“You want to do this right now?” He was still whispering as he slowly extended his large perfect surgeon’s hands out to the spider, and suddenly, I realized how this would end.
The spider would bite him.
Thatch’s bite would get infected.
And he wouldn’t be able to do his job.
Or pay off his student loans.
Leaving him in debt.
On the street.
Thatch was going to die.
“Wait!” I slowly lowered my body to the floor. Fear pounded in my ears as I held out my hands and Charlie lumbered onto my palms. It tickled. It would be nice if I weren’t so terrified of spiders.
Shaking, I walked over to the bucket and gently set him inside, this time, right side up so Thatch could transport him later. Just as I pulled my hands away, something sharp dug into my skin.
Thatch grabbed me just before I collapsed against the floor, hands shaking and pain searing through my right thumb.
Before I knew what was happening, Thatch was carrying me over to the couch. Soft pillows met my back as he grabbed my thumb and held it close to his face.
“Am I going to die?” I whimpered. “Because the Discovery Channel [PS1] said tarantula bites feel like bee stings—they’re liars from the pit of hell!”
Thatch narrowed his eyes at the puffy red mark and then slowly dropped my hand to my side. “You’ll live.”
“Well, that’s encouraging. Don’t I at least get a sticker? A sucker? For saving your life?”
“You?” He chuckled and joined me on the couch. “Saved my life by getting bit by a tarantula?”
“Keep up!” Talking was at least distracting me from the throbbing pain. At least it had dulled a bit, though the fact that I had spider venom in my hand made me cringe. “If it bit you, you wouldn’t be able to do your job.”
He seemed thoughtful. “You mean I’d finally get a vacation where I’m allowed to sleep for longer than three hours?”
“Well, when you put it that way,” I grumbled, and tried to cross my arm, then hissed as pain exploded down my hand.
He grabbed it again. “At least the venom is weak, it’s really just the puncture wound from the spider’s fangs that causes the swelling.”
“Well, that’s disappointing on so many levels. I save your life and I don’t even get to turn into Spider-Man.”
“Tough luck, maybe next time.” He winked.
It was nice.
Sitting with him on the couch.
My legs on his lap.
My eyes focused on his mouth.
I quickly looked away but not fast enough—he caught me staring where I shouldn’t have been staring, and I felt like a complete loser for still lusting after him the way I was.
What was it about Thatch?
Other than everything?
He was brilliant. Hardworking. Gorgeous. And he fought spiders on behalf of a girl he’d dumped.
“This leads nowhere,” he said in a hollow voice. “You understand that, right?”
It was like he’d just handed me the world’s happiest balloon and then popped it with a giant needle.
I was utterly defeated and deflated.
Even though I knew going into this there was no hope of us getting back together, I’d officially turned into that sad, pathetic clinger.
I’d always made fun of “those girls.”
And now “that girl” stared back at me in my own stupid mirror.
I let out a long sigh and nodded slowly. “This is strictly business, Thatch. You know how important this class is to me, how important getting my MBA is to me.”
He looked away, his jaw clenched. “Parents still MIA for the most part?”
“And the reelection, I imagine your dad wants you to join his mayoral campaign again?”
A sick feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.
To my parents, I was a trophy. Something shiny and pretty they could trot out to gain votes from families who appreciated their having taken time out of their busy lives to sire a child.
Granted, I knew my parents loved me.
They just loved me in their own way—the only way they knew how.
“I have to graduate,” I stressed again. “The job market’s fierce out there, and an MBA will help with that. The sooner I graduate, the sooner I can start my own life away from all of this.” I lifted my hands into the air.
This just happened to be a mansion.
A huge mansion.
With three interconnected swimming pools.
A tennis court.
Two movie rooms.
And a bowling alley.
I think I’d prefer anything but this. If I could choose to live in a dump with my parents and we’d be a family or I could have a mansion and scarcely see them.
I’d choose the dump every time.
“I’ll do my best to help you.” He lifted my legs off his lap. “But first, we ride.”
I blushed. I couldn’t help it.
“You can’t do that anymore,” he whispered, his blue eyes piercing. “You can’t blush when I say things like that.”
He muttered a curse and walked away. I could have sworn he adjusted himself near the door, but I was too busy hiding behind the couch to fully commit to ogling him.
“Where’s your bike?” he called over his shoulder before turning around.
“In the garage. It’s kind of dark now, though, let’s ride tomorrow after work.” I totally said it without stuttering or blushing.
“Fine.” He looked exhausted.
“Don’t forget the spider.” I pointed at the bucket. “And don’t let it loose in nature. We can’t have that bastard procreating with another, smaller spider and creating zombie spider babies that take over the world.”
He just stared at me like I’d lost my mind.
And then shook his head as a smile played across his face. “You’re entertaining, I’ll give you that.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you.”
“It was meant to be one.”
We froze, both of us smiling at each other.
“Sleep,” I whispered. “You’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Yup.” He gripped the bucket in one hand; the muscles in his forearm flexed. “Take some ibuprofen and ice the spider bite. If you feel any muscle weakness or tightness in your chest, let me know and I’ll prescribe you something.”
“Ah, the power of the pen.”
He rolled his eyes and waved with his free hand. “See you tomorrow morning at eight, Austin.” He hesitated in the doorway. “Be sure to wear something work-appropriate.”
“Oh, so you want me to wear a bike uniform?”
He flipped me off and quietly shut the door against my laughter.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!