Sunny Lerner stood in the middle of the room, hands on hips, surveying the faded wallpaper with mild disgust. How in the world anyone had slept in that room was totally beyond her but she figured that ugly wallpaper didn't matter much to men.
"Guess it will give me something to do when Eli is out at sea crab fishing," she mumbled as she rubbed an absent hand over the slight bump in her abdomen.
"Hey, Sunny!" Eli Sloane bellowed from somewhere in the small house – most likely the living room.
Rolling her eyes, a tiny smile on her face, she glanced over her shoulder in anticipation. Sure enough, he appeared in the doorway. "Yes? Did you need something?"
Eli's smoky eyes contained an impish glint as a grin appeared on his lips. "What are you doing in here?"
She shrugged, slightly embarrassed at being caught daydreaming. "Just making plans I guess."
He stepped into the room to wrap his arms around her waist. "We have plenty of time to figure out what to do with the room. It's only September and the baby isn't due until February."
"I know," she said, leaning into him. "How the hell did Noah ever sleep in this room? The décor is terrible."
Eli snorted as he placed his lips on her neck. "He didn't much care, I guess. Besides, he's spent most of his time at Gillian's."
"Hmm," she said, closing her eyes. "I was surprised when he agreed to take over my little apartment and let me move in here with you."
"I wasn't," Eli murmured as his lips trailed over her skin, causing her to shiver. "Worked out for everyone."
"Yes, it did," she said, but her mind was not on Eli's ministrations. It was wandering to Noah as it often had lately. Something seemed to be troubling her friend.
Eli sighed as he pulled back slightly. "Stop worrying. I've told you over and over again that Noah is fine with us being together," Eli whispered, only slightly irritated. "I've talked to him more than once and he said he doesn't mind his bestest childhood buddy living with his older brother. Hell, he's even excited about being an uncle."
Pasting a smile on her face, Sunny turned in Eli's arms to place a kiss on his lips. "I know. He just seems different lately."
A frown marred Eli's face as his eyes took on a dazed look. "Maybe. Maybe I should take him out one night before King Season starts. I'll get him drunk and make him spill his guts."
"Please," she said. "Alcohol is not always the answer, you know."
"Most times," he said.
"I give up," she said as she wiggled out of his arms. "So, I think I'll rip this wallpaper off and then paint. The carpet, though – I wonder if there are wood floors under it like in the living room."
"Do you really think you should be doing all of that?" Eli asked as he stood next to her, staring at the walls.
"I'm perfectly capable of peeling wallpaper and painting, as long as I'm not breathing in a lot of fumes," she said with an air of sarcasm. "I'm pregnant, Eli, not terminally ill."
"No, not terminally ill," he said as a smirk played in the corners of his mouth. "Mentally ill, maybe."
"Ha, ha," she said with another roll of the eyes. She swatted him on the butt as she leaned into his body. "I must be mentally ill to be moving in with you."
He wrapped his arms around her waist before kissing her lightly. "Face it, babe, you can't resist my good looks or my charm."
"You are absolutely right," she said with a smile. "That must be why I'm mentally…"
He cut her off with a searing kiss that stole her breath.
"Break it up you two," Noah said, startling them both. He stood in the doorway, smiling slightly.
"Hey, Noah," Sunny greeted, rushing over to hug him. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously," he said.
"Maybe we should change the locks," Eli growled as he punched Noah playfully in the arm.
"Hey, I was doing you a favor," Noah said, holding his hands up in mock surrender. "I came to forewarn you that Mom and Dad are on the way over."
"Great," Eli groaned as he scrubbed his face. He dropped his hands to cast a regretful look in Sunny's direction. "So much for a little alone time on your day off."
"Mom's got tons of food," Noah said as he moved further into the room, his eyes fixed on a frayed seam of the wallpaper. "She's bringing it over."
