HARPER SHIFTED HER weight looking at Jackson Lowery, expecting some kind of conclusion to this unnecessarily tense encounter. He just stood there with an infuriatingly calm expression as though he could wait all day for her to leave his shop and didn't care if she did. Her lingering was starting to make her feel stupid and so she cracked.
"I'm Harper Blaisdell by the way."
The corner of his mouth pulled up ever so slightly.
God what an ass! She turned on her heels and blew out of his shop. No wonder he had a reputation. Yeah, he definitely had enticing looks but that could never make up for such unwarranted hostility and rudeness. Harper was sure she embodied many clichés, but being attracted to mean men was not one of them. Nevertheless, despite her best efforts, she spent the rest of the evening replaying their interaction and picturing his square unshaven jaw and large brown eyes.
By five o'clock the next day she was so irrationally consumed with seeing him that she had washed her hair twice by accident, colour coded her class schedule for next week, and re-read an intro to art history book for the course she would be TA-ing.
Say what she would about Jackson Lowery's interpersonal skills, he was at least on time.
She expected him to arrive in the early model Toyota Tacoma she had seen in his driveway, but he showed up on a bicycle that she watched him lock to a street parking sign outside her house. She'd planned to play it cool and wait for him to knock, but since there was no way in hell she was getting involved with him, playing it cool was unnecessary so she opened the door as he approached her front steps.
He wore Carhartts and a long-sleeved navy shirt rolled to the elbow. His shaggy black hair was slightly matted down from his helmet, but as he took the steps to meet her he ran his hand through it, exposing strong and striking features. Harper was five nine, and he had at least five inches on her, his dark eyes looking down as she tilted her head up.
"Hi," Harper said.
"Lead the way," was his only form of greeting.
Harper pursed her lips and turned towards her bedroom. "Do you always bike to your client's houses?" she asked as he followed her.
"I like to expend energy."
His voice was straightforward but she felt an innuendo in his words. For some unknown reason, he seemed surprised by her bedroom. She had unpacked her few bags along with the one shipment of artwork she'd mailed herself. Her new mattress was made up on the floor, nothing out of the ordinary. He took out a measuring tape and small notepad from his pockets and jotted down the distance to the walls and the height of her mattress.
"So what do you have in mind?" Jackson asked her.
"Well, the room is fairly small, but the ceilings are so high, I was thinking of a canopy bed, with slender posts so as not to overwhelm the space."
Again he looked surprised, then sat in her desk chair, which he dwarfed, and started making marks in his notebook.
"You liked that chestnut wood," he said, turning his sketch to her, "but that stain was too light for this room, and rather than traditional square or circular posts, I'm thinking I could do hexagons to complement all the geometric shapes in your artwork. I'd also do a kind of delicate polygon latticework connecting the posts above, kind of like a pergola."
The brief sketch was well done, and Harper had to admit that his talents went beyond woodworking.
"Yes," she said. "Yes, I would like that."
He was saying something about measuring ceiling height when they heard the front door slam, followed by the unmistakable sound of two people banging through a room while kissing loudly. Amy's door opening and closing was audible through the shared wall and proceeded an erotic cry and something getting knocked over.
Harper glanced at Jackson, her cheeks flushing as they stood shoulder to shoulder looking at his sketch.
"I... uh, well why don't we...finish another..."
"Let's talk over a drink," Jackson interrupted her. "I know a bar in walking distance that has happy hour for another forty minutes."
"I'm not going on a date with you," she said flatly.
"Well I didn't ask you on a date, did I? But if we keep listening to your roommate fucking next door, I might have to."
Harper gaped at him in shock for a moment then shrugged. "Lead the way," she said, repeating his earlier words.