J. T. Reynolds stood motionless on Jessica Reid's porch. His military training had kicked in; know your adversary before you strategize. Intent on getting to know her, he first introduced himself to her neighbors. He'd gleaned the three women on the cul-de-sac were close. Their bond extended to more than three single women living on the same street. He'd learned Jessica hadn't lived here long but she'd known both of the women for some time. Jessica and Blake had been friends since elementary school. J. T. was amazed at how much the women revealed when he talked to them.
The exterior of her home was well maintained, but J. T. knew all too well appearances were deceiving. His family always gave the pretense of a loving family until they were behind closed doors.
A porch with white columns covered the majority of the front of her house. He glanced in the large window, studying his quarry. From where he stood, he could see her sitting in a rocking chair, holding the little tike. Mesmerized, he watched the woman hold the infant in her arms and slowly rock back and forth.
Jessica had a braid of long brown hair across the opposite breast from the baby. From where he stood, her features looked plain. No—solemn. Her face drawn and shoulders slumped. Impulsively, J. T. wanted to comfort her with an embrace. For a woman he didn't know, yet, she brought out a protective instinct in him. He tried to remember what his brother had said about the woman but drew a blank. This was personal, yet after so many years in the service, he felt as if this was another mission and pushed his emotions aside.
For some reason he wondered what color her eyes were. J.T. shook his head. He wasn't here because of the woman. The baby was his reason for this task. The child didn't know it, but he was the closest person J.T. had to a family. He would do anything for his foster brother's son.
Growing up, J. T. had spent years being shuffled from one foster home to another. He never felt a connection to any of the families until he moved in with Grant Markham's family. The two of them had become best friends and referred to each other as brothers.
When Wyatt was born, Grant emailed J. T. in Afghanistan with the news. He asked him if he'd be the baby's godfather and to look out for the boy if anything should happened. At the time, J. T. joked with him about how dangerous Grant's job as a computer programmer was and he needed to watch out for paper cuts. J. T. would give anything to hear Grant's laughter again.
J. T. focused on Jessica gently swaying in the rocking chair. Listening carefully, he swore he could hear her soothing voice sing a lullaby. The scene in the house was very hypnotic and he felt a sense of peace. For the first time in years, he wanted to belong to a family. To come home to a wife and children would be a peaceful change to the world he'd witnessed lately. Putting his arms around a woman at the end of the day, sharing the good and the bad would be heaven. J. T. quickly reached out and pressed the doorbell without another thought. He wasn't here for a touchy-feely moment. The child was the only reason he stood on her porch.
The doorbell chimed, piercing the still morning. He could still see her image through the window as she walked toward the door. Her movements were lithe and gracefully. Enticing. With a moment of doubt, J. T. stepped back and started to retrace his steps down the porch when he heard the door open.
The first thing he noticed when she opened the door were her rich brown eyes. Expressive bedroom eyes. He'd seen recognition in her gaze. In a moment of silence, a sensation of desire heated his blood. It had been too long since he had sex if one look from her had him thinking in that direction.
Jessica wore jeans and a white eyelet blouse which hung low, where she held the baby, revealing the swell of her breast. Her creamy white skin had him yearning to caress her.
"You must be Tyler."
He was glad to see the corners of her mouth curve into a smile and chase the sadness away.
"Blake called and said you saw her yesterday."
He'd done his homework. Talking to her friends and neighbors helped paved the way to meet her. J. T. removed his cap and pressed the cloth between his hands. Always able to talk himself out of any situation, at the moment, he struggle for a coherent thought. "Yes, ma'am."
"Won't you come in?"
Her hospitality was genuine and sincere. J. T. speculated Jessica wouldn't be so friendly if she knew who he was and his plan to spy on her to determine if she was fit to watch over Wyatt.
Her eyes widened with surprise. She held Wyatt against her shoulder the way she had the other day in front of the window. Then she reached out her free hand to him.
"I recognized you from the other day. Nice to meet you. I'm Jessica Reid."
Her soft fingers wrapped around his hand. The warmth and tenderness created a connection to the family closeness he'd seen moments ago causing him to yearn for a better life.
"The pleasure is mine."
Startled by the serenity he felt with her, J. T. wanted more and leaned toward her. He breathed in her fresh, clean scent, a fragrance he didn't recognize. Her deep brown gaze studied him closely and he wondered who was doing the investigation, her or him.
ALSO BY ROSEMARY INDRA
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When Miranda Cummins borrows a friend’s cabin to finish writing her long overdue book, she’s surprised to find the one-room retreat already occupied by Kevin Mathews. Though she feels a spontaneous attraction for Kevin, Miranda has recently escaped a controlling husband and isn’t ready for a long-term relationship.
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When Forest Ridge, Oregon is terrorized by an arsonist, Fire Chief Mitch Chambers vows to do whatever it takes to protect the community--even work with the woman who left him four years ago. Professional sketch artist Abby Denton, still loves Mitch and hopes to regain his trust and respect by working with him. However, she fears when he discovers the truth about their daughter, he will never forgive her. As they work together, Mitch once again falls in love with Abby, but this time he refuses to let her walk out of his life. Can they rekindle the love that burned between them and uncover the identity of the arsonist before he turns their dreams and the town to ashes?