Eddie stood in the hallway, a hangdog look on his face. By himself. Ash peered over his shoulder. No model-thin woman hovered behind him. No scent of leftover perfume hung in the air, either. Ash narrowed her eyes. “What’s going on?”
Eddie raked his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end. Barefoot, he wore a pair of frayed sweats, cut off at the knees, and an old Patriots jersey with the sleeves torn off. A fuzz of pillowcase was stuck to his chin, and Ash had to pin her arms to her sides to keep from reaching up to brush it away.
“Can you help me?”
“With what? Sounds like you’re starting up a circus down there.”
“No, it’s…” He glanced over his shoulder, and worry wrinkled his face. When he looked back at her again, she thought she might fall right inside those eyes, those pools of blue, and not come up for a week.
“I found a kitten.” He ducked his chin. “Outside.”
“A kitten. A really small one. It was hanging around last night, and then when I went out to get the paper this morning it was still there, sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Soaking wet.”
“So you brought it inside?” Ash began to smile. Not a woman after all down there. Just a scared fluff of fur that her strapping, six-foot neighbor had decided to bring in out of the storm. Oh, hell. She was already halfway to falling for this guy. Now he had to turn into a total softy on her?
Eddie shrugged. “Well, it was sort of…limping around. And crying. And I thought if I left it out there I’d be about the worst person in the entire world, so…”
Ash took one step into the hallway. “And now you can’t catch it.”
“Yeah. Thought I’d keep it in the bathroom, but it got out.”
“Come on.” She pushed past Eddie and made her way down the stairs barefoot. She was standing in front of his door before she considered if she should have changed into something more substantial than a cotton robe that barely came to her knees.
“I think he’s under the chair,” Eddie said. As they walked inside, he pointed to a leather recliner in the corner.
Ash tiptoed over and kneeled down, wondering if the breeze on the backs of her thighs meant her robe wasn’t covering much. She readjusted. “I don't see anything.”
“Well…” Eddie turned in a slow circle. “I closed the door. He couldn’t have gotten far.”
Ash pushed herself back up and leaned over a blue corduroy sofa with its tags still attached. A dust ball danced across the hardwood, but no cat. She looked under the end table, and behind Eddie’s entertainment center, which took up half the living room with its enormous television.
“Maybe in the bedroom?” She felt funny looking in there.
“Maybe.” Eddie strode past her down the hall. He whistled under his breath, a meek little coaxing tune that made her smile.
Ash hung back and watched as he looked in the corners of his sparsely furnished bedroom. This place could definitely use a woman’s touch. Someone had hung navy blue curtains on the windows, but otherwise the walls remained bare. A desk and matching chair were the only other pieces of furniture she could see, besides the box spring and mattress lying on the floor. A queen size, she noticed, not too big and not too narrow. Really, just the perfect size for two people to curl up in.
“Ash?” Eddie waved a hand in front of her face. “You still there? Thought you were gonna help me look.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She glanced around at a faint meow. Eddie cocked his head. The meow came again. “Bathroom.” In an instant, he had darted past Ash, and a moment later he emerged holding a soggy ball of black and white. “Got him.”
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