I groaned, thinking of how much I had in my savings account, which wasn’t a lot at all. But this was my bed I made, so I had to roll around in it and pick up more web design to make back the cash.
When I got home, I was halfway across the sidewalk when the sky ripped open and rain pelted me, soaking me in seconds. Squeaking, I dashed up to the porch. My wet sandals hit the floorboards, and I slipped. Arms wheeling like a windmill, my purse hit the porch and I lost my balance.
I was so going down.
Before I crashed, the entrance door swung open and a blur shot across the porch. Strong arms caught me around the waist and jerked me up. The sudden impact against something hard and dry knocked my glasses off my face and punched a grunt out of me. For a moment, the only thing that moved was my pounding heart.
“You okay?” asked a low-pitched male voice.
Lifting my head, all I could make out through the curtain of my dark hair was that it was a guy with blond hair. Definitely not James, who had coal-black hair cut short. “I’m so okay. Thank you for . . . um, catching me.” Feeling like an idiot, I pushed my hair out of my face, and got a good look at the guy.
His face was vaguely familiar—cheeks a little round with a nose that was slightly crooked, obviously broken many years ago. His eyes were a dark brown and sharp. Intelligent eyes.
And he was still holding me by the waist.
Stepping back, I laughed awkwardly as he dropped his arms. “Sorry about that. Usually I don’t almost kill myself when I try to walk on to the porch.”
A tight-lipped smile formed. “That’s good to know. Wait,” he said as I started to step to the side and reach for my purse. I froze while he swooped down, snatching up my glasses. “You almost stepped on these.”
“Thank you again.” I took them and smiled as he handed me my purse. Tucking my dripping hair back behind my ears, I squinted up at him. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
The tight smile expanded, flashing a little of white teeth. “I’m Kip Corbin. I live upstairs. Moved in a couple of months ago.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “That’s why I thought you looked familiar.”
“You did?” Surprise colored his tone.
I nodded. “Yeah, I must’ve caught a glimpse of you coming or going or something. Anyway, I’m glad we finally got to meet.”
“Same here.” He glanced out toward the street. Rain was coming down so hard, I could barely see my car parked along the curb. “Well, I’ve got to go.” He pulled out a set of keys from his pocket as he sidestepped me. “It was good meeting you.”
I turned to my door as I wiggled my fingers at him. “Same here.”
He hesitated at the top of the steps. “Be careful, Roxy.”
Unlocking the door, I pushed it open as I sent him a smile over my shoulder. “You, too. Don’t get washed away.”
He was already racing down the sidewalk as I stepped inside, closing the door behind me. Dropping my purse in the recliner, I stopped in the middle of the living room and frowned. Wait. He knew my name. I didn’t think I’d told him what my name was.
A knot of unease formed a tiny ball in my belly. How did he—? Okay. I was being stupid. James or Miriam could’ve told him my name. It also could’ve been the Silvers.
I needed to stop being an idiot.
Glancing at my purse, I also needed to stop being a baby and text Reece. But first, I needed sweet tea.
After making myself a glass, I flipped on the TV and turned it to the HGTV channel. Property Brothers marathon for the win. Grabbing my cell out of my purse, I took it with me to my studio room.
No sooner had I headed down the hall, when the phone rang while I held it. I glanced down and cursed when I saw that it was Dean. Part of me wanted to hit the reject button, but I forced myself to answer the phone.
“Hello?” My voice sounded as flat as a sheet of paper.
There was a beat. “Roxy?”
I rolled my eyes. Who else could it be? He called me, and I answered. As soon as those thoughts wrapped up, I felt bad. Dean hadn’t done anything wrong. “Yeah, it’s me. I’m getting ready to . . .” I looked around the room frantically, trying to come out with an excuse. “To . . . take a shower.”
I winced. Jesus. God. I sucked.
Dean laughed softly in my ear. “Well, thank you for planting those images in my head,” he said, and I cringed. “I don’t want to keep you. I just wanted to know if you were free tonight?”
“Dean,” I sighed, wanting to bang my head off a wall. Instead, I pushed my glasses up to the top of my head. “I actually do have plans tonight—”
“What about tomorrow?”
I leaned against the wall, closing my eyes. “Dean, I’m sorry, but I’m not really interested in a second—”
“I know we didn’t have the greatest first date, but I think we hit it off,” he insisted, and in my mind, I could almost see him blinking as he spoke. “And I think if we have another date—”
“I’m seeing someone else,” I blurted out, and that wasn’t a lie. Not really.
His inhale was heard through the phone. “What? Since when?”
“I’m sorry. You’re a great guy. It’s nothing personal—”
“What the fuck, Roxy?”
My eyes popped opened as I pushed off the wall, stiffening. I’d never heard him cuss before. Not that I had sensitive sensibilities, but hearing him talk like that was jarring.
“You’ve been seeing someone else?” he charged on. “Don’t you think you could’ve told me that in the beginning? I wouldn’t have wasted my time with a slut.”
“Whoa. Yeah, that’s not okay. Fuck off,” I said, and then hit the end call button. My skin crawled as if a dozen fire ants were climbing all over me. I was so angry, my head was going to spin. It took several minutes for me to calm down enough to walk into my studio.
The plastic-like scent of the watercolors and the cedar brushes tickled my nose as I nudged the door open. I breathed in deeply, letting the fumes that might irritate someone else relax me, push away all thoughts of Dean. Some of my favorite paintings hung on the walls, above magazine clippings—words and phrases that I’d found over the years that I’d thought matched the paintings.
Placing the tea and cell phone on a small table by the door, I shuffled over to the easel as I pulled out a hair tie. My steps slowed, and I stopped in front of the easel as I tugged my wet hair up into a quick ponytail.