After a long resistance meeting that included a conversation with Joshua, who was getting antsy up on the mother ship, and little actual news, Erica Evans rose from her seat, stretching her arms up to work the kinks out of her back. The rectory had been a far more comfortable meeting place but Hobbes was right to suggest they move. With Father Travis, a big fan of the V's, roaming around, it just wasn't secure enough.
"Well," she said, offering her three friends a nod, "Call me if anything happens. Otherwise, I plan to spend tomorrow attempting to berate my kitchen sink into working properly."
"Problem with your plumbing?" Somehow Kyle Hobbes managed to put a sarcastic twist on just about any sentence. Really, the mercenary had a gift.
Erica rolled her eyes, knowing Ryan Nichols and Jack Landry were doing the same, before she replied, "Yes and plumbers and my schedule don't seem to mix well so I'm going to use my non-existent home improvement skills to fix it myself."
"Good luck with that," Ryan said with a small, self deprecating shrug. "V weapons systems, those I can fix. Human plumbing…let's just say Val has the numbers of the plumber and electrician on speed dial, just in case."
"I could stop by and take a look," Jack offered easily. "I handle the repairs and upkeep at St. Josephine's and do odd jobs for elderly parishioners who need the help."
Relief flooded Erica's face and she offered Jack a grin. "That would be great," she said, the nodded. "Tell you what. You fix the sink and I'll make us some lunch. Deal?"
"Sounds good," Jack said, rising to leave as well. "I take the early morning masses and Father Travis does the afternoon, so I can be at your place around 10am."
"Okay," she said, choosing to ignore the somewhat loaded glances Ryan and Hobbes traded in favor of ascending the unsteady stairs that led out of their current shabby (hold the chic) headquarters with Jack. Honestly, what did they think? Jack was a priest. End of story, but it didn't mean they couldn't be friends.
She told herself that every day…sometimes more than once, especially if it was one of those days when she woke still sweaty and shaky from a dream about doing something very sinful…..
True to his word, Jack was knocking on her front door just after 10 the next morning, tool box in hand. Erica swung the door open and offered him a welcoming smile. He'd obviously changed after saying mass, which made sense as his battered jeans and white t-shirt seemed more fit for chores than his usual black clothes.
"Morning, Jack," she greeted him, then glanced past him to wave to the neighbor across the street as she ushered him in.
"Good morning," he replied as she closed the door with a thump. Her neighbors tended to be on the nosy side and she wasn't in the habit of having men around since Joe had left. Dale had been a frequent guest and now occasionally Jack, Ryan and Hobbes…though Jack was the only one who had visited during daylight hours. "Made any progress by berating the sink?"
He grinned as he teased her and she retaliated by giving him a light shove and saying, "Not that I can tell," she muttered leading him into the cluttered kitchen. Normally it wasn't so messy, but she'd taken all the cleaning products out from under the sink to allow the pipes there to be accessed.
Jack made his way to the sink, setting his toolbox on the counter as he turned the faucet on. An ominous rattling shook the pipes before water sputtered out in burst before flowing as it was supposed to. To make matters worse, the water then pooled tin the sink, not draining properly.
Stopping the water, Jack peered at the sink for a moment, then turned to Erica. "Could you turn off the water?"
"Sure," she said, making her way toward the cellar door as Jack hunkered down by the sink.
By the time she got back, he had eased himself under the sink, head, arms and chest hidden from view as small creaks and clanks echoed out from whatever he was doing. She looked down at his long legs, clad in battered, work worn jeans and booted feet. His t-shirt had ridden up when he raised his arms, revealing a strip of taut tummy above the waist of his jeans, complete with an intriguing little trail of hair that began under his naval.
Satisfied that no one was around to catch her look of appraisal, she settled onto one of the kitchen stools to watch him work. She idly chopped up the cantaloupe she had set on the counter, planning to add it to a fruit salad for later.
There was a muffled grunt from under the sink and Jack said, "Whoever worked on this last made sure this…."
He trailed off Erica heard the hiss of spraying water before she saw the jet spraying out from under the sink. "Jack!" she said, startled and jumping up from her seat. To her surprise, he didn't immediately pull himself out of the jets of water, but stayed in place, doing something till the flow stopped.
Erica crouched down beside him as Jack slid out from under the sink, sinning on the floor, upper body and shirt soaked. He blinked at her and she said, "I guess I turned off the wrong valve."
Jack looked at her then wiped water from his eyes before chuckling, "I guess so. No harm done though."
With a sheepish smile, Erica said, "I guess I should go turn off the other valve…here, give me your shirt. I'll toss it in the dryer and grab you one of Tyler's."
"All right," he said with a nod then peeled the sodden cotton from his skin nonchalantly.
Erica stared for a moment at the newly bared skin, glad he was again swiping water from his face then rose. Feeling her cheeks burn, she trotted from the room and back down into the basement.
After turning off the correct valve and putting the shirt into the dryer, she ran up to Tyler's room and found a plain black T-shirt that would do. Descending the stairs, she sighed as there was a knock at the front door. Muttering to herself, she pulled open the door, plastering on a fake smile when she saw it was her nosy neighbor, Judy, from across the street.
"Hi, Erica," Judy said in a saccharine tone, peering past her into the house. "How are things?"
Great. Like she really wanted to deal with prying eyes. "Fine thanks," she replied, cocking her head to the side as she asked, "Did you need something?"
Perhaps it wasn't the most polite question, but she didn't want to encourage her to ramble. Instead of taking the very clear hint, Judy raised a pan high and stepped right around Erica to enter the house.
"I was doing some cleaning and came across this lasagna pan I borrowed from you and thought I should return it!"
Judy had borrowed the lasagna pan over two years ago and, since Erica didn't make lasagna, she'd never noticed it was missing. It was quite clear her neighbor was just being nosy. "Thanks," Erica replied trying to intercept the other woman, but damn she was fast.
"I'll just put this in the…hello!" Judy said, her scurrying feet coming to a halt as she pulled into sight of the kitchen.
Jack, still shirtless and damp, was leaning against the counter doing something with the tool and portion of pipe in his hand. Each small movement made the muscles in his chest and arms bunch and relax and both Erica and Judy stopped short and stared. He looked up from what her was doing and offered them both a smile.
"Hi," he greeted Judy, questioning eyes bouncing to Erica.
"Jack," she said, forcing the irritation she felt out of her voice. "This is my neighbor Judy. She just stopped by to return a pan."
"That's right!" Judy replied sunnily, hoisting the pan again without pausing her ogling.
Great, Erica thought. Judy had one of the biggest mouths in their neighborhood. By noon everyone would hear about the hot, half naked guy in Erica Evan's kitchen. And since Judy was obviously committing Jack's looks to memory for better use in story telling, there was a chance someone would put two and two together and realize he was the priest that had been seen visiting her.
Not exactly something she wanted to be known for. Shaking herself, she stepped toward Jack, holding out the t-shirt she had found for him. "This should fit okay," she said as he smiled greatfully. He to had noticed Judy's visual groping and was clearly uncomfortable.
Putting the pipe down, Jack accepted the shirt and tugged it over his head. It was a bit snug across the chest and shoulders but not a terrible fit.
Undeterred by the loss of skin, Judy plopped herself down on one of the chairs by the counter and said, "So Jack, how did you and Erica meet?"
Jack turned a deer in headlights look to Erica, who sighed. This was going to take some fancy story telling. Hopefully, they could come up with something that would make Judy want to leave. Soon. The sooner the better.
So, what do you guys think so far?