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Screwing With Perfect
By Louisa Trent
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Louisa Trent
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe door to Kesley Richmond's third floor apartment burst in. No knock.
"Overflow," her downstairs neighbor announced, storming her threshold. "My ceiling just sprung a waterfall. A blue waterfall," Andrew Chandler added pointedly.
Plunger in hand, he headed for her bathroom down the hall.
A rebel, a renegade, a radical free thinker, Drew rarely, if ever, observed polite niceties, a knock before entering her private space only one of the many customs he totally ignored. When she thought about it, and she did all the time, Kesley couldn't put her finger on a single social convention he observed.
She, on the other hand, was a slave to convention. For example, every month she religiously plunked a blue tablet in her toilet tank-a major bone of contention between them, far surpassing the battle of the sexes over the correct protocol for the positioning of the toilet seat when not in use. Naturally, as a female, she strictly adhered to the seat-down imperative.
Drew ascribed to the seat-up, male prerogative.
In the bathroom politic, they held to strict party lines.
As to the custom of blue tablets-well, Drew simply didn't understand their importance in the grand scheme of things. In his nonconformist view of the world, he missed the whole big picture.
"Kes, sweetheart, prettying up the toilet bowl is a waste of time."
That's what he'd said, anyway.
Lip service. Only last week, when the water flushed clear right before her company was due to arrive, he'd changed his tune quick enough.
Fresh out of tablets and facing the looming prospect of naked toilet bowlitis in front of her snooty sorority sisters, she'd panicked. After she'd yelled the situation down to Drew on the second floor, he'd raced to the store for her, without her having to ask him.
He didn't return with just a single box of blue tablets either. Oh, no, not Drew. He never did things in half-measures. Instead, he'd bought a whole year's supply. Just for her. Just so she wouldn't needlessly suffer the embarrassment of an ugly toilet bowl for the next twelve months.
And the blue tablets weren't even on sale!
Not only that, while she'd delayed her college friends from ... ahem ... powdering their noses, Drew crept up the back stairs and dropped one of those "waste of time" tablets in the tank before anyone knew the difference. Afterwards, when she thanked him for his thoughtfulness, he shrugged off the good deed as though it meant nothing, saying he'd only bought "the damn blue urinal cakes" so he wouldn't have to listen to her go on and on about her shortcomings when she had no shortcomings ... or words to that effect.
She did tend to obsess at times.
But her somewhat neurotic preoccupation with minute details wasn't the real reason Drew came to her rescue. The real reason he came to her rescue was ...
She blanked. Completely ran dry on ideas.
Unusual. When it came to human motivation, she never drew blanks.
Frowning, Kesley cocked her head to the side, twirled a lank piece of hair around a finger, and considered Drew's hidden agenda.
She had it!
Drew was still in the closet about those blue tablets. Hate them? Ha! Actually, he loved them. Poor self-deluded guy. When would Drew get in touch with his inner self?
She still had hope for him. Someday, with a little prompting, she knew he'd admit to his love. And Drew was the type of person who, once outed, would never return to his old ways.
That resolved, Kesley jumped up from her desk and hotfooted it after him down the hall.
"Sorry about the flood," she called at his wide shoulders. "Can I help?"
"That's okay, sweetheart. I can handle this alone."
"Mind if I watch? I could use a break."
Understatement. Before Drew's arrival, she'd been pouring over the sketchy case history of the newest troubled teen to arrive at The Shelter, where she worked as a social worker. The few details contained within the report were grim and all too familiar. God, what she wouldn't give for a laugh.
The irreverent Drew was always good for a chuckle. Say what she would for his devil-may-care attitude towards life, the man did wonders for lightening her mood.
Drew hiked his stylish gray pleated dress pants up to the knee. "You wanna watch? Watch away. I don't mind voyeurs."
Her downstairs neighbor did display certain exhibitionistic tendencies. However, as much as she needed an infusion of comedy, he offered nothing to laugh about here. She lusted after men with good-looking legs, and Drew's muscled calves made her salivate, not chuckle.
Correction. More than his good-looking legs made her salivate. Everything about Drew was drool-worthy. Tall, even with his chronic slouch. Athletic, though he never appeared to tax himself. And blond, without the enhancement of any hair products. Drew was by far the most naturally attractive man she had ever seen. When they first met, his male beauty had bowled her over, just about left her speechless. This in a woman who prided herself on her effective communication skills.
Ten years later, Drew's male good looks still bowled her over. Fortunately, she had long since recovered her ability to speak in his presence, especially about really important issues.
"New shoes?" she asked as he kicked off his loafers.
