Thank you so much for stopping by to read Sheppy's story from the Mr. Mistake Series. I thought it would be fun to let my Facebook group readers get a sneak peek of his story for FREE before anyone else as a thank you for being so wonderful.
Every week or so, I plan on uploading more chapters here until his story (and Lucy's) is complete. I will then take it down before putting up on Amazon, so make sure to read it here while you can!
I really hope you love revisiting the Mr. Mistake Series in this way!
Between listening to two attorneys go at it all afternoon in the office next to mine—and I don’t mean debating—and being stuck behind the longest beagle parade in the history of beagle parades, I was confident that today was out to get me.
I had to drop off my sister’s birthday present at one of Seattle’s swankiest bars before hightailing it to the hospital to help my best friend give birth. So why not skip dropping off my sister’s present? Because I didn’t have one of those kinds of sisters. My sister turned the big 3-0 today, and I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t at least stop by. I’d like to believe it was because my sister loved me so much that she just had to see a friendly face on her big day, but the truth was much darker. I handed out good presents, and my sister enjoyed receiving them.
As I pushed into the overcrowded and overpriced bar, I immediately spotted my sister and her group of friends. They’d obviously been there for a while, considering just how loud they already were.
My sister saw me and flung her hands into the air and waved frantically as I made my way over. I saw a few glances in my direction from men at the bar and tried not to roll my eyes. This was the worst place to meet a guy, and I certainly didn’t have time for an awkward hello anyway. It was bad enough that I was surrounded by slippery and swanky men at work. I didn’t need to see them in my off hours.
I had just under thirty minutes to wish my sister a happy birthday, dash out to my car parked a block away, drive to the hospital at the other end of Seattle, find parking in a cramped garage, and race to the labor and delivery unit.
I gave my sister a quick hug and slid her a Chanel gift bag under the table.
“Hey, Mae. Happy Birthday.” I squeezed her extra hard before slipping into the chair reserved for me as all the girls began gabbing again and laughing at some inside joke they all shared.
Mae was my younger sister by four years, but when our parents divorced, she was twelve and I was sixteen. Since my mom suddenly got thrust back into the working world, I wound up taking care of Mae more often than my mom, and rather than being best friends like some sisters, the relationship was more maternal on my side and I couldn’t help but want to take care of her.
“Did you have a good day at the firm?” my sister asked, taking a sip of her pink drink.
I nodded. “Just another day in paradise,” I teased, glancing around the bar. “Sorry I’m late. I got stuck behind the beagle parade.”
Mae laughed and held up her martini glass. “ I didn’t even notice.”
I grinned as anxiety began to inch through my system. I’d barely warmed the seat, but
I had to go.
When I saw a bartender start this way with a tray full of drinks, I grabbed my purse and blew my sister a kiss.
“Danny’s about to have her baby. I have to leave now if I’m going to get there in time.” I popped up from the seat as my sister made a gesture for me to take off, which
I happily did.
Today felt like a whirlwind, and the crazy part hadn’t even happened yet. I was about to see a live birth.
The moment I stepped outside and felt the chilly air blast my cheeks, I got a sudden surge of adrenaline.
I could do this.
My best friend needed me, and I was honored to be part of the biggest day in her life.
And since her husband took off with the neighbor’s wife six weeks ago, there wasn’t a way in the world that I would let my girl go at this alone.
After Danielle walked in on her husband in the laundry room with the neighbor’s wife,
I was shocked that Danny didn’t go into immediate labor. However, she did smack the ironing board down on his head as she waddled out of the room and up the stairs to her bedroom, where she collapsed on the bed and cried herself to sleep.
The thought of my best friend having that happen to her at such a delicate time made me look askance at any man in a bar, grocery store, or sporting event.
As I climbed into my car and pulled onto the road taking me to Danny, I thought about what lay ahead. Not just in the here and now for Danny, but once her little one was born. Since she’d married Bill, she’d quit working and played the perfect housewife, and now I had no idea what she planned to do.
I clutched the steering wheel as I thought about what I’d like to do to the guy if I saw him, but thankfully, I was representing Danny in her divorce, so she wouldn’t have to worry about finances just yet. We lived in a community property state, and I would make Bill pay in ways he’d never dreamed.
The thought made me so tickled that I almost drove by the hospital entrance and made a hard turn. I glanced at the radio and saw that I had less than ten minutes to get to her.
“Come on, Lucy,” I whispered to myself. “You can do this.”
