MID WEEK TEASE: “I’m trying like hell not to kiss you.” #MWTease

It’s after-tax Hump Day! Woo-hoo!

As I revealed to my Bookalicious Babes book group (if you’re not a member yet, please join!), I received a nibble on my manuscript for The Colors of Us. I’ve had my eye on this publisher for a while and would be thrilled to work with them. *fingers crossed*

To celebrate the small victory, I’m posting a tease from The Colors of Us. Here, Hunter shows Michelle how to wrap her hands for boxing lessons …

Returning her smile, he continued the lesson. “After you slide your hands into the opening, you’ll wind the long strap around your fingers and wrist like this.” Holding her fingers in his hand, he wound the dangling strap around her palm and over her knuckles. “You want to protect the part of your hand that meets the bag.” He stepped closer as he slipped the strap around the base of her thumb. Brushing his fingertips against the sensitive area just below the fleshy part of her palm, a shiver shot up her arm traveling to her belly. His warm breath ghosted her face as he circled the end of the strap around her wrist and secured the Velcro tab. Before she knew it, strong fingers captured her left hand and guided her arm to the warmth between their bodies. She itched to graze her fingers along his muscled chest, capturing his heat with her palm. Her gaze bounced to his neck and stubbled jaw which clenched as he slid the other wrap over her hand. Slowly wrapping her other wrist, he secured the strap and held both of her gloved hands in his.

“Make a fist,” he said huskily.

Tightening her hands into a ball, she tucked her thumb inside her fingers like he showed her at the gym.

He squeezed her fists. “They look good. You’re a badass.”

Michelle snorted. “A badass in pink.”

“Let’s see what you got. Show me some upper cuts. Right here.” He tapped his abs.

“You want me to hit you?” She giggled.

“Sure. I can take it.”

Turning her palms up, she made a fist and alternated soft punches into his belly. His rock-hard belly. Each strike made her aware of how alive he made her feel. The force of impact sent ripples up his tight shirt, awakening the planes of his muscular form. She gulped back the desire to open her fists and run her fingertips along the line of each thick muscle.

His hands came to rest on her forearms halting her movement. The pads of his thumbs lightly brushing the sensitive skin near the underside of her elbow. Michelle’s eyes flashed to his. A fire brewed deep in his eyes as he stared back. Her gaze flicked from his eyes to his lips and back. Hunter stepped between her legs nudging her back against the wall next to the mural. His thigh warmed the spot between her legs. She closed her eyes and choked back a groan, wanting, no, needing to grind her heat on his leg. Raising her arms above, he pinned them against the wall on either side of her head. His scent flooded her senses as she lifted her chin to close the gap between them.

“I’m trying like hell not to kiss you.” Hunter straightened his back but didn’t loosen his grip on her arms.

Oh, Hunter. As Sebastian sings in The Little Mermaid: “Go on and kiss the girl”

 
That song will be in your head all day. You can thank me later. LOL
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Mid Week Tease: The Loophole #MWTease

 

It’s Wednesday and time for a little Mid Week Tease.

My just-in-time management skills are in full swing as I finish a short story submission for an anthology collection of office romance stories.

Here’s the beginning of The Loophole:

“Shit.” The flimsy top of Victoria Chase’s coffee cup flew off as she stomped on the break pedal a second too late. The sound of metal hitting metal filled her ears a split second before the hot latte splashed from the cup and landed all over her sleeve. She peered through the windshield at the car she’d just hit. The BMW circle insignia of the black SUV stared back at her as it pulled to the side of the road. Victoria winced at the nasty dent. Flicking on the hazard lights, she followed the car to the street’s shoulder. She swore under her breath, unclicked her seatbelt and pulled the door latch. Stepping out of her car, she strode to her front bumper and crouched down to get a good look. Her economy sedan weathered the fender bender with a small dent, unlike the fancy import she’d hit. Her ears perked as a car door slammed shut. Heavy footsteps approached and stopped a few feet away. Victoria glanced to the side, eyeing a pair of expensive looking men’s leather shoes pointed toward the other car.

