I pick up the trashcan and kiss her temple. “Thank you, baby. Get Aunt K the number to call pest control too, please. If you saw a mouse, I don’t want to give it time to make a cozy home. Blegh. I’ll take the trash, but you can pick up your room.”
I give her my cell to use and leave the girls to clean the room while I take her small bag of trash to the kitchen. Our plates have been soaking in the sink, so I give them a final rinse and load the dishwasher, then pick up the remaining scraps of wrapping paper.
As I wipe down the kitchen table, the doorbell rings. I hang the rag over the faucet and wipe my forearm across my brow. That was fast. It can’t have been over twenty minutes.
I talk as I swing the heavy interior door open, wanting this mouse dealt with as quickly as possible. “Thank you for coming so fast—oh.”
What in the hell is happening?
Law stares back at me from my front porch. He wears a pair of nice fitting jeans (not that I look) and a red button-down with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. A patch above the left breast pocket reads: Chuck the Exterminator.
My eyes move back up to his face, and I can’t help noticing that he sports an honest-to-god five o’clock shadow. It kills me to admit it, but it looks so good on his angular jaw and chiseled cheekbones. Shit.
“Your name isn’t Chuck,” I blurt to save face for letting him stand on my doorstep for so long.
“And this isn’t my day job. If you’ll let me in, I can get started and be out of your way as soon as I can.”
I glance at my socks and open the door the rest of the way. My cheeks flame with embarrassment. “Right. Sorry. Down the hall and on the left.”
His footfalls have long since passed, so I close the door and meander to my daughter’s bedroom. Today is messing with my head. There’s no way I can stand with him and my daughter in the same room until we deal with this mouse. I’ll lose my damn mind.
I grab Kiersten’s arm and tug her into the hallway.
“I need you to stay with them. Listen to what he says, his recommendations, and be the decision maker. I trust you.”
“Where are you going?” she whispers, somehow controlling her normally obnoxious volume.
“The kitchen. Maybe start some laundry.”
She cocks an eyebrow and gives me a funny look. “What is your deal?”
“That’s… Law,” I murmur as low as I can. Her eyebrows shoot beneath her choppy blonde bangs.
“No shit?” She peers back into the bedroom.
Law’s bent over, pulling Evelyn’s desk away from the wall while she chats his ear off.
Kiersten turns back to me with a wide grin on her face. “No shit. I recognize that ass now.”
“For fuck’s sake, I’m done with today. Done. Go in there and behave yourself.”
She struts back into the bedroom so I return to the kitchen. Since I’ve already started the dishwasher, there isn’t anything left to do to take my mind off the man in the other room. Even though the laundry closet is just off the kitchen, I don’t have any full baskets to do. I suppose now is as good as any to start dinner.
As time passes, my anxiety increases. I drop utensils and make a mess of ingredients as I put together our meal. I guess I know why he’s been in the area. He must have moved here. That is not the answer I wanted. I wanted to hear he was in town on business or visiting a buddy or buying a car he found on some resale internet site.
What I did not want to hear was that the man I’ve loved my entire life is once again living in the same small town as me.
Footsteps grow louder from the hallway, and I snap my head up from where I stare blankly at the speckled pattern on the countertop. Wanting to look busy, I yank open the oven and remove the casserole dish I’ve been cooking for dinner. The sound of Law’s voice drifting from down the hallway distracts me, and I grab the dish without putting on an oven mitt.
“Ow! Owowow!” I cry as the hot dish crashes back inside the oven. My face turns red as I hold back tears and several inappropriate curse words. Instead of sobbing like I want, I bend at the waist and cradle my injured hand with the other. My heartbeat pulses through the red, swelling flesh and causes even more pain.
Strong hands wrap around my shoulders and steer me to the sink. The faucet flips on. Those same hands slide down my arms in a light graze, sending goosebumps skittering along my skin before they reach my wrists and thrust my hands beneath the water.
“Ahh.” I sigh in a cross of pain and relief.
A moment passes as the severe pain subsides into a dull throb, and I notice the proximity of Law’s body to mine. He practically wraps around my back. His hips are to the side of mine, but his long, muscled arm drapes around my waist, beneath my elbow, to where he holds my hands lightly beneath the water.
“Still clumsy around me,” he murmurs in my ear, a hint of teasing in his voice. The sound of humor coming from him causes me to stiffen further. I yank my arms back and fall against the countertop beside me.