The Roughnecks, 2
February 12, 2014
Jacob Iverson has plans. Distant plans, but they exist. Find the right woman, eventually settle down and do the whole “white picket fence” routine. Until eventually comes, he’s having fun with right now. Then he meets Flora. Suddenly his distant plans are rushing up to meet him…only not quite the way he imagined.
Kicked-out of her home at seventeen, Flora Simms made her way through the world, found life and family in the form of two best friends. Everything is just the way she likes it. From life to love to relationships, she knows what she wants, how she wants it, and doesn’t care if anyone agrees or not. And what she doesn’t want is someone trying to tie her down with long-term plans.
But Jacob Iverson seems to love the future, somehow knows what she needs, and he’s hitting all the right spots. Can Flora give up her idea of what independence means to let him in?
Jacob Iverson stepped into what would one day become his brother’s kitchen. When finished there’d no doubt be granite counter-tops, the biggest refrigerator money could buy, and the best stove on the market. This place was being groomed for all future family events. When it came to four boys of their size, the kitchen was the most important part of the entire house.
For now, it was completely gutted. All that remained in the room was supporting frame work for the interior walls, the foundation, and a few boards waiting to hold the new floor. Temporary lights were mounted in the corners. A few penciled notes were scratched on boards.
There was one new surprising addition this morning that had Jacob resting a shoulder against the doorway to study. The most interesting part of this unexpected addition was the rounded shape of her ass.
Cupped high and tight in a snug pair of jeans. A leather tool belt was strapped around her narrow waist. Blond hair was fastened on the top of her head and mostly falling out like his hands had just been in there. Sweat soaked a dark line down the center of her back. There was little more than a sliver of skin showing on the low curve her back. Dots of sweat pebbled on her tanned skin like a tantalizing tattoo for a mere inch between tight jeans and purple cotton shirt. A spot just large enough to trace with his thumb. Then his mouth.
She turned her head a bit, adjusted in her squat so that she rested a small notebook on her knee, and wrote something. Her profile offered hair across her forehead, a short nose curved to full lips and a tiny chin before cutting back to form a jaw line that his fingers were itching to trace. Her neck was slender. A bead of sweat made a line down the side and slid into breasts large enough to round out and show despite her arm reaching forward as she continued writing something.
She blew hair from her eyes and sat back on her heel. “Shit.”
He grinned. Just who was this woman? And what in God’s name was she doing? “Need any help?”
She screamed and jumped. Paper and pencil flicked up in the air as she grabbed at the boards she’d been balancing on. He started across the narrow beams, swiftly moving over them with ease after years of walking pipe hundreds of feet in the air, but it was no use. She was too far away. He reached, but she tilted, falling between two boards and flopped to the damp ground in the house’s foundation with a shriek.
He crossed the last boards and found her sitting on her ass on the clay floor, hands rested behind her and staring up at him, her blue eyes narrowed. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
Everything now. But in a fascinating way. A way he hadn’t felt since arriving in Apple Trail months ago. It was her. Finally. “Diner Chick.”
She didn’t miss a blink. “Middle Iverson Triplet.”
He’d seen her for weeks. Hell, a few months, maybe more. Not often. Once a week if he was lucky and just in passing. At the diner usually around lunch or supper when it was packed out. Occasionally at the bar. She’d always toss him a smile. Once or twice she’d blown him a kiss and a wink. When he’d first gotten to town, he’d gone a little stir crazy. Apple Trail was small. Just a few thousand was listed on the population sign on the way in. She had been his relief out of it.
She was fun and different. Bold at times with a laugh he could hear over a crowded room. So he’d kept his distance to make, hell, he didn’t know, the fun of her last longer. But now that he was up close, different story. Close enough he could smell something on her. Honey, maybe? It was sweet. And her skin looked so soft that his mouth was watering for a taste. Keeping her at arm’s length for interesting purpose was over.
Even with her eyes slightly narrowed at the corners as she stared up at him was interesting. He held out a hand. “I was trying to be helpful.”
Her fingers clasped against his wrist in a strong grip. “You failed.”
He laughed and tugged her up. In his squat on the frame, he was eye level as she stood on the ground, dusting her sides off. Dirt clung to her hips and thighs. He started to brush it off, but caught himself first. “What are you doing?”
She continued swiping, twisting around more than he figured humanly possible. Who knew someone could see their own ass without a mirror? She brushed again and caught the clump of dirt he’d been itching to get. “To know how much pipe I need.”
