A Proposition

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It was Sunday morning and I was still bundled up on the floor.

I'd gone ahead and washed my new sheets, they were even sitting on my desk waiting to be stretched over the mattress, yet, there I was, still on the floor with lower back pain and a crick in my neck.

This time, however, I felt reasonably confident that my excuse was due to lack of time rather than some silly fear of sleeping where my dead aunt used to lie her head.

A full house showed up on Friday and three of the rooms were family to each other. It made for a loud and rowdy house, and I could not keep the hot cocoa and cookies moving fast enough. Now that we had gotten into the swing of things, we no longer bought cookies from the bakery and instead relied on my own skill in the kitchen. However, that first night, I was painfully unprepared for the attendance of teenagers in the house.

With cleaning all the rooms, preparing breakfasts, helping Jordan with some of the Christmas decorations, keeping up with the pile of dishes in the sink, and making sure our guests had a pleasant stay, I barely found time to sit down, much less get sheets on to my bed.

I also kept my phone in my room. There was no point in taking it around with me when I had no time to stop and browse my email or social media. As a result, I kept missing calls and voice mails from Marshall's investor friend. By the time I settled on to my pillow mattress on the floor, it was already too late to call him back and the few minutes I kept to myself in the morning before heading down to start breakfast was far too early. The investor would simply have to wait until Monday.

However, after that torturous sprint, came the finish line. Everyone was leaving that Sunday and the house would be utterly vacant until Monday afternoon when a couple would be checking in for the week. After I finished cleaning the last room and tossed the last dish into the dishwasher, I took my weary bones upstairs and decided my body deserved a quiet, peaceful night on a real bed. Exhaustion had finally overcome my fears.

I stripped it down until nothing but the box spring and mattress remained. I stumbled out of my room with a mountain of sheets, pillowcases, and a frilly bed skirt piled onto my arms. Thankfully, I only had to take a few steps down the hall before reaching the laundry room, where I tossed all of it into the nearest washer. A contented sigh eased my tired muscles as I slammed the door shut and began the spin cycle.

"Finally changing your sheets?"

I bumped into the washer in surprise and a hand flew to my mouth as I caught my breath.

"Jeez, don't sneak up on me like that."

"Sorry," said Jordan, leaning against the door frame with a playful smile curling his lips. "I've been here too long, my feet guide me around all the squeaky floorboards without thinking."

"Are squeaky floorboards on your inspection list?" I asked, raising one eyebrow and returning his smirk.

"No, thank god, that would be a nightmare to fix and I'd probably just be fighting a losing battle. They aren't dangerous, just something that happens when you've got wood pressed up against each other and hammered down with nails."

"So then, what is next on your list?" I asked, reclining against one of the machines that wasn't currently running a load.

"Well, that's kind of what I came here to talk to you about." He straightened up and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm still working through the inspection list, but as far as the Christmas decorations go, I've pretty much done all I can."

"Well, the place looks great," I said with a genuine smile upon my face. "I think my favorite is the tree in the dining room. I love all the little handcrafted woodland animals and the popcorn garland."

"You're an animal lover, huh? Must be rough in the city with only pigeons and squirrels to keep you company. Now out here, we have all kinds of wildlife. In fact the county park at the base of Mt. Hereford has these great nature walks that are popular once the weather warms up and..."

"Well, maybe I'll have to come back then," I said with a firm, but sympathetic tone that caused him to sigh, "but for now, what is it you need?"

"All that's left is the trees around the drive. We still have to figure out how we're going to decorate them. We have the basics, but Gina's general concept isn't enough to go on. We're going to have to do some work to see this vision through."

"Right," I said with a sigh, wondering if I'd actually get the quiet, peaceful night I had hoped for. "I guess we should go down to the dining room then and hash this out. I'd just like to make myself some coffee..."

"Actually," he said, cutting in and using his body to block the door so I couldn't head straight down to the kitchen as I intended. I tried not to think too much about how his boxy, muscular frame fit so nicely in that space. "I was thinking perhaps we could do something else."

"Something other than Georgina's history idea?"

"No," he said with a laugh, "I mean we should do something other than sit around the dining room table to figure it out."

"Like what?" I asked, my voice hesitant.

"Why don't we go into town?" he said, his tone a bit uneven as he looked over my shoulder and supposedly through the wall to where the town lay. "We spend all day in here, why don't we both get some fresh air and discuss this in town?"

"Well, I suppose that makes sense," I admitted. "We do that plenty at my work. Going out for a walk can really clear your head."

"I'm not thinking of a walk, though I wouldn't mind taking you on one." A shy smile brightened his face and I felt a blush rising to the top of my skin. "But, I was thinking more about discussing it over dinner."

"D-dinner?" I asked, the word stuttering upon my tongue.

"I'll show you where the best food in Hereford Hills is and it will even be my treat."

"Your treat?" I asked, more mumbling it to myself as I slid the pieces of his plan together in my head.

"Is something wrong?" he asked, his smile a bit more confident as I stumbled over whether or not there was something more lying beneath his proposition.

"I...well no...it's just..."

"What? You don't do dinner meetings where you're from?" His smirk clearly indicated he knew otherwise and it only confused me further.

"Of course we do," I said, my words only slightly rattled. "I think a dinner meeting sounds like a good idea."

"Great," he said, stepping out of the doorway and turning to leave down the hall. "You should go grab your coat and scarf. You'll need to bundle up so I can take you to the caroling concert after dinner. It will be far more enjoyable for you when you're not freezing."

"Right," I muttered, stepping out into the hall, "we'll be going to a concert after our dinner meeting."

"I'll see you outside, I'm going to pull the truck up and get the engine running. It's a cold one today."

"Right," I said, watching his back as he went out onto the landing and shut the door to the service hallway behind him. "Right," I said again to myself, turning for my door and telling myself not to spend the next half hour picking out just the right clothes to wear for this dinner meeting.

***

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