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Chapter 9

Hunter was up and out of the clubhouse without any prospects. He took a ride in the cool morning air, taking the long way to Claire’s house. He had tossed and turned all night after reading several other articles about her relationship with the football player. There were pictures of them leaving a fertility clinic, her head was hanging and he was visibly pissed with a clenched fist on the steering wheel. It went on and on. They drug her through the mud and portrayed her as a country bumpkin that hit it big when she met a star football player. He saw it differently. Her asshole football player found himself a country gem. She was smart, talented, a total knockout and could climb like a champ.

He pulled up in front of her house and caught the smell of sausage and bacon, his stomach rumbling. He knocked on the side door and peeked his head in and found her at the stove, a pile of bacon on a plate next to her.

“Hi.” He smiled.

“Good morning…coffee?”

“Please.” His large frame sat on the barstool at the tiny island. “I’m early.”

“It’s alright. I’m just makin breakfast for ya’ll.”

“The smell of bacon is going to call them all here.”

She laughed lightly. He watched as her nose crinkled as she did. “I think bacon has that effect on a lot of people.”

“It does.”

“It’s going to be warm again. I think this trip will be quicker, you guys got a lot of the heavy pieces yesterday.”

“Yeah, today will be much quicker. We’ll be out of your hair before lunch.” No one would have an excuse to come over to her house. He frowned at the thought.

“Well shit…I got all this damn food for lunch. Can I send it back with you guys?”

Hunter was caught off guard. “You got us lunch? On top of breakfast?”

“Barbecue. Texas style…beans, mac n cheese…ribs, sausage. I wanted to thank y’all, you’ve been real hospitable ,workin around the heat and my…uh…settlin in.”

Hunter’s stomach growled in appreciation and she laughed. “You’ve been really generous with your tips and feeding us.”

“Least I can do. Miss Betty said y’all were nice and I appreciate it.” She continued to cook, pulling eggs out and the rest of the stuff she got for breakfast. “Do you like spicy food?”

“Yes. I’ll pretty much eat anything.”

“I made salsa yesterday. Should have sat long enough to get some good flavor, if you’d like to try it.” She glanced at him.

“Hand it over.” He was trying not to tipy tap dance with his boots on the wood floor.

She grinned and slid one of several jars over to him and pulled out a bag of tortilla chips. She watched as he took a plate and poured some out. He scooped several bites full out and moaned.

“Oh my god this is good. I’d eat this on everything.”

She set a jar aside. “Remind me to give you that later.”

“Trust me…I won’t let you forget. Yeah…it has that slow, after burn. Nice.”

“I thought it would go well on breakfast burritos. Do you think you guys want beans?”

He liked the normalcy of their conversation. Not to mention hanging out in the kitchen like a real home. Kristin would never do this.

“Beans and bikers are not a good mix.” He grinned at her. She burst out in what he thought was her first genuine laugh. “So no…and don’t offer them any.”

“So ummm…I have beans for lunch.”

“Then definitely no beans for breakfast.”

She started laughing again and he was disappointed when he heard a couple of bikes. No one was due for fifteen minutes. He was pretty sure he knew who it was and it instantly irritated him. He sipped on his coffee and watched Gabe and Bolt both get off their bikes. The truck was turning around in the street and being backed in.

“Do you want to load, take a break and eat…or eat first?”

“We can start loading first, try and beat the heat.”

“Okay.” She watched as the rest of the men came to the side door and each popped in for coffee and donuts that were leftover. Miss Betty was soon pulling in and Stella wasn’t too far behind with Max. The women helped her with putting out the tables and bringing out the food. The guys were just about done when they took a break.

While the guys ate, Claire took the opportunity to look at the rest of the items. She was anxious to get started. She and Miss Betty finished up the spreadsheet. She spied another box in the rafters in the far back now that the last of the furniture had been removed. She hopped up on the work bench and was climbing up before anyone could help her.

“You climb like a damn monkey.” Miss Betty laughed.

“Had to. My mean ass drunk daddy would chase me with a switch. I’d have to climb and wait till he passed out till I could come down.” Her eyes widened when she realized she had said that out loud. “I’m sorry…I…that just came out and I don’t know why.”

“Eat.” Hunter snapped at the guys that were too interested in what had just come out of her mouth.

“It’s okay Claire.” Miss Betty smiled at her. “What did you find in that box?”

“I don’t know. It’s like Christmas. Want to open it with me?”

Stella watched the two women and looked at Max. “Jesus Maxie.”

“I know…I told you she was sad.”

Hunter got up and made a burrito and cut it in half. He knew she wouldn’t eat a whole one and he could eat another one. He wrapped it up in a paper towel and came back out handing it to her while she and Miss Betty pulled delicate lace out of a box.

“Ohhhh…it’s Chantilly! And French embroidered! Oh my god. Stella!” She was hopping up and down. Hunter blocked the view of her bouncing chest from the men behind him and he heard the quiet, collective groan. He handed her half of the burrito and she gave him a genuine smile.

“Thank you!” She took a bite and crinkled her nose. “Salsa is good. What did you think of it on eggs?”

He smiled at her. “Kick ass on the eggs. What did you find?”

“Lace! Beautiful lace.” She took another bite and glanced back at the box. “Christmas.” She crinkled her nose and finished her last two bites.

Miss Betty and Stella looked on in interest. Not only had he gotten her to eat but she was much more animated than she had been.

“Want us to take that?”

“Oh no. Miss Betty ought to have a chance to go through it first. This is special stuff…delicate.”

“Are you saying I can’t handle something delicate?” He grinned at her and Stella almost fell over.

“Oh no…I’m sorry. I wasn’t insinuating anything…it’s just we need to lay it out and I don’t want to subject it to the store yet.”

“Claire…I was making a joke.”

“Oh.” She grinned and crinkled her nose.

“We’re about done loading. Are you ready to get going?”

“Yes, thank you.” She ran inside to get her things and put the rest of the food away with Miss Betty and Stella.

Hunter told the guys to finish up. He double checked everything and started cleaning up with Max. They could hear Claire laughing at something Stella said as she tossed her the keys to her fancy ride. The ladies took off, leaving the men to follow. The heat was coming in fast and the guys were glad it was a short unload.

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