Kate Grady has a lot on her plate. She's living by her father's rules in order to patch their strained relationship. She's running the family pharmacy single-handedly while said father heals his broken hip. His physical therapy doesn't include breathing over her shoulder but he manages to do it anyway.
Then in walks John O'Brien, the boy next door. The very sexy, seven years younger boy next door. The last time she'd seen him, he'd been a gangly, gawky boy with thick glasses. Oh how he's grown.
Can Kate look past their age difference to appreciate the man John has become?
“Kate, your dad is on the phone.”
Kate Grady finished counting the pills in her tray and spilled them into an amber vial. “Thanks Amy,” she said to the counter girl. Taking in a deep breath through her nose, Kate let it out slowly through her lightly glossed mouth. After her father’s fall and subsequent broken hip, Patrick Grady wasn’t adjusting well to his temporary lack of mobility. He called her at least twice an hour just to make sure she wasn’t running his pharmacy into the ground.
“Hi Dad.” Kate tried to sound cheerful, but as this was probably the hundredth call of the day, her patience was wearing thin.
“Hey Katie, I forgot to tell you when I called before,” Patrick said, “I hired a new delivery boy.”
“What’s wrong with Kevin?” Kate smacked her hand on the counter, nearly spilling her coffee. She lifted the mug, took a sip and placed it out of harm’s way.
“Does Kevin know?”
Their current delivery “boy” just celebrated his seventy-second birthday. A retired firefighter, Kevin Finnerty had been running deliveries for Grady’s Pharmacy for the past ten years. He was reliable and efficient, and Kate didn’t want to step on his toes.
“He knows.” She heard her father sigh and could picture him dragging his thick fingers through not-so-thick white hair. Before she could ask another question, Patrick cut her off. “Look Katie, Kevin doesn’t want everybody to know, but Lizzie isn’t feeling so good.”
“Oh.” Kate didn’t know what else to say. She cleared her throat. “Well, who is it?”
She rolled her eyes, thankful her father wasn’t able to see the childish gesture. He’d reprimand her despite the fact she was a full grown woman.
“The new delivery boy.”
“Oh right,” he said and cleared his own throat. She wondered if he was thinking back to when her mother first got sick. “Remember little Johnny O’Brien?”
“From next door?”
The child in question flashed through her mind. The last time she’d seen Johnny, he’d been skin and bones topped off with a mass of white-blond hair. A mouth full of braces and coke-bottle glasses didn’t help his appearance.
“How old is he?” she asked. “Can he even drive?”
“He’ll be graduating from Penn State in December.”
“I bet that went over well,” Kate chuckled. In the Minooka section of Scranton, PA where she grew up, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Notre Dame fan.
“Yeah well, you just raise ‘em and hope for the best,” he grumbled. “They don’t always do things you’d approve of.”
Kate flinched. Just when she thought things were getting back to normal with her father, he made a comment like that. He’d been upset when she took her freshly printed pharmacy degree to Philadelphia and set up house with her boyfriend, Thom Chambers.
She still wasn’t sure what upset him more, the fact that she’d left home or “lived in sin”. Patrick hadn’t spoken to her the entire time she and Thom were together and it was only since her mother’s death two years ago, they’d had any semblance of normalcy in their relationship.
“Anyway,” her father’s voice sounded gruff, “Johnny said he’d stop in today to set up a schedule. He’s on summer break, so his hours are pretty flexible.”
“Okay, Dad.” She made sure he didn’t need her to bring anything home, hung up the phone, and picked up the next prescription.
Kate hated when her father withdrew, but she didn’t know how to seal the rift. Once upon a time, she’d been a real Daddy’s girl. Unfortunately, as soon as she’d chosen to follow her own path instead of taking the road he’d so carefully mapped for her, Patrick had cut Kate out of his life. Her mother’s illness had brought her back home, and it was Megan Grady who reminded her hard-headed husband that life was too short to hold grudges. Sadly, he forgot that lesson every once in a while.
Still, Kate had walked Patrick Grady’s definition of the straight and narrow for over two years now. How much longer could he hold on to his disappointment? She cringed at that last thought. Considering her father’s stubborn Irish pride, probably forever.
Kate sank onto a wobbly stool, slid her strappy sandal off and rubbed her instep, groaning out loud. Thank heaven it was nearly closing time. Her sound of pleasure still hung in the air when the bell over the door signaled a customer’s arrival.
