I opened my mouth to say no but I couldn’t. I wanted to see it. I nodded, “Yeah. When is the next one?”


He smirked like he was daring me to come, “Tomorrow night.”

“Okay, good. I’ll see you then.” The conversation was awkward. I was awkward. I didn’t know what had changed. I didn’t want to know.

I got back into the car. When he got back in, he gave me a look.

“What?” I asked.

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He shook his head dismissively, “You hungry?”

Not in the mood for his bizarre behavior, I looked out the window, “No thanks.”

When he parked outside of our place, I dreaded dragging everything up the stairs but he grabbed most of it. I grabbed a couple things and ran and got the door for him. He was halfway up the second flight of stairs, when a watermelon started to slip from his hands. I didn’t notice until he had it pinned to the wall and wasn’t walking.

He nodded at me, “Grab this.”

I slid my free arm under it, cradling the huge thing in my bicep. Our bodies were pressed against each other. I froze mid-rescue when he smelled my hair.

Lifting it out safely, I quickly ran up the stairs with my now full arms.

He smelled my hair? What was that? Was he turning on the charms? Shit… Hair smelling was pretty hot. Unless he was like, what was that bad smell and then smelled my head? Or if he was a crazy stalker, that wasn’t hot. Shit, did my hair stink?

I placed down the bags and unlocked the door for him. He didn’t even thank me. He dumped everything on the counter and started putting it all away.

I gave him a confused look, “What happened at Costco? Why were you and Gerry suddenly not talking?”

He stopped and watched me for a second. “He thinks I should ask you out and try to keep my rep a little cleaner. He thinks a nice girl like you is the answer.”

I swallowed hard, “Nice girls don’t like boys like you.”

He stepped towards me, “I find nice girls aren’t usually being honest with themselves. They’re trying so hard to be normal, that they forget to have fun. When you get them to loosen up, it’s like striking gold.”

I gulped, “I like normal. It’s safe. It’s predicable and easy.”

He gave me a confused look, “You have one chance in life to make it something special. Why would you waste it on mediocrity? Safe and easy is for pussies. Be amazing and different. Be grateful for the uniqueness in you.”

I rolled my eyes, “Thanks, Tony Robbins.” I wanted to be friends with him but mocking him was safer.

He snorted, “That’s how I want to live my life. You never know when choosing safe is stopping you from being incredible.” He lifted my new book, “On a lighter note, the Brothers of County Claire? Maybe you’re not such a nice girl after all. Maybe you’re naughty girl.” His eyes were on fire.

I reached for the book but he lifted it. I ended up standing with my chest against his as I reached for. He lowered it with a smug look.

I snatched it from his hands, “I like reading. Nice girls read.” My stomach was aching. I wanted to be ‘naughty girl’. His motivational speech made me think about the things I was missing, like him.

He gave me a look, “How many books you reading a week? You think I haven’t noticed you’re here every night? All you do is hang here.”

I frowned and started putting things into cupboards, “I’m getting in the habit for school. What does it matter?”

He grabbed my hand and I watched the shift. He went from joking with me for being a nice girl, to trying to take my pants off. He leaned against me, pushing me into the counter. He cocked his head, glanced down the top of my shirt, and then placed his hands on either side of me, trapping me, “My sister reads those. Calls them one-handed reads.”

My cheeks flushed but I didn’t back down. I leaned into him, pressing my chest right into his, “Yeah, that’s what all girls call them. Nice girls just don’t say it out loud. They’re better than the real thing. The Brothers of County Claire don’t leave their shit everywhere or have mood swings. They don’t check out other girls. They get me off and get lost, and I don’t need shots and regular check ups.”

His eyes locked on mine, “Maybe you just haven’t had the right real thing.”

I fluttered my lashes at him, “Oh, you mean being graced with one whole night with the lead singer of Thin Ice?” I pushed him off me and walked past him, “Thanks but I’ll pass.

He grabbed my arm, but I dropped my book and went for my mace. He looked startled, dropping his grip.

He put his hands in the air, “I wasn’t going to hurt you. I would never. I thought we were messing around.”

I swallowed and looked down. I bent and picked up my book. My breath got caught in my throat. I turned and ran for my bedroom. I closed the door and gripped the book to my chest with my back against the door.

I didn’t want him to see it. I was strong once. I didn’t need help. I had to be strong.

I curled up on my bed and started my book. I saw every face as his. He made my one-handed read better than it had ever been. Fantasy was so much better than reality.

