One thing that doesn’t work in your favor when you’re a real estate agent is a propensity for always running late.
Unfortunately for me, it’s a Friday when I have back-to-back property showings and my alarms—all three of them—were all miraculously snoozed, and I now have only forty minutes to shower, dress, do my makeup, pour coffee down my throat and get out my front door. Because no house sales means no commission, which means no roof over my head, sexy heels on my feet or Starbucks in my hand, and I need all those things.
Walking into the kitchen, having done the shower, makeup, and half of the dressing side of my to-do list, I spot my bleary-eyed sister Hayley staring off out the window, cradling a mug of steaming caffeine nectar in her hands. Hayley moved to Chicago from Wisconsin four months ago after a nasty breakup with her ex-boss, which led to her being let go from her job at the same time.
“You’re late,” she says without looking at me.
“No shit, Sherlock.” I walk over to the coffee machine, quickly making myself a caramel macchiato with far more caramel than my hips need. But the maintenance of my curves is a serious business, and if caramel is the key, then I’m a devoted follower to testing and proving this theory to be true.
“Guess I better add caramel syrup to the grocery list,” my sister mumbles from behind me.
I snicker and face her, mimicking her pose with my coffee cup as I lean back against the kitchen counter. “You? Do the shopping?”
“I am capable of running errands, you know.” I arch a brow, making her gasp. “I take offence to that. I can adult. . . occasionally.”
“And apparently pigs can fly and the moon landing was a big, giant hoax.”
Her lips twitch as she takes a slug of coffee from her mug.
“Not going in today?” I ask, before taking my much-needed over-sugared caffeine hit.
Hayley is a free-spirited wild child and has been since the day she was born. She lives life on her terms, on her schedule, and can sometimes have issues with authority. That has included calling off work because she doesn’t feel like it.
“Late start.” Hayley works in the front office for the Chicago Fire soccer team. “It’s the team’s travel day so my boss said to take the morning off. There’s not much to do anyway.”
“Nice.” I take a quick look at my watch and a big gulp of my drink. “Shit. I really have to go. I’ve got a showing just after lunch, and I need to go into the office first to get the marketing materials John made up for me. I also wanted to call in and see Grams quickly.”
“And how is John?”
I grimace. “Still asking me out once a week, but it’s more a case of, ‘when are you going to put me out of my misery’,’ nothing else.”
My sister screws her face up. “Yeah. There’s sugar daddy, and then there’s John. Far too old.”
I nod. “And I’m not into stirring the company pot.”
“That too,” she says, her lips curving up. “I definitely learned that lesson. Hey, maybe you’ll have some hot bachelor come to your showing and sweep you off your feet.”
“One can only hope,” I say with a snort. “But it’s very unlikely. Besides, dating a potential buyer probably isn’t overly professional.”
Hayley rolls her eyes. “Look at you being all responsible.”
“Someone’s got to be,” I say, poking my tongue out. “I’ve really got to go. I’ll see you later?”
“Well, duh. It’s Real Housewives of Everywhere night. I’ll grab the takeout on the way home, since the maid hasn’t done the grocery shopping,” she adds with a wink.
“Maybe the maid is waiting to see if her counterpart will do it for her.”
“That can be arranged . . . for a fee . . .”
I quirk a brow. “And that would be?”
“A blind date. We’ve got a new player who’s just been traded to the team, and he’s single and ready to mingle in the big city.”
“Hayley,” I groan. “You know I’m not interested in being set up with anyone.” She gives me a guilty grin and I narrow my eyes. “Why do I feel like you’ve already arranged this?”
“Not exactly . . .” she says, averting her gaze. “He’s cute, if that helps, and his arms? Damn. Those babies could do a lot of heavy lifting.”
“And on that note, I’m out of here.” I cross the kitchen and kiss her cheek before grabbing my purse off the hallway table and moving to the front door.
“You didn’t say no,” she calls as I’m halfway out.
“I didn’t say yes, either,” I retort, giving her a quick wave before leaving. Having a sister with the best of intentions may actually be the death of me.
Three hours later, I’m waiting in the kitchen for the clock to tick past one p.m. so I can open the front door and hopefully welcome in a hoard of potential buyers for this listing—a three-bedroom duplex near Palmer Square.
It has enormous potential, but when I took the deceased estate listing, I knew it could go either way in terms of being an easy sell or one of those tricky properties that sit on the market for a while. I’m always up for a challenge, though, so I jumped at the chance.
It’s been a slow start, but with effective but inexpensive staging that the daughter of the former owner was more than happy to front up for, a few well-placed vases of fresh fragrant flowers, and the gentle scent of a French vanilla candle wafting through the air, I’m confident that today’s showing—albeit, the third for this house—will be a well-received one.
