College guys, ugh! A new one showed up every summer, supposedly to help mom as the groundskeeper. They usually spent most of the summer flirting with my friends. Like I cared. If I were a guy I’d probably flirt with them too. It wasn’t my fault I had single-handedly landed the two most adorable twin girls as my best friends.
So, when Brandon didn’t glance twice at Krystal and Kat, I knew he was different. He parked his baby-blue Mustang convertible right there in the circle drive of our bed and breakfast as if he were a guest instead of the hired help. Mom would make him move his car when she got home. But I wasn’t about to give him the low-down on her rules. I was going to enjoy the view of the hot guy with the hot car.
He left the top down and grabbed his duffle bag from the back seat. I expected him to remove his sunglasses, brush his shaggy blond hair off his forehead, and flex his muscles as he gave us some cheesy one-liner about how lucky he was to have such a beautiful welcoming party, but his stoic expression never faltered as he stepped toward us. “Which one of you is Sammy?”
“I am.” I didn’t budge from my spot on the top porch step between Krystal and Kat, and I kept my face as devoid of emotion as his.
“Your mom said you’d show me around since she won’t be home until later.” He still didn’t crack a smile. “Can you direct me to where I’m going to be sleeping for the summer?”
“I can think of the perfect spot,” Krystal mumbled.
Her sister reached around me and smacked her on the shoulder.
I stood and left the twins to fight over him behind my back.
“You must be Brandon.” I held out my hand in greeting.
He had to shift his duffle bag to his left side to shake my hand. The action caused static electricity, because I swear a jolt of energy shot up my arm when we touched. “So, you’re the college guy we’re stuck with for the summer, huh?”
Brandon shuffled his feet and lowered his gaze, kicking a small stone from the driveway. “I guess so.” Last season’s broken-in Saucony running shoes peeked out from under Adidas warm-up pants and a faded Ferris State University t-shirt. Interesting choice for a job interview. Good thing he had been hired sight unseen by recommendation from my mom’s mutual friend.
“I was just teasing.” I fake-punched him on the arm like I was one of the guys and turned to head around back to the groundskeeper’s apartment above the garage. “It’s not a bad job for the money, really. You can come and go as you please and work whenever you want, as long as you get the work done, of course. With that tan, you look like you spend a lot of time at the beach, so you’ll love that we’re right on the water. I opened the windows in your apartment to get some fresh air up there, and I cleaned it myself. I clean pretty much the whole house.”
My rambling halted when I realized he was ten feet behind me with his jaw gaping. He stared down the bluff at the expansive labyrinth of cobblestone paths woven through and around elaborate trellises of climbing roses and ivy, little ponds and water falls, decorative lighting, groupings of sitting areas, two fire pits closer to the beach, and an alcove with a hammock that seemed to hang over Lake Michigan.
I sauntered back toward him, knowing this could take a few minutes.
“She said it was a flower garden…”
“Yeah, so, in a manner of speaking, it kinda is a flower garden. I mean, there are indeed flowers growing there, right?”
He set his duffle bag on the path and stepped down into the little bit of heaven my mom had created alongside her dream house. I’d grown up here, so it didn’t affect me like it did everyone else. The garden was an escape my mom needed to heal the broken heart she’d nursed almost fifteen years since my father passed away.
I shook off the nostalgia and followed Brandon down the cobblestone stairs. He finally removed his sunglasses and draped them over the collar of his shirt. He was ruggedly handsome in an I-like-flower-gardens kind of way. I could get used to having him around.
He’s too old for me. If I told myself that enough times, maybe I’d believe it. The college guys who came each summer to work as groundskeepers were always too old for me, but I was almost seventeen now. Maybe he wasn’t completely off-limits. I couldn’t resist at least asking, “How old are you?”
“I’ll turn eighteen on Labor Day.” He turned to look at me, nearly at eye level, even though I was two steps higher on the path.
“Monday? Of Labor Day weekend?”
“We will be the same age for exactly one whole day. I turn seventeen that Saturday.”
