Bringing Home the Bad Boy (Second Chance #1)


by Jessica Lemmon

CHAPTER ONE

He’d heard the stress of moving was like dealing with death, but since Evan Downey had dealt with a lot of death, it was with a fair amount of authority he called bullshit.

There wasn’t anything particularly fun about packing, selling, and leaving behind the house. He and his wife, Rae, had purchased the place together when they first got married—the only home their son had ever known.

The house had been a place of love and promise, but now painful memories poisoned the good ones. He would miss the door frame where he and Rae had scribbled Lyon’s height each and every year. Their walk-in closet where Evan had laid Rae down and made love to her the day they moved in.

What he wouldn’t miss was the hallway where she’d staggered, hand on her chest, and collapsed, never regaining consciousness despite his and the 911 operator’s attempts to keep her heart pumping until the paramedics arrived.

Moving didn’t compare to the living nightmare of losing someone he’d expected to be around when he was old and gray.

At the very least until their son entered elementary school.

As he watched the house dwindle in the side mirror of the family SUV, he calculated he should be rounding the acceptance stage of grief right about now.

About damn time.

“Bye, house,” his son Lyon, age seven going on seventeen, announced from beside him. Gone was the Superman action figure he’d clung to last summer. Now his sidekick was his iPad. He had one earbud stuck in his ear and one dangled onto his chest, as per their agreement that Lyon not completely shut him out. Though the music wasn’t loud enough for him to hear—another of their agreements—Evan knew it was tuned to classic rock.

Definitely his kid, he thought with a smile.

With 1417 East Level Road behind them, he turned his attention to the city that lay ahead; the city he’d called home since he’d married one beautiful, sassy woman named Rae, the curvy black girl who’d busted his balls about nearly everything since they were teenagers.

God, he missed her.

She’d built a life alongside him, settling into her nursing career while he set up his tattoo shop.

Before striking out on his own, he’d been under the tutelage of tattoo master Chris Platt; a hippie to rival all hippies, with a heart of gold and a head full of titanium. By the time Evan had packed up his things and gave notice, Chris let him know under no uncertain terms that he believed in him and his abilities. And that he’d succeed.

He had.

“Bye, Woody,” Lyon piped up.

Evan turned his head as they drove by his shop where Woody had worked for years, and as of three months ago, had purchased outright. Woody had stepped in the year Rae died, when Evan’s concentration revolved around breathing in and out, and keeping a three-year-old boy alive. It was no small feat and, at the time, had taken everything he had.

“Will you miss it, Dad?”

He threw a glance into the rearview, but there was no need. He knew the shop’s façade as well as his own face. The crack on the sidewalk out front that sprouted dandelions every spring, the brick crumbling on the southeast corner. The black marquee done up to look like an old-fashioned apothecary that read LION’S DEN. Rae’s idea, and in honor of their one and only offspring. Save for the fact their lion was a Lyon, which she insisted suited Evan’s rebellious, go-against-the-grain demeanor.

She was right.

An image of her shining brown eyes, huge smile, and that horribly ugly sea foam green bathrobe she insisted wearing on her days off popped into his brain, and he felt his smile turn sickly.

“Dad.”

“Yeah, buddy,” he finally answered, his throat dry as he watched Lion’s Den grow tiny in the rearview. “I’m gonna miss it.”

What he wouldn’t miss were the memories of his late wife assaulting him everywhere he turned in this city.

“What about Leah?” his son asked as they pulled onto the highway. Evan ground his back teeth together.

Leah had been one of his, for lack of a better term, “friends with benefits” for the majority of the year. And though he arranged to keep his dates secret from his son, she’d “stopped by” unannounced last month when she saw the SOLD sign go up in the yard.

Angry tears had shimmered in her eyes while her hands gripped her purse like she might brain him with it. He hadn’t understood why. A long time ago, they discussed that what they had was about the physical and nothing more. She’d insisted on arguing with him, in front of Lyon no less, and Evan had to do the unfortunate business of dumping her—when they were never really dating—on his front lawn. It was a dick move, but then, so was sleeping with a woman on a tit-for-tat basis.