Home > Just What I Needed (Need You #2)(8)

Just What I Needed (Need You #2)(8)
Author: Lorelei James


“I called her around noon the next day. The number was out of service. I tried off and on to get ahold of her. So, like a chump, I went back to the bar, thinking maybe she’s a regular. I sat at the same table watching the door. Two hours passed and no sign of her. I was getting ready to leave and I recognized our cocktail waitress from the night before. She remembered me, so I asked her if Amelia—the woman I was with—is a regular at the bar. She looked confused and then she said the woman I was with wasn’t named Amelia. At my look of surprise, she said she noticed the woman’s name when she signed the credit card receipt, because it was unusual, some sci-fi name like Tris or Trillion. But definitely not Amelia.” I scratched my beard. “That’s when I knew she’d been dicking with me from the start.”

Brady was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “I don’t know what to say except that sucks.”

“So the ‘Amelia Carlson’ I thought I’d made a connection with doesn’t exist. It burns my ass. It was a harsh reminder to stick with hookups from here on out.”

“For real?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“While the situation sounds fishy, your ‘Screw her’ reaction doesn’t ring true, Walker.”

I scowled at him. “How so?”

“Sounds like you’re giving up.”

“How am I supposed to track her down when I don’t know her name? And besides, even if Carlson is her last name, do you know how many thousands of Carlsons there are in the Twin Cities?”

“Did she tell you what she does for a living?”

“She’s an artist.” I paused. “That part wasn’t a lie because her fingers were discolored by paints.”

“See? Now you’re thinking. What else did she tell you? Anything about the ex-boyfriend so you could track her through him?”

I stared at Brady. Hard.

“What?”

“Why are you pushing me on this?”

He stared back. “Because I don’t see you doing a damn thing except standing around whining and wringing your hands like a jilted Victorian maiden.”

My jaw dropped. “Victorian maiden? Who are you and what the ever lovin’ fuck did you do with my brother?”

He laughed. “I’m serious, bro. Track her down if for no other reason than to let her know it wasn’t all that hard to track her—her fake name and number didn’t give her anonymity. Be proactive instead of reactive.”

That skated close to stalking behavior. But if I didn’t come up with a plan, Brady would; he was loyal, and as a Lund corporate executive he’d use every resource available to him to find information. While I appreciated that he had my back, I had to handle it my way—which was to forget it’d ever happened.

Yeah. And how well is that going for you so far?

“Walker?” he prompted.

I looked at him. “Just because I work with my hands doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use Google.”

Annoyance crossed Brady’s face. “No need to take a shot at me, especially when I’ve never implied you didn’t have the skills to do it yourself. I’m just trying to help.”

Then I felt like an ass. “Shit. Sorry. I just . . .” I sighed. “I’m dragging my feet because maybe I don’t want to know who she is. Maybe finding out the truth is worse than speculating.”

“I get that. But I could point out that you’re a believer in signs. You know I thought it was a bunch of crap until you, Ash and Nolan staged the intervention on me last year. Seeing Lennox at Maxie’s that night and then again the next morning when we were both community volunteers for different organizations . . . I became a believer. That stuff isn’t random. There’s a reason you and this woman crossed paths. It might be your cosmic responsibility to track her down.”

I kept a straight face when my just-the-facts brother said the words “cosmic responsibility” without a sarcastic sneer.

“And speaking of responsibilities . . . since you’re not answering Mom’s calls, I’m supposed to remind you that your volunteer stint with LCCO starts tomorrow.”

“I know. I already talked to the assistant director this week. He’s got everything I requested.”

“Good. Look. I don’t want to tell you what to do”—I snorted at that; he’d been bossing me around my entire life—“but just call Mom. Be blunt with her about why you’ve been avoiding family stuff. She’ll stop because she misses you.”

I did miss the crazy, sweet hilarity that was our mother. “I’ll call her tonight.”

“Great. Now that I’ve done my duty, I’ve got a hot date with my woman.”

“Oh yeah? Where are you guys going?”

“Flurry.”

How things had changed. This time last year Brady worked practically twenty-four/seven and I was the one out on Friday and Saturday nights. Now he and Lennox were hitting the clubs on the weekend and I fell into bed alone.

I followed Brady to the front door. “Have fun.”

“We plan on it. And we’ll see you next Sunday for brunch?”

“Yeah.”

“Bring gear. Jaxson will be in town and Jens challenged them to a rematch.”

Our Lund cousins Jaxson, Ash and Nolan had shown us up the last time we’d played basketball and our super-competitive younger brother hated losing.

After Brady left, I grilled myself a steak, threw a handful of “super greens” into a salad bowl and pulled a potato out of the microwave. Although it was still humid, I sat on the patio by the pool. One of the things I loved about this house was the enormous outdoor space. These lots didn’t exist in the city anymore. The trend for people of means was to buy an old house for the location, then turn around and rip the house down and build a McMansion with all the amenities older homes lacked.

I’d been picking away at updating this house for six years, since around the same time I’d gone into partnership with Jase Flint. I saw the irony—living in an undone house and I was a partner in a renovation and restoration business.

After I returned from apprenticing with my grandfather in Sweden, I’d taken a job with one of the big construction firms. At twenty-three I’d had no problem starting at the bottom—setting forms for concrete. Within a month I was “promoted” to the demolition crew. A month later, I filled in on the framing crew and was permanently reassigned there. Once my boss saw my skills were wasted with framing, he switched me to finish carpentry. I lasted a month before the old-guard carpenters complained I rushed through projects—which wasn’t true; I refused to milk the clock like they did. When I found myself back on the concrete forms crew, I quit. There was a difference between paying my dues and being penalized for having a strong work ethic none of the other guys my age had.

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