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Authors: Becky McGraw

Tags: #Romance

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BOOK: Worth the Trouble
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Where Rocky was lean and athletic, her sister was round and soft.  Her
breasts looked cosmetically enhanced too from the cleavage all but spilling out of the V in the silk tank top.  Either that or her wonder bra was performing miracles.

"There's a shower in the bunkhouse, and I think there are a couple of cans of juice up at the house.  I'll go get them and be back in a few minutes."

"I'll go get my suitcase," she told him then walked down the steps.  Her bare feet touched the dirt, and she stopped then cringed.  "What if there are other...
...out there?" she said with fear and disgust in her voice.  Her perfectly arched brows drew together over her pert nose and she scrunched up her mouth into a pout.

Ethan huffed out a breath then told her,
"Stay on the porch, I'll take the cart around back and get it.  Where are your keys?"

"It's not locked," she told him then quickly moved back up onto the porch.  "Thank you, um..."

"Ethan," he told her placing the walker beside the cart before swinging himself back into the cart.  He jerked the walker up and wrangled it into the passenger seat.  

This was going to be an ordeal, Ethan knew it.  A man who couldn't walk was going to have to get her suitcase out of the car,
it would probably weight fifty pounds or more, then he was going to gather two cans of tomato juice from the house, then make it back here to help her de-skunk herself.  Not too much to ask, right?

It was pathetic, but
he was actually excited about doing it.  This was the most excitement he'd had in months, and at least he felt useful. 

At least
needed him again.

"What's your name?" he asked before he
shifted the cart into reverse.

"Leigh Ann
Baker," she replied then tilted her chin and added with an exaggerated drawl, "former Miss Texas, USA."

The statement seemed a bit ridiculous considering she was standing on the porch in her drawers, smelling like she'd been fermenting for a few weeks.

A beauty queen, it figured. 

That explained the makeup that looked like she'd put on with a putty knife.  It also explained the prissiness she had about her.  The woman certainly had the looks for it, but most people wouldn't announce that title when they introduced themselves.  If that was the best thing she could say about herself, this woman had led a very small life. 

Thank goodness Roxanne wasn't anything like her sister.

"I'll be back in a few minutes, Leigh Ann...why don't you go get in the shower for round one of the fumigation process."

It took him about forty-five minutes to perform all the tasks that would have taken him fifteen three
months ago.  The suitcases, plural as it turned out, were the biggest challenge.  Not only did she have one massive case, she had two others.  One he thought might contain makeup from the way it smelled, and the other shoes from the way it rattled when he hefted them into the cart.

Trying to wr
estle all of that luggage into the back of the golf cart and balance himself at the same time had not been easy.  To make it easier on himself, instead of delivering the cases right away, he left the luggage in the back of the cart when he went to the big house for the juice. 

By the time he got
to the house, he had almost been too worn out to transition himself from the cart into the wheelchair, but he managed.  Penny must have been in bed and Terri and Joel had evidently gone home right after dinner.  The house was dark, and nobody was around. 

Luckily, he found two cans of juice in the pantry on the bottom shelf.  If the juice had been on a higher shelf, Ethan probably couldn't have reached it, because he was too damned tired to try to stand.   Finally, when
he coasted the cart to a stop in front of the bunkhouse again, this time without crashing into the porch, Ethan felt like he'd indeed done those extra reps in the weight room he'd refused to do earlier. 

That might have been easier
, he thought grabbing the walker and unfolding it.

back into the cart, he put the loop of the bag with the juice in it over his arm then made slow unsteady steps to the porch with the walker.  Miss Priss was going to have to carry in her own luggage, because he wasn't going to be able to manage that and the walker. 

Because he had no idea how to navigate the
narrow steps on the walker, Ethan put the walker and bag of juice on the porch, then sat down on the top step.  Using the porch post, he pulled himself up then picked up the bag and balanced on the walker again.  When he reached the door, Ethan was pretty damned proud of his ingenuity in working all this out.

Once inside the door, he yelled, "Leigh!"

She didn't answer and he cursed under his breath then headed toward the bathroom.  The smell from the skunk musk was overwhelming in the front room.  It burned his eyes and made them water.  Ethan could only imagine how Roxanne's sister must be feeling closed up in the bathroom with the steam enhancing the effect. 

Roxanne was gonna have a conniption when she got home and smelled it.

At the door, he knocked.  "Leigh Ann?" he said loudly.

When she didn't answer,
he tried the doorknob hoping she hadn't passed out from the noxious fumes.  It turned and he opened the door, but didn't stick his head inside. 

"Leigh Ann, are you okay
in there?" he asked with concern.

He heard sniffling and a low pitched sob
, so he pushed the door wider.  She was sitting in the bottom of the shower curled up in a ball crying as the water poured over her.  Her head rested on her knees and her hair hung in stringy clumps over her arms.

Jesus, could it get any worse? 

Sitting the bag of juice on the counter, he left the walker and used the ledge to make his way over to the shower, where he slid down the wall to sit outside the shower. 

Reaching up
, he grabbed a towel off of the bar and told her, "Leigh, it's okay honey, we'll get the stink off.  Come here," he told her and held out the towel.  She looked up at him and he almost laughed.  Mascara left streaks around her eyes and down her cheeks making her look like a sad raccoon. 

His lips twitched, but somehow Ethan managed to keep a straight face.  "Let me help you dry off, then we'll do the tomato juice thing," he coaxed and averted his face, so she could get out of the shower
modestly.  Not that she'd shown a shred of modesty thus far.  The woman didn't seem to notice she was in the room naked with a man she didn't even know, had undressed in plain view on the front porch in front of him too.

e heard her sniffle again, then droplets of water hit his hand, before the towel was pulled out of his hand.