 

“I didn’t expect you to stop,” Victoria said, taking a visual journey of the stranger as she straightened her legs. Whoa. Perfectly tailored dark trousers wrapped around his ass. His broad shoulders strained against the fabric of the white button down shirt. The ends of his shaggy dark hair touched the starched collar. He turned to face her with a playful grin. Double whoa.

 

“Where I come from, people usually stop at stop signs,” he said and nodded his head toward the pole on the corner.

 

Victoria folded her arms. “You must not be from around here because no one ever actually stops at that sign. It’s more or less a rolling stop.”

 

He broadened his grin, which showcased a single dimple on his left cheek. “A rolling stop?”

 

“Sure, you know. You slow down, look both ways, and then go. A rolling stop.”

 

“I must’ve missed that in drivers’ ed.” He chuckled.

 

“It’s one of those loopholes. Check your manual.” Victoria said as she assessed the damage she did to his car. A nice sized dent glared back at her. She was sure it would be cost a bundle to repair. Her bank account was running on empty due to her unemployed status. “Look, the truth is I have an interview in—“ she glanced at her watch. “Shit. Twenty minutes at the Corporate Park. I use this neighborhood as a cut through to avoid the highway traffic and save time.”

 

He glanced at the back of his car then to Victoria’s bumper. “Well, it looks like your loophole backfired. What’s your name?”

 

“Victoria. Let me grab my license and insurance card.” She turned on her heels to retrieve her information from the car.

“There’s no need for that.” He caught her forearm with his hand. Strong fingers wrapped lightly around her wrist sending a hot blast of heat up her arm. “You’re late for your interview. I’m late for work. There’s not much damage to my car. My body shop guy can pop out the ding and clean up the scratches for a minimal amount.” He released her arm and pointed at the dent.

Victoria looked from one car to the other. She was happy to keep the insurance company out of it. “But I insist on paying for your repairs.” She narrower her eyes at the angry dent. “I may need to pay it off in installments though.”

 

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Mid Week Tease: Dominate Takeover #MWTease

Happy April!

It’s finally looking like Spring in my neck of the woods. :)

It’s Mid Week Tease time and I’m posting the very beginning of a short story I’m working on for an anthology submission. I hope to finish it up sometime this week. *fingers crossed*

“…and that’s why Jacobs Enterprises is ripe for our taking.” Ben Stiles took a deep breath as he placed the projector remote control on the corner of the conference table. Hours of preparation and research resulted an ironclad case for the takeover. The nods around the room confirmed his assessment. Tom Morrison, Sentinel’s CEO, glanced around the table of executives. “Nice work, Ben. Acquiring Jacobs’ book of business will push us ahead of our competition to make Sentinel the number one Internet security provider in the country. Unless anyone objects, I say we get the ball rolling.” Murmurs of agreement filled the room.

“I have a question.” A manicured hand holding a silver pen caught Ben’s attention. Rachel Carson, Sentinel’s VP of Technology and the only woman on the executive team, stood and a stray lock of blonde hair fell from the tight bun a the nape of her neck as she slipped on her glasses. “I agree, Jacobs Enterprises is the right fit for us, but do me a favor and flip back a few slides.” She pointed to the presentation.

Ben raised his eyebrow slightly. “Of course.” His thumb hit the back button on the remote.

“Yes, that one, with the IT projections.” She approached the screen and narrowed her eyes. “I’m concerned about these figures. Their system is homegrown. Mick Jacobs designed his IT platform from the ground up. It’s not an out-of-the-box set up. I’m afraid it would require a complete conversion to be compatible with our system, not just an upgrade as this forecast shows.”

“How do you know their platform isn’t compatible, Rachel?” Morrison asked.

