The Pool Boy (A Romance Novella)

By: Penny Wylder


“How bad was it?” I ask.

“It honestly wasn’t too bad. A few weeds here and there, some deadfall to trim, but nothing terrible,” he says, his eyes warm. “First time back in a while? Maybe you were away on vacation, or…?”

“I wish.” I run a hand through my hair in frustration. “I’ve actually been busy with these job interviews and stuff. It’s all I think about. And then today…” I gesture blindly toward the house, unable to put into words the conflict with my dad. Not to mention he’s a total stranger. I can’t believe I’m standing here confessing all of this. “Anyway, I was just hoping to blow off some steam,” I finish. “I’m Vera.” I hold out my hand, which he takes.

A hot jolt runs through me. His grip is firm and his hands are rough and calloused. I can feel my cheeks heating. “I’m James London,” he says. “Nice to meet you.”

I nod, reluctantly letting go of his hand. “Nice to meet you, too.”

I look back toward the house, and see someone at the patio doors. It’s been only a few minutes since I left, and I’m sure it’s my mother looking out to check on me. I imagine her seeing me talking to a caretaker and smile. There’s an opportunity here, and I’m not going to waste it. I look back at James. “Do you need any help?”

His eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “You want to help me?”

“Well, I was going to work in my garden. But since I can’t…” I smile.

“Right.” He laughs a little nervously. “Well, sure. I still need to water all of the flowers here, and add some new soil. I can go grab the bags if you keep watering.”

“That I can do.” My mom will see me working with James, and I have no doubt she’ll tell my dad. Being able to look at someone this hot and piss off my parents at the same time? This is a priceless opportunity.

He hands me the hose, and I aim it at the flowers. I definitely, definitely watch him walk away and back toward the utility building. I wasn’t focused on his ass when I was about to yell at him, but now that I look…yeah. I didn’t think it was possible to be attracted to a guy’s ass. I guess this proves that theory wrong.

When James comes back out of the building, he has two bags of soil on his shoulder. The shirt they gave him doesn’t fit him well, and it keeps riding up as he walks, affording me some priceless views of his tight abs. I’m about to call up that company and say thank you. The skin I see is tan and toned, and suddenly I realize that he’s looking at me looking at him, and I’m watering the ground and not the flowers.

I look away, a flush of embarrassment rolling over my whole body.

He sets down the bags by the flowerbed I’m watering and starts to add new soil around the existing and newly planted flowers. “So, Vera.” I think I hear a smile in his voice, but maybe he talks to everyone that way. “What kind of jobs are you applying to?”

“Architecture.”

“Following in your dad’s footsteps?” It’s so unexpected that I look over at him. He says, “I know who your father is.”

“Yeah…” I clear my throat. “His line of work isn’t exactly what I’m interested in.” I move on to the next flowerbed.

“What are you interested in?”

Part of me doesn’t want to tell him, afraid that he’ll judge me just as harshly as my friends and family. But I dismiss my hesitation—he’s just trying to make conversation. “Ultimately I’d like my work to be humanitarian. Hopefully someday overseas. I probably won’t be able to do that right away, but I’d like to be part of a firm that’s at least interested in that.” I glance over at him, trying to read his reaction.

He gives me a look and an encouraging nod. “That’s a beautiful goal to have. I’m sorry you’re not having good luck.”

“How did you know that?”

He packs down some dirt. “If you were having good luck, you probably wouldn’t be home in the middle of the day or need to blow off steam.”

“Right,” I laugh. “Good point.”

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