Authors: Rosemarie Naramore
Actions Speak Louder
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Actions Speak Louder
© Copyright 2012 by Rosemarie Naramore
For Tamra, Dennis, Diego, and of course, the girls.
Marcia Elton walked along at a snail’s pace—or more accurately, at an ant’s pace. Once again, she’d spotted a carpenter ant nosing around the northern wall of her home. Thankfully, the insect was outside rather than inside, but it was the third she’d spotted in as many days, and she knew what the presence of the pesky bugs meant—trouble. It meant the parent colony had sent out scouts, and the little foragers were scouring her property in search of either food or a suitable location for a satellite colony.
As Marcia trailed behind the ant, she sighed. Where was that parent colony? If she could find it, she could destroy it with a little well-place insecticide—nontoxic to other animals, of course. But finding the nest was the tricky part.
Tailing an ant was boring at best, inordinately tedious at worst. If only the little fellow understood that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line, rather than a meandering trail around obstacles akin to Mount Everest in size in an ant’s world.
Marcia checked her watch. It was already after one, and she needed to get back to her hardware store. She’d left there, intending only to be gone long enough to assemble a quick lunch of a turkey sandwich and diet soda, check on the dogs she was pet sitting, and dash right back. Unfortunately, her plans had been waylaid by the insect. She glanced down at it, noting it was struggling to climb over a large leaf.
“Go under it or around it,” she groaned, and then shot a furtive glance around her. Did she really need her neighbors hearing her talking to an ant?
With the exception of Mr.Grambel across the street, they wouldn’t have a clue what she was doing, but would likely think she’d gone off the deep end. They would probably conclude that her recent purchase of a small hardware store during tough economic times had proved too much for a newly single, thirty-two-year-old woman to handle, and that she was buckling under the pressure.
Well, she wasn’t buckling, but she was feeling the strain. Sales at the store had improved in recent weeks, but during the last couple days, had slowed once again.
No one had guaranteed her venture into hardware would be easy. Retail was temperamental—with ebbs and flows. And just like the little ant in front of her, she knew she would face obstacles that she would simply need to find a way over, under, or around—or through.
The carpenter ant finally scaled the leaf and then scurried along a zigzagging path to the end of her driveway. It came to a stop, and then appeared a bit confused as to which direction it intended to go.
“Great,” she muttered, chuckling, “a directionally challenged ant. You must be male.”
Suddenly, the insect turned right and appeared to pick up its pace as it continued along the sidewalk.
She glanced up in surprise at the sound of her neighbor’s cheerful voice. Unfortunately, the toe of her work boot caught the raised edge of the sidewalk. She tumbled forward, but managed to right herself after some frantic windmilling of her arms.
“Careful there,” Mr. Grambel called, his weathered face breaking into an alarmed wince. “Didn’t mean to startle you, Marcia!”
She smiled self-consciously in his direction, and then remembering the ant, sent a horrified glance its way. It was a relief to see she hadn’t squished it. “No worries, Mr. Grambel,” she called back.
“Found another one, eh?”
She turned back to her neighbor for a split second, fearful if she lost sight of the ant for too long, it would detour into the tall grass of the vacant house next door and she’d never be able to find it. “Yep, and this time I’m determined to find the nest.”
“Well, if you find it, will you let me know? I found one of the little buggers in my kitchen several mornings ago.”
“It was a carpenter ant then?” she asked, her eyes still pinned on the bug.
He nodded. “Yep. Too big to be a sugar ant. I’ve seen several of those in my garage the last couple days too.”
She grimaced. “And you’re sure you don’t have a nest on your property? A carpenter ant nest, I mean.”
“I’m not sure. I had the pest control guys out here and they treated my house, but the ants just keep coming back. ‘Course, unbeknownst to them, they’re returning to their colony—wherever it might be—with the bug guy’s killer potion on their tiny feet.”
Marcia bit back a grimace. She could have directed him on the wheres and what- fors of dealing with carpenter ants, although she well understood his wish to be done with them in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always that easy. She refrained from mentioning that fact to her neighbor. Instead, she called out a good-bye and resumed her surveillance of the bug.
“Good luck then, Marcia,” he called back, and headed into his house.
