Of course, he’d probably make fun of them.
She felt a stab of guilt at the thought. Christian was a great person and she was just mad at him right now. And it wasn’t his fault he was the only child of older parents and that togetherness wasn’t his thing. He loved her and that was all that mattered.
Honey tried to think of a way to leave gracefully so she could call him.
The doorbell chimed and a moment later one of the kids screamed, “Daddy!”
A tall, blond man, came into view carrying a clinging child, his gaze searching the room. “Hi. Is Elizabeth here?” He sounded uncertain, timid.
Laura, sitting on the arm of her husband’s chair, answered, “No, I’m sorry, but she’s not.”
The man grimaced, looking on the verge of tears. “Does anyone know where she is? I really need to talk to my wife.”
“Jason, is there a message I can pass on to her?” Laura asked, her tone kind.
Jason looked at Greg Baron, who leveled an unfriendly glare. Jason’s shoulders sagged and his gaze fell. “Will you just have her call me?”
“I’ll tell her,” said Laura.
Jason got down on his knees, hugged his son and daughter, whispered something, kissed them, and stood. He obviously wanted to say more to Laura, but glanced down at his kids and remained silent. He nodded once, tousled his son’s hair, then left. A moment later the snick of a door sounded in the now silent room.
“I’m going to call Elizabeth,” said Amber.
Laura nodded, and Amber fled to the kitchen.
Everyone started talking again, and Linda rose from the couch and crossed to Laura as Mandy came to sit beside by Honey.
“That’s just so sad,” said Mandy.
Honey wasn’t sure of the specifics, but it was obvious there were marital problems. “Yes, it is.”
Mandy settled her newborn daughter on her lap and cooed down at the baby.
Honey reached out and held a small fist. The baby latched onto her finger and Honey chuckled. “She’s darling.”
“Thanks. We love her.”
After another surreptitious peek at her watch, Honey glanced at Trevor. Across the room, Mandy’s other girls crawled on him as he lay on his back on the floor, and Honey smiled at the sight. She couldn’t believe she’d ever been afraid of him.
Mandy followed her gaze. “Marriage is hard anyway, but when both people aren’t committed,” Mandy shrugged. “It can turn really bad, really fast. That’s what happened with Trevor, too, you know. His wife was a real piece of work. She--”
Honey lifted a hand. “Oh, please, I don’t think I should hear this.”
Mandy nodded. “You’re absolutely right. When Trevor’s ready, I’m sure he’ll want to tell you himself.”
The knowing tone had Honey’s eyes widening. Was Mandy
Why would she think...Honey stilled and realized the family has been subtly matchmaking all night. She’d been seated by him, everyone had taken turns praising him, and now Mandy implied they’d be sharing life stories.
Honey straightened her spine as alarm rippled through her. “I should probably be going. My fiancé is expecting a call tonight.”
Good grief. Trevor was nice and, okay, even with a beard she’d admit he was attractive. But even if she weren’t engaged, he was still too old for her.
Honey gave Trevor a little wave and he disentangled himself and crossed the room. “Are you ready to go?”
“Okay. Mom, Dad, we’re taking off.”
“All right, Sweetie,” said Laura. “I’m glad you both came tonight. Bring Honey to dinner again on Saturday, will you?”
The invite made it sound like they were a couple.
Or was she being too sensitive? Either way, she was out of there. Honey thanked everyone, said her goodbyes, and followed Trevor.
Apparently she needed to tread carefully as she tried to purchase the property. The last thing she wanted was to hurt any feelings.
A few minutes later, arms and legs crossed, Honey sat very close to the passenger door and stared straight out the windshield as Trevor drove them home.
It was getting dark, and the low light gave a somewhat intimate feel to the inside of the truck. Or was that just her imagination?
She flipped a hank of hair over one shoulder and the gesture felt flirtatious, sexy. She quickly crossed her arms again.
