Authors: Delaney Diamond
Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series
“You should leave her there,” he said.
“You say things like that and wonder why she
hates you.” The dog growled and barked at Trenton every time he
came over. Oddly enough, she only behaved that way toward him. With
everyone else, she was loving and playful.
“Like I care what that damn dog thinks.”
Trenton pulled her into a hug. She pressed
her face into his neck and inhaled the crisp, herbal fragrance of
his cologne and the fresh, right-out-of-the-shower scent of his
skin. He must have stopped at home before coming over.
The hair on his jaw tickled her face, but she
resisted the urge to rub her cheek against the rough texture. His
strong arms held her close, and she longed to run her hands up
under his shirt and spread them across his wide back.
Releasing her, he said, “I’m out of here.
Sleep tight. I’ll see you next week for lunch?”
She wanted to say no, that she couldn’t take
the lunches and the dinners and the movies anymore. Instead, she
said, “I’ll let you know.”
He tilted his head sideways, frowning.
“You’re canceling lunch?”
“I’m not canceling, but I don’t know what my
schedule will be like yet. Things are probably backed up at the
lab, so I’ll have to see before I confirm lunch.”
“Call me Monday night and let me know.”
“Okay.” Agreeing was easier than fighting.
“And please get a haircut and shave. Next time I see you, I don’t
want you to look like a mountain man.”
With a playful gleam in his eye, he grinned.
“I don’t know, I might let my hair grow a little longer. And the
ladies like the beard.” He scrubbed his cheek with his
“With that big head of yours, will you be
able to make it through the front door to your truck?”
He chuckled heartily as he left, and Alannah
closed the door behind him and let out a sigh.
“I didn’t hear the deadbolt,” Trenton said on
the other side of the door.
She rolled her eyes and twisted the bolt to
the right. “Happy now?”
“Yes, smart ass. Good night.”
Alannah smiled a little and stood at the door
until she heard him drive away. After retrieving the satin bonnet
from the kitchen, she turned out the lights and climbed the stairs
to the second floor.
She entered the quiet sanctuary of her
bedroom, which contained silver and lavender furnishings and a
large window with matching curtains that faced the front of the
house. When she’d moved in, she asked Trenton to help her paint the
room and put together the white dresser, bureau, and night stand
she’d purchased from IKEA. He’d shown up that Saturday with workers
in tow and whisked her off to lunch and a movie. By the time they’d
returned, the furniture had been put together and the room painted
white with a heather-gray accent wall.
Alannah grinned as she stripped off her
clothes. She’d only been teasing when she’d made that request of
Trenton. As down to earth as he was, he did not like manual
She pulled a spaghetti-strapped top over her
head and then dug out a pair of Trenton’s striped silk boxers that,
unbeknownst to him, she’d pilfered from his dresser. Over the
years, she’d borrowed T-shirts that she’d never returned, but she’d
also stolen from him—mostly boxers, but the occasional dress shirt
and tie had also made its way to the bottom of her dresser drawer.
If he ever saw her collection, he’d think she was a sicko for
She slipped into the queen-size bed and
turned out the light, but Trenton filled her thoughts. She deserved
at least an Emmy nod for effectively hiding her feelings. While she
wanted to be more than friends, she was firmly, unequivocally in
the Friend Zone and had been for over twenty years. That would
never change, and she winced as the pain of resignation lanced
through her chest.
For one, she wasn’t his type. Too quiet and
not sexy enough. Second, when two people have been friends as long
as she and Trenton had been, it was too risky to take a chance on
ruining their stable relationship.
Alannah pulled the covers over her head and
curled into a tight, miserable ball.
The Friend Zone was a place she’d come to
despise. Because Trenton was the complete package. Everything a
woman could want. He had a great personality, a sense of humor, was
confident, and very good-looking.
Unfortunately, he was her best friend,
closest confidant, and she was hopelessly in love with him.
Alannah removed her lab coat and hung
it in her locker at DymoGenesis, the biomedical engineering
facility where she worked. As a researcher in tissue engineering,
she and the other employees in the fourth-floor lab worked on the
creation of artificial organs and researched the effect they had on
the human body.
