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Eight months, three days, and forty-seven minutes. Give or take a few minutes. That’s how long it had been since Levi Chapman had sex with Dana DeLong. Actually, that was how long it had been since Levi had sex with anyone.
Levi couldn’t think of anything he wanted to do less than ask a favor of Dana DeLong. Dana, the architect for the Devil’s Rock Airport remodel and expansion, also happened to be Levi’s very much ex-girlfriend.
Ex-girlfriend. And that was the way Levi wanted it. He hadn’t spent the last eight months avoiding having anything to do with Dana just to blow it now.
Damn, it would be so much easier if he didn’t want to rip off her clothes—and his—every time he saw her.
Naturally, since Dana had designed the building, she was renting one of the apartments at the Wildcat Tower, the fancy-ass high-rise, high-security complex in the heart of Whiskey River, on the Square.
For God’s sake, just call her to let you in. What are you afraid of?
His own feelings, for one thing. But it had to be done.
Asher was coming home.
His brother, a Special Forces Green Beret critically injured in Iraq, had been recovering at Walter Reed for the past few months before transferring to the big military hospital in San Antonio a couple of weeks before. It hadn’t been easy, but Levi had finally managed to convince him to continue his convalescence in Whiskey River once he was discharged from the hospital.
Which meant Levi had to make his house—or at least part of it—accessible. At the very least, the entryways, Asher’s quarters, parts of the kitchen and Levi’s “man cave” as his friends called his game/TV/music/pool room. Levi called it his den and it was the place where he spent the most time, apart from his workshop.
Shaking off his troubled thoughts, he punched the intercom.
“It’s Levi. Can I come up?”
There was a lengthy silence. “Levi?”
“Yes. Can I come up?” he repeated. This wasn’t a conversation to be had over an intercom or telephone. No, it required face-to-face.
Another silence. Then she said, “I’m buzzing you in.”
Levi took the elevator up to her floor. Not the penthouse. That belonged to Harlan Sullivan and his wife Savannah. But Dana’s apartment was on the floor directly below the penthouse suite.
He’d been to Dana’s apartment once before. Eight months ago when Dana first came to Whiskey River to work on the airport. Neither of them had intended to wind up in bed together; nevertheless that’s what had happened. They’d tried to be a couple before. Six years ago they’d even lived together. It hadn’t worked. Remembering their breakup, he winced. They’d argued, the same argument they always had. He wanted to go home, to Whiskey River. She didn’t. Again, as usual, Dana had stormed off, then, eventually, came back. They’d wound up in bed, but they hadn’t made up. Levi had left the following morning and Dana hadn’t tried to stop him. Maybe she hadn’t thought he’d follow through.
He’d seen her twice since then. Been alone with her twice. Been to bed with her twice. So they’d decided if they couldn’t keep their hands off each other, their only option was not to be around each other at all. They’d managed, though it hadn’t been easy. Especially since Levi was a partner in Devil’s Rock Airfield—Devil’s Rock Airport now—with his friends Travis Sullivan and Zack Bannister. The very airport Dana had come to town to redesign and expand.
She opened the door and he felt a sucker punch to his gut. Which happened every time he saw her. Why did she have to be so damn beautiful? She wore a black tank top and black yoga pants, an outfit that showed off every one of her curves. Her feet were bare and her gorgeous dark red hair was yanked back into a ponytail allowing those perfect cheekbones and jade-green eyes full play. It didn’t matter what she wore—or didn’t wear. He wanted her. Always had, and apparently, always would.
Even when she looked at him like he was gum on the bottom of her shoe.
“What do you want, Levi?”
“Hello to you too. Can I come in?”
Without speaking, she stepped aside and held the door open.
“I need your help,” Levi said without preamble.
“My help?” That was a hell of a note. They’d purposely kept out of each other’s way for eight months, which hadn’t been easy given the circumstances, and now, out of the blue, Levi was asking for her help? “What kind of help?” she asked suspiciously.
“Professional. Remodeling for accessibility.” He stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets and walked over to the window, looking out at the Square below. With his back to her he said, “Asher’s moving in with me. I’m not sure exactly when but possibly within a couple of months. Maybe sooner. He’s at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio right now.”
“Your brother, Asher? I thought he was—” She cut herself off. Asher was Special Forces. A Green Beret. She remembered the pride in Levi’s voice when he’d told her. Last she’d heard he was in Iraq or Afghanistan. She couldn’t remember which.
“In Iraq,” Levi finished for her. He turned to face her. “Yeah, he was. But he spent several months in Walter Reed and the last couple in BAMC.”
Accessibility. One of her specialties. The one, in fact, that most interested her. “I’m sorry, Levi.”
He lifted a shoulder, obviously uncomfortable discussing it. “Me too. But he’s alive, and that’s a miracle, although I’m not sure he sees it that way.”
“What is it you want me to do?”
“If Asher’s going to live with me the house needs to be made accessible for someone with a physical disability. Not all of it, but at least the ground floor and his rooms, and especially all the entrances. I know we’ll need ramps for the outside entryways, but that’s probably the easiest part of the project.
“There’s a bedroom suite on the first floor that I think would be good for his living quarters. Plus I’d like to make the kitchen and my den accessible. They’re on the ground floor as well. His quarters are the priority, of course. After that’s finished we’ll see what else needs to be done. And what else we have time for.”
