Home > Inescapable Love

Inescapable Love
Author: Lea Coll








Moving back to my hometown as a single mother to renovate an older Victorian house into a B&B was the biggest risk I’d ever taken. After my ex-husband, Carter, left me for another woman, my daughter’s well-being rested solely on me.

After leaving South Carolina to move to Colorado, I didn’t have a husband or an extended family to fall back on anymore. It was just me. I had no idea if this was a good move or the worst decision I’d ever made.

Since we’d moved into the owner’s suite of the soon-to-be B&B, I’d had a difficult time sleeping. I woke up in the middle of the night several times, worrying about the timing of the renovation, the cost, and when I’d be able to start taking reservations.

Tonight, I couldn’t fall asleep at all. Giving up on sleep at ten, I went to the bathroom I shared with my daughter to splash cold water on my face. Feeling restless, I grabbed a blanket and a book, quietly opening and closing the door that separated our space from the rest of the house.

I listened for any sign that my daughter, Delaney, had heard me. When I determined all was quiet, I tiptoed to the couch that had appeared at some point.

My suite was a one-bedroom with a kitchen, eating area, living room, and one bathroom. There was a tiny sitting room off my bedroom that Delaney slept in, and she accessed it by walking through my bedroom. Sometimes, it felt like the walls were closing in on me.

During the day, the main areas of the B&B were a construction zone, loud and filled with activity. But tonight, it was quiet.

I removed the tarp covering the couch and settled onto the overstuffed cushions. I hoped I’d feel better once the renovation was completed. Or maybe it would only worsen when I had guests to worry about too.

I read for a few minutes before heading into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. I turned on the faucet, but it sputtered and then sprayed me with shockingly cold water. Momentarily stunned, I could only stand there while water spewed at me from seemingly every direction.

Finally, I regained my senses and attempted to slide the handle into the off position, but nothing happened. The water kept spraying me. I shrieked in frustration and took several steps back from the spray, wiping water from my face.

Boots sounded on the stairs and then Mac appeared. In worn jeans, a Fletcher & Sons branded T-shirt, and work boots, he flew past me. “We need to get this under control before it ruins the floors.”

He didn’t seem to mind that he was now soaked too. The shirt clung to his well-defined pecs, sending me into a fantasy where the water was warm, and Mac was interested in me.

I was worried about getting him naked, and he was concerned about my floors. I needed to get my priorities straight. How long would this disaster set me back? I couldn’t afford any more delays. I’d prepared for renovations but not major setbacks. I was naïve. Just like my ex-husband said.

He threw open the cabinet doors under the sink and twisted something. The water slowed until it was a trickle and then finally stopped.

“Did the water turn off?” Mac asked from under the sink.

“It’s off.” I hurried to my suite to grab towels. Armed with them, I put them on the floor to mop up the excess water. My hands were shaking, and my heart thundered under my rib cage.

Mac stood, watching my motions to clean it up, and ran a hand through his hair. “Fuck.”

“Are you going to just stand there and swear, or are you going to help me clean it up?” I didn’t know what it was about this man, but whenever we were around each other, we were like oil and water. My usual sunny disposition dissipated, and I was short with him. He was just as irritated with me.

He moved to me, snatched a towel, and threw it over a large puddle. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

“I wanted a minute to myself. What are you doing here?”

Usually, the crew was done by four or five, and it was quiet in the evenings. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t just tell him I enjoyed the solitude. His attitude was usually so surly that I didn’t want to confide in him.

He used his foot to move the towel over the wet spot. “I was working on the tile in the upstairs bathroom.”

We worked side by side to mop up the puddles. “Do you usually work late?”

His jaw tightened, and he said, “I just wanted to get it done.”

With most of the water cleaned up, I threw my towel onto the pile and stretched my arms over my head, leaning to one side, then the other. “I appreciate you working so hard.”

When he didn’t answer, I glanced over at him to find him tracking my movements. His gaze was locked on my breasts.

That’s when I remembered I was wearing a silky top with sleep shorts. It felt decadent against my skin, and I loved the way it made me feel beautiful. But I was soaked. My pajamas were probably see-through at this point. I just hadn’t anticipated Mac seeing me in them. I lowered my arms and wrapped them around my body. “I didn’t know anyone would be here.”

“You shouldn’t be either. You could step on a nail.”

“Is that the reason, or is it that I was out here at the same time as you? Because someone put that couch in the living room.” Sometimes, I thought my mere presence set him off. That nothing I did or didn’t do made a difference.

He threw his hand in my general direction. “I don’t need my guys seeing that when they’re working.”

My hands instinctively went to my hips. “No one was supposed to be here. You’re not supposed to be here. This is my time.” When Delaney was asleep, I could breathe and stress about all the reasons why I was crazy for doing this.

“It’s safe to assume someone could be here at any time,” he said gruffly, gathering up the towels with shaky movements and tossing them into the laundry room off the kitchen.

My nipples were hard, aching points. Did some part of me get off on a man who growled at me? If so, it was a betrayal. Because my brain definitely hated Mac in my space.

Mac crossed the room toward me with purpose. Goose bumps raced over my skin. “It’s dangerous to walk around like that.”

“Like what?” I snapped, my gaze narrowing as he stepped into my space.

He drew a dry towel over my shoulders, gathering it around me in an effort to cover me. Then his hand grazed my nipple, and we both froze. The warmth of his hand seared the damp fabric, piercing my skin.

I swayed on my feet. My core ached.

He snatched his hand away and took a step back. Then two. “You should dry off.”

“What are you going to do about this?” I gestured at the floors so that his attention would be anywhere but on my nipples.

“I’ll turn on some fans to dry the floors. Hopefully, they don’t warp.”

“Were they wet long enough for that to happen?” I asked, chewing my lip.

“I don’t know. But I’m going to take every precaution. We can’t afford any more setbacks.”

Was that for professional reasons or that he couldn’t stand being around me? I couldn’t get a read on him.

Initially, I bought the house and attempted to direct renovations from South Carolina. When there was an issue with the floors, everyone at Fletcher & Sons thought it would be best if I lived closer. Mac had been on board with diverting the crew to the owner’s suite to get that ready for me and Delaney. His determination to create a space for us as soon as possible had been sweet, but I hadn’t seen any other evidence that there was a heart underneath his gruff words.

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