McKenna was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, a bucket of soapy water at her side, wiping down a cot with a sponge. The woman turned and left me there at the entrance to the room, just staring at McKenna. I was too taken aback to say anything just yet. Who was this beautiful girl who gave so selflessly, who worked tirelessly to serve others?
As I watched her scrubbing down the cot, I was struck with the realization that McKenna was a good person, a rare find these days. She looked so tiny and out of place in this dirty, windowless room on her hands and knees cleaning up other people’s filth. Her hair was tied up in a hasty knot and her cheeks were rosy and pink from exertion. She looked like a blue-eyed, shimmering-haired angel in these grim surroundings.
“Need a hand?” I called out, stepping forward to enter the room.
“Knox?” She rose to her feet. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to help out today. Brian told me where to find you.”
“You talked to Brian?”
I nodded, not bothering to mention that he hadn’t wanted to help me, or that he’d been a complete ass**le. Uneasy, I stood before her and surveyed our surroundings. “So, where do you need me?”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m sorry for last night; I was an ass.” I stayed quiet while she looked me over. She was waiting for me to say more, so I took a step closer. “I’m not good at apologies and heartfelt displays, but I truly did come here today to help out. If you want me.”
She chewed on her lip in indecision and for a second I thought she was going to push me away. “Okay,” she said.
She nodded, smiling at me. “I’m glad you’re here. And I’m sorry about what I said last night. Of course I want you back in group.”
“Don’t worry. I knew you were bluffing about that.” I rubbed my hands together. “So, what’s our task?”
“See all those cots?” She pointed to several six-foot-high stacks of cots lining the far wall. “We need to wash all of them.”
“All of them?” There had to be hundreds. “And you were going to do that all by yourself?”
She nodded. Shit, that would have taken her all day. Didn’t she have anything better to do with her time than sit in a dank room cleaning for hours on end for no pay and little recognition?
I couldn’t really picture her prioritizing going shopping at the mall or getting her nails done above this type of work, though. This was just who she was. I’d spent very little time with her, and I already knew that. She was a giver. Would she be as giving and accommodating in the bedroom? A pang of lust jabbed at my gut at the thought. Down, boy.
“I’ll get you a bucket of soapy water and a sponge,” she said, heading to the exit. I couldn’t help but watch the sway of her ass encased in tight denim. She really was beautiful. Even in her jeans and T-shirt.
When she returned, I was unstacking the cots and lining them up in rows so we could wash each one. The thought of McKenna doing all this manual labor alone made me glad I came. This was a big job for one person.
McKenna returned, setting the bucket down beside me and splashing me with warm soapy water in the process. I considered engaging her in a water fight, but decided against it. She took this work seriously and I would show her that I could too.
We worked side by side for the better part of an hour, making only a small dent in the work ahead of us. I wondered if McKenna was set on getting through the entire bunch, or if I could talk her into going out to lunch. Looking over at her, I knew there was no way she was leaving until the job was done. She worked without pause or complaint as determination blazed in her eyes.
Dropping my sponge into the bucket of water, I went to unstack another set of cots for us to wash, moving the damp ones to the far side of the room where they could air dry while McKenna went to dump out our buckets of dirty water and refill them. My fingers were already pruned and my back was aching from sitting hunched over on the floor. But I wouldn’t complain. Not while McKenna was still working so adamantly to clean these beds for people she didn’t even know, would never meet. I had no idea why this was so important to her, but I could tell that it was.
We fell into a routine, my moving and unstacking cots, McKenna refilling our water, and each of us washing in silence. Seven hours later and finally we were down to the last couple of cots.
“Oh, Christ.” I swore, pushing the filthy cot away from me. Someone had deliberately buried this one at the bottom of the stack.
“What’s wrong?” She peered over at me from across the room.
There was shit smeared on the cot in front of me. If she really expected me to wipe up someone else’s crap, she was crazy. “This one needs to be taken out back and burned.”
“What?” She laughed, rising to her feet and crossing the room to stand over me. “Oh.” She frowned, looking down at the brown stains.
“Someone shit the bed,” I joked dryly.
“Just scrub it off.”
“You change Bailee’s diapers. What’s the difference?”
I cocked an eyebrow at her. “She’s a baby. Babies shit their pants, this is different. This is probably from a grown-ass man. That’s a whole different ball game.”
“Fine, I’ll do this one.” She dropped to her knees to kneel beside me.
“No way I’m letting you do that. We seriously can’t just throw this one away? Surely they have a dumpster out back.”
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