DRIVING THE RENTED moving van was a heck of a lot harder than Honor Brown had counted on. Not since high school had she driven a stick shift. More than ten years later, she’d clearly lost the gift. Wincing as she ground the gears, she ignored her friend Lexie, who rode shotgun and was having a grand time at her expense.
After they bounced over yet another pothole, Lexie groaned. “I feel like we’re killing this truck.”
Maybe because they were.
While staring out the window to check out the new neighborhood, Lexie propped her naked feet on the dash and balanced a frosty can of cola on her midriff. “There are a lot of trees.”
“I know. And they’re so big.”
“Throwing shade everywhere.” She turned toward Honor. “You realize most of these houses look like a flashback to the sixties.”
“It’s the landscaping.” And the cracked sidewalks and, yes, all those mature trees. “I’ll have to redo my entire yard.” Wrinkling her nose, she added, “It’s mostly overgrown and pretty...messy.” A grave understatement. The little patch of lawn in front of the house she’d bought held only weeds and dead bushes and debris. But who cared? She could buy shrubs someday, put in some flowers, maybe a bird fountain, too.
The backyard was bigger, she reminded herself. Though just as messy, it supposedly led to a wonderful creek. There were beautiful trees that were strong and healthy and only needed to be trimmed.
The most important thing was that she’d be on her own, and closer to her grandfather’s facility. Since she visited him once a day, sometimes more often, the convenience would be a godsend.
“How is your grandfather?”
Bless Lexie for always reading her so easily. Honor showed her gratitude with a quick smile, but the smile was sad at best. “Every time I see him, he’s a little worse. I just need to make sure he stays as comfortable as possible.”
Lexie put a hand on her shoulder to show her commiseration. “I don’t suppose the angry mob is helping much?”
Angry mob was one of Lexie’s many derogatory terms for Honor’s relatives. Given the general attitude of her two aunts, her cousin and sometimes her great-aunt, she wasn’t far off the mark. “They’re all busy, and upset with things, and—”
“You’re a good person, Honor. You know that, right?”
And that was her code for bullshit. Honor sighed. “I try, but I swear, sometimes my patience isn’t what it should be.”
“Your patience is exceptional. They’re just evil.”
“Old,” Honor corrected.
“Hon-or,” Lexie drawled in that chiding way she had that drew out the syllables of her name. “Stop defending them.”
Was that what she’d been doing? Maybe. Mostly just to keep the peace, though. This was a momentous day and she wanted it to stay happy and upbeat, not get dragged down with worries and animosity.
They turned the corner on the quaint, older street and Honor could finally see the beautiful, wonderful, life-altering home she’d purchased thanks to the Ashwood, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce’s new mission—to rehab the town of Clearbrook through initiatives around marketing, business attraction and retention efforts.
Supposedly they’d run off the crime element, cleaned up the streets and, luckily for her, offered special financing on run-down houses with the agreement that the owners would improve the property in a timely manner. She could hardly wait to get started.
Funds would now be limited for a while, but a lot of what needed to be done required time and energy more than cash. Somehow, in the middle of the craziness called her life, she’d manage to find some of both.
“Dear God,” Lexie muttered, losing her amusement. Her feet dropped to the floor and she leaned forward as far as the seat belt would let her. “Please tell me that’s not it.”
“It is,” Honor confirmed with pride. Sure, it was a little rough, the lawn overgrown, the landscaping obliterated. But now it was hers. Lexie might not see the possibilities—but Honor most definitely did. “All it needs is some TLC and love.”
“Or maybe a...demolition?”
“Don’t be dramatic.” With a frown, Honor added, “I wanted you to be happy for me.”
“I know, and I am. I just don’t see why you always want to do things the hard way.” Going quiet, Lexie drew in a breath and straightened her shoulders. “I’ll help. With everything. No, don’t argue. I can’t claim I’m strong and I’ll admit I’ve never remodeled anything. Honestly I’ve never held a hammer. But I’m here for you.”
“Between dating and working and shopping, you mean?” Honor loved Lexie like a sister, but their social calendars, as well as their motivations, were as different as night and day.
As they neared the house, three men stepped out from the garage next door. They’d obviously been working. One held a motor of some sort while the other gestured toward it. The tallest nodded as he cleaned his hands on a towel.
“Oh, hey.” Lexie perked up. “What’s this? Man candy? Very sexy man candy.” She rounded on Honor. “You’ve been holding out!”
Repeatedly glancing at them, Honor shook her head. Nope, no holding out. This was the first time she’d laid eyes on the men. Fact—because if she’d seen them, she sure as heck would have remembered.
“Oh, please, please, please,” Lexie whispered. “Let them be single.”
The guys looked up as the truck drew nearer.
Wiggling her fingers in a wave and grinning hugely, Lexie said, “Okay, so maybe Clearbrook has some appeal after all.”
Flustered with all three men staring at her, Honor accidentally ran over the curb as she maneuvered the truck to the front of her house. Worse, she hit a garbage can and it clattered to the street with nerve-wracking noise.
“Oh, crap.” The truck stopped with bone-jarring impact, and she sat there, stock-still, embarrassed and hoping beyond hope that the men went about their business and ignored her.
“Good going on killing the trash can,” Lexie said with enthusiasm. “That got their attention.”
“I don’t want their attention,” Honor groaned.
Laughing at her, Lexie said, “Relax. They were already looking.”
What a way to make a first impression. Casting a glare at her friend, Honor said, “Shush it. And for heaven’s sake, stop staring!”