Slipping the sandal back on, Kate stood and rounded the corner. She nearly tripped at the sight of the man walking toward the counter. Finger-combing blond hair off his face, he looked around the pharmacy. His profile had been hot, but full on his face took her breath away. With perfectly chiseled features, high cheekbones, and a hint of a dimple in his chin, the man could be a movie star.
When she realized she was staring, Kate blushed to the roots of her hair. “Can I help you?” she asked, adding an extra bit of professionalism to her tone, hoping to make up for the fact that she’d shamelessly ogled the man.
His smile revealed perfectly straight, white teeth and twin dimples.
She’d always been a sucker for dimples.
“Katie? You cut your hair.” Twinkling blue eyes met hers.
He seemed to know her, but Kate would swear she’d never met him before. He wasn’t the kind of person a girl would forget.
“Your hair,” he said, unnecessarily pointing to her head. “Last time I saw you, it hung to the middle of your back.”
Kate studied him, trying to figure out where she may have seen him before and still drew a blank. And since she’d just cut her hair six months ago, his comment didn’t offer her much of a time frame.
“Do I know you?” she finally asked.
He chuckled, a deep rumble that went right through her, touching every erogenous zone in her body.
“We grew up next door to each other,” he said. “I was a couple years behind you, but...”
Kate gasped. She actually gasped out loud.
The last time she saw him, he’d been so skinny a light breeze could have blown him over.
“I grew a little bit.”
Kate cringed when she realized she’d spoken that thought out loud.
“I can see that.”
Had that sultry tone come from her mouth? The surprise that flashed across his face told her it had. Interest flashed in his eyes, scaring the hell out of her. His gaze shifted from her eyes to her mouth and back again. Definitely interest.
Kate had to nip this in the bud. The last thing she needed was to turn into a modern-day Mrs. Robinson.
“My dad said you’re going to be our new delivery boy. When can you start?”
His lips curved into a smile. “When do you want me to start?”
Deciding to ignore his double entendre, Kate picked up a clipboard and flipped through its pages searching for the weekly employee schedule.
“Kevin is in at ten tomorrow.” She clutched the clipboard hoping to hide her shaking hands. “Why don’t you come in then and he can show you the ropes?”
“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He looked like he was about to say something, but stopped. With a wave, he turned and walked out the door, his cologne lingering on the breeze created by the closing door.
Kate dropped onto the stool.
She remembered the day his parents brought him home from the hospital. Remembered the gawky little boy with huge horn-rimmed glasses riding his bicycle past her house. And God help her, she remembered the perfect shape of his ass as he walked out the door.
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Posted by Mundania Press at 2:24 PM
Labels: Tina Gallagher
Monday, June 7, 2010
Tupelo Honey by Tina Gallagher
“Naked?” Cassie shrieked. She wasn’t thrilled with the topic of conversation and thinking about him in his birthday suit only made things worse.
Jodi glanced around the restaurant to see if anyone heard her friend’s outburst. No one seemed to be paying them any attention, so she answered. “As a jaybird.”
“So what’d you do?”
“I interviewed him. That is my job.”
“Your job is to interview naked men?”
Jodi rolled her eyes. “My job is to interview athletes. Tim’s an athlete.”
“He’s more like a jockstrap,” Cassie snorted.
“Tim’s not a bad guy. He even put a towel on during the interview. I think he was slightly embarrassed that I caught him with his pants off.” It was Cassie’s turn to roll her eyes. “Hey, you dated him, not me.”
“Yeah, a million years ago.”
“It was high school,” Jodi pointed out. “And, from what I understand, you were crazy about him.”
“I was young and naive.”
“You had sex with him,” Jodi pointed out. “In fact, he was your first, wasn’t he?”
“Don’t remind me,” Cassie groaned.
“Was he that awful?”
Cassie sipped her water and carefully placed the glass back on the table. After a slight hesitation, she answered, “no.”
“It’s funny we never talked about him,” Jodi said. “We’ve dissected every other relationship either of us ever had.”
“Well, I don’t even want to talk about this one, much less dissect it.”
“Okay.” Jodi dragged the word out, telling Cassie it was anything but.
