What do you do when your lights go out in the middle of the night and a stern daddy shows up to turn you on???
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Chapter One, Gracie
At first, my shower hit the spot and the strawberry Lush D’Fluff shaving soap felt amazing against my skin. The splurge was totally worth it: $12.49 for 2.4 ounces. I had shrugged to myself; “Oh wellsies,” as my best friend, Sofie, would say. It smelled so delicious that I almost forgot the internal fat-shaming about my oversized thighs that I subjected myself to as I applied the fluffy soap to those ample appendages.
Remember the mantra that Sofie gave you: I can do epic shit.
I banished the chubby-thinks from my mind, sending them to the impenetrable imaginary dungeon far removed from my thought processes, where they would be hogtied and rendered speechless by the likes of Ursula, the octopus from Little Mermaid. My mental picture of Ursula stuffing a fat tentacle into the imaginary mouths of my fat-shamers worked.
They shut up.
Since moving into Sofie’s place three months ago and settling into the charming cow town of Briarville by the Sea (just “Briarville” to locals), located behind the “Redwood Curtain”, I had relied heavily on online shopping for the required beauty products. The selection in town was pretty slim pickings.
“Not sure what all the maintenance is about. It’s not like you’ve been within throwing distance of an eligible male since you got here.”
But at least this cow town was safe.
An eligible male is the last thing I need right now, I told myself a mere three seconds before the lights shut off, plunging the bathroom into total darkness.
Oh, no, I’m so screwed. My fear of the dark was epic.
Then the water turned to ice on my skin.
* * *
At least I had my phone with me in the bathroom to serve as flashlight and rescue equipment all in one.
“What should I do?” I asked Sofie, who was far away up the mountain, in her remote palace of happy ever after.
Shit. My heart started racing, and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.
“Hang on a minute.” Sofie was very familiar with my coping mechanisms. We understood each other like no one who hadn’t lived through our childhoods ever could.
“You’re okay, Gracie. It’s going to be okay. Look at five things around you.”
I had started using coping mechanisms at Wisteria Village for Girls when, Katie Jo, our mentor, shared them with me years ago. When I had first entered the home, I suffered from fierce panic attacks on a regular basis. Each time I went to bed, I would wake in the middle of the night, unable to catch my breath.
“You’re okay, Gracie. It’s going to be okay. Use the 5,4,3,2,1 tool that Katie Jo taught us, remember? While you are doing that, I will stay on the line and call Luke to come over and help you out. You’re going to be okay.”
I ran through the 5,4,3,2,1 exercise, a necessity for calming my ass down in any anxiety-laden sitch.
The steps for the tool were so familiar that I could take them in my sleep: identify five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel then two things you can smell. And finally, one thing you can taste—which can even be your tongue as long as you can taste it.
Amazing that something so simple could work every time.
Once my breathing had returned to normal, I was able to rant at Sofie. “Look at five things around me? It’s practically dark. How am I supposed to do that? And I have no idea how to fix a freaking solar system! Why can’t you have a real power setup like everybody else?”
Okay, I was bleating like a baby goat. Even I could admit that.
“Don’t worry, Gracie. I’ll share Logan’s friend’s contact information with you. He has a solar business in town. Just give him a call, and Luke can be right over to see what’s up and help you out.”
“Ugh. I don’t want to deal with some hick stranger coming to my door in the middle of the night!”
Unlike Sofie and her computer-building, nerdy ways, tinkering with mechanical stuff made me cranky.
* * *
The bozo was insistently pressing the door buzzer as if I didn’t have ears. I turned my phone flashlight on, threw a robe around me, and made my way to the front entry. Without illumination, the house beyond the small semicircle of my light was immersed in total darkness.
How was I supposed to know if it was solar dude or not at the front of the house?
I swung open the door and, naturally, shined my phone’s flashlight up into his face so that I could see him better.
The stern-looking friend of Logan’s swung his arm up to block his eyes from the bright light. Before I could lower the phone, he instinctively reached out with the other one and snatched my wrist up in his hand.
“Yowch! Let me go.” It didn’t really hurt: the exclamation was more out of surprise at being grabbed. I attempted to yank my hand out of his without success. It was like trying to push over a refrigerator with my finger. “What are you doing?”
His already dark features were immersed in the shadowy uplight of my phone. Still, I could tell that he was handsome. In a very cheekbone-jutting, huge and firm lower lip, lower half of the face swathed in dark stubble sort of way.
God. He was yummy. He wore a short-brimmed, rain-drippy hat over his brown hair, which just touched the fisherman’s collar of his blue-grey sweater, and a blue-and-white checked striped shirt underneath.
This was no cowboy hick. Dude had style. And the way he still firmly held my wrist in his hand made me want to pant ridiculously.
I think my mouth might have been open.
C’mon, Gracie. Get it together. This is Logan’s friend, not some hero from a romance novel. What do you think he’s going to do? Sweep you up onto the back of his horse? He’s here to fix the solar system, not to flick your switch.
He let go of my wrist suddenly, and it dropped to my side. I could still feel where he had grabbed me.
“Last time I checked.”
Impossibly, he scowled even more sternly.
“I presume you would like my assistance with the lights, since you’ve called me up in the middle of the night? Although I’m not really sure why anyone would take a shower at 2 a.m.” He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater and crossed his arms, cocking one eyebrow at me in disapproval.
His brawny forearms. Sigh. My weakness.
“Um, I’m sorry. Mechanical failures make me cranky. Thanks for coming so late.”
“Well, you’re in luck. Such difficulties used to be my bread and butter. Since you’re a friend of Logan’s, I’m lowering my standards a little to serve as your maintenance man.”
* * *
He came up from the basement where the solar batteries were located. “Looks like the batteries need replacing. I wasn’t able to get the generator started, which means it has probably been defunct for a long time. It’s going to take a few days for the batteries to be delivered. Is there any place else you can stay in the meantime?”
“No. I don’t really know many people around here in town. My best friend lives way up the mountain.”
“Well, it’ll be pretty rough without a working generator, and I could do without Logan on my ass for leaving you without power. You can stay at my place until it’s sorted. There’s plenty of room, and you’ll hardly notice I’m there. Sound good?”