book 3 in The Wells Brothers trilogy
Home on leave, Blue didn’t expect his first meeting with his curvy housemate to happen in quite the way it did – on his back, bare-arsed naked, with just a towel to conceal his modesty. But it did, he has, and now this down-on-his-love-luck Aussie soldier has a mission he didn’t expect. Will he recognise it, pursue it, and win it?
Or will his chance at true love pass him by?
Towing the tan Combat Roller Bag by the handle, the only outward sign of his military career apart from his no-nonsense stride and neatly cut hair, Blue strode through the international airport while scanning the faces of people hurrying past.
Everyone was intent on getting somewhere fast. So was he. Now if only his ride would get here on time, though knowing Luke that’d be a miracle. He probably should have asked Aaron. If he couldn’t make it, he’d have sent reinforcements.
But it was all good, he was on leave and didn’t have to hurry.
That knowledge didn’t decrease his pace, however.
Easily threading through the throng of people, he approached the big glass doors leading outside, exiting through them as they parted each side. Another glance around – no Luke.
Okay, he could either grab a coffee-to-go and wait, or ring his brother and find out just how far away he was. Grabbing a taxi would no doubt end with Luke ringing him back and abusing him for the wasted trip, but that’d be mildly amusing if he rang from the airport while Blue was sitting at home enjoying himself.
He’d no sooner decided to go back in and grab that cuppa than he was stopped by a horn hooting loudly behind him. Turning around, he spotted several things at once.
The big, dark blue ute that had just pulled up in the taxi zone had some new dents in it to go with the scratches, the sign across the door proclaimed ‘Wells Landscaping’, there was a big brindle mutt in the passenger seat looking around with his tongue hanging out, and the man in the driver’s seat was gesturing madly.
Probably because right behind him a taxi driver was tooting his horn angrily. Luke had parked in the taxi rank.
“Fair suck of the sauce bottle, mate!” Luke yelled out the driver’s door window. “This is an Army man I’m picking up! He fights for our country!”
“You’re in the bloody taxi rank!” the taxi driver yelled back.
“I know! I can read the sign!”
Laughing, Blue tossed the bag into the ute’s tray to join the shit-load of landscaping gear, swung open the door and shoved a delighted Dog over to sit in the middle so he could get into the passenger seat.
Another taxi driver impatiently tooted.
“Man.” Luke shook his head, his face wreathed in grins. “Look at you! All neat, short hair and looking like crap doesn’t stick to your soles. Which,” he leaned forward to study Blue’s black shoes, “are really nifty.”
“Good to see you, too.” Reaching across in front of Dog, Blue grabbed Luke’s hand.
For a second they debated each other, then grinned and hugged. The manly kind, with back slapping and gruff ‘Good to see ya, mate’ right before Dog joined in by giving Blue an enthusiastic lick up his cheek.
“Argh!” Blue drew back, laughing and scrubbing his face with a rag lying on the dashboard while giving Dog a pat.
About to say something, his brother glanced in the rear-view mirror. “Oops, better get a move on.” He slid on dark sunglasses.
As Luke put the ute in gear, indicated and pulled out onto the road, Blue twisted around to see through the back window the taxi driver conferring with a bystander who did not look happy. Catching his eye, she pointed angrily to her watch.
Grinning, he turned back around, fastening the seat belt before leaning back to rest his forearm on the open windowsill.
“So, how was the flight?” Luke asked.
“Seriously? That’s all you can ask?”
“I’m trying to be polite and thoughtful.”
“You’re right. I don’t actually give a rat’s arse how your flight was. You got here in one piece so that’s good enough for me.”
Enjoying the warm breeze blowing through the open window, Blue watched the airport roads and buildings pass by.
Dog was avidly watching everything while trying to get the odd lick in on Blue, which Blue prevented by proceeding to scratch behind Dog’s ears, making the big brindle mutt go all gooey-eyed.
“How’re the wedding plans going?” Blue queried.
Luke looked pained. “It’s okay.”
“Your wedding plans.”
Amused, Blue looked at him. “Getting much say?”
“That’s the problem. Mikki and her Mum keep dragging me in to look at things.”
“Look at things?”
“You know. Pictures of wedding cakes and suits and wedding invitations and shit.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know. I’m just ignoring that fact.”
