Page 7 of I Promise You

My thick hair has a slight frizz to it (thank you, humidity) and is scraped back in an unflattering low ponytail. My vented straw cowboy hat is old and worn, though rakish and a bit sexy in a former life. In my early days at Waylon, I wore it with a little red bikini and heeled flip-flops as I sunned at the lake with my sorority sisters. Now, it just covers bedhead. My oversized glasses are smudged from bumping my index finger into them, and there’s still a pillow crease on my cheek from my late nap.

So. Honestly, I don’t care. The day I start caring about what some jock thinks about my appearance is the day I quit. I’ve learned the hard way that the only person I should ever try to impress is me. My days of craving the attention of some womanizer are over!

I set my phone to record video. As surreptitiously as possible, I cant it in his direction as I turn. Visions of my ten-year-old Highlander tuned up with new tires dance in my head.

From my five-four height, I look up at him.


There’s no need to charm this guy. His girls are tall. I am not.

This close, about six feet apart, his beauty is pretty much a physical assault to my senses, rich and heady, vibrating with intense masculinity. He’s breathtakingly beautiful, that chiseled face, the divine body, all with an air of smoldering sexiness.

Should be illegal to be that attractive.

I check my heart rate: not even a skip. I’m entirely unaffected.

At some point, he’s moved his cap, and it’s on backward, small tufts of brown, almost blond hair shooting from the adjustable band on his forehead. His cheekbones flash under the fluorescent lights, and his bad-boy stubble is thick and dark. I wonder if he has to shave every day to keep that shadow at bay. Framed by thick curly lashes, his eyes are a turbulent turquoise, an ocean of color. They’re serene, yet hinting at a tendency to be stormy. Interesting. He seemed lackadaisical earlier, not a ripple or wave in sight, but here I sense a man whose edges are frayed. The writer in me smells discontent.

Aw, is it hard to be surrounded by pretty girls who are vying for you?

His nose is a blade, straight and Romanesque, and his neck isn’t brawny or thick like some footballers, but strong, the hollows sculpted and molded as if those of a statue in a museum. He reminds me of an erotic Michelangelo’s David. And his chest—ugh, man, why don’t you button that up? I can almost see nip! My weakness is tattoos, and his dance over his chest, enticing me. Maybe if I just touched that one little rose—

Stop, Serena.

I keep my eyes on his face, refusing to feast.

He flicks his gaze at me in an uninterested way. Nope, not a pretty girl, his attitude insinuates. He turns his attention to the shelf.

I watch him for longer than is polite, letting him feel the weight of my scrutiny then giving up when he doesn’t notice. I settle for counting the twenty packages of Oreos in his cart. Pig.

He darts his eyes back at me with a questioning glance.

Oh, oh! He was the last one to speak and he’s waiting for me to gush over him!

My index finger adjusts my white glasses. “Did you know it takes 59 minutes to bake an Oreo?”

“Mmm, fascinating.” He reaches around me to grab a package of Nutter Butters.

Just what I expected—I don’t register in his world.

I grab a Nutter Butter package—he won’t get all of those—and my arm brushes against his. Not one tingle.

“Each Oreo wafer is baked for exactly 290.6 seconds at a temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit on the top and 300 below,” I say. “That’s very precise cooking.”

“Um, yeah.” He checks the watch on his wrist, an expensive diving one, then looks around me, probably searching for his harem. On his other wrist is a wide leather cuff with a glittering quartz stone in the center. It looks worn and doesn’t quite fit with my perception of him. Maybe a memento? Whatever.

“And the whole Double Stuf Oreo thing? Total lie,” I muse. “They’re only 1.86 times bigger than a regular one. Very annoying advertising gimmick. I mean, if it says double stuffed, it should be. Wonder if I should contact the Better Business Bureau? On the other hand, I doubt it would do any good. Enough Oreos have been sold to wrap around the world 481 times.”

He moves down the aisle to grab chocolate chip cookies. “I get it, you love Oreos. Sorry I took them all. They’re on sale, five dollars off if you buy ten. At that price, they’re practically free. Everybody loves free cookies, and we’re having a party. Leather and Cookies is the theme, and before you ask—yeah, it was my idea.”

Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance