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Taking the basket of dry clothes, I head back upstairs, pushing through my bedroom door, and dump the clean laundry onto the bed. I sift through the pile, looking for a T-shirt.
But I stop, grazing my fingers over a tiny piece of red fabric I don’t recognize. It lies nestled in a pair of my jeans, and I don’t have to think twice to know what it is. My heart starts hammering in my chest.
I stand up straight, steeling my spine. Shit.
Hooking my finger through the little band, I eye the see-through, red G-string hanging from my finger.
“What the hell?” I say under my breath, looking down at the laundry to double-check I have my clothes and not Jordan’s. “How did this get in my stuff?”
“Jord—!” I call out for her but stop, realizing how awkward it’s going to look if I have her underwear. I’m going to look like some creeper, getting caught with her panties. Jesus.
I drop the undergarment like it’s a hot pan.
They fall to the bed, and I rub the back of my neck, feeling the light sweat on my skin. My mind wanders.
It’s been a long time since any woman’s underwear was in my bed. Or on my bed.
And it certainly wasn’t a G-string, either. An image of my son’s innocent little girlfriend wearing this flashes in my head, and I round my eyes and rear back. “Fuck,” I say under my breath. “I’m gonna go to hell.”
I gather up all the laundry again, burying the garment in my clothes to hide it, so I can take the basket back downstairs. I’ll just toss the panties on top of the dryer or something and let her find it.
Picking up the basket, though, I register the soft rumble of the lawnmower start up outside and set the clothes back down, walking to the window.
Jordan is in the backyard, marching up and down the grass and pushing my green Craftsman lawnmower.
Why is she—
I lock my jaw, aggravation setting in. I told Cole to mow the grass. Helping with the yard work is his responsibility while they’re living here.
I watch as she bobs her head, and that’s when I notice the high pitched whir of guitars and the beats of a drum. She must be listening to music.
I quirk a smile. I wonder what awful 80s hair band she’s listening to today.
Sweat darkens her gray half-shirt at the middle of her back and even from here I can see her hair, some having fallen free from her ponytail, sticking to her neck. Her short, white shorts show off the muscles in her thighs and calves, flexing as she pushes the machine, and her arms glisten with sweat. I zone in on the small of her back, seeing her damp skin shine in the sunlight.
Heat pools low in my stomach, and my smile falls as I watch her.
I don’t want to look away.
But finally, I blink, averting my eyes and swallowing through the dryness in my mouth.
Doesn’t she have a project or something to be working on for her summer class? She mentioned that a few days ago. Cole can do the damn lawn. He hasn’t lifted a finger since being here.
Reaching down, I lift up the window and stick my head out, opening my mouth to call her out, but all of a sudden she releases the handles, whips her head back and forth, and breaks into air-guitar mode.
I stop, watching her.
“Pour some sugar on me!” the Bluetooth speaker screams. “Ooooh, in the name of love!”
She lip syncs, arching her back backwards, and then breaks into other moves, dancing and getting carried away in the song.
Gripping the handle again, she uses it for support as she throws her head to the side, flipping her hair and swaying her hips. The rubber band from her ponytail falls out and the locks whips around, the beautiful kink in the strands falling in her face. My lungs ache for air, and I don’t realize I’d been holding my breath.
Pulling my head back in, I catch sight of Kyle Cramer next door, standing on his bedroom balcony. He stares down at Jordan, watching her dance.
My fingers tighten around the window frame.
Looking back at Jordan, I see she’s so caught up in enjoying herself she doesn’t even notice. My gaze flashes back to him as he stares intently and unmoving.
Asshole. His kids are probably in the house, and he’s leering like a fucking pervert.
I try not to think about how I’m practically doing the same thing, but I feel a protective urge to get a damn shotgun or something. This one’s not babysitting for you, dickhead.
The lawnmower suddenly dies, and I turn back to Jordan just in time to see her walk up the edge of the pool, breathing heavily and wet with sweat. She pushes her hair out of her face, inhales a deep breath, and then takes a step, falling into the deep end of the pool and sinking beneath its surface, clothes and all.
