“You are such a lucky bugger! Naive, but lucky. This is like digging a well and discovering oil!” Alexa’s heart raced with excitement, and her voice rose with passion. A well-designed building always charged her up. And this was such a find. She would love to work on it herself, to direct an inspired restoration but of course he wouldn’t agree. And anyway, she didn’t have time for pet projects right now.
In contrast, he seemed to believe it was rather unlucky. He had deflated, was pouting and scowling like a little boy with a broken toy. “More like poverty than riches,” he grumbled. “I’d have never bought it if I knew. I figured I’d make a tidy profit one day. Now I’ll be squandering my fortune preserving a decrepit old relic.”
Ted Glenn had finally left, and Alexa had suggested that Stephanie take her car back to the office alone and give Krystof her apologies for missing the strategy meeting. “I don’t need it. I’ll pick it up another day, and I don’t want to keep you.” It would be easier if Bruce, Alexa and the kids, drove together in the SUV to Kate and Simon’s and saved the hassle of moving the car seats over and back.
He was still pouting and glaring at her when they were alone in the house. “Do you have any idea what you’ve cost me today?”
It was hard to feel too sorry for him. She shrugged. “I didn’t cost you anything. And you have plenty of money. So you keep telling me.”
“That’s not the point!” he bit back.
Grumpy as a bear, his usual calm control and lazy charm had slipped. He had an dark edge, and seemed suddenly very manly. It was a little scary. And kind of sexy. “How is it my fault?”
“You’ve taken my already considerable problems and made them a thousand times worse!” He paced and flung his bare, muscled arms around. Then stopped abruptly in front of her, his arms fisted on his hips, biceps twitching.
Her heart fluttered and her breath quickened in response. His t-shirt was damp with perspiration, and she was suddenly aware of his long, bare muscled legs. Alexa tilted her head and regarded him serenely, curious about the warm stirrings his tantrum kindled. Maybe it was because he was serious for once, his fake veneer of charm forgotten.
“I’m trying –was trying– to finish this reno by October, so I can move in before the rains start. I’m living on my boat, for Chris’sake, and this was supposed to be my summer project. For fun! You’ve totally messed that up now! It could take weeks to get the permits. Or more! Godknows what I’m going to have to do now that you’ve spilled the beans about this architect guy.”
Spilled the beans? That woke her up. “You mean you knew it was a Ron Thom?”
“Of course not! I didn’t even know what that was. I just want to get on with it. I was planning to do most of the work myself. Now my summer’s wasted.”
“Well. Not wasted.” She smiled, casting him an oblique glance. “You have more time to take care of the kids, now.” At least he wasn’t intentionally dishonest. That was a relief. Not that she cared. Of course she didn’t.
He let out a rude sound, a stifled scream. “Right! After I find someone to do the drawings, and apply for the permits, and Godknows what else they’re going to make me do now.”
“It won’t be a big deal. You have to convince them that you understand, that you’re going to do it right. That you’re not going to spoil this fabulous treasure. Someone could do the drawings for you in a few days.”
“The least you could do is help me out,” he spat. “Treasure. You architects! Your head’s in the clouds. This place is a dump. Anybody can see that. The only thing it’s got going for it is the view. Have you even looked at it?”
What? How could he fail to understand the profound beauty? Was he blind? “Have you? Looked, really looked, at this place?”
“Of course I’ve looked. All I’ve seen is rotten window frames, cracked tiles, drapes and carpets that reek of cigarette smoke and cat piss, and tiny cramped bedrooms you can’t even turn around in!”
“No, nononono,” she moaned. “You’re missing the point.”
There had to be a way to…
She took off down the hall, leading the way into the master bedroom at the corner of the house. Surely she could make him see.
He followed. As soon as he passed the doorframe, she grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the back wall, waving her hand at it. His arm was large and firmly muscled, but she tried to ignore it.
He raised his eyebrows. “Yeah?”
“Tell me where you’d put your bed.”
“There’s no bloody choice, is there? It has to go there.” He pointed at it. It was the only solid wall in the room. Clever boy.
She gazed at the wall, at him, out the window. “Right. Right. Come here and sit down.” She dragged him by the arm again, trying to ignore how big and hard it felt in her hand, spun him around so their backs were to the wall, and slid down onto the dirty subfloor. He sank down beside her, legs straight out. “Now look.”
She imagined them sitting side by side on a queen size bed. There was no more than three feet from the “bed” to the window wall on two sides. She could feel the moist heat of his bare leg against her thin dress trousers. His strong legs, covered with fine damp dark curling hairs, drew her unwilling gaze.
“So? So?! What do you see?”
He looked, finally, out the windows, because there was nothing else to look at. “Trees.”
She didn’t reply. Just sat beside him, his warm arm pressed against her, staring out the window at the forest that bound his property on this side, urging him to understand. Come on. Come on.
He looked. She followed his gaze out, into the forest, under the canopy of the evergreen trees, out to glimpses of silvery water and shadowed blue islands in the strait beyond. He was right about the view from this house. It was spectacular. Obviously the great designer had agreed.
She sensed his heart rate slow, and his breathing calm. He sat for several minutes in contemplative silence, and she waited, inhaling his scent of male sweat and soap faintly tinged with chlorine.
He jolted at her voice, turning his head slowly toward her. His gaze was soft, his espresso brown eyes warm and unmasked. He seemed almost surprised to see her, as though he had forgotten she was there.
She was afraid to disturb his peace. “Where did you go?” Her voice was tender, barely more than a whisper, reaching out to him, secretive and intimate, like a caress.
“Uh. Out.” His eyes darted back to the view. “Out there.”
“Uh huh.” She smiled to encourage him, and his gaze snapped back to her face, and fixed there, pinning her own, fascinated.
His gaze dropped to her mouth, he licked his lips, and her breath caught. Was he going to kiss her?
Against all reason and good sense, she almost hoped so. Heat radiated off of him and her blood heated in response. He leaned closer, flaring his nostrils, inhaling deeply. She could smell him too, his masculine scent rich and dizzying. Oh, damn, this was not good. She blinked twice, snapping herself out of it.
“So? Do you get it now?”
He tore his eyes away from her mouth, and looked outside again.
“I get being here, on this land.”
“That’s what this house is about. This is not a common house. It’s not a box on a lane in which to keep your stuff. It’s about being nestled here on this land.”
He turned his head to peer at her again, solemn and intense. The sexual intensity had diminished, but the connection be
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