Fanning her face with a folded up old newspaper, Riley tried to cool her heated skin. Not a hint of air came through the dusty old screen even though the window was open all the way.
"What did I tell you, Riley? I said not to put your money into this . . ."
Ignoring the rest of her grandmother's complaint, Riley just nodded. If a light bulb went out, the seventy-one year old blamed the house. Nothing satisfied the old woman since they had moved.
"I'm sure the repairman will have the air conditioning going again soon after he gets here."
"I know all about those people. They poke around and make some noises before shaking their head. Then they start to talk about all the bad stuff that's wrong, using big fancy words."
"Grandma, I can handle this, all right?"
"Hmph," Bessie replied.
Though set in her ways, Bessie Vickstra wasn't as grumpy as she sounded. The extreme heat and moving away from her friends combined to make her irritable.
"He's here. Before you know it, he'll have the air conditioning working again," Riley said, going to the door.
Shane Boltz wiped the sweat from his forehead and sighed. Every muscle in his body ached. All he wanted to do was strip off his sticky uniform and take a cool shower. He reminded himself this was his last stop for the day as he swung his long legs out of the truck. Grabbing the toolbox from the back, he walked up the dusty path.
The house looked deserted. The place needed major repairs to look fresh and alive again. Looking for any hint of life from inside, Shane was surprised to see a young woman open the sagging screen door.
"Mrs. Dixson?" he asked, checking his work order to get the name right.
"It's Riley. Thank you for fitting us in today. If you'll follow me, I can show you where the air conditioner is," Riley said.
Thoughts that had nothing to do with his job filled Shane's head. He imagined following the tall brunette somewhere private so he could explore every curve of her body. Denim shorts ended a couple inches past her cheeks. Her pale yellow sleeveless top was short, revealing a strip of tanned skin above her waistband.
Realizing he was staring, Shane tried to clear the sexy vision. "Lead the way."
Her hips swayed in a natural, easy motion that told Shane she wasn't doing it for his benefit. That made her sexier yet to him.
"Here it is," Riley said, pointing to a small closet area.
Shane was totally engrossed in his perusal of the young woman. He hadn't realized she stopped, pushing her into the wall when he kept walking. Trying to keep her balance, she flung her arm over his shoulder. A section of his long black hair caught in her fingers.
Riley felt the heat from his body every single place he touched her. The temperature outside had nothing to do with it either, she knew. His right knee forced her legs apart, while his thigh pressed tight against her center.
"Oh," she hissed, her unrestrained nipples tightening.
He struggled to keep his free hand at his side. Shane wanted to cup her breast and lick the hard pebble.
"I don't feel cold air yet. What's taking so long?" Bessie yelled from the living room.
Embarrassed at her behavior with this stranger, Riley pulled free. She needed to clear her head. If her grandmother hadn't interrupted, Riley knew she might have let him touch her. Crossing her arms over her chest, her fingers brushed her aching nipples. Berating herself for how she reacted didn't help when all she imagined was the two of them naked.
What the hell was he doing, Shane wondered when he was alone. He had never touched a customer while he was on a job. Cursing his forwardness, he took a deep breath. His body longed to feel hers again, even as he told himself it was wrong. It took several minutes before his hands stopped shaking so he could work.
Pretending to stay busy in the kitchen, Riley ignored her grandmother. A few times she heard the repairman go outside and return. She assumed he needed different tools or parts, but stayed away.
"Oh my god, I don't even know his name," Riley whispered.
"Shane. My name is Shane Boltz."
Whirling at the voice, Riley stared at the handsome repairman.
"You have to believe me when I say that today's behavior is not typical for me. I should never touch a paying customer," he said. "That is, someone I'm here to work on. Oh crap, to work for, not on."
Despite the situation, his stricken look made Riley burst out laughing.
"That was terrible, I know. I think I should leave and come back so I can start over," Shane said.
"Nah, stay and fix the stupid air conditioner. We can start over another time."
As the words came out, Riley realized she didn't know if he was married or involved with someone. Surely he hadn't acted as if he was, but that wasn't always proof either.
"Wait, let me say that again. If you aren't in a relationship, then maybe there's a chance for us," Riley said. "I'm sorry. That was a bit forward of me. I thought, after the way—how you—I didn't think you were involved is all."
