but twenty thousand dollars is a bit steep.”
“It is,” he murmured in agreement, “but it needs it.”
“It does,” she agreed, rolling the apple between her hands as she thought about the cost, the time it would take to complete the renovations, and the hassle of dragging her camera, pots and pans, cooking equipment, and ingredients across town to Sara’s place so that she could use her best friend’s kitchen.
Then again, that might not be a possibility since Sara’s husband felt that she was a bad influence and usually went out of his way to provoke her into screwing with his head. She really didn’t know why he didn’t like her since she was such a joy to be around. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she’d kicked him in the junk at the eighth-grade dinner dance after he’d promised to take Sara to the dance only to end up taking another girl?
She thought that over for a minute before quickly dismissing it, because if anything, he owed her his gratitude for reminding him of his previous obligation since it had led him to realize just how special Sara was and marrying her. Maybe he was still mad at her for crashing his bachelor party? she wondered only to shrug it off as well, because she simply didn’t care.
“Why don’t we look for someone else to do the work?” Eric suggested with a pointed look at the apple for her to move her ass.
“There is no one else.”
“There has to be.”
“You would think,” she said, peeling an apple and placing it in a bowl of ice water before she grabbed another apple. “I’ve asked around, but Mr. Parker is the only contractor that has the availability.”
“Maybe we could do it ourselves,” he suggested, making her pause mid-peel, because that was actually a pretty good idea.
Well, not him, because of that whole throws like a girl thing, but she could probably do most of the work and find a handyman to do what she couldn’t. It could work, she decided as she thought of everything that she was going to have to do to get this project moving. She was going to need a hammer, she thought as she looked around, amending that decision when she took in the cabinets and countertop.
She was going to need a big hammer to tear this room apart.
Of course, that didn’t solve her other problems. She still needed to find a kitchen that she could use while she was doing renovations. Maybe she could rent the church’s kitchen? It was worth a shot, she decided, reaching for another apple when she realized that they weren’t alone anymore and that her daughter may very well end up being the death of her.
Oh, that and the man standing behind Mikey might be losing too much blood.
“I think I might have thrown the ball a little too hard,” Mikey said with a sheepish look as she glanced up at the man that Kasey belatedly realized was the same man that she’d dubbed Yummy earlier.
“I’m fine,” Reese, if she remembered correctly, said, but something, mostly all that blood running down his face, told her that he wasn’t.
“Eric, why don’t you help Mikey to her room since she’ll be staying there until she’s old enough to collect social security,” she said smoothly with a pointed look at her daughter. “Oh, and you might want to check the lock on her window.”
“I didn’t go far,” she said with that same expression that Mikey’s father used to use when he got caught pulling his IV out of his arm and sneaking out of his hospital room so that he could hit the vending machines before his next dose of chemo.
It hadn’t worked on Kasey then and it wasn’t going to work on her now.
“Go,” was all she said before cocking her brow in warning.
That’s usually all it took and this time would be no different.
“Bye! Hope you feel better, Reese!” Mikey yelled over her shoulder, and with that she was gone, leaving Kasey with several questions for the large man muttering under his breath and bleeding all over her kitchen floor.
“Couldn’t stay away?” the infuriating woman that he’d hoped to avoid said, as she grabbed a kitchen towel and ran it under the faucet.
“Yeah, that was it,” he said dryly, turning to make his escape when he suddenly found himself stumbling back as the small woman, who was a hell of a lot stronger than she looked, dragged him towards the kitchen table and before he could argue, he was being shoved down onto a wooden chair that wobbled to the side and threatened to drop him on his ass.
“That’s what I thought. Now, let’s have a look at that cut, shall we?” she said brightly as she dragged another chair closer, sat down and-
“Son of a bitch!”
“You’re lucky it wasn’t her fast ball,” she said with a sympathetic wince as she continued to clean the gash on his eyebrow and made him bite back another curse as the action caused a sharp sting to pierce his skull.
“Sure felt like one,” he said, reaching up to take over only to have his hand swatted away.
“It usually does,” she murmured as she leaned closer to get a better look at his cut and in the process giving him one hell of a view of lightly tanned breasts and a black lace bra that reminded him of the other reason that had brought him here on this fucked-up trip from hell.
Silently cursing, he shifted his gaze back up to her face and watched while she worried her plump bottom lip between her teeth as she carefully cleaned his cut. Having nothing better to do, he watched her, taking in her expressive baby blue eyes, the way she kept worrying her bottom lip as she worked, the barely-there laugh lines that told him just how easily and freely this woman smiled, the short jet black hair that almost matched his own and couldn’t help but wonder what she would look like if she let it grow out.
