Bidding Wars (Love Strikes)
Author:Lacey Wolfe

Chapter One

As the realtor’s car pulled up to one of the most stunning houses Molly Harper had ever seen, she knew: this was it. This gorgeous home was going to be hers. Sometimes you just knew things right away. It was love at first sight—the believable kind.

Molly climbed out of the midsize sedan and gazed up at the beautiful two-story colonial-style home. The house was a pale yellow with hunter green shutters. The railings on the wraparound porch were white. The paint was starting to chip off some, but in her eyes, it was one of the things that added character to a house. And unless the inside had no flooring and holes in the walls, she was certain that this was what she’d been looking for.

Tall trees surrounded the home, leaving plenty of welcoming shaded corners. The bushes needed a good trimming, but a little landscaping would fix that. Turning a little, she studied the property lines. The neighbors’ homes weren’t too close to make it feel as though they could see everything she did, but close enough for them to be there in an instant if you needed them.

Diane smiled at Molly and began to walk to the front door that would lead into what Molly was certain would be her dream home. As she stood on the front porch, her phone rang in her purse. A quick glance at the screen showed her ex-husband was calling. Rolling her eyes, she quickly stabbed the reject button.

Diane studied the MLS listing as she unlocked the door. “This home was recently renovated, according to the listing agent. It’s been freshly painted, with new carpets and hardwood throughout. The only note on here is that the appliances are a little dated. The seller is willing to replace them if you desire.” Diane opened the door and stepped back so Molly could enter first.

Taking a deep breath, Molly walked into the large open foyer. To her right was a formal dining room with a gorgeous chandelier, and to her left was the formal living room. Directly in front of her was the staircase that she assumed would lead her to the bedrooms, but at the moment she wanted to explore the first floor. As she walked farther, she came to the kitchen—a very big one. Much larger than any she had seen since her quest for a new home began. She rubbed her hands along the cool granite countertop and imagined rolling out dough for fresh bread or pasta. She opened one of the dark wood cabinets, liking the amount of room inside.

Then she saw the stove and couldn’t suppress her giggle. “You’re not kidding about the appliances. Though that can easily be replaced.”

Diane opened the oven and grimaced. “I can’t believe the seller didn’t take the time. It’s all rusted inside. If you want this house I’ll be sure to add new appliances to the offer.”

“It’s fine. I’d rather pick out my own stove anyway. I love cooking, and I want to make sure this kitchen has everything I want in it.”

Diane shrugged and made notes in her folder before ushering Molly into the family room. It wasn’t the biggest she had seen, but it was cozy. A huge stone fireplace dominated the corner. Behind her was a full wall of windows, including a set of French doors that took her out to a sunroom. “All that’s left to see is the upstairs, but I think this might be just the place for me.”

The first room she went to upstairs was the master bedroom. She could easily put a king-size bed in there and have plenty of room. A small sitting room was attached. Her thoughts instantly went toward nursery, but then she shoved that away as quickly as it came. The bathroom shocked her. The bathtub looked as though an army could fit inside of it. She’d hate to see her water bill after filling it one time. She roamed the rest of the upstairs, looking in all the closets and testing all of the light switches. This was home. It had to be hers. It was time for things to start looking up for her. The past year had been hard. As she rubbed her empty ring finger, she tried not to dwell on it. At this moment in her life, she was picking up the shattered pieces and starting fresh. A new journey.

She met Diane back in the foyer. “This is my home. I can feel it. This place has seen better days and needs some TLC—a bit like me, I suppose—but to me it’s perfect.”

“It’s only been on the market one day, so we should probably get back to my office to get the offer together tonight. This one is going to go quick.”

“Let’s do whatever we have to.”

Molly opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. She inspected the cracked paint on the railing while Diane locked up the house. The sound of wheels crunching on the driveway made her look up and freeze. Someone else wanted to see her house. A very attractive blond man with a nice tan stepped out of the vehicle. She let out a sigh of relief when she saw his police uniform.

“Everything OK, officer?” Diane stepped off the porch.

“Yup. I live nearby and saw this place come up for sale. I wanted to check it out.” He placed a hand over his eyes to shade the sunlight as he looked out over the property.

“In the market to buy or just checking out the house out of curiosity?” Diane grabbed a business card from her folder and handed it to him.

He took it, shoving it in his pocket right away. “I’m looking to buy. My lease is almost up, and I love this neighborhood. It’s a great place to live. And with this economy, it might be a good time to buy.” He cleared his throat. “My agent should be here soon. Just thought I’d look around a little before he arrives. I’ve been out a few times and found if I don’t like the outside, there’s no reason to see the inside, right?”

