A/N: I am trying an experiment with this story. When the number of reviews end in 50, I will post updates every day for a week. When it is divisible by 100, I will post a short from Rick's POV. Have fun reading.
"What do you use? They are so clear."
I look up from drying one of the café's large front windows to see a tall, dark haired man looking at the window in genuine interest. He is the seventh man—and eleventh person—to comment on my work today, but mostly they asked jokingly if I'd do their windows. I shook my head or joked back or sent inside them to talk to Hector depending on the person and my mood. Hector is looking for a formerly straight man with kids. He is always looking, even when he has one. The guy he's with now is near retirement with grown children and is tired all the time.
This guy is too young for Hector, who likes his with gray hair. He is a customer. I've seen him come in before and waited on him a time or two. He normally wears a suit and tie; today he's casual, but as impeccably dressed as ever in black jeans and a white polo shirt. A few minutes ago his female companion left in a huff, but he doesn't seem upset. If anything he is more relaxed than when they were not quite arguing over coffee. I grin and shake my piece of T-shirt fabric. "I'm using industrial stuff, but it isn't so much what you use—you can use straight vinegar if you want. The trick is to get all the dirt off then dry the glass thoroughly."
He nods and sits down at one of the outdoor tables. "Thanks. I never washed a window in my life until last month and now they look worse than before."
I dip the wet cloth in the bucket and wring it out. He is still watching me. I don't mind being watched. I'm a swimmer. I'm used to standing nearly naked under the gaze of people in clothes. I'm also pretty good at controlling my reactions. I'd have to be. Otherwise I couldn't watch the divers. Some of those guys are pretty fine.
This guy is built like a diver: wide shoulders, thin hips, strong arms. He's fine as well. I pull my gaze away before climbing the step ladder to get the top of the next section of window. The slick chemical mixture runs down my arm. I should have wrung the cloth out better. I glance back at him. He's still watching. It wouldn't hurt to flirt even if he is straight. "Why last month?"
"She," he waves in the direction the woman went, "kicked me out a while ago. The windows in my new apartment were clean when I moved in. But now that the weather's warming up, I've been opening my curtains. It's hard to look at the boys' fingerprints on the glass when they don't live with me."
I freeze on my way down the ladder. Maybe flirting is a bad idea. Maybe I should just ignore him. He stands and hands me the dry cloth. Somehow I don't think he wants to be ignored. He waves down the street again. "She's got a business trip she didn't tell me about, so I have the boys for the next four days. This isn't her first sudden trip. Last month she didn't pack Avery's blankey, one of Caden's shoes, or the permission slip so Noah could go to the zoo with the rest of his class. I couldn't just get them; she's changed the locks."
If all he wants to do is complain to a captive audience, I can deal. But there is no way I'm getting myself involved with a father of three, no matter how fine he is. And this one is so very fine.
I move the ladder and get to work on the lower part of the window. He comes to stand a little too close as he explains how he dashed around putting out the fires Sophia's actions sparked. I step toward the door and see the reflection in the glass of his arm coming towards me then dropping as he clinches his fist. The guy is fine enough for a good romp if I was the kind that romped, but I don't know how I feel about being someone's security blanket. Or whatever I am to this stranger.
When I turn, he is looking down and scuffing his shoes on the sidewalk. He looks like a kicked puppy. He sure makes a cute puppy though. I put on my best smile. "I'll be right back."
I open the door and lean through the doorway. "I'm about to wash above the door. Does anyone need to leave? I'll only be five minutes."
Most customers shake their heads. Three look at their watches. One of these gets up. I step back outside. The guy is watching me. I wipe my hands on the dry cloth then hold out my hand. "I'm Pete."
The guy nods. "I know. Rick Hartman."
His hand is warm and strong in mine. He doesn't want to let me go and I can feel a blush rise to my cheeks. He knows who I am? As the funny looking guy in the 'desert island pirate' getup? Or as the gold medal winner of the 400 and 1500 meter freestyles and the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes plus silver in the 200 meter butterfly and all three relays at the latest college meet?
No, he couldn't possibly know that.
"So, Rick…" but I'm spared actually coming up with anything to say by customers walking out the door. I flash Rick a grin then move the ladder in front of the door. Two women rush down the sidewalk, waving at me to wait. I let them in then move the ladder back. I meet Rick's eye. "Watch this."
I take one slow, deliberate step onto the ladder and in the café two women get to their feet. Both had shaken their heads earlier. One comes to the door as the other pays for their meal. I tell her not to worry. I'll wait. When she and her companion leave, I start on the window above the door then the door itself. No one else asks to go in or out, but as soon as I step back to critique my work all the customers but the two most recent ask for their tabs.
I smile at Rick. He's looking at the ground again. I take pity on him. "Let me put these away." I hold up the bucket and towels. "I need to wash the tables. It's a little chilly to be eating outside, but you never know."
"It's nice in the sun," he says a little defensively.
I want to kiss him.
I hurry inside. I do not want hot, sweaty sex with Rick. I don't. I don't. I don't. I fill a bucket with sanitizer and get a clean towel, but as I head back outside, I still haven't convinced myself. I haven't had a boyfriend since high school. We were on the swim team and our relationship ran hot and fast until I qualified for State and he didn't. I thought he'd get over it but when I got back he flicked his finger against my gold medal and said that since I had that I didn't need him.
I get lots of offers, but I'm not a one-nighter or sex friend kind of guy. I'm a hopeless romantic. I won't deny it. Nothing is romantic about sex with a stranger. Even if the stranger is six two, has dark blue eyes, a square jaw with just the hint of a five o'clock shadow, and a voice like a caress. Even if his face lights up with I come into view.
I take several deep breaths, unable to keep the silly grin off my face. I hide my wood by leaning over to clean a table. Rick sits down on the chair opposite me. He doesn't look soft either. But luckily I'm only halfway through my four hour shift. He'll be long gone by the time I can leave. Temptation will be removed and I won't be in any danger of giving in.
Right now I need five minutes in a locked bathroom. Maybe two minutes, Rick is that fine.