“I read an interview in a trade magazine where he talks about the technology he developed for the company. He explained how it was unique to anything else on the market.” Rachel shrugged. “Maybe he was stroking his own ego, but if it’s true, our expenses will be higher than this.” She tapped her pen on the screen. The projector’s light bounced off the silver cuff peeking out of her suit jacket sleeve hitting Ben in the eyes.

“How much more are we talking about?” Morrison asked.

Rachel scanned the screen before turning her attention to the CEO. “It’s hard to say without understanding his platform.”

“Ballpark.”

Silence filled the room. Rachel’s eyes flicked to Ben before returning her attention to the screen. “It’d require a complete software and hardware overhaul. I’d increase the projection by at least a million.”

“Time?”

“Six months if you push the conversion team hard. Realistically, you’re looking at nine months to a year to convert them.”

All eyes were on Ben as he stood next to his flawed presentation. In the period of less than a minute, the meeting took a nosedive and Ben’s credibility was sinking fast. He turned his attention to the CEO. “I’d like to meet with Jacobs and get him to talk about his system.”

Morrison closed his folder and stood. “I want both of you to meet with Jacobs together. You have one chance and you need Rachel there. Wine and dine him. Get him to talk.”

Ben straightened his back in an attempt to sound confident even though he felt like a deflated balloon. “Will do.”

“And next time, consult with Rachel on IT matters. We have the best people in the business on our team. Use them.” Morrison glared a warning at Ben.

“Yes…sir.” The ‘sir’ caught on Ben’s tongue before he forced the word from his lips. It didn’t come natural to him. But at that moment, he was skating on thin ice.

“I want revised numbers on my desk by the end of next week,” Morrison barked before stalking out of the conference room.

Rachel walked back to the location of her seat at the table and gathered her folder before following the rest of the suits out the door.

What the hell just happened?

Ben strode to his office and shut the door. Typing Jacobs Enterprises into the search box, he clicked around the site. Until that point Mick Jacobs was a faceless name. The time had come to find out more about him. It was something he should’ve done during his research. As Sentinel’s acquisitions director, Ben was tasked with finding the best companies ripe for Sentinel’s picking. He focused on financials and mix of business, never on the actual people involved. He realized what a mistake that was when he clicked on the webpage containing Jacobs’ management team and found the CEO’s head shot. Dark green eyes mocked him from the screen. Fuck me.

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Mid Week Tease: Sexy Stand-off #MWTease

Happy Hump Day!

When, oh when will it warm up? The sun is shining, but oh my, it’s still freezing here in the northeast!

To warm up a bit, I started working on a new sexy short story for an anthology call. If you’ve read The Submission of a Mafia Princess, you may remember Mick. He’s a longtime Satin Rose member and the CEO of an up-and-coming tech company.

Ben and Rachel are tasked with getting information out of him for a possible takeover. In this scene, they meet with Mick for the first time. Like any good Dom, Mick has some demands of his own…

“What’s this about?” Mick Jacobs leaned back and folded his arms.

Ben slid a business card across the table. Mick placed his index finger on the card and moved it closer. His eyes flicked from the card to Ben. “Acquisitions Director at Sentinel. Nice gig.

“Sentinel is looking closely at your company.”

“Get in line, kid. Sentinel isn’t the only one. When you go from writing code in a basement apartment to Forbes’ watch list in less than two years, people take notice.”

“We can make you a rich man.”

Mick chuckled and stabbed at the lime wedge in his club soda. The ice cubes clinked along the side of the glass. “I’m already a rich man. You have to offer me something… more.”

“Such as?” Ben mimicked Mick’s body language.

Mick’s gaze moved from Ben to Rachel. “Did you know our buildings are next to each other on Park Avenue?”

Rachel nodded.

“Tell me, Rachel, which direction does your office face?”

Rachel swallowed hard. The man sitting next to her rattled her nerves. “My office faces Fifty-fifth Street,” Rachel said, before tipping back the last sip of her wine.

“Which floor?”

