Stubborn as a Mule(8)

By: Juliette Poe

The first day I’m forced by court order to help the buyer of my ancestral home systematically take it apart and rebuild it into something I won’t recognize anymore, nor will I ever be able to say, “See that building right there? That is part of me, and I’m a part of it.”

Larkin’s gaze moves to something over my shoulder and I turn to see Melinda Rothschild coming down the front steps. She’s kept herself hidden over the last few hours, which is a good thing.

She’s damn distracting.

She’s also fully clothed now, which is welcome, because that was the distracting part I didn’t like. It’s hard to despise a gorgeous woman in sexy sleep clothes.

Tilting her head, she doesn’t spare me a glance but looks to Larkin as she hits the sidewalk. Her eyes flick to the box Larkin is still holding, then back up again. “I didn’t know you did deliveries.”

I turn to glance quizzically at Larkin, as I didn’t know they knew each other. Larkin’s expression says she knows very well who Melinda is, but not vice versa. Larkin gives her a genuine smile. “For my brother.”

Melinda jerks her gaze to me, her eyebrows knitted. “Brother?”

I nod. “Larkin’s my baby sister. You two know each other?”

Melinda gives a slight shake of her head. “Just from seeing her in the mornings for a cup of coffee and something to eat.”

Larkin pipes up. “We never did officially introduce ourselves. I’m Larkin, obviously.”

Melinda smiles. “Melinda. Well, my friends call me Mely. Nice to officially meet you.”

“Mely?” I blurt out, not sure why. Maybe I’m just a little taken aback by how well Larkin is getting along with the devil.

Ice-blue eyes cut my way. Melinda’s voice is sweet, but there’s no mistaking the ire. “I said my friends call me Mely. You’re not my friend.”

“Damn right,” I mutter as I turn to get in my truck, and I’m surprised to hear Larkin’s amused laugh behind me. She’s my champion in the family and I’m not sure what in the hell she finds funny about any of this, but I’m not sticking around to find out.

My dramatic exit is stunted the minute I close my door and see Larkin holding the box of cupcakes out toward me. Our eyes lock through the windshield, and while I want to just drive off so I don’t have to suffer another minute of Melinda’s presence, I want those damn cupcakes.

With a grunt of frustration, I hop out of the truck and stalk toward Larkin. I don’t bother looking at anything but the cupcakes. After grabbing them from my sister, I growl a gratitude at her and bristle as she laughs again when I turn back to my truck seeking escape from the true source of my frustration and disdain.

Sitting on my porch sipping a beer, I consider the lake and some early evening fishing. It’s a good way to relax, but I’m actually too wound up to even consider trying. The thought of lazily drifting in a boat with my pole dangling over the side sounds confining to me. Even though I’ve just finished up a ten-hour workday, I’m still vibrating with energy and don’t know what to do with it.

I’d have thought that a few hours removing cabinets from Mainer House on top of a full day working on the rebuild of Millie’s Bed & Breakfast, the town of Whynot’s only sleep accommodations, would have worn my butt out, but I’ve apparently still got some juice in me. The question is what to do with it.

Millie’s was torn down last year because the entire structure was on the verge of crumbling due to a terrible infestation of termites. It sat one block north of Mainer House, just over Crabtree Creek, and was a lovely historic home in its own right. Only problem was Millie didn’t take care of it over the years, then left it to three idiot sons who ran it further into the ground. One day, a guest was coming down the staircase and his leg punched right through one of the steps, fracturing his tibia. Millie’s sons got sued and when they realized how bad the infestation was, they threw their hands in the air and moved away from town. The building had been foreclosed on, but some corporation bought it a few months ago and decided to build a new bed and breakfast. It struck me as weird given how no one really comes to Whynot and we really don’t need lodging, but whatever. Tim Nichols at Whynot 1st Bank referred me to them and I was hired to do all the custom carpentry work once the frame and drywall went up.

I consider just taking a shower and calling it an early night. I consider heading back to Mainer House and annoying Melinda by insisting I work in the evenings too so she’ll be put out. I consider eating the last cupcake Larkin had given me because the three I ate for dinner didn’t satisfy me.