"No, I'm the one who should apologize. Let me finish repairing the AC unit first, okay?"
Parts banged together louder than was necessary. Shane shoved all thoughts of the luscious brunette from his mind as he did his job. The return of cold air brought a loud yell from the front of the small house.
"About dang time we got relief." Bessie repositioned her ample weight in the old wooden rocking chair she claimed as her own. "Too bad it wasn't from getting laid."
Gasping at her grandmother's words, Riley shook her head. "I swear she's worse than a teenager some days!"
Drying her hands on a bright red towel, Riley leaned against the cupboard. She loved her grandmother, but the old woman was a pistol at times. When her parents divorced and moved away, they left a then sixteen-year old Riley with Bessie.
"All right, that should take care of the problem," Shane said, walking into the kitchen. "Keep this in case you have any trouble again. There's a warranty on the parts I installed."
Glancing at the papers, Riley only saw one thing. Shane had already signed his name at the bottom. The letters looped together so they formed one big scrawl. They fascinated her.
"Any questions before I go?"
"Are you married?" Riley blurted out the words even though she hadn't intended to.
"No, but I do have Max. He's three years old."
"You have a son?"
"Ah, well no, I'm far too innocent for that."
"Excuse me? You call what you did back there innocent?"
"Ma'am, I repaired your air conditioning unit," he said with a straight face.
"I see. Is that what you call it? Feeling up customers on the pretext of not looking where you're walking?"
"You distracted me."
"Oh no, you can't blame me for that. All I did was lead—"
The smirk left his face at the sight of Riley getting ready to throw the red towel at him. Anyone seeing them together would assume they had known each other for several years instead of minutes.
"Do you think we could go to dinner some night soon? You intrigue me."
"What about this weekend?" she asked, not hesitating to accept.
"I'll pick you up at four Saturday afternoon."
"That's perfect," she said. "Shane—"
Chuckling at how they both spoke at the same time, Shane motioned for Riley to continue.
"Today, the way I acted, I just want you to know that isn't typical for me."
"I'll see you in a couple days. Oh, and Max is my dog," he said, winking as he spoke.
Laughing as she closed the old door behind him, Riley leaned against the wall. She had so many questions she wanted to ask him. Yet, all she wanted to do was feel his lips on hers.
"We have any tea left?" Bessie asked from the living room, breaking into Riley's thoughts. "I'm parched."
"Be right there."
Deciding she would try to figure everything out later, Riley filled a glass with ice and tea. Setting it on a coaster next to her grandmother, she smiled.
"You're looking mighty pleased with yourself," Bessie said.
"Grandma, how long did you know grandpa before you went on a date with him?"
"Joe came looking for work. He was talking to my father out by the barn. I can still remember that day clear as if it just happened, Riley. That was well over fifty years ago now."
By now Riley was used to the way her grandmother rambled. Sitting on the sofa next to the rocking chair, she waited for the rest of the story.
"Mama had told me to get the laundry off the clothesline. I grabbed the basket and ran outside. Then I saw Joe and forgot what I was doing. There was this gigantic old oak tree that shaded the back yard. I walked right into it."
"You did not."
"I swear, Riley, I did. Landed flat on my backside, too."
Trying not to laugh, Riley covered her mouth. But when her grandmother chuckled, she joined in.
"Grandpa saw you?"
"Not only that, he ran over to see if I was okay," the elderly woman replied.
"That was nice of him. A lot of people, guys for sure, would just laugh."
"Oh, I'm sure he wished he had. I split my forehead open on the tree bark. Joe saw all the blood and passed out. He keeled over and landed right on top of me. Knocked the wind out of me, he did."
"I'm afraid to ask what you did next," Riley said.
"We pushed him over to the ground, but he didn't seem to be breathing. I put my ear up to his mouth so I could check. Crazy old fool picked his head up and licked it!"
"Did that really happen?"
Skeptical of the story, she cocked her head to the side and waited for the answer.
"Every last bit is true, I swear. With my father right there, I was mortified. Joe turned his head and gulped in some air. Then he wiggled around and pulled his handkerchief out of his back pocket. In all the commotion I had forgotten about hurting myself. Next thing I knew, he pressed that cloth over my forehead with the gentlest touch. That's when he said something silly about how we were bound forever."
