Authors: Tess Highcroft
Tags: #Summer, #Love & Romance, #novella, #Contemporary, #romance, #Genre Fiction, #Women's Fiction
Cover: Allie Gerlach
Website: Lynn Jatania /
Sweet Smart Design
Copyright © 2015 Tess Highcroft
Visit Tess at
All rights reserved
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
HE LOVES THIS LAST
part of the bus ride, as her stop approaches. She stands as soon as they pull out of the last station before hers. There’s something stimulating about the movement of the bus swaying her body.
They’re hurtling along in a sunken trench between straight–cut rock face walls, then the speed eases, they follow a slight curve and climb a small rise — just enough to lean her body right, and then push it back — and they emerge into the bright sunshine, with the river sparkling ahead, and she steps to the door as the bus brakes, and yells. “Thank you!” to the driver as she steps off.
How could she not be in a good mood when this is her stop? So, OK, yes, she doesn’t live exactly
. Not right along the river. But close enough.
Yes, she’s left her bike locked to a signpost on the other side of the road because it’s a bit of a long walk to her apartment. But, still, it’s a great part of the city. It’s a great
She’s so much happier here than she was in the skyscraper–towering, subway grate–exhaling, gum–on–sidewalk–sticking metropolis where she spent four years studying.
That happiness bounces her step, swings her arms, and makes her hum as she follows the path to her waiting bike.
Someone else is waiting by her bike.
The air, energy, joy, whistles out of her.
For a tiny moment she contemplates turning on her heel. But that might be too obvious. So maybe walking straight by? Chin up, eyes ahead — just cruising past.
Pretending that’s not her bright orange mountain bike. Mostly pretending that’s not her quite thick, very strong, cable lock winding through, not just her frame, but the frame of the other bike leaned against the other side of the sign.
She can’t pull it off, though. If she had kept her chin up, and eyes ahead, maybe. But her pace slows, and her steps wobble. And she makes eye contact with him.
That’s the killer part. Because she’s a blusher, and now he’s seen her guilt–pinked cheeks.
His eyes narrow.
Don’t be mad. Don’t be mad. Don’t be mad.
“Are you telling me not to be mad?” He’s a blusher too — or at least a flusher — his cheeks are flaming red as he asks her.
. She has a habit of saying the things in her head out loud.
“Um … listen. I’m so, so sorry. I really didn’t mean … I don’t know how I do this …” She keeps looking at her bike, just behind him. She just wants to get to it, unlock it, ride away.
this?” His eyebrows fly up. “You mean you’ve done this before?”
“Only once. And the other person wasn’t even there. So I just unlocked his bike and he never had to know — no inconvenience.”
Angry bike man twitches, like she’s slapped him. “Unless he’d already been to pick up his bike, to get to a job interview, or his mother’s birthday brunch, or to meet his girlfriend for drinks after work with her colleagues. And then he couldn’t wait any longer, and he left, cursing your name. Did you ever think of that?”
“Which one is it for you?” Her mind’s always full of questions and she has to ask them. Even if it’s lost her friends — “Living with you is like the Spanish Inquisition!” yelled her first–year roommate as she shoved her belongings into her boyfriend’s hatchback. Even if, right here, right now, bike–lock guy is clenching his fists in a way that seems like he might punch her.
“Which. One. Is. It. For. Me?” He bites off each word. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She’s calm now. In information–gathering mode. On a problem–solving mission. “Well, you mentioned those scenarios — you know, job interview, meal with mom, meeting girlfriend — so I figured one of those must be
. What you’re missing now. Or maybe not missing? Maybe I can unlock your bike and you can go and still make it?”
She knows he’s angry — the way the flush has spread from his cheeks to his ears is proof of that — but she’s genuinely trying to help. Maybe he can still get wherever he needs to go on time. Maybe she just needs to remind him of that.
“Still make it?!?” There’s a growl in his voice. Jocelyn wonders if it’s always there, or if it’s a by–product of his fury.
A woman walking by on the path slows, and stares at them. Jocelyn smiles. “It’s OK. I’ve done something really stupid and he’s angry. It’ll be fine.”
The woman smiles. “Really?”
Jocelyn shrugs. “Well, it’s annoying, but it’s not life–or–death.”
“Seriously?” Bike–lock guy tugs at his hair. “Are you high or something?”
Before she can say anything he grabs at his pocket. “Great. Perfect. Just what I need.” He pulls out his phone. “Hi, Charlotte … no, I know I’m not there … It’s a long story … Can I meet you somewhere in fifteen, twenty minutes? … Fine, yes …”
Jocelyn watches him talk. He’s
not her type. Not tall. In fact, probably short. Maybe only an inch taller than her. She doesn’t want to call him stocky. He’s not that. But strong. Or maybe athletic. That’s probably more flattering.
He’s not blond, but he’s not dark either. Light brown hair, and that skin that blushes so easily.
It’s been a long time since she’s thought that — felt that. She would never have put any of this guy’s features in a description of what turns her on, but all together, in front of her — agitated, and pacing, and throwing her occasional dirty glances — she’s definitely turned on.
“Oh!” She shakes her head — directs her attention away from the tug in the pit of her stomach. ‘Do you want me to talk to her?’ She mouths the words, points at his phone, waggles her eyebrows.
“What?” She can’t tell if he’s talking to her, or to Charlotte. “No!” Still not sure. “OK, I’ll wait … Bye.”
