Read an Excerpt
‘Why the hell?’ Jeannie growled. Her back screamed from the unnatural position she had to take to move around in her storage unit. Sweat dripped into her eyes, and her make-up was definitely shot to hell. She’d thought to wear pants to work today, not a skirt, since she’d known she’d be coming here after she got off. Still, she didn’t love kneeling on the dusty floor of the unit in anything she’d bought at Banana Republic, whether it had legs or not.
‘What?’ Tobias’s muffled voice came from the other side of the unit. He sounded just as miserable as she felt.
‘Why the hell did I decide to pack my file folders into my storage unit? Shouldn’t it have occurred to me that they might, you know, be important or something? And why did I rent this stupid second-floor unit? Jesus!’ She rolled back on her heels and tried to fling some of the sweat off her forehead. Her equally sweaty hand proved ineffective.
Jeannie wanted to stop now and come back another time, but they were leaving for the Caribbean next week, and she needed to find her passport. She’d torn their place apart hunting for it, until she remembered that she used to keep it in her old filing cabinet.
Tobias poked his head around a stack of boxes and watched her solemnly. ‘You were in pain,’ he said. ‘Getting divorced is hard. You weren’t thinking straight.’
‘Thanks.’ She made the effort to smile. At the very least, she could take a moment and appreciate his piercing blue eyes, classically strong jaw, dark hair, and light dusting of manly stubble.
‘Besides,’ he continued, his habitual expression of mischief creeping across his face. ‘Maybe you knew you would have a hot younger man available to help you move this stuff around.’
‘Mmm. Probably.’ She’d been embarrassed when she met Tobias, afraid that once he saw her without under-the-eye concealer, he’d run away in horror. A few runs around his bedroom had transformed the embarrassment to guilty satisfaction, even if her friends thought the whole thing was wild and irresponsible. Eight years wasn’t really so much of an age difference, she’d told herself over and over.
Her fling with Tobias wasn’t meant to go anywhere, but after nine months together she’d realised she had feelings for him, and now here he was as deep in her life as he could get, standing in the very storage unit where she’d tried to put away all of her anguish and sense of failure. Everything in here smelled old and abandoned – Jeannie didn’t really want to take any of it to their clean, new apartment. She scrubbed her palm over her face, fighting off either a sneeze or a sob.
‘Here,’ Tobias said. ‘Let me take over looking.’ He shoved past her to get to the deeper part of the tiny space. The five-foot ceiling of the unit forced him to hunch over even more than she did.
She knew he wanted to take charge and take care of her, but Jeannie resisted moving out of his way. ‘Wait, Tobias. I need you to stand behind me to help move things around. You don’t know what we’re looking for.’
‘You labelled stuff, right?’ He forced his way through. Seconds later, he was flinging boxes to one side or another like a machine. Jeannie cringed, wondering where she had put the glass figures her best friend Carla gave her when they graduated.
He was certainly being nicer about this than her ex would have been. Still, she barely held herself back from screaming at him to get out of here. She didn’t like him seeing these reminders of her old life any more than she would have liked him making a close inspection of her cellulite, and she really didn’t like his handling of her stuff at the moment.
She checked her watch, wishing there were time at least to step out for a coffee and calm down.
‘Christ,’ she said. ‘This place closes in half an hour.’
‘Relax, baby. I got this.’ His voice had an edge she wasn’t used to.
‘Tobias, I really think I need to be the one to –’
‘You said you knew right where it was, and you didn’t.’ He grabbed a box and ripped off the tape on top, even though she hadn’t given him permission to open anything. He ripped off one of the cardboard flaps too, and Jeannie wondered how she would close that up again. She touched his elbow and he shook her off, handing her the flap. ‘Just wait back there a second.’
He acted like she didn’t know how to deal with her own stuff. She slapped the piece of cardboard against the wall of the unit. What she really wanted was to slap his ass with it.
Before she met Tobias, Jeannie’s brain would have stopped at the image. The idea of actually spanking him would have seemed ludicrous. But he spanked her all the time. They had a variety of implements lined up in their bedroom closet – crops, floggers, belts, and paddles. He’d even given her a leather slapper for Valentine’s Day.