Getting Wound Up

By: Jennifer Bernard



“You’re welcome anytime. Heck, you can move in.”

Something flickered across her face, and he suddenly realized how that statement might be interpreted. He scrambled to cover up his error. “Truffles twenty-four seven Dad. How’s that sound?”

Chip was enjoying his embarrassment. “Pretty girl and candy. Hard to say no to that.”

Jimmy made some sort of whimpering sound from the plumbing aisle.

Caitlyn, who was looking adorably pink-cheeked, hurried past the moment. “Actually, I came to borrow you for a little while, Eli. I need your help. I found a car on Craigslist, and I need an expert opinion but Bryan’s got a full day of PT and work and can’t look at it with me.”

“First of all, Sapphire Falls has Craigslist? Second, hell yes, you need a new car.” Caitlyn drove a godawful mustard-colored Ford Focus that singlehandedly kept the Sapphire Falls mechanics in overpriced motor oil. “But I can’t go until—” He broke off at a jab in his ribs from his father. “Ow. Dad, I can’t. I’ve got orders to place and a couple of lumber deliveries. And it’s two hours until closing. Can you wait until later, Caitlyn?”

She shrugged, her blond hair bouncing on her shoulders. “It’s okay. I can handle it. I already talked to the guy on the phone and he seems totally cool. He says it’s in excellent condition and drives great. I have a really good feeling about it.” She turned to go, then added over her shoulder, “Oh, what does ‘salvaged’ mean? That’s a good thing, right?”

Eli was out from behind the counter before he knew it. “Caitlyn, you can’t do this alone. Just wait two hours, would you? The shop’ll be closed, and—”

“I’ll be fine,” grumped his father. “You go on, you two.”

“I’ll help him out, boss,” Jimmy piped up. “Between me and Mr. Anderson, we got this. Can’t let any Craigslist creep take advantage of Caitlyn.” Just saying her name, he turned bright red.

Caitlyn tossed her hair. “You guys are being ridiculous. I can absolutely handle this and I’m sorry I even asked. The invitation is revoked.” She marched toward the door, with Eli scrambling behind her.

“The hell it is. I’m coming with you, Cait. Cait!”

He rushed out the door after her, into the bright sunshine of July in Nebraska. Main Street was crowded with afternoon shoppers, and he nearly lost Caitlyn in the crowd. Good thing he’d recognize that hideous yellow Focus anywhere. He sprinted after her, sliding into the passenger seat at the same moment she hit the driver’s side.

Oddly enough, she didn’t seem as irritated as he’d expected. In fact, she wore a slightly smug expression as she started the car. Eli wondered if he’d been played, but then decided he didn’t mind. Buying a new car was a very important job and he was the perfect guy to help her with it.

“I’m glad you came to me, Cait. Bryan would kill me if I let his little sis go car shopping alone.”

Her smile vanished. She looked as though she was about to say something, but held herself back. “I really appreciate it,” she said in a sweet voice. “You have no idea how much.”

Something was strange in her tone, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “So where are we going? Where’s this guy located? What kind of car is it?”

In answer, she turned up the volume on the speakers. The sound of Beyoncé filled the car, singing something about girls running the world.

Hell, Eli had no objection to that. A girl was certainly running his world at the moment. Two minutes ago he’d been facing more hours at the hardware store. Now, he was suddenly and unexpectedly free, as if school had let out early. He relaxed into the pleasure of the breeze whipping through the open window, the tunes rocking the car, Caitlyn’s whistling in time to the music.

He glanced over at her and got momentarily lost in the way her lips pursed together to form the tune. Caitlyn had a very sexy mouth—why had he never noticed that before?

“So what ever happened to Dude-face?” he asked her.

“Dude-face?”

“You know, what’s his name. With the beard.”

“Ross. And FYI, beards are in right now. It’s the whole lumbersexual thing.”

“The what?”

“Lumbersexual. Have you been living under a rock? It’s the new trend.”

Eli laughed long and hard. The things Caitlyn found on Facebook cracked him up. “I sell lumber. Do I qualify?”

“No. You need a beard.”

“I could grow a beard. Dare me?”

He, Caitlyn and Bryan had always dared each other to do silly crap like drink an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce. He’d almost always won those dares, because he’d been a reckless goofball until the age of nineteen. That’s when his father had suffered the stroke and everything had gotten very serious, very quickly.

“Absolutely not. I kind of OD’d on the facial hair thing. Not that… I mean, it’s totally different because you wouldn’t be giving me whisker burn or making me sneeze when I kiss you or…” She snapped her mouth shut, her cheeks the color of carnations.

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