Trading Hearts is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons in coincidental. Photo courtesy of www.islandhideaways.com.
Michael looked up from studying his designs for the garden gazebo to see Natasha Taylor striding purposefully across the grounds of Emerald Bay, a crew of four in tow. He watched as she gave instructions to the three men and one woman, who dispersed in different directions.
Michael was suddenly conscious of his sweat-stained t-shirt and sawdust covered jeans. Although Natasha had traded her designer suit of the previous week for jeans and a polo shirt with her company’s logo, she still exuded an air of elegance that made him feel like a shabby vagrant.
She turned and their eyes met, and she hesitated briefly before coming over. “Good morning. I was just about to say you’re here early, until I remembered that you live on site,” she said with a smile.
“Yup. Mr. Goddard was kind enough to let me stay here till I finish up. He probably thinks I’ll finish faster that way,” he joked. He preferred the way he wore her hair today, her natural waves pulled back into a ponytail. She looked more like a carefree college student than the polished business woman he first met.
Natasha peered around him at the half-completed gazebo. Michael had already built its frame and deck floor, and was in the process of assembling the walls.
“Wow, it’s really coming along! It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished.”
Not as beautiful as you, Michael wanted to say but thought better of it. Natasha Taylor didn’t look like the type of woman to fall for such cheesy sounding lines.
He thanked her. “I hear that a group is moving in soon?”
She nodded. “Next week. A family of six from Pennsylvania. They’ll be staying for two weeks. My people are here making sure everything’s spruced up.”
“Good. By the time they leave I should be nearly finished the gazebo and on to the play park.”
He beckoned to her to take a closer look at the structure, and as she brushed past him she caught a whiff of purple heart wood mixed with a light cologne. She gazed in admiration at the hexagonal design of the gazebo’s deck floor.
“I’m amazed at how you’re building this all by yourself. You have some serious talent, Michael.”
He smiled modestly, surprised at how pleased he was to receive a compliment from this woman.
“I had a good teacher,” he explained. “My father was a master carpenter and although he wasn’t very keen on me following in his footsteps, he taught me everything he knew. When I was about 10 he was offered a job with a firm in New York, and our family relocated there. I worked with him as an apprentice during the summer holidays.”
“I’m impressed. You left at such a young age and not a trace of a Yankee accent,” she teased.
Michael laughed. “Trust me, my parents made sure we didn’t forget where we came from.”
Natasha grinned back. “So, you got into construction just like your father?” she asked, rubbing her hands over the deck’s smooth wood.
He gave an ironic chuckle. “Actually, I ended up working in another field for a while. I guess 25 years later I’ve come full circle.”
She detected a strange note in his voice, and was about to question him about it when he reached over to brush some flower petals from her hair. She held her breath as his fingers lingered on the nape of her neck.
“Would you like to go out some time?” he asked huskily, reluctantly dropping his hand back to his side.
Natasha swallowed hard, trying to dampen the wave of lust that threatened to engulf her.
“I…um, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she responded, flustered.
A sardonic glint appeared in his brown eyes. “Let me guess, you don’t believe in fraternising with the help?”
Natasha held up a hand. “Please, don’t play the class card,” she retorted. “I’m the product of working class parents and damn proud of it. It’s just that I met you two weeks ago. I don’t know you from Adam!”
He smiled suddenly, clasping one hand over his heart and raising the other. “I swear on all that’s good and holy that I’m not a serial killer, gay, bisexual or currently in a relationship.”
Natasha gave a derisive snort. “Talk is cheap.”
Michael threw back his head and roared with laughter and Natasha was suddenly overcome with an urge to press a kiss against his strong neck. Damn, this is what happens when you’ve gone without for too long, she thought to herself.
“Anyway,” she continued after he had caught his breath, “it wouldn’t look very professional for me to date someone I work with.”
“So it’s settled, then. I’ll take you out when I’m finished my work here,” he stated firmly.
Before she could protest, Michael reached over and traced his thumb along her jaw line. “Have a good day, Tasha,” was all he said before turning back to his designs.
Throwing her hands up in exasperation, Natasha stalked back to the main house. Michael grinned to himself. If ever he needed an incentive to finish this job, a date with the sexy Natasha Taylor was it. As he continued to assemble the upper baluster sections of the gazebo, he thought fleetingly, Brian Goddard’s gonna be pissed.