When I pull up in front of the house, the first thing I notice is Kenton’s car parked out front. I really don’t want to see him again, but I know I can’t avoid going inside forever. I get out of the car, leaving the bags with my new work clothes in the trunk. He doesn’t need to know what I’ll really be doing. He chose to make assumptions about me, so he can continue to think what he wants.
I’m not going to try to change his mind. Yes, he’s good-looking, but I’m starting to see a pattern. He’s a dick and judgmental. He’s a judgmental dick.
I sigh, walking up the front porch, and as soon as I unlock the door and push it open, the smell of something cooking hits my nose. Even though I ate earlier, my stomach growls. I ignore my stomach and start for the stairs. I have a candy bar in my bag; that can hold me over until tomorrow.
“You’re back,” I hear from behind me as my foot hits the first step.
“Yep.” I look over my shoulder at him. Why does he have to be so good-looking?
“I made dinner.”
“Good for you,” I say sarcastically, going up two more stairs.
“Look, I shouldn’t have said what I said earlier.” He sighs, and I wonder if he has ever apologized in his life.
“You shouldn’t have,” I agree, taking a few more steps.
“Will you stop for a second?” He lets out a huff, and I turn to face him, raising an eyebrow. “Come eat so we can talk. You’re living here. I think it’s only right that we get to know at least a little about each other.”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell him to f**k off, but sadly, my manners are ingrained in me. I turn, walk down the stairs, and follow him into the kitchen.
“Will you get out a couple plates?” he asks, going to the oven. As soon as he has the oven open, the smell of baked chicken hits me, making my stomach growl again. “You really should eat more,” he mumbles.
I turn to look at him and feel my temper spike. “I did eat,” I tell him, pulling down two plates before getting two sets of silverware out of the drawer and setting them on the counter with a little too much force.
“I mean something besides rabbit food. You need to gain some weight.”
I take a breath and blow it out slowly, counting in my head from one to ten. “Okay”—I turn my face to look at him—“I don’t know what’s wrong with the filter that goes from your brain to your mouth, and honestly, I really don’t care.” I turn around to face him completely. “I don’t appreciate you saying things to me about my job, my free time, or my eating habits. I appreciate what you’re doing for me, but it doesn’t give you the right to talk shit to me whenever you feel like it.”
I inhale deeply before letting out a breath, noticing that his eyes seem to have gone softer. Something about that look makes me feel better, but I finish with, “If you think that’s going to be a problem, I can find somewhere else to stay until I can go home.”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that to you.” He shakes his head, running a hand through his hair before our eyes meet again. “Let’s start over.”
“Sure.” I nod, my insides twisting under his gaze. Every time he looks at me, I feel like he sees way too much.
He walks towards me, sticking out his hand. “Kenton Mayson.”
I put out my hand for him to take. “Autumn Freeman,” I tell him, and our eyes lock as his fingers wrap around mine. His touch sends tingles down my spine. I lick my lips, which have suddenly gone dry.
His eyes drop to my mouth before meeting mine again. “Right.” His voice seems deeper than before and his eyes seem to have gone darker. “Get the salad, babe.” He nods towards the fridge, dropping my hand.
My stomach flips at the word ‘babe.’ I ignore it and go to the fridge, pulling the salad out as he pulls some potatoes out of the oven, setting one on each plate before adding a golden piece of chicken as well.
“It’s a nice night. How ’bout we sit out on the deck?”
“Sure,” I agree.
He finishes making our plates, adding butter and sour cream to the potatoes then adding salad to the dishes. “Get the door for me.”
I open the sliding glass door in the kitchen that leads to the deck. He sets the plates down on the table before coming back in, opening the fridge, and grabbing a beer.
“You want one?” he asks, holding up the beer.
I shake my head; I’ve never had beer…or any kind of alcohol for that matter.
“You don’t like beer? I got a bottle of wine if you prefer that.”
“I’ve never had it before.”
“You’ve never had a beer?” His voice sounds shocked, and I shake my head no again.
I have worked around alcohol since I was twenty-one, but I have also seen the way it makes people act and have never trusted anyone enough to be that unguarded around them. I watch as he goes to the counter, puts the beer to the edge, and pops the top off.
“Try a sip,” he orders.
I reluctantly take it. Why? I don’t know. Normally, I would have stood my ground a little more firmly. I put the bottle to my lips and tip it back. The bubbles and cold hit my tongue before the taste. I pull the bottle away, scrunch up my face as the flavor hits me, and hand the bottle back to him.
“Not a beer girl,” he assesses with a chuckle.
“It’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste good either.”
“It’s kind of an acquired taste. Do you like wine?”
“I’ve never had it.” I shrug, crossing my arms over my chest, feeling like I need to hold myself together.
His eyes drop for a second before meeting mine again. “Most women like wine.”
I ignore that comment and watch him go to the fridge to pull out a bottle of wine. He goes to the drawer, pulls out a bottle opener, and starts to screw it into the top of the bottle. His arm muscles flex with every turn, and soon, there’s a pop and a hiss.
“I don’t have any wine glasses,” he says, pulling a coffee cup down. He pours a small amount into the cup, handing it to me.
I take it and put the cup to my face, giving it a sniff before placing it against my lips and tilting it back. This time after the taste hits my mouth, I smile.
“There you go. You like wine,” he declares, sounding proud.
I nod and start to wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my sweater. His hand moves towards me, his fingers curve around my jaw, and his thumb runs over my bottom lip, his eyes watching closely. He leans forward, making my stomach drop.