"Hmph," Bessie muttered. "Maybe if I was old enough then to know what that meant. I was fourteen, and Joe was seventeen."
"So I guess you didn't have any sexual thoughts right away, either."
"That boy had me so confused. Times were different back then, Riley. Sex was for the sake of having children. Parents didn't talk with their kids about it. He started working for my dad that next day. Every time I saw him, I got this tingling feeling in my stomach. He was so handsome, with muscles and a flirty smile. Like the innocent I was, I cornered him in the barn one afternoon and told him. Lord, you talk about sparks!"
Riley struggled to imagine her pudgy, plain looking grandfather as a teenager. He had always looked the same to her.
"I never thought about dating. No, I went right on to thinking about the wedding," her grandma said, winking.
"Grandma, I'm shocked!"
"By the time I was sixteen, our parents realized they couldn't keep us apart any longer. Our first official date was the night he proposed."
"Did you ever wish you had dated anyone else?"
"Oh, child," Bessie replied, shaking her head. "When you find that one person for you, then you'll understand."
"I hope so."
"He's a looker, that repairman is. Lord, just imagine running your fingers through all that hair of his. If it's as silky as it is shiny—"
Riley clamped her mouth shut as soon as she spoke. But she knew it was too late. Her grandmother missed very little.
"How would you know that? Today is the first time he's been here."
"I meant to say I was sure it is. It must be," she said, the words sounding false even to her.
"You might as well save me from asking a bunch of questions and tell me. Else you'll fib and hesitate for the rest of the afternoon, and then I'll get the truth out of you anyway."
"We're going out to dinner Saturday."
"Back up, child," Bessie said. "Don't leave anything out either."
Talking about the brief interaction with the repairman made Riley blush. Her grandmother settled deeper into the old rocking chair and sipped her iced tea. When she finished, she stared out the window in silence.
"It's about time you noticed a man. Now, we need to get you something sexy to wear before then," Bessie said. "We'll go shopping tomorrow when you get home from work."
"There's no way you're picking out new clothes for me. No way," Riley said, shaking her head and crossing her arms.
"I know just the place. There's a new store in the mall that has some really hot stuff. Maude and I were there last week. You should see the bathing suit that woman bought. If she doesn't get laid after wearing that to the community pool, the men there are dead."
"Please, I don't want to think of Maude and those old men together."
"Aw, come on, girl. There's nothing wrong with sex at my age," Bessie said. "That is, if you can find an old geezer that can still get the thing up."
Despite the image that popped into her head, Riley laughed. "Fine. We'll go shopping."
Riley stared at her grandmother with disbelief. "You can't be serious? There is no way I am going to wear a dress like that."
"Try it on before you decide," Bessie said.
"There's nothing but a belt holding it together!"
Bessie snickered and winked. "That makes it easier for the repairman to get at the goods."
"Oh my god, I can't believe you said that. Flat out no. I'm looking for something a bit more . . . just more."
"Too chicken to see how it looks, Riley? Afraid you'll feel sexy for a change? Where's that adventurous girl who never turned down a dare?"
Grabbing the hanger, Riley glared at her grandmother and found an empty fitting room. The maize wrap dress had a notched collar and pleats at the waist. She slid her arms into place and pulled the sides around her. A self-tie belt held it snug to her body. Without looking at her reflection in the mirror, Riley left the tiny cubicle.
"I knew it! Girl, that's the one."
Riley began to shake her head when she saw herself in one of the huge mirrors. "Grandma, this dress didn't look the same way on the hanger."
Bessie smiled. "I watch one of those fashion shows on TV every night. A girl can learn a lot from them, Riley."
"I need shoes now. I wonder what style will go with this."
"Leave it to me. You go change, and then we'll get shoes," Bessie replied.
This time Riley didn't even question the older woman's choice. The leather sling sandal had an adjustable buckle and came in a creamy color to match the dress. Since Riley was already tall, the inch and a half heel was perfect.
"Where can I get a pedicure?" she asked on the way back to her car.
"I already made an appointment for us. You'll love the place."
"Grandma, thank you. I doubted you and I shouldn't have."
"You deserve someone in your life. That repairman has honest eyes. He's the one for you, Riley."
