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Anna Reed slumped against the wall by the front door of her mother’s cottage in Liberty, Alabama, pushing soaked tendrils of hair from her forehead with a shaking hand. She watched as the taxi’s taillights disappeared down the long drive and into the distance before searching blindly for the decorative pot where the house key was hidden. A flash of lightning crackled in the night sky and Anna jumped, clutching her chest and stumbling over what felt like a giant bag of potting soil. Her stiletto heel slipped between the boards of the front porch, snapping off when she tried to right herself.

She slipped the shoe off and groaned. Like her day hadn’t been sucky enough.

An emergency phone call to her office had launched her into a journey requiring three airports, two flights and a midnight taxi ride into Nowheresville. And now this. Anna glared at the mutilated shoe in her hand, grabbed its mate and tossed both over the porch railing with a disgusted sigh. She continued to feel around for the planter in the pitch-black night until her fingers brushed its smooth surface and she was able to extract the key from beneath. She unlocked the door and fumbled for the wall switch. Sighing in relief, she flipped it.


“Well that’s just great,” she muttered. “No power.”

She pushed the door closed with her hip and leaned against it, tears threatening to slip over her lashes. She shook her head, willing the negative emotions away. She was just tired—the panic that had seized her before learning her mother would make a complete recovery must have finally caught up with her, rendering her an emotionally fragile mess. Everything would seem different in the morning. She just needed some sleep before she went back to the hospital.

Anna locked the door and then took tiny steps to avoid tripping on anything as she made her way to the tiny spare bedroom. She unbuttoned her wet blouse and skirt as she went, letting the soaked garments fall to the floor. A clap of thunder roared in the angry night and Anna cringed as she slid her hand down the wall, searching for the bedroom. Her fingers met air and she eased through the open doorway. Reaching in front of her, she felt for the foot of the bed and groped the edge until she was able to drop on top of the mattress in a heap of exhaustion. Releasing a long sigh, she turned onto her side.

“You must be Annabelle.”

Anna’s hip met the floor with a thwack, her head bumping the wall as she tried to gain her footing. “Damn it!” She scrambled to her feet, her pulse rioting. “Who are—”

The beam of a flashlight illuminated the small room in faint light and she gasped at the stranger who stood on the other side of the bed wearing a smile and very little else.

She lurched forward and yanked her grandmother’s handmade afghan from the bed, curtaining herself. Meeting his gaze, she squared her shoulders. “Obviously you know who I am. So who the hell are you?”

He chuckled and rounded the corner of the bed, approaching her. She took a step back, her effort to escape thwarted by the wall.

“Sorry,” he said, his voice a low, lazy drawl. “I’m Trey Jacobs. I live next door.” He extended his hand.

Anna eyed him for a long pause before tucking the corner of the afghan under her arm and hesitantly accepting his gesture. “Anna Reed.”

He narrowed his eyes slightly, tilting his head to the side. “Your mama calls you Annabelle.”

“Yes, well,” she pulled her hand from his warm, calloused grasp and wrapped her arms around her torso, “I prefer Anna.”

“Alright.” He moved toward her again and she took a clumsy step to the side and backed into the window, the blinds clattering against the glass. Anna heard a drawer in the bedside table slide open then the scraping sound of a match. A large pillar candle illuminated their corner of the room in a soft glow.

He turned to face her and she was met with her first full glimpse of Trey Jacobs. He stood before her in black boxer briefs, one hand resting lightly on his hip. His hair was mussed from sleep, falling in long layers around his face and just brushing his shoulders. It appeared to be a rich brown in the limited light and she could just make out dark stubble on his square jaw. Anna’s attention drifted to his chest, to the hard planes of muscle concealed beneath skin that looked as smooth and soft as suede.

He cleared his throat and her gaze darted back to his. He smiled liked the Cheshire cat, his eyes dancing in amusement. Anna snapped her mouth shut, which had apparently fallen open during her unabashed perusal of her mother’s neighbor. “Um, the hospital staff said a neighbor had been with my mom. Was that you?”

He nodded and sat on the edge of the bed, gesturing for her to join him. She glanced at his wide expanse of skin and the brief stretch of black fabric before focusing her attention on the painting over his right shoulder. “Do you want to get dressed or something?” she stammered.

His throaty laugh suffused her cheeks with heat. What in the hell was her problem? She was put under fire on a daily basis back home in New York. If it wasn’t opposing counsel or a squirrely witness, it was her demanding boss hovering over her as she attempted to scrape and claw her way to a partnership. Trey was only a man. She looked down at him, at the corners of his eyes crinkled in amusement, his full lips, the way he ran long fingers into his hair to brush it from his forehead.

Yes, he was just a man. And the Grand Canyon was just a crack.










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