“Your parents care about you.”

“The spoiled, pampered child.” She sighed. “That’s what you think, right? What a lot of people believe.” And one of the reasons she’d refused to let her mom and dad pay for grad school.

“There’s a deeper side to you.”

“I’m the child they never thought they could have. I’m sure you don’t know that they tried to have a baby for a lot of years, and Mom suffered a number of miscarriages.”

“All their hopes and dreams are on your shoulders.”

“Sounds petty, compared to your background.”

“No need to compare. Family dynamics are often complicated, as you know.”

“They are. No matter how well-meaning. They are more than protective. Mom used to call my college to make sure I was okay. I can’t imagine what she would do if I didn’t come home for breaks.” She took another sip of the brew, this time for fortification. “If they find out that I’m here…”

“Not a matter of if.”

“You’re hell-bent on giving my mother a nervous breakdown?”

He grinned. “Not swayed. I think Andrea is made of sterner stuff.”

“Not when it comes to me.” Andrea had devoted the past twenty-two years to motherhood, and the bonds wouldn’t be broken lightly.

“Then she’ll be glad if you return to Houston.”


A man strode toward them, hand extended. Jaxon stood to greet him. “Rykker.”

She watched the two, about the same height, shake hands. It was impossible to miss the display of strength and masculine prowess. Sometimes she wondered how far alpha males had progressed since the caveman days.

“Have you met Willow Henderson?”

Rykker turned toward her with a polite smile. “Brian and Andrea’s daughter?”

Her incognito trip was now well and truly ruined. Glowering at Jax, she stood, trying to stuff her feet back into her discarded sandals. “Nice to meet you.” The words were polite, nothing more.

She accepted his offered hand, and he was gentle with her.