When Life Happened(8)

By: Jewel E. Ann

“We sat on the top step.” Brady inspected the room, oblivious to any wrongdoing. “Uncle Gus said we were early.”

Parker pulled her hair out of its ponytail, slipped the band on her wrist, and combed through her dark, tangled strands still damp with sweat. “It’s not polite to eavesdrop.”

Gus met her expectant gaze with a shrug. “We didn’t have our ears pressed to the door. I’m sure anyone driving by with their windows down heard you.”

“And?” She set her gaze on Brady. “How did I sound?”

Brady’s grin reached his eyes. “Really good. I like that song.”

“Smart boy.” Parker held out her fist, and Brady bumped it with his.

“Where’s your breaker box? I need to get this done before Brady decides he likes you better than me.” Gus ruffled Brady’s hair.

“Downstairs.” Parker nodded toward the door to her right.

“I’ll be back, buddy.” He followed Parker down the rickety stairs. A musty smell enveloped them in the chilly, damp dungeon with mildew cracks snaking across the concrete floor. “Definitely has the odor of an old farmhouse.”

“Yeah, I don’t plan to come down here unless there’s a tornado.” She wrinkled her nose, giving him a quick glance over her shoulder.

“Parker.” He laughed. “These aren’t breakers; they’re fuses.” He brushed away a few cobwebs.

“Same thing. Right?”

Gus removed his hat then put it on backward, leaning closer to the old panel. “Yes and no.”

“You don’t know what to do with it, do you? I can call my dad or—”

Slowly, he turned his head, giving her a playful scowl. “Or what? An electrician?” Something about her made it impossible to distinguish the snarky woman with an evil grin from the innocent girl who forwent the opportunity to think before speaking.

Still, Gus enjoyed the way she squirmed, twisting her lips and looking at her nails. “Something like that.”

“Humor me and pretend for today that I’m a real electrician.”

“If you insist.” With her chin tucked to her chest, she glanced up at him with a playful batting of her eyelashes, a grin dominating her face.

Gus knew some guy would fall hard for Parker. Marry her—feeling like he owned the world for having found her. After all, she was gorgeous, sexy, playful, and fun—so much fun. Then she’d one-eighty on him. Flirting? Gone. Sexy? Nope, not for the husband. At least, that had been his experience with fun, beautiful women. Bait-and-switch.

He returned his attention to the fuse box. “I’m a little surprised with the work you and your dad did in this place that you didn’t have the wiring redone. It’s old and dangerous. This fuse panel increases your risk of fire by at least three times.”

“Don’t tell my mom. She has enough to worry about.”

“I’m serious.”

She sighed. “Fine. As soon as I get a job again, hopefully soon, I’ll start saving for new wiring. You have anyone you recommend?”

“I know a guy.” Gus grinned, but not like an electrician grinned at their customer; it felt more like the smile of a little kid hitting his first home run. In twenty-four hours, the girl next door had managed to remind him how miserable he was in his marriage, how much fun it was to flirt, and how much trouble she could cause in his life.

“So you’re not going to move my outlets today?”

“It would be smart to wait until everything gets rewired.”

“How much are we talking?” She crossed her arms over her chest.

“A few grand.”

Her eyes nearly sprang from their sockets. “Really? Well, that’s not happening for a while. For now, why don’t I pay you to move the outlets. What do you charge an hour?”

“Fifty dollars.”

“Alrighty then.” She returned a sharp nod. “You know … I think the extension cords are working just fine.”

“Relax, I didn’t say I was going to charge you anything. I’ll move them until I can find time to rewire your house at a neighborly rate.”

“What’s the neighborly rate?”

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