I drive us to the local diner, and we settle into a booth. From my perch, I notice how the locals eyeball Chloe—some with an appreciation of her good looks, most with suspicion. I hope that when they see us together, they’ll back oﬀ a bit.
I grab the menu, even though I know the thing by heart. “Besides me being a total ass, how is everyone else treating you?”
Chloe smirks, shaking her head. “Like a damn Yankee. You’re a bloodthirsty lot when you don’t like someone.”
I bite back a grin. She’s not wrong. “So much for southern hospitality, huh?”
“It’s a myth.” At least now she’s smiling. Smiles suit her much better than scowls, especially when I’m the one who put the scowl on her face.
Tom, the local plumber, stops by the booth, extending his hand to Chloe. “I’m sorry about your Mama. She was a good lady. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Chloe’s eyes widen in disbelief at the sudden one-eighty in the town’s disposition, but she covers it well, shaking hands with Tom before he sidles to his usual table. “Are you the mayor or something?”
“Or something,” I smile, stroking my beard. “I’m the local carpenter.”
“It’s you,” she states, pointing a ﬁnger in my direction. “You’re the one working on Betsey’s house.”
Nodding, I swig down some tea. “Guilty. I’d like to ﬁnish up, if possible. Unless you prefer hiring someone else.”
Leaning back against the booth, she regards me with her dark eyes. “I don’t know. Are you any good?”
Fuck, that got my dick’s attention. “In many ways.”
The only sign that my retort unhinges her is a slight widening of her pupils. Beyond that, she’s cool as a cucumber. “So says you, at least.”
“So says many people.”
This time, the snicker escapes from her pouty smile as she turns her focus to the menu. “Are we still discussing carpentry?”
“Were we ever?”
And just like that, I slide on my ﬂirty cap, the charming bachelor who woos all the local women.
“I suppose you would be popular with the ladies who like that sort of thing.”
No way I’m letting that comment slide. “What sort of thing?”
Glancing up from the menu, Chloe motions to my face, a smirk on her mouth. “The whole backwoods, lumberjack thing.”
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