My luck suddenly changed for the day, and a parking spot opened right up by the elevator.
Within minutes, I was checked in at security for the labor and delivery ward and found myself flying down the corridor, hearing distant moans and groans.
My uterus went into shock at the sounds echoing around me as I found Danny’s room. I breathed a sigh of relief when I knocked on the door and heard a faint hello from inside.
I stepped into the room and opened the curtain to see my best friend looking like she was ready to pull the baby out herself.
“There is only one thing in life that I’m sure of, and that, my friend is that I will never fall in love.” I raised my beer to my best friend, Tom, as our bottles clanked amid the bustling sound of the bar.
“Whatever you say, man.” Tom took a swig of his beer and pointed at a group of females huddling by the bartender. “But don’t you think you’re kind of old to be playing the guy who won’t ever be tied down?”
I laughed and let out a blissful sigh. Why blissful? Because I hadn’t fallen for the trap that Tom had. Just a few months ago, he’d felt like I did. There was too much in the world to do and see without being weighted down by love.
I didn’t want to have to check in with anyone. I wanted to merely exist in my happy place, which at the moment was my favorite bar across the street from my condo.
I’d had a long week already, and it was only Monday.
“Come on. Do you think if I had a wife I’d be at the bar with you, talking about whatever the heck came to mind without a care in the world?”
Tom shrugged. “I’m here, and I’ve found the one.”
“Yeah, but I bet you have a time you’re supposed to be home by or a lot of things you shouldn’t do tonight.”
Tom scratched his chin and looked perplexed. “Not really.”
I rolled my eyes and took a sip of beer. “You can’t tell me there aren’t some rules involved with your going out without her.”
Tom laughed. “Not really. Not beyond common decency. Just common sense stuff.”
“If you say so.” I didn’t buy it for a second. Never once had I been in a relationship and not been bombarded with a million rules.
It would start simple, like I couldn’t meet a friend for dinner or I had to call when I left the office, but then it would evolve to not being allowed to swing by the store on the way home or change plans last-minute to go see a ballgame.
Which was precisely why I prided myself in just not bothering.
Tom got fooled. He fell for a beautiful woman with an amazing personality, but soon, the real Skylar would show her true colors, and I’d be there to pick up the pieces.
Tom patted my shoulder as he took another sip of beer.
He looked me squarely in the eye and grinned. “You know what’s weird about you?”
“You’re the happiest guy I know—successful, kind, and funny.”
I chuckled. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
Tom grinned wider. “I’m not done yet. You’re all that good rolled up into a great big giant ball until you turn to the topic of love. That’s when you turn into a real downer, a cynic, and I have to confess, it’s not fun to be around. Just because you haven’t found the one doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.”
“Psh.” I shook my head and glanced around the packed bar with extravagant chandeliers, fancy stone floors, and expensive booze. “The bar is filled with beautiful women, and I guarantee you, not one of them is a perfect fit for Shep.”
“Uh, yeah. Especially if you refer to yourself in the third person.”
“All I’m saying is that if I’m this old and I can’t find the perfect someone in a sea of eligible women, it’s obviously not meant to be.”
The double doors opened with a gust and a woman walked into the bar.
Her red hair flowed past her shoulders, and sparkling green eyes lit up when her gaze landed on someone the next table over.
It was like my world stopped as she glided to the table next to me. I quickly scanned the two other women sitting at the table and couldn’t help but smile. There wasn’t any male waiting for her.
“As you were saying?” Tom elbowed me.
I flashed him a quick scowl before turning my attention to the redhead who’d already taken a seat with her friends.
Tom leaned over. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
My scowl deepened. “About what?”
Tom only laughed as I glanced in the woman’s direction.
I didn’t believe in love in first sight or any of that, but I firmly believed in lust in first sight, and I couldn’t even tear my eyes away from her.
But the moment her laugh echoed into the air, I was done for. It wasn’t some odd cackle or a deep hack or a nasally snicker. No, her laugh was enchanting and inviting and—
“You going to be okay, Shep? You’re probably making that table of women extremely uncomfortable.”
I tore my gaze away and laughed as my friend pressed his lips into a fine line.
I recognized the look. It was the same one since college whenever a bright idea popped into his head, but through no fault of his own, they usually weren’t very bright and often involved a dare.
“I’ve got a proposition for you.”
My brows arched in anticipation. “Yeah?”
“I’ll bet you five hundred bucks that if you go over to that table and introduce yourself, the redhead will ignore you.”
