When my toes start to wrinkle, I finish up my bath and pull the plug to let the lukewarm water drain away. When I step out of the tub, my foot lands in water.

“What the hell?” I screech.

I wrap the towel around my body and follow the hissing noise to find the pipe behind the tub spraying water all over the place. Rolling my eyes, I chastise myself for not investigating the strange noise earlier. The faucet is off, so I’m not sure what to do. Then I remember a similar situation at our house a few years ago and my ex-husband needed to shut off the water to the house.

“Great. How do I do that?” I ask out loud.

I quickly slip into some yoga pants and a t-shirt and head outside. I search the back yard and don’t find anything. My bare feet are freezing in the grass as I make my way to the front yard and find nothing there either. I do a perimeter search of the house and find nothing indicating it’s a water main. As I turn to head back inside for my phone, I hit my toe on the bottom step.

“Son of biscuit,” I curse, grabbing my toe and massaging it while balancing on one foot. “Ow, ow, ow. Mother-fluffing-witch-waffle-butt-trumpet.”

“Are you okay?”

I spin to find my neighbor standing there. He’s in a long sleeve T-shirt and jeans that look soft and worn in, in a natural, not purchased way. The street lamp casts harsh shadows across his face and makes him look a bit menacing in the dark space between our homes. My nipples instantly harden and I’m not sure if it’s from him or the cold.

“Umm, a pipe is leaking in my house and I was looking for the water shut off, but I can’t find it,” I explain.

He almost grins, but contains those beautiful lips to a tiny smirk that pulls higher on the left.

“Well, out here there’s the main shut off for the cul de sac and it’s three houses down,” he says, gesturing behind him. “You’ll shut everyone on the street off.”

I cross my arms trying to hide my traitorous nipples that have surely cut holes in my shirt by now. “Well, I’m not sure what to do. At this moment, my upstairs bathroom is filling with water.”

“There should be one on the house itself. Want me to take a look?” he asks. 

“That would be amazing. Thank you so much,” I say, now really self conscious about my messy hair and old sleep clothes. It’s hard to focus on anything with my feet going numb in the cold, dewy grass. 

He walks along the side of my house, using his phone as a flashlight. I follow, not knowing how to keep the conversation going. He’s got this brown wavy hair, longer on top and cut short on the sides. It looks effortless and just long enough to get a firm grip if given the chance. I grin at myself and wonder where this sexually charged woman has come from. 

“My name’s Lane, by the way. Sorry we haven’t officially met yet,” he says over his shoulder. I let out an audible groan before slapping my hand over my mouth. Lane stops and turns to face me now, an amused look on his handsome face. “Something wrong?”

I shake my head. The light from his backyard spills over the fence, illuminating those icy blue eyes and I feel like he has frozen me to the spot. “It’s just that my ex-husband’s name is also Lane.”

“That’s a bummer,” he says. “I don’t want to start off on your bad side.”

I grin because I can’t help it. “Don’t worry. If you’re any kind of decent human being, I’d guess you’re pretty far off from that scumbag.”

“All those colorful words I heard earlier and you’re going to go with scumbag now?” Lane asks.

I laugh as my cheeks burn. “Oh, you heard that, huh?”

“I think everyone in the tri-county area heard that.” He’s teasing me and the joy that brings feels foreign. I crave more of it.

“My sister and I used to have contests to see who could make up the best alternatives to curse words. Drove my mom nuts. Sometimes they still come flying out of my mouth. So, okay, not scumbag. How’s slap nugget thunder cow?”

Lane throws back his head and lets out a laugh. “I definitely do not want to be associated with him. You want to call me a different name or something? How’s Mike or Larry?”

I scrunch up my face and shake my head. “No. Lane is fine. I’ll just have to associate some new, more pleasant thoughts with the name.”

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