It Happened One Wedding Page 74

“We’re busy, sure—as a lawyer, you never want to be not busy. But one of the commitments my friends made when starting the firm was to staff cases so that no one works the insane amount of hours you see at large law firms.” He smiled. “And if you knew the kind of lifestyle J.D. and Payton had at our old firm—basically meaning, no life at all—you’d understand why this is important to them. That’s one of the main reasons I joined their firm . . . well, after waiting a year to see if they actually got the place off the ground,” he chuckled. “Having a healthy work-life balance is important to me, too.”

Well, isn’t he just knocking these answers out of the park?

Sidney’s inner pragmatist gave her a sharp nudge.

I mean, yay!—he’s knocking these answers out of the park!

“It is to me, too.” Then she smiled, in concession. “At least now it is. Admittedly, when I was in New York, my scale was far more heavily tipped on the ‘work’ side of the work-life balance. But now I have this new job, with much better hours, and I feel a lot more settled. It’s like, that piece of my life is good, that’s set—I’ve got the career thing figured out. So now I’m in a position to start thinking about things beyond my career.”

She waited to see how Tyler would respond. She was putting it all out there, making it clear that she was thinking big picture, not just looking for someone to have fun with. Every other Mr. Right contender—if they hadn’t already failed her checklist—had crashed and burned at this part. They equivocated about what they were looking for in a relationship, they hemmed and hawed, or they said some platitude that, at best, could be read as ambivalent.

Tyler looked her dead in the eyes. “I feel exactly the same way.”

Hearing that, Sidney took a deep breath.

Well, that was . . . fantastic. Awesome. She smiled at Tyler, not quite sure why she had that annoying, hesitant feeling in her stomach again—but it didn’t matter. Fate had finally thrown her a bone. Tyler was good-looking, smart, successful, and had an easygoing nature that balanced well against her tendency to be, well . . . a little snarky and not so easygoing. And when, during dessert, he talked about being in a place in his life where he was ready to settle down, something he’d realized after seeing how happy his friends, J.D. and Payton, were after the birth of their first child, Sidney could practically see the bright neon arrow blinking in the air over his head. Him! This one! Yes!

So, at the end of the date, when they said good-bye in front of the taxi that would take her home, and he leaned in and huskily asked if his two minutes were up, or if he could see her again, the pragmatist in her knew there was only one answer to that.

She told him yes.

 • • •

ACROSS TOWN IN his loft, Vaughn made himself a dinner of steak fajitas and settled onto his couch to watch television. He had his cell phone ready at his side, knowing what was coming.

It was Wednesday. Date night for Sidney. Which meant that any moment, the text messages would start rolling in with whatever issues—real or imagined—she identified with this new guy, this rich Tyler tool who clearly had a dick so small he needed to compensate by taking women to expensive five-star restaurants on first dates.

Sad, really.

But it didn’t matter how nice the restaurant was, or whether Sidney’s mentor claimed Tyler was a “good” guy. As Vaughn had told Cade and Huxley, her checklist was like a fortress: No man was getting through.

Speaking of which . . .

He looked down at his silent phone. He checked to make sure it was on, and then turned back to his fajitas.

Admittedly, he was curious to know how things were going on her date. Not because he was jealous or anything—pfft, he didn’t do jealous—but because of the practicalities of their situation. He liked having sex with Sidney. But obviously, that would come to an end as soon as she started dating someone. And now that he thought about it . . . everything else would come to an end, too. Like the cute text messages. And all their conversations. And he no longer would be the guy she texted Help to when needing someone to pop the casing off her smoke detector. Or the guy she rested her head against when snuggled up on her couch on a Friday night. Some nameless, faceless new guy was going to horn in on all of that.

Vaughn looked down at his phone.

He shook off the thoughts—that wasn’t anything he needed to worry about tonight. Any second now, he was going to hear the chime of a new text message, the chime that signaled the demise of rich, slick Maybe-next-time-we-can-meet-for-more-than-two-minutes-which-also-happens-to-be-how-long-I-last-during-sex Tyler Roland, Attorney-at-Law.

Vaughn picked up his phone to check that it had a signal.

Yep, any second now.

Twenty-eight

A WEEK AND a half later, Vaughn met with his boss, Special Agent in Charge Nick McCall, to give him an update on the Pritchett investigation.

“The cops did another gun run last night,” Vaughn said. “We have one more scheduled for two weeks from yesterday, and after that, I think we’ll have enough evidence to make our arrests.”

“Let me know when that’s going to go down,” Nick said. “I want to make sure you have all the backup you need. These guys are cops. When they realize they’re going to prison, who knows what they might try to pull.”

Vaughn nodded in agreement. “If everything goes as planned, we’ll make the arrests the following Monday. In addition to the backup squad and the SOG team, I’d like to bring in a SWAT unit.” That would mean he’d have eight more fully armed guys in two big SUVs on hand, just in case.

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