He laughed again, threw down the hose, grabbed his own sponge and they both started scrubbing the windows. “So tell me,” he said after a minute. “Are you planning to leave the front windows for me to do myself after I’ve helped you clean your car?”
Honey continued to scrub, the film wiping off easily in some places and harder in others. “Oh dear, you’ve caught onto my evil plan.” She finally glanced at him only to see him smiling at her. “I suppose I’d better tell you everything now.” She scrubbed at a particularly hard-to-get-off spot. “Before I came outside again, I soaped the other side of the living room window, so no matter how much you try to wash it off on the outside, it’ll be useless.” Honey threw her head back and did her best evil villain laughter imitation. The giggles that erupted afterward probably spoiled the effect.
Trevor chuckled, the sound low and deep. “That evil laughter thing. Do you use that on clients when you’re trying to sell houses?”
“Oh, yes, most definitely,” Honey assured him, nodding her head for emphasis. “It comes in really handy if they don’t like the place and I need the commission. They’re scared to turn me down.” She lifted a shoulder. “The whole, convert them into toads thing, and all that.” She winked at him.
“I thought evil toad conversions were in a different story, Goldilocks.”
“Goldilocks?” she turned to look at him. “What?”
“Sure. I finally figured out who you really are. Last night when I first saw you, your hair looked kind of curly. And you know, the whole eating my dinner, breaking my chair and sleeping in my bed thing.” He shrugged.
Honey smacked her sponge on the hood of her car and stared at him. “You lied to me!” She pointed with the dripping sponge. “You told me not to worry about it. You told me to forget the whole thing and now here you are bringing it up again!” Honey glared at him. “Anyway, it was porridge she ate, not dinner.” Her tone was self-righteous as she rounded the car and splatted the sponge against the passengers’ window in mock anger.
Honey had to force herself to keep the snooty look on her face. “Well, Mr. Perfect. You’re not all that, either. You don’t have any house numbers, you know. It confused me.”
“What? Yes I do.” He stopped what he was doing to head the ten feet or so down the driveway, Charlie at his heels. He stopped by on post, studied it for a moment, and shook his head. “Those kids are going to get it.” He crunched his way back across the gravel.
“See. I could accuse you of trying to trap unwary travelers. Like the troll in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, but did I? No, I refrained.”
“Wrong fairy tale, princess.”
“Goldilocks wasn’t a princess.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” said Trevor.
They both started laughing again and got back to work, washing not only the windows, but down the sides of the car as the soap scum drifted lower.
Honey glanced around at the pines and the starlit sky. “I’ve never washed a car in the dark before. It’s kind of fun.”
“It’s a good thing it’s a warm night. But then that’s why the boys were out.”
Honey breathed in deeply. The night air, mingled with pine and soap, smelled good. “I can’t believe those innocent little angels did this.”
“Innocent?” Trevor snorted.
“I can still hear the one kid screaming, his voice undulating with every step he took.”
They both laughed again. “And the way you ran after them,” she said. “I’ll get you my pretties.” Honey lifted her hands in the air, her fingers claw-like, but a stream of water from the sponge had her quickly lowering them.
“I did not say that. And I certainly didn’t do that thing with my hands either.”
Trevor paused in his washing to look over at her. “Are you always this sassy and disrespectful?”
“Actually no.” She grinned at him. “You seem to bring out the worst in me. So beware, because after I leave here, I may come back with a couple of rolls of toilet paper myself.”
“That’s it,” said Trevor, and rounded the car with his dripping sponge held up like a weapon.
Honey ran to the other side of the car and grabbed the hose. “I’m warning you, you’d better stop or I’ll shoot.” She placed her hand on the pressure handle and pointed it at him.
He didn’t stop.
Honey sprayed him full on, hitting him in the head and chest. She screamed. She couldn’t believe she’d done it! She dropped the hose and ran toward the house.
Trevor caught her from behind, eliciting another scream, and Charlie barked at his side. “Oh, no you don’t.” He pulled her against his wet body, squeezed his sponge, and dripped cold water across her shoulders. “Good thing for you it has soap in it or this would be on the top of your head.”
