Wait a minute.
Lowering my hands, I wiggled my fingers as I stared at the easel. When I’d pulled off the painting I’d completed on Friday to take to Charlie, I hadn’t replaced the canvas, and I hadn’t had time Saturday to do anything. Come to think of it, I hadn’t even stepped foot in my studio yesterday.
But a blank piece of canvas was stretched onto the frame, sitting on the easel.
Cocking my head to the side, I retraced the last forty-eight hours. Was it possible that I had done that when I finished the last painting? It was possible. I did things a lot that I didn’t realize I was doing out of habit, but I was pretty positive I hadn’t done this.
I thought about the remote in the fridge, the dishwasher, the toilet seat and so on . . .
I really needed the Ghostbusters.
Then again, this ghost has been super helpful—creepy but helpful.
Turning from the canvas, I shook out my shivers as a chill snaked its way down my spine. My gaze fell to the cell phone. Forcing myself over to it, I picked it up and tapped on the message icon. Just holding the phone and opening Reece’s last text got my heart pumping ridiculously fast.
Texting a guy was not a big deal.
Texting a guy who’d seen my boobs and had gotten me off shouldn’t be hard.
Texting a guy I really, really liked was scary as hell.
I texted him a quick hey before I wussed out and then dropped the phone on the table like it was a snake and then felt like an ass because he was probably still asleep.
Hurrying away from the phone, I’d just grabbed my stool when I heard the phone ding. My stomach dropped.
“Oh God,” I whispered, turning around. The screen was lit up from a message. “I’m being such an idiot.”
I made my way back to the phone. As expected, the text was from Reece. Seven words—only seven words—and my lips split into a giant, goofy smile.
Hey babe, was just thinking of u.
Clutching the phone, I took several deep breaths. I was thinking of u too. My cheeks heated, because my response sounded so corny when his was all swoony.
The reply was almost immediate. Of course u were.
I laughed at his cockiness and felt my stomach dip again, because I knew what I had to do. I needed to talk to him before any of this went further.
Before I could respond, another text came through. & I really was just thinking abt u. Guess what I was doing while I was thinking abt u?
My eyes widened as I typed back Oh my.
There was a pause. Is that too real to admit that?
No. And I shook my head and sent back No.
Good, came the quick reply. Followed by Glad to know u don’t think I’m a pervert.
Nah, I still think ur a pervert.
A hot one at least?
I laughed out loud at that. Definitely a hot one. I waited a whole second and then sent, I think my house is haunted.
The tips of my ears burned, and I wished I could somehow unsend that text. Never mind. I’m being stupid. Are u free tonight?
There was a pause before his response, which caused my stomach to twist. Got to work 2night, but I’m all yours 2morrow if u’ll have me.
Is that a joke? I typed back. Doing that stupid smile thing, I allowed myself a hobble and a shimmy before I added Tomorrow wld be perfect.
We exchanged a couple of more texts, deciding on meeting at my place around seven in the evening. He was going to bring food, and maybe I should go get some wine since I was probably going to need some liquid courage and something, in case it went bad, to drown my tears in.
“You know, I’d expect one of your brothers to do something like that, because damn, sometimes those boys have shit for brains.”
Sitting on the edge of my recliner, I winced as my father passed in front of my couch. This was not how I expected my Monday morning to go, but I wasn’t surprised. Somehow, my parents hadn’t heard about me, the book of doom, and Henry’s windshield. Today was obviously reckoning day, and I’d called and told my mom what I’d done.
Thirty minutes later, my father showed up.
Gavin Ark wasn’t a tall man, but he was stout and he had the build of a defensive linebacker. Only a little bit of gray spotted the hair above his temples, and it made me wonder if he was experimenting with Just For Men hair color.
“Especially that younger brother of yours.” His rant was really gearing up. “Sometimes I think Thomas doesn’t have two functioning brain cells he can rub together. Do you know what he did yesterday?” He stopped at the corner of the couch, planting his hands on his hips. “He went down to get some pop out of the fridge in the basement and left the damn door wide open, like he was trying to cool the entire house.”
My brows rose.
“And then I hear you threw a book through a windshield?” Lifting a hand, he scrubbed his fingers through his dark brown hair. “I didn’t even know you can throw a book through a windshield.”
“Apparently you have to hit the right spot¸” I murmured.
His eyes narrowed, and I zipped it shut. “We raised you to be smarter than that. And your mother told me that you said Henry didn’t provoke you.”
“That’s true,” I admitted sheepishly.
He sighed as he stalked over to where I sat. “Honey, I know you are not a fan of Henry. No one in this damn town is, but you cannot go around vandalizing his property, and I know you know that.”
Dropping a heavy hand on my shoulder, he squeezed gently. “Do you need the money to take care of the window?”
My mouth opened, but emotion closed off my throat. Tears burned the back of my eyes. My parents were ticked off to discover I’d done something so stupid, but more than anything else, they were disappointed. Dad was right. They had raised me better than what I’d done, and yet, my dad was still willing to jump in and bail me out.
Like they had when I’d been living on my own for a month and my car had broken down. Like they had when I filled out my financial aid too late my sophomore year and covered my first semester of online classes until the aid kicked in. Like they had virtually all my life.
Man-oh-man, I loved my parents. I knew how lucky I was. Not everyone could have such an awesome parental unit, but I did. I really did.
Swallowing the ball in my throat, I smiled up at him. “Thank you, but I have the money.”
He pinned me with a knowing look. “How much will it deplete your savings?”
“Not much,” I lied. Truthfully, it would be a hit, but . . . but I wasn’t their little girl they needed to swoop in and save anymore. Besides, they worked hard for their money and I’d like to see my dad retire at some point in this century. I fixed my glasses since they’d started to slide down my nose. “I’m going to be okay.”