Molly wanted to tell him to back off. This was her place. He might as well climb back into that car with his fine self and look elsewhere. Diane must have sensed it, because she nudged Molly forward and gave her a stern look. Molly had hoped the officer didn’t notice, but no such luck. A smile crept to his lips and an amused stare caught her eyes for a moment.

“Well, Officer,” Diane looked closer at his shirt, “Logan, we’ll get out of your way.”

Molly didn’t want to get out of his way. She’d much rather chain herself to the front porch. Her hands were numb. Glancing down, she saw she’d been clutching the railing to the point her knuckles were white. Damn it, let go! She had to get her offer in and fast. And it had to be an offer the seller couldn’t resist. Especially if there was a chance this cop would be putting one in soon as well.

She climbed into Diane’s car. “He can’t have it. It’s mine.”

“It’s not yours yet. But we’ll put together an offer the seller can’t refuse…if you’re willing to.”

“Yes!”

“Thank you for not saying anything to him about liking the house. If he knows for sure you’re interested, it could become a competition. And, like I said, this house just came up. This is a popular neighborhood. We need to act fast or this could go into a ‘highest and best’ situation.”

“What is highest and best?” Molly did not like the way it sounded.

“Basically, there are several offers. You don’t know where yours stands compared with everyone else’s. And it’s up to you to give your best offer. The best one wins. However, best doesn’t always mean the most money. Cash will almost always get the house. But a big earnest amount shows how serious you are.”

Her stomach hurt, and her heart pounded in her chest. “I don’t want to get into a situation like that.”

Diane pulled the car away from the home. “Sometimes you have to go a little out of your comfort zone. But if you love the house that much, it’ll be worth it.”



* * *





A few days had passed since Molly had put her offer in. It had been impossible to concentrate on work, or anything else for that matter. She kept thinking about the house and how many others had seen it. Why hadn’t the seller responded yet?

But the thing that haunted her the most was the look she’d seen in the police officer’s kind green eyes when he gazed at the house. She knew exactly what he was feeling—she’d experienced it as well. A warmth around the heart, giving the feeling of being at peace and at home. In her fantasies, he was like any man and would try to get the best deal he could and offer under asking.

As she flipped though the channels, petting her cat, Tigger, looking for something with no romance—and no colonial-style houses—her cell phone rang. Reaching forward, she picked it up from the coffee table and saw her ex-husband’s name. She supposed it was time to see what in the world he wanted.

“Steven, hey.”

“How are you?”

“I’m good.” She’d never tell him otherwise.

“I have some big news, and I wanted you to be the first to hear it.”

“OK.” She took a deep breath. “What is it?”

“Terry and I are having a baby.”

She was silent. She knew this was coming. Any day now she expected to hear it from someone, whether it was at the grocery store or a family member calling. She hadn’t expected Steven to call her, and she didn’t know what to say.

“Molly.”

“Uh, yeah. Um, congrats.”

“I don’t expect you to be happy for me. I wanted you to know before the news got around.” He cleared his throat. “I figured it was the least I could do.”

The least he could do. She really wanted to yell at him and tell him how she felt, but what good would it really do? “OK.”

“I won’t keep you.”

“OK. Well, bye.” She hung up and buried her face in her hands, fighting back any tears that threatened when her phone rang again. It better not be Steven again.

She picked the phone up from her lap and saw it was Diane. Something in her gut told her it wasn’t the news she was wanting. She gazed up toward the ceiling and mouthed a silent prayer before answering.

“Hello.”

“Molly.”

She could tell by her agent’s tone that her gut feeling was right. “You have bad news. Give it to me.”

“It’s not entirely bad, but I’m sorry to tell you that there have been multiple offers. You have forty-eight hours to decide what your absolute highest and best offer is.”

“Crap. OK.”

“You already have a damn good offer, and I doubt anyone has trumped it. Give it a lot of thought. You still have some wiggle room on the amount you were preapproved.”

“Max it out. The full amount I was preapproved for. I need this house.”

“You sure? That’s nearly forty thousand over asking price.”

“Diane, if I lose it, I’ll be devastated. I might as well give the best fight I can.”

Diane was silent a moment. “OK, I’m going to draw up the papers. Check your e-mail in about twenty minutes.”

“Will do. Thank you.” She hung up and dropped the phone next to her on the couch. She let out a loud moan, which was followed by Tigger kneading her paws into her thighs. She scratched the cat under the chin. “Don’t you worry. Mommy’s getting us a brand new home and you’ll get your own room. I just need to convince the competition to drop out.”