There was a strange man in Rachel’s bedroom, in Rachel’s bed. A naked man, she guessed, by the hard curve of shoulder that showed in the light from the hall. A strange, naked man.
Her mother must be thrilled.
Rachel wasn’t. Not at 2:00 a.m. Not after driving half the night with her two children sleeping in the back seat of a rental truck. Desperation and caffeine were the only things keeping her going. At this moment a naked Brad Pitt couldn’t have thrilled her.
Heart sinking, she regarded the long, well-muscled body tenting the flowered sheets. What on earth was she supposed to do now? She couldn’t put her kids to bed in that firetrap of a spare bedroom. She couldn’t even see the room’s twin beds beneath the piled cartons. A hotel room—even if she were willing to drag the children another half hour down the road, which she was not—was beyond her means. And waking her mother... No, she couldn’t cope with her mother right now.
Bad enough that the break-in had forced her home. She certainly wasn’t explaining it to her mother in the middle of the night, as if she were some teenager caught sneaking in after curfew.
The only solution, the only practical, adult solution, was to rouse this naked stranger and oust him from the only available bed. Any minute now an accusing Lindsey and a sleepy-eyed Chris would come stumbling up the stairs, and she needed a place to put them.
She cleared her throat. “Excuse me?”
He didn’t stir.
She took a cautious step forward. “Hello?”
The stranger shifted onto his back, revealing a threequarter profile that could have made Penelope abandon her weaving or Juliet forget poor Romeo. A muscled chest, its nudity emphasized by a perfect pattern of dark hair, stretched above the sheet. A small gold hoop like a pirate’s winked from his exposed earlobe.
He was young, she noted. Her stomach sank to join her heart in her neatly tied running shoes. Young, unshaven and outrageously good-looking. Oh, help. What was her mother thinking?
She pressed her lips together, light-headed from hunger and trembling with fatigue. After Carmine Bilotti’s threats, she should be able to take one half naked stranger in stride.
She opened the door wider, hoping the light from the hall might wake him. It sliced through the room and fell across the pillow.
The man in her bed opened his eyes. His dark gaze jolted her heartbeat. And then a slow smile curved his wide mouth and he dropped his head back onto the pillow. “Sweet Mother in Heaven, please don’t let me be dreaming.” He raised his hand, stopping Rachel’s interruption before she could get properly started. “Or if this is a dream,” he continued, “then don’t let me wake up. Amen.”