Ben cleared his throat. “We’re on the sixteenth floor. Why?”

A slow grin appeared on Mick’s face. “Interesting. We’re practically neighbors. I’m across the street on the seventeenth floor. I imagine you two work late. You’re probably the only two people there at night. Am I correct?”

“What are you getting at, Jacobs?”

Whew! Things are getting interesting, huh? I hope to get the first draft done this weekend so I should have more for you on this story next week!
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Join me in Vegas, baby! @HotMojaveKnight

I just received this pretty graphic from the Hot Mojave Knights people this weekend and thought I’d share the news with you. I was invited to be a featured authors at this year’s HMK event which will be held the weekend of September 25th.

If you live in the Las Vegas area or just need a fabulous excuse to visit, check out the Hot Mojave Knights website. You can plan on lots of authors/reader events, wine tastings, books signings, a Military themed ball, the Hunk Mansion male revue…do I need to continue?

So, grab a couple of friends and book a flight to Vegas. Remember, what happens at Hot Mojave Knights, stays at Hot Mojave Knights!

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Mid Week Tease: Off-Limits #MWTease

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks for all of your good wishes last week. The pitches went really well, resulting in requests for the manuscript. It’s just step one in a long journey, but each step forward is a good thing.

Thanks to a Twitter DM session with my good friend a new title was born: The Colors of Us. I think it fits the story well.

Here’s another scene from the story. Everything is not flowers and rainbows for Hunter and Michelle (that would be boring, right?). Hunter’s had a crappy day and it’s about to get worse…

Hunter felt the added weight of a knowing stare and caught his brother’s eyes. Alex raised his eyebrows and jerked his head toward Michelle who was busy mixing paint colors. Hunter shook his head, brother-speak for ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ Another group of businessmen walked through the door, saving Hunter from a verbal lashing from his older brother. Glancing at the men sliding onto barstools, Hunter swore under his breath. He’d choose a brawl with Alex over serving Greg Krouger, self-proclaimed hot-shot investment banker, and his band of yes-men. Greg frequented McAvery’s for a liquid lunch about once a week. He took the gold star for asshole of the year. The cocky ass was even more unbearable when he had an audience, especially for any unsuspecting female within earshot. Hunter caught Greg’s eyes on Michelle as he ordered their first round of drinks.

“Looks like the painting is almost done. I’m gonna miss watching that ass wiggle around.” He nodded at Michelle and slid off his barstool while his cronies snickered. “I think it’s time to get some of that ass.”

Hunter was one step ahead of him. Before Greg reached Michelle, two hundred and ten pounds of Hunter McAvery blocked his path. “What the fuck are you doing, Greg?”

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m about to ask your artist friend out.” He looked over Hunter’s shoulder and attempted to step around him.

“I don’t think so,” Hunter bit out, grabbing his arm.

“Let go of me, man.”

“As long as she’s working here, she’s off-limits.”

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Mid-Week Tease: Fight or Flight #MWTease

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of March! The snow is finally melting and the birds are singing. Spring can’t come soon enough for me. It’s been a long and cold winter in the northeast.

This week also marks my first writer’s conference of the year, the Liberty States Fiction Writers – Come Create Something Magical conference (wow, that’s a mouthful) is Saturday and I have a couple editor appointments scheduled to pitch my new series.

Here’s a scene from book one (tentative titles: Before You, Love on Broome, Canal Street Promises, Love Shaken, Not Stirred) of the McAvery’s Bar series. Hunter convinces Michelle to meet him at his gym with the promise of helping cure her fears. However, instead of walking into a candied colored exercise joint with state of the art equipment and Zumba classes, she finds herself in a dusty boxing gym.

*****

“You lost,” a gruff female voice asked.

Michelle spun around to face the chipped Formica desk. An older woman with gray streaked hair pulled back in a ponytail offered a warm smile.

“Sorry?”

“Ya look lost,” the woman said, leaning her elbows on the desk.

