“What are you doing here?”
“Penni asked if I could watch Hannibal tonight. Her brother and his wife came into town, and everyone went to Penni’s house to see them. Don’t be mad at me. I told Penni you would be upset. That’s why I offered to come here to watch him. I didn’t want you to think I was dognapping him again.”
Stump squatted down next to her, staring into her anxious eyes. “I’m not mad.”
She gave him a bright smile that punched a hole into his heart with a force that drove the air out of his lungs.
“How did your date go?” She lowered her head as she asked, her hair falling forward and concealing her expression.
“It sucked. She ordered spaghetti.”
She tugged at the bone that Hannibal was playing tug of war with, digging his little feet into the floor for traction. “What’s wrong with spaghetti? I love spaghetti.”
“Watch Maria eat spaghetti, and you’ll never eat it again.”
She laughed, looking around the clubhouse. “You live here?”
“Yes. You want to see my room?” Rising, he held his hand out, helping her to stand so she wouldn’t jar her knee.
“I would love to.”
He led the way, opening the only door that was closed. Flicking the light switch on, he let her enter first. Then he leaned against the doorway and watched as she walked around his room.
“It’s larger than I thought it would be.”
“The other rooms are the same size. Ice made sure of it when he had it built so none of the brothers would argue over who had the biggest room. Each one has their own bathroom, too.”
“How many of your friends live here?” she asked curiously, turning back to face him.
“Twelve or thirteen, depending on which ones currently have an old lady or break up with one.”
His nuts tightened when she trailed a caressing hand over the blanket on his bed, walking past it to reach for a book that was on the shelf by his bed. He used it as a night table, and it was easily accessible when he couldn’t sleep.
Zoey jumped as she was about to reach for the book. “Why not?”
“I don’t think it’s your normal reading material.”
She dropped her hand. “Oh….”
“Yeah.” His lips quirked in a smile when she moved away from his bookshelf.
“Well, I better be going. My jogging partner has trouble getting up in the morning.”
Stump moved aside to let her through the doorway, but she stopped before she passed him.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Why is your nickname Stump?”
Usually when he was asked that question, he would make a joke about his dick, but he knew she would run screaming.
“I was born in Oregon. The brothers nicknamed me Stump because I was a logger before I moved to Queen City.”
Her eyes brightened in interest as she reached out to grip his bicep. He had to steel himself not to react to her touch.
If any other woman had touched him like that, he would take it as flirtation, but with Zoey, he knew it wasn’t. She had an insatiable curiosity, not only for life but other people. She couldn’t help herself. She wanted to touch and feel anything she came into contact with, as if what she was touching gave off vibes like people did.
When he had started jogging with her and saw the way she tried to avoid Creed, he asked her why. Then, when she explained auras, he thought she was as looney as hell, but the more she explained that people had either positive or negative energy, he had to admit she was on the money where Creed was concerned. He still thought it was a bunch of crap, but she believed it, so he was willing to play along to not hurt her feelings.
If anyone told him two months ago he would pander to woman’s idiosyncrasies, he would have told them they should check into getting a mental evaluation. Now, it was a different story. He consoled himself that at least Zoey wasn’t as out there as Penni, but she was a close second.
“Do you miss Oregon?” she asked, keeping her hand on his arm.
“No, the winters are better to deal with here.”
“I imagine. Can I ask what your real name is?”
“Your name suits you. Asher means happiness. Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Now I know why I liked you on sight. You have a powerful red aura, and your name means happiness. That explains why I’m so drawn to you.”
He had to swallow hard to keep from pulling her into his arms.
“What color is your aura?”
She stared back at him impishly. “Guess.”
He took his time, looking her over from head to toe before meeting her eyes again. “Pink.”
She clapped her hands together. “See? It’s easy to tell when we open ourselves up to the energy surrounding us.” She happily gave him a quick hug before pulling back to stare up at him innocently, not seeing his hands were clenched at his sides.