Page 21 of Hot Mess

Thank God she’d covered all the cabinets.

They were brand new.

She threw her hands in the air, sending paint splattering everywhere.

Including on me.

“Shit!” The word escaped me before I could stop it, and I threw up my hands to stop it slamming in my face.

“Oh, my God!” She covered her mouth with her hands, but one of those hands still held the paintbrush. More paint flicked with her movement, and she screamed, dropping the brush on the floor.

More paint.

“I’m so sorry!” She grabbed a towel and rushed to me, lifting it to wipe my face. “I had no idea you were there.”

“I should hope not. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from hearing you sing.”

Her cheeks flushed bright red, but she reached up and wiped paint from my hair. “I didn’t—I forgot the time,” she stammered. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry.” I took the towel from her and wiped my face with a clean part, then handed it right back. “You need this more than me. Trust me. You look like you got in a fight with an art store.”

She looked down at herself, at the smears and splatters on her legs and clothes. “Right. I’m okay. It’s just paint.”

“You have a big… right here.” I motioned to my own cheek, running my fingertip from my right temple down my face and onto my neck.

She patted her cheek and looked at her palm. “That’s why you don’t paint and dance.”

“Not that it stopped you, judging by those dad moves.”

She blushed again. “You watched me?”

“It was a little hard not to. It’s like those trainwrecks where you know it’s all going to go to shit, but you can’t stop watching.”

“Reality TV, essentially.”

“Yes. Pretty much. How are you doing in here?”

She looked around the room and bit down on her lower lip. “Well, there’s room for improvement.”

Laughing, I traced the path her gaze had just taken. It was the most mismatched painting I’d ever seen, but at least she’d tried.

“All right. I have a few hours. It won’t take long with both of us painting. Do you want to roll and I’ll edge?”

“I have absolutely no idea what you just said to me. Is that some kind of freaky sex thing?”

I picked up the paint roller and held it up. “A paint roller. To put the paint on the walls.”

She laughed into her hand. “Right. Sorry. Of course. That was inappropriate.” She took the roller and handed me the paintbrush she’d been using.

I fought back a smile and dipped the brush in the paint.

Bloody hell. Why was I smiling? I didn’t like this woman, nor did I have any intention of changing my stance on her.

But it was hard to hate someone who danced and sung as badly as she did while wearing booty shorts. Especially when those shorts showed off long, lightly tanned legs that had the muscle tone of one of those weird people who liked running.

I turned my back to her and got to painting. Why had I agreed to come and help her? I never should have let her talk me into letting her paint the room, even if she was doing it out of a little guilt. At that point, there really was no way I couldn’t not help.

I’d look like an absolute arsehole if I just left her to it.

I was torn. While I had no intention of being her friend—I couldn’t wait for her to leave, actually—I had the unique chance to get to know the person my daughter idolized.

I had no idea why she idolized her.

As far as I knew, all she did was curl her hair and give interior design tips.

Actually, I could use the latter.

“So, explain to me why nine-year-old girls think you’re God’s gift to the internet.”

Elle snorted, then coughed so hard she had to bang her chest with her fist. “Well, it’s not for my elegance or grace, that’s for sure.”

I smirked, glancing over my shoulder at her.

“I don’t know, if I’m honest. I started vlogging when I was in college as a way to fill time, and later it was a way to earn some money while I studied.”

“College?”

“Yes. Is it that surprising that I have a degree?”

“Well, you curl your hair on the internet. I didn’t know you needed a degree for that.”

CHAPTER SEVEN – THEO

Shit.

I didn’t mean to say that out loud.

Tentatively, I peered back at her.

She had one hand on her hip and stared at me with her lips curved in a wry smile, with the barest hint of laughter sparkling in her eyes. “If I had somewhere else to go, I might have beaten you with this paint roller for that.”

“I probably deserve it.”

“You’ll get no arguments there from me.” She put the roller on the tray and picked up a half-empty bottle of water. “I actually have a degree in psychology. I was going to continue my education when I graduated, but I saw my sister qualify as a psychologist and I knew it would impact my ability to vlog, and at that point, I was making a ton of money.” She paused. “That sounds really shitty when I say it like it.”

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