“Cool,” Brandon said, still not smiling. He turned to walk farther down the path. “You look younger than that.”
Seriously? Who says that to a girl? Not a guy who’s attracted to her, that’s for sure. Great. I would be forced to watch from my third-floor bedroom window as a hot guy with a runner’s tan and sullen brow used his well-toned muscles to prune our rose bushes and mow our lawns. And he thought of me as an annoying little girl.
This was going to be the worst summer ever.
This was going to be the worst summer ever.
What was I thinking taking this job? I should have done more research before I agreed to this. I’m sure there are pictures of this garden on their website. It was probably a selling point, drawing tourists to Northern Michigan in droves. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in this incredible space?
The person who’s in charge of its up-keep, that’s who. It would take me half the summer to work my way from one end of it to the other, just to prune and weed and clean this beautiful monstrosity.
Not to mention the annoying little girl who wouldn’t shut up. Adorable, but annoying. Okay, not that annoying. More like annoying in a she’s-too-young-for-me kind of way. She would likely follow me around, flirting while I tried to get my work done, and I’d either be so distracted that I’d get fired or end up kissing her before the summer was over. Yeah, I should never have taken this job.
“What?” I turned around when I realized she was talking to me again.
“I said, do you want to go see your apartment now?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Apartment. Right.” I traipsed back up the cobblestone steps. I certainly wouldn’t get out of shape this summer.
I followed Sammy around the side of the main house to what she described as ‘an apartment above the garage’ but what I saw was an elegant carriage house with the upstairs transformed into a space larger than the home where I grew up. Okay, not quite that big, but darn close.
“I’m going to be living here?” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped.
“Sorry if it’s not to your liking, mister I-drive-a-convertible-Mustang. Mom’s not going to let you take over one of the guest rooms.” Sammy put her hands on her hips. “They’re for the guests.”
I ignored her rude comments and pushed past her, taking the stairs two at a time. The quaint screen door creaked on its hinges just like in a scene from a classic movie with a cottage overlooking a lake, which was ironic since this porch literally did overlook Lake Michigan.
The interior was straight out of a chick-flick movie, with wicker furniture, knick-knacks of lighthouses, aerial photos of local lakes, and little wall hangings that read, “What happens up north, stays up north,” and, “Home is where the hand is,” complete with a drawing of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan shaped to look like a mitten.
The creaking door behind me barely registered as I stepped gingerly through the living room.
“My mom would have loved this place.” I, however, would need to spruce it up with some guy stuff.
“Would have?” Sammy’s voice was closer than I realized, and I spun around, nearly knocking her over. I grabbed her arms for support then quickly stepped back, brushing my hands down my jeans to shake off the electricity from touching her bare skin.
“Yeah, she and my dad died in a car accident last Christmas.” I hurried over to the kitchen, putting some space between us. I made a show of opening every cupboard and cabinet, inspecting the interior, and avoiding the subject of the nightmare last four months of my senior year of high school. “Is there a grocery store around here?”
“I’m sorry about your parents,” Sammy said.
I ignored her. “I’m going to need some milk and cereal and maybe a loaf of bread and some peanut butter.”
“My mom will want you to come to dinner tonight.” Her voice was still quiet and full of pity.
“I don’t want her charity.” I folded my arms across my chest and turned to look at her across the open kitchen island.
“It’s not charity.” Sammy mimicked my stance. “It’s called hospitality, and you should probably get used to that if you’re going to be living at a bed and breakfast. Besides, she’s your boss now, and she’s going to want to get to know you. At least for tonight you can just say, ‘Thank you’ and not insult us by eating peanut butter and jelly when mom has a roast in the crock pot.”
“Fine. Whatever.” I was the first to break eye contact.
“Fine.” She flipped her long, blonde hair over her shoulder as she turned around. “Do you want a tour of the rest of the place or not?” She didn’t wait for me to answer but let the screen door slam shut behind her.
I hurried to follow, grumbling under my breath, “Snobby witch.”
Running To You
Read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!