I write a little of everything…including contemporary romance. Enjoy!
Bury Me Not
There were days that she regretted getting a dog, even a lovable mutt that looked like a large mop if Mina didn’t get him trimmed regularly. Some days, like today, she was ready to put out an ad saying, “To a good—or decent—or just not overly horrible home.”
True, a dog was a companion and when you were lonely, he was there…and faithful. Let’s not forget faithful. Few of the men in her life had proven faithful. Also, though, few of the men in her life had stolen one of each of her shoes and buried them in the backyard. Actually, none of them had, besides Atticus who was, in fact, a dog.
All of this went through Mina’s head as she dug through the newest shoe grave looking for her black flat’s match. She needed that black flat. She’d finally agreed to be set up with the cute dentist that her sister knew. Okay, she wasn’t excited, but she would make it to the appointment. No! Date. It was a date, not an appointment. It felt like an appointment. His receptionist had called to confirm with her the previous night so that this date wouldn’t interrupt his day.
She wanted to interrupt someone’s day.
Was it too much to ask that she’d actually impact someone’s day so drastically that they might be late to fill in a cavity? The shoe grave finally gave up its corpse. Her red stiletto—only the stiletto appeared to have been used as a toothpick.
“Free dog. Pick up from porch,” she muttered, staring at the heel. Could you call it a heel when it looked like that?
Growling, she spun to face the miscreant watching her with interest—and not helping. Males! Every last one of them was hopeless. “Atticus, you stupid dog. Why? Why do you do this?” She shook the shoe, and dirt pinged her in the face and a little got in her mouth. Yuck. Gross. She stopped shaking it and slung it at her back porch.
Her stupid mop dog—wow, he really needed a visit to the groomer, retrieved the red leather shoe and dropped it at her feet.
She growled again.
He growled back.
Excited by all the attention, Atticus jumped around, barking and wagging his tail. It was so hard to hate him when he was this happy to be yelled at. Most men would have dumped her by now if she did that. She’d be buried in their past much like the shoes in her yard. Atticus licked her hand before bouncing around some more.
Most men didn’t lick her quite so much either.
Not that licking was bad.
That could really go either way.
The slobber was a bit of a turn-off. And Atticus’s breath smelled like pepperoni treats right now, but when you’d gone two months without a date…a bib and a breath mint could solve those things.
Yeah, it’d been way too long if she was considering the pros and cons of dating a man like her dog.
Mina moved to the next shoe grave. Hopefully, this would be the right one of the seven shoes currently buried in the backyard. Please, let it be the right one. The universe had to be on her side at least every so often because, clearly, the males existing in said universe were conspiring to keep her single.
That’s when the sprinklers turned on.
“Are you watching the crazy neighbor again?” his twelve year old daughter asked him.
William sat in his attic room, spinning side-to-side in his chair while watching his gorgeous, but relatively crazy, neighbor dig through her backyard. She was wearing a very sweet, black dress and just one black shoe.
“Yep. I can’t figure out what she is doing, but she is very industrious,” he said.
The sprinklers turned on. His neighbor, Mina, stood and screamed something at the sky before stomping over to turn off her sprinklers.
“See. She’s really just so…funny,” he said to his daughter Kasia. Funny hadn’t been the first adjective to come to mind. Hot. Cute. Sexy. Especially since the black dress wasn’t ideal for digging modestly. But she was also funny, so it wasn’t lying to tone it down.
Kasia rolled her eyes. “Whatever. This is starting to get pervy, Dad…and I need twenty bucks.”
“It’s not pervy.” Where did she come up with that word? Pervy? Time to check the parental controls again. “I only watch her when she is outside. Why do you need money?” he asked even as he was reaching for his wallet.
“Ashlynn and I are going shopping for some stuff for school, and I still need a few more things.”
“Her mom is taking you?” he asked, handing over a twenty.
“Yeah. She keeps asking about you,” Kasia said. She tucked the money into the pocket of her jeans that looked far too torn to be the new jeans he knew he’d just paid for yesterday.
“ Aren’t those new?” he asked, nodding at the jeans.
“Yeah, I wanted to wear them in before school.”
“I think you’ve done that and more. Did they come with all those holes?”
In explanation, she rolled her eyes.
Okay then. He turned back to the window.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mom has remarried.”
Mina was back to digging. She was so much more interesting than the financial site he’d been looking at on his laptop. What were in all those mounds of dirt in her backyard? She’d yanked something red from the last one, but he couldn’t make out what it was.
“Did you hear me?” Kasia asked.
“Huh. Yes, you said that your mother has remarried. I remember that. I attended.”