She was pretty in that bad girl kind of way, passably cute, and most importantly, nowhere near his type. He preferred women with long blonde hair, even longer legs, and who loved to be pampered. He quickly took in her v-neck black tee shirt, worn jeans, black boots and dismissed her as a problem. Now her friend on the other hand…
She definitely would have been a problem if it hadn’t been for that ring he’d spotted on her left hand earlier. She was exactly his type and that was something that he wanted to avoid this summer, he absently reminded himself as his gaze landed back on the top of those lightly tanned breasts. He wanted to clear his head and figure some shit out before-
“Ouch!” he snapped when the vicious woman pressed the towel against his cut harder than he felt was necessary.
“Eyes up here, Yummy,” she said with a teasing smile.
“I wasn’t looking,” he said, but of course he had been. She might not be his type, but she was still a woman and he was a man who appreciated a woman’s curves.
“It’s okay. I understand that I’m irresistible, but,” and here’s where she sighed dramatically, “I can’t help it,” she said before shooting him a wink and a smile that had him relaxing.
At least she didn’t look like she was going to hit him.
That was something.
Not a hell of a lot, but something, he decided as he forced himself to sit still while she cleaned his cut. It stung, but he’d had worse so he just sat there and let her work while he tried to come up with a suitable lie for the two assholes that were probably waiting to pounce on him, because there was no way in hell that he was admitting that a little girl had done this to him.
He could always tell them that he’d been injured when they’d tried to take him down with a headlock, he thought as he glanced around the large kitchen and couldn’t help but frown when he realized that the grey slashes on the cabinet doors and countertop was actually duct tape.
“Look, I’m sorry about this,” she said, as he took in the rest of the kitchen, noting all the wasted space, the outdated cabinets, and the layout that was all wrong for this room.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said absently as his attention moved to the tiles that had been placed down wrong. The lines didn’t match, most of the tiles were cracked and even with blood seeping into his eye he could tell that
they weren’t even. Just looking at this mess made his head hurt.
“I think we should get you to the hospital,” she said, somewhat distracting him from the kitchen before he could think about all the changes that he would make if he had the chance.
“I’m fine,” he said, taking the cloth from her and pressing it to his head as he stood up.
He heard a small sigh and then found himself shoved back down onto the wobbly chair. “No, you’re not,” she said, as she momentarily left him to grab a handful of paper towels, a bottle of water, and a first aid kit.
“It’s just a cut,” he said, already over it. It hurt like hell, but he’d had worse. He just needed to pop a bottle of Advil, grab a beer, find a bed, and he’d be fine.
“I think it might need stitches,” she said when she came back and replaced the ruined towel with paper towels.
“I’ll live,” he said, shrugging it off as he held the paper towels against his head, absently noting that they were already soaked.
“I’m sure you will,” she said, gently tilting his head to the side so that she could finish cleaning the rest of the blood off his face. “But, to make sure that happens I think we should bring you to the emergency room.”
“I’m fine,” he said, closing his eyes so that he wouldn’t have to look at the kitchen that offended his senses. Well, that and because his head was fucking pounding now and every few seconds he thought he was going to be sick or pass out, most likely both.
“Yeah, you look it,” she said grimly as she gave up trying to clean his face and took over pressing the paper towels to his cut when his hand started to tremble, letting him know that it might be time to call it a night.
“I’m fine,” he bit out, deciding to ignore the blood dripping down his face.
“So, you’re going to keep saying that until it’s true?” she asked, wiping away the blood running down his face only to have more take its place.
“That’s the plan,” he said with a resigned sigh as he opened his eyes and stood up, deciding that it was time to go while he still could. Before she could push him back down, he was plucking the bloody paper towels from her hand and heading towards what he hoped was the front door.
“Leaving so soon?” she asked, easily catching up to him and slapping a stack of napkins in his hand.
“I’m afraid so,” he said, pausing to swap the paper towels out and making note of the trail of blood he’d made on the carpet that he would have to deal with later when his head wasn’t fucking pounding.
“This breaks my heart, Yummy. It really does, but I’m afraid that I’m going to have to insist on taking you to the emergency room” she said with a resigned sigh as she grabbed a set of keys off the side table and gestured for him to go ahead of her.
“I’m-” he started to tell her that he was fine, but she apparently wasn’t having it, because she grabbed his arm, forced him to turn around and announced, “I can see your skull,” which of course explained quite a bit.
