She frowned. “But I need it.”
I pointed to the piles of crap on several surfaces. “You need all these batteries, receipts, pens, and chump change? You need all these magazines, opened letters, candy wrappers, and empty take-out cups? Really? Now I’ll support your pen obsession, but that’s it.” I opened her closet. And sighed sadly. “Oh, Sarah.” She had a real floor-drobe going on. “How do you find anything in this nest of clothes?”
“If I pile them in the drawers, I can’t properly see what’s there.”
“So roll each item up and place them side by side.”
She considered that a moment. “Huh. That would work.”
I glanced around. “I guess we should get started.” We put on some music, poured ourselves some wine, and then we got to work.
For hours, we scrubbed, scoured, mopped, polished, and vacuumed. The worst mess was in the bathroom. Going by the dirty grout and the badly soiled toilet pan, it hadn’t been leaned in a while.
We then decluttered each room, organized her closet and cupboards, threw away her out-of-date products, and bagged the clothes she no longer wanted so we could take them to the local charity store.
As I worked, my mind drifted. Calmed. And the edginess that had made me twitchy all day finally left me.
When we were done, I blew out a breath. Even though my back ached, my hands hurt, and I had a headache from the overpowering smell of bleach, I felt good. Lighter.
Sarah practically flung herself on the sofa. “God, that was awful. Never again. I’m never letting the place get in that state again. Ever.”
We both knew that was wishful thinking on her part.
Hearing my phone beep, I tensed. Each time I got a notification on my cell, I wondered if it was another email from ‘Smith.’ So far, there had been nothing more from him.
Licking my lips, I dug the phone out of my purse and checked it. There was an email, but it wasn’t from Smith. The tension fizzled away, but my annoyance didn’t fade. I was sick to death of reacting this way each time I heard that damn beep.
“Everything okay, Kenz?”
I blinked at Sarah. “Fine.”
She didn’t seem convinced, but she didn’t push it. I suspected it was only a matter of time before she got on my case about it, though. That suspicion proved correct. A few days later, I was wiping a table when Sarah whispered into my ear, “At some point, you and I will be having a conversation about whatever has you so distracted.”
“I’m just a little preoccupied. That happens when I’m near the end of a book.”
Sarah shook her head. “This is different. This isn’t just you drifting in and out of the present. You keep scanning the bar, looking all suspicious.”
She was right. I regularly glanced around the bar, mentally taking note of everybody who came and went. I’d thought I was being subtle about it. Apparently not.
“Has that Linton guy done something to worry you?”
“No. He left me a couple more voicemails, but that’s all.”
“Then what’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Noticing the time, I dumped the cloth behind the bar and spoke to Reed, “I’m taking my break.” He just nodded. I turned. And almost bumped into Sarah, who apparently wasn’t done poking at me.
She opened her mouth to speak, but then the door swung open and … it was weird, but it was like the air changed. Charged, even. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Blake Mercier had entered. My stomach fluttered, which I totally ignored. Or, at least, I tried to.
“Going by the blush on your face,” began Sarah in a whisper, “I’m guessing that’s Mercier. No wonder he had you flustered. He has some really potent sex appeal going on.”
Reaching the bar, he said to Reed, “Coffee. Black.” Although he hadn’t tacked on a “please,” the words didn’t sound rude.
“To take out or in?” asked Reed.
Reed turned to me. “Kensey, can you fix this guy a black coffee to-go before you take your break?”
“Sure.” As I prepared Blake’s order, I felt his gaze on me, but I didn’t look at him. Not even when I placed his cup on the bar and slid it toward him. I wasn’t being a coward. It was just that eye contact … well, my body always got all tingly when we locked gazes. I didn’t need that crap.
I also didn’t need that my hormones were doing yet another happy dance.
As such, I continued to pay him no attention as I retreated to the breakroom to grab my cell and water bottle from the locker. I again ignored him as I headed through the bar and outside, where I settled on a bench. Comfortable, I then opened the notepad app on my phone.
My thumbs tapped on the screen like crazy, writing down the scene that had been playing out in my head like a movie for hours. It had killed me not to take a moment to jot it down on my notepad app earlier, but I couldn’t exactly pause work and dash to the locker to grab my phone each time an idea struck me.
I jotted down every detail, every movement, as I ‘saw’ my character, Eve, return to her newly bought home. Saw the character tense at the sound of a child giggling upstairs. It was a sound she’d heard before. A sound that shouldn’t have been there, since no one else lived in the house …
Eve gripped the banister as she climbed the stairs. She could hear her heart pounding like crazy in her chest and the ticking of the grandfather clock. But no more giggling. Still, she’d heard it. She had.
She froze as light footsteps raced along the landing—a child’s footsteps. There was another giggle. The sound was full of mischief, like a kid playing hide and seek who couldn’t help chuckling under the strain of needing to stay quiet. But there was something else in that sound. Something … sly. Dark. Wrong. And it—
A voice shoved its way into my mind and wrenched me out of the scene. Blinking, bringing the outside world into focus, I noticed Blake standing a few feet away. I also realized he was staring at my mouth … and that my tongue had peeked out to touch my lip, just as it often did when I was concentrating. His face was totally blank, but his eyes glittered with intensity.
My heartbeat kicked up and butterflies took flight in my stomach. “I’m sorry, what?” I asked.
“I said, Cade’s right—you make good coffee.”
“Um, thanks.” Determined to escape the sexual tension that was building, I went back to my notepad app, read over what I’d written, and plunged myself back into the scene. Once again, I was in the big house, surrounded by magnolia walls and stylish furnishings as Eve—
“How long have you worked here?”
I ground my teeth. “A while.” Before I could lose the tender threads that I still had on the scene, I returned straight back to the story. Standing in Eve’s house once more, I again heard that giggle …
Eve swallowed. She should go back downstairs, she thought. She’d tried following the giggles before, but it always came to nothing. As if someone—or something—just liked the idea of toying with her. “Fuck that,” she muttered, turning to go back down the stairs. And then she heard something else. Not a giggle. Not a footstep. It was a—
“How long is a while?”
Snapping back to reality yet again, I clipped, “Four years.”
His eyes narrowed at my tone. “Prickly little thing, aren’t you?”