"Naw. I've had these for years. I like 'em because they don't need tying. Just slip 'em off and on. You know me, Kes, I never do anything extra if I don't have to."
Those extras included the wearing of underwear and socks. Drew never bothered with those either. The lack of socks she had visually confirmed. Going commando-well, that was what he said, anyway.
"Geez, sweetheart," he shot over his shoulder as he waded barefoot across her flooded tile floor, "haven't you read the signs posted in little girls' rooms about the proper disposal of them there things? Flushing 'em clogs up the works."
"Wrong time of the month, pal. So, them there things are not causing the overflow. And I never flush 'em," Kesley said, not only defending herself but all of womanhood against the arrogance of male plumbing superiority.
She darted Drew a suspicious look. "And how do you know what's posted inside ladies' restrooms?"
"Direct observation." Drew rolled up his shirtsleeves and got down to the business at hand, namely unplugging the lazy toilet trap.
Kesley had always secretly admired Drew's outrageousness. She harbored no small curiosity herself about what went on inside the opposite sex's restrooms. Like, why was there invariably a line inside the double "X" chromosome door but no waits inside the "XY"? Men were in and out in seconds flat, while women chatted with each other in polite agony until a stall vacated. Rather than wait, many a time she'd wanted to cross the gender barrier and enter that mysterious boys' room door. Naturally, she never did. And here was Drew openly acknowledging he'd taken the daring leap into gender crossing territory. This was one story she had to hear.
She bit her lip in gleeful anticipation. "The ladies inside the restroom-what did they say when you barged in on them?"
"Hey, Kes, I'm no perv. The direct observation happened after hours, during one of my away-from-home consult jobs, when hardly anyone else was around. Only the two of us were in there, her and me." He gave a phony shiver. "Brr. Scary places are women's restrooms." Drew removed the toilet lid, and went in up to the elbow.
"Wait a minute. Don't leave me hanging like this. What were you doing in there with a woman? Do you just randomly offer your plumbing services to anyone and everyone, free of charge?"
Drew glanced over at her, a squinched look of male exasperation making his face all the more gorgeous. "Kes, sweetheart, what do you think I was doing in there with a woman?"
"Yes, that. The men's room didn't have a lock on the door and the women's room did, so we went in there. And for your information, I never offer my-" he paused theatrically, "-plumbing services randomly. I have to at least like the woman. And I never charge. A simple thank you is more than sufficient."
"Generous of you."
"I think so," he said loftily.
Same as always, Kesley couldn't tell whether or not Drew was teasing her, but she laughed anyway. God, but laughing felt good.
Startling blue eyes, bluer than even the toilet bowl tablets, twinkled at her. "I consider what I do a public service. In this instance, the woman was a fellow consultant, away from home on her birthday. She was lonely, and I was available." He shrugged. "What the hell? I couldn't very well turn her down. Not on her special day. That would have been heartless. As it was, we had some fun and it didn't mean anything to either of us."
"Could've bought her a cake instead," she grumbled.
"Birthday candles are so not what this lady had in mind to blow."
No need to ask what the woman had wished for-Drew was any woman's wish come true. If aware of his effect on the opposite sex, he never acknowledged it. A conceited ass about his sexual prowess, he had no vanity at all about his appearance. He never looked in a mirror and, like everything else, did personal grooming while doing something else. He combed his hair on the fly, shaved perusing the newspaper, brushed his teeth watching the morning sports on TV-done without leaving toothpaste trails on the floor she could later sanctimoniously point to and say, "See those globs? Those globs are the reason you should brush your teeth over the bathroom sink like everybody else!"
But Drew never left globs. He did everything with effortless grace.
The classy guy offered, "A toilet stall's ambience isn't exactly conducive to romance."
"Could've taken her back to your motel room."
"I did, smarty-pants. Afterwards." He shook his head ruefully. "I tell you, I was not up to my usual high standards in that tiny cubicle. Why, I could barely perform."
A first for Drew. The man performed with greater frequency than a jackrabbit on Viagra, or so the stories went.
Leaning a denimed hip against the doorjamb, the raised threshold damming the room's wet interior, Kesley offered a not-so-spontaneous aside to Drew's salacious restroom story. "I haven't gone out on a date in over a year."
"What about me?" Drew looked over at her again. "Don't I count? We go out all the time. Last time I looked, I still had all the right working parts. And, I can fix your plumbing too."
Kesley smiled. She was counting on it.
Excerpted from Screwing With Perfect by Louisa Trent Copyright © 2006 by Louisa Trent. Excerpted by permission.
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