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Page 18 of Third Time's a Charm (Holland Springs 3)

Rose couldn’t believe her weary eyes. It had to be a dream. She blinked and blinked again, her arm aching from the combined weight of Ivy and her baby carrier.

She rubbed her eyes with the side of her fist, but the apparition didn’t disappear. Waiting in her kitchen was Sasha, dressed in a hunter green sweater and distressed jeans. A black pea coat draped over one arm as he drank a steaming cup of coffee.

“Morning, love. Ready to go?” he asked, his voice cheery. As if he’d had eight hours of sleep. He passed her a mug.

She glanced down before taking a tentative sip. “You know how I take my coffee?”

He tapped his head. “This brain is useful for many things. You had cream in the fridge. The tricky part was the sugar.” He rinsed out his cup, then took the car seat from her. Ivy was strapped in and bundled up. “She weighs a ton. How do you carry her around?”

Rose kept looking at him over the rim of her coffee cup, letting the warmth fill her. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t do much to wake her up since Skye had talked her into giving up caffeine three years ago.

“I started the Jeep up so it would be warm for us.”

“Us?”

“Of course.” He gave her a crooked smile. “I’m coming with you. I packed us a lunch, too. I would offer the use of my car, but it’s not scheduled to arrive here, until three this afternoon.”

“To clean houses?” She set the mug down on the counter, unable to string more than three words together. This was—he was—unbelievable.

“Yes,” he said, still smiling at her.

“Wearing that?” She wore baggy old sweats and even older tennis shoes. Her hair had been braided and shoved under a blue toboggan.

He frowned and looked down at his clothes. “This doesn’t say ‘I’m in the mood to clean?’”

“It says ‘I shop at Banana Republic,’” she said, exasperated.

He wrinkled his nose up on one side. “My sweater is from this year’s Army/Navy collection and my jeans are—”

“Not from Banana Republic. I get it. You don’t like chains.” She threw up her hands and shook her head. “But you do see what I’m wearing, right?”

His face grew serious. “When I look at you, Rosebud, you’re all I see.”

Heat that had nothing to do with the coffee she’d just drank washed over her, making her toes curl and throwing her off balance. Bemused and unable to look away, she replied, “Oh.”

A wicked grin appeared. “Actually, I don’t care what clothes you wear, love. I’d much rather have you out of them.”

“Ha, ha.” This Sasha she could deal with. This Sasha was the same to everyone, but the man who saw through her—he was dangerous.

***

By the time they’d gotten to the last house, Rose was dead on her feet. Her lower back ached and her fingers wouldn’t function correctly. To say nothing of her mind. She’d just poured half a bottle of window cleaner on a potted plant instead of water. After rinsing the plant off in the shower, she made her way to the second floor.

The sound of Sasha singing came from the kitchen. She paused in the living room, staring at him while he shook his butt and mopped the floor. His voice wasn’t half bad, and for a tall man, he knew how to move his body. One that he was completely comfortable in.

And she was completely aware from past experience how his body moved. How his hands caressed and his mouth lingered. She looked away, scanning the room for Ivy and finding her safely strapped into a bouncy seat set on the middle of a large table. The baby furiously kicked her legs and made raspberries while plastic fish bobbed up and down in their mock aquarium.

“All right, love,” Sasha called out, sliding over to the baby and holding an earbud up to her head. Ivy started, then gave him a toothless smile. “That’s my girl.”

Rose frowned. She really didn’t know if she wanted Ivy to get attached to him. He’d be gone in six months, probably sooner if he got bored. Ivy had had enough upheaval in her short life already.

Rose leaned to the side and caught his eye.

“Finished?” He removed the other earbud and stuffed them in his pocket.

She nodded. “How much longer for you?”

Opening the louvered doors, he placed the mop inside and grabbed the bucket. “I already dumped this outside.” He turned around, his smile sexy as hell. “I’m ready to go when you are.”

Mesmerized, she didn’t respond right away.

He waved his hand side to side. “Earth to Rose.”

“Huh?”

“Something wrong?”

Rather than admit she’d been staring at him, she said, “You’re really good with her.”

“Please, women—even little girls—are easy to deal with. Pay them a bit of attention, act like what they’re saying is the most important thing in the world, and you’ve got ‘em.”

Insulted, she put her hands on her hips. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Settle your feathers, love. I was only teasing.” Reaching behind him, he pulled out his cell and waved it at her. “Downloaded an app on how to take care of a baby.”

Speechless, she tried to think of something, but settled for marching over to the breakfast nook and grabbing Ivy, bouncy seat and all.

“Let me carry her,” he said, keeping pace with her.

“I’ve got it. You grab my cleaning supplies and load them into the back,” she said as he opened the front door for her. “I’ll put Ivy in the car seat and start up the Jeep.”

“On it,” he said, racing back into the house.

After navigating the two flights of stairs, Rose managed to open the passenger side door with one hand and place the bouncy seat inside. As she unbuckled the straps and placed her niece into the car seat, Sasha came jogging down the steps, cleaning supplies in hand.

“I locked the front door,” he said.

“Thank you.” She fastened Ivy’s seatbelt and covered the baby with a warm blanket while Sasha placed the bucket of supplies in the Jeep. Shivering, she reached over the driver’s seat and turned the key. On the first turn, the engine sputtered and she sighed.

“Come on.” She tried again, then a third time. The engine revved to life and her breathing returned to normal.

“Did that with me this morning. Have you had a mechanic look at it?” He stood by the passenger side, waiting for her to get out.

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