You Are the Reason – Susan Renee

Holy shit, does she strip like that all the time?” The first day I met Lacey Evans has been playing on a repeated loop in my mind since yesterday. I just can’t shake that day from my memories. My mouth hangs open in awe as I lean against the outside of the shop with Ben while he takes a smoke break out back, both of us watching the girl in the neighboring garage space. “She’s hot, isn’t she?” Ben murmurs to me so she can’t hear us. “She can strip anything too. I’ve watched her strip old barn wood, expensive looking pieces of furniture, and even fragile antiques. She’s got some talent, for damn sure.” My head turns back to him. “Do you know her?” Ben puf s on his cigarette, turning his head from me when he blows it out. “I know her name is Lacey Evans, and her dad rents the garage space so he can store a few things and so she has a place to do her work,” he tells me. “I’ve inked her a couple times.” He’s touched her skin? I’m instantly jealous. A sweltering summer day, she stands up tall holding her sander on her hip and wiping her forehead with her other hand. She pulls her safety goggles up to where they reach the pink bandana she’s tied across the top of her forehead. With her jet-black hair pulled back into a messy bun, the bandana makes her look like a sexier version of Rosie the Riveter.

Her short denim shorts leave nothing to my imagination as they show of a pair of long, lean, and extremely tanned legs. She turns toward us quickly, reaching for her water bottle, wearing a pink tank top underneath an old Whitesnake cut-of tank. I miss it the first time, but when she finally picks up her sander and bends over to continue her work… “Fuck me…get a load of that side boob. There’s no way she’s wearing a bra.” Watching Lacey Evans do her thing is quickly giving me a boner I do not want to have to explain to my next client. Ben chuckles, watching my infatuation. “I can’t believe you’ve worked here this long and haven’t met her yet.” “Yeah…” I swallow. “I can’t believe it either.” “Well,” Ben clears his throat as he snuf s out his cigarette and tosses it in the metal bucket he keeps outside. “Now’s as good a time as any.” He gives me a hearty shove, pushing me so close to Lacey’s workspace there’s no way she can ignore the fact I’m standing nearby. I hear Ben laugh as he opens the back door to the shop and steps back inside, leaving me alone with the mysteriously sexy Lacey Evans. The girl with no bra and all the power tools. She turns of her sander, leaving it on top of the door she’s currently stripping, and turns to me with a hand on her hip, nodding with a lift of her chin.

“You the new guy?” “Uhh…” I huf out a laugh. “If by new guy you mean the guy who has been working here for five years, then yep. Yes, that’s me.” “Ahh. Sorry about that,” she smiles. “I certainly haven’t been around that long, so I guess that makes me the new girl, huh?” I nod. “Something like that.” She of ers me her hand. “I’m Lacey. Lacey Evans.” “Graham Fox.” When I wrap my hand around hers, she gives me an impressively firm handshake. None of that girly floppy fish business. Her skin is soft, not callused as I would’ve expected from someone who works with her hands all day. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.

” “Likewise.” She eyes me up and down, leaving me slightly self-conscious of what I decided to wear today, a pair of gray shorts and a white graphic muscle shirt. I wonder if she likes what she sees? “So, why have I never seen you around here?” Her green eyes meet mine and for just a moment I’m mesmerized. They’re not an emerald green, but more like a softer shade of mossy green. Looking into her eyes feels like I’m being drawn into an enchanted forest. I swallow hard and try to bring myself out of what could easily be a hypnotic state and wrap a hand around the back of my neck. “Uh, I don’t usually…” I hitch a thumb behind me. “I mean I don’t smoke, so I don’t always come out here with Ben when he takes a smoke break. I’m usually keeping busy.” I’m still staring at her eyes when she finally looks away, smiling, and then tilts her head. “You okay or is there something wrong with my face?” “Yeah.” I laugh nervously. “Shit. No. There’s nothing wrong with your face.