Kasia often made statements that were baffling, but she got that from his ex-wife…who made no sense ever as far as he could tell. Perhaps he was attracted to crazy women because he’d been attracted to his ex-wife during their marriage, and his neighbor was just…fascinating.
“Ashlynn says you need to move on. That it’s unhealthy for a divorced man to not date,” his daughter said. “Plus, you’re not too old yet. Once you’re past your prime….”
Past his prime? Past his prime?
He scowled and tossed her a glance over his shoulder. “Ashlynn? Why is Ashlynn concerned about my dating life?”
“If you married Ashlynn’s mom, we could be sisters.”
“I’m not marrying Ashlynn’s mom. I met her at that school skating party, and I wanted to divorce her even though we weren’t married.”
“What? Dad, you’re not making sense.”
He was, though. Ashlynn’s mom was as hyper and needy as they came—not unlike Mina’s dog. Mina’s dog at least didn’t talk a mile-a-minute. No, Ashlynn’s mom could keep asking about him, but there was no way.
Mina yanked something from the dirt. A shoe. She had shoes buried in her backyard.
“Shoes!” he said, pointing.
“See, she’s crazy. She buries shoes in her backyard. Who does that?”
“I think Ashlynn is right. I should start dating.”
“Really?” Kasia asked, excited.
“Yes, I’m going to ask our neighbor out as soon as she stops jumping around and dancing with that black shoe she is holding,” he said.
Yes! She’d found it. After a short victory dance, she shoved it on. Luckily, her reflexes were good enough that her brush with the sprinklers hadn’t ruined things. Sure, she was a bit damp, but the end of summer heat should dry her right out. Smoothing down her dress, Mina got that weird tingling sensation on the back of her neck like someone was watching her. She glanced around her. No one out. She was just paranoid. Then again, anyone watching her actions of the last twenty minutes would think she was crazy. Crazy with a capital C and an exclamation point. But there was no one around, so it was fine.
Atticus tilted his head and gave her a long look.
“Nice, huh?” She was going to blow that dentist right out of his scrubs or whatever he wore to do his…dentistry in. She looked fantastic.
Her dog picked up the red stiletto in his teeth and trotted over to the shade of the fence between her and her neighbor’s yard and plopped down to further destroy the shoe.
Obviously, he was impressed.
The front door of the neighboring house slammed as the new homeowner’s preteen daughter left the house for a minivan parked in front. She turned to look at Mina and glared. Mina’s work as an art teacher at the high school meant that she’d been on the receiving end of hundreds of such looks. Mina smiled back. That always annoyed them. Sure enough, the girl stumbled in confusion before straightening and marching toward the van.
The backdoor of the neighbor’s house shut a second later as her new thirty-something neighbor walked outside. The separating fence was only hip height so he could see her yard with all its gopher-like holes. He probably thought she was a total freak…which was a shame because he was really hot. He had these green eyes that always looked amused, and his mouth was always curved in a grin. Every girl always said they wanted a guy with a sense of humor, but her neighbor had that…and made it look good.
Could a sense of humor be sexy?
Yes. Yes, it could. He ran a hand through his black, curly hair messing it up even more…and even that was sexy.
“Hey…William, right?” Of course she knew that was his name, but it seemed stalkerish to act so familiar with a guy who’d only moved in a few weeks back. Miss Clint from across the street said he was a day-trader and mostly worked from home. He’d been divorced for five years now, but he had joint custody of his daughter. He didn’t like lemon meringue pie, and Miss Clint said he looked to have all his own teeth.
Not that she cared all that much about teeth.
She might care even less after a date with a dentist…or more…she shouldn’t sabotage a date in advance. Teeth were fine. She had them. Her date liked them. They had that in common.
“Yeah,” William said, grinning and leaning against the fence. Yeah, those were definitely his own teeth—and they looked good when he was smiling. “How are you doing, Mina?”
She glanced at the departing minivan. “I’m pretty sure your daughter hates me.”
William shrugged. “She’s twelve. She hates everyone.”
Well, that was a relief. At least it wasn’t personal.
“You look nice,” William said. He looked like he meant it too. His gaze drifted across her with some serious heat.
She did look fantastic. The black dress was the black dress. She’d found the perfect little black dress. It complimented her blonde hair perfectly. She’d spent time on her make-up so that her brown eyes were framed in thick lashes and looked twice as big. It was a shame this was all about to be wasted on a dentist who’d be watching the clock the whole time. He’d probably look at her black dress and think it was the exact color of plaque or something.
What kind of guy had a receptionist confirm a date?
“Thanks,” she said. “I have a date…a blind date.” She winced. “I hate dating, and blind dates are the worst.”
