Mine 'Til Monday

By: Ruby Laska

CHAPTER ONE



Dorothy Albright had an unshakable policy against second thoughts.

After all, if you wanted to earn your first patent before your twenty-fifth birthday, and take over a Fortune Five Hundred company before your thirty-fifth—well, then you simply couldn’t afford to look back.

Which was a good thing. Because the feeling she got when she opened the door and found herself staring up at Mud Taylor, the feeling that started in the pit of her stomach and lurched dizzily through the rest of her body, felt an awfully lot like regret. And regrets were out of the question.

Only yesterday Dorothy had asked Mud to marry her.

Well, not exactly to marry her, technically. But for the next few weeks, Mud was going to be her fiancé.

“Thanks for coming.” She managed a weak smile. “I know this was short notice.”

Mud nodded slowly. The grin that spread out over his face was crooked and untroubled and as comfortable as a porch swing.

“Well, if I’m supposed to be crazy enough about you to marry you, I guess I can manage to show up for dinner.”

Mud stooped for a kiss, brushing his lips against her cheek.

And sent a tremor rocketing through her as if she’d touched a live wire. It was the craziest thing. She’d known Mud practically her whole life. Had a crush on him for a while, true, but that was long ago. He had kissed her a few times since they reached adulthood, perfunctory little social kisses when they crossed paths every year or two. There was nothing to those kisses, a fraction of a second of contact, involving maybe a few square millimeters of skin. The kind of kiss you gave your great-aunt.

So why did Mud’s kisses always set her heart pounding? It was ridiculous. It was unseemly. It had to be some sort of meaningless leftover chemical response—-

“I brought you something.” Mud held out a sad little bouquet of daisies tied with a length of twine. “Florist was closed. Had to steal these from my neighbor. Next time I’ll do better.”

As he handed her the wilting bouquet, awkwardly scooping up an errant stalk or two and folding them into her hands, Mud’s thumbs glanced off Dorothy’s palm and she registered way too much about his touch. His hands were rough, big strong hands that did more than push paper every day of the week. And warm. Compared to the cool evening breeze that circulated through the open windows, Mud’s touch felt like it could melt her skin.

Before Dorothy had a chance to properly chastise herself for her reaction, Mud stepped closer and took her shoulders in his hands.

“Hey.” He drew her a little closer, trailing his gaze slowly from her face down her throat, and lazily across her body before returning unhurriedly to her eyes. She caught a whiff of his scent: early autumn mixed with soap, tart and smoky and undeniably appealing. A good clean scent that, like everything else, he probably accomplished without even trying.

She wished he’d let go of her. Once a man breaks your heart—even if you were just kids—there should be a law against him staring too deeply into your eyes. Especially if his own were as blue as forget-me-nots.

“You know what,” he said, frowning slightly and finally releasing her, “I think you’ve shrunk.”

Dorothy drew in a sharp intake of air, let it slowly out. Counted to ten. Leave it to Mud to say whatever came into his mind, no matter how rude. But she was almost grateful—she’d gladly take irritation over whatever it was she’d been feeling a moment earlier.

“No, I haven’t.” So he was still a thoughtless clod. Good. A clod she could handle. Dorothy stepped aside to make way for Mud to plow by into her apartment. “The last time you saw me I was in four-inch heels.”

“Four inch heels, huh?” Mud repeated, ambling past and assessing her apartment without making any attempt to hide it.

“Pink satin pumps. My cousin Bitsy’s wedding, remember? I was the maid of honor?”

At last recognition flared on his face. “Oh yeah. Hottest day of August what—four years ago? Let’s see, pink dress, bow on your butt, hair in that ridiculous thing on top of your head, neckline cut down to—”

“So you do remember,” Dorothy interjected testily. Too late she realized he’d been kidding around with her. He’d remembered their last encounter all along. And she’d fallen for it. Just like every other time in the last thirty years, she’d taken the bait, and now he was grinning from one side of that near-perfect face clear to the other.

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