Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(18) by Susan Mallery
“I’m going to try,” he said.
Zoe’s eyes widened. “You can do that?”
Elissa showed him the trap.
“I’ll go rent a snake,” he said. “Let’s see if that fixes the problem.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she told him, even as she thought she should keep her mouth shut. After all, Walker would get the job done a lot faster than a long argument with the service, then sitting around and waiting on a plumber.
“What’s a snake going to do?” Zoe asked. “Do you have a cage for it? I don’t like snakes.”
“It’s not a real snake,” Elissa told her daughter. “It’s the name of a special tool.”
Walker smiled. “I’ll show you when I get back.”
“Okay.” Zoe looked doubtful.
“I should have this fixed in an hour,” Walker told Elissa. “Why don’t you ladies go get lunch or something? It’s too hot to be standing outside and you don’t want to go inside with that smell.”
He had a point. Mrs. Ford already looked a little flushed.
“I’ll leave the back door open in case you need to get in the house,” Elissa said.
Five minutes later they were in a blissfully cool fast-food restaurant. As Zoe stared at the kids’ menu and tried to decide on lunch, Mrs. Ford nudged Elissa in the ribs.
“Father figure,” she mouthed.
Elissa grinned. “I know. Who can resist a man with a snake?”
THREE HOURS LATER the pipes were clear and the last of the mess had been cleaned up. Elissa had insisted that Mrs. Ford keep her afternoon movie date with her friends.
After scrubbing out the tub three times, Elissa doused the whole thing in bleach. Still, she was going to have Zoe shower for a few days, until the pipe backup cooties were all gone.
She wandered over to Mrs. Ford’s apartment where Walker stood at the sink, rinsing the old porcelain.
“You didn’t have to do the cleanup,” she said. “We’re so grateful to have drainage again. That was enough.”
“I didn’t mind,” he told her as he turned off the water. “Mrs. Ford is too old to get down on her knees and scrub out a tub and there was no reason for you to do two.”
There was no reason for him to do one. “But Walker…”
He shrugged. “I’ve cleaned worse, believe me. I’ve dug trenches for latrines. This is easy.”
“If you say so. You’re going to submit a bill for the snake to the landlord, right?”
“Oh, yeah, I’ll be sure to get reimbursed for that.”
She had a feeling he wasn’t going to bother, which made her crazy. “You shouldn’t have to pay.”
“It doesn’t matter, Elissa. I promise.”
It was the principle of the thing. But she had a feeling it was an argument she wasn’t going to win.
“Come for dinner,” she said impulsively. “It’s my small way of saying thank you. I’ll be grilling chicken and I’ve already made potato salad. There’s even strawberry shortcake for dessert.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You have rules.”
“You’re mocking me,” she said. “Zoe will be there and Mrs. Ford, which you very well know. This isn’t a date.”
“Or even sex,” he added.
She felt herself blushing. “Right. Not sex. Come on, Walker. I know you like my cooking. I don’t think you hate the company. What’s the problem?”
He didn’t speak for so long that she thought he wasn’t going to answer. Then he said, “I don’t want to be around Zoe.”
Anger and protective instinct battled for primary emotion. She narrowed her gaze. “You don’t like my daughter?” she asked in an icy tone.
“I think she’s great,” he said. “I like her a lot. I’m not the right guy to hang out with her.”
Elissa thought about how patient he’d been earlier when he’d shown Zoe the snake and explained how it worked. He’d been careful to keep her from touching the sharp blades, even as he’d let her turn on the engine.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she murmured. “Is this a soldier thing? You’re too emotionally scarred by what you’ve seen and done to deal with a child?”
“You don’t have to make it sound so movie-of-the-week.” He shrugged. “I’m not comfortable around her. I don’t want to hurt her.”
His words and his actions didn’t match. Was there something else, something he wasn’t telling her? What was it? Had he lost a child of his own? Fallen for a woman with kids only to have things go badly? There had to be an answer, but she wasn’t sure she had the right to pursue the question.
“I’ll respect your position,” she said. “If you don’t want to eat with us, will you at least come get a plate?”
He nodded at her and left. She returned to her own apartment and thought about all the guys who had tried to use Zoe to get to her. They’d failed, while Walker’s reticence made her trust him more.
For a guy who wasn’t trying to get her into bed, he was doing a damn fine job of seducing her.
WALKER STROLLED into The Waterfront about ten in the evening. The dinner crowd had thinned to just a few guests. At a round table in the back he saw Dani, Penny, Cal and Reid. They waved him over.
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