Authors: Red Hot Publishing
Tags: #contemporary romance, #romance adult fiction, #romance adult contemporary
We pause under the green awning, glancing
right and left into the hot, wet night. “Should we even bother to
check the subway?” she asks loudly, voice pitched to be heard over
the driving rain.
A yellow vehicle approaches from the right.
I raise my hand and step toward the curb to hail the oncoming cab.
“No reason to now. Our chariot awaits.”
I offer my elbow again as we hustle toward
the waiting cab. Katrina stumbles once and I wrap an arm around her
waist instead, to prevent her from falling. The scent of her floods
my senses as her warm body presses to mine.
She smells of spice and vanilla, the aroma
tantalizing and teasing me as I open the car door for her. She
slides in, revealing a long expanse of lean leg and muscle. Wow,
she really is in great shape. Wonder why she hides it with the
long, baggy top.
I follow her in and close the door. Katrina
gives the driver her address and we’re off, inching down the
crowded street overflowing with water.
“Look at those storm drains,” she says while
staring out the window. “It must really be coming down all over the
city for them to be backed up so soon.”
She adjusts on the bench seat and her small
purse spills, emptying the contents onto the seat and the floor. I
reach for the contents, trying to help, and my hand closes on a
faintly glowing straw. It looks odd, so I bring it closer for a
“Is this shaped like a penis?”
A squeak sounds from Katrina and she grabs
it out of my hand. “It’s a gag gift. From Carla’s party.” She
gathers up the rest of what’s on the seat as I bend down to help
retrieve items on the floor.
“Sounds like you ladies had a lot of
She sighs. “We did actually. I haven’t let
myself relax for a long time.”
My hand closes on a cold, roundish object.
“Busy with work?” A hard-working woman is always nice to see, but I
don’t tell her that. She’d probably laugh.
“Ah… work is part of it, yeah.”
The cab halts at a unlit stop light, inching
forward for a right hand turn. “Is this yours?” I ask, holding up
the white plastic. Lightning flash fills the car and her face
freezes in horror. I glance at the item, unable to make out what it
“Give me that!” she lunges toward me and I
close my fist, curious what has her so riled up.
“Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.”
“Seriously, Marcus. Give it here.”
I smile and take out my phone, using the
convenient flashlight feature to illuminate what’s in my hand. A
multi-sided die sits in my palm, with what looks like naked people
entwined on each side. Heat blossoms in my chest and shoots
straight to my groin.
“Holy shit, that’s hot.”
I scoot closer and snatch the die from his hand,
shoving it back to the depths of my purse. “It was another gag
“Uh-huh, sure.” He grins, a mischievous
glint in his eyes. “You can’t fool me, you sexy yoga lady. I’m on
His off-hand words stir up a whirlwind of
emotions in my gut. “Me? Sexy?”
Marcus’s lids lower as he leans back in the
seat, staring at me. “It’s always the quiet ones who surprise
I scoff at his musings, but can’t deny I
feel good at his words. For so many years I tried to enjoy sex,
attempting everything with just about anyone who was willing. All
to no avail. I don’t seem to feel the fascination with the act that
others rave about.
“I’d like a closer look at that die.” Marcus
smiles. “Strictly for research purposes.”
My cheeks heat and I feel a small grin
stretching my mouth. “Maybe I’ll share it.” Could he be interested
in me? The admiring twinkle in his eye says he might. I falter in
my thoughts. Would it matter if he was? I’d be a major
disappointment in the end with not enjoying sex.
Best to keep him at arm’s length and on
friend’s-only terms. That way no one will get let down. You know,
like me. Again.
Thunder booms once more outside as the cab
slows to a stop in front of my store. “We’re here, Miss.”
“Hey, is that your place, Herb Appeal?”
Marcus stares out his window. “It looks like you’ve had some storm
I launch across the seat, practically
throwing myself on Marcus’s lap, to see what he’s talking about. A
branch from one of the trees near the street is lying under the big
picture window to the right of the door. A spider-web of cracks
indicates where it struck when falling.