Nothing at all. I’m sorry. It’s just…God this is going to sound so ridiculous but your eyes…they’re…” I don’t say anything until she lifts an eyebrow, certainly waiting to hear the end of that statement. “They’re gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen eyes that color before.” She deflects, turning away and grabbing her water bottle for another drink. The sun today is less than forgiving. “Well, normally I would assume that’s what you say to all the girls you meet except that sounded…unrehearsed… so I guess I should say thank you.” “Yeah. You’re welcome.” I smile at her even though on the inside I’m smacking myself in the head for sounding like such a nervous pansy in front of her. “So, you like Whitesnake?” I nod to her t-shirt. “They were one of my dad’s favorite bands back in the eighties, so I grew up listening to them a lot. He drives a truck for the distillery so I’m pretty sure “Here I go Again” is his mantra song.” “And yours too, it seems.

” She shrugs. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.” “Yeah, I get it. So, are you just stripping and restaining this door or…” She shakes her head. “Nope. This door will eventually become a corner bookshelf. Painted white and distressed to look a little more antiquated. Want to see my design?” She reaches for her notebook and instantly I’m drawn in. A design? A drawing? A sketch? She’s an artist just like me. “Yeah. Absolutely.” She turns a few pages and I’m already impressed with the images she passes over to get to the one she’s working on. “See? I knocked out these center panels in the door here because my client wants shelves placed inside instead. I’ll build those at an angle, so they’ll fit into a corner. She wants to display the finished piece in her kitchen with all her family cookbooks and stuf like that.

I’m also adding a few hooks on both sides for things like an antique rolling pin or measuring cups or even a few cute tea-towels if that’s what she prefers.” “This is fantastic. You really have a good eye for this.” I look at the photograph she has clipped to the top of her sketch. “Is this what the door looked like before you changed it?” She nods. “Yep. Crazy right?” She’s an upcycle genius. “Where did you find this? The photo really makes that door look like a piece of shit that I would’ve thrown out without another thought.” Lacey laughs. “And that’s the basis of my business Graham Fox. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say. I found this door at a rummage sale and got it for five bucks.” “No joke?” She nods her head. “Swear to God. And with what I do, I’ll easily sell it for close to one hundred times that cost.

” My jaw drops again. “You’ll make five hundred bucks on the finished product?” “Without a doubt.” She winks. “I’m doing my client a service custom making something for her just the way she wants it. Not too much unlike a tattoo sleeve, yeah? If you’re good at what you do, you’re worth the price.” God, this girl is like my own personal walking wet dream. Everything she just said is spot on. “Yeah. That’s absolutely right. I’m sure you’re worth every penny.” I’m so entranced by her right now that I don’t realize what I just said until she snickers and takes another sip of her water. I wrap my hand around the back of my neck again. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to sound like it did… I just meant…” “It’s okay.

” She winks. “I know what you meant.” Ask her out. No, don’t yet. You might sound desperate. Maybe I should get her number. Why do I need her number when she works right next to me? Just ask her out for a drink. She’ll say yes. Except what if she doesn’t? We’re silent for a moment, staring at each other before I finally say, “Well I should probably get back to work…” “You gonna ask me out first or are you going to walk away and wish that you had?” Now it’s my turn to laugh. “Was I that obvious or are you just that bold?” She shakes her head. “Nope I’m not always that bold, so let’s go with a little obvious.” “Actually, I was internally kicking myself and wondering if or when I was going to get to see you again.” She picks up her sander and pulls her safety goggles back down to her eyes. How does a girl like her make DIY look so fucking sexy? “I like the whiskey burgers at Wood’s Tavern. Pick me up here tomorrow at six?” Well, she made that way easier than I expected.

