“So, what are your plans today?” Cara asks as we exit the café.
“I was thinking about going home and getting to work.” I take a deep breath of the crisp early-fall air. “But the sunshine is so nice, I might take a walk through town first.”
“Work? What kind of work?”
Shit. What is up with my blabbermouth these days? “Oh, it’s really more of a hobby.” I wave her off, and just as she opens her mouth to ask more questions, her phone starts ringing. Saved by the bell!
“Oh, this is Josh! I better take it. Have a great day, and thanks for the chat.” She smiles warmly and waves as she takes her call and walks toward her car. “Hey, babe.”
I wave after her and set off on foot down the sidewalk. I’ve always liked Cara. She’s a sweet girl, and maybe she’s someone I could eventually be friends with.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day on this Saturday morning. We are well into September, yet summer seems to be hanging on by the skin of its teeth, blessing us with chilly mornings, but warm days. I wander past the many gift shops, clothing stores, and restaurants that line Main Street, walking toward the residential side of town. Mrs. Blakely is sweeping the sidewalk in front of her little deli and offers me a wave as I walk past.
My phone vibrates in my pocket and I grin when I read the display.
Emily Valentine is my closest friend. A fellow author, she lives on the other side of the country in Virginia, but we speak almost daily. We met at the beginning of our publishing journeys, and we spend many hours brainstorming new ideas for our stories as well as just talking about books, her kids, and my crazy ex-husband.
“Hey, girl. What are you up to?”
“I’m walking.” I smile.
“Walking? Walking where?”
“Just going for a walk through town. It’s a nice day.”
“Huh.” She’s clearly stumped. “That’s new. No swim today?”
“I skipped the pool this morning.”
“Okay, hold up. Who the hell are you and what have you done with Lauren?”
I laugh at the sarcasm in her voice as I cross the street. “I thought I’d switch things up a bit today.”
“You sound happy this morning.” I hear her shuffling papers.
“I feel happy.”
“Good. I’d feel happy too if these characters weren’t pissing me off.”
“What’s up?” I frown.
“I hate it when I plan out exactly what I want to happen in the story and then the damn characters decide to be assholes and throw a wrench in it.”
“Uh, Emily, you do know that you control them, right?” I grin widely.
“Don’t accuse me of being mentally unstable, Lo. It doesn’t become you.”
For the next half hour we talk about the characters in Emily’s story, brainstorming and working through the kinks.
“Oh, I like this so much better,” Emily says excitedly. “Thank you so much.”
“That’s what we do.”
“So, what’s up with you? Who’s the guy?” she asks almost casually.
“I can’t just go for a walk and be in a good mood?”
“You’re not just happy, you’re chipper, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say you were going for a walk in the time I’ve known you. Spill.”
“See, this is why you write romance novels. You see a love story everywhere.” My voice is dry, but she laughs.
“No, we write erotic romance, Lo. We see a love story and the potential for lots of sex everywhere. So tell me all about it and use all the dirty words.”
“Oh my God, you’re so funny!” I laugh loudly as I wave at Mr. Hart, who is mowing his lawn. “Okay, so there might be a guy.”
“Is there might-be sex?” she asks excitedly.
“Not yet. Maybe eventually.”
“Jesus, don’t hold out for too long. Trust me, life’s too short for that.”
“You’re a perv.”
“You’ve read my books, Lauren. You already knew this.”
I laugh again, enjoying my friend. “So, he’s a guy that I’ve known most of my life. Grew up here in the same town as me.”
She cuts to the chase. “Is he hot?”
“Girl, you have no idea.”
“Pictures. I need pictures. Naked ones.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” We both laugh. “He’s a nice guy, which automatically makes me wonder when the other shoe will drop and his asshole side will shine through.”
“God, you’re so cynical. Maybe he’s just a nice guy.”
“Yeah, the last time I believed I’d met ‘just a nice guy’ I ended up divorced with a first-class jerk on my hands,” I reply sarcastically. My breath is coming a little faster now, but my legs are loose and the exercise feels fantastic.
“There are kind people out there, Lauren. Does this guy have a reputation for being an ass? Is the town littered with broken hearts thanks to this person?”
“No.” I chuckle as my stomach loosens. “I’ve never heard anything like that about him. And you could be right. After all, I met you.”
“You did, but I’m not gonna have sex with you.” A smile is in her voice.
“You’re no fun,” I tease.
“Have you been on a date with him yet?”
“No, but he said he’s interested. We’ll see. It might fizzle out.” I shrug, although she can’t see me, and turn down another long residential block. The sound of lawn mowers and children playing fills the air.
“Keep me posted.” Emily pulls the phone away from her ear and speaks to her little one. “I have to go make lunch. Jamie’s hungry.”
“Okay, have a good day. I’m sure I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
We hang up and I look around, realizing I’m walking down Ty’s block. I didn’t realize my feet were carrying me here. Maybe it was subconscious, since I was talking about him?
Or maybe I just want to see him.
He’s probably not home.
As I approach his house, I see his Jeep parked in the drive, the hood up, and a tight, jean-clad ass bent over the side.
Okay, he’s definitely home.
I tentatively wander around the other side of the Jeep and lean against the side, looking at the engine. He hasn’t noticed that I’m here yet, and I’m not even sure how he’ll react to seeing me here, but I can’t seem to stay away. His dark head is bent low, his arms buried in the engine, tinkering with something. His arms are bare as he’s pulled off his T-shirt, which is draped over the windshield. A thin sheen of sweat covers his shoulders and back, and his entire sleeve tattoo, which runs from just above his wrist all the way up to the top of his right shoulder, is on full display, making my girlie parts all tingle and come to life.