"The whole city's been hit by this, Cor," Lydia said. "He won't be able to give you a ride either." Cora could tell her sister was talking through gritted teeth and imagined she was seconds away from popping a Xanax. Cora could almost hear the gears in Lydia's head turning as they attempted to turn up a solution. Lydia was used to being a woman in charge, and she didn't react well when things were out of her control.
"Just, just hold on," Lydia said, after a long inhale. "You'll be fine at Shea's house for the time being. We may have work differences, but he's a good guy. If he's okay with you riding out the storm there, then we'll just have to--"
"Riding out the storm?" Cora interrupted, panicked. This could not be happening. She'd barely managed to keep her hands of Shea last night in the middle of a public gathering. Being trapped with him in his house for who knew how long was out of the question. Cora had already resolved to forget about him, for Lydia's sake. "How long until I can get on the road again?"
"I'm not sure. Tomorrow at least, probably longer." Lydia cursed, and the sound of approaching paws accompanied it, as one of the cutest dogs Cora had ever seen slipped through the open door and trotted up to her. Cora stretched out a hand for the pup to sniff. The sweet-faced grey bulldog must belong to Shea. Sure enough, a moment later the man himself knocked, then strode through the door. It was a sweet gesture, given that she was an unwelcome visitor and this was his own house.
Cora had been hoping that alcohol had distorted her memory of Shea, and that without her rose-colored champagne goggles, she wouldn't find him so attractive. When he walked into the room, however, that wish went up in smoke. He was as magnetic as she remembered him, even without the gravitas of evening wear. Horrifyingly, Shea was even more alluring in a casual state. The urge to run her fingers through his sleep-tousled hair actually made Cora's hands twitch.
"I need to sort things out here, Lydia," Cora told her sister, smiling hesitantly at Shea. He seemed to be waiting for her to finish her phone call. "I'll call you back later."
Lydia grumbled something under her breath. "I'll keep watching the weather updates. I'm just glad you're okay, Cora. Tell Shea..." there was a long silence. "Nevermind. Talk to you later." Cora hung up, then glanced at her host again.
"Hi," she said, the stupidly couldn't think of anything else to add but "good morning." She petted Violet's head for comfort. "She's a beautiful dog." Cora stood up from where she was sitting on the bed, abandoning her comforter igloo in the process. "Listen, Shea, I'm really sorry about all of this. Lydia hired a limo to take us home and I was pretty out of it so I climbed into it thinking it was ours. I must have fallen asleep." Her cheeks burned. He must think she was a total idiot. "I didn't mean to inconvenience you or saddle you with lodging me during this blizzard."
"Lydia told me that the roads are closed here, but maybe there's somewhere nearby where the cabs are still running? Or Uber? I could just walk down there and get a ride. Really, I'm so sorry about all of this. I promise I don't usually get drunk and pass out in other people's vehicles."
Shea watched Violet sniff around and interact with Cora. The fact that Violet’s tail was wagging and she was more than happy to sniff Cora out was a good sign for Shea. Violet circling the blonde and trying to bring her paws on her was an even better sign, if not ruder. As soon as Shea got out of the stupor he fell in due to Cora’s beauty, he made his way into the room. It was an easier thing said than done when he initially told himself he was just going to comfort Cora. Comfort her, and made sure she had everything she needed. That was the main goal.
But the woman seemed as concerned as she was beautiful. It seemed like the only reason she initially didn’t seem concerned was being transfixed on something… something on him? Was it his teeth? Something in his hair? Shea looked down his shirt, relieved to see that there wasn’t any drool as he approached the bed. Hell, she even hung up on Lydia for something. Personally, Shea wouldn’t have minded if she kept talking to her sister. He even would have said some words as well, anything to put either of their minds at ease. He forgot about whatever Cora might’ve been looking at when seeing that smile again.
Shea wasn’t sure how he wasn’t just a puddle on the floor as he made it to the bed. “It’s really no problem at all.” He reassured Cora, looking at Violet turning and bringing his attention back to him. He wished that he could’ve promised Cora that she could’ve just gone out and gotten the Uber, but it was no use. “At least for a few days, apparently only emergency vehicles are allowed on the roads until the snow clears”, Shea said. “Even Karen can only manage to drone things in and out, and I’ve seen Karen pull off some crazy things.” He said with almost a sense of disbelief.
