Forty minutes later there wasn’t a speck of dirt or dust anywhere to be found upstairs. This wasn’t a huge surprise, given how clean it was from the last time I’d been there and the fact that the rooms weren’t being used. There was no getting around my unfortunate reality—I had to go back downstairs.
My feet wouldn’t move, though.
I just couldn’t do it. Instead I sat down on the top step, leaning forward on my knees to think. This cleaning gig wasn’t going to work out after all. I couldn’t handle seeing him with another woman, because no matter how I colored my hair, I wasn’t sophisticated and modern enough for booty calls. I would just have to tell Reese I couldn’t clean for him and let it go. Preferably by text. I really didn’t need a new car or that sweet contract out at The Line.
Now that Jess had taken off, it really was the perfect time to start expanding my business. The strip club would be a hell of an account to do it with. I could just suck it up, right?
Yes. I’d be damned if I’d walk away from that much money. Does that sound mercenary?
I didn’t care.
So what if Reese Hayes was pretty and I wanted to have sex with him? I wanted a million dollars and a house on the lake, and that wouldn’t be happening any time soon, either. Reese had all kinds of women lined up to sleep with, ten a day if he wanted that many. He’d probably lost interest in me already, and I should be happy about it. Clarified things. Didn’t mean I shouldn’t do my best to get and keep the club accounts.
You have to separate business from pleasure if you want a Miata.
Exactly. That’s what I’d do. Pull my act together and—no, pull my shit together and send Jessica her clothing with a smile. I’d be a support to Mellie and be empowered and self-sufficient. I didn’t need a man, but if I wanted one I’d take him and use him and then pass him along without a second thought, because I’d become a sophisticated, modern woman if it killed me.
And I would lose ten pounds and age backward, too.
Right after I learned to fly my invisible jet.
Thirty minutes later the roast was in the oven and I was setting out frozen rolls to rise. I’d had a second, strictly medicinal shot of vodka, and while I wasn’t exactly buzzed, I was feeling a little more balanced about things. Of course, dumping yellow food coloring in the back of the downstairs toilet tank and pouring vinegar in his milk helped restore that balance … I also loosened the lid on the salt shaker.
Why did I do these things?
Probably best not to examine that too closely.
Reese emerged from the back addition to lean against the door frame. He wore a pair of faded jeans and nothing else, his big, beefy arms crossing his chest with casual laziness. I refused to let my eyes linger on his muscles, although I did let myself check out his feet.
There’s nothing sexier than a big, tough man walking around barefoot. I’d always had a thing for it.
“Sorry about that earlier,” he said, although I could tell from his tone that he wasn’t sorry one little bit. “I had no idea you’d come out to the house so early. I thought I had a couple more hours.”
Wow, he sounded almost sincere.
“I was planning to get done before you got home from work,” I said, turning away from him to fuss with the rolls. “What are your hours?”
“Irregular,” he said. “I’m the boss, remember? I work when I’m needed or when I want to.”
I sensed him moving toward me, so I turned away from the rolls and headed over to the fridge to put some space between us. Pulling open the door I studied the interior, trying to figure out what I should do next. Sadly, the beer, ketchup, and jar of pickles facing me had no insights to offer.
Turning and looking at him wasn’t an option.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to scratch him for screwing that other woman or jump his bones. Either way I’d have to scrub him down with bleach, just to be safe, because he was all covered in her cooties.
“Let’s put together a schedule,” I suggested, studying the expiration date on a container of yogurt as if my life depended on it. “So I won’t run into you here at the house.”
“Scared?” he asked, and his voice was right behind me. He reached around and shut the fridge, resting one hand on either side of my body, trapping me. Every instinct I had said I should create a diversion and run like hell, but I turned to face him instead.
I didn’t want to let him think he was right, no matter how hard that might be.
Professional. You are a professional and you don’t play games.
I offered a bland smile and focused on a cabinet handle across the room, exactly two inches above his broad right shoulder.
“I just don’t want to get in your way,” I said evenly. “I know things are awkward between us after the other night. But I want you to know how much I appreciate your support. It was a bad weekend for me. I’m fine now.”
He cocked his head and his lip curled in a sneer.
“Deputy Dick kiss it all better?”
“My personal relationships have nothing to do with my work here.”
“No, I guess they’re only relevant when you crawl all over me, rub your tits on my chest, and then kick me out the door after I take care of your drunk ass all night. You started it, sweetheart. I was just following through.”
I closed my eyes, praying I wasn’t flushing bright red.
“Let’s forget that happened, okay? I was emotional and had too much wine. I almost made a horrible mistake, and I’m sorry if I used you. But that doesn’t mean sleeping together would’ve been a good idea.”
“Sounds like a damned fine idea to me,” he whispered, leaning down and sniffing my neck. “I’d make it good for you.”
I caught a whiff of perfume on him.
“Miss Miata is still in the bedroom,” I said tightly. “Better back off or she’ll see you. Then you’ll be in trouble.”
He laughed without pulling back.
“Miss Miata?” he asked. “Now that’s a new name for her. At the clubhouse, we call her—”
“If you say something nasty, I’m going to kick you,” I snapped. “Is it really worth it?”
“Define ‘nasty.’ ”
“Anything less than complimentary about the woman you just had sex with,” I told him. “Because it sounded like you were going to insult her. Just remember, anything she did, you participated in. You’re equally guilty.”