“You’re awfully quiet tonight.”
Joe’s sister settled into the chair on the other side of his desk and tucked her legs beneath her. Joe tossed his pencil on the supply order he was reviewing and kicked out his legs, linking his hands behind his head and stretching tight, sore muscles.
Julie sipped her coffee while eyeing him above the rim of her mug, clearly expecting some sort of answer. While Joe loved that he was back home in the comforting fold of his family, sometimes he missed the privacy that living two hours away in New York afforded him.
“So what’s up?” she asked.
“Tired.” He yawned to prove his point. He was tired, but that wasn’t the reason he was quiet and he wasn’t about to tell Julie the real reason. That his neighbor consumed his thoughts. That even though he didn’t know her well, he worried about her all alone all the time, working so hard. It was Christmas for God’s sake. She should be out enjoying the holiday, not locked behind the door of a rented apartment consumed with her work.
Julie raised a brow, elegantly telling him without words that he was full of bullshit. His family. They knew him too well.
“My neighbor,” he finally said.
“The one renting the apartment next to you? She’s the one who complained about the loud noise, right?”
“Yup.” He rocked back and forth in his chair, his gaze resting on the abandoned pencil but his mind on Ms. Christine… Hell, he didn’t even know her last name.
“What about her? She complain again?”
“No.” He tipped forward, resting his elbows on the desk. “I stopped by with some coffee this morning served with a dose of humble pie and an apology. That seemed to do the trick.” He wasn’t about to tell his sister that he’d asked Christine out and she’d shot him down. The rejection still stung.
Julie placed her empty mug on his desk. “So what’s the deal?”
He tapped the pencil on the blotter. “No deal. Just thinking.”
“Right. Thinking of asking her out more like.”
He made a non-committal sound. Been there, done that, had the rug burn to show for it. The problem was, he couldn’t get those hazel eyes out of his mind. All evening he thought of her when he should have been concentrating on his cooking. Not that he couldn’t make these recipes in his sleep, but damn, he didn’t need this distraction.
It wasn’t as if she were going to stick around. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to uproot himself again. Not that it would ever come to that.
He pushed away from the desk and stood, his aching shoulders and back telling him it was time to go home, pop a few ibuprofen and sleep the night away.
No use thinking of Neighbor Christine. She obviously wanted nothing to do with him and he had more important things to think about than a woman who preferred to work her way through Christmas rather than enjoy it.
Still, the next morning he found himself at her doorstep, obviously a glutton for punishment.