I straightened. “Ignore me? Like flat out turn her head in the other direction?”
“Something like that.”
“Wow. Such faith.”
Tom shrugged and took a sip. “Just a hunch.”
“Your hunch is that the most gorgeous woman in the bar wants nothing to do with your best friend? Tell me how you really feel.”
“Fine. The bet’s on, and I won’t accept a payment plan.”
Tom sat back in the booth, looking far too sure of himself while I stood and walked over to the bartender to order a round of drinks for the ladies.
As the bartender followed me over to the table, I spotted Tom taking video, which only made me up my game.
The truth was that I rarely struck out.
I walked over to the redhead’s side of the table as the bartender stood with a tray full of drinks, and as I was about to bend down, the woman shot up from her chair, grabbed her purse, and darted toward the door as Tom stood up and started clapping.
“Oh, Lucy. I don’t want you to think like that,” Danny whispered, smiling down at her little bundle of joy named Isabella. “If I had never met Bill, I would never have had the best thing in my life happen to me.”
Her words sank deep into my soul as I watched my best friend of fifteen years nuzzling her nose alongside her precious baby’s nose, and I couldn’t help but smile.
Danny’s eyes connected with mine. “Don’t give up on men. They aren’t all snakes.”
I laughed and nodded, wishing I believed that, but I was a family lawyer specializing in divorce. Boxes of tissue were one of my biggest expenses.
“Okay, but enough of that.” I grinned, running my fingers along Danny’s loose bun.
A person would never know she’d just given birth, but that was how Danny was. She’d always pick herself up and carry on, regardless of the situation.
“My mom should be here any second,” she informed me. “She’s still upset that she missed the birth.”
I chuckled, knowing Danny’s mom was a handful, to say the least. “She’s the one who booked the cruise a week before your due date.”
Danny laughed. “Exactly.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Sore and exhausted but extremely grateful that everything went so smoothly.”
I hid a smile as I thought about her labor that went all night and into the early morning hours.
She turned to me just as the nurse came in. “You should go home. I know you probably have stacks of paper to go through or whatever it is you do as a hotshot lawyer.”
I rolled my eyes. “Code for get outta here. I’m exhausted.”
She smiled. “Something like that.”
One of the many things that had made our friendship so strong over the years was the strikingly and often brutally honest tone we’d always had with one another.
“Besides, I don’t want you to have to deal with my mom,” she added.
“Oh, right.” I nodded.
Danny’s mom thought that her daughter should take one for the team and look the other way, pretend none of the cheating happened, or the lying, or anything else that may have undone their relationship.
Never mind the fact that Bill seemingly moved on. It was never said between Danny and me, but even if she wanted to go that route, he didn’t.
I noticed my jaw had clenched just at the thought of him.
How could he not even be here for his daughter’s birth?
I pushed down the anger and plastered a smile on my face.
“Love ya, and you two get some rest. Call me when you want me back.”
The nurse rolled over the baby’s bassinet, which looked more like a plastic bin, and I wandered out of the hospital room.
Being there for the birth of Isabella was something I’d never forget, and Danny asking me to be her godmother was such a blessing.
But by the time I’d gotten on the elevator and walked all the way to the parking garage, I was exhausted.
I’d been going and going since yesterday, and it finally all hit me.
Today was Saturday, and I felt like collapsing.
When Danny had drifted off after she gave birth, I tried to do the same on the awkward leather recliner, but between all the call bells and announcements coming over the hallway speakers, it was a lost cause.
As I slipped into the car, I saw a message from my sister slide over.
Hey, when you left, some super-hot guy asked for your information. He said you brushed him off, but he was so hot that I can’t imagine any woman in her right mind doing that. I even tried to convince him to treat me to a little birthday surprise, but he didn’t take me up on it. Anyway, he has your number. His name is Ship or Shep or Chip. I don’t know.
My eyes widened at the words sitting on my phone screen. Brushed off some guy at the bar? I shook my head. I didn’t even see any guy, let alone brush one off.
I scowled at the phone and started to typing back.
Why would you give a complete stranger my phone number?
She quickly replied.
He was hot.
I rolled my eyes and texted back.
Yeah. You mentioned that. Yet, you don’t even know if his name is Chip,
Ship, or Shep.
Another text tolled over.
Quit being such a lawyer and live a little. Besides, he might not reach out.
My scowl deepened. Why wouldn’t he reach out?
Fine. Whatever. Did you want me to tell you about Danny’s birth of her little girl?
