Summer ran one finger along the splintered banister of the old house. Even run-down and raggedy, the house stood with a sort of grandeur. If she closed her eyes, she could almost picture a woman in hoop skirts sweeping her way down the wide stairs while a man in a top hat and tails waited for her at the bottom. Maybe I could do some research on the place, find out its history. People liked buying a house with a story.
“Hey, you can’t go up there.” A strong hand grabbed her elbow.
“What?” Summer shook her arm free. This is my house now, she wanted to say. I can go wherever I want. “Why not?”
“Not safe yet.” He motioned to the steps, and when she looked closer, she saw the space left by a missing riser gaping like a placid crocodile and ready to snatch up her unsuspecting foot.
“Oh.” She smiled an apology at Mac’s helper.
He was tall with light brown hair and deep blue eyes, and his broad, shirtless chest shone with sweat. Muscular biceps, no doubt made strong from summer labor, twitched as he reached for an itch between his shoulder blades. Summer swallowed and tried to chase away a crazy urge to scratch the spot for him.
She cleared her throat and shook the hand he offered. “I’m Summer Thompson. The—ah—the owner of this place.”
He studied her with a serious expression. “So I guessed. Damian Knight.”
The one who’s renting the farmhouse. “Listen, I—” She meant to talk to him about it, but a heavy hand landed on her shoulder, and she turned.
“Summer!” Mac Herbert stood beside her, half an inch shorter and a good deal wider than she. All muscle. “Can’t believe you’re here.” He shook his head and grinned, and Summer glimpsed the chipped front teeth she remembered from high school.
“Well, I wanted to see the house. I just…” She faltered. “I just found out about it.”
His expression sobered. “I know. Your father wanted it to be a surprise for you. Sorry about your loss, by the way.” He looked over his shoulder. “He did a great thing, buying this place. Wish he could have seen it finished.”
She didn’t think it was a great thing at all but she kept her mouth shut. Maybe someone else would find beauty in it. Maybe someone else would want the story that came with owning such an estate.
Mac gestured around the yard. “We’re finishing up the roof today. And the top floor needs reinforcing. Don’t use the front steps, ’kay? Gotta replace a few.”
“It looks…” Like nothing I would ever want to live in? Like the biggest mistake my father could have made? She wasn’t sure what to say.
“It’s a helluva lotta work,” Mac interrupted her thoughts. “But your father paid us through Labor Day, and we’ll probably finish most of the major work by then. I got a few guys who’ll help out with the interior when we get there. Course, I don’t know what your plans are. If you’re gonna sell it, or…” He stopped and waited for her to finish the sentence. She didn’t.
“Can I see the inside?” Summer asked instead. She wanted an idea of the mess she was dealing with. Her doubt grew as she looked around. Forget the plans her father had made for repairs. She couldn’t see dumping a lot of money into the place.
Mac shrugged. “Sure. I can show you the main floor, anyway. Second and third floors too, though there’s not much up there.” He glanced at his watch and turned to Damian. “You’re leaving early today, right?”
“Yeah.” But Damian didn’t move. Instead he ran one hand through his hair and sent a cloud of sawdust flying. A grin touched his eyes and, for a brief second, Summer saw her own reflection in his gaze. She looked small and dark, a little girl floating on the blue of his iris. He smiled, and in the sunlight, the blue deepened until she felt like she was falling inside it, floating, forgetting who and where she was. Something jumped in her stomach, and her palms tingled. Knights in Pine Point? There hadn’t been any for as long as she could remember.
Don’t fall for the guy whose heart you have to break tomorrow.
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