Zoe continued to observe him warily as sh
e unlocked her trunk. Her jeans were tight enough to afford him an intriguing view of firm female butt. She wore a short, snug red jacket with an equally snug striped top that stopped a full inch above the waistband of the jeans.
He noted, with some fascination that her belly button was pierced and sported a tiny silver bar. He actually felt his fingertips grow warm with the urge to touch it.
“I stopped by to see her before.”
“Huh? Who? Oh, Malory.” Now the back of his neck grew warm and he cursed himself. “How is she?”
“She looks tired, and a little down on herself.”
“I’m sorry.” He stepped forward as she began to unload the trunk. “Let me give you a hand.”
“I can get it.”
“I’m sure you can.” He solved the matter by taking the two heavy sample books of wallpaper from her. “But I don’t see any reason you should. Redecorating?”
She took out a paint sample book, a small toolbox—which he pulled away from her—a notebook, and some tile chips. “We contracted for this house. We’re going to open the business here. It needs work.”
He walked ahead, leaving her to slam the trunk. Yes, it did need work, but it had a sturdy look, and the lot was nicely established. Solid location, decent parking.
“Looks like it has good bones,” he commented. “You have the foundation checked out?”
“Wiring up to code?”
She dug out the keys she’d picked up from the realtor. “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I don’t know how to buy a house. I looked at a number of properties, and this was the best value, with the best location. Most of the work it needs is cosmetic.”
She shoved open the door. “You can just dump them on the floor. Thanks. I’ll tell Malory you asked about her.”
Brad just kept walking so that she had to step back. Though it took some effort, he refused to let his gaze drift down to her navel again. “Are you always irritated when someone tries to help you?”
“I’m irritated when someone thinks I can’t handle myself. Look, I don’t have that much time to do what I’m here to do. I need to get started.”
“Then I’ll stay out of your way.”
He studied the ceiling, the floor, the walls as he wandered through the entrance area. “Nice space.”
He didn’t detect any damp, but there was a definite chill. He wasn’t sure if it was a faulty furnace or the woman who was blowing cold. “Which part are you taking?”
“Okay.” He started up, nearly amused now by her impatient indrawn breath. “Nice stairs. Can’t go wrong with white pine.”
Some of the trim needed to be replaced, he noted. And the double-hung window at the top of the steps had yet to be upgraded. She’d need to see to that, get herself a double-glazed for insulation.
The walls had gone dingy, and there were a few cracks from settling. But that was easily seen to.
He liked the way the rooms split off and ran together, and wondered if she would remove some of the hollow-core doors altogether or replace them with
something more solid and in tune with the feel of the house.
And what was she going to do about lighting? He didn’t know anything about salons, but it seemed logical that good, strong lighting would be essential.
“Excuse me. I need my toolbox.”
“What? Oh, sorry.” He handed it to her, then ran his fingers over the chipped and peeling window trim. “You know, you could go with cherry for contrast here. Different woods, leaving the natural grain, going with warm tones. You’re not going to cover these floors, are you?”