There was something about this woman that woke up the protective side of him. The way she always seemed surprised when he did things that other women would take for granted made him feel about ten feet tall. Like drying her off.
“You don’t have to do that,” she said as he ran the fluffy towel over her back.
“I know,” he said, wrapping it around her from behind.
She lifted her arms and tucked the towel underneath. He grabbed the other towel from the rack and quickly dried off, wrapping it around his waist when he finished.
“You don’t happen to have any clothes I could borrow, do you?”
She looked startled for a moment before her face cleared, and she nodded.
“Actually, I do,” she said. “My stepbrothers are about the same size as you. Let me get dressed and I’ll grab you something.”
“Thanks,” he said.
A few minutes later he was pulling on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that hugged his chest a bit more tightly than he normally wore. He almost asked if she had something bigger, but the look in her eyes when she stared at his biceps in the shirt changed his mind.
She cleared her throat and licked her lips as her eyes darted toward the door.
“Would you, uh, mind getting more wood for the fire?”
“Sure. Just point me in the right direction.”
She skipped down the stairs ahead of him and turned into the living room. Opening a side door tucked away in the corner of the room, they both shivered at the blast of cold air.
“This is the woodshed,” she said, waving him into an unheated room full of neatly stacked wood that reached the ceiling.
“That’s handy,” he said, and started grabbing a few pieces.
“You might want this.”
She handed him a large basket-type wood holder that looked like it could hold quite a bit.
“Thanks,” he said, putting the wood in his arms into the holder.
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” she said, and left the chilly woodshed.
About a half hour later, he strolled into the kitchen, pleased with how the fire was blazing. There was plenty of wood stacked neatly in the woodbox. He’d even swept the hearth with the little broom hanging there.
“Hey,” he said, heading over to the barstools and taking a seat.
“Hey yourself,” she said, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear.
“Something smells great.”
“Thanks. I thought about all that food going to waste, and decided to bake those cookies anyway. Do you like gingerbread men and sugar cookies?”
“Fuck yeah,” Pete grinned. “Do you care if I help myself to something to drink?”
She frowned, but he didn’t get the feeling she was angry, just confused.
“You don’t want me to get it?”
“I can do it myself. You don’t have to wait on me.”
“Uh, sure, okay,” she said, clearing her throat. “Glasses are in the cupboard on the right of the sink.”
“Great,” he said, hopping off the barstool and going to find a drink.
She busied herself with pulling warm cookies from the oven and putting in another batch.
“Those smell amazing!”
“They need to cool first,” she said, laughing as she slapped away his hand.
“Shit,” he grinned back at her and turned to rummage around in the refrigerator.
“Want to play cards or something while we wait for the cookies to bake?”
“What are we, twelve?”
“Nevermind then,” she said, and turned away, her motions jerky.
He felt like an asshole. What could playing a couple games of something hurt? It wasn’t like he had anything else to do.
“Okay, sure,” he said, swallowing a sigh. “What did you have in mind?”
“It’s fine, I don’t want to make you do something dumb.”
Well now he really felt like a first class jerk. He should have known better than to tease her.
“I was kidding,” he said, coming over to spin her around and put his arms around her while he looked into her eyes. “What did you want to play?”
Her face lit up, and he felt like he was king of the world again. Was this really all it took to make her happy? Agreeing to play some dumb game? In that case, he’d play Old Maid, or whatever shitty game she might have in mind. Ten minutes later he was dealing out rummy cards.
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