Reunited with the Lassiter Bride

By: Barbara Dunlop


There were days when Evan McCain wished he’d never met the Lassiter family. Today was definitely one of them. Thanks to J. D. Lassiter, at thirty-four years old, Evan was starting his professional life all over again.

He pushed open the door to his empty storefront office building in Santa Monica. By rights, he should have sold the compact building two years ago after moving to Pasadena, but it was only a block from the beach and the investment value was solid. As things turned out, he was very glad he’d kept it.

He had no intention of touching any of the money left to him by J.D. The bequest in his former boss’s will felt like a payoff for Evan’s unwitting participation in J.D.’s complex scheme to test his daughter Angelica, Evan’s ex-fiancée. She’d eventually passed the test, proving she could balance her work and her life, and replaced Evan at the helm of Lassiter Media. But she’d failed Evan in the process, ending both their romantic relationship and his employment at Lassiter Media.

He dropped his suitcase in the reception area, hit the overhead lights and moved to the counter to test the telephone. He got a dial tone and mentally checked off two steps in his implementation plan. He had electricity, and he was connected to the outside world. Those were the basics.

The blinds on the glass door rattled as someone opened it behind him.

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” It was the voice of his long-time friend Deke Leamon.

Evan turned, blinking against the streaming sunlight, baffled to see Deke silhouetted in his doorway. “What on earth are you doing on the West Coast?”

Deke grinned, dropping a red duffel bag on the vinyl reception seat beside Evan’s suitcase. He was dressed in faded jeans, a Mets T-shirt, and a pair of scruffy hikers. “We did it before. We can do it again.”

Evan stepped forward to shake his former college roommate’s hand. “Do what again? Seriously, why didn’t you call? And how did you know I’d be here?”

“Educated guess,” said Deke. “I figured there’d be too many memories in Pasadena. This seemed like the logical place. I assume you’re going to live upstairs for a while?”

“Good guess,” said Evan.

The upstairs apartment was small, but he’d make it work. He needed an immediate and total change of scenery. Luckily, despite its proximity to downtown L.A., Santa Monica had a personality all its own.

“Figured you might be feeling sorry for yourself,” Deke continued. “So, I thought I’d wander over and give you a kick in the ass.”

“I’m not feeling sorry for myself,” said Evan.

Life was what it was, and no amount of complaining or wishing would change it to something else. It was a hard lesson, but he’d learned long ago that he could roll with the punches. On his seventeenth birthday to be exact, he’d realized just how resilient he could be.

“And you don’t wander,” he finished.

His friend was contemplative and deliberate in every action he undertook. Deke didn’t do anything on a whim. Now, he dropped into one of the vinyl chairs and stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles.

“Okay, so I flew here on purpose.” He glanced around the empty office space. “Thought I could probably lend a hand.”

Evan leaned back against the reception countertop, bracing himself and raising a challenging brow. “Lend a hand doing what, exactly?”

“Whatever needs doin’.” Deke glanced around the office. “So, what’s the plan? What happens first?”

“The phones are up and running.” Evan realized that he was still holding the cordless receiver, and he set it down.

“Good start. You got any leads? Got a website?”

Evan was both touched and amused by what he knew Deke was doing. “You don’t need to be here.”

“I want to be here. I left Colby in charge at Tiger Tech. Told him I’d be back in a month or so.”

Colby Payne was a young, innovative genius who’d been Deke’s second in command for two years.

“That’s ridiculous.” Evan wasn’t about to let Deke make that kind of sacrifice. “I don’t need your pity. Even if I wanted you here—which I don’t—you’ve got a business to run.”

Deke’s massive technological prototyping facility in Chicago was filled with everything from computerized lathes to 3D printers. It helped budding innovators turn their ideas into commercial products. His unique brand of savvy and entrepreneurship had launched dozens of success ventures.

Deke shrugged. “I was getting bored. I haven’t taken a vacation in two years.”