“I see,” he murmured thoughtfully as he was forced to reach out and grab onto the back of the couch when a shot of pain tore through his head, threatening to knock him on his ass.
“I didn’t want to tell you.”
“I really wish you hadn’t,” he admitted, squeezing his eyes shut as he tried to breathe through the pain, but god, did it fucking hurt.
“And I wouldn’t have, but you really didn’t give me much of a choice,” she said, as he once again found himself being shoved, this time down onto something a hell of a lot softer than the wobbly kitchen chair.
“Your kid has a hell of an arm on her,” he felt obligated to point out as he was forced to lie down on his side and wait for his head to explode.
“She gets it from her father,” she said proudly as he felt her switch out the bloody napkins for a towel.
“The man you were talking to in the kitchen?” he asked, wondering if that had been her husband.
“No, that’s her uncle. Her father passed away before she was born,” she explained, as he felt something cool pressed against his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said, because he honestly couldn’t imagine what it was like growing up without a father.
“I’m sorry, too,” she said, making him frown until he realized that the fucking move hurt.
“For this,” she said, as she pressed a bag of ice against his skull.
It took him a few seconds to understand why she was apologizing, but once that cold seeped into his throbbing skull, he understand perfectly, because that was right around the time that it felt like a sledge hammer slammed into his head and he was forced to roll over and make a lasting impression.
“Don’t,” Kasey warned as she stared down at the large stain on the carpet that was never coming out.
“I didn’t say anything,” Sara pointed out in that innocent tone that only worked on her husband and well, every man alive, but it never worked on Kasey, because she knew better than to believe that innocent act.
“Yeah, but you were going to,” Kasey said, looking from the large stain that no amount of cleaning was going to remove to the dried trail of blood that her steamer had turned into an interesting shade of brown.
“Don’t,” Kasey said, shaking her head as she looked between the two stains, wondering if she could somehow rearrange the furniture to cover them.
“Fine,” Sara said, sounding truly disappointed and making Kasey’s lips twitch with amusement even though she was anything but amused this morning.
“How long were you at the hospital?” Sara asked, as she glanced towards the kitchen where the real reason for her mood waited along with a box of Brillo pads and the biggest bottle of Lysol she could find.
“Until nine. I would have stayed longer, but apparently there was an emergency at home that needed my attention,” she said dryly, reluctantly following her best friend’s gaze towards the mess that she was going to kill Eric for.
“Is he going to be okay?” Sara asked, as Kasey took in the burnt mess covering the stove, the ruined pans, and scorched countertop and shook her head.
“I hope so,” she said, assuming that Sara was talking about the poor man that her daughter had nearly maimed and not the bastard that almost burned the house down, because he’d tried to make the meatloaf cook faster.
Thank god Mikey hadn’t been practicing her fast ball, Kasey thought as she propped her hands on her hips and looked from the kitchen to the living room and back again, deciding that she really didn’t have much of a choice any longer.
She was going to have to gut both rooms.
“Where is he now?” Sara asked, as she walked over to the kitchen and helped herself to a Coke.
“Next door resting,” and hopefully not making plans to sue her, Kasey silently added.
“What did the doctor say?” Sara asked, as she stepped over the mess on the floor and leaned against the kitchen island before she thought better of it and settled for a chair at the table instead.
“That he was lucky that Mikey hadn’t thrown her fast ball,” Kasey said, deciding that there was no point in putting it off any longer. She grabbed her cleaning supplies so that she could make use of her kitchen one last time before she was forced to take matters into her own hands.
“Speaking of Mikey, where is she?” Sara asked, as she examined her nails, looking for any imperfections the manicurist might have left behind.
“In her room praying for a miracle,” Kasey said, sighing heavily as she once again wondered what she was going to do with that kid.
“It was an accident,” Sara pointed out quietly, earning a glare.
“I know it was an accident, but that’s not the point. She shouldn’t have been out there in the first place,” Kasey said, trying not to think of just how many rules her daughter had broken last night.
It had to be a record and that was saying something.
“You used to sneak
out of your room,” Sara said, clearly feeling the need to come to her goddaughter’s rescue, but sadly, the compassionate gesture was going to get her killed.
“Not when I was ten!” Kasey snapped, wondering what the hell was wrong with her-
“You’re right. You were six,” the betraying bitch said with a smirk.
“I had my reasons,” she said with a sniff as she set to work on scrubbing the stove.