Turning from the window, Lauren went to greet their guests. She circled her assistant's desk, fluffing her hair before she stepped into the foyer. Seven warm bodies in that small space made it feel crowded but they'd had more. Counting on Jackie to distract the young girl, Lauren approached the mother with an extended hand.
"Hello, Patricia. I'm Lauren McKay. I'm so glad you found us."
The cop jerked slightly at her name, but just as his head tipped to the side to see around the boy in his arms, Lauren shifted her attention to the girl.
"And I'll bet you're Morgan, am I right?"
The girl nodded bashfully.
Lauren smiled. "What's your brother's name?"
Morgan pointed with her thumb. "He's Josh."
Lauren's expression softened on the small boy. She reached out to touch his back, and froze, stunned to see a familiar face looking back at her over the boy's shoulder.
Those warm eyes belonged to a man she never expected to see again. He'd haunted her for years, and now she felt desperate and weak, and yes, more than a little afraid. He'd always thrown her without even trying. His slow, intimate smile sent her heart rate galloping like a thoroughbred's.
Flustered and shaken, Lauren turned back to the mother. "Why don't you go with Jackie? She'll show you to your room, and while the kids make themselves at home in the playroom, you can come back and we'll go over a few things in my office, okay?"
The woman nodded and reached out to take her son from the officer. Relieved of his burden, the man lightly brushed the back of the boy's head. He watched them walk downstairs before turning back with a more personal smile for the woman in front of him.
"Lauren." His voice caressed her name, and she trembled.
"How are you, Wes?" Her warm response didn't betray the inferno inside her.
"I'm good. Oh, this is my partner Chuck Townsend."
Lauren blushed with embarrassment. She'd barely noticed the other man.
"Hi, Chuck," she said with an apologetic smile.
"Nice to meet you, Lauren." He chuckled and winked at Wes. "I'll just wait outside. Take your time." Chuck bolted for the door.
Wes turned with a laugh. "Well, that was smooth."
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