She put her hands on her hips and faced him. “So I can order.”
His face was just a foot at the most from hers and there was this scent coming off her. It was fresh and sweet and hid the sweat and usual musty smell of the house. The corner of his mouth pulled into an easy smile. “Order for what?”
She blinked, her arched brows pulled into a frown. “For the new pipes.”
He glanced at her slender frame again as she used one hand and easily hopped back on the frame boards of the floor. The back of her was now coated in a thin layer of brown dirt and mud as she walked across the room, then faced him, hands on her hips and seemingly waiting for something. With her tight girl shirt molding out her breasts and the earrings sweeping against her neck, he was having a hell of a time pulling any thoughts worth saying together.
He blinked. Pipes. Measurements. Ordering. Updating. Surely not. “You’re the plumber Grant hired?”
She shook her head and tugged out her measuring tape and extended across the room. “Let me guess—because I don’t have a penis, I don’t know how to adequately finesse the pipe into the fittings.”
“I never said that.”
“Still counts if you were thinking it.”
He grinned. More and more interesting. He hadn’t dared to ask anyone a thing about her. He wanted to admire her from a distance and the moment he opened his mouth about her, rumors would start. He knew those took off in a small town. “Still in the clear then, because I wasn’t thinking you couldn’t do it, but why you would want to.”
“It makes me money.”
“Picked up the family career?”
She snorted and shook her head. “Lord no. A pitcher of sangria, a how-to-book, and with a little desperation, you can do anything.” She pushed at some of that loose hair around her forehead. “Can you believe this place had wooden pipes in it?”
Yeah, he didn’t give two shits about the pipes. “Never afraid you’ll lose your earrings?”
She frowned, dropped the tape in her belt and grabbed both her earrings. A sigh of relief passed over her face, her eyes softened and she smiled as she stroked her fingers across the dangly silver things. And then that sweet moment was gone. A puff of air passed her lips and she picked her tape back up. “I haven’t lost them before. Besides, I’m just writing up an estimate. I won’t be doing anything dirty to lose them.” Narrowed eyes met his as she extended the tape across the length of the room. “Unless someone scares the crap out of me again.”
He winced. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but you cursed. I thought I’d offer to help a woman in distress.”
“I’m not in distress.” She released the hold on the tape. The long metal sucked back in the holder. She pulled the pad of paper from her belt, added a number to an already long list and tucked the note away.
“Now that I’m closer, I see you look plenty capable.” And tough. But still beautiful. And curious. And even more interesting.
“Thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more measurements to take.”
A dismissal. Other men would probably walk away. Jacob wasn’t like other men. He saw something he wanted and he wasn’t going anywhere until getting it. If life taught him one thing it was you want it, you gotta get it. And he wanted. “Need any help?”
Her ponytail swished across her back. The loose, long blond strands fell over her shoulder as she glanced around. “Thought we decided I was plenty capable?”
“We did. But if you finish early there’s time to take you to dinner.”
She propped her fists on her hips and met his gaze. Dear God by the spark in her eye and turn of her brow, he was just getting a taste of this woman. “Are you asking me out because you think I’m easy? Because I’m plumber I probably don’t get a lot of dates.”
Direct. Even better. “If I thought you were easy, I wouldn’t have bothered with dinner part.”
Her lips twitched. “Too bad.”
He followed. “Too bad what?”
“Too bad you didn’t take me for easy.” She glanced over her shoulder. “That I would have gone for.”
She was speaking his language now. He didn’t think it was possible, but this woman just got better and better. “Well in that case.”
She chuckled. Her finger tsk’d side-to-side in the air. “Nope. Too late. You’ve already shown your colors as one of those clingy relationship guys. We had a good thing going here. You ruined it with that date talk.”
Jacob Iverson. Clingy relationship guy. He nearly laughed aloud. Dear God, the people who would fall on their asses if they heard that. “Are you for real?”
She continued walking, chin up, steps sure and words sounding somewhat distracted. “Last time I checked I was, but if you wake up from a dream in a few hours, I guess you’ll know.”
He was helpless but to follow. He didn’t follow women. He never even chased this much. By now there was either an unmistakable cold shoulder or an agreement for later. This was still uncertain. And exciting. Jacob was in desperate need of exciting to break up the nonstop work he’d been doing for the last seven months. Or pretending to do, if you asked his brothers. “So you could be the woman of my dreams.”
