Darron brushed the rain out of his eyes before he continued messing with the lights on Sophie’s house. She’d left for work just before he arrived. He knew because he’d passed her on the dirt road leading from her house to Roosevelt Trial. He was never one to leave a job unfinished, it wasn’t in him. Ten years in the military would do that to a man. No job unfinished and no man left behind.
He reached for the next string and continued hooking them up.
Since their confrontation on Thanksgiving, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. He asked himself questions like who doesn’t decorate for Christmas? Who doesn’t want a tree? Who doesn’t have curtains on her bedroom window?
He’d checked the work order for the job and realized that it was someone related to Sophie. Her parents, perhaps, who had paid in cash for the decorating. It was definitely someone who didn’t want her not to celebrate. He hoped she’d stop back by her house before he was gone. The next strand he put up a little slower.
He thought back to their conversation. Sophie had made it sound like he was slumming by stringing lights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone who worked at the company had some type of degree and he had years of military engineering and flight training behind him. This was a choice he made. Stringing lights was the first job he saw once he arrived home from his final tour. Jumping into a long term career wasn’t on the agenda. It didn’t matter what she though, he told himself. He also had plans to spend with his son, once he arrived home next week. He needed a flexible job to do that.
He had a kid in college. He scoffed as he lit up another window. How the heck had time gotten away from him. The kid’s mom had ditched them shortly after he was born, leaving Darron to take care of him. Really it left Darron’s parents to care for him while Darron was off running sorties overseas.
Nevertheless, the kid was great and he was coming home for the holidays. Darron couldn’t wait to spend uninterrupted time with him.
He finished the last window and moved on to the trees in the front of the house. It hadn’t been more than half an hour before he heard tires crunching on the road. There was nowhere to hide and no reason to hide as Sophie pulled her car into the driveway.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she yelled at him as she got out of her car. “I don’t do Christmas. I get enough of it at work. I don’t want you to do this?”
“Ma’am. I’m just doing as ordered.”
Sophie crossed her arms as she came toe to toe with him. She gritted her teeth together. “Stop calling me ma’am.”
He was confused. “What?”
“You keep calling me ma’am and I’m thinking that you think I’m 100 years old.”
“Of course not. You’re not over 50,” he said with a barely contained smirk.
Sophie’s eyes grew wide and he had a moment when he thought she’d punch him, but she didn’t.
“Who’s doing this to me? Who is paying for you to decorate my house?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
She glared at him and he didn’t budge. He’d been intimidated by the best of them. A 5-foot, 8-inch woman with blond braids had no chance of breaking him. He’d met drill instructors who made grown men weep like babies.
He smiled, which seemed to set her off more. “I’ve been making bows for weeks. I have a few 100 orders for centerpieces to fill and I don’t have time to argue with you.”
“Darron, that’s your name, right?”
He shook his head, still toe to toe with her. He could smell that she’d showered that morning. She wore some kind of winter berry scent and he took in a deep breath. He knew he’d regret the direction his thoughts were going.
“Well, Darron. I’ll pay you double to stop decorating my house.” She cringed as she said it.
He shook his head. “I don’t need your money.”
She continued on, still standing in the rain getting soaked. “What will get you to stop?”
“What? Maybe what? I have to get back to work. Just tell me.”
“Have dinner with me tonight,” he said, crossing his arms, which almost touched hers. He saw the confusion in her eyes. The hesitance and then the denial.
“I’m not having dinner with you.”
“I’m not done decorating yet,” he said.
She growled, moved past him, unlocked the front door and slammed it once she was inside.
He heard her talking to herself or was she on the phone? He didn’t mean to listen, but she was yelling.
“I can’t believe the nerve of this guy. He’s spent two days at my house, putting up lights I don’t even want and when I ask him what will get him to stop, he asks me out on a date? Mom…what the heck is happening in the world?”
Darron couldn’t her Sophie’s mom’s response. “You what!” Sophie cried.
He nodded his head and started making little lighted circles around the front bushes, humming “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”
“He could be an ax murderer,” Sophie yelled into the phone. “You’re so desperate for grandchildren that you’d set you daughter up with a stranger?”
He didn’t hear anything for a few minutes. He moved on the other side of the front porch. The door opened and Sophie stepped out.
“Fine. I’ll meet you at Rose’s at eight.” She said it softly, like she’d been defeated. “My mom said that if the military trusts you, then I should trust you.”
“Fine. I’ll see you then.”
She glanced back over her shoulder. “Are you going to stop decorating?”
“For now.” He rolled up the remaining lights. “If it makes you feel better, my boss did a complete background check on me as well.”
Her face turned scarlet. She hustled to her car and drove off.
Darron sighed. He knew better than to get involved with a woman, but for some reason he couldn’t resist spending more time with her…off the clock. He enjoyed their verbal sparring and who knew, perhaps they’d hit it off.
He climbed into his truck, slammed the door and all of the lights on Sophie’s house went dark. He cocked an eyebrow at the offensive lights and put the truck in reverse. She was going to love that.