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Happy Home, Happy Hearts

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It was late on a Friday night at Hillbilly’s, a small, family owned restaurant off the interstate just outside Woodbury, Georgia. Senoia, Georgia native and home improvement contractor, Daryl Dixon sat in his usual spot as of late; the rear, corner booth farthest from the door; while nursing his second glass of sweet iced tea. He responded to a text from his old friend Theodore ‘T-Dog’ Douglas, then read a few work emails on his cell phone while he waited for his order; a triple decker turkey club sandwich, onion rings and a slice of their prize winning peach pie, a la mode.

Daryl hadn't ever had to watch his weight; since childhood he'd been on the slim side, and now at 36 he was muscular and toned from years of performing manual labor but he still knew it was entirely too late to be eating such a large meal. He felt it was justified however; he’d worked the past 12 hours without having anything since breakfast, and that had only been a coffee and a couple of donuts early that morning. He could've taken a lunch break that afternoon but he hadn't, opting to finish the kitchen renovation job he was working on so that his crew could have the weekend off. When he finally left for the night, he knew he could've picked up some carryout food from any of the dozens of restaurants between the work site and the swanky downtown Atlanta penthouse condo he was temporarily renting, but he didn't want to eat alone at home, again. He was very lonely more often than not lately it seemed, and he wanted to eat out, yet he desperately wanted to avoid attracting any more unwanted attention than he'd already been getting lately, nearly everywhere he went, so after a quick shower he'd opted to hit up his new favorite spot, Hillbilly’s.

Hillbilly's was a perfect “hole in the wall” type of place and well off the beaten path of bustling, crowded Atlanta. The food was pretty good for diner fare and there was never much of a crowd, especially that late he’d been glad to find in the past few weeks he’d been patronizing the place and best of all, it was the LAST place anyone in their right mind would have expected to find a celebrity, which was right up Daryl's alley.

Just then the tiny bell tied to the door frame jingled alerting the hostess on duty that someone was entering and Daryl subtly hid his face with his menu as he scanned the perimeter. It was a habit he'd quickly adopted when he was out in public these days due to the overwhelming success of his and his two older brothers, Axel and Merle’s hit home and garden network TV series, Builder Brothers. He'd reluctantly removed his sunglasses when he'd entered the place but kept his trucker cap pulled down low over his dark, shaggy mane. He’d been raised to remove his hat when indoors, but he was trying his best to remain incognito as he counted down the moments until he got his hands on his late night meal.

He glanced up at the door and saw that two truckers had come in to grab a bite. He felt relieved; highly doubting that those two rough looking characters had ever watched his popular TV series. Most of Builder Brothers’ fans were of the female persuasion in fact, and their adoration of the show’s stars, himself in particular he’d soon discovered, bordered on the extreme. He’d been making a good living doing home reno projects and constructing decks for years, but with the success of the show he’d suddenly come into more money than he knew what to do with and attention from more adoring women than he could ever hope to bang in one lifetime.

Beautiful women, every color of the rainbow from all nationalities and all walks of life from around the country (and the world it now seemed,) were bombarding him with fan mail, gifts, baked goods, nude pics and kinky sexual offers these days; he was flattered, and a bit tempted more often than not to get laid- he was LONG overdue in that department, but deep down it totally freaked him out sometimes. He’d been told since he was a teenager that he was good looking but he didn’t see it and couldn’t understand the hype. Daryl was a country boy who liked the simple things in life; quiet nights having a whiskey by the fireplace, home barbecues with family and friends, riding his motorcycle in the countryside, making love to a beautiful woman (which he had to admit he wished for A LOT more often lately, but it couldn’t be just anybody,) swimming in the lake beside his hunter’s cabin deep in the Senoia Woods and hunting wild game with his cross bow, and most of all, building and fixing things with his bare hands.