“It’s all right for you,” Luke retorted. “You’re not the one having to give an opinion.”
“I thought grooms wanted to be included but were left out?”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?”
“There’s no need to break tradition.”
“You just want to turn up, put the ring on and leave for the honeymoon, don’t you?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Romance is dead in your soul, isn’t it?”
“Hey, I bought Mikki some roses just last week. Now that’s romance.”
“Who’d you steal them from?”
Luke glared at him.
Blue raised an eyebrow.
“I grew those roses. They are the best roses in Australia.”
“Got tickets on yourself.”
“On my roses. I know how to grow roses. Those roses are the bomb.”
“Are you deaf or something? Yes.”
“Where did you pick up that phrase?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m civilized? I read books?”
“You read gardening magazines.”
“They have bombs in those magazines?”
“I’ll shove a bomb up your arse in a minute.”
“I’m your baby brother.”
“Fine. I’ll shove my foot up there – boot and all.”
“Now this,” Blue informed Dog, who slobbered happily in response, “is what I’ve missed. All this love and caring and stuff.”
Dog’s tongue hung out as he attempted to lean over Blue to reach the open window.
Blue pushed him back to the middle of the seat. “Yeah, not happening.”
“He just wants to smooch,” Luke said.
“He’s not my type.”
“Ooohh. That’s right, you’ve got Shona, haven’t you?” Pulling his sunglasses down his nose, Luke glanced over the tops at Blue. “The airline hostess.”
“Can you watch the road? ‘Cause I don’t want you to arse-end that truck.”
Blue thought about his platinum blonde girlfriend with legs that went for miles. “In fact, Shona and I have a date tomorrow night.”
“She’s in town? When Aunt Lora rang her about the family BBQ tonight, she said she was out of town.”
“She is. She’s currently in Tasmania, but she’s flying back in tomorrow morning and then she has a couple of days off.”
“Good thing you’ve got your own place now, because you wouldn’t get a girlfriend into your bedroom if you were still staying in Dad’s house, let me give you the tip.”
“I don’t need that tip, I know it for a fact.” Blue winced.
Man, the memory of being sprung by his father trying to sneak a girl into his room wasn’t pleasant. There he’d been, a horny sixteen year old stealthily ushering his current girlfriend in the back door after midnight, they’d just gotten to his bedroom door and the hall light had flared on to reveal his father standing there. One level look from those steady eyes had almost shrivelled him. His dad hadn’t said a word, just looked, and that was that. Blue had done an about-turn with his girlfriend in embarrassed tow and taken her home, returning home double-time. No one met him in the hallway this time, his dad had returned to bed, but the disappointment in his father’s eyes had hit Blue harder than any recriminations or yelling would have done. Dad had never mentioned it to him or Blue’s brothers, never brought the subject up, but Blue knew he’d crossed a line and that hadn’t sat well. He’d never made that mistake ever again, never brought a girl to his bedroom while he was home. It was a lesson learned.
Now, as the memory came back to him, he smiled slightly. He loved his father, respected him so much, and he looked forward to seeing him again. His mother had died when Blue was four years old, he only had a vague memory of her, but Dad had always been there to soothe his tears, wipe his snotty nose, fix up a bleeding knee from rough-housing, and taking them all to church on Sunday. He’d stood there amongst all the other parents cheering his sons on during sports, didn’t complain when he came home from work tired and dirty, simply piled whichever kid had something on that night and drove them where they had to go. He’d brought up two rather unruly sons and an older, steadier son, with kindness, respect and firmness. He only had a few rules but he expected them to be obeyed. And the boys obeyed.
Mind you, Mr Wells also had Aaron, Blue’s oldest brother, to help keep an eye on them, and Aaron was as quiet, controlled and firmly kind as him. He was also older than Luke by seven years and Blue by nine years, so for the younger brothers Aaron had always been the one who was there when Dad had to work, the one he and Luke turned to when Dad wasn’t around and things turned to shit, and like Dad, Aaron had sorted out the problem calmly.
Yeah, Blue might not have had a Mum, but he had a great family. And then, of course, Aunt Lora and Jason had turned up to live with them, and with Aunt Lora came feminine touches in an otherwise very masculine household. Their family had grown by two more, and though Aaron, Luke and Jason had eventually moved out and Blue joined the Army, it was nice to know his Dad had some company in his sister.
