Now sitting at the table with her allowed him time to study her high cheekbones and smooth skin. Loose strands of hair escaped their braid. She had the face of an angel. It’s even prettier up close. Dangerously so.
Though Jessie had seen Alex several times he’d been unprepared for her mother’s delicate, natural blond beauty. Alex’s curly brown hair and dark brown eyes would mature into beauty, but couldn’t be as striking as her mother’s blond hair or dark-lashed amber eyes. Lily seemed skittish, maybe as aware of him as he was of her. She didn’t look directly into his eyes, almost as if she was shy.
“Mr. Richmond–” she began.
“Uh,uh. My friends call me Jesse, remember?”
Her brows arched, her mouth quirked to one side. “How do I know I’ll be your friend?”
For a moment he wanted her to be more than his friend. What would she think about that?
“Mr, Richmond, you’ll probably need help getting uniform things together for Jaycee. I’ll be glad to help. You’re welcome to join Alex and me, if you wish.”
“Thanks.” He grinned at what he thought might be a favor as much as a challenge. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d shopped for girl’s stuff. He hoped he would be near his mother or sisters when the time came for bras and such. His mother had already had the talk about feminine stuff with Jaycee. Supplies purchased by Jesse’s older sister occupied their shelf in Jaycee’s bathroom. Embarrassing area of thought for an unmarried man, even one with two sisters and a mother.
Lily wondered if the red staining Jesse’s face and neck had anything to do with the fact that their knees and legs kept touching. Surely he wasn’t embarrassed by the closeness, or was he? Maybe he would have preferred to be in a more adult setting, or with a more sophisticated companion.
He probably had women trailing after him. She’d be willing to bet he knew how to please a woman. He’d know those special places to touch, to… Lily flushed as heat swept her body. She tried to avoid looking at the man who had innocently stirred her fantasies, awakening feelings long buried.
She’d learned most men didn’t understand her need to stand on her own feet or her devotion to her daughter. They wanted more than she was willing to give, too soon.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She had to apologize for her lapse of attention. The man spoke and she hadn’t heard a word he said.
“Guess I was boring you.” He raised a dark eyebrow.
“No, really, please go on.”
His grin was winsome as he shrugged. “Taking over the dairy farm implements company and moving have taken a lot of my time, but Jaycee has been great about everything. She’s really a little trouper. You’ve been a godsend, Lily. It’s too bad my daughter didn’t have a mother like you.”
Immediately, Jesse wished he could take back that last admission. He hadn’t mentioned Jaycee’s mother to anyone outside his family and he wasn’t ready to discuss her with a stranger, especially one as sweet and innocent as Lily seemed. Especially one who made him think about satin sheets, and the way her body would look in his bed, the way her hair had smelled of sunshine and wildflowers when he’d held her for that second in the gym.
Lily was nothing like the self-centered woman who had placed her career over him, marriage, and raising his child. If I were going to choose a mother for Jaycee, I’d have chosen someone like Lily. Lily seemed like the kind of woman to spoil and make babies with. Get a grip.
“So you’re a farmer? An Engineer? An inventor?” Resisting a smirk, Lily raised an eyebrow at the idea of Jesse as a farmer. He’d do a lot for dirty jeans, or even overalls with no shirt. She must be losing it.
“Used to be, yes, and sort of. Your turn to fess up.” Jesse grinned at her. “What about you?”
“You want to know what I do when I’m not chauffeuring my daughter around? I plan fund raisers for charities and decorate offices and areas needing a special touch.”
“I’ve never met anyone who made a living like that in such a small town.” He didn’t know small town charities paid salaries or needed much specialty decorating. She seemed to have plenty of time to take the girls where they needed to go. For that he was grateful. She’d make a perfect wife and a good mother for Jaycee. Dependable, caring, loving. Too bad he couldn’t just shop for the woman he needed and make a practical arrangement. No one would lose, everyone could win. Whoa. Too much, too fast. “You’re an interior decorator?”
Lily smiled. He seemed more concerned than nosy. “Not exactly. I’m on retainers for two hospitals and several civic groups. My salaries are more than earned when I save money by finding donors of services and items and get publicity for all concerned. I make some of the things. I donate some. Patrons hire me on a personal basis and pay well when they need someone to decorate their homes.”
“What does Mr. Alexander do for a living?” Though Jesse had the impression from Alex that there was no father in the picture, he wanted to be sure. He couldn’t exactly ask, “By the way, do you have a husband who’ll be jealous if I spend a lot of time with you? Hit me if I touch you?”
“There is no Mr. Alexander in our lives. I support my daughter and me.”
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