When I answered the doorbell and first saw the handsome man, I held my breath while butterflies fluttered into my stomach. Big Ones. Lord, I don't know why. I'd been a widow for five years now and thought I had rid myself of fantasies.
I'd just called him. He was the plumber—I faced a serious problem.
My hot-water heater had sprung a leak, a major catastrophe in my slab home.
I let the man in—a tall man with a ruddy complexion and soft blue eyes. He looked about my age, forty.
"Morning, Mrs. Peterson," he said. "I'm Tom Brandt. Hot-water heater acting up?"
"Sometime during the night it sprang a leak," I said, miserably. "I discovered the disaster this morning."
We squished across the living room carpet to the kitchen, where the utility room door gaped. "See you got a hose attached to the critter and got it drained." His eyes followed the hose snaking across the tiled kitchen floor and out the back door. "Your husband do that?"
"I shook my head. "I'm a widow. I did it myself."
He sighed deeply and said matter-of-factly, "I'm in the same fix—a widower." Then he cleared his throat. "Let's install a new unit and dry your carpet out."
"It won't mildew?"
"Not if we get right at it."
Then I laid out my other problem. "I'm hosting my bridge club tomorrow afternoon, and I'm thinking, really, I should postpone."
"Maybe not. We'll see."
The first thing Tom did was pull a water vac out of his truck. He showed me how to use the vac, shoved furniture round for me, and while I sucked the carpet as dry as I could with the machine, he unhooked and hauled the dead heater out of the house on a dolly and wheeled a new one into the kitchen.
I turned the machine off. "Providing a lady with a vac to dry out her carpet and helping her move the furniture isn't normally part of a plumber's duties, is it?"
His big smiled invaded my heart. It skipped a beat, and butterflies fluttered in my stomach again. I blushed. What on earth is wrong with me?" I wondered. Am I flirting? At my age?
"No, it isn't," he said. "But I run a small, five-person shop, and being as helpful as possible is how I keep my customers coming back."
Tom installed the heater in about forty-five minutes and told me to turn on the water. After he found no leaks, he helped me push the furniture around again so I could give the carpeting a final lick with the vac.
Finished, I said, "The carpet still feels damp—maybe too damp for club tomorrow."
"My wife's card club meetings went on at all costs—and so will yours."
"The thing is," I said, "I haven't hosted a meeting in quite a while. I hate to postpone."
"Got two industrial type blowers out in the truck. We'll set them up and let them run. You'll probably have to shift them from one spot to another from time to time."
I blinked. "Do you usually carry blowers in your truck?"
"Alice—the lady on our service desk—said you'd told her you lived in a slab home and your carpet was wet. I knew you'd need extra help."
After we set up the blowers and Tom hauled his tools out of his truck and came back in, I asked him if he had time for a cup of coffee, a piece of raisin/cinnamon toast. He declined. He said he had other service calls to make and then added, "After your carpet's dry, put the blowers in the garage. I'll stop by for them sometime."
We shook hands. We smiled—and our hands lingered together in a warm clasp for a few long seconds, as if they refused to part. More unwelcomed butterflies zig-zagged into my stomach. Oh my!
By the next day the carpet had dried out beautifully. My bridge club meeting went off without a hitch. The ladies laughed with me when I told them my hot-water heater story. Late the next afternoon, Tom stopped to pick up his blowers. We stood in the garage. He is handsome, I thought, and felt happy to see him.
"Perfect. I told my bridge-club pals about your wonderful help.I'm sure you'll have more business."
"Thank you, I appreciate that." He looked sheepish. "Um...I'm finished for the day. Does that offer of coffee still stand?"
"I hoped you'd come by," I said. "I've got fresh-baked pecan rolls." I opened the kitchen door, inviting the handsome plumber into my kitchen again—socially, this time—and welcomed the butterflies swarming my stomach.
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