Home > September is for Shaw(4)

September is for Shaw(4)
Author: Dylann Crush

“Hey, I was just being neighborly,” he protested.

Leveling him with a don’t-fuck-with-me glare, I waited until he disappeared into the backroom before turning my attention toward Eden.

“What was he saying about why my grandfather was going to sell you his place?”

I shook my head and dropped my gaze to the basket she’d brought. She was bound to hear it from someone in town sooner or later. I wasn’t going to be the one to spill the beans and give her any reason to feel sorry for me. “Nothing. Caden likes to stir the pot.”

“Are you sure?”

I almost caved and told her everything as she studied me through long, dark lashes. Her gaze didn’t drill into me so much as it seemed to warm me from the inside out. The last thing I needed was to fall under her spell.

“Yeah. I really ought to get back out to the garage. I’ve got a transmission repair waiting on me that’s going to take all afternoon.” I gestured to the door behind me, grimacing as a sharp twinge shot across my back.

“Are you okay?” Eden asked. “I’ve got a liniment at the cabin that could help whatever’s going on with your back.”

“Thanks, but I’m good.” I shifted my gaze toward the door, hoping she’d take the hint. “I’ll check in with you in a couple of days about the festival. How does that sound?”

She hesitated, like she knew I was full of shit. Then she shrugged her shoulders and gave me a half smile. “Sounds good. Let me know if you change your mind about that liniment.”

“I won’t,” I said, offering her a matching half smile in return.

She held my gaze for a long moment before she turned and headed out the door.

“What the hell was that all about?” Caden asked as he came back into the office. He held a plastic container of leftover spaghetti in one hand and a fork in the other.

“Don’t get me started.” My brother didn’t need to know what kind of effect Eden had on me, though based on what he’d witnessed, he probably already had a good idea.

“She’s hot.” He shoved a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth, then set the container down so he could rifle through the basket. “And she bakes.”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Caden broke off a chunk from one of the loaves. “I know Mr. Sugarman said he’d sell you that place, but it might not be so bad having her as a neighbor if she brings us bread.”

I shook my head. Caden didn’t get it. Not even a lifetime supply of fresh-baked bread could make up for what Sugarman had taken from me.









I’d tried being nice. I’d tried baking bread. Nothing I did seemed to break through the fortress of ice surrounding my new neighbor. I could understand his initial anger since Scapegoat destroyed his seat, but even after I told him I’d pay for that, he still gave me a cold shoulder. How was I supposed to work with a man like that? How was I supposed to live by him?

I parked in the drive and carried the groceries I’d picked up in town into the cabin. Moving to Mustang Mountain was supposed to be a step in the right direction. So far, it felt like I was moving backwards. I needed a fresh perspective. As I shoved vegetables into the crisper with one hand, I dialed my bestie back in Asheville with the other. If anyone could help me get refocused, Alana could.

She answered on the first ring. “Are you tired of Montana already?”

“Maybe. Give me three good reasons I shouldn’t load everything up and head home.”

“That bad, huh?” Alana had been the one to encourage me to leave. She knew I needed to get out of Asheville. “What happened?”

“I should have thought this through. Maybe come out to visit before deciding to move my entire life all the way out here sight unseen. I’ve got no running water inside the cabin, haven’t had a real shower or bath in days, and my new neighbor is a lumberhottie who’s a major grumpasaurus.” Saying it out loud made me feel a tiny bit better. Until Alana let out a loud laugh.

“A lumberhottie? Tell me more.”

“Did you miss the grumpasaurus part? He looks like he could tear a tree in half with his bare hands. Actually, I think that’s what he does for fun. And we’re supposed to work on some harvest festival together, but he’s cockblocking me from doing any of the real work.” My frustration poured out in a torrent of words. “I even baked bread for him. He looked at it like I’d poisoned it with pokeweed or something.”

“Did you?” Alana asked.

“Of course not. Pokeweed doesn’t even grow in Montana.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you to stock up before you left town.” She let out an exaggerated sigh. “Let’s break this down one issue at a time. First, what’s up with the water?”

Alana was all left-brained. She never let her emotions get the best of her, which made us almost exact opposites. It also made her the perfect person to talk me down when I got all worked up over something. I appreciated the way she approached problems with logic and reason.

“If I knew, I’d fix it. I’ve left messages with two different places, and I’m still waiting to hear back. I’m tempted to take a bar of soap down to the creek and clean up the old-fashioned way.”

“That’s an excellent idea. Go do one of your forest baths. Maybe it will wash away that bad attitude, too.”

“Forest bathing doesn’t involve actual bathing.” I rolled my eyes. “You’d know that if you’d ever taken me up on it when I invited you.”

“Fine. Creek bathing. Whatever. I know you like those cold plunges. Maybe a quick swim in the creek is just what you need until you get someone up there to fix the water. What’s next on the list? The neighbor?”

“He’s awful. We started off on the wrong foot. Scapegoat got out and made a snack out of his motorcycle seat.”

Alana snort-laughed. “What the hell? That goat’s caused you more trouble than a herd of elephants would. How did the lumberhottie react to that?”

My cheeks flamed as my mind flashed to an image of Shaw standing in his driveway, his heated gaze running over me as I stumbled out of the woods. “He wasn’t happy about it. I told him I’d pay for it. Then I saw him again at a small business owner meeting this morning. He looked at me like I was a stink bug he wanted to step on.”

“If he’s any kind of outdoorsman, he’d know better than to step on a stinkbug unless he wants to attract more.”

I groaned. She was missing the whole point. “Okay, a cockroach then.”

“Do they have cockroaches in Montana?” she asked.

“Does it matter? The point is, he can’t stand me.” While I appreciated her ability to keep her emotions in check, sometimes she got too caught up in insignificant details. “What am I supposed to do?”

“What kind of bread did you make?”

Again, with the details. “Why does that matter?”

“If you want to win him over, you need to make the brown sugar bread. My mouth’s watering even just thinking about it.”

“He doesn’t even look like he eats sweets. I didn’t have any molasses, so I made banana nut and zucchini bread.”

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