Authors: Ruth Clampett
Copyright © 2015 by Ruth Clampett
All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Cover Photograph: iStockphoto
Angela Borda, and Melissa of
There For You Editing
Christine Borgford of
To the colorful characters
that have passed through my life,
the mime, the sprinkler man, the dreamers
Your little gifts
a dramatic phrase, a sad laugh,
a wink, soft kiss, or whispered secret
I’ve carried with me
so they could one day be
part of my stories.
Table of Contents
THE FACE OFF
love the earthy smell when the afternoon sun hits the grass still damp from an earlier rain. I want to toss my tools aside, take off my shoes and let my feet sink into the ground, leaving my footprints in the grass.
I remember when I was a young boy, eager to help my dad with his work, he would give me a shovel and teach me how to dig, turning the soil so we could discover what was wrong down below. Now years later, even though I’m a landscape architect and work at a drafting table instead of a field, I feel like I haven’t stopped digging.
Part of me misses this kind of labor. I’m never more at peace than when I’m outside working with the sun on my back. I take a deep breath with my face tilted to the sky, and then kneel down to finish my task.
I’ve just started screwing the sprinkler head into the new connection when the bush next to me starts ringing.
What the hell?
I lean in closer to the shrub to make sure I’m not imagining something. Sure enough, the damn thing rings again. I lift myself off my knees, and stand with my hands on my hips, peering down into the clusters of leaves.
“Did you hear ringing?” a voice calls out behind me.
I turn to see who I assume to be Mrs. Jacoby walking barefoot across her lawn. I blink rapidly and tighten my jaw to keep my mouth from falling open. My teenage memory of meeting her doesn’t do justice to the woman before me.
I can’t remember when I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a woman. My blood heats up the longer I gaze at her.
She’s a knock-out—wavy, auburn hair, skin the color of cream with a shot of coffee, and electric blue eyes. Throw in lush lips that look made for kissing, a perfectly curvy figure, and she’s skating on the edge of being too good to be true.
I silently nod and point to the bush just as it rings again. By the time she’s up next to me, I can’t decide if I should look away or just continue to enjoy the view.
She’s in those tight, stretchy pants and a tank top, and with the way her breasts
dance as she approaches, I’m pretty sure she’s not wearing a bra.
I take note of her fiery expression
The ring comes again and I glance over at the landline receiver in her hand with an arched brow. “Did you dial this bush? ’Cause it doesn’t look like it’s going to take your call.”
She chews on her bottom lip and narrows her eyes at me. “Who are you?”
“Paul, from Sprinkler Brothers. You may not remember, but we met way back when I was helping my dad during summer breaks.”
Her eyes grow wide and she can’t hide her surprise. “You’re Paul Junior?”
“The one and only.”
“How old are you now?”
“Almost thirty. Like I said, it’s been a while since we met—I was eighteen that summer.” I lean back, stretching to my full height and slip my hand in my back pocket.
She studies me as if she’s seeing me in a new light. I know from my parents talking about clients that we’re not that different in age.
“Wow, you look so different. You’re all grown up.”
My eyes skim across her barely covered breasts, and down to the swell of her hips in those skin-tight pants.
I give her a lazy smile. “I could say the same about you.”
She follows my gaze and looks down at the way she’s dressed. I wonder if she realizes that she might as well be naked. She quickly folds her arms over her chest.
The ringing shrub is starting to annoy me. “Doesn’t this damn bush have voicemail?”
“I hate voicemail,” she grumbles.
“Ah, I see. So this is your phone.”
Grinning, she nods.
“What’s it doing in the bushes?”
“I threw it out the window.”
She threw it out the window?
“And now you want it back?”
She lets out a long sigh. “I suppose I do.”
I sink to my knees so I can run my hand under the bush and over the wet soil. When I retrieve the phone, I rub its surface along my thigh to brush the loose dirt off.
She ends the call from the landline phone she’s holding and reaches for her cell phone.
I’m still on my knees when I hand it to her. It feels a little weird, but I like this view of her. Actually, I think I’d enjoy any view of her.
She turns to check her messages and the phone practically explodes with prompts. She sighs again. “It still works.”
I nod toward the cell phone as I stand back up. “Someone’s anxious to reach you.”
She rolls her eyes. “Maybe I should just leave it in the bushes.”
“Be my guest.”
She squints as she sizes me up. “So where’s your dad?”
“I’ve been helping him out on the weekends since his knee surgery. He only trusts me with his best clients.”
“Your dad is such a sweetie. He takes care of my friend’s place, too.”
“And your husband’s family.”
She scoffs. “I have no husband.”
I offer up some insincere sympathy. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Don’t be sorry. He’s long gone and good riddance.”
“Okay, then.” I shrug. If she’s good with it, I sure as hell am, too.
I can feel all my red flags popping up as I tread into my danger zone. My attraction to her builds with every minute I’m in her presence.
Sliding my finger under my collar I pull it looser. I try to think about anything but her being single. “So do you have kids?”
“No.” Her expression softens, and she falls silent.
“Well, I guess that’s good then. Divorce is tough with kids.”
“Besides, I’m not sure it could’ve happened. All work and no play made the Mister a very dull boy.”
“And it’s not like I’m overly needy or anything. I just have needs that most men would like attending to.”
I swallow hard. “So those kind of needs.”
She lets her gaze trail from my chest down to my boots. The look in her eyes is hungry, like she’s going to eat me for dessert. “I’m sure a man like you would understand.”
I take a sharp breath. “I understand one thing for sure.”
She looks up at me expectantly.
“Your ex is an idiot.”
A wide grin spreads across her face. “Oh, I like you. Come on, it’s hot out here. Let’s go inside to cool off. I’ve got some fresh lemonade.”
She doesn’t wait for my response but turns on her heel and heads toward the house.
Her ass looks amazing as she walks. I chuckle too loud as I follow her without any hesitation.
She turns, her long hair swinging over her shoulder. “What’s so funny?”
“My dad only sends me to work on clients’ homes where the women are married or old.”
She laughs out loud. “I bet! Look at you.”
“He sure got this job wrong. Hey . . . what about me?”
She steps right up to me and looks at me with those big gorgeous eyes. “You’re hot . . . and I bet you’re a handful of trouble.”
“Maybe. But I’m pretty sure you are, too.”
She winks and keeps walking.
I feel the adrenalin of my pick-up days shoot up my spine.
What I could do with this woman if I was still a player.
Once we’re in her kitchen she pulls out a chair for me as she heads to the fridge. “So lemonade or something stronger.”
“Got any beer?”
Grinning, she takes out two bottles. I notice there are already two empty ones on the counter with their labels peeled off in shreds. No wonder her phone got thrown across the yard. She notices me staring at the mess.
“Yeah, I was having one of those days.”
When she slides into the chair across from me, she glances down at her outfit, pulls her low neckline up a little higher and pushes her hair off her face. “I forgot you guys were coming today, and I really wasn’t expecting company. I should change into something more presentable.”
Despite all my efforts to play it cool, I doubt I can hide the weight of my lust for her in my expression.