"Excellent," Eli said, his demeanor suddenly shifting. His lips curled into a playful smirk as Sunny lifted a brow. "I love your cooking, sweetness, but Mom makes the most excellent soup."
Sunny couldn't argue that – and didn't even try.
"Anyone home?" Marsha Sloane shouted.
"In here," Noah called.
"Whose house is this?" Eli murmured as his parents appeared a few minutes later, the scent of beef stew clinging to their clothing.
"Oh, are you planning the nursery?" Marsha Sloane asked.
"Just talking about getting rid of that ugly wallpaper," Sunny said.
Noah ran a hand down the wall. "Huh. I never noticed how ugly that wallpaper is. Funny."
"You lived here how long?" Sunny asked, astounded.
Noah turned to give her a sheepish grin.
"What are you planning to do?" Marsha asked.
"I don't know, really. I thought about ripping up the carpet but I don't know if there's hardwood under there or not," Sunny said.
"You could put hardwood down," Jon suggested.
"Hang on," Eli said, interrupting the conversation. "We're only renting, remember? I'm not about to dump a ton of dough into a place that's not mine."
Marsha frowned at her oldest son as she wrapped an arm around Sunny. "Well, you can paint and shampoo the carpet at least. Now come to the kitchen so I can show you what I've brought."
Later that night, while Sunny lay sleeping beside him, Eli allowed his mind to wander. He thought about the little two bedroom house that he'd shared with his brother for a few years before Sunny came along and switched residences with Noah.
Sometimes at night, Eli recalled how Sunny came to be in his life – marveling at how things had worked out. What had started out as angry, resentful feelings toward the girl over the sinking of the crab boat her father had captained and his uncle had worked, had turned into chemistry that neither could resist. After months of giving in to the passion yet ignoring the obvious, both had finally admitted that yes, there were underlying feelings.
And just like that, they'd become a couple. Oh, the bickering still continued but Eli was fine with it. It seemed to make the sex hotter – and he had no problem with that.
Now that Sunny was living with him, and about to have his baby, he couldn't help but to wonder if maybe he should give up the little house and buy something more permanent. It just bothered him that they weren't married yet. Sunny kept trying to ease his mind by reminding him that they hadn't been together for very long, but yet, he wanted to protest that they'd been together long enough to have conceived a child. He understood perfectly Sunny's reluctance to marry so soon – he had his own concerns in that aspect – but he just wanted to do right by his child. And by Sunny.
Rolling to his side, he draped an arm over her hip. He loved her very much – knew that with such fierce surety – and knew that she felt the exact same way. He had no doubts whatsoever in that department. So why rush things? Neither one of them was going anywhere.
Placing a soft kiss on her forehead, he closed his eyes, urging his thoughts away from marriage. They inevitably ran straight to Noah and the worries Sunny had had over him. Eli had constantly told her not to fret, that Noah was fine, but he'd had his own concerns for his brother. Yes, Sunny was right when she said that Noah wasn't himself.
Eli didn't think Noah was upset in any way over Eli and Sunny's relationship. But maybe he was bugged by how fast things had moved. Maybe Noah thought that he should be married to Gillian by now and expecting a child – they'd been together for years.
Eli wasn't sure exactly what was stuck in Noah's craw but he made it a priority to find out. He wanted to help his little brother get things sorted and back where they belonged. Eli's life was finally headed in a good direction and he was going to make sure it stayed that way.
At least, that's what he thought.
A/N: Yes, yes, I gave in - I started a sequel. I wasn't really planning on doing this as I had a couple other story ideas in my head, but those other ideas aren't well formed. And then, I had an idea for these characters so I decided to give it a shot. Be warned, though, that I only have a partial outline for this and I might not like it so I might scrape the whole thing. But I'm going to try it.
This story will not have the underlying mystery like the first but it will have more things going on besides the romance (possibly a touch of action here or there - we'll see). Plus, I am going to throw in a few new characters. I'm a little excited about this story but more nervous.
So, here goes...