Once he had his arms wrapped around her and her cheek pressed to his, it was harder to let go than he expected. Finally, he forced himself back, dropping his hands at his sides and breaking the connection he’d quickly come to crave. And yet, he couldn’t get himself to say good-night and go back to his truck. “Listen, before you go can I ask you about something?”
“Sure,” she said, although there was a hesitation in her voice that made him think she’d much rather flee than continue talking to him in the cold. She must not think he’d taken the hint.
“I’m thinking about giving Lily and Frankie the old house as a wedding present.”
“The house you and Lily grew up in?” she asked with raised brows.
“Yes. It’s been sitting mostly empty the last few years. Lily has been living with Frankie in the little apartment over his motorcycle shop. They seem to think that’s great, but they’re going to need more space if they want to start a family.”
“That’s a pretty amazing wedding present. Not many people register for a house.”
Colin shrugged. “I don’t need it. I have my place. It’s paid for, so all they’d have to worry about are taxes and insurance. The only problem is that it needs to be cleaned out. I never had the heart to go through all of Mom’s and Dad’s things. I want to clear all that out and get it ready for the newlyweds to make a fresh start there.”
Natalie nodded as he explained. “That sounds like a good plan. What does it have to do with me?”
“Well,” Colin said with an uncharacteristically sheepish smile, “I was wondering if you would be interested in helping me.”
She flinched at first, covering her reaction by shuffling her feet in the cold. “I don’t know that I’ll be much help to you, Colin. For one thing, I’m a wedding planner, not an interior decorator. And for another thing, I work most of the weekends with weddings. I don’t have a lot of free time.”
“I know,” he said, “and I’m not expecting any heavy lifting on your part. I was thinking more of your organizational skills and keen aesthetic eye. It seems to me like you could spot a quality piece of furniture or artwork that’s worth keeping amongst the piles of eighties-style recliners.”
There was a light of amusement in her eyes as she listened to him speak. “You’re completely in over your head with this one, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea. My business is landscaping, and that’s the one thing at the house that doesn’t need any work. I overhauled it a few years ago and I’ve had it maintained, so the outside is fine. It’s just the inside. I also thought it would be nice to decorate the house for Christmas since they get back from their honeymoon on Christmas Eve. That way it will be ready to go for the holidays.”
The twinkle in her eye faded. “I’m no good with Christmas, Colin. I might be able to help you with some of the furniture and keepsakes, but you’re on your own when it comes to the holidays.”
That made Colin frown. Most people enjoyed decorating for Christmas. Why was she so opposed to it? In his eyes it wasn’t much different from decorating for a wedding. He wasn’t about to push that point, however. “Fair enough. I’m sure I can handle that part on my own. Do you have plans tonight?”
Natalie sighed and shook her head. “I’m not going out with you, Colin.”
He held up his hands in surrender. “I didn’t ask you out. I asked if you were busy. I thought if you weren’t busy, I’d take you by the old house tonight. I know you don’t have a lot of free time, so if you could just take a walk through with me this evening and give me some ideas, I could get started on it.”
“Oh,” she said, looking sheepish.
“I mean, I could just pay a crew to come and clean out the house and put everything in storage, but I hate to do that. Some things are more important than others, and I’ll want to keep some of it. Putting everything in storage just delays the inevitable. I could use your help, even if for just tonight.”
Natalie sighed and eventually nodded. “Sure. I have some time tonight.”
“Great. We’ll take my car and I’ll bring you back when we’re done,” Colin said.
He got the distinct impression that if he let Natalie get in her car, she’d end up driving somewhere other than their old neighborhood, or make some excuse for a quick getaway. He supposed that most men agreed to just being friends, but secretly hoped for more. Colin meant what he’d said and since she’d agreed, there was no need to slink away with his tail between his legs.