A car door closing on the street outside grabs my attention, and after a quick look in my compact mirror, I take a deep breath, stow away my purse in a kitchen cabinet, and walk through to the front entryway, swinging the door open, signaling that the house is open for viewing.
The first couple of parties are the real estate equivalent of tire kickers—people who aren’t in the market to buy, but like to have a good look. I can usually pick them a mile away, but a telltale sign is when they’re hesitant to leave their details on the call sheet. I still treat them as potential buyers though because you never know when they might decide they’re ready to commit to a new property, and you might cross paths with them at another time in another house. If that happens, you already have that name-recognition/first-impression in the bag. That’s my theory, anyway.
With ten minutes to go and no more parties coming through, I begin to think the showing is a bust when the roar of a car outside grabs my attention. Deciding I’m not ready to write this day off just yet, I go to the front porch, ready to greet what could be another potential buyer.
Which is fine if you’re not wearing four-inch Jimmy Choo heels and a knee-length pencil skirt, and you trip on the first step with a huge smile plastered on your face. I scream as I go flying off the front stairs, my arms flailing and my eyes clenched shut as I brace myself for impact, expecting the worst.
Except I don’t hit the ground. Instead, there’s a loud muttered “damn” just before I hit a wall of someone, the two of us crashing backwards as we both fall down in a tangle of limbs onto the front lawn. The stranger lands first, a loud groan escaping him followed by a low grunt when I land on top of him at my most unladylike best.
We lie there unmoving for a few moments until my eyes snap open. Mortification hits. I lift my head and look down at him, my lips parting to say thank you when I’m rendered speechless by the concerned—and absolutely mesmerizing—deep chocolate gaze shining back at me.
“Are you okay?” he asks roughly, and I swear, I have a mini-orgasm from the sound of his voice alone. I stare down at him, rendered mute for what seems like hours before the man looks around us then returns his amused gaze to mine.
“Well, that didn’t go quite how I planned,” he says with a cheeky grin. “Now I’m all for public displays of affection, but I’m not sure if this was the kind of showing you had in mind. Not that I’m complaining at having a beautiful woman lying on top of me.”
That snaps me out of it.
“Shit,” I say, rolling off and away from him and scrambling to my knees. He jumps to his feet as quick as a flash and leans down, placing his hands on my hips. He lifts me back to my feet as if I weigh nothing.
As soon as I’m back upright, blood flow must return to my brain because I finally regain my ability to think straight. “I’m so sorry. It’s lucky you were here to cushion my fall though,” I say with a laugh.
He smiles and dips his chin, looking down between us and slowly pulling his arms away from where he was holding me steady. I didn’t realize he was still touching me, and now all I can feel is the searing palm-print of where his hands have been. God, maybe I should go on that blind date.
Mystery man’s lips curve into a sexy half grin. “You’re welcome. It’s not every day I get the chance to help a damsel in distress.”
I snicker and cock my head to the side. “It’s not every day a knight in shining armor saves me from making an absolute dick of myself in front of a potential buyer.”
His smile widens. “I wouldn’t say an absolute dick. Maybe I have a thing for women falling at my feet.”
I arch a brow at him. “Hey, if it helps sell the house, I’ll walk back up there and fall down all over again.”
He chuckles, and I feel myself falling into a daze. Dammit, Ren. Stop swooning over the hot man.
“You don’t need to go that far, although I’m not complaining. Any man would do the same if you were the one doing the falling.”
I barely stop myself from fanning my face before I remember what I’m doing and what the man is here for. Sell the house, Ren. Don’t flirt with the buyer.
I quickly switch back into professional realtor mode and flash him a dazzling you-know-you-want-to-buy-this-home smile.
“So, after that eventful introduction, I’m guessing you’re here to see the house?”
“Should I walk behind you just in case I have to catch you again?,” he says, making my knees wobble a little.
I laugh and shake my head. “I’ve been walking in heels since I was a kid stealing my mom’s shoes to walk down the hallway. I think I’m good.”
He stares at me, his eyes still warm, but there’s something else in his gaze I can’t pinpoint. I kind of hope it was lust, attraction, a desire to throw me against the nearest surface and ravish me until I’m a panting, breathless mess.
He lazily runs his eyes down to my silver pumps and back again, forcing me to fight off a full-on body shiver. “Still, I definitely won’t complain if I have to follow you around. You know . . . just to be safe.”
There’s absolutely no mistaking the intent of his words now, and it’s taking everything in me not to melt into a puddle at his feet. Since that would ruin my very expensive shoes, I lock my knees and decide I really need to move this along to avoid the risk of doing myself an injury by clenching my thighs too tightly.
“Right. So are you waiting for anyone else, or . . .?”
