“He’s your friend. Why don’t you call him up and book him?”
Abe shifted his stance. “Because I’m not sure he’d believe me since I’ve always done the construction around here myself. If you tell him I hired you to design the space and I want him to construct it, it’ll sound more official.”
“And it won’t give you an opportunity to back out.”
He nodded. “That’ll also let him know you think he’s a worthy contractor.”
Janie stilled. “Why would it matter to him what I think?”
“Not you personally. But with all the construction up at the Split Rock, it’s been sticking in his craw he wasn’t hired for any of it. Especially after Renner made such a big deal about wanting to hire locally.”
“Wait a second. That was not our fault. The reason we didn’t hire Holt was because Bran hired him first. Exclusively. We couldn’t come close to paying him what Bran did.”
“Holt earned every penny too. Man, they gutted that house. Everything is new from the plumbing to the electrical to the ceilings and walls. It’s really something.” He stared at her thoughtfully. “Did you help Harper with the interior design?”
“Some. But she has a great eye. Both she and Bran knew exactly what they wanted in their home.”
“Hank and Lainie were the same way. They’d started planning for their house the second they moved in here.”
Such a wistful tone. Was he lonely living by himself for the first time in his life? Why did that make her so sad?
The next hour they spoke very little. When Janie reached the last stack of boxes, Abe started hauling them upstairs. She’d ended up with nine boxes of resalable goods—a prosperous haul considering it was free.
After four quick trips, Abe leaned against the wall next to her to catch his breath.
Her fingers tightened on the box top as the musky fragrance of his skin rolled over her. Male sweat wasn’t supposed to create the urge to bury her face into the damp spot on his chest and just breathe him in. She shifted slightly, hoping physical distance would clear her thoughts and her senses of him.
“Sorry. I probably reek.”
No, you smell divine. But again, she redirected. “All those boxes won’t fit in my car.”
“I’ll bring the rest in my truck.”
“Oh. Thanks.” She lifted the box and turned.
But Abe removed the box from her arms. “You’re using me, remember?”
She stood on the porch, watching him haul boxes up, and shove them in her backseat, until the car was crammed full. When he ambled over, she intended to grumble about his underappreciation of her physical abilities, but his gaze zoomed to the lower left side of her face.
His fingers tenderly brushed the spot his eyes had marked. “How is it you haven’t aged a single day in the last eight years?”
“How long has it been since you’ve had your eyes checked?”
Abe chuckled and opened the driver’s-side door for her. “You’re full up on this tin can tryin’ to pass itself off as a car.”
“Just because my car isn’t a monster gas guzzler like yours doesn’t give you the right to insult it,” she retorted.
“Cupcake, it’s a Prius. Callin’ it a car at all is insulting to all other cars on the road.”
She huffed out an annoyed breath. After she started the engine, Abe rapped on the window. “What?”
“Watch the lead foot.”
Janie had to use her side mirrors to back up since the boxes were stacked too high to see out of her rearview mirror. And yeah, when she purposely spun a little gravel just to be ornery, she swore she heard Abe’s deep laughter.
She absentmindedly tapped her fingers on her steering wheel, trying not to focus on thoughts about Abe and their convoluted past. She’d gone about ten miles on the shortcut to the highway, when her car lurched. Janie automatically glanced in the rearview mirror. Before she could curse the boxes blocking her view, she was hit from behind again.
The jolt sent her upper body forward and her seat belt snapped her back, jerking her hands free from the steering wheel. Just as her hands reconnected with it, she felt another hit from behind. She slammed on the brakes and the back end of the car fishtailed on the gravel. Attempting to keep the car on the road, she overcorrected and cranked the steering wheel too hard. The last thing she remembered was screaming as her car headed for the ditch.
Abe found himself whistling as he tossed the last box in the bed of his truck. Things had gone better today than he’d hoped.
Over the past five months, he’d stopped being angry his ex-wife had breezed back into Wyoming without a care of how it’d affect his life. After she’d left, he’d been forced to deal with pitying looks and conversations that ended when he entered a room. As the years passed so did people’s memories.
Until she returned, looking beautiful and confident. All practiced charm and sweet fire, completely polished, acting nothing like the shy, plain woman he’d married. Now he wanted her with an ache that defied reason.
He suspected she hung out at Buckeye Joe’s for the same reason he did. Loneliness. He’d started to flirt with this new, charismatic Janie. Nothing big. Buying her a drink. Asking her to dance.
Dropping hints about the warmth of his bed.
She’d laughed him off, not meanly, but in the same way the old Janie did—using deflection to hide her interest. Her mouth might’ve been saying no, but her body had been saying hell yes.
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