The Army Ranger's Surprise(2)

By: Donna Michaels

That strange restlessness whispered through Leo again. It occurred more and more whenever he was around the couples. Witnessing devotion soften their expressions made him feel an emotion he’d never felt before. Envy.

Time to go.

He adjusted the strap on his shoulder and cleared his throat. “Enjoy your movie.”

“You need to get yourself a woman and bring her here for movie night,” Stone told him.

An image of a pretty brunette drifted through Leo’s mind with perfect clarity, thanks to his photographic memory.

Kaydee. His grandmother’s neighbor. With a ready smile, infectious laughter, and a warm brown gaze that mesmerized and drew him in, she was half the reason he was eager to spend the weekend up there.

More than half. Although he’d never tell her.

He couldn’t head down that road. In order to achieve the kind of a relationship his buddies had with their women, he’d have to open up and share his past and all the damn shame and guilt that came with it. No woman deserved that.

No woman deserved the mess that was him.

Better to leave things alone and settle for the enjoyment he got from living on the ranch and working at Foxtrot, the construction company his buddies owned.

“You could always bring her here for a nice picnic. I can whip up something simple for you to eat,” Vince said. “And you know Emma would be happy to bake you a pie.”

And he’d be happy to leave the damn conversation. “Thanks, but it’s not necessary. Have a great weekend.”

Without waiting for their reply, he pivoted on his heel and walked out the door. Taking it upon himself to spend more time with his grandmother wasn’t just a great reason to leave the ranch, it was also a great reason to possibly bump into Kaydee. She lived across the street and a few houses down from his grandmother. He should know—he’d helped her move in to one side of the duplex and her grandfather move in to the other last September.

He got in his truck and started the hour’s drive north toward Dallas with the woman on his mind. Being around her always brought a sense of calm. She looked at him through these gorgeous brown eyes that conveyed a warmth he felt right down to his boots. And her upbeat, sunny disposition—which he normally shied away from—always made him feel alive. It was almost addicting. Hell, it was addicting, and lately, he found himself going through withdrawal.

Not long after she moved in, he started to run into her at the rec center, mostly on senior citizen night when he was there to pick his grandmother up from bingo. Not that his spirited grandmother wasn’t capable of driving. No. She could drive, just not without a license. Too many speeding tickets saw to that. Yeah, his gram had a bit of a lead foot. But he was grateful for it, because he sometimes got to meet Kaydee at the center when she was there to get her grandfather.

You need to get yourself a woman.

Stone’s words echoed through Leo’s mind. If he were to follow that advice, then Kaydee was the one he’d pursue. His pulse kicked up a notch at the thought, then slowed to a crawl. The point was moot. A woman as bright and shiny as Kaydee deserved better than him and his dark past.

By the time he pulled into Gram’s driveway and cut the engine, he’d put those foolish thoughts aside. No sense in entertaining something so far out of reach. He wasn’t the type to live with his head in the clouds. More like stuck in the dirt.

With a snicker rumbling up his throat, he knocked twice before entering. It was his normal ritual, and he enjoyed hearing his grandmother huff that he should just walk in without knocking. Today, she didn’t pay him any mind.

No. She was too damn busy sitting on the couch necking with the neighbor.

What the hell?

Leo made the mistake of sucking in a breath while still snickering. Now he coughed and sputtered, which broke the couple apart.

His grandmother arched a brow. “What? I’m eighty-one. Not dead.”

And he was never going to get that damn image out of his head.

“You’re late. We ate without you.” Her voice was stern, but her gaze twinkled. “I saved you a plate. It’s on the kitchen counter.”

“Thanks.” He transferred his gaze to the man she just checked for tonsils. “Nate.”