“Oh no! What the hell am I going to do with
“Do you have any duct tape inside?” Marcus
lays a hand on my back, patting my shoulder once. “I can help you
tape it up so the cracks might not spread. Could help prevent water
coming in, too.”
All of a sudden I’m aware of my position,
draped over the lap of a man I just met. I scramble back to my side
of the seat and frantically search my purse to pay the driver. “Uh…
you don’t have to do that. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
While I’m digging for cash, Marcus beats me
to it and pays the man. I inwardly sigh in relief as I mentally try
and calculate the cost of repairing the window. Before I can thank
him, he opens his door to slide into the rain.
“Nonsense.” He reaches in and offers me his
hand. “I’m happy to help you with the window.”
This man I just met is proving something I
thought long past gone—that chivalry isn’t dead. I take his hand
and join him in the pouring rain, we race together to the narrow
awning. “Thank you. And thank you for paying for the cab. I’m sure
that window won’t be cheap to fix.”
“You’re welcome. And you might want to check
with your insurance. They might cover it.”
The cab pulls away, driving slowly through
the water accumulating fast in the street. “Well?” Marcus says
loudly over the rain. “Shouldn’t we get inside and fix that
I nod and hurry to the door. The alarm pad
is blank, no doubt due to the power outage, and I dig for my keys
in the tiny purse. Having it dump all over the cab really messed up
where I put everything.
Marcus stands close behind me, possibly
shielding me from the rain, or possibly hoping to get as far out of
the driving wind and rain as he can. Either way, I feel his
presence and it unnerves me, sending little bolts of awareness
coursing through my veins.
My hand closes over the keys and I drag them
out from a corner of the purse. Finally! I don’t know what it is
about this guy, but I seem to move through mud whenever he’s close.
Like I can’t put coherent thought behind my actions.
I rush inside, eager to get out of the rain
and put some distance between us and the things I’m feeling. My wet
high heels slip on the glossy tile of the store, sending my feet
flying out from underneath me. I fall inelegantly on the floor,
limbs sprawled and the breath knocked out of me.
I lay there with my eyes closed, stunned for
a moment before the embarrassment hits me. The door whooshes shut
behind me and then Marcus’s steps hurry to approach where I
“Are you okay?” He asks while touching my
arm. I crack open one lid and see his worried face leaning close.
“Should I call for help? Do you think you broke anything?”
A groan spills from me as I struggle to sit
up. “I’m okay. Think I just wounded my pride.”
His arm wraps around my back again, this
time in concern. “Are you sure? I could probably…” He glances
around the dark interior, eyes flitting from aisle to aisle and
then toward the back, behind the counter. “I dunno… bring you a
cool, wet towel… or something.”
“No, I’m good.” I kick off the shoes,
depositing them near my dropped purse, wishing I hadn’t raced in
like a fool. He’s closer to me now than before, so that idea
backfired. “Note to self: Don’t try and move quickly in wet high
“Here, let me help you up.” He pulls me with
him while rising, his hold on my waist a comfort and an enticement
at the same time.
There’s a slight twinge of pain in my back,
but I’m too humiliated to say anything. I’m sure a couple of Advil
and stretching before bed will do wonders for relieving the
The length of his body presses against my
side, making me hyper-aware of him. A tiny part of me wants to lean
in and pretend I’m in need just so I can keep his heat near me a
little longer. A shiver runs over me, and I can’t completely blame
it on the wet clothes and the shop’s cooler air.
“No twisted ankle? That was quite a
I’m standing solidly on both feet or I could
have gotten away with pretending to have twisted an ankle.
Do you hear yourself? And why would you want
to keep him close to you? So you can have another man look at you
like you’re a loser in bed?
I step away from his hold, regret burning
deep in my gut for what can never be. “I’m stronger than I look.
Thanks for helping me up.”
His eyes travel over me leisurely. “You look
pretty darn strong to me already.”
