Falling Under
Page 5

 Lauren Dane

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He straightened, looking all around her at floor level. “Hey, where’s Ginger?”
“She’s at home. First day at a new job so I figured I’d bring her in next week. Just the mornings probably. She’s too social and would be in everything if I had her here all the time.”
“Well, it’s up to you, but she’s welcome.”
Carmella thanked him again and got back to work.
She spent the afternoon getting a quick and dirty education on how Twisted Steel liked its books handled. Carmella figured once Lottie was gone, she could apply some discipline and things would be a lot smoother. The other woman was sweet and friendly, but it appeared there was a lot of pestering of the crew over things like time sheets and invoicing.
Carmella liked to run a very tight front office so she’d have to see just how much change the folks at Twisted Steel would tolerate.
At quitting time, Lottie patted Carmella’s hand. “It’s time to clock out. You can work pretty much your own hours. I do eight to five but you can do nine to six or whatever. They’re here late all the time but there’s stuff you need to do during regular business hours. I’m sure you’ll get it all. It’s not like you’re new to this or anything. I’ll see you in the morning. I need to go home and help pack. John, that’s my husband, he says to thank you for jumping in so fast to help.” She smiled brightly up at Carmella. “We’ll go through payroll together first thing. Friday is doughnuts and bagels in the morning and they’re delivering that ’thirty-four so there’ll be more food after that too.”
Carmella asked her question quickly while Lottie appeared to be breathing instead of speaking. “Do I need to pick them up?”
“Nope. They’ll be delivered here first thing. Duke takes care of all that. Just come hungry.”
As Lottie and Carmella started to leave, Duke looked up from his work and jogged over to the doors. “Hey, how was your first day?”
Lottie answered, “She’s a natural. She’s gonna be great though I do hope you guys miss me at least a little.”
Duke put his arm around Lottie’s shoulder. “Of course we’ll miss you. It’ll probably be way quieter around here, that’s for sure.” He winked and Lottie laughed.
“See you in the morning.” Lottie scampered out and Carmella let out a long breath.
Duke laughed. “Yeah, she’s got a lot of energy. Sort of a tiny female Tigger sometimes.”
“I hope you guys don’t get disappointed. I don’t think I have the stamina to talk that much. Plus I like breathing now and then.”
He laughed. “You’ll do fine. I have no doubts. Thanks again for pitching in. We’re a family here as you’ll come to find out. Lottie needs this move, but she’s leaving the place in good hands.”
“I’ll do my best not to let you down,” Carmella said with a smirk. “I’m excited to see the finished project and the customer’s face when he sees it for the first time.”
“Best part of the deal other than the check.” Duke stepped back. “I’ll see you in the morning. Drive safe.”
It was good to have a job again. Being worried about money sent her back to a place she hated to go. A place where her helplessness wasn’t something she could get around.
A good-paying job gave her independence. It gave her the ability to make her own choices. And that meant she’d always be in charge of her destiny. She’d do whatever it took to keep from depending on anyone else to survive.
While dinner cooked, she played ball with Ginger for a few minutes and tossed some clothes in the washer. She’d sort of been on summer vacation schedule, though having to deal with her mother’s appointments got Carmella out on a regular basis.
The stability of gainful employment and a real schedule would benefit mother and daughter both, Carmella hoped. As she settled at the dinner table, Ginger joined her, lying over Carmella’s feet.
“I think this is going to work out, Ginger. If I can keep from thinking with my pink parts, that is. Something about Duke Bradshaw makes me want to fall on my back and open my thighs wide. He’s a menace.”
Ginger gave Carmella a growl-bark that Carmella figured was a canine version of girl, me too.
The paperwork she’d filled out had included a retirement plan. A retirement plan! They matched a percentage of the total she put into it monthly. It wasn’t that she’d never thought of such a thing but it had always seemed like something other people had and she never would.
And they liked dogs. Really, she wondered when she’d find out they were all in league with Satan or something. The place seemed so awesome she was sure there’d be another shoe dropping at some point.
Unless she found out something horrifying, she’d take this news as wonderful and let herself be hopeful instead of hopeless.
Duke made himself promise not to watch Carmella all morning long. A difficult promise that only worked out partway because there was no denying he liked to look at her.
It was impossible not to. She was everything he loved about redheads. To say she was curvy wouldn’t have done justice to just how juicy those curves were. It wasn’t just the banging tits and that sweet ass, but the way she dressed. Confidently, sexily, mindful of what she looked good in, and she worked it.
Damn did she ever. Not blatant. She wasn’t a sex bomb that way. But the heat was there, just beneath the surface. Hints of it had driven him nuts over the last few years of living next door.