“On the bright side, the blind dates usually get good parking out front.” They stared at each other for a moment before they both burst out laughing, and he said, “I’m sorry…that was horrible.”
“It really was.” Her phone rang in her purse. “Oh…just a second, William.”
Lifting it out, she noted it was the dentist’s office calling. Geez. Their date wasn’t for another hour. If she was getting a second reminder call, she was cancelling. It shouldn’t be this much work to go on a single lunch date with a guy.
“Hey, this Becky from Dr. Triven’s office again,” the receptionist said after Mina answered. Her voice sounded all chirpy. Mina wanted to punch her in the face every time she called.
“Hi, Becky. It’s at noon. I remembered.” She stomped down the hole she’d found the black flat in. Her yard looked like she had a pet gopher instead of a dog.
“Actually, we’re going to need to reschedule that. He had an emergency extraction come up,” she said.
Mina ground her teeth together—she might need a dentist herself at this rate. Her jaw had hurt for an hour after last night’s date confirmation from Becky.
“Becky, please have him call me if he is interested in rescheduling. Thank you for notifying me.”
“I can reschedule with you,” Becky said in that awful, chirpy ‘I’m so happy to be keeping you single for eternity’ voice.
“No, I’d rather reschedule with him. Thank you. Bye.” Mina hung up. She dropped her phone into her purse, and the black bag swallowed it up. Everything felt a bit like an omen when you were in a dating slump—everything was a metaphor for your life. It sucked. “Better to have a blind date than one with a dentist apparently,” she said to her neighbor.
Her date had cancelled? Was he insane? Clearly it was a blind date or the idiot would have known he was standing up someone who shouldn’t ever be without a date.
It had been a huge blow to find out…when he’d finally got up the nerve to ask her out, she was getting ready to go out on a date—a blind date no less. People only went on blind dates when they weren’t dating regularly. William was sure he’d missed his shot at her. It was probably bad form to look overly excited that she’d just been stood up.
“So, you’re all dressed up and no place to go?” he asked.
“Guess so.” Scowling at her feet, she added, “You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to get matching shoes too.”
Her dog, Atticus, dropped the shoe he was gnawing on and got to his feet. William put his hand over the short fence for the large mutt to sniff and lick. Atticus seemed to like him. He’d bet that was an “in” with Mina. Even if it wasn’t the dog was fun in a goofy way. They’d played fetch a few times. Now that he realized those weren’t old, discarded shoes, he probably shouldn’t tell Mina he’d played fetch with a tennis shoe the previous week.
“Actually, I would believe it. I was watching you,” he said. It wasn’t in his nature to be subtle. No guts, no glory. And anything with Mina had the potential to be glorious.
Her cheeks flamed pink, and she peeped at him with those big brown eyes of hers. She’d done something with her make-up so her eyes looked all soft and sooty. That dentist had no idea what he’d missed out on. “You saw that?” she asked, her voice squeaking just a bit.
“Your victory dance was inspiring,” he said, ruffling Atticus’s fur. “I think we need to celebrate your success at finding your other shoe. What do you say to lunch?”
Her glossy pink mouth dropped open. “Are you asking me out?”
“Yes,” he said.
“After you saw me dig through my backyard in a dress?”
“And a little because of that,” he admitted, grinning.
She scrunched her nose up. “Is this a pity kind of thing because my date bailed?”
“No, it’s a ‘ I’ve been watching you from my attic window for two weeks now, and my daughter is claiming it’s pervy, but I’m seriously attracted to you’ kind of thing.”
Her mouth dropped open again. She blinked her eyes, clearly flustered. “But…it’s the middle of the day. You probably have other things to do. Other things that I’m interrupting.”
“Mina, you can interrupt my day anytime.”
Her smile was brilliant. “Really?” It was like he’d found the magic words.
“Yes. If lunch turns into the rest of the day…that’s even better.”
She was shaking her head back and forth slowly with that big grin still. “Just like that, huh?”
“I like to celebrate shoe-finding in a big way,” he said.
“Okay. Let me lock up, and I’ll meet you out front.”
On his way through his house, he stopped to write a note for his daughter. “Call me when you get home. I’m on a date with the crazy hot neighbor. Tell Ashlynn thanks for the advice.”
Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked this, drop me a comment so I don’t feel self-conscious and turn into a mole-person. (It could happen.) Also…you should sign up for updates…so I don’t have to hunt you down each time I post a free story. (Though I do enjoy the hunt…) (I’m kidding–that was serial killer creepy talk.) (Actually, I may have used that line in Push Me.)
If you liked Bury Me Not, you’ll love Cursed by Cupid and The Teacher’s Vet.