Honey was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. Trevor hefted her, stomach down, over one shoulder, walked to the porch, and dumped her feet first onto the wood. Now it was his effortless strength that left her breathless.
Trevor pointed to the window. “Now get to work. And do the job right.” He squinted at her, his narrowed eyes dusky and compelling. “Both inside and out if it needs it.”
“Slave driver,” she said. “Just like the wicked stepmother in Cinderella.” Her voice was slightly breathless, but could she help it?
He walked toward the car. “I’ll take the troll under the bridge,” he turned his head to throw the words over his shoulder. “At least he was a guy.” Trevor headed over to rinse the car and Honey, laughing, set to work on the window.
Fifteen minutes later Honey gathered her things, washed her face, brushed her teeth, dressed in her pajamas, and shut the guest room door behind her. She grabbed her phone, sat on the hard mattress and speed-dialed Christian’s number.
“Hello?” he answered.
Relief rushed through Honey. “Christian! You’re there!”
“Hey, babe. I’ve been trying to call you all night.”
Honey propped some pillows against the headboard and lay back. “I know. I called back as soon as I could.”
“Well, it’s good to hear your voice.”
His words, the happy tone, had her smiling. “Likewise. I really miss you.”
“I miss you too, babe.”
Tension eased out of her and she relaxed into the pillows. Apparently he was over being angry about her trip to Redding and she couldn’t be happier.
“So what are you up to?” he asked.
“Hmm. Well, the brokerage class is going well. And tonight I had dinner with the clients I came here to see.” She thought about telling him about the mix-up and her stay with Trevor, but didn’t. It wasn’t a big deal anyway, right? Elizabeth was staying here, too. But Honey felt a twinge of uneasiness about her desire to hide the situation.
Christian yawned. “Oh, yeah? How did that go?”
“It’s definitely not a done deal yet. But the family is nice. So what have you been doing while I’ve been gone?”
“Oh, the usual. Slaying dragons, gathering food, and healing the sick. Well, maybe not the dragon part. But I have been eating out and filling prescriptions, so...”
“So how is Redding?” His voice cooled considerably when he asked the question.
“Fine.” She ignored his tone and tried to stay upbeat. “It’s pretty here.” She paused, then added, “I’m hoping you can come up for at least one weekend while I’m here. Maybe even both.”
“If you’d have signed up for a class closer to home, maybe I would.”
Honey sighed. It looked like he was still mad, after all.
“Come on, don’t be like that. You travel for work sometimes, too. And I told you--I came here so I could help out my boss. That’s always high on your to-do list at work, right? Why can’t you understand?”
“Maybe I didn’t like the way you just announced it without asking me if it was all right.”
Like Christian ran it by her when his boss wanted something. Honey rubbed her forehead. “I’m sorry. Look, if it makes you feel any better, this thing for Nick is turning into a fiasco and I wish I’d stayed closer to home.”
What didn’t make
feel better was trying to placate him when she really didn’t feel she’d done anything wrong.
Christian expelled a long breath. “Look I don’t want to fight with you. I have something important I want to talk to you about. Now I know this is kind of abrupt and we haven’t discussed this or anything, but I’d like for us to move in together.”
Honey’s brows rose. “What? But why? We’re getting married in four months.”
“Now hear me out,” said Christian. “A friend of mine just moved in with his girlfriend, and they’re saving a lot of money. The way I see it, if I move out of my apartment and into your place, we could save on rent and--”
“No. Absolutely not.”
Christian sighed, his exasperation obvious. “You didn’t even think about it.”
“I don’t need to. When we get married, we’ll move in together. That’s soon enough. We can work on paying off bills then.”
Christian sighed again. “You need to look at this logically. I still have student loans to pay off and a few other bills. I don’t want to burden you with that. And didn’t you say you’re trying to pay down your mortgage faster? If we move in together, we can cut our bills in half. Then we can pay off everything sooner and we won’t have to put the wedding off.”
