Home > Man Card (Man Hands #2)(9)

Man Card (Man Hands #2)(9)
Author: Sarina Bowen


“I’m not glum,” I grumble. But she’s right. I’m glum on a perfect day. We’re at a fall festival in an apple orchard that’s heavy with fruit. Behind us is a corn maze and off in the distance, a horizon of trees in reds, oranges and yellows. Booths line the orchard, tucked in between the trees. We’re well fed, and I’m wearing cashmere, because fall. Also, because cashmere is just plain sexy and decadent. What could be better than this?

“Rough week?” she pries. “Are you ever going to tell me how that VanHeimlich showing went?”

I let out a little moan of despair, but then I swallow it down because I need to appear friendly. I look around at all the happy families and couples. Everyone here is wearing scarves and looks like they stepped off the set of Gilmore Girls. Brynn has a cute banner advertising her food blog Brynn’s Balls and I’m handing out luggage tags with the VanderMollen Real Estate logo on them, along with my phone number. Always be prepared for luck.

Only my heart isn’t really in it. I’m too busy kicking myself over that fiasco with Braht. I fell for his fucking antics. Again. And then I disgraced myself by rubbing him as thoroughly as if I were trying to wax his Beemer with my body. That guy is my kryptonite. Even worse—his desk is now six feet away from me at work. Everywhere I turn, he’s there!

I’d be creeped out by it if I wasn’t secretly turned on.

“Hey, is that your phone?” Brynn asks just as Steve Miller’s “Take The Money and Run” starts playing from my pocket. “Whose ringtone is that?”

I yank out the phone and look at the digits. “It’s my ring for an unidentified local number.” I’m a realtor, so I answer in a hot second. You never know when the next big client is going to show up and change your life. Or at least pay you a fat commission. “Hello, this is Ash Power of VanderMollen Realty’s Eastown branch! How may I help you?”

The caller doesn’t say anything, though. I press the phone against my ear and wait, expecting to hear at least a robocall start up. All I hear is someone’s sigh. It feels familiar somehow.

The hair stands up on the back of my neck. “Hello?” I say again. “Is there anyone there?”

I hear a click. And then nothing.

That’s weird. Weird, but hang-ups happen, right? Especially those robocalls. It was probably some poor salesperson calling to tell me how I’ve won a vacation and all I’ll have to do is give them my credit card and my first-born child. Yep. That’s what it was.

Okay.

Good.

It was definitely not my ex-husband stalking me from prison. This is where my mind goes in October, I guess. Because it’s almost Halloween, so a hang-up would make anyone feel like she’s starring in somebody’s horror film.

It would, right?

“You also didn’t tell me how it went with Zelda,” Brynn prods.

“Zelda isn’t real,” I remind her.

“No kidding. But what did Braht say when there was no assistant Zelda?”

I squint up at the perfect sky. “He didn’t even mention her. Probably because I wasn’t very convincing.” Having Braht in the office these past two days hasn’t been easy. “I wish he’d just go back to the branch across town and leave me alone.”

Brynn gives me a sideways glance. “Too distracting?”

Definitely. But that wasn’t even the biggest problem. “You know I win the branch sales bonus every year, right? I’m worried that now I won’t get the prize. And I’ve already spent it.”

“Oh, honey. On what?”

“Home repairs. I put a down-payment on a new garage door.” Also a top-notch home security system, but that’s just me being paranoid, so I don’t mention it. “Braht’s numbers from the other branch shouldn’t count, right?” I hope management will realize that’s unfair.

I’m really not good at sharing. Or compromising. I know this.

Luckily I am saved from further self-flagellation when a cute family approaches our table. The school-aged boys help themselves to one of Brynn’s apple cinnamon balls. The mother takes one of Brynn’s measuring spoons, with Brynn’s Dips and Balls printed on the handle.

“Would you like a luggage tag?” I offer a black one to the dad—the macho color.

“I’d love one.” He reads the back. “VanderMollen, huh? We might be needing to upsize.” He reaches over to pat his wife’s belly, and I notice she’s pregnant.

“Oh!” I say, feeling suddenly better. I live for these moments. “If you’d like me to run you a report of available four-bedrooms in your neighborhood, I’m happy to do it.”

“That might come in handy,” he agrees.

I slide exactly the right business card out of my pile. This one says, Ash Power, Family Expansion Specialist. I have a total of ten different business cards, each one proclaiming me a specialist at something slightly different.

A girl has to put her best self forward at all times. God knows the men of the world have always done so.

“Thanks!” The guy pockets my card, and the family moves off toward one of the food tents.

But now that they’re gone, my burst of enthusiasm goes, too. It smells like a pumpkin spiced latte threw up around here. I am definitely not feeling at peace with the fall spirit. I want to sneer at the decorative corn and smash all the pumpkins. I don’t know what this rage is exactly.

Sadie strolls up with her twin girls in tow. They’re more than a year old now, and they’re pretty fucking cute. They walk in a teetering way, as if every step is a fifty-fifty chance of a face-plant. “We brought coffee!” Sadie says. God, I hope the twins aren’t carrying it. I sigh with relief when I see Sadie has a gigantic thermos tucked into her stroller.

She’s got everything in that stroller. Granola bars, diapers, juice, Neosporin. I sorta want to ask if her husband is in that stroller, tucked away somewhere, but I refrain. Something is going on with them, yet I still have hope for her. Maybe everything will turn out fine. Maybe her husband will prove us all wrong and turn out to be a decent guy. Doubtful, though.

But back to the coffee. I reach for the thermos, tempted to take a swig. “You are the best!” I exclaim with a whole lot of vigor. It’s possible that I’m under-caffeinated. I pour some of the liquid gold into a tiny paper cup and slug it back. With a quick swipe of my mouth, I’m almost good to go. In fact, I’m starting to feel generous. It must be the caffeine.

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