Rousing from his thoughts, he drew in a deep breath. “So, barbie tonight, huh?”
“You know Dad, he likes everyone to get together now and again. With you back, he has everyone he loves right there.”
“Aw, you used the love word.”
“Shit, I know. It’s being with Mikki. She messes with my head.”
“Your head was messed-up long before she came on the scene.”
“She’s messed it up more.”
“And yet you’re going to be wearing her ball and chain very soon.”
“She took my innocence. Dad made her.”
Luke just grinned.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Dad, spending a bit of time with him.” Blue patted Dog’s head now resting on his thigh.
“He’s knocking off at lunchtime so he can spend the afternoon with his baby boy,” Luke replied cheerfully. “He’s been as calm as usual, but you can tell he’s excited you’re home.”
“I’ll just drop my stuff off, shower and change, get the motorbike revved up and go straight over to him.” Blue looked at his brother. “Speaking of my place, how’s the new renter going?”
“No worries, mate. Place is spick and span, no parties, everything running smoothly.”
“Lucky to find someone like that.”
“Are you kidding me? Aaron ran a full check on Charley before the paperwork was signed. Nothing but a saint is going to rent your spare room, not to mention having the run of the house.”
“Good old Aaron.”
“Excuse me,” Luke said indignantly, “I’m the one who found your housemate first.”
“Did I ever thank you for that?”
“No, you wanker, you didn’t.”
“You have my heartfelt gratitude.”
“That’s more like it.”
“And Aaron my sincere one.”
“Up yours.” Luke flipped him the bird.
Blue laughed. “Will Charley be there when I get home?”
“No idea,” Luke replied cheerfully.
Not that it really mattered. He’d wanted someone decent to pay some rent on the house so that he had extra money to help pay the place off faster, and also for the security of having someone living in it while he wasn’t there, which was most of the time. But he’d wanted his own house, a feeling of setting down roots, a place to call his own when he came back on leave. Staying with his Dad was great, but he’d felt the need to get his own place. Buying the house was a good decision, getting a decent renter in an equally good one. Having his brothers choose the bloke renting the house was the best idea. No way would Aaron or Luke – or his Dad or cousin Jason, for that matter – have let anyone loose in his house who would steal from him or wreck the place.
“Charley does shift work,” Luke continued, “so the house’ll probably be empty when you get home.”
Okay, to be honest it would be nice to get home and have some time to himself before meeting his housemate. Still, if this Charley was there, he could deal with it. He’d been living in close quarters with fellow soldiers his entire career, so it wasn’t as if he wasn’t used to sharing space.
The next ten minutes passed peacefully, both of them chatting about things in general until finally Luke indicated and turned off the main road. A couple of turns later and they entered a quiet street with big trees lining the sides and older-style houses set back from the road.
“Here we go.” Luke turned into a driveway and pulled up. “Home sweet home.”
Blue stared at the house and yard. “Wow.”
“Yeah, the garden turned out good.” Luke waved a nonchalant hand at the landscaped garden. “It’s all reticulated, the plants drought-hardy.”
“Mate.” Blue looked at his brother with gratitude. “Thank you. The last time I saw this garden it was, well…no garden, actually.”
“You gave me free rein on it.” Luke shrugged. “It was good to be able to experiment.”
Yeah, and his landscaping brother had made sure it wasn’t just an easy-care garden, but a bloody good-looking one, too.
“Mate, I owe you.”
“You already paid, remember? Even when I didn’t want it.”
“Yeah, but all this work.” Blue shook his head.
“Now that I think of it, I do have a lot of shit to shovel around a quite substantial ground.” Luke grinned. “Have a couple of hours free on Thursday?”
Blue nodded. “Give me a shovel and I will shovel your shit.”
“That actually sounds a little wrong, but I accept.” Luke jerked his thumb at the picket fence. “Charley painted the fence, by the way. I can’t claim credit for that.”
