I felt eyes on me all through the grocery store. I had good instincts, so when I turned and saw no one, I was surprised.
It was a quick run, mainly for fresh produce and meat, so I was in and out quickly, my mind on Dair.
He was hot. Tall, with a body to die for. Huge arms, a rock hard chest. And the rest was just as nice, with messy brown hair and kind eyes that always made me feel like I was with an old friend.
Hot, successful, and almost too easy to talk to. I found myself spilling my guts to him practically every time we spent any time together.
Still, we seemed destined to stay in the friend zone, and even I couldn’t have said why.
I collected my organic Swiss chard, spinach, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, leeks, just grabbing the usual—no specific meal in mind. I was a vegetable junky, so I’d find something to do with it all, and force as much of it on my boys as I could when they came over for dinner. Cooking healthy and feeding it to them was a compulsion for me at this point.
They were great sports about it and rarely complained. They were such good boys.
My pride and joy.
My divorce had been ugly, but so had my marriage, and over a year later I found myself in a strange place. I loved my work, my children were grown and thriving, and I was enjoying life more than I could ever remember. There wasn’t much romance in my life, but there hadn’t been much even when I’d been married, so it still felt like a clear turn for the better.
Perhaps I was one of those women that were just better off alone.
Certainly, I was happier.
I collected some fresh organic chicken and some grass-fed beef, enough for one small woman and two large men. I still cooked family sized portions, as my boys often showed up for dinner. I hoped that would never change.
They were so good to me. They were as busy as I was, but always made time to check in with their mother. I couldn’t ask for more.
I was in the checkout line and had just finished piling my items onto the belt when I felt eyes so intently on me that I had to check again.
I glanced behind me and found my eyes meeting icy blue ones.
I quickly looked away. The eye contact had been uncomfortably intense.
I waited a beat, then looked again, assuming the large blond man would have had his fill staring at me by then.
He didn’t, meeting my eyes even more brazenly the second time.
My eyes darted away again, but I’d had enough of a look, with my photographer’s eye, to take inventory.
Tall, blond, tan, big, and muscular. Gray T-shirt, dark gray jeans.
Hard jaw, harder eyes.
He could have been any age from twenty to thirty going by his mean, unlined face. The scruff on his hard jaw and his aged blue eyes made it impossible to say.
I instantly wanted to photograph him. If he wasn’t a model, he should be. There was just so much character in his face. And so much to read in his hard expression.
Aggressive and a touch of something else. Something akin to hostile, though I couldn’t imagine it was directed at me. Just a restless man that hated standing in line for even five minutes, I figured.
I glanced furtively at his single item on the belt, my eyes snapping away, face flushing when I saw that it was a twelve-pack of magnum condoms.
Well, shit. Why did that turn me on? It shouldn’t have. The guy was probably a jerk and off to have sex with what I assumed would be a random woman. Men that intensely good-looking buying condoms generally were.
Tell that to my libido.
We were waiting forever for an old, white hippie lady to count out exact change, and I didn’t last long before checking him out again. This time my eyes wandered below his belt, the magnum thing making it impossible not to be curious.
I flushed as I looked away again. His jeans weren’t tight, but I’d made out enough of a bulge to embarrass myself.
What was wrong with me? I was not turned on by strangers. Even the idea was ludicrous. I needed more than looks to even consider getting physical with a man.
Finally I paid for my things and carried them out toward my car.
I was nearly there when the sound of something hitting with a splat onto the pavement had me whipping around.
I blinked up at the big blond stranger, who had apparently been following close behind me, then glanced down at the single tomato that had managed to fall from one of my bags onto the ground.
I lifted the paper bag, brows drawing together at the very neat hole in the corner. It looked like it had been cut, but that was impossible.
“Let me carry that for you, before anything else manages to fall out,” a deep, gravelly voice said to me.
I looked at the stranger.
He was offering to do something nice and polite, but his tone wasn’t even remotely friendly.
It was odd.
“No, that’s all right,” I told him with a shake of my head, balancing both of my bags into one arm, and bending down to collect the ruined tomato, then straightening when I saw that was clearly pointless. It was a goner.
My hair had fallen over an eye when I’d bent down, and without missing a beat, brazen as you please, the stranger reached a hand over and stroked it away from my face, then let it linger there, in my hair, bold as you please.
I just stared at him, a bit shocked. I couldn’t remember a time in my life running into such an aggressive stranger.
His mouth shaped into the barest shadow of a smile as he gripped a light handful of hair at my nape, his big body shifting closer.
He didn’t say a word, but as his eyes moved over the masses of my hair, I felt and knew that he was clearly admiring it.
He didn’t have to say a word. His eyes were the compliment.
“I insist,” he finally said, taking both bags out of my arms before I could protest. His box of condoms (not in a bag) was held, shameless as you please, in the hand of the arm he shifted my bags to.
My slack jaw snapped shut, and I turned on my heel, heading to my car. I’d thought I knew how to handle every kind of man, but this one left me baffled.
I would let him load my bags into my trunk and politely send him on his way. As far as I was concerned, that was the easiest and best thing to do.
I opened my trunk for him, then watched him and his Mack truck arms, as he shifted both bags into my car.
He straightened and stepped close to me.
He let his eyes run over me, top to bottom, and I just stared up, struck dumb by his unapologetic boldness.
This man had a strange effect on me. I really needed to get a handle on it.
Finally, the once-over stopped, lingering on my cleavage. I was dressed up a bit in a sexy white dress that had been meant for another man, one who was not a bold stranger, but this one seemed to appreciate it more than I’d ever intended. Certainly Dair never would have admired my breasts so openly.
My chest swelled in a shocked breath as he brought a big hand up to lightly finger my collar. It was wide and cut from my neck down to the lowest point of the opening, right between my pushed together cleavage.
“You’re a very beautiful woman,” his gravelly voice mused idly, as though he was talking to himself more than me.
His eyes returned to mine as he addressed me directly, “But then, you know that, don’t you?”
I shook my head, at a loss.
“I’m Heath,” he told me, like this was all perfectly normal. “And you?”
“Lourdes,” I told him breathlessly.
His touch was light but very deliberate as he let his knuckles brush directly over my nipple. It swelled and hardened instantly, as though it was trying to return his touch, with or without my consent.
With a ghost of a smile, he pulled his hand away and stepped back.
“I’ll see you around,” he said, tipping an imaginary cap at me.
Without another word, he turned on his heel and strode away.
I watched him walk away, fascinated with the way he moved, fast and purposeful, with complete confidence.
And that was that.
Or it should have been. If things were normal and life was still sane, it would have been.
But something had shifted, and it wasn’t a subtle shift.
I’d come to the attention of a man who didn’t play by any normal rules, and my life was about to get very interesting.
I was at the dog park the next morning. It was a brisk fifteen-minute walk from my house. I was letting my blue Great Dane, ’Tato, run in the park. This was a daily ritual, even in the worst of the Vegas heat. My great beast of a dog needed the exercise.
I threw ’Tato’s slobbery tennis ball as far as I could for the umpteenth time, and he took off after it with great bounding strides.
“Morning, Lourdes,” a gravelly voice said just behind me.
I jumped about a foot.
I knew that voice, but what the hell?
I turned, letting my face show how perturbed I was by his unexpected presence.
I wasn’t wearing a scrap of makeup, and my heavy hair was in a thick, messy braid that I was sure couldn’t have been my best look, not to mention that I was wearing baggy sweats.
Yes, my first thought was vanity. Of course it was. This guy was sex on a stick.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him, my tone bordering on hostile.