The July Guy (Men of Lakeside)(2)

By: Natasha Moore

If the other mayoral candidate had his way, village policies would soon be favoring the property owners wealthy enough to afford the expensive lakefront homes, most of whom were only summer residents. And Ethan Bradford was already promising to tighten the regulations for many of the small businesses, like service stations and salvage yards, that didn’t fit in with the elite, classy vibe he thought their village should project.

Noah strode through the workshop, where a couple of their guys were cutting some boards they’d rescued from an old Victorian home in Buffalo. The gorgeous oak would soon be part of a coffee table he’d designed. They’d display it in the showroom, and he was sure it would sell quickly. Wiry hair stuck out in bunches beneath Jimmy’s protective eye and hearing gear. Sawdust clung to the sweat on Pete’s bald head.

No one ever said the salvage business was glamorous. Or classy.

They paused as he approached, the whine of the saw dying. He nodded to them on his way out back. “Looking good, guys.”

They flashed thumbs-up to him before the screech of the saw resumed.

Louis and Todd jumped into the cab of the truck with him. They were both in their early twenties, and some days he felt ancient when they worked rings around him. Louis had worked for them since Noah got out of high school. Todd was a new hire and still needed guidance. Normally, the job ahead would be at the forefront of Noah’s mind as he drove to a job site, but today, the enormity of what he’d agreed to take on overshadowed the salvage plan for the day. His mom was right. He really didn’t want to take on this campaign.

What did he know about running for public office? Nothing. But while he dreaded the networking and all the ways he might have to try to drum up support, there was a tiny part of him that was excited. All his life, he’d been one of the Colburn sons. He’d been a husband and then an ex. He was the father of two wonderful daughters.

But who was Noah Colburn, the man? It was pretty sad that he was approaching forty-five and he still didn’t know.

Maybe he was a crusader. A spokesman for the common man. A protector of life as he knew it.

With his mind taken up with thoughts of a mayoral crusade, he didn’t notice the little red convertible barreling toward him until it was too late. He’d already started to turn the box truck left onto the lower lake road, heading for the job site. The brakes of the oncoming Mini squealed, and the driver lay on the horn as the car stopped inches from the truck’s rear wheels.

“Sorry!” Noah shouted out the window. His stomach dropped. That had been stupid. He wasn’t normally stupid. He had to keep his mind on what he was doing. No more distractions.

The convertible turned and followed him down the narrow road. From the side mirror, he could see a woman was driving, her long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and streaming behind her. He couldn’t make out her expression, but she kept right on his tail. He hoped this wasn’t going to turn into some kind of road-rage incident.

They drove past dozens of houses, some that had been there over a hundred years. Some were ostentatious, some cozy and humble. He slowed as they reached their destination, a neglected lake cottage with ornate porch railings and some beautiful moldings, windows, and light fixtures. Today, he and his crew were going to get them out of there before demolition started.

He pulled the truck into the drive and noticed the red convertible pulled into the driveway of the Swanson house next door. Noah jumped out of the cab and met Louis and Todd at the back of the truck. He grabbed the chainsaw, and the guys pulled out the tool belts. Before he got any farther, Todd looked past him. “Um, boss?”

Noah turned, and the breath whooshed from his lungs.

Gorgeous dark eyes snapped in a breathtaking face. Long legs ate up the few hundred feet of pavement between driveways. The Mini’s driver had a polish about her, even with the windblown hair that had been torn from the ponytail. The strands flying around her face made him think of wild sex on twisted sheets. She wore loose purple pants and a soft white shirt that highlighted all that was wonderful about a woman’s body. Long silver earrings caught the sunlight.

Her eyes met his in a steady gaze, and one corner of her lips lifted slightly as if she was used to men being struck dumb when they laid eyes on her for the first time. He wanted to reach out and run his fingers along the crinkles at the corners of her eyes. She stopped only inches in front of him on the gravel driveway.