Authors: Emily Jane Trent
A New Adult
Emily Jane Trent
Numb and uninterested in baseball, Adrianna pulled the cuff of her long-sleeved shirt down, rubbing her wrist. Meeting someone, or falling in love, was low on her list of priorities, so she certainly didn’t come to the game to meet some cool guys from the other school like her friends did. Regretting her decision to tag along, Adrianna wished she were anywhere else but in a dusty sports field. One more month until graduation and she’d be free of her parents, and that was her goal in life, at least as far as she could see.
As she scuffled along in the dirt, heading toward the snack bar for a Coke, her powder-blue tennis shoe caught on a rock and she nearly lost her balance. Distracted, she hardly noticed those around her. It was warm and sunny, the opposite of her mood. And it was crowded, which she found annoying. Why she let her friends talk her into coming she wasn’t sure.
A voice pierced her reverie, the male tone mocking her, the words slurring. “Hey, baby.”
She’d heard it many times before. It was best to ignore leering men; that much she’d learned. Lowering her head and letting her wispy blond hair fall over her eyes, Adrianna increased her gait. Hoping to get past the offensive male attention, she clutched the front of her shirt, trying to be invisible.
The male form she plowed into reeked of alcohol and smelled of cigarette smoke and body odor. Instinctively, she veered around the offender, causing her to stumble; her butt hit the dirt before she could react. Rough hands lifted her, making her cringe.
Don’t touch me.
The male was drunk and scruffy; his eyes were glazed over. “Well,
look what I found,” he said with an ugly grin. Two others, dressed similarly in faded jeans and dirty cotton shirts with some gaudy design on the front, hacked in laughter.
No one seemed to be paying attention to them. Adrianna wrestled against the black-haired guy’s grip, which he found amusing. “Are you lost, love? You are a beauty, aren’t you?” He taunted in a garbled swirl of words, making her skin crawl.
Nausea hit her stomach, but refusing to give in, she struggled harder. To no avail. His two friends moved closer, surrounding her. Desperate, she kicked her attacker in the shin, but all he did was jump back, laughing. “Let me go,” she ordered, and kicked him again, with little effect. He was probably too soused to feel pain.
“Oh, you are a feisty one.” Her captor leered at her.
“Not quite as feisty as I am,” a deep male voice boomed. Whoever it was stood close by, but Adrianna couldn’t see him at first, with her view blocked by the three that had her trapped. The voice had a lilt—Irish, she guessed. It was subtle but there.
The three didn’t react at first, just stood firm. Surrounded, Adrianna choked at the stench. Clearly, bathing was not high on their list of priorities. The dark-haired one relaxed his grip on her slightly, but did not let go.
“I think you’ve made a mistake,” the voice said with confidence. The bold accusation held threat, subdued but ready to explode if the owner of that magnificent voice were provoked.
“I don’t think so, buddy,” the aggressor spat, the smell of alcohol on his breath enough to make Adrianna reel. “Mind your own business.”
“Step back.” The words were spoken harshly and definitively. It was clearly a warning.
The two others stepped away, leaving the one attacker alone with her. His face was rigid but his eyes showed uncertainty.
And Adrianna could understand why. Now that the view was unblocked, she could see where the voice came from, and for a moment forgot about her own plight. Before her stood a heartthrob if there ever was one. Her breath caught in her throat and weakness seeped into her muscles.
He stood at least six feet and was all muscle, built larger than most of the boys she knew in her high school. His short-cropped brown hair was buzzed close on the sides, the top a bit longer, gelled and spiked. In a white fitted T-shirt stretched across his well-developed pectorals, and tight blue jeans accenting his sculpted thighs, he was a sight to behold.
But it was his eyes that drew her to him. They were a rich caramel color, deep and intense. Glaring, he challenged anyone to argue with him, and none dared. Yet, at the same time, Adrianna could feel him looking at her in his peripheral vision like he saw everything, taking in the entire scene at once.
