Chapter Four

“What did you do?” Charlie asked. “Couldn’t you at least run more than your greasy fingers through it before coming into my shop?” Charlie, or Charlene as her aging parents had originally named her, placed a fisted hand, the one which held her comb, on her well-cushioned hip.

“Anything to get a rise out of you, Charlie.” Richard grinned and the blue in his eyes sparkled like those in a playful boy.

She shook her head in response and grabbed a spray bottle off the chrome-plated counter. When she’d seen this place, twenty-odd years ago as a traditional barber shop while straddling her Harley, looking for a place to set up, chrome, she had decided. Once it was all done up in chrome, it’d be just fine and would suit the town to upgrade its looks somewhere within half a century of the new one. It would be a hell-of-a stretch for Fairplay, Colorado. “And what about gumming up my tools? Is that part of it? A little shampoo wouldn’t hurt.”

“It would if you planned on sneaking up on the fish tomorrow morning.”

So that was his great plan for the weekend, huh? She sighed inwardly. And if anything, he’d be taking one or two of his male buddies with him. “Well at least you want to look good for them.” She tackled his thick, unruly mane with her strongest comb and sharpest scissors.

“At least I’ll be able to see the engine I’m wrenching on next week.”

She clucked as she worked, muttering loudly. “To think my fine haircut is going to be wasted on the trout. Any other plans besides fishing this weekend? Like maybe being sociable with humans. Would be good to re-acquaint yourself with the opposite sex.”

“I’m acquainting with you, aren’t I?” He shot her that crooked half-smile that nearly crinkled a wink of exclusivity and definitely eased the strong, angular jaw line. “And there’s my customers.”

The boy was being difficult. She went search and rescue, and recovered a part in his hair, started trimming around his ears. Even nearing thirty he could behave like the six-year-old he’d been when his parents first brought him to her, especially when it came to the topic of him hooking up with another woman in the near future, or any future, she began to wonder, fighting off a touch of despondency as she tackled the back of his neck with her trimmers.

Everyone needed someone now and again. She had hers; a friend with benefits was what they were calling it. It worked for them because the town could handle it, too. Fishing buddies couldn’t be enough, and she cared for this one. He’d grown between each visit, that chair being a witness, head rising past the seat back, no longer needing a booster box, then lanky through high school, not a scrap of fat to be found, not today either, but he’d developed a set of heavy muscles since then probably by working those hand tools since taking over his father’s auto shop. Yeah, he was her special little, but not so little anymore, guy, and he was past the hurt, or so he had claimed on his last visit. If he was all healed up, then why wasn’t he out there dating again, giving it another go? If he didn’t, he’d still be nursing his wounds.

“What about the other half?”

His question stirred her into action, bringing her hands and tools back to his hair after having fallen away as she had drifted too long in thought. “Alright,” she recovered, “I won’t leave you lopsided if you make sure at least one woman, not including me or customers, sees my hard work.”

His wide shoulders lifted in a shrug as his hard neck muscles kept his head from moving. “I’ll take a stroll down main street after the fish are done with me, how ‘bout that?”

She arched a brow, gave him a look, holding her scissors and comb in suspense.

“Alright; I’ll won’t be smelling like fish and I’ll even make it all the way to the tourist stop.”

It was the best she would get, and she went back to snipping, although the tourists they attracted were a tenth of a decimal percent of any amusement park, most of them anglers, too. Maybe he’d find a nice rafting girl, stopping here for gas as she headed south. She finished his trim, somewhat satisfied but also thinking maybe this afternoon after closing shop, she’d have to visit the tourist stop herself, witness the deal being fulfilled.

And as he paid the bill, he asked how her truck was running and about rotating the tires before the cold weather moved in when she would shelve her bike until late spring. After receiving a brief promise that she would be seen in his shop in the near future, he headed for the door.

“Thanks, Charlie. ‘Can always count on you for a trim and a lecture.” His smile was warm though, obviously not taking her concern for granted.

“No charge on the latter.”

He tossed back. “After fishing, maybe I’ll even pick up a hitchhiker on my way back.”

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