Had she brought the matchmaking on herself tonight? Had she been flirting with him earlier? Honesty made her concede she might have been.
It was just that once she’d gotten past his gruff exterior, he was easy to relax around. He was a likeable guy and fun to tease.
He made her smile.
The teasing had been more like a game at first, a sort of challenge to see if she could break through his unfriendly reserve. Then later, the banter had just felt natural. But it was just joking around between friends. Right?
The phone vibrated in her purse and she pulled it out and checked caller ID.
She rolled her eyes.
Now he called.
Great timing on his part. She’d like to take the call, but not only would it be rude to Trevor, but she’d feel uncomfortable explaining to her fiancé that she was in a truck with a guy he didn’t know. She stuffed the phone back in her purse.
“You seemed to hit it off with Mandy tonight,” Trevor’s deep voice broke the silence. “She’s a great girl.”
Honey nodded and continued to stare straight ahead. “Yes. She’s very nice.”
There was another long pause.
“I noticed you had the chicken tonight at dinner. Was it any good?”
Honey glanced at him. “Yes.”
“I only ask because my mom and dad have an ongoing war with the seasonings. Mom thinks marinating is enough, and Dad has a special seasoning he insists on adding. But only if she doesn’t catch him.”
Honey couldn’t help a smile. “Well, it was very good.”
There was another pause, but Honey was starting to relax.
“I’m glad you could come with me tonight,” said Trevor.
Honey tensed again. The words were definitely something a guy might say to his date. “Thank you.”
“My family can be a little overwhelming.”
“No, they’re great,” said Honey.
He stopped talking.
Honey looked out the side window and watched the darkening pine trees rush by. No one liked to be shut down, which was what she was doing with her short, ‘answer only if spoken to’ comments. She’d probably hurt his feelings.
Her fingers clenched, bunching into the material of her blouse. What was she supposed to do? She was nervous around him now, where she hadn’t been before. She wasn’t that great an actress.
She considered staying at a hotel. She still needed to talk to Mr. Baron, but surely now that they’d socialized they could get together at his office in town?
Trevor blew out a breath. “Look, Honey. I know my family was a little obvious tonight and I apologize.”
Honey turned toward him cautiously. She didn’t want to stick her foot in her mouth by jumping to wrong conclusions. “What do you mean?”
“They’d love to see me married again and so they throw girls my direction every chance they get.” He glanced at her, then back at the road. “But don’t worry. I don’t have any designs on you.”
Honey sighed. “I guess I was a little uncomfortable.”
Trevor smiled. “Just remember. You don’t get to choose your family, and mine seems to think it’s their duty to embarrass me.”
Honey chuckled, relaxing a little. “They’re very sweet.”
“You can say that because you aren’t related to them.”
“Friends?” asked Trevor and he held out his hand.
She studied his profile, lit by the glow from the dashboard, and the gathering twilight. Just because his family had been matchmaking didn’t mean she should take it out on him. He really was a nice guy.
“Friends.” Honey slipped her own hand into the large warmth of his and they shook once and let go.
Pulling back, she laid her hand on her lap and fisted it. Friendship was good. The fact that her hand tingled from palm to fingertip from the contact with his wasn’t his fault. She wouldn’t hold it against him.
Getting to know Honey better was obviously going to take some strategizing on Trevor’s part. He’d told her he had no designs on her.
Okay, not entirely true.
He did want to spend time with her and see if the sparks he felt could possibly be reciprocated. But it hadn’t taken a rocket scientist to tell she’d been upset or what she’d been upset about.
So the lie had been necessary, he assured himself.
He tried to think of something to say, some great conversation re-starter, but felt inexplicably tongue-tied and they arrived home too fast, of course. It wasn’t like he could drive at twenty miles per hour without causing suspicion.
Pulling into the driveway, Trevor was still trying to think of a way to spend more time with her, to get to know her better without making her nervous, when his mouth fell open and he
slammed on the brakes.
