Claire turned the misters on as the heat started to settle over the town.
“I’m sorry Claire…that all that bad happened to you.”
“Do you ever wonder…if bad happens to people because they deserve it?”
“Absolutely not. I think bad things happen to good people because they are strong enough to handle it.”
Claire nodded her head quietly. “I try to do good for myself and everyone around me. I’ve lived a simple life until Toby. I wonder sometimes if I’m bein punished for something. I know I’ve been drinkin a little too much, not eatin right.”
He was glad she acknowledged the drinking. She could put it away just as well as him or any of the guys.
“You’ve been doin a little better though.”
“Been tryin. Sometimes I just know I can’t sleep and I just drink till I can.”
“Why haven’t you been sleeping?”
“My mind starts runnin, listin my failures over and over. And then…I got a call from my ex mother-in-law and it hurt my feelings. I got a lot of money in the divorce, more than I will know what to do with and it didn’t make me happy. You know what has though…Miss Betty and this little house. Cookin for ya’ll, climbin in the rafters and finding that pretty lace. Makin ya salsa and ridin on the back of your steel horse.”
Hunter knew the call she was talking about. It hurt Miss Betty and Stella both. He wondered if she would tell him about the crib. He liked that she enjoyed the ride.
“Why are you renting?”
“I’m not sure I’m stayin. Not sure I can make it here. Now…I gotta start all over and change everything from my website and business cards to my business license. It’s going to take months to sort out. I just had that stupid sign designed and ordered. I wish y’all would have just smooshed me in the street that night.”
His heart started pounding in his chest at the thought of her possibly leaving. “Nah…then I would have missed out on ya pettin me.” He grinned at her.
Claire could feel her face light on fire and she put her head on the table giggling. “I’m so embarrassed.”
“Why?” He wanted to hear what she had to say.
“I didn’t even know I was doin it, let alone how long.” She liked the way his skin felt. It was smooth and soft. She could feel his muscles just underneath. She knew she had seen him without a shirt on but couldn’t remember what he looked like, he had chased her off.
“Pretty much the whole ride.” He sipped his tea and almost choked at the look on her face.
“Oh good lord above.” She fanned her face.
“Have ya heard me complain?”
“No…but you’re a gentleman.”
“When I need to be but trust me sweetheart, I can be an animal.” He grinned at her as her eyes popped out of her head and rolled across the table. “I liked it. And you are welcome to pet me anytime.”
She snorted and put her face in her arms. She was going to die on the spot. “I’m embarrassed as all git out right now Hunter.”
“Good.” He barked out a laugh. “Is that mac n cheese ready?” He thought he would give her a break.
“I reckon so. Want to eat inside?”
“Jesus yes, it’s too hot.”
They went inside the cooled house and Hunter stretched, brushing the ceiling with his fingertips. He scooted into the bathroom, doing his business and washing his face and hands. He looked around and saw everything was immaculate and almost too pretty to touch. He opened the door and stuck his head out.
“Do you have another towel I can use? These are too pretty.”
She came around the corner and smiled at him. “Girly…sorry. I have some darker ones.” She grabbed a dark grey colored towel and handed it to him.
“Lunch smells good!” He called out as he dried his face and hands. He took his cut off and laid it out on the chair in the living room. He helped her set the small kitchen table and brought over the meal she prepared. He boldly went into her fridge and grabbed salsa and water for both of them. Their conversation flowed and there was an ease and relaxation between both of them.
“So you have to get all the business stuff changed. Does that mean you can’t operate?”
“I don’t know…but at least I can re-furbish in the meantime. I like working and keeping busy.”
“How long are you renting the house for?”
“At year. I figured I’ll know by then if I’m goin to settle or not.”
He was much more relieved and felt a lot better about putting some effort into her. “I guess we got some time then.”
“Rides and pettin.”
She snorted and turned a deep red. It was soon becoming his favorite color. “I reckon we do.”
“Does that mean you’re ready?”
“For what?” She couldn’t help the grin, she hoped she knew what he was going to say.
“I reckon I am.” She bit her lip. “How red is my face?”
She burst out laughing and covered her face with her hands.
“You’re awfully pretty when you’re that color Claire.” He smiled at her while he ate. She couldn’t even look at him.
“I’m makin you extra spicy salsa and not tellin ya.”
“I like spicy. Bring it on woman.”
Their back and forth banter continued until well past the cooling meal.
“Rib meat in this was excellent.”
“I thought so too.”
“Thank you…for one of the best days I’ve had in a long time Claire.”
“Yes, really. Why do you question that?”
“I don’t rightly know. I just figure with all your friends and your big club…you would have lots of best days.”
“I’m coming off my own brutal break up…I was publicly cheated on by her numerous times. I took her back…I don’t know why but I did. She slept with a rival club’s President and that was the last straw.” Along with someone else.
Claire gasped and grabbed his hands across the table. “I’m so sorry Hunter…that’s so terrible. You’re a nice man and you didn’t deserve that.”
He liked the way her small hands wrapped around his big ones. “Thank you…but I’m not sad.”
“Why?” She leaned back surprised.
“Because I got to meet you. And I owe you an apology for the other day…I wasn’t very nice to you.”
“It’s okay, we all have bad days.”
“No…it’s not okay. I was a dick. I was having a bad day and I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Would you like some dessert?”
It was his turn to get some fire lighting his cheeks up. His mind immediately went into the gutter. “I would very much like some dessert.”
“Stella left me some brownies.”
“Oh…” he didn’t mean for that to slip out.
“Is there something else ya have a hankerin for?”
“Yes.” He grinned at her and watched her eyes widen and her face turn red.
“I have some ice cream.” Claire blurted out.
“I don’t think salsa will go very well with brownies.” She laughed at the look on his face.
He burst out laughing. “No…I don’t think that would be a particularly good combo.”
She stood up and he grabbed her hand as she walked past him,he placed his lips against her wrist and gently kissed the inside of it. “Now that…that was dessert.”
Claire snorted as she tried to not run into the kitchen. She was pulling things out when his phone rang.
He frowned as he looked at it. “Yeah.”
“Prez…we got an all-out brawl down here.” Gabe barked into the phone. “One of the prospects brought his girl over and another one hit on her and it went downhill from there.”
“So take care of it, you’re the Vice President.”
“I would but Kristin is down here and she got into it with Cherry and Maggie.”
“Looking for you.”