Blue studied the white picket fence. “Nice.” He switched his attention back to the wooden house. The walls were a pale blue, the shutters a bright white. Even the security bars over the windows were decorative, straight but with distinct scrolling at the ends and painted white. Decorative but no doubt strong, as Aaron would have chosen them. The long veranda running along the front of the house had white poles and rails. The garage beside it was also painted pale blue with white roller doors. “The paint job turned out great.”
“Yeah, it did.” Resting his forearms on the steering wheel, Luke nodded. “Blue and white are classic colours, gives this baby that old-time feel.”
“Thanks, Luke.” Reaching over, Blue clapped him on the shoulder. “I knew I could count on you, Jason and Dad to bring this baby up to scratch. I managed to get some things done last time I was here, but it’d have taken me forever to get it this good. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Don’t worry, I have a lot of shit to shovel.”
They spent a couple more minutes chatting about the house before Blue opened the door. “I better get in and settled so I can go see Dad.” Retrieving the Combat Roller Bag from the back of the ute, he came around to the driver’s door to look in at his brother. “You coming in?”
“Wish I could, but I have to get back to the work site. That shit isn’t going to spread itself without my muscle.”
“Bet your arse. Got the finest shit to spread around those plants, I promised Mrs Arkwell I’d get it done today.”
“Okay. Thanks, mate, really, for both the ride and what you did on the garden. I really do appreciate it.”
“Hey, no worries.” Luke gave him a friendly punch on the arm. “Good to see you again, Blue. We miss you.”
“Are you getting sloppy?”
“It’s Mikki’s fault. She’s messed with my head.”
Grinning, Blue watched as his brother pulled back out onto the road and drove off with a toot of the horn and a wave, Dog’s head hanging out the passenger window, his tongue and ears flapping in the breeze.
Walking up to the house, Blue looked around again, marvelling at the garden. Roses and geraniums in round garden beds, a climbing rose up a white trellis on the outside wall of the lounge room, and some large daisy bushes with nodding white heads. A small area of lawn interspersed with slate pavers. Small bushes lining the pathway.
Man, it looked good, the design and choice of flowers giving the house a very quaint, country feel. He liked it. While Luke was a joker, he was also a master landscaper, he knew what people liked, could see their visions, and he knew how to make those visions come to life. He was also a good adviser of plants to suit weather conditions and climate.
The paint job and the repairs on the house, though, that’d be his Dad and Jason’s doing. He’d left them a budget and an idea of what he wanted, and they’d done the house just as he’d envisaged it.
The veranda was polished wood on the floor, pot planters with what looked like some fancy-arsed flowers stood at each post, and there was an honest-to-goodness swing chair at the end.
Yeah, he really liked that. He could see himself sitting there, swinging away, watching the world go by while sipping on a tinnie.
Spotting the security camera high up in the veranda ceiling, he checked the lounge room window. Yep, there it was, a sticker strategically placed that announced ‘Wells Security’. Aaron had made sure that any crook thinking to do a B & E would first be hit with the knowledge that his every step was being monitored. That and the fact that the decorative bars on the windows made it virtually impossible to enter that way. The security screen made the doors a not-very easy target, either.
His house was pretty safe. If a crook really wanted to get in, he’d have to make a fair bit of noise – or carry a hell of a lot of gear to cut through things. By then, Wells Security would have arrived and the crook would be in a shit load of trouble.
Feeling grateful to his family, Blue unlocked the security screen and then the wooden door, giving it an experimental rap with his knuckles. Solid wood, not cheap hollow stuff, and the deadbolt and lock were sturdy.
Entering the hallway, he looked around. The floor was polished wood, the runner a deep blue. A vase of flowers stood on the hall sideboard next to a little cat statue that wasn’t his.
Obviously Aunt Lora had done some touches here, too. Poking his head into the lounge room, he saw that his heavy furniture still stood in the way he’d arranged, the only difference being that he hadn’t put two flower-patterned cushions on the sofa. Nor the vase of roses on the coffee table, or the little crystal ballerina statue on the mantelpiece. A small stack of books stood on a little table beside the armchair.
Charley must be a reader, because those books didn’t look like Blue’s. In fact…he walked over and picked one up, his eyes widening.
Charley was into…romance?
Blue blinked. Then a sudden thought hit him and he shook his head. Aunt Lora must have brought these in for some reason and forgot to take them back home. A little odd, but maybe she’d been bringing in other stuff and – well, whatever. He’d drop them back to her later.
