Sweetest Mistake

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For a long, breathless moment, Jackson stood on her doorstep. Five o’clock shadow dusting that squared jaw. Fists clenched.

Abby took that split second to drink him in.

As usual, his dark blond hair appeared carelessly hand-combed—reflecting a hint of the man she knew to be an act-first-think-later kind of guy. The outer corners of his eyes were slightly turned down and made him appear like he was in a perpetual state of concern. But the vivid blue made him look keenly intrigued, full of mischief, and wildly untamed.

The impressive breadth of his shoulders and chest were rigid beneath a deep blue safd shirt. The defined muscles of his biceps expanded from beneath the short sleeves, and dark blue pants hugged his slim hips and long, powerful legs. The man oozed sexuality as if at birth he’d been granted an extra ration of snap and sizzle.

Abby’s heart gave a fierce thump against her ribs.

He’d changed.

He looked better. Older. Wiser.

And probably a little north of ticked off.

At his comment, she resisted the urge to lift a hand to make sure her hair was in place. During the extent of her marriage, she’d been expected to appear flawless at all times. To be the consummate hostess. Dedicated personal assistant. And loving wife. At least in the eyes of the world—or Houston society—whichever came first on  any given day.

Her birth date might claim her age to be only thirty-one, but she felt ancient.


Far from perfect.

Her heart leaped again as she looked up into the eyes of the man who’d never expected perfection. He’d seen her at her best and her worst, and he’d never looked at her any differently.

Until now.

Now, those dark blue eyes were narrowed.



She’d never met a man as outspoken as Jackson Wilder. He called it like he saw it. Spewed advice no one invited.

Guess some things hadn’t changed at all.

“So …” His entire expression shifted. “It’s been a while,” he finally said, unable to hide the undertones of a low Southern growl.

She lifted the corners of her mouth into a practiced smile. “We’re not going to argue in the first five seconds, are we?”

“Argue?” His gaze locked onto hers. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Friends don’t argue. And that’s what we were the last time I checked … oh, say almost seven years ago. Except … wait …” He folded those massive arms, shifted the weight of that big strong body from one boot to the other. “Friends don’t run off without a word, then never write or call, do they?”

“Oh goody. We are going to argue.” She tried her best to sound blasé—though a blood-pressure check would have proven otherwise. She stepped back from the doorway. “Then I guess you might as well come in so the neighbors don’t start erecting fallout shelters.”

Without another word, he strode into the house filled with haphazardly placed furniture and stacks of boxes she’d had the movers bring back into the house from the storage container parked outside. Prep, stage, and sell, had been the request from her mom and dad. Oh, and while she was at it, would she mind going through everything and having a garage sale too? And then, of course, send them the money even though she’d been the one to pay for the movers and she’d be the one to cover any renovation costs to sell their house. Heaven forbid they take a break from playing Texas Holdem or yucking it up during martini happy hour with their fellow retirees.

Irritation crept up the back of her neck as she turned to look at the man in the middle of her living room—muscular arms folded across an amazing chest while he studied the current wall-to-wall catastrophe.

“Have a seat,” she told him as she shut the door. “If you can find one.”

“No thanks. I don’t plan on staying long.”

“Suit yourself.” She wadded up the sheet covering the sofa and tossed it on top of a stack of boxes marked Records. “Hey, how about if you just stand there and glare at me while I make some tea. Or maybe you’d like a beer. The previous renters might have left one behind in their haste to vacate while skipping on the last month’s rent.”

“I’ll pass.”

“Great.” She pushed a breath from her lungs. “You do that.”

“You sound a little testy.” The orneriness in his deep voice rippled up her spine.

Testy? Whatever gave you that idea?” Her blood rushed through her veins, and, for the first time in a long time, she felt alive. She’d been on the run for so long, it was finally time to stop. Deal with the consequences. After all, she’d come back to Sweet to face her demons, hadn’t she?

Might as well start with the devil himself.

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