After all, for as long as Shea knew her, Karen was a bit of a silent assassin in the personal assistant game. One time she even managed to transport a ten foot chocolate statue in the middle of July without air conditioning, without a single morsel out of place. Yet not even she could control the weather unfortunately. He froze, immediately looking her over. There was no way that anyone was going to make it out there. Shea wasn’t going to let her do something that risky, not in this weather. “And please, you don’t have to do that. I’d much rather you stay than put yourself in any danger out there.” He said, trying to keep calm.
Shea sat down, Violet immediately jumping up between them. Her tail was happily wagging as he pet her, patting her tummy. There was no use bringing up the mistake that caused this whole mess in the first place – if he knew Lydia, she would’ve taken care of scolding her little sister. So he let it go, instead focusing on petting the happy Violet. He was surprised that she had that much energy first thing in the morning. When he let her go, Violet went over to the cocoon of blankets Cora previously occupied, rolling around. Shea raised his brow. Well that was quite the reaction.
“She likes you,” Shea said, moving over and getting Violet back in his lap “Isn’t that right princess?” he asked, kissing her nose and head while rubbing her tummy. “She’s hard to impress,” Shea said, letting Violet back on the floor. He smiled when she went back over to Cora’s side. “Her brothers are much more people-people. Well, people dogs.” He said, clearing his throat to cover his mistake. Shea stood back up, facing Cora. “Karen… left some spare clothes in the closet off the bathroom. I don’t know if you want to shower or anything but … we could eat and meet the rest the boys?” he offered.
To Cora's relief, Shea didn't seem angry or upset about the situation. She hadn't expected him to be, either. They'd only known each other for a brief, intoxicated time, but he'd been nothing but a gentleman during it. Shea crossed the room to sit next to her and Cora gave him a nervous smile. Her stomach was still fluttering at his proximity, making it very clear that any hopes of her attraction to him simply going away were futile.
She'd just resolved to stay away from him last night, and now they were trapped in a house together for the foreseeable future. If it wasn't her life, Cora might find this funny.
Violet jumped up on the bed with them before rolling around excitedly in Cora's abandoned blankets. Cora cooed softly to the pup. Her apartment complex had a no animal policy, at least nothing that couldn't be kept in a tank. The closest thing Cora had to a pet was a succulent, one she'd almost killed last year. Shea clearly had more space for a dog. "If you're sure it's okay... I guess we don't have much of a choice." Realizing how that sounded, Cora quickly corrected herself. "What I mean is thank you for letting me stay here."
At the mention of a shower and a change of clothes, Cora perked up. Warm water sounded like heaven right now, as did wiping the remnants of her makeup off of her face and getting out of this dress. "A shower would be lovely. I don't suppose you have an extra toothbrush?" Judging by how thorough Karen seemed to be at her job, Cora was willing to bet he did. After the shower, she could meet "the boys", which Cora assumed where Shea's dogs and not human roommates. "How many dogs do you have?
Shea knew that the situation wasn’t comfortable, but at least the two of them seemed to be taking it pretty well. He had more than enough space and resources for Cora and Cora… well only to him and Karen, he wouldn’t mind if Cora stayed forever. Her beauty was enough to wake the dead. “Of course,” He said with a soft smile. “And yes. Karen made sure you’d have at least what you needed in there,” he said, remember the list included clean clothes (unbeknownst to him, included one of his sweatshirts), towels, lotions, dental hygiene materials and even face wipes.
“Three. Vi’s the oldest” Shea answered, smiling as he saw how cute Violet looked when she was this happy. “Isn’t that right princess?” He cooed, petting her stomach. Watching her roll around and wag her tail made him smile even more, and almost made him forget the situation. He stopped though, once the situation came back to him. “Yeah uh… we’ll let you go. Karen’ll direct you down to the breakfast. ” Shea said, trying to get Violet off the bed with a simple command. When it was clear that Violet didn’t want to leave, Shea felt like he had no choice. “Come on you,” Shea groaned as he picked Violet up and carried her out of the room.
Once they were about three feet away from the guest bedroom, something Violet seemed to control more than Shea, he put her down with a mischievous glare. “You’re getting far too big to be spoiled like that princess.” He smirked. But calling her princess and carrying her out was probably not helping with the case. The two of them went downstairs, with Max, Big Mac and Karen waiting for them. Shea sat at one of the kitchen stools, planting his head on the marble counter. “Violet loves her,” he said as Karen handed him coffee. “She’s still incredible, and Violet loves her and,” he groaned.