Put the wedding off? Honey’s heart started a slow pound, her fingers tightened on the phone, and she sat up. Her mouth opened, shut, then opened again. “I wasn’t aware we were putting the wedding off. Are you saying you want to?”
“Be logical. Until we’re debt free, I think it would be wise, don’t you?” asked Christian, his tone self-righteous.
She was well-aware Christian was paying her back for her lack of excitement over his idea. “Christian, I’d like to remind you that
to marry you.”
He didn’t respond.
Honey took a breath. “We’re not moving in together until we’re married. I won’t change my mind.”
Christian hung up on her.
Honey slowly pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the screen. Call ended. She considered giving him the benefit of the doubt. It was possible they’d lost the signal. Possible he’d call back.
But not very likely.
Her eyes and nose burned as she tried to hold back tears. She pressed a palm to her forehead.
Was she wrong to want the romance? She didn’t want to be tried out like a new car that might be found lacking and returned. She didn’t want logic. She wanted him to act like a gentleman.
Honey thought of Trevor. This evening he’d opened every door they’d encountered. He’d tried to make her comfortable. He’d made her laugh.
Granted, she’d barely met him, and didn’t really know him, so the comparison probably wasn’t fair to Christian. But she didn’t feel fair.
If the boys had soaped Christian’s window, he’d have thrown a long and loud fit and called the police. Trevor could have caught those kids. But he didn’t. Instead he’d turned the situation into something funny and they’d had a good time cleaning up.
And what if she’d accidentally stumbled into Christian’s house? Would he have gone out of his way to make her comfortable? Or called the police?
A muffled barking from outside had her standing and pacing across the room. Christian could be sweet, too, she reminded herself. There was a lot to like about him. He was good-looking, fun to be around, ambitious, and could be very loving.
He was just out of sorts at the moment. Nervous about commitment? She wasn’t sure.
Honey lifted a slat in the blinds and looked out the bedroom window to see Trevor looping the hose they’d used to wash windows, as Charlie danced around him.
She let go of the blinds. That wasn’t the issue at the moment. What mattered was she wasn’t putting up with Christian’s jerky behavior any more. They needed to talk this out. Maybe if he knew how she felt, he’d be more understanding.
Honey took a shaky breath and dialed Christian’s number. He didn’t answer, of course, so she clenched her teeth, waited for the tone and left a message.
“Christian, it’s Honey.” She paused. “Look. I wanted to discuss this with you, but once again, you’re not answering the phone. I’ve about had it. You’d better answer from now on. If you don’t, I won’t call again, or pick up your calls, either. Then you might not need to worry about moving the wedding back, because there won’t be one to move.”
She hung up the phone, and this time, let the tears fall.Chapter Six
The phone rang, waking Honey, and she scrambled for it, flipped the lid, and pulled it under the covers with her. “Hello?”
“Yes. Did I wake you?” The familiar, fast-paced voice clipped down the line.
Honey lifted her head and squinted at the bedside clock. “It’s okay. My alarm was just about to go off.” Rolling out of bed, Honey turned off the alarm, stood, and arched her back which ached a bit from the hard mattress.
“So, how are the classes going? I can’t wait for you to get your license so you can start looking for a new job. Hopefully in L.A. Hint, hint.”
Honey laughed. “Christian and I are planning to settle in Napa, Mom. I’ll still be working for Nick.”
Her mother sighed. “Well, I can always hope.”
Honey yawned. “How is everyone?”
“Fine. Dad says hello, and Chance and Sophia are doing well. Abby’s a little pill. We babysat her yesterday and she’s trying to walk.” She laughed. “We can’t wait for more grandchildren. That was another hint, in case you were wondering. Let Christian know I’m putting in an order for grandchildren as soon after the wedding as you can manage it.”
Honey chuckled. “What, no honeymoon?”
“Hey, that gives you a nine-month honeymoon. How much longer do you need? That’s all I got before we had you and I was only twenty-one. We sure like him, by the way. I think you picked a winner. He’s perfect for you. And you do need to hurry. I have a friend whose daughter married later in life and couldn’t have kids, so it’s a good thing you’ve found Christian now. You’d better get hopping.”