Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(6) by Susan Mallery
“I think it’s romantic.”
Elissa did her best not to roll her eyes. She loved the old woman but jeez, Mrs. Ford would think grass growing was romantic.
“He took control. He made decisions without speaking to me. God knows what he’s going to expect for it.” Whatever he was expecting, he wasn’t going to get it, Elissa told herself.
Mrs. Ford shook her head. “It’s not like that, Elissa. Walker is a very nice man. An ex-Marine. He saw you were in need and helped out.”
That’s what got Elissa most of all. The “being in need” part. Just once she’d like a little extra put by for a rainy day or a flat tire.
“I don’t like owing him.”
“Or anybody. You’re very independent. But he’s a man, dear. Men like to do things for women.”
Mrs. Ford was nearly ninety, tiny and the kind of woman who still used lace-edged handkerchiefs. She’d been born in a time when men took care of life’s hardships and the most important job for a woman was to cook well and look pretty while doing it. The fact that living like that drove many women to alcohol or madness was just an unhappy by-product not to be discussed in polite society.
“I called Randy,” Elissa said as she slid the piecrust into the pan and pressed it into place. “He told me the tire cost forty dollars, but he’d lie in a heartbeat if he thought it would protect me, so I’m thinking it had to be closer to fifty.”
She had exactly sixty-two dollars in her wallet and she needed most of them for grocery shopping that afternoon. Her checking account balance hovered right around zero, but she got paid in two days, so that was something.
“If I could afford a new tire, I would have bought it myself,” she muttered.
“It’s more practical than flowers,” Mrs. Ford offered. “Or chocolates.”
Elissa smiled. “Trust me, Walker isn’t courting me.”
“You don’t know that.”
She was fairly confident. He’d helped because…Because…She frowned. Actually, she didn’t know why he’d come to her aid. Probably because she’d looked pathetic as she’d wrestled with uncooperative lug nuts.
She rolled out the second crust. Flats of blueberries had been ridiculously cheap at the Yakima Fruit Stand. She’d pulled in after dropping Zoe off at her party. She had just enough time to make three piecrusts before she had to be back to pick up her daughter.
“I’ll finish up the pies after I come back from the grocery store,” Elissa said, more to herself than her neighbor. “Maybe if I take him one…”
Mrs. Ford smiled. “An excellent idea. Imagine what he’ll think when he gets a taste of your cooking.”
Elissa groaned. “You’re matchmaking, aren’t you?”
“A woman of your age all alone? It’s just not natural.”
“I like being a freak. It keeps me grounded.”
Mrs. Ford shook her head as she finished her coffee. She set down the mug, then slowly pushed to her feet. “I need to get back. There’s a Beauty by Tova hour starting on QVC. I’m nearly out of her perfume.”
“You go, girl,” Elissa said.
Mrs. Ford walked to the door that connected their two apartments, then paused. “I left you my list, didn’t I?”
Elissa nodded. “Yes. I have it in my purse. I’ll bring everything by when I get back.”
The older woman smiled. “You’re a good girl, Elissa. I’d be lost without you.”
“I feel the same way.”
Mrs. Ford stepped into her own kitchen and closed the door behind her.
Elissa had been a little disconcerted to discover that her neighbor had access to her house when she’d first moved into her apartment, but that had quickly changed. Mrs. Ford might be elderly and old-fashioned, but she was sharp and caring and adored Zoe. The three of them had quickly become friends, with Elissa and Mrs. Ford working out a system that benefited them both.
Mrs. Ford got Zoe ready for preschool in the morning and fed her breakfast. Elissa handled her neighbor’s grocery shopping, got her to doctor’s appointments and checked in on her regularly. Not that Mrs. Ford was home all that much. She was very active in the senior center and one of her many friends was always ready to pick her up for bridge or scrapbooking or a quick trip to an Indian casino.
“I want to be just like her when I grow up,” Elissa said as she carried the three piecrusts over to the oven.
But until then she had to figure out where she would find the money to pay for a new tire and what to say to her neighbor to make sure he understood that she would never, ever, under any circumstances be interested in him.
Not even on a bet. Not even if he showed up naked. Although, to be honest, if he showed up naked, she would probably look because she hadn’t seen a naked man in years. And he was more spectacular than most.
“I don’t need a man,” Elissa murmured as she set the timer. “I’m fine. Empowered. Only thirteen more years until Zoe is grown and in college. Then I can have sex again. Until then, I will think pure thoughts and be a good mother.”
And, very possibly, think about her new neighbor naked. Because if she had to be tempted, she wouldn’t mind him doing the job.
ZOE WAS IN BED BY EIGHT and sound asleep by eight-thirty. Elissa collected one of the blueberry pies and her last five dollars and headed up the stairs to Walker’s apartment.
Despite the absolute silence from overhead, his SUV was parked in front, so she knew he had to be there. She hadn’t seen anyone arrive to pick him up. Not that she’d been watching. She hadn’t! She might have been observing the comings and goings in her community as a way to stay alert for trouble and be a good citizen. The fact that she was fairly confident Walker was alone was only a side benefit of her altruistic civic activity.
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