Morgan Donnelly walked into the small shop as his Uncle's truck sped off behind him. Going to work with his uncle hadn't necessarily been his plan, but it was a hell of a lot better than being at loose ends. Having too much time to think just left him in a bad way. Surveying his surroundings, he frowned.
Searching his vocabulary for a word to describe the pastry shop, the only thing he could come up with was ‘girly’. The hot pink walls and white wrought iron tables were bad enough, but the delicate crystal chandelier was just too much. He tried to play it cool, as if being in such places didn't make him feel horribly out of place. Setting his toolbox down, he resisted the urge to rub his thigh.
His leg wasn’t hurting. Not too badly, at any rate. Though never pain free, he did have some good days to counteract the bad. It’d become habit, massaging those muscles throughout the course of the day, so they didn’t seize on him. The shrapnel was gone, but the scar tissue and nerve damage was something he’d be living with forever.
That was the easy part. It was the loss of his military career, of being forced into an early retirement that made him cringe. He felt old, used up and put out to pasture. At forty two, he’d spent more of his life in the military than out. During the past year, having surgery after surgery, with more physical therapy than any one person should have to endure, he’d tolerated the other kind of therapy too.
Of course, his medical leave would be ending soon, and it would be decision time. Go back and ride a desk, pushing papers around while other men, no more than kids, went headlong into danger. Or…he could embrace civilian life. Those were the choices he'd been given. It wasn't much of a choice.
Initially, he’d resented it. After a time, he’d come to see its purpose. Being out in the world, things worked differently than they did in the military, and he was adjusting to it. It wasn’t easy though.
Without fatigues and a gun, it was like walking naked into a room full of strangers. He’d spent the entirety of his twenties and most of his thirties on army bases or in war zones. The fluffy pastry shop seemed foreign to him, but that was only one of the reasons he’d avoided it. He had a few more.
A woman emerged from the back of the shop then, her red hair pinned up in some elaborate style that reminded him of old movies. He took one look at her and was instantly, painfully hard. With the physical toll of the surgeries and the painkillers, the exhaustion of therapy and, he was willing to admit it, a raging pity party, his libido had tanked. He’d accepted this as just a part of it, until he came back to Falls Creek and ran into Lexi Flynn.
One look at her and his libido had come back to raging life. It happened every time he saw her. He couldn’t even look at her without feeling all the blood rush south. War zones he could handle. Bullets, bombs, screaming superiors and an entire country wanting his head on a plate, that he could cope with and not even raise a sweat. One curvy redhead and he felt ready to run for the hills.
Try as he might, he couldn’t look away from her. She was what his aunt would’ve described as plump. He didn’t have a word to describe her other than beautiful. Smoking hot also came to mind. Lush. Sexy. Sweeter than any of the desserts she baked. That line of thought wasn’t helping him to keep his embarrassingly apparent boner in check.
Moving forward, he stood close enough to the counter to provide camouflage. She’s just a woman. Of course, he was a man who hadn’t had sex with another person outside of his imagination in a long ass time. Then the fact she had breasts and a pulse, made it even harder to deal with.
That wasn’t really a fair assessment, he thought. She had amazing breasts—large, full, supported by industrial strength lingerie and perfectly displayed beneath a T-shirt that was snug in all the right places. Look at her face, Donnelly, before you blow more than just the job.
“Oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t hear you come in,” she said breathlessly.
She had one of those voices. A sexy, I just rolled out of bed from doing very naughty things type of voice. The southern drawl became just icing on the cake.
Watching her place the stacks of pastry boxes on the counter, Morgan watched her move as if he'd been hypnotized. “Sorry,” he managed, his own voice cracking like a teenager. Clearing his throat, he continued, “I'm here to do the estimate for the kitchen reno.”
“It's good that you're working with Jess! I worry about him.”
Morgan nodded. The truth of the matter was, his uncle was helping him more than the other way around. There weren't too many employers who would be as understanding about all the limitations he faced or the fact of how those limitations came with a certain amount of unpredictability. Uncomfortable with the topic, he just nodded.
“You know, Morgan, you’ve been back home for months and I think this is the first time I’ve even gotten to speak to you! That’s an absolute shame!”
“Yes, ma’am.” The ma’am was instinct. Twenty plus years in the military had taught him to be polite out loud, even while being a total pervert on the inside. It made him nervous when he realized she knew who he was.
“I didn’t think about it when I called...I didn’t realize you’d be working with him,” she uttered all this with a slight, concerned furrow of her perfectly arched eyebrows. “It won’t be awkward for you, will it? I mean, yes, Ashley is my sister, but she’s hardly ever here at the shop.”
And there was the other reason he’d avoided Lexi Flynn. He hadn’t changed her diapers, but it’d been damned close. Ashley Flynn had been his girlfriend when he was a junior and she was a freshman. At the time, the woman who now stood before him had been a cherubic four year old. Fucking pervert.