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Authors: Red Hot Publishing

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BOOK: Loving Ms. Wrong
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“Because all of this
is
an act. I came from nothing and fought for
everything I am. He knows I used to dig ditches, dig graves, plant
trees… pretty much anything you can think of that required a shovel
and a strong back. It’s what got me through college—and because I
had to pay my own way in everything took me two years longer to
finish than he did.”

My heart swells with indignation. “And
what’s so bad about manual labor? A lot of people work physically
hard jobs their whole life. I’ve met good people in other countries
who would love a job, no matter what it was, that helped them
provide for themselves or their family.

“I think your friends busting your balls
about your past is petty and stupid.”

“Maybe it’s me.”

“Them teasing you is your fault?”

“Maybe I’m the one who can’t let go. Ever
get the feeling like you’re your own worst enemy?”

“Oh please, I’m the master at that shit.
That’s why I—” I abruptly snap my mouth closed, aware I almost
revealed more than I’d like.

“What? That’s why you do what?”

“Uh… nothing. I just know what you mean,
that’s all.”

“You’re done talking about it is that it?
All right. Whatever. Suit yourself.” Marcus slumps back on the
cushion, then looks toward the door. “I’ll go see if the rain has
let up.”

Regret gnaws at my gut. Would it be so bad
to tell him what’s eating me? It’s not like we’re anything more
than two ships passing in the night.

“Do you have a flashlight?” he asks before I
have a chance to muster the courage to speak up. “My phone is
dead.”

“No, sorry. How about you take the candle
from the bathroom?”

“Okay.” He disappears into the tiny bath and
reemerges with the small light. “Do you have anymore candles?”

I bite my lip. There are, but they are
specialty ones for sale in the shop. And expensive. “Uh… there
might be some in the store.”

“Might be
?
Shouldn’t you know your stock?”

“Yeah, I do. We do have candles—they’re here
on consignment from the individual who made them, and pricey. I’m
tapped for cash right now. Can’t we make due with these two for
now? The storm has got to let up soon.”

Marcus stands, a look of purpose coming over
him. “Let me buy them.”

“What are you going to do with a bunch of
candles designed to heal a person? I doubt they’d be needed in your
life.”

“You’d be surprised. I think everyone needs
a little healing once in a while. Come on.” He reaches out to pull
me up from the couch. “Help me find them. Let’s see how bad the
rain is.”

We meander slowly through the aisles, Marcus
making astute observations about the high-end products that leaves
me proud of what I’ve collected here for customers. He grabs five
of the specialty candles that cost well over thirty dollars each,
and we eventually end up near the front door. The rain is still
coming down in buckets and a small stream looks like it’s flowing
down the opposite side of the street.

“Do you think we’ll need to worry about
flooding?”

My heart seizes in my chest, the fear of
losing everything I’ve invested in this place causing a physical
ache. “I—I have no idea. What the hell would I do then?”

Marcus wraps an arm around my shoulder. “Hey
now. Don’t borrow trouble before you need to. I’m sure it won’t
come to that.”

His words sound reassuring, but his tone
lacks the necessary ring of truth to set my mind at ease. If I lose
the inventory it will take weeks to recover, and money I don’t have
to reinvest until insurance would pay up. If this
act of God
goes overboard I could be seeing the end of
this latest dream before it ever really has a chance to
succeed.

Marcus’s stomach growls. “Do you have any
food in your… apartment? Dinner was hours ago.”

I smile at his kind description of my
sleeping quarters in the back. “I bet we could heat up a can of
soup. I may have cold leftovers in the fridge, too.”

“Considering the state of the streets, you
might be stuck with me for the night. Are you okay with that?”

A flutter of interest stirs inside me.
Anticipation and excitement war for the top spot. I haven’t had
anyone sleep in the same room with me for at least two years. I bet
it will be hard to ignore him and drift off to sleep, especially
without meditating first. He’s way too cute and vulnerable for his
own good.

“Yeah,” I say. “I think I can handle it.
Although I might not get much sleep.”

