“And you, why are you here?”

“You didn’t kiss him.” It’s a statement, not a question, and I lift my chin.

“You don’t know that. I could have been making out with him the entire time I was gone.”

“If that’s the case, he was doing it wrong, because you don’t look like you’ve been kissed.” The way he’s looking at me makes me want to know what I would look like after kissing him.

“Do you need me to walk Bruce to your house for you?”

“Bruce is fine. Why didn’t you answer my last text?” he asks as I head up the walkway past him to my front porch.

“I was on a date. It’s rude to text when you’re on a date.”

“It’s rude to ignore messages from your neighbors.”

“When your neighbor is annoying, it’s not.” I pull out my house key when I reach my front door and put it in the lock. I don’t open it; I turn to face Tyler, who leans in next to me. “Are you not going home?”

“Do you have any beer?”

I should tell him no and then tell him to go home, but there’s something about him that I like, even if he does exasperate me at the same time.

“Is that your way of asking if you can come in for a drink?” He shrugs. I pull in a breath, then let it out. “Fine, but the second you start to get on my nerves, I’m kicking you out.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“I’m sure.” I push open the door, and Bruce follows us inside. After I shut the door, I slip off my coat and look around for Mouse, but he’s nowhere in sight. “Bruce,” I call, and he comes toward me with his body shaking. “Do not eat my cat.” I bend over his big dog body and rub him down, then stand and look at his owner. “Beer’s in the fridge. I’m going to go change.”

“You look beautiful tonight, Leah.” Caught off guard by the compliment, I stare at him, unblinking. “Really beautiful,” he says before he turns away. Suddenly, my lungs feel funny, and my chest feels warm. “Go change. I’ll make sure Bruce doesn’t eat Mouse if he comes out of hiding,” he calls from the kitchen, where he disappears.

I rush to my bedroom and close the door and change into a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt and some slippers. When I reach the kitchen, Tyler’s holding Mouse against his chest with one hand and a beer in the other. Mouse, who is not normally okay with being held, is rubbing his head against Tyler’s jaw, and even from across the room, I can hear him purring.

“Did he come out of hiding, or did you find him somewhere?” I ask, going to the fridge to grab a bottle of wine.

“He was on top of the fridge. He jumped down at me when I opened the door.”

“He’s done that to me at night when I’ve come in here to get water. The first time it happened, I almost wet myself.” I smile when he laughs. I grab a wineglass from one of the glass-inlaid cabinets and pour myself half a glass, taking a sip as I walk the bottle back to the fridge.

“Do you have work tomorrow?”

“Yeah, tomorrow is my day to open the shop. My mom, my grandma, and I take turns.”

“What time do you have to be there?”

“Seven thirty. Saturdays start early and end late for me. Are you working tomorrow?” I lean against the counter across the kitchen from him.

“Yeah, the job I’m on now is running six days a week. The only reason it’s not seven is because it’s a church, and the pastor doesn’t want us messing up his sermon on Sundays.”

“That makes sense.”

“Do you work Sunday?” he asks, setting Mouse on top of my kitchen table before standing next to me and leaning back against the counter while he takes a pull from his beer.

I watch his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows, then answer his question. “We’re closed on Sundays. We used to be open, but most of our clients go to church, so it’s more cost efficient to close down the shop.”

“If you’re not busy, you wanna help me paint my kitchen Sunday?”

Normally I’d think we don’t know each other well enough for me to help him with something like that, but we did have a meal together, and I do find it easy to be around him. “I’m not very good at anything handy, so I don’t know how helpful I’d be.”

His eyes wander over me. “I’m sure I’ll find some way to use you.”

My nipples tingle, along with the area between my legs. His crass comment shouldn’t turn me on, but it does.

“So what do you say?”

“Sure,” I agree, and he smiles, taking another drink from his beer.

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