“I’m meeting someone here.” Michelle handed the woman the card.

“Yup, you’re in the right place then, I’m Max.” She extended a calloused hand. “Is that the guy you’re supposed to meet?” Max jerked her head toward the window. Michelle turned and caught a flash of Hunter rushing down the stairs with a couple bottles of water and what looked to be black boxing gloves under his arm. A whoosh of cool wind bit her cheeks as he swung open the door.

His lips upturned into a smile when he saw Michelle. “Sorry I’m late. I stopped for water.” He  jiggled the bottles in his right hand and turned to Max. “Good morning, Maxie. Have you been entertaining my new student?”

Michelle crossed her arms. “Your what?”

“Student. I’m going to show you how to defend yourself.”

Between his words, the noise of gloves hitting punching bags and the pungent smell, nausea rose in her throat. “I-I don’t think this is a good idea after all.” She rushed past Hunter, pushed open the door and climbed the stairs to the sidewalk. Stopping, she took a few deep breaths of fresh air. Footsteps sounded behind her.

“Where you going? I thought you wanted to learn to fight?”

She spun around. “Where’d you get that idea? I can’t fight, Hunter. I don’t have it in me.”

“I think you do. Everybody has the ability to fight. Come back in and give it a shot.”

Michelle shifted her weight from one sneaker to the next. Her gaze moved from the gym door to Hunter.

“Trust me on this. It’s great therapy. I know what I’m talking about.” He held out his hand and raised his brows. The pleading in his eyes touched her heart. Somehow she knew he needed to teach her as much as she needed to try. Maybe more.

Michelle nodded and took his hand. “Okay, I’ll try.”

She walked back in with him and stopped at Max’s desk. “Do you have any gloves Miss Willis may borrow?”

Max ducked under the counter and pulled out cardboard box of what looked to be discarded equipment. “You should be able to find something here.”

Hunter dug through the box and pulled out a matching pair. Michelle examined the gloves and tried to ignore what looked to be dried blood on the cracked leather. She picked the offending objects up between her finger and thumb and followed Hunter to the back of the gym. He dropped his gloves and water bottles on the mat next to a long black bag in the corner.

“Let’s get these gloves on.” He said, outstretching his hands.

Michelle gave him the gloves and slipped her hands inside the openings. “I don’t even want to know what germs are inside these things.”

Hunter chuckled and secured the Velcro straps around her wrists. “Okay, first thing you need to know is how to throw a punch. If you do it wrong you can break your thumb or even your wrist.”

Michelle opened her eyes wide. “That’s not something you want to tell someone who uses her hands for a living.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t let that happen.” He cupped her right glove into his hands. “Make a fist.”

Michelle curled her fingers into a ball, the leather cracked as she squeezed tight.

“Good. Now make sure you tuck your thumb tight to your fingers and keep your wrists locked. As long as you remember that, you won’t get hurt.”

Michelle curled the fingers of both hands into fists.

“Good so far?”

She nodded, her gaze shifting from one gloved hand to the other.

 “Hey.” He hooked an index finger under her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his. “Did I mention you have to breathe too?”

Michelle searched his honey colored eyes and smiled before let out the breath she held within her lungs. “Got it.”

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Mid Week Tease: Miami Beach to the Vegas Strip #MWTease

It’s the first Mid Week Tease of March. Woo-hoo! Spring is coming soon! I took a short break from the cold Northeast weather with a long weekend spent in Florida. In honor of my getaway, I’m running a cut passage from Marooned with the Millionaire. This scene takes place in Las Vegas where Stephanie and Jason reunite after an unforgettable one night stand in Miami.

It should’ve been a savory little morsel of a memory she could tuck in the “once in a lifetime” section of her life. However, she wasn’t able to file it away and move on. She just couldn’t get him out of her mind. She needed a second helping of Jason Royce. That’s how Stephanie Thomas ended up in the swanky La Luna Lounge on the Las Vegas strip, waiting for the same man she met five weeks ago. The same man who was still under the impression that she was married. That was her shield. It was her way of not getting too close. After all, Jason was a confirmed bachelor. He had the looks and resources to play the field. Stephanie was sure he left a trail of broken hearts in his path and she sure as hell wouldn’t be one of them.

