“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” Jessie answers, but she doesn’t take her eyes away from me. “I’ll uh… just get your change,” she says, pulling her hand away.
I force myself to let her go, but I don’t do it happily.
“Keep it,” I respond.
“I said keep it,” I tell her, and I know that comes out grumpy. I hate the way the tone of my voice makes her flinch.
I try to get a handle on my anger; she doesn’t deserve it. I’m annoyed as hell right now because I have to leave her, and I don’t want to.
“I’d really rather not,” she says huffily, obviously put off because of my tone, and I can’t blame her. She pushes a button on the register and the drawer slides open. She pulls out the change and hands it to me.
My gaze travels to the money and then back to her. I do all this frowning.
Jessie’s face is closed off now, the light out of her eyes and the blush changed from embarrassment to anger. I don’t know how I can read her that clearly, but I do.
“I want you to keep it, Jessie. You can give me a discount on my next purchase,” I respond, closing my hand around hers in such a way as to hold her without taking the money.
“You’re coming back?”
“Nothing could keep me away, Mouse. Nothing at all,” I promise her and Roman grabs his son from the counter, takes my sister’s hand, and they start walking to the door. I follow them, resisting the urge to look back at Jessie until I get to the door and then I have to turn and look at her again.
“Down on your knees,” Roman mutters and I rub the side of my neck, unable to argue with him.
“My bro has moves,” Ana laughs and I grunt my frustration at her, which only makes her laugh harder. I sigh, following them through the street as we’re joined by Bruno, another of Roman’s men.
Unable to stop myself, I look back at Jessie’s shop one last time, knowing I’ll be back sooner rather than later. I won’t be able to stop myself. One touch from her was more powerful than any drug I’ve ever had in my system and I know without a shadow of a doubt that she will be the one habit I’ll never be able to kick.
Down on my knees… damn.
That’s how long it has been since I stood in the middle of my shop, rubbed my fingers through a customer’s beard, and made a complete and utter fool of myself. That essentially means I’ve had three days of hell, reliving a myriad of emotions that range from embarrassment to desire, joy, sadness, and a million other things. Whatever I’ve felt, though, it all goes back to the same thing in the end. Sadness that Allen is gone. Sadness that I might have met this great guy and nothing happened.
Well, besides that whole making a fool of myself thing—nothing happened.
As I close the door to my shop and make sure the deadbolt is secure, I feel defeated. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s that moment of knowing you’ve met someone special, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I’ve heard friends talk about it, and I always thought they were insane… until now.
“Let’s go for a drink.”
I jump and squeal before I can stop myself. The street outside is lit, but it’s late. So late that most of the town has shut down. Which means there are few people about. I turn around to face Troy. He’s a pain in my ass. We dated for all of a hot mess—fucked-up—minute. He was a jerk of epic proportions, and by date I mean three times. His “asshole-ism” was so huge I informed him I didn’t want to see him again. That was two months ago. Two months, and while most men would have taken that and walked away—not Troy. Troy seems to think my decision was an invitation to make himself more present in my life. He calls no less than twice a week. He shows up outside my shop at closing time and once he even followed me to a movie theater.
“How many times have I told you to stop following me around?” I grumble, barely looking at him. Troy has been harmless, but my bumping into him has become more frequent. I finally find the small bottle of pepper spray I keep in my purse and wrap my hand tightly around it.
“Oh come on, Jess, don’t be like that. I was just in the neighborhood and thought I could look in on an old friend. That’s not so bad, is it?” he whines.
His voice is whiney too… and way too nasally. That’s just one of the things I don’t like about him. The thing is, if he was a nicer person, the voice probably wouldn’t bother me—at least not as much.