“I love your new look,” one of her coworkers
whispered as she zipped behind her.
“Thanks.” Alannah smiled shyly. The new
hairstyle and clothes had caused an uptick in her workplace
popularity, and she still wasn’t used to all the attention yet.
She hadn’t brought her lunch today, and
suffering through paltry choices of mystery meat and overcooked
pasta in the company cafeteria didn’t appeal, so she decided to
take advantage of the sunny weather and go out for lunch. She
exited the building into the University District, an eclectic mix
of historic homes, eateries, and shops that surrounded the
University of Washington. Strolling down University Way, or “The
Ave,” as Seattleites tended to call it, she chose a sandwich shop
for lunch. She planned to sit at one of the outside tables and
peruse the fashion magazine tucked into her purse to get ideas for
her next outfits.
Minutes later, she settled on a bench with a
hot pastrami sandwich, chips, and a drink. She’d only taken one
bite of the sandwich and hadn’t even removed the magazine from her
purse yet when a male voice asked, “Mind if I join you?”
Alannah looked up into the smiling and very
attractive face of her coworker, Connor Bodell. Tall and lanky with
dirty blond hair, he’d caused quite a tizzy among the researchers
when hired months ago.
Alannah’s mouth fell open, but she didn’t
know what to say. Another empty table was only a few feet away, and
she wondered why he didn’t sit there instead.
Finally, she found her voice. “Sure. No one’s
sitting there.” Inclining her head, she indicated the empty bench
on the other side of the table.
“Thanks.” He sat down. “I’m Connor, by the
He unwrapped his chicken sandwich and
squeezed ketchup onto the edge of the wax paper. “So you work on
the fourth floor at DymoGenesis, right?” He took a bite of his
“Yes. And you’re in…administration?”
She knew exactly which department he worked
in. Everyone did—the women, anyway.
Connor nodded and swallowed. “Quality control
“Boo. Hiss. Should I even be talking to
“Of course. I help you do your job better.”
He grinned, and his eyes lit up. They were green, like Trenton’s,
but a lighter shade.
Alannah glanced down at her chips, silently
berating herself. She had a bad habit of comparing every man she
met to Trenton. No point, when he remained in a class by
“I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to
talk to you,” Connor said.
Startled, Alannah shifted her gaze across the
He laughed softly. “Yes, you. Why do you
sound so surprised?”
“I…I guess because I am surprised. I thought
you were interested in someone else.”
She and some of the other female employees
had speculated about his relationship with a chemist on the second
floor. They’d had lunch together in the cafeteria a few times, and
one evening when she’d worked late, Alannah had spotted them
chatting out by his car in the parking lot. That was when she’d
lost all hope of ever being noticed by him. But that had been weeks
ago, before her trip to Arizona. Now that she thought about it, she
hadn’t seen them together since her return.
“Well, you’re wrong. I’ve had my eye on you
since I started working at DymoGenesis.”
Not accustomed to this kind of attention,
Alannah felt heat rise in her cheeks. “Oh.” She munched a chip,
unable to think of anything else to say.
“I’m not saying it to flatter you. It’s the
truth,” Connor said quietly. He set down his sandwich, and his
expression became more earnest. “I didn’t approach because you
always seemed so quiet. I wondered if you’d even be interested in a
guy like me.”
“A guy like you? What does that mean?”
“I’m not exactly a brainiac.”
Alannah laughed softly. “I’m not only
interested in smart men.”
“No.” Her heart rate sped up a little, and
she bit the inside of her bottom lip.
Oh my goodness, where is
“So, I have a chance?” He dipped a fry in
ketchup and looked up at her right before slipping it into his
“I would say so.”
He nodded, breaking into a smile that lit up
his entire face. “Good.”
A group of four women sat down at the other
table, their conversation and laughter very loud.
Alannah and Connor ate in silence for a
couple of minutes.
