Did he think calling her blond hair sunshine was gonna soften her in his favor? Good luck with that.

Charlie’s no fool. Men don’t just drop by to check up on you. They always have an ulterior motive. There is no kindness for kindness sake, although Hugh is trying is charming best to convince her otherwise.

Enjoy this unedited snippet from my latest WIP.

RW

She reached up and pulled off her scarf. Then immediately regretted it when his eyes got stuck in her hair.

He reached up and tugged on a hank until it came over her shoulder and wound around his finger. “It’s like sunshine.”

She watched him rub it between long, blunt tipped fingers. She pulled it back and threw it over her shoulder. “It’s just hair.”

“It’s beautiful,” he corrected. “Why don’t you clean up and come outside for a bit? We’ll go for a walk. Get some air.”

That actually sounded wonderful. She hadn’t been able to in weeks with her thug tormentors out front. She eyed him. She wanted too, and with her arm aching and still sleepy and slightly sappy from being given unasked for presents she couldn’t bring herself to say no.

“It may take me a minute to scrub off this paint,” she warned him.

He shrugged and pulled out his phone. “I can wait.” He started scrolling as he walked away. She watched him sit on her couch, one long leg crossing the other at the knee.

She grunted. In the bathroom she rolled her eyes at her reflection. She looked a right mess. She climbed into the shower and began the occasionally skin removing process of paint spatter removal. It had been easier when she was using water colors.

She hesitated when her hands automatically reached for her regular jeans and a flannel. After chewing on her lip she put on the black faux leather leggings Una had given her for her birthday and a long silky black top she’d found at the thrift store. She’d crowed over it because it was in great condition and it had pretty black pearl colored buttons.

She brushed her hair into its usual ponytail at her nape and padded back out to put on her socks and shoes at the couch.

He smirked at her red and white heart socks. She didn’t give a shit. They were one of three clean pair left. Her boots would cover them.

“Don’t you work?” she asked, pulling on the second sock.

“Yeah.” He reached over and pulled her foot onto his thigh. “Look at this little foot,” he said, almost absently. “What size shoe do you wear?”

“Six and a half.”

He shook his head.

“Something wrong?” She looked at him like he was soft in the head, one brow raised as she tried and failed to retrieve her foot.

“No, it’s just a tiny little foot,” he laughed, and surprised her when he reached down and finished putting on her boots. He even laced them up for her.

What really surprised her was that she let him. This was too weird. She hopped up as soon as he finished. She needed to go on this walk and then send him on his way.

She automatically looked at the corner. Used to gauging the potential danger, it was now like a reflex, but the thugs weren’t at their post. Charlie wondered if her nemesis was nursing his own sore limbs. She certainly hoped so. The heat from her shower had soothed her shoulder pain temporarily, but it was throbbing again.

As if he could read her mind, Hugh said, “We’ll use the heating pad on you when we get back.”

So he thought he was coming in again? “So what’s up?”

“With what?”

“Why are you here?” she asked baldly. “What do you want?”

He laughed softly. “I wanted to see how you were feeling.”

“And?”

“And to ask you to lunch.”

“I just had breakfast.” She looked at the utilitarian black watch on her wrist. “Well, maybe not just.”

“Then we’ll eat after we walk. I know a little salad place up the way. They have this pear and blue cheese option that I bet you’ll like.”

“How do you know I’m a salad eater? Maybe I like meat and potatoes.”

“Your grocery bags were full of fruit and veg, organic chicken and eggs, everything fresh. I took an educated guess.”

She laughed. “Okay, hero. I forgot for a moment what line of work you’re in. You must be pretty observant.”

He nodded. “I’m so observant I can tell you were asking me what I wanted earlier because you were trying to get rid of me. You were intending to deliver a swift set down if I made any overtures of a romantic nature, right?”

Smart cookie. “Yeah.”

“Yeah. But there’s a problem.”

“What’s that?”

He grabbed her hand, squeezed it and brought it to his lips to kiss. “I’m interested.”

She tried to tug her hand free. He wouldn’t let her. “Don’t be.”

“Too late,” he shot back. “I am.”

She tugged on her hand again, more firmly this time, and he let her go.

“I’m not interested, hero. I appreciate your help yesterday, but I’m busy.”

“With a man?”

“No, with my work and my life.”

“I could get in and fit in. I wouldn’t be much trouble.”

“No?” She laughed at his hopeful tone. It sounded patently false delivered in that deep baritone. “I don’t believe that for a hot second. You’ve got trouble written all over you, Mister.” Devil in a Sunday hat trouble…

If you liked this, you may like my book Hard Love.

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