I smile and turn away. Single men of a
certain age are all the same. They see an attractive woman and
immediately make a play. Too bad it wouldn’t work out. “I’m going
to go find that tape you mentioned.”
Marcus’s phone is out and he’s using it like
a flashlight again, lighting the way in front of me. “Here, let me
He’s certainly conscientious. I’ll have to
tell him later he’s earned extra brownie points for being a nice
guy. Padding to the counter, with my boy scout trailing behind me,
I open various drawers, searching for the tape.
“This is a nice place. How long have you
“Nine months. I know the previous owner and
got a great price when she was ready to move out of state.”
Finding no tape, I wrack my brain for where
I saw the grey shiny roll last.
“What did you do before you ran the
“Metal artist.” Wait for it…
I smother a smile while motioning toward the
back. “Come on, shine that thing down the hall. I might have left
the tape in my workshop.”
He obliges, and his rich baritone follows me
toward the back. “Hey, you didn’t answer me.”
I smile, aware he can’t see it. “I thought
it would be easier to show you.”
I open the old storage room door, the one
across the hall from my temporary new home, and step inside. Marcus
follows close behind.
“Holy shit,” he says while shifting his
phone around the room to illuminate my equipment and worktable,
strewn with various clamps, vises, metal files, snips… you name it.
Everything needed to cut and work the metal to fit my vision. “You
mean you sculpt metal into art pieces?”
I nod, realize he can’t see me and say,
“Yeah, but apparently not very well. It didn’t pay the bills. So I
tried something new with this shop.”
His voice sounds cool and kind of distant.
“Talk about complete opposite ends of the spectrum.”
I raise one shoulder. “Suck it and see.”
Marcus sputters and starts to cough. “What
the hell does that mean?”
“Shine over here, please.” I motion toward
the table. That duct tape has got to be here somewhere. I think I
used it to hold a shape before welding a piece last month. “It’s an
Australian term. Kind of like, ‘you don’t know until you try
“Most people I know wouldn’t apply that kind
of logic to a new career path.”
“A-hah! Found it,” I say while closing my
hand over the elusive duct tape. I stroll back to the doorway
feeling accomplished. “I’m not most people.” I stop in front of him
and then scoot past him, brushing him lightly with my body in
“I’m beginning to see that.”
I may not be able to find happiness in the
arms of another person, but that doesn’t seem to stop my traitorous
body from wanting.
We spend the next twenty minutes drying the
wet glass as best we can with paper towels and taping the outside
crack and then repeating the process on the inside as well. By the
time we’re done we’re both soaking wet, despite the steam I thought
must be coming off my skin from standing so close to him while we
Marcus shudders in his wet jeans and soaked
“Can I offer you some hot tea in
The lean-hipped man glances outside.
“Thanks, but how about I see you home so we can call it a
Well, guess I must be the only one here who
thinks the other is good looking enough to continue the encounter.
Nice. Or maybe he just wants to get home and out of his wet
“Is your place in one of the units over the
store? Where’s the entrance? Around back or the side?”
Ah… here it comes. Where I have to tell him
I live here, too. Loser.
“I…er, uh… I li—”
“Hey, do you see that?” He’s craning his
neck to look down the street. “Looks like there’s a roadblock being
set up to keep people from driving down this way.”
Lightning flashes again, followed closely by
more thunder. “The rain hasn’t let up one bit. Maybe they’re
closing roads to keep cars safe.”
“Great… just great,” he says.
“How far away do you live?”
He shrugs, his profile lit up by another
flash of lightning. “Far enough that it’s going to be one hell of a
miserable long walk.”
I bite my lip. In for a penny, in for a
pound. “Why don’t you stay here until the worst of it lets up?
Can’t be long now ’til the storm breaks.”
Marcus hesitates, then nods. “Okay. Let’s
lock up here and make a dash to your place. It’s not like we can
get any wetter.”
I stare down at the puddle we’ve made by the
front door. “We’re here.” I reach a hand out and turn the lock in
the door, sealing us both inside.
“You mean you live here, too? Is that even