All you need, p.39
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       All You Need, p.39
 

         Part #3 of Need You series by Lorelei James

  vacation. Your recent ex was also a teacher and you caught him banging more than the erasers with his new student teacher.”

  I laughed. “I’ll give you points for creativity, but I’m afraid I’ll just deduct those points when I tell you that you’re wrong.”

  He affected an expression of shock. “I’m wrong? Damn. I’m never wrong. But I get another chance, right?”

  “I don’t remember agreeing to those parameters.”

  “Aha. That answer gave you away.”

  “How so?”

  “Only lawyers or cops phrase things that way.”

  “Strike two.” I sipped my margarita and eyed him over the salted rim. “You confident your third guess is a charm? Or are you about to strike out?”

  He ran his hand over his beard. “You sound like my brothers with the sport references.”

  “Which is totally out of character for me since I don’t follow any sports.”

  That surprised him. “None?”

  “Nope. I don’t get men’s fascination with all things ball related.” Right after the words left my mouth, Walker grinned.

  “I could try to explain it to you, but I don’t know if a conversation about my balls is appropriate since we just met.”

  I nudged his knee with mine beneath the table. “Quit stalling. What’s my occupation?”

  “You’re a hostage negotiator with the FBI.”

  I made a buzzer sound.

  Walker leaned forward. “I give in. Tell me.”

  Part of me wanted to lie and tell him I was a flight attendant—that had been a favorite fake occupation of Amelia’s during college. But I liked this guy. He seemed to appreciate my quirky sense of humor, instead of acting like he wanted to run for the door. “I’m an artist.”

  “Really? That’s cool. What medium do you work in?”

  “All of them. I couldn’t decide on a specific discipline because I couldn’t see myself doing the same thing over and over like Thomas Kinkade does.” I always used him as a reference because everyone seemed to know his name.

  “But he’s mega-rich,” he pointed out.

  “Good for him that he’s above the poverty line as a working artist,” I said dryly. “But making money with my art hasn’t been my priority. I’m not saying that from an elitist attitude. The art I create just usually doesn’t fit any kind of commercial mold.”

  “Such as?”

  “The commission I lost today—which was one thing that contributed to my crap day—was for a textile piece. A mixed-media wall hanging that Missus Art Patron deemed too . . . modern and edgy.”

  Walker frowned and reached for his beer. “Isn’t the definition of mixed media . . . modern?”

  “Apparently she didn’t get the memo regarding the parameters of newfangled artistic mediums. So rather than working with me to find a compromise, Mister Art Patron canceled the entire project. Now I’ll have to find a part-time gig to cover that chunk of lost income.”

  “That sucks. You said that was one thing. What’s the other crappy thing that happened today?”

  The situation with my family seemed too personal to share. I stirred my watered-down drink, trying to come up with something else.

  Walker took my hand and swept his thumb across my knuckles. “Might make you feel better to talk about it.”

  My belly did a little flip from his touch. I glanced up at him. He appeared genuinely interested, so I let fly. “My grandma left me her pearls after she passed on. I was too young to take ‘proper’ care of them, according to my stepmonster, so she put them away until I was older. Every time I’ve asked about them, I’ve been assured the necklace is in a safe place and I can have it once I’m settled. Except now, since my half sister has gotten herself engaged, there was an engagement party I wasn’t invited to and she’s getting the pearls to wear on her wedding day. I hate to sound like a petulant child, but that’s not fair. My grandma did not put a stipulation on them that the first granddaughter to tie the knot gets the pearls. But I have no recourse. It was just so typical of my stepmonster to make me feel like even if ‘first wed’ had been a determining factor in who gets the pearls, everyone knows it wouldn’t have been me anyway.”

  “Babe. I’m sorry. That isn’t fair.” He set his forearms on the table. “Maybe we oughta plan a heist.”

  I couldn’t help but grin. “Can’t you see the headline? ‘The Case of the Purloined Pink Pearls.’”

  He laughed.

  “While I appreciate the offer, should I be worried that you’re a professional cat burglar?”

  “Nah. I’m more of a dog guy.”

  “Funny. But speaking of . . . what does Walker Lund do to fill up his weekday hours?”

  He smirked and those damn dimples winked at me. “Guess.”

  “I should’ve seen that coming.”

  “Yep.”

  “You dress up like a Viking warrior and reenact famous battle scenes at the Shakopee Scandinavian Culture Center. You wear skintight leather breeches and a fur vest over your bare, glistening chest. Oh, and you have a big . . . sword and a kick-ass shield that you use to beat back all the wenches who stand in line to be pillaged by you.”

  “Nice try. Points for vivid imagery and the use of the word ‘glistening’ with a straight face. But no.”

  “Shoot. I so thought I’d nailed you.” Dammit, Trin. What is wrong with you?

  “And extra points for sexual innuendo.”

  “Unintentional,” I retorted.

  “Still counts. Quit stalling and guess.”

  He’d set his hand back on the table by his beer glass. I reached over and ran the tips of my fingers across his rough-skinned knuckles. “Workingman hands,” I murmured. “Maybe you’re a Viking longboat builder?” When I looked up at him, the heat in his eyes set my stomach into free fall.

  “That. Right there,” he said on a low growl.

  Confused, I said, “What?”

  “That innocent look in your big green eyes. Makes a man think about all sorts of things that aren’t even close to innocent.”

 
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