“I can fix it.”
“But I don’t need you to,” she said.
He cocked his head and looked at her. “Is there some sort of problem here?”
She bit her lower lip. “Fine. It’s just that the last time you tried to fix something electrical, you…” She grimaced. “You know.”
He paused. “No,” he said, “I don’t know.”
Well, crap. God save her from a man’s fragile ego. “You had an…issue.”
He looked at her like she’d just questioned his manhood. “First you think I can’t swim,” he said, “and now you think I can’t fix an electrical problem. Jesus, woman, why don’t you just castrate me while you’re at it?”
“Listen, this isn’t necessary. I—” She broke off when he held out his hand, palm up.
“Lightbulb,” he said shortly.
She blew out a sigh and gave up, opening the bottom drawer of an oak filing cabinet, then pulling out the box of free bulbs she’d gotten at the Green Fair on the pier the week before.
Cole took a bulb and nudged her out of the way. Then he carefully scooped aside a stack of receipts on her desk. Planting a hand there, he vaulted onto the surface with the ease of a track and field Olympian.
A really hot Olympian.
She stared at his running shoes. Battered. Her gaze moved north up his long legs. He had a lot of pockets in those cargoes, and she wondered what else was in them.
She didn’t have to wonder what was beneath them; she’d seen it all.
And just remembering had her swallowing hard.
Stretching up with his good arm, he unscrewed the dark bulb. As he did, his T-shirt rose, revealing the low-riding waistband of the cargoes and the equally low-riding waistband of his BVDs—navy blue, if one was taking notes—and…
A strip of tanned male skin with just the hint of two dimples—
She blinked at the laughter in his voice and tilted her head back to find him staring down at her with great amusement.
“Hit the lights,” he said, thankfully not commenting on the fact she’d just gotten caught staring at his ass. “I’d hate to electrocute myself and prove you right that I’m indeed an idiot. Sam and Tanner would love that.”
“They’d love it if you electrocuted yourself?”
“No, but they’d enjoy the shit out of me making a fool of myself in front of you.”
“I don’t get men,” she said, baffled.
He laughed low in his throat with what might have been agreement as she turned off the lights. Since the sun was just setting but hadn’t yet vanished, they still had ambient lighting slanting in the two windows that faced the street, but it wasn’t much. As a result, the room had been plunged into a sort of black-and-white landscape.
Cole easily replaced the bulb with a new one. “Hit ’em again,” he said.
She turned on the lights.
The new bulb sparked, made a loud pop, and went out.
Olivia jumped about a mile.
Cole didn’t. He didn’t move a single inch. In fact, it was like he was frozen in place.
“You okay?” she asked.
Not even a flicker.
At his name, he blinked, took a very careful breath, and said, “Off.”
Again, she hit the switch. “Are you—”
“It’s all good,” he said lightly. Casually.
But she wasn’t fooled. She could actually feel the tension in his every muscle—of which he had plenty—coming off him in waves.
Just as she could feel him shoving back that tension, clearly trying to let it go. She got that, she understood that. Hell, she’d lived life like that. “Did you shock yourself?”
He didn’t answer. Didn’t, in fact, move.
“Maybe you should get down,” she said quietly.
That got his attention. He inhaled deeply, then slanted her a long look and unscrewed the bulb.
“Seriously,” she said softly. “I’ll hire an electrician.”
Another long look, and she shut it.
He muttered something she didn’t quite catch and crouched low to set the bulb at his feet on the desk. As he did, his pants slid a little lower, into nearly indecent territory.
Like a moth to the flame, Olivia’s gaze went right back to his butt. It was a really great butt.
Pulling a screwdriver from a pocket, he rose again, fiddling with whatever was up there, and then held out a hand to her without looking.
She narrowed her eyes at the unspoken demand but set another bulb into his palm.
“Lights,” he said.
She hit the switch, and this time both lights flicked on. She stared at him. “What did you do?”
“Nice,” she said. “Thank you.”
She bit her lip but she couldn’t keep it in. “So what was that before? Just now, and also on the boat?”
“If I answer that, then you have to answer a hard one, too. You ready to go there?”
She paused. “Define hard.”
“I want to know why you lied to me.”
She sucked in a breath. Had he guessed? Oh, God, what did he know? “Lied is a strong word.”
“Misled. You misled me into thinking you had a handyman.”
Oh. That. She nearly sagged with relief.
“No?” he murmured. “Not going there, huh?” He slipped his screwdriver into the pocket running along one thigh.