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“Do you mind if we run through the car wash? The Bayou Truck Trail keeps Winnie’s Drive-Thru Car Wash open.”

“Ha! I don’t mind at all.”

Around the corner from the grocery store, just past the burger joint, he pulled into Winnie’s, stopping at an automated kiosk and paying for the works, which ended up being a colorful mélange of soap suds pouring over his truck.

After the wash cycle was complete, he pulled up to the curb and got out of the truck, digging around in the back seat for a chamois. He spent five minutes getting the water off the windshield and hood, and his muscular arms and chest mesmerized her the entire time. With sun-bleached, blond hair and skin the color of caramel, it was clear Luke spent a lot of time outside. She was intrigued.

“Okay, on our way home.”

He turned a few corners and arrived at a beautiful landscaped yard with a large home set back on the property. “This is my place.”

“Yikes, it’s a mansion!”

“Not really. It’s a big house I divided into apartments. I live on the top floor and there are two apartments under me. You’ll see.”

He pulled the truck under a carved stone portico.

“I don’t care how many apartments it’s divided into; this place is a mansion.”

“Come on in. The front door led to the staircase which leads to my apartment. The other two have entry doors at the side of the house near the garage.”

“You park out here and they get the garage? That’s very generous of you.”

“Pretty much. It’s fine.” He got the key out and opened the door, flicking on lights. The entryway was a large, bright space, with pale-blue walls and white marble floors. The doors left and right were still in place but sealed shut.

“It’s for their privacy, like a self-contained space. I can’t get in there and they can’t get in here.”

He pointed past the staircase.

“There’s an elevator in back,” he said, grinning. “Follow me.”

To the rear of the foyer, sure enough, was a large hotel elevator.

“Wow, did this come with the house?”

“I found it on eBay. It came out of the old Chartres Hotel in New Orleans when they had the fire last year.” She stepped in and held on to the brass railing and he pressed the only button that lit up. “Second floor, here we come! It’s the only place we can go.”

The ride was quiet. “No clanking like I expected,” she said as the door slid open. “That was nice!”

She stepped out into a large white marble kitchen. “It looks new.”

“It’s all new. I hope it doesn’t look like a flip.”

“No, not at all. Not a flip. It looks classic, like this kitchen could have been original.” She drew her hand along the white marble island, passing a huge glass jar filled with cookies. “Who keeps this so nice? You don’t look like you eat a lot of junk.”

“My cleaning lady does that,” he said, chuckling. “I’m a big junk food junkie. I’ll eat that in a week.”

“No way.” She couldn’t help admiring his lean and muscular physique. “I guess you must work out a lot.”

She said it as a statement, not a question, and it amused Luke, so he fought to keep his expression neutral so as not to insult her.

“My job is physical,” he said. “Construction.”

Unloading the grocery bags gave Luke a chance to regroup; he hadn’t had a woman in his kitchen for a while and the chemistry was intense as he watched her move around his house.

“Oh, right. Duh. I know that.”

“What about you?” he asked, interested. “You’re in amazing shape if I can say that. I guess you have to work out being in the military?”

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