Due to the Halloween fun over the weekend, we interrupted the usual Monday excerpt. Here it is- Enjoy!
This story is my Holiday Gift to Readers. You can download the entire novella for free from Smashwords.
"Where are you staying? I wanted to talk to you other than here, and yet, this is always where you are." Beth's hands rested on her hips. Her china doll face stared point blank at Tessa.
"Why did you need to talk to me some place other than here?" With luck she'd steer Beth clear of the living arrangements.
The men tromped back in with crates, deposited them, and left. Cold air swirled through the interior, racing shivers up her back and pimpling her arms. Tessa crossed to the stove and tossed in more wood.
"Because, you can't talk about your feelings for a man when he's in the room." Beth threw her arms in the air like she'd tossed out a whole kettle of dirty dish water which was exactly how Tessa felt.
"I-I don’t have feelings for Van. We just work together."
Beth wagged a finger in front of her nose. "You two can't keep your eyes off one another and from what I've seen your bodies are migrating together, too."
Tessa opened her mouth to protest when the door flew open with a gust of wind, and the men carried in three more crates.
"Grab the last two boxes, boys, and I'll give you something for your trouble." Van placed his crate on the floor and followed the men back to the door, closing it behind them. "As soon as they get those boxes in here, I'll take the team back to the livery. You want a ride Beth? There's a nasty storm blowing in."
"No, I'll stay here and help Tessa." Beth unbuttoned her coat and placed it over the chair by the stove.
Tessa sent Van what she hoped was a plea that he not leave her alone.
"That's thoughtful of you, but have you finished the curtains? We'll be opening tomorrow and it sure would be nice to have the curtains up and the place looking spiffed up."
Tessa wanted to throw her arms around the man and thank him. But she just sent an inquiring glance Beth's direction.
The tiny woman grabbed her coat. "Oh, I didn’t realize you were opening so soon. I'll hurry home and get them finished." She slipped her arms in her coat sleeves and narrowed her gaze on Tessa. "We'll talk tomorrow when I bring the curtains."
Tessa nodded and walked Beth to the door. "I can't wait to see the curtains hung."
Beth swept out the door and Tessa closed it firmly.
"What does she want to talk to you about?" Van asked as the screech of nails rent the air. He pried the lid off a crate by the work bench.
She walked to his side and stared into the crate. The tools of his trade were wrapped in various sizes of leather. "I can't wait to watch you make a boot."
He studied her. "What did Beth want?"
He sure could hold onto a thought.
"She was trying to find out where I’m staying."
"Do you trust her?"
"What do you mean?"
Van put a hand on her arm. He touched her every time they were close this morning. Not that she minded, In fact, she liked the heat of his touch. Too much.
"It might help to let her know you are living here. She could ward off others wondering."
She'd never had a confidante before other than her mother. Now she had two- Beth and Van. "I think once she got over the initial shock, she'd be willing to help me keep up proprieties." She shrugged. "It's no different than if we were in a boarding house."
"True." He frowned. "Except you're sleeping on the floor."
"I really don’t mind. I'm used to it." She wanted to place a palm on his clean shaven face. She settled for inhaling his scent of soap and male.
His gaze lingered on her face before his shoulders heaved a resigned shrug. "I best get the team back to the livery before the storm hits."
"Yes, we better get to work if we plan to open tomorrow." She drew away from him and back to the crates of boots. Van hurried out the door, closing it snuggly behind him.
If they opened tomorrow, what about her partition in the back room? She could use another wall between them. She knew nothing of the physical attraction between a man and woman. Her mother talked of her love for Tessa's father, but never anything about the way Tessa's body heated and wanted to be near Van.
But she knew once their lips met, her mind would go blank and there was no telling what would happen after that.