Good morning! Welcome to spring, and this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales taken a few pages earlier than the snippet last week. I thought it might explain her fainting.
“Son of a bitch. Kid? Is that really you?” he asked slowly, his gaze raking her from head to toe before settling on her paw-marked breasts.
She fought the urge to cover her chest and swallowed. “The one and only,” she answered with a false bravado Ron would have appreciated.
“You’ve gained weight.” He smiled, eying her up and down once more, further adding to her desire to vanish. He shook his head. “What I mean is, you were such a scrawny little thing … you’ve changed. No braces.”
“No shit, Sherlock. Good thing to know your eyes work. I’m Carla Hunter. I used to be Carla Balducci, maybe you remember me?”
“Yeah, now that I look at you, you seem familiar. Kid and her trusty sidekick.”
He turned back to MJ. “What’s it been? Fifteen years? It’s great to see you, but what are you doing here?”
MJ stared at him. Did he really think she was fat? The man was gorgeous, way more attractive than she’d ever imagined he would be. The long, black hair she’d admired years ago, had been cut short, but the style suited him. Her fingers itched to run through it, and she fisted her hands at her side lest they fly up of their own volition. She blinked, aware that he’d said something. Why was she here?
“The house,” she stammered. “I came to look at the house. I t
hought it was the one I was going to rent, but I’ve obviously made a mistake. Mine must be farther down the block. I didn’t know you lived here. Sorry for trespassing.” She was blabbering. What the hell was wrong with her?
Maybe it’s these loose pants that make me look fat.
He grimaced and shook his head. “Right house, I think, but it isn’t available anymore. I bought it and moved in last week,” he said. “I should’ve guessed you’d become a teacher. You were a hell of a lot smarter than either Ron or me. How come you’re here? Don’t tell me Stilton ran out of teaching jobs. Is your husband with you?”
“She’s not married,” Carla piped up. “Are you?”
“Am I what?” he asked.
If Carla said one more word, she’d kill her. It would be justifiable homicide. No jury of single women would ever convict her.
“Carla, for God’s sake,” she whispered through gritted teeth.
“I’m not,” he answered interrupting her.
Her friend grinned. “Great. Then you two can get to know one another again.” Carla frowned. “How’d you know she was a teacher?”
“Mr. Newton mentioned a teacher had been interested in looking at the house.”
“She was more than interested,” Carla said. “She thought it was a done deal. Now, she’s got no place to live and … Ouch! Why’d you kick me?”
“Did I?” MJ said and glared at her. “My foot must’ve slipped.”
“Come into the house,” Paul said, probably as uncomfortable with Carla’s matchmaking outburst as she was. “The least I can do is give you a cold drink and let you clean yourself up.” He led the way up onto the deck and into the kitchen.
The room was just the way she’d pictured it, and MJ could’ve wept. The new matching range and refrigerator were white, no doubt to coordinate with the built-in dishwasher. The above the range microwave oven looked unused. On the counter sat a variety of small appliances, including the latest in food processors her mother would have loved. Four oak bar stools stood on one side of the large center island. This kitchen was every cook’s dream.
“Can I get you a glass of water?” he asked closing the screen door to keep King out of the house. “I’ve got beer if you prefer.”
“Water for me,” Carla said, pointing to her stomach. “Bun in the oven, and all that.”
“Beer. Beer’s good,” MJ answered. If there was ever a time for alcohol, it was now. “I need to get cleaned up.”
“Bathroom’s down the hall. Help yourself.”
She nodded and moved along the hall to the bathroom. The living room and dining room were empty other than the appliance boxes stacked in the corner, but he’d said he’d just moved in. He might not be married, but a bachelor didn’t buy a house like this. So where was his main squeeze?
She entered the small room and locked the door behind her, leaning against it for support. It wasn’t enough, and she slipped down the door, sat on the floor, and let reaction and disappointment take over.
Paul Davis. Of all the people in the world, he was the last one she would ever have expected to steal a house out from under her. He and Ron were inseparable and always in one kind of trouble or another. In fact, Paul had probably spent as much time at her house as at his own—maybe even more. Between them, they’d made her pre-teen and early teen years hell more often than not.
But in spite of all that, he’d been her first love, as painful as the experience had been.
She’d worshiped him. He’d been her hero, coming to her rescue more times than she could count, but he’d treated her the same way Ron had, as if she were his kid sister. He even called her kid—probably didn’t even know her real name. Mama had been the one to hold her in her arms when Ron had mentioned that Paul had moved away for good—gone without even saying goodbye.
If she were honest, every boy she’d ever dated had been measured against her memories of her brother’s long lost friend, and sooner or later, all of them had been found wanting. She’d been attracted to Mark because he bore a faint resemblance to the Paul she’d idolized, and look how that had turned out.
Letting out a deep breath, she sighed. So much for thinking her life was about to improve. Tears brimmed her eyes.
Over the years, especially those months after he’d left, she’d dreamed of running into Paul again, but it had generally involved a crowded ballroom and her in a wispy evening gown. He’d see her across the room and hold her gaze as he moved toward her, pushing the beautiful women out of his way until he took her into his arms. Once upon a Dream, the song she loved from Sleeping Beauty, would be playing, and they’d step onto the dance floor, moving as one. He’d bend his head toward hers and—that’s when she’d wake up. The man she dreamed of resembled the tall, lanky eighteen year old she recalled, not the sexy man she’d just met, and in her fantasy, he always remembered her, unlike the reality of today, and he never told her she looked fat! That thought put steel into her backbone. What was she doing sitting on the jerk’s bathroom floor?
Fifteen years ago, the son of a bitch had broken her heart and now, he’d shattered her fantasies and destroyed her dreams of living here. Damn him!
Why the hell hadn’t the realtor or Mr. Newton called? Probably because they’d expected her to go to the realty office before showing up at the house. That’s what a normal person would’ve done. But not her.
Not MJ Summers, she doesn’t stop to think before she acts. Never has, never will. It should be my motto.
She stood, walked over to the sink, and turned on the tap. She couldn’t see a facecloth, so she used toilet paper to try and wipe away the mud, making everything worse instead of better. She realized her mistake when the mirror revealed nipples standing at attention against the wet fabric of her blouse and bra.
Great. Just frigging great.
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