God save her from persistent men. Charlie has yelled at this one, put him out, called him out of his name, everything. He keeps coming back. And she’s afraid her get gone stance is weakening more by the minute.
In this unedited snippet, which picks up from my last blog, Charlie knuckles under yet again, spending time getting to know her hero Hugh. And when he moves in for the kill she can’t bring herself to not to kiss him back…
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, she reminded herself.
He grinned at her and winked.
They walked until she was glad to stop. Then, over blue cheese and pear salad for her, blackened salmon salad for him, he told her about his business. How he began as a security guard. He was never late or missed a day of work, and the owner of the security company took a shine to him. He was promoted, once, twice, three times. The man helped put him through school, and by the time he was ready to retire, Hugh was already running things.
“He told me, ‘This thing can go one of two ways, boy. I can leave it all to you in my will, which is already written and notarized by the lawyers. Or you can buy me out. I was you, I’d just wait a bit. Save yourself a few bucks.’ He died three days later.”
Charlie whistled. “I guess you didn’t see it coming?”
“No. I sure didn’t.”
She could hear sadness in his voice; he’d had some affection for the old man.
“Well, death has a way of sneaking up on most of us. He left you something wonderful. That must make you feel good when you think of him.”
She could feel him watching her as she looked out the restaurant window. She could practically feel him wondering who had died and put that knowing in her voice. But she said nothing.
“Yeah. It does. He’d have been proud of what I’ve done with the business. He used to laugh every time I made a suggestion. But he’d almost always say yes. Said I was a natural business man, but with a head for security.”
She laughed softly, and he grinned at her. Her smile faded. Her belly felt funny when he looked at her like that. She didn’t like it, she reminded herself. But the lie was already starting to rub her wrong.
“I gotta get back to work.”
He didn’t fuss, though it was an obvious retreat. He just paid and walked her home. They were a block away from her door when she said thanks for lunch. She was hoping he wouldn’t try to come in. Or was she?
“Your muse calling?”
Charlie laughed softly. “You could say that.”
“Or I could say that you want to get rid of me before I get any funny ideas about kissing you or trying to come up.”
“You could say that too.”
“I could say all sorts of things.”
They were at her door when she looked up at him. “But you won’t.”
“How do you figure?”
“You’ve got your pride, don’t you? Can’t see a hero like you asking for what should be offered.”
He pulled a hank of hair from her ponytail over her shoulder and wrapped it around a finger. “I don’t mind asking for what I want. We should always ask for things that we value.”
She snorted. “How do you know I’m valuable?”
He tugged her hair and swept it gently back over her shoulder. “Because even though we just met, I don’t want to lose you.”
Then he kissed her.