She closed her eyes and savored the first sip of her sugar-rimmed pomegranate martini. It was just one night, but what a delicious night it had been. She smiled and recalled how he brought her to sexual peaks she never knew existed. Her body hummed with thoughts of his touch and the last thing he said to her, “I haven’t tasted you yet.”

Her heart raced at the thought of seeing Jason again. But as quickly as the panic set in, it dissolved the moment she sensed a presence from behind. His warm hand caressed the bare skin low on her back sending sparks from his touch to the nape of her neck. The vibration of a husky voice rumbled from her ear to the tips of her toes.

“Stef.”

With a flick of her foot against the bar, she swiveled in her chair to meet Jason’s gaze. God, it was good to see him. Masculinity exuded from his rock hard body under a perfectly tailored black suit. His dark skin and features made him look almost dangerous, but his eyes sparkled as they seared into her flesh. Taking a deep breath, she instantly relaxed. She had been anxious to see Jason, but all doubts melted as he stood before her.

Slipping off of her seat, Stephanie reached for his chest, fingering the edge of his jacket lapel and tracing the planes of his strong shoulders with her fingertips. Enjoying the electricity coursing through her body, she moved closer to Jason until the heat of his mouth melded with hers.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispered.

Cupping her cheek with one hand, he encircled her waist with the other and pulled her close. Their lips touched and she kissed him slow, savoring every second. The contour of his mouth was instantly familiar and intimate. Memories of their Miami night flooded back as the tip of her tongue found his bottom lip.

 

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Mid Week Tease: Hope and Coffee #MWTease

Happy Hump Day! I love taking a breather in the middle of the week and read up on my favorite authors. Hope you’re enjoying the Mid Week Tease too!

I’m sticking with the same story as my last few teases, but I’m jumping around a bit. Michelle and Hunter are still getting to know each other in this scene. Here, they bump into each other on the street and Hunter invites Michelle for a cup of coffee before they head to McAvery’s bar where he tends bar and she’s painting a mural.

 

Twirling a wooden stirrer in the froth of her latte, she lifted the mug and took a sip. “I wouldn’t know about the party lifestyle. I live a dull life in comparison. Not much except working and painting, but I like it that way.”

“So, work and paint. That’s it? What does your boyfriend have to say about that?” He raised his eyebrows.

“Cheyenne was right to warn me about you.” She waved the stirrer at him.

Crossing his arms, he cocked his head. “Why is it you never answer a question?”

Michelle took another sip of her coffee. A dab of foam sat on her upper lip for a moment before she licked it away. Resting her elbows on the edge of the table, her summer blue eyes iced over. “You want to know if I have a boyfriend? Let’s just say I don’t do well with relationships. Men don’t really understand my crazy artist nuances.”

“Nuances?”

“Yeah, it’s a nice way to say issues. I have a lot of them, and most people run the opposite way from me. Especially guys. But it’s fine. I’m probably better off alone. It helps me be a better artist.”

“I think that’s a cop out.”

She shrugged. “Maybe, but it’s the same thing you’re doing. It’s easier to get involved with someone like Samantha because you know it’ll remain at a physical level. No chance of getting too close. See? Same thing.”

Hunter tried to swallow the bit of cookie in his mouth, but a lump in his throat replaced every last bit of moisture. He coughed and slurped the hot coffee, burning his tongue as he washed the cookie down.

“Did I hit a nerve?” she asked, stifling a laugh.

Hunter wiped his eyes with his napkin and coughed again. “You seem pretty confident in your analysis. Am I that transparent?”

“To me, yes. But don’t worry. I’m sure you have everyone else fooled.” Michelle tipped back the last of her latte and pointed to the door.