“That’s a lot to expect to happen in a couple of months.”
He waved her objection aside. “Harlan said he’d do everything he could to accommodate us. He’s built accessible housing before. But you’re the expert, so I need you to tell us what to do.”
He was looking at her hopefully. As if afraid she’d turn down a chance to help a wounded warrior, no matter whose brother he was. “Let’s sit down and discuss it. Would you like a drink?”
“Yes, water would be good.”
“I’ll be right back.” Dana escaped to the kitchen, trying to calm her frantically beating heart. You are so pathetic. Did you really think he was here for a personal reason? After last time? He wants your help, all right. As an architect.
Levi Chapman. Damn it, would she never get over him? She’d been with him twice since she moved back to Texas. Once when she first arrived in San Antonio and one wild, crazy time when she’d returned to Whiskey River. Aside from those two times, she hadn’t been with Levi in years. Six years. Almost seven. And he still affected her like he always had.
She wanted him. Always would.
He was still gorgeous. Which was one reason she tried to avoid even seeing him. She didn’t know what he did to keep in shape, but if his arms and the breadth of his chest were any indication, something had sculpted those incredible muscles. Long, lean muscles. Just the kind she liked.
His hair was brown, a pretty caramel brown that he wore a little longer on top and cut closer on the sides. Unless he forgot to cut it, which apparently he had recently. His eyes were that same beautiful shade of blue that made her think of a clear Texas sky on a hot summer day.
He wore faded jeans, a short-sleeved Texas Rangers T-shirt and running shoes rather than the cowboy boots many of the men around Whiskey River wore. He looked like a regular guy—okay, a really hot regular guy.
Not in any way a freaking billionaire.
Levi Chapman was no one’s idea of a billionaire. He never had been and she doubted he ever would be. Of course, when she and Levi had been together, he’d only been a millionaire. Only. Hah. No one would have guessed that either.
They hadn’t been able to talk about why they broke up, either then or later. She figured they never would. But Levi was a good guy. A really good guy. His looks hadn’t been the only thing that had drawn her. He was generous, funny, brilliant for God’s sake, and loyal… So why hadn’t they been able to make it?
Because you weren’t thinking about Levi back then. You were only concerned with yourself and your own career.
That wasn’t the only problem.
No, but it sure as hell didn’t help.
How she felt about Levi didn’t matter, though. She wasn’t about to turn down a job that would help a wounded warrior and enable her to use her skills in making a house accessible. She opened her refrigerator and got out a couple of water bottles. Drawing in a deep breath, she walked back into the living room. Levi sat on her couch looking at her voice-activated smart system receiver critically.
“You know those things listen and record everything you say, right?”
“So I’ve heard. But I’m not planning to murder anyone so what difference does it make?” She handed him a water bottle.
“Thanks.” He twisted off the top and took a drink. “They’re also hackable. Which can be really bad depending on what you have it connected to.”
“I don’t care. I like the convenience. Besides, you’re going to have to have one for your house if you want it to be fully accessible, at least in Asher’s quarters.”
Levi simply lifted his eyebrows.
“Oh. You invented one. Of course you did.” She took a seat beside him. Levi’s inventions ranged from the simple to the highly complex. It came as no surprise that he had a virtual digital assistant system of his own.
“I wanted one that would be hard to hack. No one can make one completely unhackable, but so far no one has been able to hack mine. I’ll be glad to install one of mine for you here if you want.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’d be helping me out. It’s a prototype. I could use someone else to test it before I make one for Asher.”
“We’ll discuss it later,” Dana said. Have Levi here, alone with her in her apartment for hours installing the thing? No. No freakin’ way.
“Do you mind if I unplug it?”
Dana rolled her eyes. “You’re paranoid. But fine, go ahead.” He did so and she reached for her phone to make a couple of notes. “You say you’ve talked to Harlan Sullivan about having his construction company handle the remodeling?”
“Yes. There’s no other builder I’d trust to do it.”
Dana nodded. “I’ve been impressed with their work on the airport.”
“Good thing since he’s Travis’s brother. But yes, he does an excellent job. He handled the work I had done on my house when I bought it.”
“When can I see the house? The sooner the better if you want to get started right away.”
“Is today too soon?”
“No, that’s fine.”
“How much is this new project going to cut into your work on the airport?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m close to being finished unless Zack and Travis come up with more for me to do.”
“Good, but I realize the airport will take precedence at times.”
“I should be able to do both with no problem.”
Levi got up. “All right, then. I’ll meet you at my house.”
“Give me a few minutes to shower and change and I’ll be over.” She saw his eyes change, turn dark and hot. And she knew exactly what he was remembering. Bad idea. Don’t think about that.
“Dana?” His expression changed to one of discomfort. “Thank you. I—it’s important to me to be able to do this for my brother.”
“I understand and you’re welcome. I’ll see you in a bit.” She shut the door after he left, turned around and slid down with her back to the door to sit on the floor. Memories bombarded her. Yes, memories of their lovemaking, but also of the sheer joy of simply being together. They’d had fun. Levi had always understood her, like no one else. He understood what her career meant to her. He understood what made her tick. At least, she’d believed he had. But maybe that had been wishful thinking.
God, she’d missed him.
Could she really work with Levi on a purely professional level? And if she couldn’t…he’d break her heart. And she’d never totally gotten over him the first time.
End of Excerpt