TWENTY-EIGHT

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Twenty volunteers had shown up throughout the morning, more than Virginia had anticipated. So many more, she'd had to send a few of them back out to the local hardware store for additional paintbrushes.

The locals teased her about her young fan base. Apparently, the neighborhood kids had gone door-to-door signing people up, not taking "no" for an answer. Virginia's heart had swelled upon hearing it, and a little of that background nervousness was chipped away, the weight floating off her shoulders, providing some welcome relief. With this kind of support, they would for sure be a success.

She glanced up at the clock. Noon already? She was going to have to work on feeding all these people. Turning to the two women next to her, she let them know she was taking a break, and then headed to her office to get her purse.

As she scanned the room, she vowed not to search for him, but . . . yup, there he was. Spinelli, Dominique, and another man were all in a line, having a good ole time by the looks of it, laughing it up while they completed the lower section of the wall left untouched by the men on scaffolding ahead of them. It did nothing to improve her mood when the timing dawned on her. He was now finishing the third hour of a two-hour debt.

And still painting.

And he had taken off his shirt.

Damn. Hard lines and ridges formed across his back and up his arms as he rolled up the wall, only to relax as different muscles engaged on the roll down. It was mesmerizing watching those muscles tighten and release as he was rolling up . . . rolling down . . . rolling up . . . rolling—

Her foot caught on a stray drop sheet, throwing her into an awkward three step run to prevent a face plant. Pulling it together, she ducked her head and looked around while muttering, "Shouldn't walk and ogle at the same time, Virginia."

Luckily, no one else had noticed.

Stomping the rest of the way to her office door, she forced her focus onto lunch. Grabbing her purse, she decided the deli on 103rd was a good choice, but first she needed to tell Dominique she was going out. That involved, of course, passing him. Glancing over at the group of men again, she prayed Spinelli had moved on or taken a break. Nope.

This is insane. Just go over there. Squaring her shoulders, she crossed the gym, giving Spinelli a wide berth. Her intention was to not look at that hot body on the way by . . . or to at least be discreet about it.

He turned his head just in time to catch her in the act. The grin was quick, but the cocky tone was slow when he said, "Try to control yourself, Ginny."

Her own words! She slammed her eyes shut with a silent groan. Ignore him, she told herself. With a few more steps, she'd made it. "Dominique, I'm heading out to grab lunch for everyone. I'll be back soon."

"Okay, Virginia, that's great. I'm getting pretty hungry."

She laughed. Dominique was always hungry. "That doesn't surprise—"

"Need some help with that?"

She stopped laughing. Lifted her chin. Crossed her arms as she pivoted around to face Spinelli. "You have paid your bet. It's been more than two hours."

"That's no problem." He put down the roller and called to one of the other men to take over.

"Fine." After all, she probably could use an extra set of arms. She marched toward the front door, hearing him fall into step behind her. At the entrance she swung around to state the obvious. "I'll drive . . . since . . ."

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