"Don't cry," he
begged with a groan.

"My life is a mess," she told him sullenly.  "This is just the icing on the cake...stinky as it is," she added
with another soft sob.

From the corner of his eye, Ethan
saw her lean back against the wall, then she slid down to sit beside him hugging her knees again.  Her head was bowed and her shoulders shook with her sobs. 

"Well mine ain't a garden of roses, sweetheart," he told her

wished his problems were as simple as being sprayed by a skunk.  Tomato juice wasn't going to solve
problems, and he wasn't sitting here crying like a baby...although he wanted to.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked as if she hadn't noticed he couldn't walk.

"Um, well let's see..." he started putting a finger on his chin.  "My back is broken, my career is finished, my legs don't work, your sister is out with another man, my sister is pushing me to the breaking point, and now...I have a smelly woman who's crying her eyes out over being sprayed by a skunk adding to my misery."

"I don't have a job, I found a wrinkle this morning, I've gained five pounds in the last three months, and my mother is trying to marry me off to an old rich man who has more wrinkles than a raisin...and now I got sprayed by a family of polecats."

"It was only one mama polecat," he corrected.

"I smell like I got sprayed by a family then," she said and her lower lip trembled.

"Why is your mama trying to marry you off to an old man?" he asked wondering if Roxanne knew what was going on with her sister.

"She thinks I need someone to take care of me.  He's rich and that impresses her.  She should marry him, he's her age."

"Do you need someone to take care of you?" he asked genuinely perplexed as to why her mother would try to do that to her daughter.  He could only imagine what Terri would have told their mother if she was that way.

"Well, yeah...I dropped out of college after the pageant and didn't go back
, so I don't have any skills.  But I don't want to marry an old guy."

He chuckled at that.  "Well, maybe a young rich guy will come along."

"I want the whole enchilada..." she said then the waterworks started again.  "I want love and happily ever after with a young rich guy."

Ethan put his arm around her and pulled her against him.  He was surprised when she scrambled up onto his lap and put her arms around his neck
, before burying her head in his shoulder.  "I'm sorry I'm such a mess.  Thank you for helping me," she told him and sobbed.

How the hell he'd gotten himself into this mess, Ethan didn't know.  He'd come out her
e mad and loaded for bear to unload on her sister, and now here he was with Rocky's stinky wailing sister in his lap.

"Well, isn't this cozy.
  Glad to see you've met my sister," Roxanne said sharply from the doorway.  Surprised, Ethan looked up into Roxanne's angry gray eyes.  "What are you doing here, Leigh Ann?" she asked tapping the toe of her dusty boots.

Leigh Ann scooted off of
Ethan's lap and stood, tugging the towel back up to cover her breasts.  "Annie!" she shouted and ran toward Roxanne, who stood there unmoving when she threw her arms around the taller woman's waist.

Holding Ethan's eyes with her
heated gaze, Roxanne pushed Leigh Ann away and said, "You're wet, and you stink, sister." 

Covering her nose with her hand, Roxanne spun on her heel
.  Ethan heard her boot heels on the hardwood floor as she stomped down the hallway, then flinched when she slammed her bedroom door and the walls rattled.

A high-pitched keening wail erupted from Leigh Ann
.  She turned back toward him as if looking for comfort again, but Ethan was done with that drama.  He had bigger fish to fry, like straightening out Roxanne and saying what he came out here to say to her.

Holding up his hands to Leigh Ann a
s if to ward off evil, he grabbed the toilet to pull himself up to his knees, then pushed up to his feet and edged along the countertop to the walker. 

"Use the tomato soup in the bottles to shower again. 
Wash your hair with it too.  I'd suggest you buy more tomorrow and do it again.  If you want your suitcases, they're out in the golf cart.  I can't carry them inside," he told her then took careful steps with the walker down the hall toward Roxanne's bedroom.

"But--" Leigh Ann whined behind him, but he ignored her
, his gaze was locked on the bedroom door near the end of the hall, the only one with light shining out beneath it.  When he reached it, he knocked on the door loudly. 

"Roxanne, open the door," he commanded
, then knocked again when she didn't respond.

On the third knock, she yelled through the closed door,
"I don't want to talk to you right now, Ethan.  Hobble your ass back up to the house and leave me the hell alone!"

Her voice sounded a little choked
and he wondered if she was crying, which was a ridiculous thought, because the woman was tough as a nickel steak. She didn't strike him as the crying type, thank God.  But she was a woman...she could be crying.  The though made his stomach lurch.

"Open the door Rocky," he
urged a little softer with his palm on the door.  "I need to talk to you."

"I don't much feel like
talking right now.  I'm going to bed, so just leave me be," she said gruffly.

Leigh Ann walked up beside him and he glanced at her. 
She was dressed now, thank God, but what she had on didn't make things better.  Somewhere she'd shanghaied a t-shirt that was about two sizes too big for her and it hung off her shoulders, exposing the top of her right breast.

"Trust me she isn't going to open that door.  My sister is stubborn," she informed him as if he didn't know that about Roxanne.
  With a snort she walked off leaving him standing there.

Raising his fist, he knocked again, but
after ten minutes of waiting, he gave up. 

"I'm going, Rocky, but we will have this conversation," he
promised then started back down the hall toward the front door.

BOOK: Worth the Trouble
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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