Chaos Before Coffee
Sweaty and tired, Abby decided shoveling poop could wait until after coffee. She set up the coffeepot and hit the button to perk. She had just removed her boots when a deep bellow of human rage galvanized Georgia, who sprinted across the yard and squeezed under the fence. A second later, her sharp barking joined the new neighbor’s angry expletives. Abby ran barefoot along the hedgerow fence toward Georgia’s hysterical barking.
A donkey’s cry made her heart race. How had Elijah gotten into the neighbor’s yard? Then she saw how. “Oh shit.” She climbed over a section of crumpled wire fencing and burst through a thick tangle of vegetation into a scene of mayhem and hysteria.
The new neighbor charged toward Elijah and flung his hands in the donkey’s face. “Shoo. Get out.”
Elijah reared, eyes rolling, ears pinned back. Abby grabbed a stout stick and rushed to defend her aunt’s traumatized donkey. “Stop! You’re scaring him.”
Bawling in terror, Elijah veered around the man’s waving arms and leaped over the crumpled wire fence. Georgia—all thirty pounds of short, snarling protection—stood between Abby and the crazy neighbor.
This mean man would not be getting any of the secret-family-recipe pound cake.
Holding the stick out like a sword, Abby snatched Georgia up one-handed and held her close. While she and the dog both trembled with reaction, Abby glared at her aunt’s new neighbor. “What is wrong with you? You scared that poor donkey half to death.”
The stupid neanderthal crossed his muscled arms in front of his wide chest. “Me? You’re asking what’s wrong with me? That big moose knocked me down!”
“Moose? Elijah is just a baby! He would never—”
“He stole my granola bar!”
The man glanced at her stick. Like a warrior calculating his advantage in an armed conflict, he advanced, his expression fierce and his blue eyes so wild she could see the whites all around. “Your baby—who is the size of a moose, by the way—came onto my property, knocked me down, bit me on the ass, and stole a granola bar from my back pocket.”
Georgia trembled in Abby’s arms and growled in promised retribution should the man come close enough for her to reach.
Abby clutched the dog tighter. “I’m sorry if he hurt you. But you didn’t have to scare him.”
“Your ass is fine. Mine’s the one that’s been wounded.” He lunged forward and wrenched the stick from her hand, then tossed it aside, ignoring Georgia’s escalating growl. “And yet you’re planning to attack me with a stick?”
A hysterical giggle tickled the back of Abby’s throat. She bit her lips and patted Georgia. Laughing in the face of an animal-hating psychopath—maybe not the best move. “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry. I hope your…” She smothered an irreverent snort. “I hope your ass will recover.”
His lips twitched, a quickly stifled smile. “I guess it will, eventually.” He let the smile have its way, and it transformed his face from surly to sexy. Straight white teeth and deep blue eyes contrasted with deeply tanned skin. His sun-bleached brown hair hadn’t been combed this morning; he looked like a man who’d just tumbled out of bed and wouldn’t mind getting right back in, given sufficient motivation.
Not that she was interested in providing any such motivation. Hadn’t she learned her lesson? Hadn’t losing everything—her job, her self-respect, and the child she’d come to love—hadn’t that experience taught her anything?
It most certainly had. She was done with men. Done.
He crossed unfairly muscular arms over unfairly toned abs. “Enjoying the view?”
Her face heated. “Well enough.” She couldn’t deny that she’d been staring. But her appreciation of his well-developed form was purely academic.
“Only fair, I guess.” He swept an appreciative glance from her bare feet to her heated cheeks. His blue eyes shining with humor, he trapped her gaze in his. “I bought this place for the view, but I didn’t know until recently what a bargain I was getting.”
“Oh?” She glanced down at her dirt-smeared attire, a getup not likely to inspire such a flattering comment. Had he seen her yesterday with her robe gaping open? Or worse… Had he seen her skinny-dipping last night?