Title: Way To My Heart
Author: Barbara C. Doyle
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: October 23, 2018
There was nothing wrong with being the crazy cat lady.
At least that’s what I told myself after twenty-three years of being blatantly single.
A girl’s self esteem could only take so many hits before carbs, Netflix, and cats became her sole loves in life. After all, cats didn’t judge how much pizza you could eat in one sitting.
But then Caleb Winters had to wedge his way into my life by bribing me with chocolate and my cat with toys. And before I knew it, my cat was too attached to let him go.
And, okay, maybe I wasn’t keen on the idea either.
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There were only a few things that I considered necessities in my life. Reese’s cups, classic rock, and destroyed skinny jeans. Not really in that order, but all important nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the more Reese’s I ate, the less likely I’d be able to keep fitting into my skinny jeans. I refused to buy a bigger size, so I made sure to shake what Mama gave me to classic rock anytime I wasn’t shoving my thighs into spandex workout pants to exercise outside of my two jobs.
Did I love my body? Not all the time. In fact, I would love to shed a few pounds, trim my thighs, and get rid of the small rolls that folded over my stomach. But I loved chocolate more, specifically chocolate that covered creamy, delicious peanut butter. Therefore, the thighs stayed.
At least they were good for catching fallen food. And that, well, that happened way too often. Light colored jeans? Forget it. My parents jokingly bought me a month supply of Tide To-Go pens for any occasion. I’d gone through two of them since they’d given them to me two months ago. Was I going to admit that to them? Nope.
Just as Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” came on, the washing machine ended its cycle, alerting me to switch the load.
It wasn’t until I was bent down grabbing the last full laundry basket from the floor when I felt somebody else in the room. Assuming it was one of my coworkers, I didn’t think much about it. Between the song I was dancing along to and the laundry I was prepping to put into the dryer, I just ignored whoever was standing behind me. Everyone who worked at Lakeview knew that I usually had music blaring while I worked. It made the time pass faster.
Of course, ignoring whoever it was wasn’t easy, with my backside on fire from somebody staring at it. Looking over my shoulder, I caught a man I’d never seen before looking at my ass with a smirk on his irritatingly attractive face. One of his dark eyebrows, ones that matched the color of his dirty blond hair, was raised and his icy blue eyes shone brightly.
“Would you like another few minutes to look at my ass or are you done?” I snapped, lips twitching. I stood up, turning to him, and brushed my frizzy brown hair out of my face to get better look at him.
My reaction caused his other eyebrow to go up, and now his smirk was more like an amused grin. And I hated to admit it but seeing him smile like that made him more attractive. Even if he was a perv for watching me while my ass was in the air.
“Actually,” he said casually, “I wouldn’t mind another few minutes.”
I gaped at him for a split second before gathering my bearings. “Guests aren’t allowed to be in here. If you’re looking for help, you need to go to the front desk.”
He didn’t say anything. In fact, he pressed his lips together like he was trying to suppress an even wider smile. It gave me time to note how tall he was. I guessed six-three or six-four, his head almost grazing the top of the door jamb where he stood at the step of the maid’s closet. Being five-two, I didn’t have that problem.
I put a hand on my hip. “Do you need help finding the office? It’s not that difficult to find, you know.”
He chuckled. “Is this usually how you treat paying customers?”
“Only the ones who blatantly stare at my ass like they have nothing better to do.”
“Don’t be offended, sweetheart. It’s a nice ass, hence why I was staring at it. I mean, it was hard to miss being all up in the air like that. And I’m a man. I notice things like that. Take an interest in it quite frankly.”
“Staring at girls’ asses? Or mine?”
He leaned his shoulder against the door frame, the white t-shirt he wore stretching around his impressive biceps. He worked out. He had to. Even his clean-shaven jawline was defined in a way that was…
I snapped myself out of the stare down, because he was still there watching me check him out. Was I drooling? I wouldn’t put it past myself. All those muscles—
Ugh. Sometimes life wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t be legal for guys to look like him. And this guy clearly didn’t need his ego stroked.
“Women’s asses,” he answered, face blanching. “Girl’s asses make me sound creepy. Your ass specifically interests me in this case though.”
Was this guy for real? “You are a creep. Staring at anybody’s ass is weird. Regardless of the age.”
“You’re feisty, huh?”
“More like annoyed.”
“Well it works for you.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’ve got a job to do, and it’s not talking to pervy men. So, if that’s all, I’d like to get back to work. If you need help, the front desk is in the office down the driveway. Just go through the red door between the rocking chairs on the front porch.”
He had the nerve to scope me out, his eyes travelling from the top of my head—messy bun and all—to my painted orange toes. I’d never been checked out knowingly before. The way my body warmed up and tingles shot through my arms and legs was a foreign feeling. When our eyes locked again, my toes curled in my flip-flips.
“You’re…” I cleared my throat. “I don’t care if you’re a paying customer or not. If my boss finds out anybody is harassing staff, she’ll kick you out.”
The amused grin was back on his face. “I never said I was a paying customer.”
My eyes widened. “You do realize that just makes you sound creepier, right?”
He went to say something, but before he could, Iris walked up beside him, playfully boxing his arm like she was Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. She looked between us, a chipper expression lighting her face.
“You met!” she cheered, bouncing next to the guy and bumping their shoulders together. Her five-one frame was amusing to see next to him, because she only came half-way up his chest. Despite being vertically challenged, she was one of the most terrifying people I knew.
I snuck a peak at him, noticing the familiarity of his eyes when I glanced back at Iris. They shared the same round shape, thick lashes, and crystal blue color.
