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Morgan Reed doesn’t make mistakes. Not in his work. Not in his personal life. But that was before he met Thea Carmichael.
When a gunshot wound puts him on extended medical leave, 44 yr old fraud investigator, Morgan Reed, decides to recuperate in sunny Sedona where he grew up. Within his first few days back home, he learns his 72 yr old father has become a local Lothario. Unfortunately, he also learns his father is being scammed for money by one of the females in his life.
All the evidence is pointing in one direction and Morgan feels compelled to find out the truth. Investigating local restaurant owner, Althea Carmichael, gets even more complicated when he discovers how badly he wants his father’s friend to be innocent.
NOTE ABOUT THIS TITLE **** This book was previously released under the title “The Right Thing”. From that version of this book, the Next Time Around series emerged. A secondary character—Thea’s cousin Ryan Carmichael—will soon appear as a hero in the Next Time Around series. Ryan and Emma’s story is scheduled for Book 3. To give this story a little lift in the world, I am re-releasing it with an updated cover which reflects its relationship to the Next Time Around series. Since I was going to all the trouble to update the cover, I also changed the title to one I have wanted this story to have for years now—lol.
It was the bottom of the lunch rush at a quarter to one when Thea saw Gerald and another man walk into the restaurant. She saw Amy’s eyes light up and was pretty sure it wasn’t for Gerald this time. If she’d been Amy’s age, hers might have done the same.
“Amy—I got them,” Thea said as casually as she could.
Amy looked at her boss, who had her eyes glued to Gerald’s companion just as much as she did. He was not a classically good-looking man in her opinion, but he was definitely oozing testosterone as he walked. Since he looked close to Thea’s age, Amy reined her interest back in and just smiled. It would be nice if Thea did take an interest for once. “I think they need to do a DNA test. He doesn’t look anything like Gerald. You really taking the table?”
Thea swatted her irreverent waitress on her arm with the two menus she swiped off the bar. “Yes. I am taking the table.”
Thea smiled more brightly than she might have, hearing the girl’s soft laugh as she walked calmly to the door. “Hey, handsome. Who’s your friend today?” she asked, leaning into Gerald to kiss his cheek.
Morgan got a whiff of citrus scent off her hair as she moved back and brushed against him. Her face was even more pleasant in person. And if the woman was older than he was, he sure as hell couldn’t tell it. She had intensely green eyes and her body was fit and trim in her sexy T-shirt and jeans. Her brownish red hair peppered with silver strands was full and long, though currently pulled back in a clip while she worked. Morgan found himself wondering if she knew how she looked or if it was just her usual style.
“Thea, this is my son Morgan. Morgan, this is Althea Carmichael,” Gerald said with a flourish. “The food here is wonderful. The company is even better.”
From his six-foot height, Morgan judged the woman to be somewhere around five foot eight in her sandals. His gaze dropped from her face to her feet, traveling slowly back up her legs until they landed on an arched eyebrow that let him know she hadn’t missed his act of assessing. The snort from her that followed his perusal had him straightening. He hadn’t meant to offend her. He just hadn’t been prepared for her to be so appealing.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Thea told Morgan, meeting and holding his gaze until he looked away. Then she looked back to Gerald. “Bar or booth, big guy.”
“Booth,” Gerald said, elbowing Morgan when Thea turned around and his son’s gaze instantly glued itself to her very attractive ass.
Morgan jolted from his staring at the feel of his father’s elbow poking him. “Sorry. I think I need food. My mind is wandering all over the place.”
Gerald laughed at the comment, but said nothing. Any fool could see the exact place Morgan’s mind had wandered.
“You want the usual?” Thea asked when the men were seated, getting a nod from Gerald. “I’ll give Morgan a moment to check out the menu.”
“Don’t bother. I’m easy,” Morgan said, speaking to Thea directly for the first time. “Any ham sandwich you have that comes with lots of fries. Add a big glass of iced tea and I’m good.”
“Okay,” Thea said, keeping the menus. “Give me a few minutes and it’ll be right out.”
As she walked away, Morgan couldn’t help watching the swing of her denim covered hips again. “Dad, please tell me you’re just friends with that woman so I can stop feeling guilty for what I’m thinking.”
Gerald snorted, but didn’t mind his son’s honesty for once. Thea hadn’t caught Morgan eyeing her yet, but it might be good if she did. “What if I wasn’t just friends?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Morgan said, spreading his hands. “She’s interesting.”
“Yes, she is, but Thea and I are only good friends,” Gerald said shortly. “Just know if you screw with her in a bad way, I’m going to kick your ass back to Las Vegas faster than you can blink.”
Morgan laughed at his father’s serious-sounding threat. “Geez, you seem like you mean that. What kind of person do you think I am?”
“I don’t know,” Gerald said, treating his son to a full-on stare. “I love you Morgan, but you don’t come around often enough for me to know anything about you as a man. But I know who I am though, and if you think I’m kidding, you obviously don’t know me either.”
