“Oh, nothing bad. I wish I’d been there.” Jill’s blue eyes go wide, then she claps her hands in excitement. “Maybe Cara and I can take her out for girls’ night!”
“Slow down there, cruise director.”
“It would be fun.”
“Actually,” I reply as I think about it, “you’re right. You should ask her.”
“Okay.” Jill nods, as though it’s been decided. “I will. So, what else is on your mind?”
“I invited her to the charity thing for the athletic department at the high school on Thursday.”
“Did she say yes?”
“Yeah, but it’s short notice, and she’s really busy. I was thinking about maybe buying her a dress.”
Jill just sits in her chair and blinks at me, her face completely sober.
“What?” I ask irritably.
“You really like her,” she murmurs.
I nod and stand to pace around the room. “I do.”
“Well, do you know her size?”
“Uh . . . she’s slim. How am I supposed to know her size?” I stop and prop my hands on my hips.
“Ugh, men. Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I will call Louise Sumners and ask her to let us into her shop tomorrow so we can look around. I think Lo shops there. Most of us do.” Jill shrugs and pulls on her lip as she thinks. “We’ll find something. I think it’s kind of romantic that you want to buy her a dress.”
“Yeah, I never would have guessed you have it in you.”
“I can be romantic,” I grumble.
God, this was a stupid idea.
What if she thinks I’m being a controlling bastard and throws me out?
I take a deep breath and then ring her doorbell. I can hear loud, booming music inside, surprising me.
She listens to loud rock music while she writes? How can she think with that much noise?
Knowing she most likely can’t hear the doorbell over the music, I walk around the house to the family-room area, which has French doors that open onto a wide patio. The scene before me surprises the hell out of me.
Lo is painting the walls of the family room while shaking her amazing ass, dancing about the space in time with the music.
She’s so fucking gorgeous.
Her auburn hair is pulled back into a ponytail and she’s wearing another of those tight, black T-shirts, showing off her perfect tits, and black yoga shorts.
Jesus, her legs go on for miles.
When she turns around to load her paint roller with more paint, she squeals when she sees me, then blushes furiously as she lays the roller in the paint and comes to open the door.
“Hey!” she yells over the music.
“Hey, yourself,” I shout back.
She grins and lowers the volume on the sound system.
“I tried the doorbell,” I inform her dryly.
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you.”
“Shocker.” I laugh and hold up the white garment bag and the shoebox in my hands. “I come bearing gifts.”
Her mouth forms a little O in surprise. “It’s not my birthday.”
“I know you’re under deadline, and I didn’t want you to worry about what to wear on Thursday, so I took the liberty . . .” My voice fades in uncertainty.
She just stares at me, lost, and to my horror tears fill her eyes.
“I’m sorry, it was a bad idea. You probably want to buy your own dress.”
“Oh, my gosh, no.” She chuckles and blinks her eyes furiously as she takes the dress and shoes from me. “Thank you so much for this.”
“You’re welcome. What are you doing anyway?” I turn in a circle and take in the chaos.
“You haven’t taped anything off, Lo. And you don’t have anything covering the floor.”
She blushes furiously. “I know. I bought all the stuff”—she gestures to the bags of supplies in the corner—“but it was an impulse decision and I didn’t want to take the time to tape and stuff. That’s not the fun part.”
I laugh and shake my head at her. “You go put that stuff away. I’ll be here.”
She smiles softly, then turns on her bare heel and hurries up the stairs, yelling, “Thank you!”
I dig into the supply bags and pull out a drop cloth, brushes, and tape and set to work, running the tape along the baseboards, molding, and fireplace. Just as I spread the drop cloth on the floor, Lo returns to the room.
“What are you doing?”
“Well, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.”
“Like I would just leave you here to do this alone? Besides”—I brush my finger down her soft cheek, over a spot of mocha-colored paint—“I think you need to be supervised.”
“Okay, you’re recruited.” She giggles and my gut clenches.
We dig in, dipping our rollers in the tray of paint, then smoothing it over the walls. “Why are you painting and not writing?”
She scrunches up her nose and turns the music back on, the volume low. “Because I got stuck. The characters are pissing me off, and Emily isn’t around to talk.”
“Who’s Emily?” I reload my roller.
“She’s an author and a good friend of mine. We usually brainstorm together, but she had to go to some family thing today, so I didn’t have anyone to talk it out with. Swimming didn’t help.” She sighs and drops her roller to her side, tilts her head, and stares blankly at the wall, as if in deep thought. Then she turns to me and, as calm as can be, raises her roller and coats my left arm in paint.
“Did you just paint me?” I ask with a raised brow.
She nods and grins, then starts singing with the song and shaking her hips while painting her wall.
She’s adorable. “I’m going to get you back for that.”
“I figured.” She shrugs as if it’s of no consequence.
“So, tell me about your characters. I’m no Emily, but maybe I can help.”
She shoots me a surprised glance and bites her lip in concentration. “Well, they’re in the middle of a fight right now.”
“What are they fighting over?”
“Another woman.” She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, as though she’s gossiping about real people. “It’s ridiculous. He’s not cheating on her. He’s completely gone over her, and she knows that, but she has so much baggage from her past that it’s difficult for her to trust.” Lo picks up more paint on her roller and turns back to the wall.