Marcus squeeze’s my shoulder once and
chuckles. “I should only be so lucky.”

Embarrassment flares in my cheeks as I
realize what I said and how it could be misconstrued. “I… uh….”

“Let it go, Katrina, before you give
yourself a heart attack.” He trails one warm hand down my arm to
clasp my hand. “Come one. Let’s get these candles lit, cook some
soup… and play a game.”

My heartbeat increases at the touch of his
hand. And then his words sink in. “A game? All we have is the…”

“Yup. The sex dice. Want to hear the
game?”

“I’m not so sure.” He pulls me gently toward
the back and I feel no fear. No instinct warning me off from this
man or that danger is near. But there’s plenty of heat between us
to make me think I have other concerns to worry over besides my own
paranoia. “Do I?” There’s a light teasing in my voice, something I
haven’t allowed myself to feel for a long time.

“Oh, yeah you do. Here’s the plan: we’re
going to roll the dice in a kind of ‘have you ever game’ and you
have to tell the other person what your experience was like.”

A mixture of dread and excitement settles in
my gut. I’m starting to like this guy. What will it be like to
really talk about the nitty gritty act of sex with him—and possibly
wind up admitting to my problem?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

Marcus

 

She’s agreed to more talking—perhaps the long night
stuck in her tiny bedroom-slash-living-area won’t be bad after all.
I can’t deny I’m starting to feel something for the woman with blue
bangs. She’s an interesting dichotomy of facts and hints. One that
has intrigued me despite my best intentions that she’s all wrong
for me.

Maybe if I approach this like a casual fling
everything will work out. She’s pretty damn hot and it took every
ounce of self-control I possess to not reach out and touch her ass
while she was sticking it up in the air stretching.
Downward facing dog
, my foot. That pose, looking at it
from a guy’s perspective, clearly screams
come
and take me from behind right now
.

And yet, I sensed no intent on her part that
she meant to drive me insane with desire. Thankfully, she stopped
after a few minutes and my boner subsided before she noticed.

We walk slowly back toward her personal
space, still holding hands. Once we open the door again, the
accumulated heat is a stark contrast to the cooler interior of the
shop.

“See?” She says while dropping my hand and
heading toward the mini-fridge. “I knew it wasn’t me. It was
getting hotter in here. Let’s keep the door open for better air
flow.”

“Okay.” I prop the door open with a chair
from her table. The temperature is much higher than I realized and
I slip the robe off and drape it over the remaining chair. “Are you
all right with me wearing only my boxers, or do you have a pair of
baggy shorts I can put on?”

Katrina whips around to look at me, eyes
scanning me from head to foot and back again, her throat working
double time while she swallows. “Um… uh… I’m okay with it.” She
pointedly turns back to the counter, where she was placing things
from the fridge. “I don’t think I have anything that will fit
you.”

I’m onto you, sweetheart. You definitely
feel something for me. Thinking about what
she’s
thinking about has my blood moving south
again.

I stifle the urge to adjust myself, knowing
she’ll see it and discover my secret. Best bet might be to sit on
the couch and pretend I’m not feeling anything so it will go away.
Maybe that dice game isn’t a good idea.

Grateful the boxer briefs aren’t
particularly tight, nor thin, I settle back on the futon, bending
one leg to rest on the ankle of my other knee to hide my growing
arousal. In a few minutes I’ve got myself under control. She brings
over an assortment of veggies and hummus on a plate and two glasses
of water and then lights all the candles we brought in from the
store. Very soon the space is filled with the warm glow of the
minty-smelling candles.

“Do you like the food? I thought this would
be smarter than hot soup.” Her behavior is hesitant and shy again.
Dammit, and we’d been making such great progress.

“It’s perfect, thanks.”

We eat in silence, sipping water every now
and then.

“Marcus… what do you do for a living?” she
asks, reaching for a carrot.

“I’m a contract lawyer at Apollo Industries,
where Tony used to work. I work mainly with the financial people
and assist on big deals when needed.”

“I have no idea what that entails, but it
sounds like you’re doing well.”

