Several work trucks and vans with Rough Hands Builders logo line my aunt’s driveway, rather her old driveway. I park alongside one of them, hoping they don’t give me any trouble. This had once been my sanctuary when my mother died and until I left for college. My beloved aunt died three months ago unexpectedly, and her sons have been moving at lightning speed to get everything divvied out. I’m hoping that I can find what’s missing.
They’re preparing the house for sale, even though it really doesn’t need much work at all. The estate is large and ornate. It brings a tear to my eyes how it’ll be quickly modernized and no longer have that luxurious Victorian appearance.
I pull myself together and enter through the open front door. I have to hunt everywhere I can to find this book. With my hair tied tight and up high, I can hope to not bake in this heat. It’s an unseasonably hot start to summer. It’s the first week of June, and it’s in the high eighties. I make it past the foyer only to trip over a small stack of two by fours. A man in jeans and a white tee helps me to my feet.
“Miss, you shouldn’t be in here. It’s dangerous. And this is private property,” he chides. He’s a handsome, semi-slender man for a construction type guy. I guess the buff models posing as construction workers are just an illusion, a wicked fantasy.
“I know it’s private. I’m one of the sellers. I need to go through some of my aunt’s belongings for a missing item.”
“Okay, ma’am, but please be more careful.” I nod to the guy, then walk up the three flights of stairs to the attic door. This is not going to be fun at all, but it’s supposed to be up here.
I have been digging through boxes labeled books, and yet they’re not here. I can’t believe it’s missing. I wipe the sweat from my forehead with my dusty, dirty hands. The grit on my skin reminds me that I must look like a total freaking mess. I brush my hands on my jeans and decide to call the search for the night. I stand up and bump my head on the angled roof because I’m five-six. “Damn it,” I curse out. After rubbing the bruised area, I pull out my hair tie, then comb my thick brown hair with my fingers before putting my hair back into a neat ponytail.
I visited my aunt a week before her death, and the beloved treasure was in the case inside the library where it’s been forever. At my aunt’s will reading, I learned it couldn’t be found. Austen is magical, but the books can’t get up and walk themselves out of the house. It’s definitely not missing. More than likely it’s been stolen by my shitty cousins.
I step down and out of the hot, ancient attic. The sun is almost about to go down, but my eyes are still adjusting to the light change when I careen into a wall. I start feeling around as my vision clears, realizing it’s not a wall at all. Instead, it’s a large, firm man. I jump back, nearly falling down the stairs.
He catches me, pulling me into his chest. As soon as I’m set right, my eyes connect with the man in front of me. He stares at me with a scowl on his face. If he wasn’t looking at me with the urge to throttle me, I’d find him sexy. Heavens, who am I kidding? I find him sexy either way. He’s a whole foot taller than me, broad shoulders, a strong, manly expression with just enough facial hair for a shave, but not a full-grown bread. A muscle in his jaw tics, forcing me to see his eyes. They’re a shade of brown that matches perfectly with his dark wavy hair that’s brushed back and trimmed to look neat. He’s dressed like the other guy, but he’s bigger a lot bigger. He has a tool belt on his hip, and it’s so sexy that I’m feeling faint.
He's holding onto my arms tightly, glaring at me. “What are you doing up there? It’s almost ninety fucking degrees which means it’s about a hundred and twenty up there?”
“Looking for something. Who are you?” I ask, stepping to the side away from the beastly construction guy.
“Ben,” he says. “This is private property.”
I narrow my eyes at him, giving him my damnedest mean look with my hands on my hips. At my size, I look like a Chihuahua against a mastiff, but I’m too pissed to care. “This is my aunt’s home. And is still not sold. So mind your business.”
He shakes head. “I am minding my business. We’re working on the home. Did you find what you were looking for?”
I raise my hands. “Obviously not.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
“You’re obviously not.” He’s right, I think just as I pass out.