I snickered to myself, already knowing the answer. I really didn’t know how we could be sisters.
I’m sure it went just fine.
I smiled and groaned. Where was this girl’s curiosity?
How was the rest of your birthday?
She wrote back.
Amazing. Thanks for the Chanel bag. I love it, and I’m going to use it tonight.
I quickly typed back.
Tonight? Where are you going?
Out with a guy, I met last night.
Of course. I should have guessed. I shook my head and told her I loved her just as my phone rang. It wasn’t a number I recognized, but that wasn’t too unusual.
“This is Lucy,” I answered flatly.
“Hey, Lucy. This is Shep. The guy you nearly elbowed out of the way last night.”
My frown resurfaced. “Umm. I don’t really remember that.”
He whistled. “Oh, one too many, huh?”
I gasped and shook my head. The nerve of this guy. “No, actually. I had zero to drink and wasn’t at the bar more than ten minutes, so I think you’re mistaken.”
“Oh, I’m not mistaken.” The guy’s voice was cute. There was no doubt about that, and his confidence was refreshing, but that was where this would end.
“I’m sorry. You said your name was Ship or Chip or—”
“Short for?” I prompted. “Shepherd?”
He laughed. “You know what they say about people who assume.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Seriously. Is this how you try to pick up all the women?”
“No. Actually.” He laughed some more. “It’s usually pretty easy, so that’s why I’m calling.”
“Ah.” I nodded to myself. “So, you just don’t like being told no.”
“Technically, you didn’t say no.”
“True because I have absolutely no recollection of you.”
I snickered, nearly picturing him holding his chest.
If his looks matched his voice, I was in trouble.
“Listen, to be fair. My best friend just gave birth. I only stopped at the bar to give my sister her birthday present, so if I happened to ignore you, I’m sorry. It wasn’t personal.”
“It’s always personal.”
“Only to men who think they’re God’s gift to women,” I muttered.
“Wow. Been scorned recently?”
I laughed, feeling this man’s confidence oozing through the phone. “No, but my best friend’s husband just cheated on her, and he didn’t even have the decency to show for the birth of his own daughter.”
Shep’s tone turned serious. “Wow. That’s really, really horrible.”
“It is, and I’m so sorry to be making light of everything.”
“You didn’t know,” I assured him.
“Yeah, but still.” He cleared his throat. “You probably think I’m a complete—”
I laughed, interrupting him. “It’s not just you. I’m pretty much not the woman you want to take out on a date.”
“Yeah?” his voice softened. “Why’s that?”
“I’m a divorce lawyer.”
Shep’s laughter rolled over the phone, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“You don’t scare me,” he offered.
“That’s too bad.”
I could feel his smile over the phone.
“So, how about it? Will you have dinner with me?”
Did it hurt that I got downgraded from dinner with Lucy to coffee? Yeah, it hurt a bit. I clutched my chest at the thought as I stared intently at the door of the coffee shop, willing it to swing open any second, except that it didn’t.
I glanced at my phone. Lucy was ten minutes late, and I didn’t know if I should save face and book or wait it out for another ten.
Tapping my finger on the table, I glanced around the place. It was a coffee shop that Lucy picked out, and I’d never been here before. There were rows of books at the far end where cozy chairs around a gas fireplace made for a perfect reading nook.
Several people were reading papers and drinking their coffees out of porcelain mugs.
I was surprised some of them weren’t wearing ascots and plaid.
God forbid she’d pick a coffee shop that served the liquid in a paper cup. It intrigued me, and I knew it shouldn’t, but this place screamed intellectual snobbery, and Lucy didn’t strike me like that at all.
I thought back to her demeanor on the phone and couldn’t help but hear her glorious giggles. She did laugh at my jokes, so maybe I wasn’t being stood up. As her giggles wrapped around me, I realized they weren’t coming from my head.
Lucy had swept into the coffee shop somehow without me noticing and was legit flirting with the male barista behind the counter.
No wonder she wanted to come here. She’s got the hots for the tattooed foam maker. I rolled my eyes. If that were her taste, I was doomed. There wasn’t an ounce of ink on my flesh. I had blue eyes, dirty blond hair, and for living in Seattle, I’d managed to maintain a tan.
And the fact that I was even listing my attributes to myself while waiting for a woman who was completely baffling told me I was in trouble.
I didn’t need to wind up like my best bud and his new wife, Skylar. Dating was a slippery slope. It was great to have fun and get to know the other person, but it should be about the journey, not the destination, which to most women I met meant marriage.
