This time, his sigh is more like a groan—a dark little sound from deep in his throat that sends another frisson of something unexpected down my spine. Attraction or annoyance? It has to be the latter, because I refuse to let it be the former, which would be great if I believed it, especially since my hand shakes a little bit as I pull out my phone and prepare to take notes.
Nick doesn’t notice, or if he does, he’s too staid—or too much of a gentleman—to mention it, for which I am eternally grateful.
Instead, he focuses on the dumpster. “The first thing you’ve got to do is request the forms. The email address you need to use is at the beginning of the HOA documents—which you should read, by the way.”
“I plan to read them,” I say, defensiveness creeping into my tone. “I just haven’t had time yet, and I want to get a jump on ordering the dumpster.”
“Do you even know how to order a dumpster?” he asks.
“Of course I know how to get a dumpster!” There has to be an app for that. “I’m not completely helpless, you know.”
“Oh, I know.” He rubs at the bruise on his forehead. “After you get the forms, you need to fill them out, and you have to take pictures of where you want to put the dumpster while it’s on your property. Once that’s done, you submit the forms, and you should have an answer in two to four weeks.”
“Two to four weeks?” My voice squeaks as anxiety takes hold.
With all the stuff I have to sort through, there is no way I can wait two weeks.
Nick shrugs. “You can ask them to put a rush on it, but there are no promises.”
I’m no more impressed with that answer than I am with any of the other HOA regulations. However, I’m in the suburbs now, and no matter how many times I click the heels of my red Rothy’s together, I’m not going to end up back in my condo in the city, where no one cares what I do inside.
“Well, thank you,” I say. “I really do appreciate your help.”
“Are you sure you know how to get a dumpster?” Nick asks as he walks me back out through the garage.
“I mean, I don’t exactly know.” I glance at the time on my phone. “But I’ve got a lunch date with a guy who’s a contractor, and I’m sure he will be happy to fill me in.”
“A date?” Nick asks, sounding surprised, like he can’t imagine anyone wanting to take me out.
That shock hits a little close to home. Karl spent too many of the last few years making me feel unattractive, and I snap back, “Yeah, a date. And if all goes well, we’re going to come back here and have wild sex in my tall grass.”
Then I march away, not bothering to check his reaction, not bothering to so much as glance back at him, even though I can feel his gaze following me all the way across the street just as Mikey pulls his big-dick truck into my driveway.
I go back in the house and grab my purse before locking up and hopping into Mikey’s truck. If I finally glance at Nick’s house and note his car is still in the driveway, well, it isn’t because I care one way or the other.
Guilt-ridden that I was checking on another man while in Mikey’s truck, I give him the brightest smile I can muster and compliment his ride. When his eyes twinkle, though, I realize I may have accidentally flashed him my fuck-I-love-cheesecake smile reserved only for those holy days I indulge in that wicked dessert, and I dial the wattage back.
It takes less than ten minutes to reach the diner and park, and soon we’re out of the truck and heading into the restaurant. As I walk through the door, a powerful wave of contentment hits me square in the stomach. There are cracked red vinyl booths, a jukebox playing Motown music, and an oversize pie display case on the wide countertop. I love it all.
Mikey waves to a waitress by the cook station and leads me to a booth in the front vestibule. His face lights up as he slides into the booth opposite me. And if I was still wondering if this is a date-date, he leans back as if to take me in and murmurs, “You look beautiful.”
Heat warms my cheeks. “You look pretty good yourself.”
It’s true. Plus, it isn’t like I can just leave his compliment hanging in the air between us.
“Well, thank you.” He grins, his brown eyes gleaming with appreciation. It’s been a long time since a man looked at me like I was his dessert, and it feels good. Good enough to flash him my cheesecake smile again, in fact, and his grin widens.
I open the giant menu and focus on the rows and rows and rows of options.
“Anything look good?” Mikey asks.
I nod and point to a giant picture of a cookie milkshake. “How about you?”
He raises one brow. “Good idea, but I think I’m going to get a little wild and go for the grasshopper milkshake. It’s been years since I’ve had it, but it used to be one of my favorites here.”
“You’re a big mint chocolate chip fan, huh?”
“To be fair, who isn’t?” He shoots me a mock-censorious glare. “If you don’t like mint chocolate chip, you should probably tell me now so we can call this irreconcilable differences and leave before any ice cream gets harmed in the process.”
I laugh, because it’s hard not to. He’s goofy, sure, but also super charming in that funny-friend-of-your-brother’s way. In other words, not my kind of charming. At least until the exorcism is complete.
“I have nothing against mint chocolate chip, I swear,” I say with a flirty little flip of my hair. “We’re in the clear.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” he says, and the look in his eyes becomes more intense than flirtatious.
It makes my heart catch in my throat—though not in any of the good ways you’d expect. More in a nervous, I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-do-this way. Or more, in a very-nervous, I’m-pretty-sure-I-don’t-want-to-do-this way.
“You know I’m not divorced yet, right?” The words come out of their own volition, but when Mikey sits back, the intensity fading from his eyes, I can’t say that I’m sorry.
“I figured,” he says after several long, quiet seconds. “But divorces take time, and he’s obviously not in the picture anymore.”
“He’s not.” I exhale a deep breath. “But it’s been a pretty brutal divorce—don’t worry; I’m not going to bore you with any of the gory details—but I just felt like I should warn you.”
He tilts his head like a sweet, adorable Lab puppy. “Warn me that you’re not divorced yet?”
“Warn you that I’m not looking for anything yet—or more likely, ever. I’m pretty sure that part of me died somewhere between filing for divorce and negotiating for who gets to keep what.” Or in my case, who gets to keep everything and who gets to keep nothing.