He pockets the phone again. “What is wrong with you?”
“I just thought it might help if I told her it wasn’t your fault.”
“Oh yeah, that would go over well. ‘Here, Charlotte, why don’t I let you talk to the hot girl who’s made me late to meet you and your friends because our bikes are locked together.’ I’d probably get Boyfriend of the Year for that one.”
“Hot?” The tug’s back in her core now.
He sighs. “I can see that you’re hot, and still hate you. Just because you have those knock–out legs, and you’re all sparkly–eyed, and freckled, and adorable, doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re a crazy–ass bitch.”
The phone call seems to have sapped some of his anger — maybe just worn him out. “Can you unlock my bike now, so I can go?” he says.
“Of course.” He steps out of the way, and Jocelyn pushes past him to line up the numbers on the combination lock. She keeps her legs straight and bends over so her skirt will ride up — just a little bit — just enough to show a couple more inches of her knock–out legs.
She leaves the final number one notch off, and straightens. “What are you doing now?”
“I mean, are you going to meet your girlfriend right away? Because it didn’t exactly sound that way …”
“And if I’m not? Not that it’s any of your business.”
“I’m hungry. And maybe you’re hungry too. Or thirsty. Maybe I could buy you some food, a drink. To say sorry. You know, until you meet up with her.”
He’s shaking his head. She waits for him to say no. And waits. He looks at his watch. She checks hers too. 5:55 p.m. Come on. How can he say no to eating now?
He clears his throat. “Well, it’s not like I have time to go home.” He looks at her. “And you do owe me.”
She nods. “So let me pay you back.”
“Fine. You can buy me a beer.”
She bends over the lock again, takes longer than she needs to finish opening it. She’s not normally a beer drinker, but she feels there’s a pint in her future. Or, maybe, a pitcher …
, SHE THUMBS.
She smiles. When he answers this quickly it’s almost as though Sam doesn’t live four–hundred kilometres away.
That’s a yes, then.
“Boyfriend?” Bike–guy–who–she’s–found–out–is–named–Lucas, drops into the chair across from her.
, she thinks. “Peanuts?” she asks.
He shakes his head. “Nope. No freebies. If we want food, we’ll have to order.”
She smiles up at the waiter. Young. Loosely curling dark hair. Staring at her tits. And she doesn’t care because all she can think about is Lucas’s knee, just a few inches from her own knee. And Lucas’s hand so close that she could uncurl her pinky from the bottom of her pint glass and touch the light hairs on the back of it. “Nachos, please. To share. With guacamole. Thank you!”
“Do you always do that?” Lucas asks.
“Flirt. Is that the way you get things? Is that why nobody’s beaten you up yet despite you locking their bikes to signs, and threatening to have awkward conversations with their girlfriends, and …”
“And what else?” She raises her eyebrows. “What other terrible thing have I done to you? Bought you a pitcher of beer? Ordered you nachos? It’s amazing I’m allowed to live.”
sleep with you.” Lucas jerks his chin in the direction of the waiter, who is watching her from the bar.
“I wouldn’t sleep with him.”
“Why not?” He taps her phone. “Boyfriend?”
“I’m picky.” She looks straight at him when she says it. Bites her lip just a little, then lets it slip out from under her teeth. She’s definitely flirting now. She hopes he notices.
He is so, so cute. He adjusts his glasses.
. She can’t remember ever sleeping with a guy who wears glasses. She hopes she will soon.
“So, boyfriend?” he asks again, just as the waiter brings the nachos. There’s a bell jar of silence around the table as he looks at her, and the waiter looks at her, and she picks up her pint glass and slugs several gulps down.
“Right here, thanks.” She points to the table and smiles at the waiter again, and her phone buzzes. “Excuse me.”
I bet you’re even hornier now.
, she thumbs back, then lays her phone down and turns to Lucas. “Yummy–looking nachos.”
They are yummy, and the second pitcher of beer goes down more easily than the first.
They take turns eating, because Jocelyn keeps pausing to ask questions, and Lucas keeps pausing to answer. At first he was prickly. “Why do you want to know where I went to school?”
“Would you rather sit in total silence?” she asked, and even he didn’t seem to want things to be that awkward, so he sighed and said, “OK. St. Justin’s. Next question.”
“Where do you work?”
“In an office.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured that out from your cute little office clothes.” He’s wearing a button–down shirt showing enough still–pressed seams that it obviously started the day ironed, no tie — but maybe he had one on, and it’s stuffed in his bag — and one of those ID badges which are sort–of geeky but sort–of important. She shifts in her chair and tugs at the hem of her skirt.
office clothes.” He says this with lifted eyebrows, but she refuses to be embarrassed.
“Cute!” she insists.
“Whatever you say.”
She’s learned quite a bit about him. He studied politics, but isn’t sure why. He has a younger brother who’s a perpetual backpacker. He used to play rugby; now mostly runs and cycles to stay fit — “Oh good, me too!” she says, then blushes when he raises his eyebrows again. The beer is making her vocalize thoughts that would normally stay in her head.
It’s a fair bit of information, but it’s not enough. Everything he tells her makes her want to ask half–a–dozen more questions.
Why? How? Tell me about that. How did that feel?
The information–gathering is a form of foreplay for her. It’s revving her up. Not that she needs much help, but she does need to be careful. She’s still not sure how comfortable he is being here with her.