely slipping under her skirt and then stopping. Now, this was seduction.
You hear it all the time. “Write what you know.” Well, I’ve never been a private investigator, never owned a taser, never had a nutcase come after me. But years ago I did paint my living room a lovely color—Blush—that my entire family (all male, I should point out) insisted was pink. And when I painted a room or two Sahara Sand not so long ago, I heard the same accusation. Pink. (They were mistaken both times. Sorta.) So when Lizzie started painting Sam’s office, that’s where I called on what I know.
And Edgar’s Bakery in Birmingham really does make the best strawberry cupcakes ever.
I truly enjoy a reunion story, a love that lasts. And who doesn’t love a man who will do anything for a woman? Anything at all. Love of family is something I identify with very strongly. These are the things I drew on for this story. Paint, cupcakes, family, and love. Always love.
I hope you enjoy Sam and Lizzie’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Linda Winstead Jones
About the Author
LINDA WINSTEAD JONES is a bestselling author of more than fifty romance books in several subgenres—historical, fairy tale, paranormal and, of course, romantic suspense. She’s won a Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence twice. She is also a three-time RITA® Award finalist and (writing as Linda Fallon) winner of the 2004 RITA® Award for paranormal romance.
Linda lives in north Alabama with her husband of thirty-seven years. She can be reached via www.eHarlequin.com or her own website, www.lindawinsteadjones.com.
COME TO ME
LINDA WINSTEAD JONES
For Kira Sinclair and Kimberly Lang. I’m so honoured and thrilled to be around to see you both succeed, and to celebrate your accomplishments. I know there will be many more.
“You weren’t at the funeral,” Lizzie blurted. It was an awkward way to start a conversation with a man she hadn’t seen in nearly eight years, but she had a bad habit of saying whatever popped into her head. It was a trait that had gotten her into trouble more than once in her twenty-four years.
Sitting on the other side of a massive, polished walnut desk, Sam’s sharply featured face revealed no emotion as he said, “I was out of town and didn’t find out about your dad’s accident until days after the funeral. I’m so sorry. He was a good man and a good cop. Did you get the card?”
“Yes. Thanks for the thought.” The card had arrived nearly four months ago—a week after the funeral—and she’d almost thrown it out in a childish fit. Since Sam had been away, she supposed he could be forgiven for missing the funeral. It wasn’t as if she’d gone to any trouble to hunt him down and share the news. She’d been in shock, at the time.
In a completely perverse manner, Lizzie wished this man she’d once had a heart-wrenching teenage crush on had gotten bald or fat or horribly wrinkled in the years they’d been strangers. She wished she could write off her memory of him as the perfect specimen of a man as childish fiction. She wished she could laugh at her stubborn and unwanted habit of comparing every man she met to this one.
Instead, Sam Travers, once her father’s partner with the Birmingham police force and currently a successful private investigator, carried the years well. Too well. He was as perfectly handsome as she remembered. His dark hair, cut fairly short but gently mussed, was as thick as ever, and his eyes were even bluer than she remembered. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his now-thirty-two-year-old body, and the only wrinkles she could see were very faint lines around his fantastically blue eyes, lines that only made him more attractive. He wore a perfectly fitted suit these days, instead of the uniform or jeans and T-shirts she remembered, and she was dying to ask him how he’d gotten the small, almost invisible scar on his right cheek—but she didn’t.
Lizzie squirmed in her chair, uneasy and questioning her decision to be here. When planning her wardrobe for the day she’d purposely dressed down, determined not to make herself attractive for a man who didn’t deserve such efforts. Now she realized she should’ve gone to someone else. Sam looked a little harder than she remembered. He wouldn’t understand. This would never work!
The problem was she didn’t trust anyone else. Not with this.
“I have a sister,” she said, carefully placing the letters she’d found in her father’s papers on Sam’s desk and, after a brief pause, pushing them toward him with both hands. “Half sister, that is. I should say probably a half sister. If you read the letters, you’ll see there’s some question about that, though Dad seemed pretty sure. Her name is Jenna. According to these letters she’d be twelve years old now.”
Sam glanced at the short stack of envelopes but didn’t pick them up. “I’m sure finding out that you might have a half sister was a shock. What exactly do you want me to do?”
