“Why didn’t you call me?”
The bold words took Erika Garrett by surprise. But no more so than the man standing on her doorstep who had uttered them. She gazed up at him. An errant lock of dark hair fell over one eyebrow, daring her to reach up and brush it back. His chiseled features bore a dark, even tan, evidence of his outside work in the summer. A hint of stubble shadowed his jaw and made him look sexy as hell. Warm brown eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled.
Chase Stewart was as gorgeous as ever.
“Hello, Erika.” Once again the deep timbre of his familiar voice washed over her, and she stared, caught up in the penetrating gaze of the man who evoked such powerful memories.
“Chase. What are you doing here?” She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him. What was he doing on her doorstep?
Instead of answering the question, he asked one of his own. “It’s hot as blazes out here today. May I come in?”
She hesitated. But then, as if to underscore his words, a blast of hot air hit her like the heat from an open oven. The scorching afternoon sun poured into the house. Nothing like a Midwest summer to make you feel like a fried egg. It had been so hot this year the evening news had done a story on kids literally frying them on the sidewalk. And it was only June.
“Well, I guess there’s no use cooling the outside.” The air conditioning bill would be high enough anyway. She stepped back and opened the door wider.
Chase stood in the foyer of the historic row home and studied her as she closed the door. “You look terrific.”
“Thanks.” She self-consciously touched the curling locks she’d pinned to the top of her head in an effort to control the humidity’s effect on them. She adjusted the slim strap of her tank top, and then smoothed her palms over her shorts.
He looked terrific, too. No surprise there. Had she always been turned on by men in jeans and work boots? Not to mention white T-shirts that drew attention to the muscles beneath. A blush warmed her cheeks and she looked away. Had he noticed her staring?
“So this is your new place.”
She glanced back at him to find his gaze had moved to the living room behind her. Two beige sofas faced each other in the middle of the narrow room. A coffee table sat between them, resting on a colorfully patterned rug. Centered on the side wall, built-in book shelves and stained glass windows framed the fireplace. Past the stairs a narrow hallway led to the kitchen.
What did it look like through his eyes? Professional eyes. What did he see? Would he notice the fading paint and battered woodwork?
She shrugged. “It’s home.”
Unable to hold his mesmerizing gaze, hers dropped to her toes. The scuffed hardwood of the floor stared back at her. “It, uh, needs a little work, but it’s getting there.” She planned on doing some of the interior painting during vacation.
“That’s why I’m here.”
Her head jerked up. “What?”
“I heard you need some things done around here.”
“How did you hear that?” Surely Lauren hadn’t said anything. She barely spoke civilly to Chase. Erika couldn’t imagine the topic of home repair—her home repair—coming up.
“Not many people around here do what I do. It’s a small world. A buddy mentioned he gave you a quote.” His dark eyes bored into hers once again. “So, why didn’t you call me?”
“I thought it would be awkward, with my family and all.”
“You know, Mom and Lauren…” Her voice trailed off.
“What about them?”
“Oh come on, Chase.” He couldn’t really be so obtuse, could he? “They would have a fit if they knew you were here. Can you imagine what they would say if I hired you?”
“That’s ridiculous. Why would they care?”
Did she have to spell it out? “You know how Lauren is.” She didn’t want to speak badly about her sister-in-law, but the other woman didn’t have many good things to say about her ex-husband these days. Or
ever. If Lauren found out he’d been at Erika’s place…
“Oh, I know how Lauren is,” Chase said wryly.
All of Debra's books are available from The Wild Rose Press and other major book sellers.