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Need You for Mine(2)

By:Marina Adair

“A lifesaver, Harper. That’s what you are.” Clay released a long, relieved breath. Funny, since she had stopped breathing altogether. “My mom can take him Tuesday, but Wednesday is an early-release day from day camp and she can’t pick him up in time. And his sitter is only fifteen, hence the reason I need to get her home tonight by ten, and can’t pick him up until four, after her cheerleading practice. I didn’t know who else to ask, and you are so good with him.”

“You need me to babysit Tommy?” She had to ask because she’d had a drink or two, and her brain wasn’t functioning on all cylinders, but she was pretty sure he’d just demoted her from quirky but cute art teacher to back-up babysitter. And her competition didn’t have a driver’s license.

“That would be great. He really adores you. You know?”

Oh, she knew. She knew this moment so well she wanted to cry. It was just like senior prom when Daniel McCree passed her a note saying he wanted to ask a special girl. Only after Harper had mentally picked out her dress, shoes, and the perfect place to lose her virginity had he explained that the “special girl” was Janie Copeland—captain of the dance team, and Harper’s neighbor.

Harper had delivered Daniel’s invite on her way home, then received a record eleven more invites to the prom that year. None of which were addressed to her.

“Tommy would probably be more comfortable at my place. You can hang out there, watch a movie in my room if that works for you,” Clay offered, and Harper had to bite her lip to stop from laughing at the irony. Clay finally wanted to see her in his bed, only in the most chaste of scenarios. He couldn’t manage to see her as more. It was a position she’d been placed in a million times in her life, yet never managed to master.

Clearing any trace of hurt from her expression, a trick she had mastered, she said, “I run the Sprouting Picasso class at the shop at three.”

“I should be home before then.” He looked at his watch again. “I’m late. Can we work out all the details later? Kendal’s mom flips if I get her home after ten.”

“That’s the great thing about thirty-year-old women,” she pointed out brightly, holding on to that smile even if her cheeks hurt from the weight. “No curfew.”

“Something to keep in mind,” he said with a wink. “Oh, and you have some kind of punch on your dress.”

Harper looked down at her favorite daffodil-colored dress and saw the bright red splotch, right below her miniscule cleavage he’d been eyeing all night. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, he pulled her in for a hug. Not a dual-armed embrace, bodies touching kind of event. But a side-hug, pat-to-the-back combo that bros gave each other.

“Thanks, Harper. I owe you,” he said and headed back toward the bar.

Unless he was offering up a tangled sheets kind of favor, Harper wasn’t interested. At all. She didn’t want a favor—she wanted passion, connection, adventure. She wanted to be wanted.

And speaking of wanted, she wanted cookies.

Not the kind with confetti sprinkles that her grandmother made, but the kind that only a strong, sexy man could provide. And I want a baker’s dozen, she thought as she fished out her keys to open her grandma’s shop.

The scent of rosewater and lavender greeted her as she stepped inside and felt as though she were transported back in time. The Boulder Holder was a lingerie shop owned by her grandma specializing in vintage seduction for the curvy woman. It also had a great stain remover in the storage closet.

Still at a complete loss, or maybe not so complete, since looking back the intimate questions Clay had asked earlier were all standard résumé info for applying nannies, Harper closed the door behind her and reached to disarm the alarm—which was already disarmed.

“Dang it, Baby,” Harper mumbled, making a note to reprimand the closing manager for neglecting the alarm again. And, apparently, her job, since there was a vast collection of high-end merchandise hanging outside one of the changing-room doors.

The whole point behind hiring a closing manager was so that her grandma could work fewer hours, let someone else lift heavy boxes, and stock the store. Clovis needed to stay off her knee so it could heal from her most recent replacement surgery, but if Baby wasn’t organizing the store at night, then her grandma would have to before opening. Which defeated the purpose.

Frustrated, Harper grabbed the stain cleaner and a rag from the closet and walked over to the large gilded mirror on the wall at the far end of the dressing rooms.

Normally being in her grandma’s shop, surrounded by all of the bright fabrics and bold designs, could erase even the worst of days. The shop was every girl-next-door’s haven—sexy with a touch of sophistication, and a brilliant kaleidoscope of intimates from time periods usually forgotten. A new adventure to be found on each hanger.