The lakehouse—our main residence—and the smaller boathouse had been in my mother’s family for years. After my grandfather died, he’d left everything to Mom, his only child. Since everything was paid off, there was no mortgage. That was a good thing, given the fact that I was the only one with a job. As it was, I could just manage to keep the house running, and there were a lot of things waiting to be fixed.

I don’t mean to be a downer when it comes to my life. I have a lot to be grateful for. Living on the lake is one of those things. Even though some days I feel like Cinderella, minus the evil stepsisters, the serene beauty of this place often makes up for it.

***

The following day, it looked like the coast was clear. The tenant’s truck was gone, making it the perfect time to grab some fresh towels and visit the boathouse to clean.

My Saint Bernard, Teddy, thought I was taking him for a walk, so he followed me out the door. I figured I would let him come with me.

The afternoon air was sticky. Hazy sunlight partially blinded me as I made my way over with three towels of varying sizes tucked under my arm and a bucket of chemical supplies hung over my wrist.

Upon entering the house, I immediately smelled his cologne. Masculinity hung in the air. A black men’s jacket was draped over the desk chair, and a large, unpacked suitcase was open on the floor. An expensive-looking watch lay on top of a laptop.

His bed was already made. Perhaps he hadn’t seen the part of my confirmation email that explained our courtesy housekeeping service, or maybe he was just a neat person and couldn’t wait.

The dog jumped up on the bed.

“Get down, Teddy!”

The next thing I knew, the door to the bathroom burst open. Everything after happened so fast. My bucket fell to the floor as I took in the Herculean man standing there wrapped in nothing but a small white towel. My jaw dropped.

Teddy started barking.

Noah’s deep voice sliced through me. “What the hell is going on here?”

His hair was wet. I swallowed as my eyes trailed down the length of his body, then up again. I’m not quite sure why I lost my ability to think. I was just completely shocked to see him, let alone like this: mostly bare with water dripping down his sculpted torso.

He isn’t supposed to be home.

He broke me out of my trance. “Is there a reason you’re staring at me instead of leaving?”

Um…because you’re hot as fuck?

I abruptly turned around to face the door. “I just came to clean. I’m so sorry. I’ll come back later.”

Stumbling, I ran out so fast I left the cleaning supplies behind that I’d dropped all over his floor. I thought I’d left Teddy behind, too, but thankfully he’d followed me out the door.

I’d seen the man for only a matter of seconds, but I now knew why Chrissy had been snickering yesterday. He was drop-dead gorgeous with classic, chiseled features and perfect facial hair. He was really tall, too, and probably the most manly man I’d come across in a long time.

He’s also rude. That was very clear. But hot. Dark hair, ripped body…he looked like he was maybe in his early thirties.

My mother was in the kitchen making herself a sandwich when I returned to the house.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “You seem flustered.”

I was panting a little. “I just made an ass of myself in front of the new tenant. His truck wasn’t there, so I thought it was safe to clean.” Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath to calm down. “He came out of the bathroom half-naked. I scared the shit out of him. And instead of leaving, I froze, stood there staring at him. He wasn’t happy.”

Teddy’s tongue hung out as if he, too, was reeling from this experience.

My mother stopped buttering her bread and started laughing—the first time I’d heard her laugh in a long time. Even if it was at my expense, that made me smile. It almost made what had happened worth it. Almost.

Later that night, I opened my front door to walk Teddy, only to find the bucket I’d left behind in the boathouse on the steps outside. All of the cleaning supplies were back inside. Noah was a bit of an asshole—but apparently he was a courteous one.

***

I had no further run-ins with Noah for the next few days. I knocked loudly on his door each afternoon to confirm he wasn’t home before entering the house to clean.

On my nights off from work, one of my favorite things was a dip in the lake at sundown. I probably loved that most about having waterfront property. There was no better place to clear my head than in the water.


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