The One Real Thing Page 10

She blushed, her gaze dropping. “That’s just your diplomatic way of saying you’re not interested.”

“Hey.” He tipped her chin gently to raise her eyes back to his. “Ayd, you’re gorgeous and you’re sweet, but you know I’m not in the place to start anything up.”

This time she gave him a sympathetic smile. “I get that. You know I get that.”

“Good. So we’re okay?” He grinned.

She rolled her eyes. “When you smile like that you know it’s hard for any woman to be mad at you.”

He winked at her and heard her laughing as she followed him to the truck.

Relief moved through him.

“How’s Angela doing?” he asked as they rode back into town.

“Oh, she’s doing great. She got a summer job at the fun park and she’s helping out a lot. She’s a good girl.”

“She is that.” Cooper smiled. “You’re doing a great job there, Ayd.”

She gave him a tired smile. “I do what I can.”

“Which is a lot more than some.” He pulled up to a stop at her small house. It was in the crappiest neighborhood in Hartwell. She’d moved Angela there nine months back. They used to live four houses down from Cooper, but when her asshole of an ex left them, he left them without the means to pay rent on the nicer house.

“Thanks for saying so, Coop.” She opened the door. “And thanks again for the car.”

“No problem. I’ll call you when it’s fixed.”

She threw him a wave over her shoulder and Cooper pulled away from the house.

“Call Cat,” he said to his truck’s computer system.

His sister picked up on the third ring. “What’s up?”

“Did you know Aydan was going to make a play for me?”

His sister groaned down the line. “Oh, please tell me she didn’t.”

“I wish I could.”

“Well, don’t feel special. She has a list of suitable guys and you’re actually last on the list. She probably just went for it because the opportunity arose.”

Cooper grinned. “You always know how to make me feel good about myself.”

“Like you need me to inflate your ego.”

He ignored that and asked after his nephew. “Joey okay?”

“At school. It’s his last week, so you know he’s more than okay. He’s hyper.”

“I’ll swing by to see you tomorrow.”

“Great. And I’ll talk to Aydan if you want.”

“It’s okay. I already did.”

“You weren’t mean to her, were you?”

That didn’t even deserve a response.

“Right,” she said. “Stupid question.”

“I’m pulling up to the house. Talk to you later.”


Ex-wives were hell.

Or at least in Cooper’s experience they were hell.

For instance, he was supposed to be free and clear of his. That was what the divorce was all about, right? So why the fuck had he stepped out of his house, set for getting to his bar, to find Dana Kellerman—Dana Lawson until eighteen months before—leaning up against the passenger side of his truck?

Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t his first encounter with his ex since they’d divorced. For a while he had been free and clear of the traitorous she-demon. Until a few weeks back, when, out of the blue, Dana was suddenly in his face again, wanting to talk and angling for reconciliation.

She was out of her fucking mind, that was all Cooper could say.

Sighing at the annoyance, he strode down his porch steps to his drive, completely ignoring her existence as he got in his truck. He could feel her eyes burning on his face. Once upon a time he’d thought those eyes of hers were stunning. Now he looked at her and he couldn’t remember what the hell he’d seen in her.

Cooper guessed that was only natural since Dana had fucked his best friend behind his back.

He pulled out of the drive, ignoring her thumping her hand against his truck and yelling his name. After getting angry at her calls, at her turning up at the house and his bar, he realized all he was doing was giving her a reaction. She was obviously taking that emotion to mean he still felt something for her.

Now he was out to get the message across that he couldn’t give a shit about her. Maybe then she’d get out of his face and leave him in peace.

Irritation bubbled in his blood, but Cooper attempted to force the feeling out, to turn his mind away from his ex. The woman had monopolized too much of his life as it was.

By the time he got to his bar on the boardwalk he felt a little better. It was hard not to feel good as he walked the boards, knowing that he had a business there, in the one place in the world he wanted to be. The salt air, the clean light spray of the water, the mingling scents of sweet food, hot dogs, burgers, surf, and coffee—all of it was so familiar he hardly even thought about it, except to acknowledge that it smelled like home.

Cooper had barely let himself into the bar when there was a knock on the front door. The bar wasn’t open yet. It didn’t open until noon, when he served lunch five days a week. His cook, Crosby, wouldn’t show for another hour to set up.

Even so, Cooper knew who was at his door.

He let Vaughn Tremaine inside and locked up behind him.

Without even asking what he wanted, he poured Vaughn his favorite scotch and slid it across the bar to him as he sat on a stool.

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