Cover by Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art

Cover by Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art


She wasn’t a happy ever after kind of girl.

Maybe it was kismet that brought Sunny Maitland to Ryan Chance’s doorstep that day. Maybe it was just dumb luck. Sunny had avoided the house and the man for months for fear of falling in love with the one person who was off limits.

Wounded in body and soul, Ryan Chance is surprised when his former masseuse saunters back into his life as if she’d never left. She’d been his savior and confidant when his life was in pieces and then she was gone with no explanation.

Bound by a secret mutual desire, Sunny and Ryan waste no time getting to know each other again, and again, and again one hot, steamy, Southern night.

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Chapter One

June—Fairhope, Alabama

Sunny Maitland cursed as she pulled into the Chance’s driveway. She was late. Traffic across the bay into the tunnel had become a parking lot, taking her nearly an hour to cover what was usually a fifteen-minute drive. 
The house itself was not anything out of the ordinary, just an old gingerbread cottage painted a cheery yellow and white. Sunny gripped the steering wheel as she sat in the driveway and stared at the clock, working up the nerve to climb out of her SUV and go inside while precious moments ticked past. She hated this house, she hated having to return to this house. She had in fact traded the Chance assignment off to a colleague to avoid just this sort of thing, but Martha’s anguished call earlier that morning had ended Sunny’s well-planned day of doing absolutely nothing.
So here she was parked in front of the hated cheery yellow house whether she liked it or not. Sunny touched her forehead to the steering wheel, stalling. She knew that the day would come when she would have to face her demons head-on, she just hadn’t expected that day to be today. With divine effort, she lifted her head and glanced at the clock again.
Two thirty, she was really late. Of course, put into perspective what was an hour or so after six months of not showing up at all? She couldn’t put off the inevitable and with a long, drawn out sigh of resignation she stepped out of the SUV. Her heart quaking at the very sight of the house, so much so one would think it was cursed, haunted, or occupied with the most horrible creature known to man, the way she behaved. Of course, one would be correct, if one took into consideration that the owner of the house was Mr. Right, and that said Mr. Right was forbidden fruit.
Sunny hated coming to the Chance house, she regretted ever having taken Ryan Chance on as a client. She hated her traitorous heart for falling for the one man she couldn’t have. Unfortunately, none of that compared with the hatred she felt for the man’s wife.
April Chance was beautiful, blonde, stick thin, with polite manners and impeccable taste in clothes and makeup, while Sunny was quite often sloppy, sweaty, and clumsy. Sunny didn’t hate April Chance because she was perfect or the wife, no, she hated her because she could tell April had no patience with her husband after his accident. Somewhere along the line, her lack of patience became bitter dislike, which April didn’t try to hide from Sunny so much so that she began to include Sunny in her bitterness.
Ryan Chance was an equally blond, beautiful person, but that was where the similarity between him and his wife ended. He was a big man, with a big grin and a big zest for life that a near death experience could not diminish. He also worked for a living while his wife pretended they were landed gentry and dirt never once crept beneath her husband’s fingernails.
Or rather he had worked for a living, right up until the building he had been helping rebuild after hurricane Katrina collapsed around him leaving him with a broken back and years of recovery ahead of him. Recovery she had at one time been a part of. Sunny sighed and dragged herself out of her truck. Might as well get it over with and face the disapproval of the dragon lady, she thought as she lifted the hatch and began to haul her equipment out. It really was a shame that Martha’s son had chosen today to have to have an emergency appendectomy.
At the door, Sunny stood poised to knock when a woman she didn’t recognize opened instead of Ms. Chance, this one looked as surprised as Sunny was. “Uh hi, I’m Sunny from Dr. McCall’s office.”
“Oh yes, come on in, Mr. Chance is waiting for you out on the sun porch.” The woman didn’t introduce herself, instead she stepped aside and let Sunny pass and then closed the door. Sunny could only stare stupidly out the window as the woman waddled over to the garage and out of sight. Seconds passed then a tiny blue subcompact car zoomed away.
“Okey dokey then?” Sunny whispered, looking around for either of the Chances. Not seeing anyone, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. April Chance usually hovered over her from the time she arrived until she left. “Odd.”
“Hello!” she shouted. “Anybody home?” She knew the way to the sun porch, she had been there many times. Ryan liked the sun, the heat helped his back, but that didn’t mean she wanted to waltz out onto the patio unannounced for fear of catching the happy couple in some sort of touching scene she didn’t want emblazoned on her pupils for the rest of her life. “Ryan?”
“Sunny? Is that you?” She heard him call then heard him grunt, she knew he was standing. She winced at the sound, dismayed to think that standing was still hard for him after all these months. Her brain rushed down the “what if” avenue—what if she’d stayed, would he still be in pain? What if it had been her hands that had aided his near miraculous recovery? What if she hadn’t have fallen for him? Would he be whole again? As the “what ifs” shot at the speed of light, she headed out to the porch.
“Who else would it be?” she called back in her perkiest voice. Of course, it was a stupid thing to say since she had been ducking the Chance household for the last six months.
“I was expecting Martha.” Ryan Chance said as he stepped into the living room through the French doors that led out to the porch. Sunny stopped short and just stared at the man standing not only unaided but the very picture of health.
“Wow, look at you.” She knew she was beaming. She couldn’t help it as she looked him over. She also knew she blushed when her eyes lingered a little longer on his chest than they should have. “I see you’re back at the weights. And walking on your own now, great job.”
What an idiot, shut up, shut up, shut up.
“I’m just about ready to go back to work.” He took one of her bags before she could say anything about the weight and his back, but since he didn’t flinch when he lifted it, she decided not to protest. “My doctors aren’t letting me go just yet though, they’re afraid I might rip something that will put me back in that chair for life.”
“You still could,” Sunny agreed, following him out onto the red brick floor where she began to set up her table. “So how have you been? Did you have a nice Christmas?”
“Sunny, it’s June.” Ryan straightened the legs on one side of the table, avoiding her eyes. “Christmas was six months ago.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She decided the gaze avoidance method would work for her as well.
“For asking a stupid question or for not having the guts to show up for six months?” There was no teasing lightness in his voice, she noted, but couldn’t tell exactly what his tone was.
“Both.” There she admitted it. She was gutless but she couldn’t keep coming week after week and falling deeper and deeper in love with the man. She had made the cut and now she wished she had been able to stay away permanently.
“Why did you stop coming?” He finally stopped avoiding her gaze and forced her to stop as well. She sucked in her breath when the full force of his blue eyes shot clear through to her toes.
“Uhm, erm…well…” Why did she stop coming? Oh yeah, because like an idiot I let myself become attached to a client, naturally attraction soon followed and I am not into married men and…
“Mrs. Chance asked me not to come again.” There, that was not a total lie. April did threaten her the last time. “Where is Mrs. Chance anyway?”
“Happily, Mrs. Chance is now Mrs. Slater and you don’t have to worry about her threats anymore,” Ryan said then walked away before she had a chance to do more than stand there and stare stupidly.