“I don’t think you want me to tell you again,” he said. “Step back, and be on your way.”
The dark-haired weasel hesitated. His eyes darted from his friends to the tall challenger and back again. Seeing them stepping back farther, he dropped his hands. “Whatdaya think? I was just helping the lady. She tripped.”
The caramel eyes never wavered, the look searing into the coward before him. The loser ran his hands through his greasy hair and took a step back. His eyes roamed up and down all six feet of Adrianna’s sturdy rescuer. He held up both hands, palms flat to protect against any approach, in an “I don’t want to fight” gesture.
Then he slid away, leaving Adrianna alone with her new friend—as “friend” he’d proven to be very quickly. Shyness took over and she hugged herself, still a little rattled from the experience, and nervous in the presence of one so gorgeous.
Awed, she looked down at the dirt now dusted over the power-blue canvas of her shoes, turning them softly brown. The silence pulled her attention back to the moment. Looking up and risking a glance into the caramel eyes, she noted a hint of a smile on his face.
“Are you okay?”
“I guess so,” she replied, thinking what a lame answer that was. Of course, she wasn’t okay. She was never okay, not before she was attacked, and most certainly not after. “Thank you for scaring them off.”
“Didn’t take much to scare them.”
Adrianna gazed at him. Not much? Did he have any idea what an imposing stature he possessed? “Well, you came just in time. I’m not sure what he had in mind, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant.”
“Definitely not pleasant.” There was that hint of a smile again. “I’m Sean Reid.” He held out a strong hand politely.
“I’m Adrianna Brooks.” She touched his hand and felt the electricity. The feeling rattled her, making her legs a little shaky. “I better get back to my friends.” The comment was offered more as an escape than anything else. Halfway hoping he’d talk her out of parting, Adrianna didn’t make a move to leave.
He nodded, and for a minute, she thought he was going to say something else. But he didn’t.
“Okay then,” she said, and took a step away.
The Coke long forgotten, Adrianna walked slowly back in the direction of her friends. Each step was like molasses. All she wanted was for him to call after her, stop her, tell her… Tell her what? This was crazy. She’d just met this guy. What in the world could he tell her?
That everything would be okay? That he wanted to see her again?
And again and again? Because Adrianna didn’t want to leave. Being near him felt…different, in an unfamiliar way. It felt safe. And it felt good. Both were foreign to her, and she wasn’t sure she liked it. The feeling threw her off, unnerved her.
But the pull was strong. Given the least provocation, she would have stayed with him.
At least for a bit. At least until she could think this through. But no. Such was not to be. Not for her. That was not her life, not by a long way. He didn’t fit. He couldn’t fit. Fate had thrown him in her path for some reason, but it clearly wasn’t to make things better for her.
Sean watched her walk away.
Those blue eyes
. She was a stunner. The sight of her—softly rounded curves, long blond hair, and designer jeans—was all class. He’d almost asked for her phone number, and he should have. He huffed, expelling a deep breath, kicking himself for letting her go.
Never shy with girls, he couldn’t fathom what his problem was.
Get a grip
. But then she wasn’t from his school. She couldn’t be; he would have noticed her. Definitely. Maybe she was from a private school. That had to be it. No one in his school dressed quite like that, not really. Even he could tell her jeans and shirt were made by some expensive designer.
Yep, out of his class. No question. Then why was he still gawking? The sway of her hips, the delicate way she stepped, like she’d been to some prep school where they teach you how to walk. Good thing he’d been around when he had; he dreaded to think of that slime ball with his hands on her.
He lost sight of her and reluctantly turned to go. His buddies waited in the bleachers. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Can’t a guy go to the bathroom?”
The click of the bat on the ball yanked attention back to the game. The Boston high school crowd roared and his buddies yelled. Sean couldn’t have cared less. Nothing against baseball. He’d just found something much more interesting.
Get over it. It’s not going to happen.