“How’m I going to survive the next couple of days?” He said as he smelled eggs and cheese on the skillet. He was thankful – he hadn’t really thought about what to do for breakfast, and it was just the three of them here. “You know, you could let me cook too,” Shea suggested as he started to calm down. “In the meantime…” He said, getting up and getting the wet dog food and mashed sweet potato out of the fridge. Shea started scooping the food and sweet potato into their bowls: like hell were his babies going to eat kibble every day. Even the fancy shit smelled like ass, and probably tasted as much too.
Shea watched the dogs eat, petting Big Mac’s fur before going to wash his hands. The minutes passed and before he knew it he was alone with the dogs. He wasn’t going to question a lot of things about Karen, but how she knew Cora was ready was beyond him.
After a brief conversation about Shea's dogs and the bathroom amenities, Shea left Cora to get ready. He had to carry out Violet, who didn't seem to want to leave. Cora put a hand over her mouth to hide her smile. Shea clearly doted on his dogs, another in a long list of admirable qualities. When she was alone, Cora took a steadying breath. She was a grown woman, for pete's sake. There was no reason to go cross-eyed over a man who was nice to his dog. Especially not when that man was completely off limits.
As promised, the bathroom was stocked with all the necessities. More than the necessities, in fact. It was a little ridiculous how many things Karen had scrounged up. If Cora didn't know better, she'd think they'd been expecting guests. It only confirmed Cora's suspicions that Karen was very good at her job.
Cora started by cleaning the remaining makeup off of her face, relieved to see that she didn't look like a total disaster. She folded up her dress and set in on the bedside table before taking an indulgently long shower. The warm water and steam soothed her slight hangover and her nerves. When her hair was dry, Cora slipped into the clothing that had been left for her. The pants fit well enough, but the sweatshirt required some serious sleeve rolling. At least it was soft. It smelled nice too, a bit like Shea's cologne. Cora wondered with a start if Karen had pilfered some of Shea's clothes. Hopefully he wouldn't mind.
As she was exiting the bedroom, Cora almost ran into Karen, who directed her to the kitchen. Cora inhaled deeply as she entered, her stomach growling at the promise of eggs and something cheesy. "Smells delicious."
Shea tried to keep his focus between eating his eggs and watching the dogs eat. This would be easier if Karen was here to distract him, even scare him with her incredibly startling appearances. But it was no use. He had to acknowledge that Cora was going to be here for at least a couple of days, and that so far, she didn’t seem to hate being here. Which Shea thought was perfect enough for him, but it was only the first day for both of them. Karen had gone off somewhere, claiming it was paperwork to keep her busy. Shea knew better than to question her, and thought he could relish the alone time before having to keep his head on.
The quiet moment stopped when he heard footsteps coming into the kitchen. They were footsteps far too gentle and not silent to be Karen’s. And the dogs were already here, paying no attention to a lot else so far. Turning around, he confirmed his guess about Cora making her way into the kitchen. Shea took the view in: Her makeup was completely gone now, but her face still made him weak. He had no idea how Karen found pants to fit her that well but what was on top stood out the most. Specifically because it was his sweatshirt. He was tempted to swallow more of his eggs simply to not say anything to make him sound too stupid or embarrassing.
Instead, Shea did his best to compose himself as he smiled at her. “Yeah, Karen makes pretty good eggs.” He said, not stupid enough to credit himself for this – his employee or not, she had eyes and ears all over the damn place. “Feeling any better?” he asked as he got up handed Cora some coffee, letting her help herself to anything she wanted to add to it. It seemed that the motion had distracted the others; Violet was content with finishing her food but soon Max and Big Mac abandoned their dishes in favor of greeting the new friend in front of them. With their paws, and tongues.
“Max, Big Mac, down.” Shea commanded, pleased to see that at least they listened to him… well at least more than Violet did. “Sorry about that,” he apologized as he made his way to the trio. “The boys are a lot friendlier than Vi sometimes,” he explained as he knelt, Max licking first his hand then his face. “This,” Shea said when he could not be tagged down by Max’s tongue, “is Max. And this big mouth is Big Mac.” He joked as the smaller dog got his paws back on Cora’s legs. Violet joined them, the trio of dogs happy to see the two of them. “You must be hungry,” Shea suggested, “let me get you some eggs.” He offered, standing back up and letting the dogs focus their energy back on Cora.