Taylor crossed her fingers as she watched Faith disappear beneath the deck. There was just enough space for a tiny dog or a little girl to crawl through. Taylor crouched down on hands and knees to see what was happening. She hadn't grabbed a jacket, and the drenching rain from the storm soaked through her sweatshirt and hung heavy on her shoulders.
Brad knelt, his arm brushing hers.
So far, the day was a disaster. Broken window somewhere, escaped dog. Barely one chapter written. To top it off, she must look like a drowned rat. Scraggly hair. Not a stitch of make-up. Baggy sweats. This totally stinks!
Ignoring the sparks where Brad's touched hers, Taylor watched Faith, hand outstretched with the cheese bribe, inch toward Misty, softly calling her name.
"Faith, when you get to her, let her nibble on the cheese and hook your fingers in her collar." Taylor kept her voice quiet so as not to alarm either of them. "That way, you can back out and bring her with you."
When Misty took the bait, Taylor heaved a sigh of relief.
Fingers crossed, Taylor silently rooted them on, afraid the dog would panic and run again. It seemed to take forever, but Faith finally crawled out from under the deck.
Taylor scooped up Misty, wrapping her arms around her little dog, burying her face in her soaked coat. With Misty safe, the breath Taylor had been holding escaped in a long sigh. "Good job, Faith. You did everything exactly right."
Brad wrapped one arm around Faith and the other around Taylor. "All right, ladies. Let's get inside and out of this rain."
Taylor trembled, unsure whether it was in reaction to being soaked, Misty's rescue or Brad's arm. Maybe all three. She shivered when Brad's arm tightened across her shoulder. Okay, so she was lying to herself. Brad was the cause.
The three of them sprinted around the house, up the steps and inside. Brad slammed the French door against the blowing rain. They huddled together in the kitchen, as water dripped off their clothes and pooled on the linoleum floor.
Chilled, Taylor rubbed her arms.
Brad's gaze captured hers. "We all need to get into dry clothes."
Regret splashed through her. Guess it was time to leave. She couldn't stop shaking, but nodded again. "Thanks for your help." She knelt and gave Faith a quick hug. "Especially yours."
Taylor reached for the door.
Brad rested a hand on her shoulder.
She trembled again, but not from the cold.
"Hey, where you going? I don't want you to leave. No need to get even wetter."
"I don't want to be more of a bother than I've already been."
His gaze softened. "You're not. I've got plenty of dry stuff here."
She eyed his rangy body and figured it was better to drown in his clothes than her soaked ones. "Okay."
"Sweet pea. You're wet and muddy. You need to change, too."
Faith scampered into the living room and up the stairs. Brad followed. "Be right back."
In no time he returned carrying athletic pants and a USM sweatshirt. "Here." He held them out for her. "You can change in the bathroom."
She surveyed her reflection in the full-length mirror. She'd been right. Even with the pant legs and sleeves rolled up, his clothes hung on her. The spicy scent of his aftershave, tantalized her, enveloped her, ensnared her. She shook her head to banish the spell.
The layout was similar to her parents' camp since her father and Brad's had built both of them together. She walked into the kitchen from bathroom, past a bedroom off to the left, and straight through the kitchen and into the living/dining area. The stairs to the second floor were at the far end of the room. This camp had more of a man-cave look, though. Dark brown leather furniture, big-screen TV with surround sound, no curtains.
Brad and Faith had changed by the time Taylor walked into the living room. Brad was seated on the couch in front of the fireplace, and Faith rummaged through a cupboard off to one side.
Brad gave her a once over. "How about a hot drink to warm up? Coffee?"
His assessing glance surprised her. "Tha-- that sounds perfect."
"Can I have hot cocoa, Papa?"
"Sure thing, sweet pea." Brad stood.
"Anything I can do?"
"You can keep me company." He grinned at Taylor. "It's all about the K-Cups."
Taylor laughed. "Convenience in a nice package."
His glance tangled with hers. "Yes."
She looked away. She hadn't intended the double meaning. When she was in high school, she'd tried flirting with him, teasingly suggesting a kiss, and he'd turned her down. Even though it was years ago, a tiny, hidden hurt still remained. Since then, she'd kept her feelings about him under wraps.
Taylor's stomach rumbled. She glanced at the clock. "It's after one o'clock. I didn't realize it was so late. How about I make sandwiches. I can use the rest of the cheese we used rescuing Misty."
"Great. Bread is in the fridge."
When the coffee was done and sandwiches made, Brad gathered the cups and Taylor balanced the plates, making one trip. They settled around the table just inside the living room. Taylor took a first sip of coffee. "Mmmmm. Hits the spot."
"So what scared poor Misty?" Faith asked.
Taylor related the story of the noise outside and Misty’s dashing escape outside. "I can't stay too long. I need to check that my house is okay."
There was a huge crack, the house shuddered and the ground shook.
Faith screamed and covered her ears.
Misty jumped down from the couch, trembled and started panting again.
Taylor cringed as she spoke. “What now?”