I fell asleep as I finished the book but the night was a hot one.

I tossed once more before flinging even the last sheet off of me. My tank top and boxers felt like a sweaty death trap. Even with the windows both open, the heat was intense. I growled, climbing out of the bed, and stumbled down the hall to the kitchen. I opened the double-door fridge and let the cool air blast me. I sighed, throwing my head back. The heat was too much.

I glanced at the carton of almond milk he swore by and took it from the fridge. It was cold and damp in my hands. I held the cold carton against my chest. I lifted my tank top, tucked it under my boobs, and grabbed another carton. I held it against my stomach, flipping them both as they heated from my sweating body. I closed my eyes and moaned. “Mmmmm.”

“That’s a good sound.” He interrupted my cooling bliss.

I jumped, putting the cartons back. My cheeks flushed, not that it mattered. They were flushed anyway.

The light of the fridge shone down on my guilty face, like a spotlight.

He leaned against the counter, in boxers only. I could just see his tattoos in the dimly-lit room.

I turned, closing the door, “Sorry.” The kitchen was nearly pitch black with the fridge closed.

He switched on the small light above the stove, “Did it feel good?”

I nodded, “I’m dying.”

He walked around the counter, his heat made my skin burst into a fresh layer of sweat. He reached beside me, brushing his hairy arm against my thigh, pulling the freezer drawer out. He pulled a bag of edamame we got from Costco, and passed it to me. I took it and smiled.

“How was the book?” His tone was laden with absurdity.

I laughed, “Good. Predictable. I like that.” I went to put the frozen bag on my chest but he shook his head, taking it back.

He reached around behind me, “On the back of your neck.” I jumped when the shocking cold hit my skin. He held it there, looming over me with his intense stare. I made a sound, I don’t think either of us were sure what it was.

He looked confused as I stepped back.

“That’s cold.”

He nodded, “Yup.” He grabbed a bag of peas and did the same thing. “So you like predictable?” he asked, as he opened the fridge and passed me a bottle like a beer but it wasn’t.

“Yeah.” I turned the top, taking a drink and sighing. It was a cranberry lemonade alcohol.

He grabbed a beer and drank it.

I raised an eyebrow, “You got these for me?”

He shook his head, “I like to have lady drinks on hand.”

I groaned, “Ewww. I’m drinking a whore lemonade, aren’t I?”

He laughed and stretched, flexing all his glistening muscles. I didn’t mind the heat suddenly. If it made him look like that, it had to be good. Well, until he opened his mouth, “You’re so judgmental. Don’t you ever just get laid for the sake of getting laid?”

Even in the dim light, my horrified face could not be hidden.

“Okay, I guess not. Maybe you should try it, instead of just reading all the time. You’re awfully stuck up, princess. I can help you relax, if you want.”

I gasped, “I am not. Why? Because I don’t want to give myself to everyone I meet? I have more self-respect than to let someone like you touch me.”

His stare turned cold and intense. The amused look on his face was like a distant memory. He stepped into me, brushing my chest against his abs, “If I touched you, you would like it.” He lowered his face close to mine, “If I wanted to kiss you, princess, I would and you would love it and beg me for more.” He lingered.

My discomfort was muted by the intense animalistic instincts rushing through my body. He grinned and backed off, “You want me, as much as I want you.”

I shook my head, “You’re egotistical. I would never let you touch me. Not someone like you.” I stepped back and around the counter.

I felt him watching me as I slapped the edamame on the counter and retreated to my stifling bedroom. I closed the door, but he was there within seconds opening it. I pressed my back against the cold wall, as he looked down on me. His body was huge and frightening in all the right ways, looming over me like that. He spoke softly, “We need the windows and doors open for the cross breeze. Trust me, you Northerners have no clue how to cool a house off. I got this.”

I sipped my lemonade and relived every second of the kitchen.

The feeling of his arm hair brushing against my thigh. His sweaty, hard body standing so close to mine that my braless breasts squished against his abs. I breathed through my mouth and shook my head. He was right, I wanted him. And even worse, I loved that he wanted me.

The memories of the redheads and the trashy blonde, and the sleazy look he got on his face in Costco, were hard to reach with that much blood being gone from my brain.

My attraction was undeniable. As was his ability to sleep with everything he spoke to. That had to be a deterrent but no, my body wanted him and my brain was even on board. Didn’t I care that he slept with every girl he spoke to?

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