Claire rushed home after work, wanting to make sure she had a few minutes to herself to frantically clean her place before Gabe arrived. As much as she didn't care if people realized she was a bit of a slob, it was entirely another thing for the man to see her bras hanging from the shower curtain rod to air dry and dishes from the past few days covering her kitchen counter... They were really starting to smell.

Just as Claire finished loading the dish washer, there was a knock at her door. "It's open" she yelled, buying herself a few more seconds to wipe down the kitchen counters. 

When Gabe walked into the condo, Claire felt her jaw drop.  How had she failed to realize how smoking hot this man was earlier in the day? Had he really been working in her office for a week without her taking a second look at his bulging muscles or smoldering brown eyes?

The man was the embodiment of raw masculinity; he was tall, had a strong jaw and broad shoulders. In his old jeans, tool belt and paid shirt with its rolled-up sleeves, Gabe looked completely out of place in Claire’s femininely decorated condo.

“So… The water heater?” Gabe said, pulling Claire’s mind out of the gutter.

“Right, it’s behind that closet door.” Claire said, pointing to the door directly behind him, hoping she sounded more composed than she felt.

Claire excused herself to her bedroom as Gabe began working. She went through her clothing trying to plan an outfit for the date that she was supposed to arrive at by 8:00, but her thoughts kept wandering to the hunky construction worker working just outside her room.

Remembering that she had decided to turn over a new leaf when it came to the opposite sex, she decided she’d do what a man would do if he had a hot woman working in his home; she’d ogle the hell out of him. 

“Can I get you water?  Or a beer?” Claire asked Gabe as she walked back out into the hall.

“A beer would be great sweetheart. I’m getting warm working.”  Gabe said without taking his eyes of his work.

Claire pulled a can of Barking Squirrel beer from her fridge for Gabe. When she turned to hand it to him, she almost dropped it on her toe.

Oh. My. God. Gabe was working shirtless. 

Claire had seen plenty of men’s backs in her day, but none of them sent a shot of heat directly between her legs the way Gabe’s did.  His muscles were well defined without being too bulky; she could feel herself staring at them ripple as he worked.  Just as stunning as his perfect back, was the intricate black and grey tattoos covering his back from the top of each shoulder blade, almost down to his waist.   The theme of the tattoos wasn’t incredibly original, with an angle vanquishing a devil, but the quality of the work made it breathtaking. It was done in a renaissance style that gave the images a romantic Gothic feel.

Claire swallowed hard, “So do you think you can fix it?” she said as she handed Gabe his beer.

“It shouldn’t take me more than half an hour.” Gabe answered as he eyed the beer suspiciously. Claire figured that craft beer probably wasn’t his thing.

“That’s a relief.” She said with a sigh. “Thank you again for doing this. You’re a life saver.”

Claire took a seat on her couch while she waited for Gabe to finish. Sitting there, she was incredibly grateful for her condo’s tiny size since she had an unobstructed view of the half-naked man from where she sat.

Claire took her cell phone out and put it on silent. Then, as inconspicuously as possible, she snapped a photo of Gabe and texted it to Miriam and Iris.

Day 1 of learning to love like a man… I think I’m getting the hang of this! - Claire

Holy shit girl!!! You better hit that or I will! - Iris
 
He doesn’t happen to have a Jewish brother does he? FML There’s no way I’ll find a doctor that sexy. - Miriam

I can’t hit that – He’s a construction worker. Can’t waste time on someone with no future. – Claire

Um hello… What happened to the being like a man stuff? Do you think men care about our jobs? – Miriam

She’s right. Men just care that we’re hot, and this guy is hot. DO HIM NOW! – Iris

Can’t. Have a date tonight. – Claire

You’re an idiot. He can lay some pipe at my place anytime! – Iris

A mega idiot. - Miriam

Claire was snickering at her phone when she was interrupted by Gabe. “I’m all done here. You’ll be able to have a warm shower for your date.”

“Wow, that was fast!” Claire said genuinely impressed with how quickly he worked. “What do I owe you.”

“If you let me take you out for drinks on Friday, we’ll call it even.” Gabe said with a devilish grin pulling at his mouth.

Feeling her phone vibrate against her pocket as her friends sent her a flurry of texts, Claire knew they’d never let her live it down if she didn’t accept Gabe’s invitation.  “That doesn’t seem very fair to you. But I’m definitely up for it.” 

“I’m texting you my number right now. Let me know if anything changes… And, I promise this will be plenty fair to me.” Gabe said, with a look that made Claire blush. “See you tomorrow at work sugar.” 

This chapter is dedicated to @Fierce1ne. Thank you for your enthusiasm for my little sotry and for getting my sense of humor (even if it is unlady like at times).

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