Well, Stars, Stripes & Motorbikes is with my editor, so it was time to move on to the Independence Day story for 2015, Free Falling. My heroine, Ryan, is a furniture builder/designer that sets her own hours…mostly so she can always have a three day weekend to go out and pick up guys. She’s not looking for a commitment.
Logan is a single dad who has to be dragged out, where he meets Ryan. They had a really great night together, but since then there’s been a lot of tension…namely because Logan’s daughter unexpectedly came home and found Ryan in his bed.
For today’s post, Ryan has to deliver a hand-carved mantel to her clients house.:
The Bennett’s lived in Ryan’s favorite neighborhood in all of Lake Point, and where she hoped to live herself one day. Houses rarely went up for sale there, and the old stately homes stood as a testament to the town’s rich history.
Of course, Ryan loved the intricate details in the old homes, including woodwork throughout every area of the homes. Every few years she got a call from the neighborhood from someone else wanting to update and asking her to handle the woodwork. Thankfully the neighbors were all close, having all lived there forever, and so word of her skills had made it around.
In fact, that’s how the Bennett’s had gotten her name. She hoped the mantel was just an initial test, as the living room and dining room beside had both been emptied when she’d come to do measurements and discuss design. Usually that was a good sign a remodel was in the works.
She hopped out of the truck and went around to the back of her trailer. In a quick, practiced motion she had the trailer unlocked and open with the ramp in place. Rather than try to move the whole piece and try to lug the heavy item into the house, she’d left it in pieces for easy reassembly and transport.
Each piece was carefully wrapped, and the whole lot had been sealed in a box currently banded to a dolly. If everything went according to plan she’d have the mantel unpacked and assembled well before her appointment time at ten.
She halted with her arm extended, the memory of the awkward encounter with Logan at the bank two days before pulling her out of her work-focus. Rather than cave to the incessant thoughts of what should have been nothing more than another one night stand, she hauled the dolly onto the ramp.
On her way out of the trailer she grabbed her large tool bag and slung it over her head, cross-wise. She pulled the dolly up the driveway to the Bennett’s front stoop, and then one step at a time until she was on the porch. By the time she made it up, Mrs. Bennett was already at the door, holding it open with a welcoming smile.
“Good morning. You’re right on time, aren’t you?” Rather than meet her gaze, Mrs. Bennett was staring beyond Ryan toward her truck.
Confused, Ryan glanced back, wondering if there was something wrong with her truck. “I try to be. Do I need to move the truck?”
“What? Oh, no.” The smile returned to Mrs. Bennett’s features, but this time Ryan would almost dare to call it sly, like a cat that had a canary by the tail feather. “Come on inside. Will that fit through the door all right?”
“Definitely. I made sure to use a box that would fit through my shop door.” Ryan pulled the dolly over the threshold, glad to see they’d put some cardboard boxes across the hardwood floor to protect it as she’d suggested.
“Richard. Our new mantel is here!”
The murmur of conversation that had been filtering through the house quieted. Richard called back, “Coming.”
Ryan pulled off her tool bag and set it aside. One by one she pulled out the tools she’d need, rising only when Richard appeared.
Rather than an immediate greeting, as he usually gave her, he was stopped by a tug on his arm from his wife. There was a quiet exchange, during which Richard’s own smile nearly broke his face. He crossed the room with his hand extended. “Good to see you again.”
“Good to see you too.” Ryan did her best to keep her voice even and not show her confusion over the unusual behavior. “Like I said before, I’m not here to interrupt your day. You can go about your business and I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”
“We appreciate it, although I’m awful excited to see it in place.” Richard wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulder, a gesture that seemed both habit and pure affection. “That box looks heavy, though. Do you need help lowering it?”
She was more than capable of handling her job, but she wouldn’t be so rude as to say as much. Instead she tried a polite decline of the offer. “Oh no, I’m fi—”
“Logan!” Richard interrupted her, but the name was what made her still in her attempts to rebuff his offer of help.
The whole thing was a coincidence, of course. Fate wouldn’t be such a bastard as to throw her in the path of Logan again. Right?
Wrong. A moment later, Logan stepped into the room. Like her own vibrant mood had faded at the simple mention of the name, Logan’s own cheery smile disappeared into a cloudy scowl. He immediately turned away from her to face his father. “Yeah, dad?”
A million curses she didn’t dare voice flew through her head, but she forced a smile. “Really, Mr. Bennett. It’s fine. You have company, you should go enjoy yourself. I’ll be done soon enough.” Maybe even quicker now that she had every reason to get the heck out of Dodge.
“Why don’t you help her with that crate, son?” Richard continued on as if she hadn’t spoken. “We’ll keep Sher occupied.”
“I’m right here.” The young girl from the other morning walked in, a book in one hand. “Why do I need to keep occupied?”
Ryan immediately turned to put more focus into reorganizing her tool layout in hopes the girl wouldn’t recognize her. “Really, I’m fine. I do this all the time.”
“You heard her. She’s fine. Come on, Sher. Let’s take your grandpa and see if you can’t beat him at another game of chess.” Logan’s tone started cold, but warmed up with every word to his daughter. This was just a fabulous mess.
“What’s in the box?” Sheridan didn’t bother to respond to her dad. “Hey, I know you.”
Ryan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Rather than answer, she turned her attention to the crate. She ignored the simmering discussion nearby to do her job. By the time she had the crate flat on the ground and the crowbar position to open it, the young girl was at her side.
“Whatcha doing?” Sheridan eyed the box curiously.
“I’m putting a mantel up for your grandparents.” Ryan didn’t have any heart to be cruel or cold to the girl. It wouldn’t be the first time a child was curious about what she was doing, and she never turned them away.
“Sheridan.” Logan snapped. “Why don’t we let her work?”
“I want to see, dad. How do you do it?” Sheridan turned rich blue eyes, just like her father’s, up toward her.
Ryan grinned, despite the tension in the room. “The mantel is all ready to go. I carved all the pieces in my shop and made sure everything fit together, and now I’m going to put it up here.”
“Can I watch?”
“Sheridan. We should stop bothering her.” Logan stepped closer.
“It’s fine.” Ryan waved him off. “So long as she stays back when I ask her to, she might even be able to help me. I have a feeling Sheridan is a good listener, aren’t you?”
“I am. Smart too.” Sheridan stood tall.
“And so modest.” Ryan chuckled. “She won’t be in the way.”
“Come on, son.” Richard moved to usher Logan from the room.
Mrs. Bennett followed suit, and soon all three had left Ryan alone with her one-night-stand’s daughter. If things could get any more awkward, Ryan had no idea how. Especially since Sheridan clearly recognized her.
Ryan turned her attention to the girl. “Sure you want to stay?”
“Yeah. I want to see how you do this.”
Hope you enjoyed it! Click on the Tuesday Tales badge to see more excellent entries!!