“Tomorrow at six. Whiskey burgers it is.” She waves and smiles before she starts up her power tools, leaving me to walk back into the tattoo parlor in a dreamy haze. I wonder if she’ll bring the side boob. “Hey, what are you doing out here, man?” Emmett steps through the back door behind the salon where I was just daydreaming. Asher right behind him. “You okay? We’ve got the truck loaded up out front.” “Yeah, I’m good. Just…reliving a happier time. This is where I met Lacey for the first time. Did I ever tell you guys that story?” Both of my brothers shake their heads. “God, she was something else.” I chuckle to myself. “She had the sexiest side boob I had ever seen and she was the one to basically ask me out because I was too chicken shit to make a move.” Asher scoffs out a laugh.

“Why do I find that so hard to believe? Girls have never scared you before.” “You’re right. They didn’t,” I answer. “But something about her made me weak. I was smitten from the very first hello.” Emmett clears his throat. “It was a little bit of a shock seeing her at Dad’s funeral.” “No shit. I thought I was seeing a ghost,” I tell them. “I don’t even know how she heard about Dad…unless her dad told her, I guess.” “Did she have much to say?” Asher asks. “We all saw you two talking, but Beckham wanted to give you guys your space.” I shake my head. “She really didn’t say too much other than she was sorry to hear about Dad and that she loved him like a second father. I guess I can’t blame her there.

She spent more time in his presence those couple of years than she did her own father.” Emmett nods. “Dad really liked her. Thought for sure she was the one.” “Yeah, well he wasn’t the only one. And who do you think went with me to buy her ring?” “Did she just come back for the funeral?” “Don’t know. She didn’t say.” Asher kicks a pebble across the ground. “And you didn’t ask her how long she was going to be in town?” I turn back for the door holding it open for my brothers and locking it one final time. “Nope.” “Why not? You’re letting her walk away again?” The three of us walk through what was once the tattoo parlor I took over when my predecessor moved on, and out the front door. “Letting her walk away again insinuates that she came back here for me, but she didn’t come back for me. She was merely an old flame at my father’s funeral. And I didn’t let her walk away because I had no idea she was going in the first place. The reality is, she’s the one who left me two years ago and never looked back.

” “What if she’s looking back now?” Asher asks. A small smirk playing on his lips. “You think I haven’t asked myself that question half a dozen times?” What will I do if she’s back to stay? What will I do if she wants to work things out? What will I say if the moment comes? Will I tell her how her leaving absolutely gutted me? Will I tell her she was the one person I was ever truly in love with? Will I tell her I would’ve done anything to make her happy? I stop next to the driver’s side door of the moving truck parked outside and cringe to myself knowing exactly what I’ll do if Lacey Evans is back in town permanently. “Look, what I want to do and what I know I’ll do are two completely different things.” Asher narrows his brow. “What do you want to do?” “I want to tell her to fuck off because she broke my heart, and I was crazy in love with her. I still have the ring I wanted to put on her finger in my sock drawer. How’s that for a miserable fuck?” Emmett nods, understanding all I’ve been through since Lacey left. “So, you want to tell her to fuck off but…” He raises his brow waiting for me to finish his sentence. I open my door and hop behind the wheel of the truck. Emmett and Asher climb in the passenger side door. I let out a long, frustrated sigh before I answer. “But I’ll take her back and do it all over again if it’s what she wants because I’m either that crazy in love and still believe there’s a chance for us, or I’m that much of an idiot that I would put myself through the pain and heartache all over again just to be able to have five fucking minutes with her in my arms again.” Emmett chuckles softly. “You’re definitely an idiot, Bro.

” He waits until I look at him before he continues. “But the fact that you’re willing to put yourself through the Lacey circus all over again has to count for something.” I turn the key in the ignition and the engine roars to life. “Yeah well, for all I know, she hopped a plane back to California and is sipping drinks by some Hollywood pool.” “Maybe,” Asher says. “But for what it’s worth, she didn’t look very Designer Hollywood at the funeral. I mean, she looked good but more…I don’t know…thrift shop diva?” A small laugh escapes me at Asher’s description of Lacey’s fashion sense. Her refusal of name brand, full priced anything was one of the things I loved about her. Correction. I love about her.


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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:04

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