“Well, I’m not sure how I stack up next to you, but there’s no woman in my life currently. I never get serious, but I don’t lead women on either,” Morgan said, defending himself and hoping his father took the hint. “I don’t know why you have such a low opinion of me. I’m mostly a good guy, Dad.”
Gerald lowered his voice to a whisper only Morgan could hear. “Son, I saw the way you looked at her, which tells me you’re fairly clueless. That woman has a hell of lot more going for her than just a perfect ass in jeans. She has the capacity to erase every other woman you’ve ever known from your mind. She could easily become the only thing you think about all day long every day.”
Gerald pulled back to smile and wink at Amy, who stopped by just briefly to drop off their iced teas. “Thanks, sweetie,” he said.
Morgan watched the young woman’s slim hips swing t hrough the tables with only a small fraction of the interest Althea Carmichael’s had held for him. He wasn’t even going to have to fake his interest in the older woman to get closer. It was organically there.
“You’re a flirt, Dad. That girl can’t be more than twenty,” Morgan said, after the young waitress had retreated.
“Amy is twenty-two and studying to be a teacher. I think she’s going to make a fine one. She likes musical men and has a thing for the lead guitarist in the band that plays at the theatre next door on Friday nights. When I flirt with her, I’m merely reminding her—and Thea for that matter—that men are supposed to pay attention and make them feel sexy.”
“Yeah, well, when did you become Don Juan? Last time I spent some serious time with you, you weren’t even dating,” Morgan said, picking up his cold tea and sipping the amazingly tasty brew. “Damn, that’s good. My body temperature is dropping below a hundred for the first time since I got here. This is not regular iced tea. What is it?”
Gerald grinned. “No idea. Thea says it’s her special recipe. The woman has a lot of secrets and guards them closely. Tread carefully through that garden, Morgan. You might step in something you weren’t planning on.”
“Garden metaphors? Really, Dad?” Morgan sipped his tea and laughed.
And he was still laughing and smiling at his father when Althea slid a full plate onto the table in from of him. The sandwich was stacked three inches high with ham and layers of lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The fries were fragrant and perfect.
Morgan met and held her gaze until she turned away. It made him feel like he’d lost something to lose the contact. “Thanks. Great looking sandwich. What’s the secret in your iced tea?”
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret,” Thea said, meeting his gaze again and smiling genuinely at him for the first time.
Morgan’s heartbeat sped up at her softly spoken words, and he could actually feel his blood pumping through his body—all of his body. Then he noticed her earrings for the first time. She was wearing tiny feathers, several different colors. And not a bit of makeup. None. Her skin was smooth and clear. The lines at her eyes crinkled in laughter as she looked adoringly at his father. She slid his father’s plate in front of him, and bent to kiss him as if it was just part of what his father had ordered.
“Here you go, handsome,” Thea said sweetly, laughing as Gerald turned his face up for a cheek kiss which earned her a pat of approval in return.
Morgan’s envy was so intense in that moment that he would have done anything to get Althea Carmichael to treat him with even a fraction of that same genuine affection. The feeling of needing something from a woman who was a stranger to him did not sit well. He narrowed his gaze on her, looking for her flaws, reminding himself she was still a potential suspect for taking his father’s money.
“I’ll pay you a thousand dollars to tell me your secrets,” he offered, watching his father shake his head from side to side. “Including the one for the iced tea. I’ll split the profits with you on gross sales after we take over the market.”
“Ignore him, Thea. Morgan has always been fixated on money,” Gerald said, continuing to spoon in food. “My son assumes everyone has ulterior motives and that there is a price for everything.”
“I’d say that view is right more often than not,” Thea conceded with a shrug, her direct gaze turning from Gerald and meeting Morgan’s again. “But in this case, the iced tea recipe doesn’t have a price tag. It was my husband’s, and we never even told our children. It will be my deathbed confession if I don’t take it with me.”
“You got something wonderful here. I could definitely see getting addicted and having to have it on a regular basis,” Morgan said, hoping his gaze on her was inferring interest in more than just the iced tea.
When he saw the flash in her eyes, he smiled. His father wasn’t the only one with charm in the family. It was both a boost to his ego and helpful to his plan that Althea Carmichael was at least a little interested back.
“I assure you there’s nothing addictive in the iced tea,” Thea said, laughing at Morgan Reed’s obvious flirting that wasn’t nearly as polished as Gerald’s. “Enjoy your lunch, guys. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Instead of answering, Morgan raised his eyebrows and just smiled again, amusement in his gaze making her roll her eyes as she walked away laughing. He watched her rear until it was no longer visible and bit into a French fry to keep from sighing.
“I swear there’s nothing better than making a woman laugh,” Morgan said finally.
Gerald stopped eating and studied his son. “That’s the first smart thing you’ve said in days. There just might be some hope for you after all.”
Morgan smiled at his father and dug into his lunch with more enthusiasm than he’d had for food or anything else in a long time.
SERIES: Based on Next Time Around Series
LENGTH: 190 PAGES
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2015 (Formerly released, August 2011)