Suddenly Engaged (A Lake Haven Novel Book 3)(6)

By: Julia London


Dax turned his attention to the girl with the fantastically dark red hair in two uneven pigtails and, now that he was close to her, he could see her clear blue eyes through the round lenses of her blue plastic eyeglasses, which were strapped to her face with a headband. She looked like a very young little old lady. “Listen to me, kid. I don’t want you over here. I work here. Serious work. I can’t be entertaining little girls.”

She hopped to her feet. “What’s your name?”

Dax sighed. “If I tell you my name, will you go home?”

She nodded, her long pigtails bouncing around her.

“Dax.”

She stared at him.

“That’s my name,” he said with a shrug.

Ruby giggled and began to sway side to side. “That’s not a real name!”

“It’s as real as Ruby Coconuts.”

“Not Coconuts!” She squealed with delight. “It’s Ruby Kokinos.”

“Yeah, okay, but I’m pretty sure you said Coconuts. Now go home.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m a lot older than you,” he said and put his hands on her shoulders, turning her around.

“I’m going to be seven on my birthday. I want a Barbie for my birthday. I already have four. I want the one that has the car. The pink car with flowers on it. There’s a blue car, but I don’t want that one, I want the pink one, because it has flowers on it. Oh, and guess what, I don’t want a Jasmine anymore. That’s my favorite princess, but I don’t want her anymore, I want a Barbie like Taleesha has.”

“Great. Good luck with that,” he said as he moved her toward the fence.

“My shoes light up,” she informed him, stomping her feet as they moved. “My mom says they’re fancy. They’re my favorites. I have some sneakers, too, but they don’t light up.”

They had reached the fence, thank God, before the girl could give him a rundown of her entire shoe collection. Ruby dipped down, apparently thinking she’d go under again, but Dax caught her under her arms and swung her over the fence, depositing her on the other side.

Ruby laughed with delight. “Do that again!”

“No. This is where our acquaintance comes to an end, kid. I don’t have time to babysit you, get it?”

“Yes,” she said.

She didn’t get it. She wasn’t even listening. She had already climbed onto the bottom rail, as if she meant to come back over.

“I mean it,” he said, pointing at her. “If I find you on my side of the fence, I’m going to call the police.” He figured that ought to put the fear of God into her.

“The policemans are our friends,” she said sunnily. “A policeman and a police woman came to my kindergarten. But they never shot any peoples.”

Dax had a brief but potent urge to correct her understanding of how plurals worked, but he didn’t. He turned around and marched back to his cottage.

He didn’t even want to look out the kitchen window when he went inside, because if she’d come back over the fence, he would lose it.

He’d known that family was going to be trouble the moment they’d arrived a few days ago. They’d cost him a table leg he’d been working on, because they’d slammed a door so loudly and unexpectedly that Dax had started, and the permanent marker he was using to outline a very intricate pattern on said table leg had gone dashing off in a thick, black, indelible line down the leg. He’d had to sand the leg down and start again.

Naturally, he’d gone to investigate the source of the banging, and he’d seen a woman with a backpack strapped to her leaning into the open hatch area of a banged-up Subaru. She’d pulled out a box, hoisted it into her arms with the help of her knee, then lugged it up the path and porch steps to Number Three. She’d been wearing short shorts, a T-shirt, and a ball cap. Dax hadn’t seen her face, but he’d seen her legs, which were nice and long and shapely, and a mess of dark hair about the same color as wrought iron, tangled up in the back of the cap. She’d managed to open the door, and then had gone in, letting the door bang behind her.

Neighbors. Dax was not a fan.

The door of Number Three had continued to bang away most of the afternoon, and Dax had been unable to work. He’d stood at the kitchen sink, eating from a can of peanuts, watching the woman jog down the front porch steps, then lug something else inside. He’d noticed other things about her. Like how her ass was bouncy and her figure had curves in all the right places, and how her T-shirt hugged her. He’d noticed that she looked really pretty from a distance, with wide eyes and dark brows and full lips.

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