“Find her,” Lizzie said sharply, perturbed that Sam hadn’t figured out that part of it for himself. Some private investigator he was! The word from her father’s old cop buddies was that Sam was the best, a fixer of momentous problems, a man for whom no case was too difficult. He took on the toughest court assignments as well as private cases, and had built what had once been a one-man business into a well-respected agency.
“And?” he queried, tapping one long finger on the top letter in an annoying and strangely sensual rhythm.
Lizzie shook her head, annoyed—mostly with herself. “And what? Just find her!”
Sam’s face remained emotionless, as if he were totally unaffected by her outburst, but there was a hint of something in his eyes that might’ve been irritation. Sam and her father had been partners for almost three years, the new kid and the veteran striking up a deep friendship in spite of their age and lifestyle differences. There had been plenty of fishing trips and cookouts in those three years, birthday parties and football Saturdays. For those three years, Sam had almost been family. Lizzie remembered him being handsome and funny and one of the good guys. She remembered how he’d casually winked at her on occasion, the same way he probably winked at every other female who crossed his path. She didn’t remember him being so steely.
He leaned back in his chair as if relaxing, but the muscles in his body remained tense. He was not relaxed. “Odds are this little girl knows nothing about you or the question about her parentage. You might stir up a lot of dust that’s best left settled.”
She wasn’t an idiot; she’d thought of that. “For now, I only want to know where the girl is and that she’s okay. I was only eleven or so when Monica was around, but I remember her fairly well.” Lizzie instinctively wrinkled her nose. “Monica Yates was one of the unfortunate string of inappropriate girlfriends Dad experimented with after Mom left. From what I recall, she wasn’t exactly brilliant mother material, so it only makes sense to check on the girl. If Jenna is happy and well cared for and in a safe place, I won’t shatter her world.” How dare Sam not even consider that a girl who was most likely her father’s daughter by another woman might want a big sister!
Stoic and unshakable, Sam stared at her. Sadly, Lizzie’s girlish crush on Sam Travers had not entirely dissipated. He was hot, even now. He was the kind of man who could give a girl shivers just by walking past or glancing in her direction. Maybe she should’ve dressed better and put on some makeup, after all. If he so much as winked at her now she’d probably tremble and tingle in all the wrong places. There might even be drool involved. She might embarrass herself completely with a nervous giggle. Too bad his wife was such a bitch.
“I can afford you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Lizzie said, digging her checkbook out of her oversize brown leather purse and slapping it on Sam’s desk. “I have a successful business, and Dad left me some money, so paying your fee is not a problem.”
Now Sam really looked annoyed. His lips thinned and his eyes grew cold. “I don’t want your money.”
“I won’t take your money,” he said sharply, “not under any circumstances.”
At least it sounded as if he was considering taking her case. “Well, I won’t take charity, not even from you.”
He leaned forward and drummed his fingers against the desk. His lips thinned a bit more. Yep, he was definitely irritated. Irritated and macho and apparently accustomed to getting his way in all things.
“How about a trade?” Lizzie dropped her checkbook into the bowels of her purse. “You find Jenna for me, and I paint your office.” She glanced with undisguised disdain at the flat off-white walls.
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t want a mural of any kind on my walls.”
“That’s good, because I don’t paint murals.” Not anymore. Yes, there had been a time when she’d been into landscapes and bowls of fruit, and between the ages of twelve and fourteen she’d painted an insane number of fairies and woodland creatures and kittens. Lots of kittens. She’d painted an awful fairyland mural on her bedroom wall at one point. She shuddered at the memory.
As an adult she’d all too soon recognized that she was a competent but mediocre artist. Maybe she could eke out a living painting Elvis on velvet or kittens with big eyes, but she’d discovered that her real gift was in reviving dull, lifeless rooms. “I paint interiors.” She shifted her gaze to stare at the wall behind Sam, and she let her mind go, the way she did when she worked. A calmness settled over her. “These walls would look great in cinnamon taupe. I’d do the trim in heirloom lace, I think. Maybe California cream or Carolina beach beige.”
“You paint walls.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
Sam shook his head. “Fine, we have a deal. I’ll find this maybe half sister of yours, and you paint my office. But…” He grabbed the letters and drew them toward him as he leaned slightly forward. “If this child’s life is settled and she’s happy and safe, you steer clear.” He used a voice that was cool and demanding. It was the voice of a man who expected his every word to be law. “It wouldn’t be nice to drop a bomb like this on a kid.”