He opens his mouth to reply, but we’re interrupted by a stunning blonde running up to us in an EMT uniform.
“Sorry, I’m late. I got caught in traffic. But I’m here now,” she says, leaning in and giving the man an enormous bear hug, which he reciprocates. He smiles down at her lovingly and pulls her into his side. Damn, okay. That answers that question. Definitely taken. That is exactly the cold bucket of water I needed to cool my jets. Kind of douchey to flirt with me while waiting for his significant other.
“Right. Okay. Hi, I’m Renee. I’m the realtor for this house, and we were just about to go inside if you’d like to join us.”
“Awesome. I’m Skye,” she says, shaking my hand. She turns to the man I was just lying on top of. “I wanted to have a look at this one first before talking to you know who.” The still nameless man chuckles, and I plaster an overstated smile to hide my reaction to his simple action. What is it about a deep, low laugh that turns strong, kick-ass women to mush?
“Let’s go inside, and you two can have a look around,” I say, carefully walking up the stairs, feeling Mr. Possibly Married, Still Doesn’t Have A Name, Was Flirting With Me And Clearly Has A Girlfriend, following behind me.
“Watch your step,” he says, sounding amused.
“What did I miss?” Skye asks curiously from the back of the line.
“Oh, nothing, brat. Renee here is a bit shaky on her feet despite years of walking in heels, apparently.”
“Damn, girl. Be careful. You don’t want to break an ankle. But I will say, those Jimmy Choos are hot,” Skye says, and I can’t help but smile. It’s hard to be envious of a woman with a sexy, smart-mouthed boyfriend when she’s nice.
I look over my shoulder with a genuine smile on my face. “Thank you. They were my reward for reaching my sales targets last year. I only pull them out for special occasions. Like selling a house?” I say jokingly, waggling my brows.
“She’s good, Marco. You better watch yourself. She’ll try to get us to buy another house too,” Skye says, walking past me and into the house.
Confused by her statement, I stumble—again—and Marco’s hands come to my hips . . . again. Why is he touching me? Does he have no shame? Maybe they have an open relationship? I’ve been in an open relationship before and it wasn’t fun. Granted, it was one-sided, mainly because I had no idea my fiancée was banging multiple women behind my back for years. Good riddance.
“I’m thinking you might need more practice in those shoes,” he murmurs in my ear as I right myself.
“Or you could stop using my clumsiness as an excuse to touch me,” I murmur quietly.
“Now, why would I want to do that? I’m just doing my job. I live to serve.”
“Serving doesn’t mean copping a feel every chance you get,” I mutter, horrified at the fact I actually like the fact he’s teasing me. Ugh. This is why I swore off men after my last disaster of a relationship.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath, put on my most professional, cheerful smile and turn around, stepping away from the man who has me not thinking straight.
“So, I’ll let you guys have a look around at your own leisure, and I’ll just be in the kitchen if you have any questions. Sound okay?”
Marco’s eyes lock with mine. It’s as if he’s studying me—or reading my mind—which would be a terrible thing right now. Especially with his maybe sister, maybe girlfriend or wife standing right next to him. “C’mon, macho man,” Skye says, grabbing his arm and pulling him into the front living room. “I need you to be the voice of reason. I don’t want to take this back to the guys and have them think I’m bringing them a lemon.”
“Just come find me if you need me,” I call out, carefully walking backwards down the hallway towards the other end of the house.
“I will,” Marco says, his eyes not leaving mine until he disappears from sight.
I’m left feeling off-kilter at the strange effect he’s having on me. I don’t flirt with potential clients, and I definitely don’t flirt with possibly attached ones.
So maybe I’ll just write this whole experience off as a friendly exchange and be done with it.
“Thank you, Renee,” Skye says shaking my hand on their way out. “It’s not quite what I was looking for—a bit too finished for our purposes—but I’ll definitely keep your card in case we find ourselves in need of a realtor.”
I grin. “Definitely do that. It was nice to meet you, though.”
Marco doesn’t say anything else to me, he simply smiles and follows Skye out the door.
Which probably explains why I’m still feeling out of sorts and yet weirdly amused while reviewing the call sheets from the day’s showings later that night. I’m fixated on the last two names written down.
Skye Cook and Marco Rossi—two different addresses, two different phone numbers.
I might not even see them again. Regardless, I’ll get my assistant to do a courtesy follow-up call to Skye, and since she’s already said the property didn’t fit the bill, that will probably be as far as it goes.
But what takes the cake is he had the balls to write “call me next time you want to be caught” next to his phone number. Right next to Skye’s name. That screams player, and if my past has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not interested in philanderers or players, no matter how sexy, charming, and funny the man may be.
No way. Not at all.
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