Her brow lifted. “Again with the clingy talk.”
He’d moved close enough to smell that scent coming from her. She’d squatted again and that little patch of skin was back on display. “Depends on the kind of dream.”
She laughed. The sound was full and rich. “Touché.”
“What time and where should I pick you up? Or would you rather meet?”
“Maybe next time I see you at the bar I’ll just met you around the back in five minutes?”
Heat settled through his bones and sent a groan up the back of his throat. Hell. Yeah. See, he knew this girl was something different. “I’ll be at the bar when the door opens today.”
She chuckled. “I already have plans tonight.”
She grinned and reached in her tool belt again. “Let me know if you wake up from that dream to people throwing rice at us or if we’re sweating—then I’ll let you know.”
Throwing rice? He all but shook at the idea of marriage. Commitment. One woman and a thin sheet of paper binding them for eternity. Or at least through the length of divorce court. His skin itched and crawled. Like allergies. Being allergic to the idea of marriage. That sounded about right. “I’ll do that. Will you be back here tomorrow so I can give my answer?”
“Depends if I finish taking my measurements today.”
“How about a phone number just in case?”
Her brow arched and she pulled her tape measure from her hip. “How about we let fate decide?”
“We’ve been passing each other for months. Fate is well on our side.”
He grinned. “True. What about a name so I know what to call out? Unless you like Diner Chick.” He glanced to her hips. “Or now that I’ve seen the belt, I can call you Tool Belt Chick.”
She shook her head and a humored huff of breath pushed out of her. “Are you saying the belt turns you on?”
He glanced down her body. He couldn’t find anything about her that wasn’t turning him on. Mud included. He nearly outlined her body with his hands, but resisted. “Will you wear it when we meet in the alley for hot and sweaty sex just steps away from getting caught?”
He thought she might have shivered, but he wasn’t sure. It was hard to tell with the way her nipples pressed against the front of that tight shirt. She stroked a hand over the old leather of her belt. “I don’t wear it when I’m not working. Besides, it would wrinkle my pants.”
“Well there’s a simple solution to that.”
“What’s that?” A single shaped brow lifted.
“Don’t wear pants.”
She laughed, but the rich sound was cut short by his brother yelling his name. “Jacob!”
He pushed his hands in his pockets, hating to go, but he’d spent more than enough time here. If he took any longer, his brother would bust his balls. “Boss calls. So what’s it going to be? Diner Chick. Tool Belt Chick. Or your name?”
He nodded and stepped away as she turned around and returned to her work. He watched her a moment longer. The shape of her legs as she walked. The swing in her hips. He could stand here and watch her work all day.
“Jacob?” his brother called again.
He shook his head and headed out the front. “I’m here.”
Grant looked up from a paper he held. “What are you doing inside?”
“Flirting with your plumber.”
Grant frowned. “Leave Flora alone.”
It was an absurd, ridiculous name. He liked it. “Um…no.”
“Leave her alone, okay? Rebecca recommended her, she’s best friends with Gretchen and Lane is pissy enough right now that if you make his girl upset, he’ll take it out on you.”
Jacob shook his head. Hell. Last thing he wanted was the anger of Grant’s very pregnant girlfriend. But even that probably wouldn’t be as bad as Lane and his PMS’ing. At least with Rebecca he could pick her up a batch of fudge and cookies to win her good graces back. If Lane got any worse, Jacob was buying him a box of tampons.
But still. Flora was far more tempting than the dangers of those two. “Lane says he’s not dating Gretchen.”
“You know that’s shit as much as I do. Besides, Flora is also best friends with Tonya.”
Girl who owned the diner. When he’d managed to see Flora out and about, she often had Tonya and Gretchen attached at the hip. That still didn’t explained what their friendship had to do with him. “What does she have to do with anything?”
“Tonya owns the diner in town. You piss Flora off and she’ll likely have Tonya pissing in your food.”
He shook his head, getting lost in the flood of names when an idea struck. The trailer he rented was owned by one of these friends. “Does that mean Flora does the plumbing for the trailer park?”
Grant shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably. Why?”
Jacob smiled. Hell it was risky, but some things were worth it. “No reason. I’m heading out to find something to do.”
“Get on the bulldozer and widen the paths leading to the woods.”
Jacob turned and started through the manor.
He turned back as his brother called him again. “What?”
Grant pointed to the side of the house. “Walk around the outside and leave my plumber alone.”