Home > Built (Saints of Denver #1)(5)

Built (Saints of Denver #1)(5)
Author: Jay Crownover

Poppy laughed and it was such a rare and precious sound it made my heart squeeze tight. I’d never had a roommate before, never shared my space with anyone so closely, or had anyone else to give my time to aside from my clients. I cherished the time I had with this young woman so much that I often wondered if Poppy was healing more than just herself on her journey to take her life back. I refused to acknowledge the scars and wounds etched deep in my psyche and that festered all over my soul from growing up in the care of my father. But occasionally Poppy would say something, or reach out and touch me, or my little brother would call just to check up on me, and old injuries I purposely ignored would tingle as they fought to knit themselves together despite my persistent denial that they existed.

“No, but thank you for the offer. Rowdy calls me every Thursday night when Salem goes out with her girlfriends and asks me to have dinner with him. I always say no because I panic at the thought of being alone with him and going out in public around all those other people, but I think next time he asks I know can say yes. I can do this.”

I nodded and tried not to seem overly excited. I didn’t want to pressure her in any way. “That will make him very happy and I think it’ll be good for both of you.” I nudged her with my elbow. “And if you need me to get off work early or want me to come because it’s overwhelming you, just say the word and I’ll make it happen.” Rowdy would understand if she needed me as a buffer. He always understood.

She gave me a tiny grin that looked like a baby bird trying to figure out how to fly for the first time in its hesitancy.

“Thank you. That means a lot.” She walked around the giant island and headed toward the room that was hers at the very back of the house and as far away from my master suite in the converted attic as it could get. She knew her screams of terror carried and had made it clear she wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible while she recuperated in my home. “Good night, Sayer. Sweet dreams.”

There was a note of humor in her voice that made me think that maybe I hadn’t been as coy about what—or rather who—was keeping me up at night as I thought. I sighed and made my way up to my own room.

Zeb had transformed the abandoned and decrepit attic space in the house into a retreat that anyone would love. It was modern but still had the vintage charm that came with an old house. The colors were all pale grays and soft blues. It was a place where I could shut out the rest of the world after a rough day in court or when I had a client and a case I couldn’t let go of. He made me a paradise in my own home, and the only thing that would be even better was if he would strip and climb into the massive, four-poster, king-size bed with me.

I called myself every kind of fool I could think of as I took in the tangled sheets and the pillows tossed in every direction. My imaginary Zeb got more of a reaction out of me and out of my body than my very real ex-fiancé ever had. I had been involved with Nathan for years and not once had he made my entire body quake, bow up, or tremble from head to toe on the verge of an explosion that had every kind of sweet heat imaginable in it. That was why I had stayed in the relationship for as long as I did. There was no passion, no overwhelming rush of lust and desire that I wasn’t equipped to deal with. Nathan was safe, easy, and I didn’t have to pretend not to feel anything because I legitimately didn’t feel anything other than the bland security that being with him offered.

There was nothing wrong with Nathan. He was kind. He had a good job. He looked good in a suit and liked all the same things I did . . . well, all the things I had been convincing myself I liked up until my father died and my life turned upside down. And I truly believed that Nathan loved me even though I wasn’t very emotionally responsive and worked way too much. He cared about me a lot even though we both knew I was never going to rock his world in the bedroom and that he was never going to be my top priority. It had taken the passing of my father and the discovery of my brother for me to realize that no matter how much effort Nathan put in and how accepting of my frosty personality he claimed to be, ours was ultimately a relationship I didn’t choose for myself. It was a relationship I chose in order to make my father happy and to keep him off of my back. I picked Nathan because it was what was expected of me.

I knew Nathan deserved better than someone who was only putting forth the bare minimum in order to keep the relationship alive, so despite his protests and his assurances that I was all he wanted, no matter what that looked like, I ended the engagement and packed up and moved to Colorado in search of a new life and a new family. I got both in spades and also a startling wake-up call when a filthy, unapologetic, and ruggedly handsome Zeb Fuller had sat down across from me at a tiny bar table while I was talking to Rowdy.

The way Zeb affected me was one of the main reasons I wasn’t going to back out of the semidate I had arranged with Quaid Jackson tomorrow. Quaid was the kind of guy who seemed to like reserved blondes who were more comfortable in front of a judge than they were between the sheets, and it didn’t hurt a thing that he was also disgustingly handsome and over-the-top suave. The term “lady-killer” had been invented for guys like Quaid, and the way I felt around him, pleasant, warm, but generally unaffected was a reaction I was familiar with. Quaid didn’t make me panic or want to strip naked and throw myself at him. Quaid was safe.

He was a criminal defense attorney who had a legendary reputation in Denver. We had gotten to know each other when my firm handled his very messy and very public divorce not too long ago, so I was really hoping all he had in mind was a friendly get-together because there was no way the man could be ready to jump into anything serious after the kind of train wreck he’d just endured. I was hoping time and attention with the handsome blond attorney would force my hormones to get their shit together and stop screaming Zeb’s name. After tonight, I wasn’t so sure it would work, but for the love of God, I needed to get some sleep and I was desperate.

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