“I like your new look,” he said. “I like that
you’re wearing your hair down now, and the color makes you stand
“Thank you,” she said.
They ate in quiet for a while again,
listening to the noises of the street and the rambunctious
conversation at the other table.
“So…you don’t have a boyfriend?”
She looked across at him. “No.”
“What about Trenton Johnson?” He twirled a
fry in ketchup. “I’ve seen him at DymoGenesis a couple of times.
Once in a red Maserati.” He sounded in awe of the car.
Alannah remembered that day and all the
stares when Trenton pulled up front in a red, limited edition
Maserati GranTurismo convertible with the obnoxious vanity plate
LOVRMAN. Her car had been at the dealer for routine maintenance,
and he’d picked her up from work.
“Trenton’s only a friend.”
Connor lifted his gaze to hers. “Is he? I’ve
“What you’ve heard is wrong,” Alannah said
firmly, perhaps a little too harshly. She softened the words with a
tentative smile. “People misunderstand and always think there’s
something going on between us, but there’s not. He and I are just
He nodded as if he fully understood the
nature of their relationship, but then said in a low, disheartened
voice, “He’s really rich.”
Alannah knew that tone well. It was the sound
of a man intimidated by her close relationship with Trenton, whose
wealth surpassed anything they could ever achieve in several
lifetimes. “Yes, he is. And he dates a lot of women. I’m sure
you’ve seen him in magazines, if you pay attention to that kind of
“Not really, but I know who he is
because…well, he’s a member of the Johnson family.”
The Johnson name carried a lot of clout not
only in Seattle, but in the country as a whole. They employed
thousands and donated millions annually to various charitable
organizations. Their personal lives were often fodder for the
gossip blogs and tabloids, though they did their best to squash
news stories about them and stay out of the spotlight.
“So if you’re not dating Trenton Johnson, and
there’s no one else…”
“There’s no one else,” Alannah confirmed. She
held her breath, sensing he was about to ask a question.
“Would you like to go out with me?” The smile
on his face appeared a little nervous, not quite extending into his
eyes to quell the anxiety she saw there.
The new and improved Alannah had been asked
on a date! Her makeover was working already.
She had to force herself not to grin too
hard. “Yes,” she said. He didn’t make her breathless the way being
around Trenton did, but she was certain that, with time, the
butterflies would come.
Connor’s smile broadened into a full-on grin.
“Super. Next week okay?” He picked up his sandwich, as if he’d
suddenly regained his appetite.
“Next week is perfect.”
Alannah needed a whole new wardrobe, but a few
new outfits would have to do for now. It was Saturday afternoon,
and she was going to do some shopping so she’d have something to
wear for her date with Connor next Saturday night.
Too bad her girlfriend, Terri, couldn’t
accompany her on the shopping trip. One of technicians at the day
spa and salon had called in sick, and Terri had picked up the extra
“Alannah, honey, I feel so bad about
canceling on you.” Her voice came through the car’s speakers.
Alannah backed her black Lexus LS out of the
garage. The leather interior was the color of parchment paper and
the wood grain a dark walnut. She’d never owned a new car in her
life, until Trenton presented the extravagant gift for her
thirtieth birthday, complete with a red bow on top. Despite her
protests, she’d loved the car on sight and relished the new car
“I hate you have to cancel, too. You know I
have no fashion sense.”
“You’ll be fine.” Terri laughed. “By the way,
make sure you get some nice underwear. Nothing like a lacy set of
bras and panties to make you feel sexy, and Connor will appreciate
the effort, too.”
“Um, this is our first date. There’s no way
he’s seeing my underwear.”
“You never know. It may go really well.”
“Not that well, Terri,” Alannah said, driving
to the Stop sign at the end of her street.
“Fine, whatever. Just make sure you get
something cute. And whatever outfits you pick, highlight your best
attributes. Big booties are in, so play up your advantage.”
Alannah merged into traffic. “I don’t
“Remember, this is all about the new and
improved Alannah. You don’t have to hide behind the baggy shirts
and all those long skirts. You’re not Amish, are you?”