BLURBFirefighter and eco entrepreneur Walter Graham II is tired of dating beautiful, but unsettled women who don’t know what they want from life. He wants to date a woman who’s as smart as she is attractive—someone who can talk about interesting things—someone confident about her work. He wants to date Jane Fox, but the sexy older woman keeps coming up with logical reasons why a relationship could never work between them. Yet he has to keep trying because Jane is the only woman who has even turned on his body and his brain at the same time. If he could just get his reluctant ‘cougar’ into bed, Walter is sure he can give that smart mind of hers a lot more to consider than just their age difference.
Four days later, Walter walked under the ‘Welcome Back’ banner hung over the door of the office and found Amanda humming. The office was filled with vases and flowers. Come to think of it. . .he backed up and looked out at the sitting area. . .plants and flowers adorned every available surface. “I appreciate the warm reception, but don’t you think this is a bit much for people living on fixed incomes?”
“Don’t look at me or the residents here. Most of the flower shop is compliments of the adoring multitude of Mr. March fans that I had to run out of here yesterday. I let them hang the banner and leave the stuff, but told them they couldn’t wait here for you. You’re looking much better, by the way,” Amanda said a smile. “And lucky you, your hair even hides your stitches. You can’t even tell that a building fell in on you.”
Walter sank down into the chair across from her, thinking about all the times he had sat across from Jane. Hindsight was always 20/20. He should have told the chief to pull that damn photo from the second print run of the calendar. His energy level still hadn’t returned to normal yet. He had no resources to deal with all the stupid calendar publicity crap right now.
“Sorry about Daniel having to pull double shifts for a couple of weeks,” he said, watching Amanda shrug off his apology.
“Don’t even go there. Clinton’s out for six months to a year, but Eric will be back in two weeks when you are. We’re just glad you’re all alive. No worries—truly. We’ll deal with a few long shifts,” she insisted.
Walter nodded, feeling gratitude that she and Daniel were in his life. “So, Harrison said you took great care of the place while I was out.”
Amanda smiled again, fighting back a giggle this time. “Yes, I have. I even survived Dorothy Henderson’s offer to feel her fake breasts. It was fine. I’d always wanted to touch a set to see what they felt like anyway.”
“Oh, God. I forgot to warn you about how proud Dorothy was of her enhancements. Sorry,” Walter said, groaning at the thought of the older woman making such an offer to Amanda. “Glad you aren’t easily offended. That would definitely not work around here.”
“Yeah, I get that. Harrison filled me in on why she offers, and then told me a hilarious story about some guy’s girlfriend catching him in the process of checking them out. It’s crazy some days, but I do love it here. Even when we lose one. I guess Harrison told you that the resident in Willow #34 passed away. Her family is coming by next week to collect her things,” Amanda reported, refusing to think about how different she would have been feeling if Walter hadn’t made it out of the fire. And Daniel. . .that just didn’t bear thinking about. Daniel and Walter were as tight as most brothers.
“People dying around here is just one of the many things I don’t like about the people side of this business. Did Jane. . .” Walter paused as he drifted off.
He closed his eyes and called himself stupid for caring. Jane had come to see him that first day in the hospital, but hadn’t returned at all for the three days after. Not that he blamed her for staying away with his mother camped out in his room with him. His father had slept at his place, but even Harrison hadn’t been able to get his mother to leave his side. His parents had finally flown back to DC the day he was released. Now that the whole hospital thing was behind him though, he had to ask about the one person that hadn’t stayed in constant contact. Hope about her was all he had to keep him going. God, he was so lovesick it hurt.
“Did Jane Fox happen to call to say if she was coming by North Winds today?”
Amanda wrinkled her forehead. “Call? Why would Jane call you? She’s already here.”
“Here? Jane’s here? Like at North Winds?” Walter repeated, sitting up straighter.
“Yes. . .she is here,” Amanda answered slowly. “Are you sure you’re okay, Walter?”
“Of course. Why would I not be okay?” Walter asked.
“Because Jane’s been here every day, all day. I assumed you two had arranged it. She said she was working with you on your renovation projects. The architects certainly think she’s got the right to tell them what to do.”
“Jane? Yes, well she is working with me,” Walter confirmed. “I just thought. . .I mean, I didn’t know she was here. . . already.”
He had been worried he’d scared her away in the hospital. Instead, she’d been here—taking care of him in another kind of way.
