Eric’s pulse raced at the black and blue mark, shaped like fingers, which Lisa attempted to cover. Clenching his teeth, he averted his gaze. Based on the size of the marks, a man had done it. Was she attacked? A boyfriend? Perhaps that was why she came to Sweetwater, to hide from an abusive husband. He reached out for a muffin, discreetly scanning her left hand. No wedding ring. Not even a tan line.
This was none of his business. Mom had decided to take on this venture, as insane as it was. Starting a business with a woman that she’d never met outside of cyberspace.
His mother had been right about one thing, though. Lisa Mortan was beautiful. Stuffing another muffin into his mouth, he concentrated on the warm, butter-nutty flavor and forced the thought of Lisa and her light floral fragrance from his mind.
“Thanks so much for helping unpack all of our merchandise,” Lisa said, her voice soft yet not wimpy or chirpy.
“My pleasure. It’s kept Mom busy…which is a good thing. The idle hands of an energetic woman, particularly when it’s your mother, are dangerous,” he teased.
His mother brought the coffee pot to the table. “Lisa just arrived from New York. Seeing as how she’s new in town, perhaps we could all get together for dinner and get to know each other better.”
“I need to return to the office.” Eric stood and nodded to Lisa, attempting to ignore her full lips, and big bright eyes. She pushed from the table to stand as well and her coat fell open, revealing the longest legs he’d ever seen. The heels she wore only accentuated every inch of them. Straight chestnut colored hair completed the look, shining under the Halogen pot lights he’d installed last week. “It was a pleasure, but I’m afraid I have a client meeting tonight. Don’t let Mom work you too hard.”
His mother narrowed her eyes with that go-ahead-and-run-away-coward look she’d perfected. Of course, even he had to admit she was right, but it didn’t matter. The last thing he wanted was a woman in his life. Not after what happened with his last girlfriend.
“I’ll walk you out,” his mother offered.
He thought about dissuading her, but she wouldn’t listen anyway. With one last glance at the beauty standing in the middle of the kitchen, he bolted, with a promise to bury himself in work and stay away from Lisa Mortan.
“I told you she was beautiful,” his mother whispered.
“Cultured, long legs, smart, and don’t forget educated. Yes, I’ve heard it all. A few times. It doesn’t matter. I’m not interested,” Eric barked. He didn’t mean to be rude, but Judy Gaylord needed a firm hand or she’d take over quick.
“I’m just saying.” His mother shrugged in a careless gesture.
Eric halted at the front door, clutching the handle. “Don’t. I’m not ready. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.”
His mother’s small hand rested between his shoulder blades. “It’s been almost two years. It’s time to let her go.”
“No. I-I can’t.” He turned the knob.
“It wasn’t your fault. You need to stop blaming yourself.”
“Yes, it was. I ignored the woman I claimed to love, and when she needed me most, I wasn’t there.”
Judy stepped to his side. “You didn’t know about the baby.”
“That doesn’t matter. What matters is she’s dead. The baby’s dead. There’s nothing else to talk about.” Eric shoved the door open. “I have to go.”