His Plain-Jane Cinderella(10)

By: Jennie Adams

She should be more concerned about his impressions of her home business. Maybe she shouldn’t have drawn his attention to it in this way, but it was too late now. She would simply have to deal with it.

Stacie pushed the door of the spare room open and stepped inside. ‘This is the Bow-wow-tique. Most of what I make currently, I sell online. That will change now that I’ve moved here. Tarrula hosts several national dog-shows each year, and has a strong tourist industry, much of which drives straight past the entry road to the farmlet.’

To Troy’s orchards, too, but they were a little further along. ‘I’ll be holding an open day out here a month from now and hoping to attract some of those buyers.’

She drew a breath and completed the verbal picture for him. ‘I hope to be independently living off this business a year from now.’

‘Leaving the job at the plant at that time.’ He dipped his head. ‘I can see that you’re on an adventure. You’ve set yourself a challenge, a goal to reach for and achieve. It’s very enterprising of you.’

His assessment was a little surprising, but so true. He was also very accepting of her plans. ‘Yes. And…this is the hub of Bow-wow-tique.’

She glanced about the room and tried to see it through his eyes.

Her sewing machines were kept in an antique-style pullout desk-cabinet. A matching large cupboard housed fabrics and sewing notions, fastenings, rolls of ribbon, boxes of plain collars and other practical items Stacie worked with to produce her designs.

The bright colours of all sorts of coats, small blankets, basket liners and so much more were spread about the room on tables and in open cartons and gave the room a jazzy feel. Her computer sat on a small desk in the corner.

Troy stepped farther inside and let his glance rove around. ‘This explains your dog’s attire a little better. If you hadn’t told me you make these things, I’d have thought you got them from a shop. They look perfect. You must put a lot of work in here, Stacie.’

‘I do.’ She got to explore her creative side.

‘I think you have a good chance of succeeding.’ He sounded impressed rather than concerned, so that had to be good, didn’t it?

‘Thank you. I hope so. Let’s find a coat for this dog.’ Stacie tried for a brisk tone to cover up the wash of pleasure his praise and encouragement had given her. ‘Do you have heating at your new home?’ The coat she picked up was chocolate brown. ‘This should do.’

‘I do have operational heating, yes.’

‘That’s good. It won’t have to be cold.’ Great. That sounded as though she cared about the dog, but not about Troy.

Stacie tugged the last stick-on from one blue nail. The rest had come off in the water as she bathed the dog. Maybe it was the lack of her signature nail-art that was making her words so interpretable.

And maybe she was distracted by the presence of a certain gorgeous man! ‘Of course I don’t want you to be cold either, Troy.’

She drew a breath. ‘Well, I wouldn’t mind having the dog until things get sorted out. It could be in the yard with Fang until you find out if there’s an owner. Fang is good with other animals.’

‘That’d be great, thanks. If you’d do that, it’d save taking it to the pound while I advertise for any owners.’ Troy didn’t try to talk her out of the idea. His hand rose to the back of his head. ‘I don’t see myself as much of a dog minder, but I’ll cover all the costs for its food and lodgings.’

She thought he mumbled that he was better at manning a machine gun.

Before she could think about that, he added, ‘I don’t want to burden you, though.’

‘It’s okay.’ It was more than okay, and in the end, even if he obviously didn’t want the dog himself, and might not be all that attached to dogs on the whole, he was being generous. ‘I don’t mind having him while we figure out if there’s an owner out there.’

If the answer to that question turned out to be no, they would deal with the next step at that time.

As they retraced their steps down the hallway, Troy spoke again. ‘I should get back to my place. There are a few things left that didn’t get done at the weekend.’

His words made Stacie realise how easily she could have lingered, talking to him, letting time drift when that was the last thing she should be doing with her new neighbour.

‘And I should get on with my Bow-wow-tique work. It keeps me busy.’ In the evenings, when other people would be doing things with their partners.

The thought wasn’t exactly uplifting so she pushed it away. She would also do her nails again tonight. Pink, Stacie decided, with star-and-moon stickers.

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