“What’s she been doing with the architects?”
“Stalling until you get back. . .from what I can tell anyway,” Amanda said, shrugging. “She’s been trying to keep things from moving along too quickly, but at the same time, she’s been helping the architects make their final decisions about where to put the geo thermal pools.”
Walter stood. “Where is she now?”
“Out for coffee with Brenner, but they should be back shortly. They never stay gone long,” Amanda said.
“Brenner? Tall guy with long hair who thinks he’s God’s answer to every woman’s prayers?” Walter asked, bringing the image of the lean, confident architect to mind.
Amanda giggled. “Pretty sure that would be the one. Are you actually jealous of him being with Jane?”
“No. What makes you think I’m jealous?” Walter asked.
“Because you’re worried about Brenner, which means you have no clue,” Amanda said.
“No clue about what?” Walter demanded.
He frowned when Amanda laughed without explaining her comment. “It must be the lingering effect of the concussion. You’re making no sense,” he said.
“Understandable. I’m giddy because you just helped me win a bet. I told Daniel the woman you were crushing on was the woman at the restaurant, and that I was pretty sure she was the same one coming by work. If you’re getting that serious about Jane Fox, you need to introduce them. Daniel’s your best friend,” Amanda chastised, her attention going back to the computer screen to complete her task.
Walter shook his head as he walked out of the office to look for the woman who wasn’t in his life enough to introduce her to anyone yet. When he found Jane, she, Brenner, and the other two architects had their heads bent over a tiny computer tablet lying on top of the rock wall surrounding the resident swimming pool.
His elation to see Jane dressed in clothing that covered her from head to toe had his jaw relaxing. She was wearing a pair of her signature baggy pants today, with a white blouse straining across the front of her, and a sweater that was stretched to its limits while doing its best to help cover her breasts as well. He watched Brenner’s gaze lift from the tablet to Jane’s face as she talked, her hands illustrating whatever point she was making. The memory of holding her in the hospital while she cried in relief over him rushed in to offer reassurance. It helped him believe that Jane was interested in him very differently than she was in the accomplished architect.
“Hey—geo thermal pools dug yet?” Walter joked, his heartbeat accelerating at Jane’s instant, happy smile when she looked up and saw him. The woman could excite him with a glance.
Brenner walked around the others and held out a hand. “Good to see you, Mr. Graham. Jane told us what happened. How are you doing?”
“Much better—thanks,” Walter answered, thoughtful as his gaze moved from Brenner to Jane and back. “Call me Walter. Mr. Graham is my father. And my grandfather. They love that formal stuff, but I’m not into it. So has Jane been keeping things going?”
Brenner smiled broadly and nodded. “Yes. You have a great partner there. The only thing lacking is your approval of a plan. Jane insisted we not commit any of them to paper until you’d seen the workups. There are actually three to choose from.”
Walter nodded, not amazed at how much had gotten done without him. Or at least not amazed now that he knew Jane had been there all along. “Great. I’m excited. Can I see them now?”
“Sure,” Brenner said with a smile, his head inclining toward the group.
Walter walked over, deliberately standing behind Jane and as close as he could get to her pants covered rear. Grateful he’d worn his jeans today, he bumped her gently from behind. Her nervous grunt and surprised scoot back against him had him grinning and rubbing her arm in mock apology. Harrison would have said he was marking his territory so the other males would know how things were. That was as good an explanation as any. What he really wanted was to turn her around and kiss her until she was moaning in his arms.
“You are amazing, lady. Thanks for taking care of things while I was out,” Walter said softly, peering over Jane’s shoulder at what was on the screen.
“No problem, Walter. See what you think of this,” Jane said, cursing her suddenly shaky fingers as she swiped the screens back to the beginning of the last plan they had drawn up. She had let Brenner have free rein to keep him occupied, but also so there would be some comparison with the more moderate ones.
Donna McDonald's idea of success is to be on an airplane and see a fellow passenger reading one of her books. If the person is laughing or smiling, she will consider it a bonus.Her work history covers everything from housekeeper to business owner to college English instructor. It also includes an eighteen year stint as a technical writer, publications planner, and information architect in the corporate world. Her current career goal is to be a prolific, multi-published author for the rest of her life and write stories readers will love to read. She thinks a little travel and adventure would be nice, too.