Resuming his inspection, he checked out the rooms. The kitchen was warm and cosy, the curtains at the window yellow gingham, the clock on the wall a…sunflower? A sunflower? He hadn’t had a clock on the wall before, but somehow he just couldn’t imagine Jason picking out a sunflower clock. Or even Aunt Lora, her taste didn’t run to sunflower clocks.
Scratching his head, he started to wonder as his gaze travelled over the room. The furniture was still his, looked as good as when he’d first bought it which meant Charley was careful with it. But maybe Charley was more in touch with his feminine side than Blue was used to a man being, because that flower clock could only belong to someone not of his family, and that only left…Charley. There were a few other odd things he didn’t recognise, such as the dotted-patterned plate, cup and saucer in the draining board along with an up-turned glass bearing a big sunflower picture on the side. A magazine that was definitely a gossip rag lay on the table, along with a pretty pale blue placemat featuring a blue-flowered pattern.
Unless Mikki was stringing him along. That’d be just like her.
Or it really did belong to Charley. Maybe Charley’s girlfriend?
Staring at the clock, Blue decided that he couldn’t really complain about it because, hell, the man obviously respected other people’s stuff. Everything was indeed spick and span, as was proven when Blue checked out the bathroom, the toilet, his bedroom and the office where his computer sat atop an impressive desk. Even the library shelves containing his books didn’t have a speck of dust on them. In fact, the whole house had the faint scent of lemon polish, complimented by several little bottles of faint, sweet-smelling stuff that had some kind of thin stick things sticking out of them. Everything was in its place.
Aunt Lora’s doing? Or Charley’s? But geez, a bloke being so fussy? Was that even normal?
The only room that was shut was his roomie’s. Okay, Blue had to admit to being curious. Did he open it? Check inside? Part of him wanted to, part of him said it was an invasion of privacy. But then Charley had probably been the one who’d dusted his room – that was a little icky – and polished everything to within an inch of its life. Besides, it was Blue’s house, so surely he had a right to a little peek just to ensure his roomie wasn’t an utter pig in the privacy of his own bedroom.
Reaching out, he started to turn the knob, only to stop when the phone in the kitchen rang. Leaving his case in the hallway, he hurried to the kitchen to pick up the phone. “Hello?”
Relaxing, Blue smiled at the sound of the deep voice. “Hey, Dad.”
“Son. It’s good to hear your voice.”
“Good to hear yours, too.”
“Luke said he got you home safely.”
“Yeah. I’m just going to unpack, have a shower and I’ll be right over to spend the arvo with you. Unless you have to go back to work?”
“One of the perks of being the boss, son. I can take the afternoon off if I want.”
“I’ll be waiting,” Mr Wells said. “Don’t hurry. Travel safe.”
“Will do, Dad. See you soon.” Blue hung up.
After hearing his Dad’s voice, he really wanted to get home and see him, spend time with him before the family descended. He loved his family, but his time with Dad he treasured. Everyone knew it, and everyone gave them space, just as they gave him space to settle in quietly before getting caught up in family greetings.
Best family ever.
Dropping his case on the bed, Blue unpacked quickly and efficiently. He hadn’t brought much, there was no need when he had clothes in the wardrobe and dresser. The book he was currently reading went beside the lamp on the bedside chest of drawers to continue tonight. No matter how tired he was, he always read even if it was only a couple of pages. Or a page. Or even half a page. It certainly wasn’t unusual to fall asleep reading.
Going to the bathroom across the hall, he placed his toilet bag on the counter and started putting a few things out – shaver, deodorant, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste. Opening the sink above the cupboard, his eyebrows shot up at the sight of the small container of lavender powder, the distinctly girly deodorant, the brush and several hair ties, and a small bottle of perfume all on the left side, leaving the right side empty.
What the hell? Did Charley have a girl regularly staying overnight? And where the hell was Charley’s man stuff?
Scratching his head, Blue shut the little cupboard and surveyed his face in the mirror. His expression was as puzzled as he felt.
Shaking his head, he bent down and opened the cupboard beneath the sink to get out a towel, his hand coming first into contact with a small box. Curiously, he brought it out, only to drop it like a hot potatoe.
