Read an Excerpt
“This place is a filthy mess!” Sarah Stevens looked around the loft apartment above her garage and groaned. “I had no idea it was this dirty.”
“It’s not that bad.” Her brother Doug touched a lampshade, and a layer of dust floated into the air. “Um, okay, maybe it is...”
“Arghhh!” Sarah cried out and looked at the ceiling. “Why did we leave this until the last day? I should have been up here a week ago.”
“What’s wrong?” called a voice from the backyard.
Doug stepped to the open door. He looked down and smiled at his wife Bailey, spread out in a lounge chair.
“It’s kind of dirty up here. Sarah’s regretting leaving this ‘til the last day.”
“I’m sorry, Sarah!” Bailey yelled. “This is my fault, let me come up and help you clean.”
“Not a chance!” Doug replied before Sarah could say it.
Sarah went to the doorway next to him and they both looked down as the very pregnant Bailey attempted to get out of her chair.
“Just stay put,” Doug added. “There’s no way you’re climbing all these stairs in your condition.”
“I can do it,” Bailey insisted, still struggling to stand.
Sarah laughed. “You can’t even get out of your chair! Doug is right, we’re not letting you come up to help. I’ll get Mandy and we’ll do it.” Bailey dropped back into her chair and smiled up at them apologetically. “Sorry. I feel bad, considering I asked if my replacement at the library could stay here during my maternity leave. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“It’s going to be fine,” Sarah told her. Seeing her sister-in-law struggle to do anything with a stomach so huge made her chuckle, and she suddenly felt calmer and ready to tackle the mess. “I’ll get my energetic teenager and some supplies, and we’ll knock the job out in no time.”
“I’ll get Mandy.” Doug put a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “And I’ll come back up and help you. I used to live here, I’m pretty good at cleaning the place.” He jogged down the long row of stairs and stopped at the bottom to plant a kiss on his wife’s forehead. “Can I bring you anything?”
Sarah heard tenderness in his voice and watched them for a moment wistfully.
“More lemonade?” Bailey held up her glass.
Doug smiled at his wife as he took it. He leaned down again and kissed her mouth this time, and Bailey slipped her arms around his neck. Sarah stepped back into the apartment, giving them some privacy. Her brother and Bailey were deeply in love, a fact that was obvious to everyone who saw them together. They were also two of the most stubborn people she knew, and when they weren’t kissing they were usually arguing. Since the day they first met a year and a half ago, sparks of one kind or another constantly flew between them.
She couldn’t be happier for them, but still felt a tinge of jealousy. It’d been a long time since anyone looked at her with such affection. Sarah didn’t realise how much she missed the touch of a man until she spent time with a couple in love. Everything she was missing dangled tantalisingly right in front of her but it was not hers to have.
Peeking out the window one more time, Sarah saw Doug massaging Bailey’s shoulders as he whispered something into her ear. His gentleness was one of his sweetest features. Sarah envied her sister-in-law for a moment before turning away. It didn’t help her lonely situation to keep watching. It only made it worse.
Sarah knew her brother had always been a catch, with his long legs and muscular build. He wore his dark brown hair short and messy. A three-day-beard added to his dishevelled appearance. Two years younger than her, Doug looked and sometimes acted like an ornery kid, but he was one of the smartest and most responsible men she knew.
Bailey evidently had sensed that as well at some point after their rocky first meeting. She came from Chicago and wasn’t thrilled to be in the small town of Perry, cleaning out her mother’s house after the woman’s death. Sarah didn’t know how quickly Doug and Bailey fell into bed together because they’d kept that pretty well hidden. But when it was time for Bailey to make a decision about selling her mother’s house, Doug convinced her to marry him instead and moved in with her.
One last glance out the window told Sarah that Doug had gone inside to fetch Mandy. Bailey sat alone on the lounge chair rubbing her distended stomach. Sarah stepped to the door. “Baby kicking much today?”
“Every day! She’s going to be a gymnast, I’m sure of it.” Bailey rubbed her sides and made a face. Sarah grinned, knowing her sister-in-law was ordinarily concerned about maintaining her appearance. But this last month of pregnancy seemed to have drained Bailey’s energy, and all she managed to do was pull her long brown hair into a ponytail and call it good. “Don’t worry, it’ll all shrink back into shape.”
“I’ll take your word for it. I’m glad to have someone to talk to who’s been through it. Doug is great, but he’s a man, and what do they know?”
“Not a dang thing!” Sarah smiled mischievously as her brother returned with his hands full of cleaning supplies and one glass of lemonade.
“What’s going on? I leave for one minute and you’re talking bad about me? Maybe you want to clean the loft by yourself.” He handed the glass to his wife, giving his sister a dirty look.