He nods, shifting on his barstool. “Maybe something like that. I am a contractor, after all.” His grin fades. “Speaking of which, I ordered the dumpster, and it’ll be there in three days. I hope this whole thing doesn’t change us working together.”

“No, of course not.” I stand up and grab my purse from the hook under the bar. “You’re a good guy, and the references I called all said you’re a great contractor.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I would love to help you bring that house back to its original glory.” He pauses and drums his fingers on the table as if he’s trying to figure out how to say something.

I’m about to tell him to just spit it out—no need to be delicate at this point—when he finally looks back up at me.

“I know you’re having a rough time, so I can cut my bid by twenty-five percent to try and give you a break,” he says. “It’ll be tight getting everything we need to do it at that price, but I think if we’re creative—”

“No.” I shake my head emphatically. “I really appreciate you wanting to help me. I do. And it’ll take me a little while to get the money together, but I will get it together. And I’ll pay full price just like any other customer you took out on a couple of dates. Well, except the Angela discount—I’m totally taking that.”

He looks embarrassed. “Mallory—”

“I’m teasing about the dating part.” I reach over and squeeze his hand. “But I really do need to go now. I’ve got a house full of people, and I’m afraid they’ll run amok if I leave them alone too long.”

He laughs, as I intended him to. “Like I said. A lot on your plate.”

“A lot a lot,” I agree and push in my stool, tossing him a smile before I walk out of the cute wine bar with a great guy in it, knowing neither was for me.

I climb back into Jimi, feeling pretty good about myself, Mikey, and the future construction on Aunt Maggie’s—no, on my—house.

I’m actually glad he ended it, because I was never actually interested in him—something I should have told him from the very beginning. I knew there was no chemistry, but I wanted there to be. I wanted to fall for a nice guy who was just a nice guy. Uncomplicated, loves his mother, does what he says he’ll do when he says he’ll do it. Simple.

But apparently, I don’t like simple. Or, to be more specific, my libido doesn’t like simple. In fact, my libido appears to only be attracted to guys who have an asshole streak in them. Guys who don’t say what they mean, who always have more than one agenda going on, who can’t be trusted to keep the deals they made, because they think they know better.

It is annoying as hell.

By the time I make the turn onto my street and then swing Jimi into my driveway, I have myself all worked up again about men who think they know everything. Then I catch sight of my perfectly mowed grass and the top of my head feels like it’s going to come off.

Yeah, the guys who really rev up my ovaries are more than annoying. They are positively infuriating.

I’m sick to death of Nick doing things without consulting me. From running his mouth off at Karl to getting me signed up with Gina as my lawyer to befriending my sister and my mom to mowing my grass. He did it all without consulting me and I am done. Just. Done.

I get out of the car in a huff, slamming Jimi Hendrix’s door hard enough to rock it back on its wheels. I start to march across the street, then decide—before I do—to do the one thing that will make Mr. HOA Rules Should Be Laws’ head spin.

Chapter Forty-Two

   My outrage propels me up the driveway and even gives me the strength to wrestle with the warped garage door. Because the last time I was in here, I’m positive I spotted— Yep, there they are. Right behind the stacks of empty picture frames. Two dozen lawn flamingoes.

Hot damn.

It takes me three trips and fifteen minutes, but I finally get them arranged on my freshly mowed lawn in the shape of a penis. Then I march across the street to Nick’s house.

He answers about three seconds after I ring his doorbell for the fifth time. Not that there is a lot of time in between the rings, but still. I’m annoyed as hell when he finally pulls open the front door.

“Mallory?” He looks confused—and also more adorable than I can take in his checkered pajama bottoms and black V-neck T-shirt, with his damp hair falling over his forehead. “What are you doing here?”

“Were you sleeping?” I ask incredulously, though I have no room to criticize anyone about their sleeping habits. “It’s three o’clock.”

“I just got out of the shower, actually.” He glances over my shoulder, and a look of shock flits across his face. Followed by an adorable smirk. “Nice flamingoes.”

It’s not the reaction I was counting on. “Nice?” I all but screech.

He shrugs. “Maggie used to make funny pictures with them, too. I always liked seeing what she dreamed up next. Maggie would have been proud of your artistry.” He grins and steps back. “Come on in.”

“Oh, no. I’m not coming in. You’re not going to soften me up with your plants.” I poke him gently in the chest for emphasis. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you, mister!”

That ridiculous eyebrow of his goes up as he looks from my face to my finger, then back again. “A bone to pick with me?” he repeats, and when he says it in that ridiculously sexy voice of his, it sounds both absurd and hot as fuck.

Which only infuriates me more. “Oh, don’t you play innocent with me. You know exactly what I mean. And now my contractor has gone and dumped me because my hormones can’t behave and it is. All. Your. Fault.” I poke him again for good measure.

“Am I supposed to have any idea what you’re talking about?” He cocks his head to the side as he stands there, filling up the entire doorframe. “Though I’m taking this diatribe to mean you and the contractor won’t be seeing any more of each other?”

“What I am talking about is that I have had three very nice dates with a very nice man and my ovaries—and the rest of me, for that matter—couldn’t give a shit. Apparently, there is something wrong with me, and I’m only attracted to guys like you!”

Oh, shit. The second the words are out, it’s like a bucket of cold water was dumped on my head. Anger fades, reason returns, and I want nothing more than to turn and crawl back to my house to nurse the utter humiliation of this day in peace.

I mean, Nick has shown almost no interest in me—a few sizzling looks don’t count, considering he’s been shoving me out the door at Mikey every chance he gets—and here I am, standing on his doorstep, all but screaming that I have the hots for him. It’s beyond embarrassing.