I’m back in my Jeep ten minutes later, drawn to Poppy’s door like a hound dog that has caught a scent. I can use the excuse that I’m being neighborly. This is what neighbors do, right? I flip down the mirror, shaking my head at my reflection.
Get it together, man. It’s just the shock of seeing her after all these years. That’s it. That’s all it was.
With a final glance, I pop out of the Jeep, pulling open the door to her store.
There, standing in the middle of umpteen million boxes, is Poppy. She’s worked up a bit of a sweat, her skin glistening from the exertion. Her long hair is pulled into a messy bun and she’s not wearing a speck of makeup. But it’s her outfit—yoga pants and a tank top accentuating her figure that knocks my world off kilter.
The woman did not look that good ten years ago. Oh, she looked good, but God in heaven, she didn’t look this good.
Her eyes widen when she sees me, but this time, she doesn’t smile. I can’t say I blame her. I’ve known great whites with friendlier dispositions than mine during our last meeting. “Hi, there.”
“I heard you needed some help.” So much for my theory. The feelings are even more palpable this time around.
“She does, which is why I’m here.” Troy steps from behind the curtain, his hands resting on his hips and a knowing smirk on his face. “I’ll take care of this, Dylan. Don’t you have to help Marissa with a school project?”
I want to punch him. I don’t care that we’ve been friends for decades. I want to knock the smirk off his face. And keep him the hell away from Poppy.
“I have some time.” I force a smile, grasping Poppy by the elbow and leading her to a darkened corner. “Are you okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You certainly didn’t waste any time.” Just like that, I place myself squarely back into asshole territory. What is my issue?
“With unpacking? Don’t most people unpack their belongings when they move?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know what you meant,” she grounds out, her voice low and intense. Her hazel eyes harden as she jerks her arm from my grasp. “I’m fine, Mr. West.”
Seriously? We’re playing that angle? “Dylan,” I grit out.
“Does it make a difference? It seems no matter what I call you, it’s the wrong thing. I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”
I grab her arm, pulling her close to my side. “I can stay and help.”
She shakes her head, but I’m not sure whether it’s from exasperation, frustration or a bit of both. “Go take care of Marissa.”
That’s my cue, but I’m ignoring it. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“I’m famished, actually. My tea from earlier is long gone.”
“That’s why I’m taking her to the diner. Some good old home cooking.” Troy saunters over, leaning against the wall behind Poppy.
All I know is the man needs to put some distance between them before I make him move. “It’s not home cooking at the greasy spoon.”
Poppy raises her hands between us, willing us down. “I’m sure it will be lovely.”
“I’ll get our coats.” With a final smirk, Troy walks away, leaving me to steam.
“Hmm. I didn’t think Troy would be your type.”
Poppy’s brow furrows at my statement. “For a dinner companion? As long as he chews with his mouth closed, we’re good.”
“I meant looks-wise. Didn’t think you liked blondes.” Seriously, Dylan? I’m amazing even myself with my current level of pettiness.
Poppy chuckles, crossing her arms over her chest. “Oh…that. I don’t have a problem with blondes.” Her hand reaches up, one finger grazing down my cheek. “I just don’t like men with beards.”
“Cute.” It’s the best I can manage. Her simple caress has my dick throbbing for release.
“I’ll wager you have a strong dislike for women with long dark hair and hippie tendencies. Am I close?”
I step toward her, hearing her breath hitch at my proximity. Good. She’s not immune. “Actually, I have a distinct weakness for one woman with long dark hair. Even when she’s lying to me.”
“What am I lying about?”
Another step forward and her back is against the wall, my arms caging her in. “If I kissed you right now, what would you do? Don’t widen those eyes at me. Would you push me away? Or would you let me kiss you all over, knowing how good I made you feel?”
I see her shallow breathing, but she isn’t rejecting my idea. And now, I’m close enough to grab her and make good on my threat.
“Is this how you woo women, Mr. West?” Poppy inquires, a sexy smirk crossing her lips.
“It’s how I woo you, Ms. Mills. Question is, is it working?”
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