Something about her calls to me more than any other woman I’ve met—maybe because she isn’t trying with clothes and makeup, I have no idea, but it’s true.
“I said you could make that at home. Really you don’t need to make anything, just buy some coconut oil at the store.”
“Yeah, that’s basically what this is. I’ve just added a few things to help with growth and scents… lemongrass on this particular one,” she says in her same quiet voice, and she blushes as she gets closer to me.
“Aren’t you in business to make money?”
“I mean, you’re telling me not to buy something instead of pushing more products my way,” I explain, watching in fascination as her blush deepens.
“Well, you didn’t like my product,” she argues back, trying to take the bottle from me. She has to reach up because I’m a good seven inches or so taller than her. She’s tiny. Tiny, beautiful, and…dangerous to my wellbeing.
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”
“You did, you—”
“Only that I didn’t want to smell like a lemon cake. A man likes to smell like a man,” I explain to her, enjoying the way she blushes again.
“Try this one,” she responds, her voice nervous. She reaches up to another shelf to get a second bottle. I look at the new offering doubtfully.
“Is this one going to make me smell like flowers?” I ask, unable to stop myself from grinning at her.
“This scent is masculine,” she laughs, as she opens it.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice Ana walking away, but I forget everyone in the room except this girl. Her effect is that potent to me.
“What’s that smell?” I ask after she holds it up to me and I sniff.
“Sandalwood. See? Very manly.”
“How does it work?”
“You just put it in your beard and leave it.” She shrugs.
“And go out with white stuff hanging off my face?” I joke.
She laughs, which is what I wanted, but not all of it. She gives me the rest though and I’m surprised by how much I like it.
“You gather some on your fingers like this,” she explains, “and then you rub it together.”
My eyes are glued to her hands as she slowly smears the white, foamy concoction between them.
“Then what?” I ask, daring her to show me more. Everything in the room is quiet but me and her. I can hear Ana, Roman and even my nephew chattering in the background, but I’ve blocked them out. All of my attention is on this girl.
“You rub it in your beard,” she murmurs, her eyes round. I pick up a noticeable hitch in her breathing.
Does she feel the same pull between us that I do?
“Show me,” he says and my breath lodges in my chest.
“Excuse me?” I question, my voice breathless. I’m sure I heard him wrong. He couldn’t have just asked me to—
“Rub it in my beard, show me what I’m supposed to do.”
“I don’t think—”
“It’s your job to make sure the customer is happy, right?” His voice is slithery sweet, as if caked in sin. I should back away, but something inside of me compels me to not back away, to give in… to touch him.
“I don’t…” I start, but then stop because I’m not sure what I want to say. I’m not sure what I want to do.
“Make me happy,” he coaxes and my body feels alive.
“You uh…” I rub my fingers together, reaching up to his face. I moisten my lips and breathe to get air into my lungs—afraid if I don’t I might pass out.
“Do it, Mouse. I dare you.”
His pet name jars me. I jerk up to see if he’s making fun of me. “Mouse?”
“Skittish, cute, afraid of their shadow,” he explains, his large ink-painted hand pushing a stray strand of hair from my face.
“Mice aren’t cute.”
“They can be,” he argues.
“We’ll agree to disagree. Are you going to show me how to use your product?”
Before I can second-guess myself—or admit I’m falling into his trap—I reach up and rub my fingers through his dark beard. I bite my lip hard, a flash of pain moving through me as I try to ignore how good it feels to touch this man. He’s a stranger. I shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t stop myself.
“It does feel good,” he says, his dark gaze holding mine.
“It’s made from vanilla and coconut,” I answer, trying to concentrate on what I’m doing. It’s no use, though. Instead, I’m lost in the feel of his soft, sandy-brown beard against my fingertips, the minty fresh smell of his breath, the dark color of his eyes, the thickness of his lips and the way they move as he talks. I’m under a spell he has woven and I don’t know how to fight my way out of it…