Never Too Hot
Page 2

 Bella Andre

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Most of his indoor time as a kid had been spent on this porch, protected from the bugs and the rain, but open to the breeze. His grandparents had served all their meals on the porch's Formica table. He hadn't cared that his teeth had chattered on cool mornings in early summer while he downed a bowl of Cheerios out there. He and Sam had lived in T-shirts and swim shorts regardless of the cold fronts that frequently blew in.
One of the porch steps nearly split beneath his foot and he frowned as he bent down to inspect it. Guilt gnawed at his gut as he silently acknowledged that his grandparents could have hurt themselves on these stairs. He should have come out here in the off-season, should have checked to make sure everything was okay. But fire had always come first.
Something grated at him there, so he reminded himself that the bones of the log cabin were sound. He'd heard the stories a hundred times of how his great-grandfather had cut each one of the logs himself from the thick forest of pine trees a half mile from the lake. Still, time took its toll on every building eventually, no matter how well constructed.
Taking the rest of the stairs two at a time, ready now to see what other problems awaited him inside, Connor reached for the handle on the screen door.
But instead of turning it, he stopped cold.
What the hell?
A woman was dancing in front of an easel, swinging around what looked like a paintbrush, white cables dangling from her ears as she sang in a wildly off-tune voice. Every few seconds she dipped into her paint and took a swipe at the oversized canvas.
He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Some strange singing, painting woman on his porch was the last thing he wanted to deal with today.
Still, he couldn't help but be struck by how pretty she was as she did a little spin before squirting more paint onto her easel and sweeping her brush through it. He was close enough to see that she wasn't wearing a bra under her red tank top and when she wiped at the damp skin on her neck and the deep vee between her br**sts with a white rag, his body immediately responded in a painful reminder that it had been too long since he'd been with a woman.
He quickly filled in the rest of the sensual, unexpected picture. Curly hair piled on top of her head and held with some sort of plastic clip, cutoff jeans, tanned legs, and bright orange toenails on bare feet.
It took far longer than it should have for him to snap himself out of the haze of animal lust that was wrapping itself around his cock. Another time he might have walked in with a smile and charmed the panties right off her.
But he hadn't come to the lake to get laid.
A woman had no place in his summer, no matter how well she filled out every one of the boxes on his checklist.
For whatever reason, the woman was trespassing.
And she had to go.
* * *
It was, Ginger thought with a smile as she mixed Cinnabar Red and Ocean Blue, a perfect summer day. She'd started it off with a walk along the beach, then took a bagel out to the end of the dock to munch while reading a sexy paperback, and now here she was painting like crazy on the porch.
The pop song streaming into her ears at top volume hit the crescendo of the big final chorus and she had to stop painting altogether to play air drums and sing harmony. She felt so happy, so carefree, and it hit her suddenly, powerfully that she could never — never! — have done this in her old life.
Oh, the way her ex-husband and their “friends” would have reacted if they could see her now. Her whole life she'd been perfectly buttoned up, overly coiffed and made up, and elegantly outfitted despite the fact that the tag on her clothes had always been in the teens rather than the single digits. Discounting the fact that her body refused to shrink even if she ate nothing but heads of lettuce, in every other way she'd been the perfect rich girl turned businessman's wife.
But not anymore. Not at Blue Mountain Lake.
She didn't have to be that woman here.
Sure, she was still doing a lot of fund-raising for the school's art program, but she loved knowing she was helping people. Besides, it had always been a rush to know that she was good at getting people to reach into their pocketbooks and do good. Great at it, actually. The joke back home — shouldn't she stop thinking of the city as home, already? — was that all she had to do was walk into a room full of millionaires and they'd start throwing money at her as fast as she could catch it.
Helping out at the Blue Mountain Lake schools had been a great way to get involved with the town, to not feel so alone as she started over. What the locals lacked in dollars they made up for in enthusiasm. And so although she'd come to this small town to focus on painting, she couldn't help but be swept up in her work with the kids and parents.
The day she'd moved into Poplar Cove she'd vowed not to waste any time looking into her past. She'd rather live in the moment. Take each day as it came. And everything would really be perfect, if only she had a…
The song ended and in the silence between tracks she could hear a mama bird announce her arrival to a nest full of baby birds on the underside of the eave. Ginger leaned forward to watch as a little head poked out of the nest and took food from its mother's beak in what looked like a kiss.
Another bouncy pop song started up, but Ginger pulled out her earphones. She wasn't in the mood anymore. She stared at her canvas, but instead of seeing the painting she'd been working on all day, she saw an image of the cute baby that had been playing on the beach during her morning walk.
The little girl had been positively gleeful as she jabbed a pink shovel into the sand, her sweet round cheeks and chubby little legs poking out of her pink polka-dot swim-suit. Her mother had looked tired, almost frazzled, and yet, as she watched her daughter play on the beach, perfectly content at the same time.
Her husband, Jeremy, had held her off for years. “One day,” was what he told her. “When the time is right, thenwe'll see.”
By the time she'd realized the time was never going to be right, that his “one day” didn't work for her, she'd had to face up to the fact that the marriage didn't either.
Lately, she wondered more and more when it was going to happen. If it was going to happen. She knew plenty of women who had to do in vitro at thirty. Three years past that, Ginger sometimes wondered if her viable eggs were all drying up one by one.
But there was more. Because if she were in one of her foolish I-should-know-better romantic moods (which usually involved several glasses of wine), the truth was she still wanted a wonderful husband to have the family with. Yes, her first marriage hadn't been great. But that didn't mean the second couldn't be the love she'd been searching for.