“Nope.” She winks.
“You’re completely different than Lilac,” I say before I can think better of it.
“Our Lilac’s special.” Damn right she is.
She studies me for a minute before reaching forward and squeezing my bicep. “I think you’ll do.”
Did she just give me her approval? She doesn’t know anything about me.
“Now, put the box down. We have work to do.”
I set the box on the table on the porch before following her around the house. She indicates a ladder leaning against the side.
“Do you want gloves? I think I have a pair in the shed.”
Gloves? Why would I need gloves?
“The gutters can get clogged with dirt as well as twigs and other debris.”
Does she mean for me to clean the gutters?
“I’ll be back with some refreshments in an hour,” she says and saunters away.
“Why am I cleaning your gutters?” I shout after her.
She rolls her eyes. “You can’t expect my husband to do it. He’s afraid of heights.”
At least I didn’t dress up to meet Mrs. West today. I remove my sweatshirt and climb the ladder to begin my assigned task.
I’ve barely begun to work when I hear a bottle opening. I look down to discover Lyric, Rowan, Cole, and Maverick sitting in chairs on the lawn. They’ve got a cooler between them and they’re each holding a bottle of beer.
“What are you doing here?”
“Enjoying the show. Cheers!” Cole lifts his bottle in the air.
“Me cleaning gutters is the show?”
“It’s not much of a show unless you take your shirt off,” Maverick claims.
“Yeah, Becky Boy, why don’t you take your shirt off?” I glance to the side and discover a group of elderly women dragging chairs across the lawn.
Lyric and Rowan jump to their feet to help the women. They set up the chairs and the women settle in them to apparently watch me clean gutters.
“I didn’t realize Winter Falls was so boring, people got a kick out of watching someone clean gutters,” I yell down to them.
“Oh please.” One of the women rolls her eyes. “This isn’t about you cleaning gutters.”
“This is the West family initiation ritual,” another woman says.
I swallow the lump that suddenly appears in my throat. Another initiation ritual. How many hoops do I have to jump through for Lilac? Not that I mind. She’s worth jumping through all the hoops, although I do hope none of them are on fire. One incident with Cassandra and a match too close to my beard was enough for a lifetime.
Lyric points to the first woman to speak. “This is Sage. She’s the police dispatcher and a pain in my ass.”
The woman blows him an air kiss. “You couldn’t live without me, and you know it.”