What felt like ten minutes later, the insect reached the end of a long stretch of sidewalk, and made a sharp turn into the driveway of the house next door. Marcia followed its meandering path along the pockmarked driveway, and grew frustrated when it came to repeated stops in what she suspected was an ant’s version of sightseeing. She couldn’t help wondering, was it aware of her trailing behind it? If so, was it taking her on a wild-ant chase?
Finally, after what felt like an interminable amount of time, the bug reached the back corner of the house and came to an abrupt stop. It appeared to rise up on its back legs slightly, and Marcia noticed its antennae twitch in the early afternoon breeze.
Suddenly, the vibration of her cell phone in her overall’s pocket alerted her to a call. She tugged it out and shot a quick glance at the screen. It was her ex-husband Jay. Deciding to ignore the call, she spotted the ant in time to see it rounding the corner of the house. She stuffed her cell phone back into her pocket and then stepped around the corner of the vacant bungalow, her eyes still cast downward and fixed on the ant.
To her horror, a large boot appeared to come from out of nowhere. As if in slow motion, it lowered onto the ant with a decisive stomp, flattening the unsuspecting bug and then grinding it into the gravel for good measure. “Take that!” a deep, male voice said triumphantly.
“Noooo!” Marcia moaned, nearly sagging onto the ground, her eyes now fixed on the flat-as-a-pancake insect.
With a heavy sigh, her eyes left the ant and lighted on the well-worn work boots standing behind the bug corpse. From there, they traveled up long legs—clad in denim—and then continued their upward appraisal, passing over slim hips and onward and upward to a well-developed chest. A quick side-to-side visual detour alerted her to broad shoulders and muscular arms.
She swallowed hard, before allowing her eyes to venture upward to what turned out to be a strong chin with a cleft, and home to beautifully formed lips presently curved in a bemused smile. Her eyes continued upward past the straight nose, and connected with two of the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. She was sure she wasn’t imagining the sparkle of humor in them. Her eyes finished their appraisal, lighting finally on dark, wavy hair.
“Friend of yours?” the man asked, gesturing toward the ant.
She sighed. “No, and he’s no friend of yours, either,” she said glumly.
“It’s just an ant,” he said, watching her curiously. “Besides, it’s dead now. It can’t hurt you.”
Marcia bit her lip to keep from saying something she might regret. After spending the last half-hour trailing behind the thing, its untimely demise had really set her teeth on edge. She refrained from telling the ant killer that he’d do well to give that bug a thought himself, since that ant and a couple thousand like him could transform this very bungalow into a mound of saw dust.
“Look,” she said, attempting to keep her voice cordial, “I was trailing that ant since, well, it’s a carpenter ant.”
“So?” he said with a quick shrug of his broad shoulders.
“Do you know how much damage carpenter ants can do to a home?”
He shrugged again and nodded, as if urging her to continue. In fact, he was well aware of the damage the ants could do, and he’d already located a nest of them on the back porch of the bungalow. He’d only recently inherited the house and was eager to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, thanks to those ants, he was facing a complete overhaul of the back porch. For all he knew at this point, the rasping insects had already invaded the main structure and it was holding on by a thread of sawdust.
Why hadn’t he told this woman he was well acquainted with carpenter ants? He wasn’t sure what had prompted him to lie to her. Wait, no, he wasn’t lying exactly. Well, unless an omission of pertinent information equated to a lie, then, yes, he’d lied.
Suddenly, he felt like a bald-faced liar. Why hadn’t he simply told her that as a contractor and owner of the largest construction company in town, he encountered the bugs often in his work—and that frankly, the little devils were the bane of his existence?
He knew the answer. He wanted any reason to keep her talking because he was intrigued by her—a beautiful woman confident enough to dress in overalls and work boots. With her lovely face, boasting perfect bone structure, a slightly turned up nose, and full lips, he would have thought she’d be more at home in more feminine attire.
Instead, she seemed perfectly comfortable in her clothes, and somehow managed to retain her femininity despite the masculine wear. Even her dark blond hair, though pulled back from her face with a clasp, was thick and shiny and begged to be touched.
He forced the thoughts away, somewhat surprised to be having them in the first place. He didn’t even know this woman.
But he couldn’t deny he was impressed. He had to admire anyone with the fortitude to trail a carpenter ant in hopes of locating its nest. It was frustrating business.