He smiled at how easily flustered she got. “My house. I’ve finished enough that I’ve decided to live there. At least on the weekends. It’s got a well-stocked fridge, my couch and electronics in the bedroom.” And a bed. He shivered a moment at the thought of her in it, at the very real tension between them that could lead them there. But he didn’t want to rush her.
“Are you cold?” She angled her head to see his face.
“Nope. I’m ...” He broke off to return Brody and Elise’s good-byes.
“I expect to hear every last filthy detail,” Elise whispered to Ella, though not quietly enough.
Ella’s laugh resurrected the shiver.
“Have her home by midnight, son,” Ben called to him.
“Ha. Take care of your pregnant wife. Ella is in good hands.”
There was much hooting and laughter at that. Ella waved at them all with both hands. “Moving right along. Jeez. See you all later. Don’t forget about me now that I’m not going to be pulling your coffee every day.”
“Oh my silly, sweet Ella.” Erin hugged her. “This is what we do. Every Friday night we come here, eat pizza, drink some beer or water, and we play pool while we catch up. Every. Friday. You are one of us, and you will have more time to do such things now that you have no more school and only one job. So there. There’s no forgetting, dumb ass.”
“We’re like the Mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.” Cope hugged her to him. As if he had any intention of not seeing her every chance he got. Pfft.
“See you all next week. Erin, get some sleep!” Ella let him open her door before she turned to him, her breath white in the air. “Take me wherever you want me to go.”
His heart stuttered as they stood there in the cold; snow fell but melted before it hit the ground.
“All right. Do you trust me?”
Again that slow, measured nod.
Her heart beat so fast it would have been easy to blame her breathless state on that. But she knew that was a lie. It was him. One hundred percent the way Andrew Copeland waltzed his way right into her body and played her like an instrument.
Other than those few delicious kisses, he hadn’t even touched her yet, but she found herself so turned on that even shifting in her seat was enough to send a ripple of pleasure through her from her pu**y outward. They drove toward Ballard with an easy silence. Tom Waits whispered and howled quietly over the speakers.
“I had a good time tonight.”
She winced inwardly at how lame that must have sounded. Instead, he reached and took her hand, squeezing it gently. “Me too, Red.” He took a right onto a cul-de-sac. “Ah, here we are.”
She looked down the street and knew without having to be told which house was his. He pulled into the narrow driveway, and she tried not to gape.
He must have spent a lot of time on this house. The others on the street were of like architecture, but his had been lovingly restored to its faux Northwest Tudor-type beauty. “I love the brick. You did some major restoration out there, didn’t you?”
He turned and smiled. “Yeah. I do too. I worked out a barter, partially anyway, with a friend who knew how to be sure the brick met code and all that stuff.” He hopped out and ran to her side to get her door. He seemed to like doing it and it didn’t bother her one way or the other so why not?
“Come on in. It’s going to be cold. At least the part I’m not living in yet. Have faith, Ella Tipton. I will build a fire and get us nice and cozy.”
She smiled and let him help her out.
“I have a great deal of faith in you, Andrew. Show me the outside too. I can’t see it all really well now, but I still want to see.”
His smile was altogether new, something she hadn’t seen from him yet. Pride, yes, but something more. She knew she liked it and wanted to see it again, knew without a doubt it was something he showed few.
The backyard was partially done from what she could see by muted moonlight and the back porch light.
“I’d like to put a water feature out there. Some benches. The trees provide great shade, and it’s really a nice place to sit in the evenings. Brody and I put a small pond and rock waterfall in at Elise’s parents’ place a few months ago. It kicked my ass, but now I know how to do it.”
“I like it out here. Lots of trees. A water feature would be lovely out there, especially if you had comfortable benches or a glider swing or something. Are you going to do some outdoor lighting too?” Her teeth chattered, and he laughed, putting an arm around her and sweeping her up to the back door.
He had two locks and, as she discovered when they got inside, a good security system. It didn’t surprise her; the man did this for a living and all. But she relaxed more.
“Do you want some tea? I have some good whiskey to go in it. That’ll warm you up.” He grinned.
“I’ll make us hot chocolate if you have the fixings. But only after I get the tour of the inside.”
“You don’t have to.” He lost his confident stance, just for a moment, recovering quickly, but not so fast a girl with the same problem couldn’t catch it.
She took his hand. “I know I don’t. But I want to. You created this with your hands and labor. It’s special. I want to see it.”
He blushed. That touched her enough to tip more than halfway into love with Andrew Copeland. The man, she suspected, didn’t show all of himself to many. So when he opened that part of himself to her, it shook her to her core. Cocky was charming and sexy, but it wasn’t devastating. Humble, pleased by compliments on his work, the kind of man who read poetry and created the beauty she stood in right then, well, that was another thing entirely, and she had no defenses against that.