Sweet For Him

By: Harper Ashe

Chapter 1

It took Claire a few moments to realize that the pounding wasn’t coming from inside her head. Someone was banging on the front door. Pressing her palms against her temples in an effort to stop the pain, she got out of bed and made her way toward the window.

Champagne didn’t agree with her, but she couldn’t resist raising her glass to toast her sister Abby’s marriage to billionaire food mogul Steven Blake the night before. Unfortunately, by the fifth or sixth “Cheers!”, she was too tipsy to wave the server off when he offered to refill her glass again. And then again. Besides, she had never tasted expensive champagne before, and it was delicious!

When Claire parted the drapes, the bright sunlight made her flinch. What time was it? She glanced at the clock on the bedside table, which read 7:05 AM. The Blake mansion guest suite she was staying in faced the front of the house, and she could see the contractor’s white truck parked in the circular drive. Damn! She had forgotten that he was coming.

Why couldn’t Abby and Stephen have gotten married on a Saturday night like normal couples so she could have had a day to recuperate before starting her housesitting duties on Monday morning? Oh yeah, it had something to do with the anniversary of their first kiss.

“Give me a minute, I’ll be right there!” she called out through the open window, hoping the guy standing on the porch below could hear her. The angle of the house blocked the contractor’s upper body from her view, but she managed to get a good look at his backside.

His waist was trim, although not too narrow, and his work jeans hugged his hips without sagging. There was no plumber’s butt on this guy. At the end of his long, strong legs were a pair of practical work boots. Although her sister had always been attracted to more polished men like Stephen, Claire preferred this more rugged look. At least from behind, the contractor looked hot!

After pulling on her old, tattered bathrobe and finger-combing her long, light brown hair, she made her way down the spiral staircase and opened the front door. Seeing the face that was attached to the sexy butt and work boots made her already-queasy stomach churn more violently.

“Claire Branson? Is it really you?”

The voice was deeper than she remembered, but unmistakably familiar. It belonged to Robbie Halliday, the boy who broke Claire’s heart. She smiled weakly and pulled her robe tighter around her curvy body. “In the flesh,” she said, going for cheeky but sounding a little bitter.

“I can’t believe it,” Robbie said, leaning lazily against the door frame. Up close, he was more handsome than ever. He was definitely a bit taller and had filled out in all the right places. She couldn’t help but notice that his broad shoulders filled the entire doorway. “How long has it been?” he asked.

Eleven years, six days, nine hours, and twelve minutes. “Oh, I don’t know,” Claire responded casually. Her fingertips drifted up to her lips as the memory of her first kiss washed over her. It was a sweet seventh grade moment with Robbie that had soon turned sour. “I’m pretty sure the last time I saw you was the day we graduated from high school.”

“Wow, over ten years.” Robbie shook his head in disbelief. “I missed you at the reunion   last summer.”

“I was out of town,” she replied, not bothering to mention that she specifically scheduled a trip to the city to avoid the reunion   crowd.

“You look great, Claire.”

She looked...great? With her hair a tangled mess and yesterday’s makeup smeared on her face? Claire nodded slowly as realization washed over her like the waves of champagne-fueled nausea. Once a jerk, always a jerk.

“Thanks,” she answered automatically. “You do, too.” Only her response was the truth. Robbie did look great. Better than great. Gorgeous, fit, self-assured, happy. The polar opposite of Claire.

“Stephen told me that his new sister-in-law would be housesitting during the remodel work. That must mean that he married Abby, right?”

“Right,” Claire confirmed, suddenly feeling like more of a loser than she really was. Abby was just one year older than her, but she had always been the vivacious go-getter among the two curvy Branson sisters. Abby was never afraid to go after what she wanted. Not only did she manage to leave small-town life behind and get a four-year degree, she also landed a great job in the city and bagged a billionaire husband in the process.

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