10 - Alex

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He had no option but to listen to her speak to whoever Avery was. From his end, it sounded like she was avoiding something. It was hard to tell what. She kept putting her off. Was Sterling the husband? What kind of name was Sterling? He knew he could say he wouldn't, but he would end up googling her. He was left too curious after that call.

He was just the builder, which was an accurate description. They scarcely tolerated one another. The suggestions she made on the kitchen for his flip were impressive, but he never doubted that she had talent. Seeing her with Sydney, she appeared to work well with her clients. So it seemed that she only hated builders who ruined her beach.

On the way home, she spoke to him and asked, "Was that your girlfriend yesterday?"

He smiled because he didn't expect her to strike up a personal conversation. He answered, "Julia is a woman that I've been seeing."

"She's pretty. Been seeing is that code for it's not very serious?"

"Is it?" he turned her question back.

"Well coffee on a Sunday morning usually means one thing," she laughed.

That was the first time that he made her laugh. Actually, it was the first time she wasn't scowling at him. He was so surprised, he decided to be honest with her. He explained, "We've been dating awhile, but not seriously. We go to dinner and spend time together, but that's it."

"And that's enough for you?" she asked.

"Yes. No. With her it is, but I would like to meet someone to settle down with and have a couple kids," he said.

"This Julia isn't the one?"

"No, because I like her, but I'm definitely not in love with her," he answered wondering why he was having a conversation with her that he had never had with anyone before.

"You really want babies?" she asked.

"Absolutely. I see my friends with their kids and I'm jealous. My sister has a baby and I held him yesterday. I saw you had a nice conversation with Sophie."

"That girl can talk. She's smart and notices everything. She noticed you," Jen said.

"I'm sure she did. She and I are tight. She keeps me up on the local gossip," he said.

"You're joking?"

"Only that the gossip is less local and more of the classroom variety, but not about us being close," he answered. Even though the family moved out when he renovated their house, they were around to check on it regularly. He also learned if he had decisions for Megan to make and he stopped by he would be asked to dinner. It was amazing how many decisions he found. Peter knew what he was up to, but didn't care.

"Where are we going?" she asked as he noticed he took a Portland exit. He explained that they needed to think about bathrooms. She asked, "What are your other projects?"

"One is a very old home on Fortune's Rock in dire need of upgrades. The other is a flip, in town. It's not a big house, but because of the condition, I got it for a steal."

"Do you do a lot of those?"

"Some. It was how I got started on my own," he said. He wondered who that pathetic ostracized kid was. His dalliance was probably his best mistake ever.

She surprised him by her ability to zero in and make decisions quickly. He asked her for advice and she made the choices for him too. She even said she'd pick a paint color for him. He wasn't sure why she was being so helpful, but he wasn't going to question her about it.

Growing up with Kate, he learned when a girl is happy, don't do anything to change that. Kate could flip on a dime. Not that he and Tom didn't give her reasons for it. The three of them could be brutal, but they all love each other now. He couldn't imagine being an only child like Jen. That was probably why she and Megan were so close.

If anyone had told him that he would have enjoyed his day with Jennifer Dixon, he would have laughed at them, but he actually had. She wasn't that bad after all. He suspected that there was more to her trip home than just the Thompson house.

Later that evening at home, he did the inevitable. He was curious by nature, so there was no way he was going to get the idea out of his head. He started with Dixon Designs. The website was professionally done. He clicked on About Us and read the bios. There was no mention of her being from Maine. Her bio started with design school. Still, her rise was impressive.

Interestingly, Sterling Dixon started his bio with a business degree from Columbia. They must have met working at the same design firm. They also had two employees, who he assumed were doing the other work while she was visiting home. He wondered why after being away for nearly a decade, she seemed to be staying for so long now.

When he started looking in Our Designs, he was blown away by her work. There was no surprise why she was so successful. Her vision was amazing. He spent the better part of an hour looking at one design after another.

Next, he looked her up by name and along with the business he found many hits. He skipped to images and he had a screen of multiple version of her face smiling at him. She really was beautiful, that he couldn't deny. Most shots she was dressed up. Tom was right they were a striking couple. He found himself thinking that her husband was almost too handsome. He suspected that he was putting on airs.

She was also seen with an equally striking woman who with a few clicks he discovered was the Avery who called. She seemed to be a mover and shaker in the business world. Jennifer Jablonski sure had come a long way from Maine. His gut told him that the husband was so concerned with her image that he kept her from coming home. He knew for a fact that it had broken Rick and Alice's hearts.

The woman he spent the day with was nothing like the one in the photos. He suspected that the real woman was picking out faucets and making fun of statues at a party. Perhaps he should cut her a break and give her a chance.

He saw her a few days later and she told him that she had walls and flooring chosen for the entire house. She asked if they could meet at the house. He recommended four after the crew had left. He was impressed with how fast she worked. It seemed as if all the major decisions were made. She even had suggestions for his flip as promised.

She explained, "These are less expensive options that give it a high end feel."

"Thank you. You do realize that you don't need to be here every day. I imagine you have obligations at home. I promise I won't make any decisions without you. We are a few weeks away from finish work," he said.

"You weren't happy I came and now you want me to go!"

"No, it's just I know you're married and I know if I had a wife, I'd be missing her..."

"You have a point, but I need to discuss trim," she said. She explained what she had in mind and he made notes. Then she surprised him by saying, "I'm not sure when I'm leaving, but regardless. I want pictures of your other house."

"Do you want to see it?" he asked on a whim.

"You mean now?"

"Sure or some other time..."

"Now works. Where is it?" she asked. He told her and she said, "I know where that is. I'll meet you there."

He observed her as she walked through the house. She seemed to take in every detail. Upstairs she almost tripped over a board and he grabbed her arm to keep her from falling. He kept holding her arm while she steadied herself. Once he was over the shock of her falling, he felt a reaction in his hand and let go immediately like she was hot flames.

"Thank you," she whispered and said, "I guess these boots are not a good choice for a building site. He wondered if she felt something too, but it didn't matter. Rule number one was non-negotiable.

Alex made a decision that he was going to keep his distance. This plan lasted until Friday night.

Remember rule number one?  I hope you are enjoying Alex.  I just love him.  Please vote for Alex.

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