Even though she remained silent, Riley hoped her grandmother was right.
Riley was nervous. She hadn't been on a date for several months.
"Are you sure I look all right?"
"He'll be speechless," Bessie said, hugging her granddaughter.
"I'm being silly, aren't I? You would swear I was sixteen instead of twenty-seven."
The low rumble of an approaching car caught her attention.
"Honey, relax. He's a good man. I could tell the second I saw his eyes."
"I want him to like me."
"He does. Now scoot and I'll answer the door," Bessie said.
Shane knocked on the old door and waited. He held both bouquets of flowers in his hand, wondering if he should have gotten a box of chocolates as well.
"Impressive, young man," Bessie said after opening the door. "You're on time. And you brought flowers."
"Shane Boltz, ma'am. These are for you."
He held out the smaller bouquet and smiled.
"Been a long time since a man gave me flowers, she said, checking the young man's attire.
When she chose her granddaughter's dress, she had an idea of what he would wear. He hadn't let her down in his khakis, white shirt, and dark suit coat.
"Then the gentlemen around here are blind."
"Oh, you're on your toes. I like you. Come in while I find my granddaughter for you."
Riley stood off to his right several feet. The shadows in the room did nothing to hide the sparkle in her eyes.
"You're beautiful," he whispered.
Bessie watched as the couple moved closer to each other. Smiling, she slipped into the kitchen with thoughts of a wedding in her head.
"I brought you flowers."
"They're gorgeous. Thank you, Shane. That was very sweet of you."
She stared at him even as she inhaled the rich scent of the bouquet.
"If you could read my thoughts, sweet isn't the word you would use," he said, his gaze moving over her body.
"I wonder if they match mine."
Shane hissed and tried to control his body. "I intend to find out."
"I hope so," she replied, turning to put the flowers on the table. "Grandma can put these in a vase for me."
Neither said anything as they went out to his car. Shane opened the passenger side door and waited while she slid onto the seat. He forgot to breathe when the simple move revealed several inches of her thighs. Riley began to tug the material down.
"See something you like?" she asked with a flirtatious grin.
His brief nod was answer enough for her. He closed the door, knowing he was in trouble.
"I'm—" she said at the same time.
"I don't want you to think I'm some wicked pervert. This isn't like me at all."
"You mean you're not a sexy flirt all the time?" she asked, moving one long leg so her dress crept up higher.
"My god, you're lethal!"
"Oh, I think you're the dangerous one."
"I never act this way."
"That's too bad," she said, staring into his eyes.
"What would your grandmother say if she saw us?"
Riley laughed at the pained expression on his face. "She would cheer us on."
"I don't believe that."
"Who do you think picked out this dress, Shane?"
"You're kidding, right?"
"Nope, I'm serious. She took me shopping to a store where, in her words, they have really hot stuff."
"That's not the only thing hot," Shane mumbled as he started the car.
"Excuse me? I didn't catch that."
"Ah, I said we should be going."
Riley winked and buckled the seat belt. "Right, that was it."
Shane had made reservations at Steel Silk, a combination bar and restaurant, requesting a table on the patio. Overlooking a tributary of the river, the setting was both casual and romantic. The drive didn't take long, and soon Shane was helping Riley out of the car. He wanted to press her against the hood and devour her luscious body instead of going in for dinner.
"Me too," she murmured close to his ear. She kissed his neck and placed her hand over the bulge in his slacks. "But I prefer somewhere private when we make love."
She walked away, adding an extra sway to her step. Shane let his breath out and grinned. Jogging to catch up, he wrapped his arm around her. To anyone watching, they were a young couple in love.
"This is perfect, Shane. I've never been here before," she said after the hostess seated them on the patio. "Look at how the sun makes the water shimmer. And there's a mama duck with her babies."
"I love the outdoors. Maybe it's because I spend so much of my time inside every day."
Their dinners arrived, and they kept the conversation light. When they finished eating, Riley sipped her wine and chuckled.
"Something funny?" he asked.
"Grandma said you were a looker."
Blushing, Shane arched his eyebrow and grinned. "Maybe I should ask her out next time."
"Oh lord, that would thrill her. She's always complaining about the lack of men around here. Especially the ones who can . . ."
"Go on, Riley. I'm curious now."