I stop breathing again.
Yeah, it’s hot today. It’s in the nineties, and she needs to cool off. But I jerk my gaze back to Kyle, seeing him inch his chin up, trying to get a better view, and I furrow my brow.
Jordan pops back up to the surface, floating on her back and resting there, her T-shirt molded to her body. Hard, little points jut toward the sky from under her shirt, and I see a smile curl his fucking lips.
I swing my head back into the bedroom and slam the window closed again.
Leaving the room, I charge down the hallway and jog down the stairs. Moving across the kitchen, I head through the laundry room and out the back door. Jordan is swimming for the edge of the pool again, getting out.
I dart my eyes up and see Kyle still watching as she climbs out, her clothes plastered to her body and water running down every inch of visible skin.
His eyes flash to me, and I shoot him a middle finger. He just laughs and shakes his head, going back in his fucking house.
Jordan fists her hair, bringing it over her shoulder and ringing it out. My gaze falls down her legs, water dripping down her thighs and her shorts melted to her ass.
I steel myself, fixing on a stern expression. “Jordan,” I call.
She turns, seeing me, and hesitates only a moment before walking my way. She must have some idea that she’s not completely appropriate right now, because she folds her arms over her chest.
“I thought I told Cole to mow the lawn.” I try to hide the growl building in my chest.
She nods and picks up her ice water off the lawn table. “I know. I’m just helping. He’s working late a lot.” And then she looks at me, inquiring, “Am I doing a bad job?”
“Of course n—No,” I reply quickly, hating how easily she can make me feel like an ungrateful asshole. “It looks fine, but you’re already doing enough. More than enough. He handles the yard work. He can find the damn time.”
“It’s fine.” She brushes me off and sets her water back down, turning back for the lawnmower. “As long as it gets done, right?”
“I’ll finish it.” I stop her, walking ahead of her toward the mower.
But she catches me by the arm, stopping me. “I got it,” she maintains, anger growing in her eyes. “Seriously. We’re not here on a free ride. I can handle a few chores.”
“Not dressed like that, you don’t.”
Her eyes flare. “Excuse me?”
I inch forward, dropping my voice as I speak to her. “My neighbor has been glued to his balcony watching your every move out here,” I bite out. “God knows what he’s thinking.”
“That’s not my problem,” she argues. “I was hot. I jumped in the pool. My clothes are on.”
“Yeah, like a second skin!” I finish for her, my teeth baring. “You can’t pull that shit here. It’s a family neighborhood. Not your sister’s strip club.”
“I’m in the backyard!” she growls, her face tensing. “What does anyone care how I’m dressed?”
“Their wives will.”
She arches an eyebrow and her chest heaves with angry breaths.
I look down at her, calming my voice. “The wives in this neighborhood don’t appreciate cock teases strutting around and taunting their husbands, okay?” I state in plain English, so she gets it through her head.
But she just lets out a bitter laugh like she can’t believe I’m for real. “Um, yeah, wow.” She takes in a deep breath, lifting her chin and looking at me head-on. “Okay, here’s the thing… I realize things were probably a little different back when you were a teenager—89 YEARS AGO!—” she fires back.
“It was twenty, thank you.”
“But nowadays,” she keeps going, “we don’t hold a woman responsible for a man’s behavior.” Her eyes pierce, and there’s a little snarl on her lips. “If he wants to look, I can’t stop him. If he wants to step off somewhere private and do a little self-lovin’, hey, I’ll never know. Not my problem!”
I clench my fists. Damn brat.
I can’t catch my breath, but we don’t break eye contact.
I know she’s right. She’s not doing anything wrong. I just…
I don’t want him looking.
After a few seconds, I collect myself and straighten, taking pleasure that I’m half a foot taller. “Cole does the yard work. Or me,” I tell her, moving around her toward the lawnmower. “You’re doing enough. Okay?”
I spin around, heading for the lawnmower but hear her small, sweet voice behind me.
My stomach flips, and I blink long and hard, may hand tingling with an urge to give someone a spanking for the first time in my life.