Home improvements and repairs came naturally to him; he’d always been handy with fixing cars and such, and when he graduated high school, his eldest brother Merle offered him a gig working for him part time at his small contracting firm while he went to college. Daryl took the job and got really good at carpentry and plumbing, and soon took a few classes on electrical and A/C & heating as well. He soon found that he loved gutting out rooms in old houses and making them functional again. He loved it so much that he dropped out of college and began working for Merle full time, as well as doing some work for his brother Axel as well, whose specialty was flipping cheap fixer upper houses for a profit at the time. One day the two elder Dixons got the idea to merge their companies and Dixon Real Estate & Contracting was born. They’d started small but soon business was booming and in just a few years years they went from having a small family business in Atlanta to one of the top ‘flipper’ real estate firms in the state of Georgia. Three years ago they were approached by the Southern Comfort TV network with the idea of a lifestyle program featuring the brothers helping locals on tight budgets buy their first homes and the show was a runaway success with ratings off the charts by the middle of the first season and the rest was history. They were just about to start filming the third season but since they’d stayed local, Daryl was finding it very hard to go anywhere lately without swarms of his female fans attacking him with requests for photos and autographs and more kinky sexual propositions than he could shake a stick at. He’d been in a few relationships and even married and divorced a few years back, and all he wanted was one good woman by his side that he could love and trust and build a home and family with of his own, and he’d gone out with a few, but he had yet to meet the next Mrs. Dixon; none quite did it for him as of yet.

There was one woman he had his eye on however; a least likely candidate in fact that he just couldn’t get his mind off of. In fact she was headed his way right at that moment with an arm full of food. Surprisingly it wasn’t one of his fans, or some other celebrity chick throwing herself at him to get into his bed and his wallet; of all women, it was his usual waitress at Hillbilly’s. For all his charisma, and understated sex appeal on the show deep down Daryl was about as shy as they come and he didn’t even know how to approach asking her out. Her name tag read Carol, and tonight was the fourth time she’d served him… yes, he’d been counting, and he was always looking forward to the next time seeing her when he’d finally get up the nerve to take his shot at asking her out.

Carol. Just thinking about her made his nature rise and it didn’t help that she was approaching him with a big smile on her pretty face, and just looking at her made him want to devour something other than that turkey club sandwich, he thought to himself with a naughty smirk. Her blue eyes crinkled with a warm, sincere smile every time he came in on those late nights and he looked forward to her conversation and company, going so far as to request her specifically to wait on him. She looked to be about his age and was petite but shapely under her plain gray uniform dress. She wasn’t drop dead gorgeous in a traditional ‘Hollywood’ sort of way, but she wasn’t at all hard on the eyes either and Daryl Dixon liked what he saw. In fact, he thought that she was the most beautiful woman he’d met in ages. She seemed delicate to him… delicate yet strong and ladylike all at the same time was the best way he could describe her and all he wanted to do was wrap her up in his strong arms and hold her tight.

He knew that she wasn’t married because her left ring finger was bare and he wanted to get to know her better. She had pretty blue eyes that closed up when she smiled, and a really short pixie cut that showed a tinge of silver at the temples that he thought was really appealing. She also had a small waist and womanly hips that he thought were beyond sexy, and he couldn’t help checking out her curvy legs every time she passed by to refill someone’s coffee or take a patron their check. Her tired smile told him that she worked entirely too hard and he wished he could ease her burdens, and would have if she’d only let him. In passing she’d revealed that she was working two jobs just to make ends meet, and he made it a point to tip her generously, easily doubling the cost of his entire meal, every time she waited on him. She had a sweet disposition and he longed to get to know her better and the best part was that she was clueless of who he was.

They made small talk, and when Carol came back to the table a while later to see if his food was okay and to ask if he needed anything he shocked them both when he blurted out an invitation to get a coffee someplace sometime, outside of the diner. He looked hopeful but Carol quickly shut him down, blushing shyly and mumbling something about a boyfriend before scurrying into the back of the diner. Daryl played it off, but he felt crushed as he dropped the fifty dollar bill onto the table and darted out into the night, cranking up his bike and heading home earlier than he’d planned, feeling more defeated than he had in a long time. He needed to get to bed anyway; he had a busy morning ahead of him down at the studio; the new season’s show contestants would all be there to sign paperwork and meet the team. When he got in, he was certain he’d blown it for sure, but little did he know he’d be getting to know her better after all, and a lot sooner than he could’ve imagined.