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Read, Write, Love at Seaside(5)

By:Addison Cole



She turned around with a sweet smile and a sigh. “That’s so much better.”

He shook his head again to knock himself out of his gawking stupor. “I’m sorry. I thought…” He looked toward the alcove by the stairs. “The bathroom is right over there.”

“Oh, I’m not shy.” She swatted the air. “Besides, I had my back to you, so it’s not like you saw me naked. Thank you, by the way. This is so much comfier than my wet shirt and that awful bra.” She shivered.

Awful bra? “Are…?” He cleared his throat in an effort to clear the image of her bare back from his mind. It didn’t work. “Are you ready to go?”

“Sure. Thanks again.” She joined him by the door.

He looked down at her bare feet. “Shoes?”

“Oh gosh. I didn’t even notice. I think I lost them in the water. It’s okay. I have more.” She went out the door with a bounce in her step and ran through the rain to the passenger side of his liquid-silver Mercedes SL convertible.

Kurt carried Pepper to the car to keep his paws from getting muddy again. After Leanna settled into the passenger seat, he set the towel at her feet and placed Pepper on top of it.

“Stay,” he commanded. By the time he started the car, Pepper had inched his way across Leanna’s lap to the center console, where he put his fluffy white face on his front paws and breathed through his nose, blinking his big, dark eyes at Kurt.

“I’m really sorry, but even if I wrestle with him, he won’t listen. He never has.” Leanna petted Pepper’s back.

Kurt bit his tongue about the dog dirtying up his car. Apparently, it wouldn’t do any good anyway, according to little Miss Adorably Sexy Not Shy Leanna. She gave Kurt directions to Seaside, and he drove the main drag, trying not to worry about the dog on the leather or the lacy pink bra in Leanna’s hand.

In an effort to distract himself, he asked, “How long have you had him?”

“Pepper? I don’t know. A year, maybe?” She kissed his damp white fur.

“And he still doesn’t listen?” Kurt glanced at the dog, who had fallen fast asleep and was snoring.

“I try, but…” She shrugged. “He’s kind of a free spirit, like me, I guess.” She rolled up the sleeves of Kurt’s sweatshirt and swiped at the half-wet, half-dry hair hanging unkempt around her pretty face.

Free spirit. He thought about her bare back and felt his body warm again.

She looked down, tugging at the bottom of his sweatshirt. “Did you go to Duke?”

“Yes, I did.”

Pepper sighed in his sleep.

“I went to UVA. Business major.”

She lowered her cheek to Pepper’s back, and all Kurt could think about was the smell of wet dog—and how he’d really like to be that wet dog. Okay, enough. Stop it. He needed a talkative free spirit like he needed writer’s block. He trained his eyes on the road and begged his mind to follow. The rain eased to a drizzle as he pulled into Seaside Cottages.

“I really appreciate you driving me home. I could have walked if it wasn’t raining.” She pointed to the right. “Follow the road this way, but go slow. There are chipmunks around here.”

“Chipmunks?”

“Yeah. I see them in the mornings. I don’t know if they come out in the rain or not, but I wouldn’t want you to run one over.”

Chipmunks. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d even noticed a chipmunk. He followed the narrow gravel road up an incline to a fork and went around to the right, as she directed him. Pitch pine trees lined the road and filled the tight spaces between the small, one-story shingled cottages.

“That’s me. Right there.” She pointed to a driveway paved with seashells.

As he pulled in, he asked, “Do you have a car?” It was common to bike on the Cape, but most people had vehicles, even if they opted not to use them. The seashells crunched beneath his tires. Crushed seashell driveways were common on Cape Cod, and every time Kurt drove onto them, he silently hoped they didn’t slit his tires.

“Uh-huh. It’s so big that it blocks my view of my friend’s cottage when I’m on my deck.” She shrugged. “So I park it over at the laundry room.” She tucked her hair behind her ear and stroked Pepper’s back.

The cottage couldn’t have been more than twenty feet wide, with lavender shutters and a weathered fence around a deck on the side. The front garden was a mishmash of flowers and bushes, which reminded Kurt of Leanna—a little unkempt, a little wild, and incredibly pretty. He parked and went around to open her door, pondering the idea of a separate laundry room.

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