Page 12 of Suited for Love

Font Size:  

He doesn't wait for an answer, kneeling in front of me once again. This time I climb on, squeezing my knees into his ribs to get a better grip. He chuckles, looping his arms under my legs.

The breeze is cool on my wet skin, but I only have goosebumps where he's touched me: my doctored foot and the points where his arms are now wrapped around my legs.

"What about your stuff?" I ask.

"It's almost low tide, so it won’t get washed away."

I glance at the line of poles and fishing gear. I know absolutely nothing about fishing, but it appears to be valuable. “You’re not worried someone will steal all that?”

He laughs. “In Friendly? No. I’m not worried.”

It's hard not to be impressed by his strength as he carries me. I'm fully aware of the hard muscles and thick shoulders that are currently pressed against my body.

Even in the deep, soft sand, he moves gracefully. When he reaches the ramp over the dune, he doesn't slow down.

He smells wonderful, too, a combination of salty air, fresh laundry, and espresso. I lean closer to breathe it in.

Despite the throbbing cut on my foot, Friendly is looking up. At least one local doesn't hate me. He's not my target clientele, but it's better than nothing. Besides, he could have a sister.Or a girlfriend…

Heat creeps into my cheeks. I'd never be brave enough to ask him face-to-face. But something about the piggyback ride is freeing.

Clearing my throat softly, I speak to the back of his head. "You're not the target market for Sticks & Stones but maybe you have a girlfriend?"

He shakes his head. "Nope. I'm single."Is that humor in his voice?Now I wish Icouldsee his face.

A potential client would have been nice, but a small part of me—fine, abigpart—is relieved that he's single.Friendly isdefinitelylooking up.

Inventory for the store will arrive over the next several days. By the grand opening next week, the mannequins and shelves will hold gorgeous pieces by some of my very favorite—and often overlooked—designers. With any luck, my business will not only be a success, but these designers will get the recognition they deserve. Briony was right about one thing: I have an excellent eye for spotting pieces that will sell.

But first, I'll need customers.

How grand will my opening be if no one shows up?

"Here we go," he says, pulling me from my thoughts. I'm surprised that we've made it back so quickly. Sitting me gently on the ground, he says, "Oh. What about your key? Did that get swept away, too?"

Smiling, I point to a keypad next to the door. "I had keyless entry installed."

"Good idea," he says. "Think you can make it from here on your own?"

"Yes, thank you for your help…." I pause, realizing that I don't know his name. "I'm Margo Sterling." I hold out my hand and he shakes it. His hands are callused, a working man's hands.

He flashes his lopsided grin. "Tuck."

"Maybe I'll see you around, Tuck?"

"Guarantee it."

"Oh, I get a guarantee?" I attempt to flirt, batting my eyelashes.

"Absolutely. I'll be right over here at my big ole' bucket of bait."

My jaw falls open. "You…?"

He grins. "Pleasure to meet you, neighbor."

Chapter 7