Her determination to be my new roommate looked like it was fading fast. “Oh.”

That’s what I thought. This would be my world. My work and my loft. I didn’t imagine that would appeal to anyone else.

“Can I see it?” she asked hopefully.

“Sure. Let’s go,” I replied. “This way.” I led the way to the back door that was painted blue. I’d change that. It opened to the stairs that went up to the loft. There were exactly twenty-five stairs. When we reached the top, there was no door. I would work on that, too.

The four thousand square foot area was almost completely open. The only privacy was a bathroom to the far left and the spiral staircase that led to yet another loft area that would be my bedroom. The kitchen was complete and all stainless steel. Even the countertops were stainless. It was all very industrial.

“Is there a second bedroom?” she asked taking in the area.

“No. The original owner was a single man. But if you’re really interested there is enough room. We can build walls to that back corner by the bathroom, and you’d have a sufficient size bedroom. We will have to share the bathroom though.”

She studied it walking around and taking in the view over the business area of Rosemary. It was small and a quaint street with shops. The outside of all the shops were all very Southern coastal, and it felt comfortable. Very different from the area where we had lived as kids. Finally, she turned to me and smiled. “Let’s do it.”

If this had been Phoenix Finlay, I would have said absolutely not. But Ophelia I could live with. Besides, the rental income would pay the utilities on this place. Business-wise it just made sense.

“I’ll have Dad get some workers up here to get you a room put up as soon as I sign the paperwork on this place.”

She was grinning brightly. “How long do you think that will be?”

She clapped her hands excitedly. “This is going to be so much fun!”

I hoped so. “You want a job? Because I’ll need office help once I open the studio up.”

“Sure! Why the hell not? Can we just take the rent out of my paycheck?”

“That would be fine with me.”

We talked some more before Ophelia left to tell her mother her plans. I went over and pulled myself up to sit on the bar in the kitchen. I could make a life here. It wasn’t in the wealthy part of Rosemary Beach where the big houses were and the club was located. It was right beside it, but it felt separate. I wasn’t leaving town but I was starting a new life in this town.

My phone rang and echoed in the large empty space. I glanced at it. It was Eli. Smiling, I pressed answer. “Hello.”

“How’s the place look?” he asked. I had told him I was coming to check it out today in a text message I’d sent him last night.

“Perfect. I think it’s going to be perfect.”

“Damn. I was hoping you’d think it sucked and come to Sea Breeze to shop around.” He was teasing but I knew that he’d also be pleased if that did happen.

“You could always come to Rosemary Beach,” I replied.

He was quiet for a moment. “Don’t tempt me.”

I wondered if he would actually do that. Maybe a fresh start for him was what he needed. “I wouldn’t complain if you did,” I added

He chuckled and added, “You’d be hard to say no to. But I have a job. Can’t just up and run away.”

He had a point. “I know. Wanted to clarify if you needed an adventure I would be happy to be the beginning of yours.” I’d been teasing, but he had gone quiet.

I chewed on my lip nervously. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. We didn’t talk about that night much. I wasn’t sure if he remembered asking me if he was the beginning of my adventure. I waited for him to say something and worried the whole time he was silent.

“I might consider it if we could have another go at sex on the beach. I think about it a lot. Wish to God I hadn’t been so damn drunk.”

After Cruz, I wasn’t ready for sex with anyone. I wanted to be one day. But for now, I just couldn’t. In one week, I’d had sex with two different men. That had been one hell of an adventure.

“One day. If the time is right,” I said softly while images of Cruz and the things we’d done played in my head. My heart ached along with them.

“I don’t want to just be the beginning of your adventure Lila. I want to be the end.”

MY HEAD WAS fucked. I was at work doing what my father had asked me to do. Not because he’d asked but because I was so damn fucked in the head I needed something to distract me. And other women’s vaginas weren’t working.

“Cruz, you look so much like your father at that age I had a flashback. I was a waitress again and there was the boss. You’re all dressed up in your Kerrington Club polo. I know Woods is proud to have you here with him,” Blaire Finlay said as she walked into the dining room with my mother and Harlow Carter, Lila’s mother.

“He’s his father’s twin. In everything including attitude,” my mother said with a smile.

“Don’t tell him you said that,” I drawled knowing he wouldn’t want to hear that I acted like him at all.

Blaire laughed, and the three of them walked past me. My mother paused to squeeze my arm gently. Harlow was quiet. She didn’t talk loudly like the others or draw attention to herself. She was proper, beautiful, looked nothing even close to her age, and all I could see was Lila Kate twenty years from now. The man that caught her would be one lucky son of a bitch.

Annoyed at my train of thought, I walked down the hall toward my father’s office where I’d been headed when those three had arrived. I used to love coming to this office. It meant I got to see my dad. He’d set me up on his desk and let me play with the small golf toy that was on it. I’d watch the flat screen on his wall and observe him as he worked. I wanted to be just like him.

My, how times had changed.

The door to Dad’s office opened and he stepped out before I reached him. His gaze immediately locked on me. “Good. You’re on time. I’m having a lunch meeting with Captain—you remember Blaire Finlay’s brother—and his daughter Emmeline is with him. She’s being groomed to take over the restaurant franchise here in Rosemary Beach. I think having you there will make her feel more comfortable since you’re closer in age.”

Lunch meeting. Fan-fucking-tastic. “I know Emmeline, and she goes by Emmy. Or at least she did two years ago when I spoke to her at an event held here for something or another.”

Dad nodded. “Good. Franny, Captain’s oldest daughter oversees the franchises in Alabama and Tennessee. Emmeline is being trained to take over the Florida and Georgia franchises. She won’t be ready until she graduates college, but Captain starts them young preparing them. Like I should have done with you. Smart businessman.” Dad said as he kept walking expecting me to keep up.

“Are we eating here?” I asked hoping the answer was no. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the crowd in there.

“Why are we meeting with him exactly?”

“Because we need another restaurant at the club. The poolside grill and the main dining room aren’t enough. Not anymore. It’s time we expanded.”