Copyright 2014 Kendra Little
When Rose’s best friend Leah insisted she attend a DIY course put on by the hardware store where she worked, Rose thought she’d been sniffing too many paint fumes. Rose couldn’t even change a light-bulb without falling off the ladder.
"Your walls need a new paint job," Leah said one afternoon over coffee. She tapped a pink and green fingernail on the nearest window frame. A dirty gray flake of paint fell off. "And a new bathroom. The tiles in there are chipped and it sounds like a heavy metal band is playing in the pipes when the hot water is turned on."
"I know." Rose sighed. "But I can’t afford a new bathroom or even new paint for that matter." The house had cost her more than she’d intended to pay and there was no money left over to fix it up.
"You could if you did most of the work yourself," Leah said. "And workshop attendees get a store discount." After a few more words of encouragement, accompanied by more flakes of paint falling onto the floor, Rose agreed to try it.
But she knew as soon as she arrived at the first class that she’d made a mistake. The instructor was tall and handsome in a rough-hewn way with a disarming smile that made her hormones sit up and take notice. She was going to kill Leah. Her friend didn’t care about the state of Rose’s bathroom, she only wanted to set her up.
The last thing Rose needed was another man in her life – she’d just ended a relationship which had turned sour very quickly after she'd caught him texting obscene messages to another woman. After a few months of wallowing, she was finally getting her life back on track. She had a new house and a new outlook. Another guy might ruin it all, especially another attractive one. And Dale was definitely that.
As much as Rose wanted to leave, the course fee was non-refundable so she sat on a stool at one of the benches up the back and tried to look like she belonged there. During the next two hours, Dale showed the potential DIYers how to remove old tiles without damaging the walls. When it came to the students’ turn to try, Rose gouged a huge hole in her piece of practice wall.
She winced. "Sorry."
Dale laughed and showed her the technique again. He stood behind her and reached around to guide her hands. He felt warm against her back and solid. Her body fit perfectly against his, her head nestling under his chin. He spoke in deep, soothing tones but she was too mesmerized by the way the muscles of his forearms worked to take any notice of what he was saying.
"There," he said when a tile popped off. "Shall we do another one?"
Yes! her hormones screamed. "Er, no." Hormones be damned. They weren't the boss of her anymore.
He cleared his throat and gave a short nod then moved away to help the other students.
At the end of the two hours, Dale instructed them to down tools. "See you next week," he said. "We’ll be looking at pipes."
Looking at pipes would have been easy but Dale got the students to fix them to faucets. Rose managed to break one and make her thumb bleed while he hovered nearby. Tears prickled the backs of her eyes but from humiliation, not pain. Maybe he hadn't noticed. She looked up and saw him approaching. He said nothing, just gave her a grim smile and gently took her thumb. He wrapped a bandage from the first aid kit around the wound.
The small room suddenly seemed even smaller, and hotter. Very, very hot. The other students watched them openly. Rose could feel her face getting redder and redder. To make matters worse, Dale looked slightly amused by the attention.
She withdrew her thumb and put her hand behind her. "I'm fine. Thanks."
The next day, she told Leah she wasn't going back. "Everyone thinks I’m hopeless. I am hopeless! If I renovate my bathroom myself I’ll end up in hospital and the house will be worth less than I paid for it."
Leah just flicked another flake of paint off the window frame then gathered up the coffee cups. "Fine then, don't go back."
Rose narrowed her eyes at her friend. Leah was up to something.
Later that afternoon when the doorbell rang, Rose was half expecting it to be Leah returning to try to talk her into going to the next DIY class. Instead it was Dale.
"I hope you don’t mind, but I asked Leah for your phone number so I could see how your thumb was," he said. "She gave me your address instead." Typical Leah. "I brought something to make you feel better." It was then that Rose noticed his hands were behind his back. He'd brought flowers? How sweet. Chocolates would be better but...
He held up a wrench.
"Oh." Rose managed to smile despite her sinking heart. Even though she’d told Leah, and herself, that she didn’t need another man in her life, a part of her had still hoped. Dale was lovely, she would have liked to get to know him better. She could practically hear the absent Leah whispering "And he's gorgeous." Well, yes, that too.
"Thank you," she said and reached for the wrench. He moved it away. "This isn’t for you," he said, grinning.
She frowned. "Who’s it for?"
"Me. So where’s the bathroom?"
"Why do you want to see my bathroom?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Why do people usually want to see it?" His grin vanished.
"Oh, of course." She bit her lip and pointed down the hall.
Dale entered the bathroom and whistled. "Wow, this might take a while. I work at the hardware store during the day so I can only come evenings and weekends."
She stood in the doorway and crossed her arms. "You tricked me."
That grin returned and it made her stomach flip. "So I did."
"You can't fix my bathroom. I can’t pay you. That’s why I was doing the DIY course."
"I come cheap," he said. "The occasional meal and a cold beer will be payment enough." He smiled a lazy smile that left her in no doubt he hoped for more than beer and pizza.
"Did Leah put you up to this?"
"No. I could see from the classes that you weren’t cut out for DIY. I thought I'd better rescue your bathroom."
She laughed. "My thumb and my bathroom thank you."
Rose watched as Dale started pulling tiles off the wall. As he worked, she sat on the edge of the bath and they chatted. After an hour, she’d learned Dale had two sisters, had dropped out of college because he wanted to work with his hands and that he had a body to drool over when he shed his shirt.
By the time he finished, she’d already decided she needed a new deck, the floorboards needed re-laying and the whole house could do with a coat of paint.
"That’s good," he said when she told him. "Because I plan on being around for a while."