“Uh…not really.” I frowned, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
Sensing my discomfort, Iris slapped his arm. “Caleb, what did you do to her?”
Caleb? Why did that sound familiar?
Then it struck me. Their resemblance and sarcasm were too much alike to be a coincidence.
“What makes you think I did something, sis?” Caleb asked innocently.
Iris looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry, Paisley. My brother can be an ass sometimes, but he means well.”
Caleb’s interest piqued at the announcement of my name, which could only mean that Iris mentioned me to him. After all, she was trying to set us up.
I had the uncanny ability to attract men like him—the overconfident and arrogant. People accused me of being too picky when it came to dating, but they hadn’t met the past boys who drove me to being the cat lady. Caleb Winters would only be number six. Just a number.
“So, this is Paisley?” Caleb inquired, looking at me again like he was seeing me for the first time. I wondered what he saw. My freckled cheeks? Pointed nose? Porcelain skin?
I deadpanned. “No, I’m Jessica. Your sister just likes calling me random names sometimes. Livens things up a bit.”
He tilted his head back and laughed. It was deep and throaty, and the way his chest rumbled made his muscles more prominent through the tight material of his shirt.
Abs. He had freaking abs.
“Yep, she was right. I like you.”
I crossed my arms on my chest. “Yeah? And what if I don’t like you?”
Iris sighed heavily. “Seriously, Caleb. I left you alone for, like, five minutes. How much damage have you already caused?”
He shrugged. “She caught me staring at her ass. If it makes you feel better, I said it was a nice one.”
Iris shook her head. “You’re an idiot, but I guess I knew that already.” She turned her focus to me. “Excuse my brother, he’s such a guy. He’s right though, you have a nice ass.”
I felt my cheeks redden. Traitorous bitch.
“Well…” I fidgeted with a few fallen strands of hair. “Thanks, I guess.”
Caleb answered. “You’re welcome.”
I eyed him. “I wasn’t talking to you,” I informed him coolly.
Iris frowned. “Paisley, Caleb is—”
Caleb cut her off. “Awesome. Sometimes socially awkward. Usually the latter is just around pretty women. That’s a compliment, by the way.”
Iris snorted. “You didn’t need to point that out, dumbass.”
His head bobbed from side to side, contemplating his reply. “I’ve been called worse. The point is, I like you. You listen to decent music, you’re a smart ass, and you have a nice ass. Total package.”
“What if I’m really a raging bitch?” I quipped, narrowing my eyes.
“Iris wouldn’t try setting me up with a raging bitch. Or any type of bitch. She likes you. She said I’d like you.”
I grimaced, eying Iris. “What else have you said about me?”
There weren’t many good attributes that men deemed sexy about me. I tripped over my own words, my feet, everything. My middle name shouldn’t have been Marie, it should have been awkward. Half the time I preferred the company of my cat over most human beings, I was addicted to chocolate like it ran through my veins, and when it came to any refined carbs, I gained ten pounds just breathing near them.
She gave me a reassuring smile. “Nothing bad. Just that you can cook, you have a great sense of humor, and you’re mature for your age. He’s right, I did say I liked you and think you two could work. I wouldn’t put so much effort into trying to set you up otherwise. Hopefully, my hard work hasn’t been ruined by this moron.”
I couldn’t understand what was wrong with him that made her think we’d work.
Caleb laughed. “Thanks, sis.”
“I’m being honest,” she replied.
“Never said you weren’t.”
I just stared between them, not knowing what to say. My playlist was still playing in the background, now blasting Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now”.
“Well…” I turned toward my phone, shutting off the music app. “I need to finish this laundry before I head out. But it was—”
I stopped myself, not willing to lie. I wasn’t going to say it was nice to meet him. Nice to stare at his muscles sure, but that was about it.
Iris snorted, shoving her brother again. “I can’t believe you messed this up in less than five minutes. That’s a record for you.”
Caleb just grinned, like it didn’t bother him. I knew guys like him—arrogant. He loved the chase. It didn’t matter if I wanted to be chased or not, I was a challenge.
And the thing about challenges and me? We didn’t get along, just like I was sure Caleb and I wouldn’t. He was going to hurt me like the others. While I was just as much to blame for the past failures that plagued my conscious, it still hit me hard.
I turned toward Iris. “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested in being set up.”
Her face screwed. “With Caleb or in general? How long has it been since you’ve been la—”
“Whoa!” I cut her off, eyes cutting to her brother. His lips wavered, like he was trying to hold back laughter. But there’s obvious interest in his eyes.
“Don’t stop on my account,” he pressed, crossing his arms across his chest. “How long has it been, Paisley?”
My brows pinched when he said my name. It rolled off his tongue in a way that had my palms clammy, and I hated it. I hated the prickling tingles in my fingertips when our eyes locked and how hollow my stomach got. Feeling like I was going to cave to the old version of myself made me worry about everything I built to become who I am now. Strong. Cautious. Independent.
Glaring at him, I said, “That’s none of your business.” I look back at Iris. “I have to finish this, so we’ll talk later?”
She blew out a breath. “Yeah, okay. Come on, Caleb. I’ll go introduce you to everybody else. Don’t make an ass of yourself any more than you already have.”
He chuckled as she pulled him back. She was tiny compared to him in every way possible. But he let her drag him away with little fight despite the foot height difference between them.
“I’ll see you later, Paisley,” he purred, winking at me.
I straightened my spine. “Don’t count on it.”
About The Author
My love for the written word led me to obtain a bachelor’s degree in English and soon a master’s in education to teach college classes.