Good Girl Page 10

A quick check of the connected bathroom confirms that there’s running water, but the tub is missing a shower curtain, and the faucet handle on the sink is one good turn away from being detached.

I hear the tap-tap-tap of Dolly’s claws against the floor, the sound she makes when she’s gearing up to jump onto the nearest comfy surface. In this case it’s the bed, and since I know from experience there’s no way her short legs are going to make it up on the first try, I pick her up and place her on the mattress.

The mattress is clean, but now I’m starting to wonder how old it is—and how many bodies have slept there. These are the things you don’t think about as a kid, when you’re half thrilled and half terrified to be away from home.

I make a mental note of things to get on a shopping trip to Baton Rouge, although I’m not exactly looking forward to donning my disguise again.

The auburn wig was fun for about two minutes before it got itchy and hot. Still, the wig was worth every moment of discomfort when I got to the checkout stand of the grocery store and saw that my name was all over the latest issue of every tabloid.


Shawn Bates’s wife apparently wasn’t satisfied with her thirty seconds of fame and has been talking about her “broken home” to any reporter who will listen.

I don’t doubt for one second that her marriage is a mess.

I just know I had nothing to do with it.

Heavy footsteps are coming up the stairs, and I go to the doorway to let Noah know which room I’m in.

Any guilt I felt about playing the diva card and asking him to carry my stuff fades when I see the ease with which he’s hefting my two huge suitcases up the stairs, his muscles big and bunched, and…oh God. I’m drooling.

Noah pauses at the stop of the stairs. “What are you doing in there?” he snaps.

Let’s review: jerk.

“This is my room,” I say with a deliberately fake smile.

He nods in the opposite direction. “Master bedroom’s down this way.”

“I don’t want the master bedroom,” I say with what I think is admirable patience. “I want this one.”


“Does it matter?” I snap.

Dolly leaps down from the bed, poking her tiny head around the corner to see who I’m talking to before she begins yapping at him.

Good dog.

“Does it have a mute button?” he asks, glaring at Dolly.

I ignore him, stepping aside so he can maneuver my bags into the room. The room feels instantly smaller with him in it.

“Careful,” I say, my voice sugar-sweet as he drops my bags to the floor. “That’s Louis Vuitton.”

His dark brown eyes find me. “No, it’s not.”

I lift my eyebrows in surprise. He’s right. It’s totally not Louis Vuitton. I don’t even know what brand it is—it’s just something I picked up at a generic luggage store—but I’m a little surprised the guy knows what Louis Vuitton is…or isn’t.

I give him a once-over, wondering if there’s more to the guy than muscles and a bad attitude.

“Your dog’s a menace,” he says, giving a disgusted look to the still barking Dolly.

“My dog isn’t out and about mauling strangers,” I say, just as Dolly decides that the guy doesn’t mean us harm and throws herself at his shin in a desperate bid to be picked up.

He glances down in disgust before looking up at me again as though to say, No mauling strangers, huh?

I ignore him as I wave a hand at the bathroom. “The faucet handle’s broken. Can you fix it?”

Noah scratches his cheek, and I get the impression he definitely wants to tell me to go to hell. “I thought you’d be staying in the master bedroom. I got the plumbing working in there.”

“That’s wonderful! I’ll be sure to see about getting you a gold star. But I’m staying in this room, and this faucet handle is broken.”

He looks as if he’s biting the inside of his cheek in an effort to speak politely. “You understand, right, that I work for Walcott, not you?”

“And I’m sure you understand that I’m paying him good money to rent a working house,” I retort.

His jaw works as he crosses his arms and glares at me. I glare back, and he finally sighs and lets his arms drop again. “Will you please pick up your dog so I don’t step on it?”

“Her. Dolly’s a girl, not an it,” I say as I bend down and scoop up my dog, who is now trying to crawl her way up his shin.

“Keep her out of my way,” he says as he goes to the door.

“Wait, what about my sink?” I ask, following him.

“What do you think I’m going to fix it with, my teeth? I need tools, princess,” he says, not looking back as he heads down the hall.

“Why don’t you like me?” I ask, unable to stop the question.

He turns. Walks backward as he responds. “I’m not getting paid to like you. How about we just stay out of each other’s way?”

“That’s not an answer,” I call as he turns right into another room and disappears.

I don’t get one, but then I hear the low drone of a man’s hum, and the tune’s painfully familiar.

Noah Maxwell is quietly humming “Homewrecker.”

And I guess that’s answer enough.


I found the caretaker’s cottage.

It’s in about the same shape as the main house, which is to say it’s a strong breeze away from crumbling.

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