The Bad Boy Next Door(10)

By: Jody Holford


“Wow,” she said, her eyes widening. This was a man who really took the term junk drawer seriously. She pushed it closed and pulled open the next one, feeling a twinge of guilt for poking around. But he must have some pliers, and it wasn’t like there was a garage for him to keep tools. Maybe a toolbox? Hard to find when she couldn’t see any surfaces. It wasn’t snooping or intruding. Straightening up was a different deal altogether.

Deciding it was a neighborly thing to do, she started with the condiments, smiling over the fact that he’d grudgingly fed her when it was so obvious he didn’t like company. She wondered what he did for work and tried to think of what would suit him. Navy SEAL? Pilot? Bad-news-giver…no, that probably wasn’t a job. While piling his reusable grocery bags inside of one another, she was careful not to move too many things. He struck her as the kind of guy who knew exactly where something was, despite the chaos.

Wiping the counter was easy, but rinsing the cloth was nearly impossible with the dishes in the sink. Surely he wouldn’t consider it overstepping to just throw his dishes in the dishwasher? And add the soap. And take care of the dishes that she didn’t think went in the machine? It seemed like the thing to do. He’d asked her to put things away, and he had been very generous with his time and food. She’d obviously woken him. And God was he sexy with his half awake eyes and hint of growth on his chin. Even his scowl is alluring. Nope, nope, nope. Stop it.

“Scowls are not alluring. Friendliness is attractive. Happiness. No mystery. Like Brady,” she said. But it wasn’t the thought of Brady making her skin hum.

Shay couldn’t properly wipe the counter with all of the papers and files on it. That was the only reason she straightened them. Plus, it made her twitchy to even be in a space that was this…cluttered. Not unclean. Not dirty. Just a mess. She checked her cell phone, saw her mom had texted three times and Taylor, her oldest brother, had left a voicemail. She’d get back to them later. When she was once again in her own apartment. Shay groaned, remembering the reason she was here and what she’d been looking for. Toolbox. Tool. Maybe under the sink.

Before she could find out, there was a knock on the door. Opening it, she was relieved to see Brady standing there. He looked tired, like he’d worked all day and didn’t have the energy for the antics of the new neighbor who couldn’t even operate a door.

She frowned. “How did you know where I was?”

He arched one eyebrow. “Ran into Wyatt. Why’d you call him?”

Pressure settled in her chest. She didn’t want to justify her decisions. And she didn’t have to. Unless…was Brady jealous? Jeez, if she spent as much time organizing her business as she did thinking about the two men she’d only just met, she’d probably have actual clients by now. “There weren’t a lot of options. Besides, he’s nice.”

At this, Brady laughed, and even this was laced with fatigue. Guilt gnawed at her stomach. He was a sweet guy and here she was making this more difficult. She opened the door wider. “I’ll grab my jacket. I’m so sorry about the lock. I’ll pay for it. I was just going to look up some locksmiths.” Not that she could afford it.

Brady was looking around the kitchen when she turned back to him, taking in the space she’d just cleaned. More than she should have. So sue me. Brady wouldn’t know the difference. Maybe Wyatt wouldn’t notice? Ha. Shay had a feeling he noticed everything.

“I got the broken piece out of the lock, but I think I’ll change them anyway. Not until the weekend, though. Our keys still work; it’s just a bit stiff. I’ll need to put a note up on the information board saying to be careful until I get it done,” Brady said. He held the door for her to go first and then turned the knob, checking that it was locked.

Despite her intentions to stand on her own two feet, she was already letting someone bail her out. Though he’d been nothing but kind about it, Shay felt like a chastised child. “I’ve created more work for you. I could pay to have someone come and change it,” she offered again.

She could dip into her savings for a few more dollars if she had to.

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