Guard Dog

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"So you're the one sending those vultures out here?"

Dressed in a pair of well worn jeans and a dirty undershirt beneath a fraying flannel button-up, I considered the rather scruffy caretaker to be more of a threat to my dry cleaning bill than anything else. I'd stood up against men that earned several figures more than I did, that could see to it that I never got another client again. I didn't care how tall and rugged he was, he wasn't a match for me as far as I was concerned.

"Vultures?" I scoffed. "If you mean my appraiser, then yes, I sent him out here to assess the value of my property."

"Wasn't your property until you finally dragged yourself out here and graced us with your presence."

"Jordan," chimed Mrs. Waverly, reaching out a tentative hand and placing it on his forearm. "I want you to meet Ms. Madelyn Creeke. Madelyn..."

"My name's Lyn and this is my property, whether you were tasked with taking care of it or not. It's none of your business what I do with this house."

"Oh, I think it is my business," replied Jordan, pulling his arm free from Saundra and crossing them over his thick chest. "Georgina entrusted me to take care of this place and if that means I have to stop you from throwing it away, then so be it."

"Stop me," I demanded, my eyes narrowing and my chin jutting forward. "Why do you believe you have the right to stop me from doing anything?"

"Lyn, dear," piped Saundra, "he's just a bit emotional about losing Gina, we all are, and he's very attached to this house..."

"She left me to take care of this place," huffed Jordan, stepping back to showcase the manor with a swing of arm, "to keep her legacy alive."

"I'm her niece, it's my legacy to take care of."

"And you're off to a great start by immediately trying to sell it." This time Jordan took a few steps forward and closed the gap between us. I felt the anger and resentment wafting off of him, the heat of his body warming mine in the cool night. With him so close I caught sight of the dark blue eyes hiding beneath his bent brow and saw that his shaggy head of hair was in fact a honey gold. For a moment, my footing slipped, my mind drifting to other places I didn't need it to be. Angry at my own inadequacies, I gritted my teeth and stiffened my resolve.

"It's my right to sell it," I answered, my words struggling to break free from behind my tight lips.

"Jordan, please," said Saundra with an exasperated sigh. "Calm down, dear. I know you're upset but you know what the will said. No where did it stipulate what Ms. Creeke has to do with the house. Gina left it completely up to her."

"You know this isn't what she would have wanted," he said, not turning to face the lawyer. Instead he kept his eyes upon mine, his glare drilling into me, while his breath sent a hot wave crashing against my face, a smell of peppermint burning my nose.

"And you know that she will rest happy knowing at least one member of her family simply set foot in this house." This time Saundra's words were stern, cut clear with the staccato of a practiced lawyer. When I glanced to the side and saw her standing in the glow of a flood light, I saw the lines of stress and commitment that accented her fierce gaze and pinched lips. "Now, I will tell you again to calm down Jordan. This is no way to greet someone you've never met, no matter how you may feel."

The inn's resident caretaker and guard dog, turned to look at the petite lawyer, his lower lip sticking out as he chewed on some words. He, however, swallowed them down, turning his eyes to the ground as he took a few steps back.

"Well then," I said, my voice a bit more breathless than I intended, "now that you've said your peace, can I have the keys now?"

He glanced over to Saundra, his face tense with the words still caught in his throat, but a sigh dispersed them into the air and he reluctantly reached for something in his back pocket.

"I can't withhold them from you, but I need you to do something for me before I pass them off." Perhaps sensing the next oncoming wave of retaliation building up inside me, he held up a hand of peace, offering me a packet of papers instead of keys. "It won't take long. It's just that for the past thirteen years, Georgina let this inn be my home. I got room and board, in exchange I did maintenance around the property and helped run the business now and again. It's well known in town that I was the one in charge of taking care of the house and so if you find some sort of structural problem with it, I don't want you chasing after me with a lawsuit for not disclosing it to you. So here's a report of all the things still in need of attention. I just need you to sign off saying you've seen this report and that you clear me of any responsibility attached to the items listed."

"Seriously?" I asked with a roll of my eyes.

"You're a business woman, you've never had to make sure that you dotted your i's and crossed your t's in your line of work?"

I stood there, looking between him and the packet before sighing and taking it from him. "Fine," I said, flipping through the absurdly detailed report. "It's not like it's going to be my problem anyway," I mumbled, finding the tagged pages and signing the lines he indicated. "All this mess will be the buyer's problem."

I signed the last line and handed it back to him with a smile on my face. "There. Now where's the keys?"

"Oh, I'll take you to them," he said, his grin dimpling his cheeks as he made sure I signed everything I needed to. "But you should probably know that these problems," he said, slapping his hand against the packet, "are very much your problems now."

***

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