Cassie let out a sigh of relief when Jodi redirected her attention to her burger and fries. They ate in silence for a short while when Jodi spoke again.
“From what I saw today, you must’ve been one happy girl.” She picked up a French fry, dredged it in ketchup and popped it into her mouth.
“That nice?” Cassie couldn’t help being curious.
Jodi stopped mid-chew. “Are you asking me?” Cassie nodded as her face burned. “But you…and he…” Jodi made a hand motion that finished her sentence for her.
“I never actually saw it,” Cassie mumbled.
“I never actually saw it,” she repeated.
“Why not?” Jodi asked. “How is that even possible?”
“It was dark.”
Jodi snorted and chewed on another fry.
“Jodi, I was seventeen. I wasn’t exactly sexually liberated. I barely even touched it.”
Jodi clucked her tongue. “Well, you missed out.”
Cassie was trying to come up with a clever retort when the topic of their conversation approached the table. She’d been so wrapped up in their discussion she hadn’t even noticed him enter the restaurant. When Jodi mentioned meeting at Avery’s, Cassie was hesitant knowing the restaurant was a popular hangout for local jocks. Her reluctance only lasted a short time, however, before she decided that she refused to hide from Tim or any man. Looking at him now, she wished she’d gone with her first instinct.
“Long time, no see.” Tim directed that comment to Jodi, then turned to Cassie. “Cassie Evans, it definitely has been a long time.”
When his cerulean eyes met hers, Cassie’s stomach flip-flopped even as her nipples tightened. She got lost in his gaze and felt cold when he returned his attention to Jodi once again.
“Jodi, I forgot to ask you this morning,” he said. “Are you going to the benefit Saturday?”
“Is that an offer?” Jodi’s saucy tone grated Cassie’s nerves. Why did her friend have to flirt with Tim of all people?
Tim chuckled. “Mark wanted me to ask,” he said, referring to his teammate who had been engaging in a mild flirtation with Jodi for the past couple months.
“Yes I’ll be there and Cassie will be accompanying me,” Jodi replied.
Tim’s eyebrows lifted as he redirected his attention to Cassie. “You’re going?” he asked.
She nodded her response, too breathless to speak. The man’s mere presence sent a flush of heat through her even as her entire body broke out in goosebumps making her feel as like she’d been dipped in Ben Gay.
“I’ll let Mark know you’ll be there.” He directed his attention toward Jodi just long enough to get those seven words out then looked right back to Cassie. “Save a dance for me, okay?” A sexy smile punctuated his words.
Without waiting for an answer, Tim excused himself. His broad shoulders, tapered waist, and tight butt were a sight to behold as he walked away.
“Yowza,” Jodi said, drawing Cassie’s attention her way. “There were so many sparks flying between you two, I’m lucky I didn’t get singed.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The hell you don’t,” Jodi chuckled. “If a man looked at me like that, I’d melt.”
Cassie shifted in her seat and felt the moisture that had collected between her thighs during her brief encounter with Tim.
“You okay over there?” Jodi asked in a too-knowing tone.
“I’m fine.” Cassie bit into her sandwich, taking a minute to collect her thoughts and her hormones. In order to change the subject she said, “Nothing’s happened with Mark yet?”
“No.” Jodi sighed. “Somehow I’ve managed to find a shy hockey player.”
“Have you made a move on him?”
“Yes and no.” Jodi took a sip of her iced tea. “I’ve flirted like hell and let him know I’m interested, but nothing more.”
“Did you interview him?” Jodi’s smirk let Cassie know she understood what was being asked.
“The man blushes every time I walk into the locker room, and I think he showers with his underwear on.”
“So you haven’t seen the goods, huh?”
“No, but that’s okay.” Jodi blushed. “It’s kind of sweet, actually.”
“He’s so shy, it’s adorable. After dealing with arrogant, exhibitionist jocks, he’s like a breath of fresh air in a really smelly locker room.”
Cassie chuckled. “I don’t know how you do what you do.”
Jodi shrugged. “At first I took the job to have a steady paycheck, but now I really like it. Some of the guys can be real jerks, but most are okay.” Her lovesick smile would have looked goofy if it wasn’t so sincere. “But I’ve never met anyone like Mark.”
Cassie looked at her friend’s glowing eyes and smiled.
“Maybe something will happen on Saturday.”
“Maybe for both of us.”