Holy crap! Tampons! There was a box of tampons in his cupboard!
Gingerly returning it to the shelf, he straightened and turned to see a small cupboard in the corner of the bathroom that hadn’t been there before. Made of white wicker, it was distinctly feminine as far as he was concerned. It also contained pale yellow towels, face washers and bath mats. He checked back under his cupboard – yep, his navy blue towels and stuff were in there.
Maybe Charley was letting his girlfriend introduce a few things. Hmmm, have to find out just how often this sheila stays at my place. When he’d wanted someone to rent the spare bedroom with the privilege of using the rest of the house, live in it when he wasn’t here, he hadn’t envisaged a woman moving in with his housemate. He hadn’t wanted a couple, just a nice renter living alone. He didn’t mind Charley having someone in now and again, even staying the night, but not permanently.
Maybe the whicker cupboard was from Aunt Lora. But she wouldn’t have brought it in without asking him, she wasn’t that presumptuous. Or maybe it had been a gift to Charley from his girlfriend. Along with yellow towels?
Definitely something to look into – and he could sneakily start by peeking into Charley’s room after his shower, see if a woman had moved in with him. But then Aaron would have noticed, right?
Wondering if he was reading too much into things, Blue retrieved one of his towels, noting with relief that it smelled clean, not prissy with scented softener. That just might have tipped him over the edge a little.
Almost as much as the cake of lavender soap he found in the soap dish when he got in the shower.
Frowning a little, he dumped his cake of manly soap atop it, turned on the water and showered.
Jesus, Charley even had strawberry shampoo. Girlfriend again? Or maybe he was gay. Or maybe he just liked strawberry shampoo. Or maybe he just bought whatever was on special and didn’t really care. It was just shampoo, right?
But now Blue was starting to wonder just how many people were living in this house. He only wanted one. One renter with an occasional visitor or overnight stayer, but that was it.
Shaking his head, he decided to shelve the troubling thoughts. Besides, he was confident that Aaron would never allow anything to go on in this house that Blue had strictly left instructions about. He’d meet Charley today at some stage and could find out how often this girlfriend stayed over.
Plan made, Blue showered, shampooed and shaved the light growth already showing on his jaw. The flight had been long with a change of flight halfway. After drying off, feeling better already, he applied deodorant, ran his fingers through his short hair – leaving it sticking up all over the place – wrapped the towel loosely around his hips and left the bathroom.
And immediately collided with a figure hurrying down the hallway. His foot slipped as his legs tangled with another pair, the momentum of the woman – he had just enough time to register that – shoving him off-balance. Wildly he grabbed for two things – his slipping towel with one hand, the door frame with the other.
Too bad neither worked.
Blue fell back on his arse, then his shoulders hit the floor. Only quick reflexes managed to keep his noggin from slamming onto the floor boards.
The woman fell right on top of him, momentarily knocking the breath from him. For several seconds he lay there flat on the floor, becoming rapidly conscious of several things at once.
She smelled good, all sweet and flowery.
She was very curvy, her softness pressing rather deliciously against his harder frame.
She was warm.
She also had a bountiful bosom that right now was pressed against his face. Even through the blouse he could feel the warm softness of those breasts.
“Cripes!” the woman exclaimed, startled, while starting to struggle up.
Regaining his senses, Blue grabbed each side of her ribcage to help her into an upright position.
Bracing her hands on his shoulders, she pushed back. His face was momentarily covered by a thick swathe of silky hair before the heavy curtain lifted away and he found himself in another not-quite-good-but-not-quite-bad position.
Now the unknown woman was straddling his hips, her bent knees hugging his lean waist. Looking up at her, he was immediately taken by a pair of big brown eyes staring down at him in mortification. A pert little nose lay beneath those eyes, below that some incredibly lush lips that even now were babbling apologies.
“Oh geez, I’m so sorry. I’m so clumsy! This is – I didn’t – bum!”
Shit, this had to be Charley’s girlfriend. And she was straddling him. And worse, he didn’t mind. Hell, what red-blooded man would mind? This very curvy, very pretty sheila was straddling his hips, piquing his interest. In fact, he could felt that rush of warmth from her soft thighs to his shaft.
Copyright 2017 Angela Verdenius