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Toilet paper was strewn across the lawn and in the trees. The windows of Honey’s car were soaped with a white film, and the little vandals responsible were frozen in fear by the huge, mostly soaped front window of his house.
Trevor cut the engine and exploded out of the truck.
“Why you rotten little hoodlums! What do you think you’re doing?”
The three boys screamed, jumped off the porch, and ran.
Come back here!”
Trevor chased them across the lawn, his feet ripping through ribbons of toilet paper. The boys bounded onto bikes and took off, pumping their legs as fast as they could, one boy still screaming.
After a few yards, Trevor stopped chasing them.
“Yeah, you’d better run.”
Breathing hard, he raised a hand and pointed, emphasizing the words.
“When I catch you, you’re going to wish I hadn’t!”
Trevor watched them for a moment, then turned back to Honey. She leaned against the side of the truck, arms crossed, watching
Charlie’s frenzied bark sounded from the back yard.
Uneasiness had Trevor’s stomach clenching. Like an idiot, he’d lost his temper in front of Honey. His wife had hated that about him. He walked back toward her, intent on explaining. “Look. The yelling.” He waved a hand. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Honey laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. You convinced me. What are you going to do when you catch them? Boil them in oil, stake them to an ant hill, or drown them in the nearest lake?” she teased.
Relief poured through him and he smiled. “The oil thing is good, but it might take too long to heat. The lake is closer.”
She laughed again.
He walked a few feet forward, then stopped. “It didn’t mean anything. I’m not really that mad at them. I did worse when I was a kid.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why they’re bugging me so much lately. I guess they’re just scared of my reputation, and that makes me the man to tweak if they want to prove themselves.”
Honey’s smile didn’t waver.
It made up his mind.
She could be the girl for him, and he’d like the chance to find out. He would actively court her. He’d just have to make good and sure she didn’t know he was doing it.
Suddenly grateful to the boys for giving him an excuse to spend more time with Honey, he said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll help you clean your windows if you help me clean mine. Deal?”
Honey looked at her car windows, and chuckled. “Deal.”
They both went upstairs to change clothes, and Honey slipped into a tee-shirt, sweat bottoms and flip flops.
She really wanted to call Christian right away, in fact, was anxious to do so, but since the call would take a while, and since she needed to help clean up the mess, she left it until later.
Honey went back outside and started to gather up the toilet-paper and put it in the garbage can by the side of the house.
A few minutes later, Trevor brought out a large bucket, some towels and sponges. He glanced to where she stood, picking tissue out of a bush. “I’ll be right back to help.”
He went around the side of the cabin and came back a minute later with a hose and Charlie. Charlie ran straight to Honey, then dashed back and fourth across the lawn, biting at the toilet paper and then running back to her. Honey laughed at his antics.
“He likes you,” said Trevor. He hooked up the hose and pretended to squirt her.
Honey squealed, then laughed when she realized he was only joking and no water sprayed in her direction. “Don’t you dare, or you’ll be picking up wet toilet paper out here by yourself.”
Trevor chuckled and it made Honey grin back at him. He seemed so serious that making him laugh felt like an accomplishment. The unwanted side effect was that the way he was looking at her left her light-headed.
The porch light illuminated the planes and angles of Trevor’s cheeks, making her wonder what he looked like under the beard. For some strange reason, she was attracted to the guy, she just wasn’t sure why.
It was obvious he wasn’t her type. He was bigger than average, then there was the beard, and the fact that he was too old for her, and, oh yeah, there was also the fact that she was engaged to Christian.
But still, she was engaged, not blind, and the guy did something to her. She needed to stop looking at him.
She finished gathering up the tissue and then followed Trevor to where he was spraying down her car in the driveway. He threw a little stream her way.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re just begging for trouble, aren’t you?” She dipped one of the large sponges into the water and lifted the dripping mass. “I’m armed and I’m dangerous. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.”