There go my grandiose dreams of impressing a
girl with what I do. Nice. “Well enough. I like it.” Hoping this is
a good time to ask about what brought her to this point in her
life, I venture into unchartered territory with a question of my
own. “You mentioned this business wasn’t your initial dream. What
made you decide to buy it?”

She shrugs. “I’m not sure really. I was
working here to have something to do between creating my metal
pieces and selling them. Got to know the owner and the business…
had some money saved from previous art sales… decided to take the
plunge into respectability rather than keep living the bohemian
lifestyle of an artist any longer. The routine… it suits me.”

“Running the store or being more nine to
five compared to an artist’s odd hours?”

She scrunches her nose while thinking, the
expression looking adorable on her. “Well, the job isn’t really
nine to five, but I get what you mean. It’s more stable than when I
was solely working on my art, that’s for sure.

“Hmm…. If I really think about it, I’d have
to say both. The basic daytime hours fit my current life better, as
does the ten o’clock open and eight o’clock closing. And I don’t
mind the responsibility associated with owning a small
business.”

“Good for you. Why don’t you seem happier
with the decision? Where you always an artist and maybe you miss
it?”

“Hardly. I kind of fell into that, too.”

My frustration at her lack of direction
bubbles out before I can stop it. “What did you go to school for?
At your age you should have a better handle on your life.”

“Well, that’s awfully judgmental coming from
a guy who’s still running from his humble beginnings.”

My first reaction to her quietly spoken
rebuttal is a defensive one. I open my mouth to retaliate… Until I
realize she’s right and I’m an ass.

“Good point. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t say I’m
running from my past, but you’re right, I was judging you when I
had no right to.” I run a hand over my face, wondering why what
Katrina thinks of me should matter.

“Apology accepted. And I can see from the
outside looking in, I may appear flaky, too.” Her voice lowers to a
whisper. “But I’m not… I was—”

I wait, giving her time to collect her
thoughts. “Yes?”

“I was lost for years. Not caring where I
lived, what I did, or who I slept with. I had a lot of issues I
needed to work out.”

Her meditation makes more sense now. “Your
yoga and meditation helped you…er… find yourself?”

She laughs, a soft sound rather than a
full-on belly busting release. “Yeah, I guess you could say
that.”

Desperate to put her back in better spirits
I grab the sex dice off the coffee table and roll it. “Was part of
finding yourself how you learned the names for sex positions?”

My tactic seems to have backfired as a frown
tugs her mouth down. “No. I learned all those fun facts when I was
desperately trying to feel something… anything… again.”

I watch her carefully in the low light,
hoping for some sign on what to say to get her to open up. Her
partially revealed half-truths are pulling me closer despite my
intentions to keep this encounter light-hearted. “What happened to
you to stop you from feeling?”

I reach a hand across the space dividing us
on the couch and hold her hand.

“It didn’t happen to me. It happened to my
younger sister.”

Cold dread settles in my middle as I think
of a few bad things that could have happened to a younger sibling
that would disturb anyone.

“Was she…? Did they catch him?”

She glances up at me, her heart and pain in
her eyes. “How did you know?”

I shrug a shoulder. “Unlucky guess. Did she
survive the rape?”

Katrina relaxes into the couch, as if a
weight has been lifted from her. “Yes, she did. She went through
years of counseling and she’s doing fine. Better than fine
actually. She seems to have put it behind her and is even engaged
now to a terrific guy.”

“Good for her.” I squeeze her hand. “But
what about you? Are you fine?”

“God, I can’t believe I’m telling you all
this. I never talk about it anymore. It’s been almost ten
years.”

“I don’t think time should matter. I’ve
never known anyone who was raped and I can’t even begin to fathom
what their loved ones need to recover as well.”

“I arrived home right after it happened. I
found her and called for help. The anger and rage at seeing what
was done to my sister—it consumed me. All I could think about was
revenge and killing the guy.”

“Rightly so. I think that sounds pretty
normal.”

BOOK: Loving Ms. Wrong
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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