Watching Lucy swoop her hands into the air, laughing and swinging her hair around as she reached for her latte from the barista made my chest tighten a little. Would I ever be able to get a reaction like that out of her? I scowled at myself. Why did I care?
She spun around with the cup in her hand as I stood to wave her down. When her eyes connected with mine, her carefree expression dropped and she made her way to the table.
“Off to a great start,” I mumbled to myself as I started to pull out a chair for her.
“It’s okay. I got it.” She nearly shooed me away as she set her cup down on the table and pulled out her own chair and sat down.
I scratched my head and eyed her as she brought the white mug to her mouth. A little edge of foam traced her lips, and I briefly thought about what it might be like to kiss her. I ripped my gaze away from her mouth as her eyes landed on mine.
“Glad you could make it.” I looked around the place. “I’ve never heard of this spot.”
Lucy smiled, and I about fell off my chair. Her smile was disarming, yet enchanting.
“I always hung out here when I was in law school, and it stuck. It feels like home.” She pointed toward the fireplace. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many briefs I read in that chair the weird-looking guy is in.”
My gaze found the person she was talking about, and I hid a smile. The guy looked like he could be my brother minus the outfit. I was more of a jeans kind of guy, and that one liked to dress up.
“That’s not very nice to call someone weird-looking.” I smiled, and she narrowed her eyes on me.
“It’s the middle of winter and the guy looks like he hits a tanning bed every morning before sunup, his teeth are almost translucent, they’re so white, and I’m surprised glitter isn’t falling out of his eyes, they’re so sparkly.” She shrugged. “Plus, his tie matches his socks.”
My gaze ran along the stranger’s pant legs, and sure enough, his socks did match his tie, and I would imagine finding purple paisley socks to match your purple paisley tie wasn’t easy.
“I’ll try to remember not to be too matchy-matchy around you if I want to impress you.” I grinned, and she cocked her head slightly.
“Why would you care about impressing me?”
The look in her gaze was almost challenging. I couldn’t help but grin wider.
“The same reason I invited you to dinner.” I sat back in the chair. “You intrigue me.”
“And yet here we are at coffee.” It was Lucy’s turn to smile. “But really, do I only intrigue you because I’m the first woman to turn you down?”
It wasn’t really a question.
I laughed and shook my head. “You didn’t turn me down.”
She parted her mouth and ran her tongue along her lips. “That’s right. I just ignored you.”
“So, the truth comes out.” I took a sip of my Americano.
Lucy laughed and shook her head. “I’m only teasing. I swear, I didn’t see you.”
I nodded, choosing to believe that. “How’s your friend?”
She looked surprised that I asked. “Danny?”
“She’s the only friend I know about so far.”
Lucy smiled and nodded slowly. “She’s doing really well. Her daughter is an absolute angel, obviously gets it from her mom and not her dad.”
“You know, you won’t be able to do that someday.”
Her eyes widened. “Do what?”
“Insult her dad.” I watched her carefully as she shook her head.
“I didn’t even realize I had. You’re absolutely right.” Lucy bit her bottom lip as she contemplated something. “It’s interesting that you pointed that out.”
“Don’t get me wrong. He sounds like a complete dirtbag, but if there’s any hope for the little girl to know her dad . . .” My voice trailed off.
Lucy cocked her head slightly. “You’re very observant.”
“I also like to think I’m a good listener.”
Lucy’s expression softened. “What do you do for a living?”
“I own my own business.”
“A gaming company,” I answered.
“What kind of games? Board games?”
I shook my head. “Video games.”
“Do you design them?”
“I have a team for that,” I offered simply. I wasn’t sure she really wanted the specifics.
“Then what do you do? Why do you own a gaming company? What’s your added value?” Her brows shot up.
I was wrong. The woman liked details.
“Well, back in college, I came up with a killer concept for a game. I had the storyline sketched out in my head, and I knew it would be extremely popular. I also knew if I tried to develop it, the game would flop. I understood enough to know that I needed a good team to help me develop it.” I leaned forward. “It’s done extremely well.”
She studied me for a quick second. “So, are you a one-hit wonder?”
I laughed and shook my head. “Our last three games have been voted Best Console Game of the Year upon release.”
“You don’t strike me as a gamer.” She glanced at the barista. “Do you like video games?”
Ah, she thinks someone like the flirty barista is a gamer, but not the guy sitting in front of her.
I smiled. “Do you do this on all your dates?”
“Interrogate them like they’re on a witness stand.”