Ahhhh, out, out out,” Tomas shouted. His pale green eyes squinted against the sun and he held one hand over his brow to block the glare. Shaggy brown hair brushed his jaw and his honed muscles flexed under his cotton shirt. The game wasn’t going how he’d anticipated and his body tensed, fighting against his team losing.
Sean had been friends with him since grade school, forming a strong bond. Baseball was a recent source of interest for his Irish friend. Fighting had held much more allure, as it had for Sean, in the time they’d spent enduring school and prejudice that long since claimed to be gone, but wasn’t.
His other pal, Nic, leaned back with both hands on his head, and groaned. “Noooo, come on,” he yelled. Niccolo Romano—dark hair, icy blue eyes—was Italian, not Irish, but in some ways that made him even a better ally. The Irish were fierce; throw an Italian in the mix and the combo could be unstoppable. Time and again, Nic had been a good friend to have when the going got tough.
Some would say they were part of a gang. But Sean didn’t see it that way. They protected each other, watched each other’s
back, that was all. It was survival. Fighting was part of life, at least any life Sean had known. And he’d been ready and willing to thump that jerk who had his greasy hands on Adrianna.
But he hadn’t needed to. Sometimes the right tone, the look in your eye, stopped the enemy cold. And maybe a good look at Sean’s heavily muscled form had something to do with it. Probably it was better he hadn’t had to punch the guy. Adrianna might have gotten a bad impression of him. Sometimes women recoiled at fighting, even though fighting was necessary. It was smart to avoid it, if one could. But sometimes it had to be done.
Caring what Adrianna thought was useless. He’d never see her again. And if he did, the odds were that she would act like she didn’t know him. Well, she didn’t, not really. But he knew the arrogance of the rich, and no self-respecting girl from a private school would want to be seen associating with a thug like him. He was proud, and respected who he was and his heritage. But that didn’t mean she would.
The sun beat down on them, making Sean thirsty. He reached under the seat for his jacket and pulled the flask out of the inside pocket. A swig of whiskey would hit the spot. He’d tried to convert to beer, drinking it most of the time. But it wasn’t always convenient, and some occasions called for something stronger.
Meeting Adrianna was one such occasion. She had affected him more than he cared to admit. A pale beauty with her sky-blue eyes and light blond hair, she was a woman that roused powerful feelings inside, but one he was never to have. He knew that. So there was no point in tormenting himself. None at all. He took another swig and twisted the cap back on the flask.
“This game sucks,” Nic said.
“It’s over anyway. They can’t recover,” Tomas whined, in pain for his team.
Sean grabbed his jacket and stood.
“Got anything in there worth sharing?” Tomas nodded toward the jacket.
“I might. Let’s get to the truck first.”
At the bottom of the steps, Sean led them toward the exit. Up ahead, he spotted Adrianna with her girlfriends. Relief that she wasn’t with a guy flooded through him.
Stupid. Don’t be stupid. She’s not yours
“Hey, you guys know that girl, the blond one?” Sean pointed toward the back of Adrianna’s head, his eyes drifting down her round hips and long legs.
“The beauty queen?” Nic looked over at Sean.
“Shut up. I don’t need your snide comments. Just answer. Do you know who she is or not?”
“I know her,” Tomas said.
“You do? How do you know her?”
“My sister knows her. They’ve been to a couple of parties together. She’s a looker. I’ll give her that. But not your speed, Sean. She’s a rich bitch.”
Sean glared at Tomas.
“Sorry. Just saying.”
“Can you get me her phone number?” Sean didn’t avert his gaze from Adrianna, and she must have felt it because she glanced back. Briefly their eyes met, but she instantly looked away.
“What for?” Tomas stopped in the parking lot for a second, unsure which direction they’d parked the truck.
“This way,” Sean said, pointing toward his truck.
“Because I want to call her.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t see the purpose. But I’ll see if I can get it for you. I’ll have to think of some story to tell my sister.”