With a quick nod, he pushed the chair from the table before she continued her analysis. Michelle didn’t just hit a nerve, she split it wide open and left it exposed. She’d figured him out even before he understood his self-destructive actions and it threw him into a tailspin. His immediate instinct was to put distance between him and the artist who crept into his life and forced him to take a good look at the shell of a man he’d become. However, Michelle gave him something he’d lost when his world came crashing down that warm October day. Hope. It slowly seeped back into his veins and pumped through his body, healing the broken pieces.

“Hey,” he said in almost a whisper as he followed her to the door.

She swung her head to the side, the ends of her dark hair skimming her shoulders. “Yeah?”

“I like your nuances.”

Blue eyes flashed and crinkled at the corners as a small grin played on her lips. “I kinda like yours too.”

 

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Mid-Week Tease & My LOVE SCENE Winner #MWTease

Hiya! It’s Mid-Week Teasing time!

First, let’s congratulate Mary Jo Toth for winning my blog’s LOVE SCENE Blog Hop prize of a yummy cookie pail from Cheryl’s. Thanks to everyone who visited and read my Asher and Mia scene. It was fun to write and I hope to continue the story soon.

For this week’s tease, we’re picking up where we left off last week. Michelle’s walking home in the rain. A voice calls to her from behind causing her to drop her mace cylinder which in her mind is her only form of protection.

“Hold on!” The voice came closer.

Her heartbeat raced in her chest. She glanced over her shoulder and was about to run until she saw something familiar. It was her bike. Her glance traveled upward to the rider and she breathed a sigh of relief. “Hunter? What are you doing,” she called.

He lifted the fingers of his right hand in a wave. His dark green hoodie was almost black from the rain. Peddling to the curb, he swung his jean covered leg over the side and walked the bike onto the sidewalk. He blew out a breath sending water droplets through the air and he wiped a wet sleeve over his eyes. “Hey there, I’m glad I found you. It didn’t occur to me that I had no idea which direction you lived. You move fast,” he chuckled.

“What are you doing with my bike? I would’ve come to get it tomorrow.”

“I figured you can use it for work tomorrow so I thought I’d ride it home for you.”

“In the rain? Are you crazy? Those cabbies will run you down without a second thought.”

He smiled at her as raindrops flowed down his face. “I noticed that, which is why I’m now walking the bike. How about sharing some of that umbrella real estate?”

“Sorry.” She shifted the umbrella to her left hand and held it higher to accommodate his height. “How’s that?”

“Thanks. You, um, okay?”

Michelle stared ahead and focused on the street lights. Her heartbeat had finally returned to a normal beat. “I’m okay. I can take it from here.” She reached toward the handlebars to claim her bike.

He rolled the bike out of her reach. “Not a chance. Something’s got you spooked, so I’m walking you and your bike home. No questions asked. Besides, you’re the one with the umbrella.”

It was only a couple more blocks, and she was sure there was nothing she could say to get him to leave her. She’d actually begun to feel almost protected with his large frame walking beside her. They chatted about the bar and her plans for the rest of the mural until they reached the door to her building.

“This is me. She pointed to the door. Thanks.” Once again she reached for the bike only to have him pick it up.

He nodded toward the door. “Unlock the door, and I’ll bring your bike up.”

She stood with her feet planted on the sidewalk worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.

“Shit, Michelle. What’s the deal? Do you think I’m going to hurt you or something?”

“No. Of course not,” she said, realizing how stupid she must’ve sounded. “You just can’t be too careful in the city, you know.”

“You’re not going to mace me are you?” he asked, picking up her bike.

She chuckled. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I dropped it back there. I’ll need to buy another,” Michelle said, climbing the stairs leading to the building and unlocking the door.

He quickly followed, easily hoisting the bike frame into one hand and walking into the small entryway. He set it down next to another bike which was locked to a stand in the corner. Michelle bent down to run the chain around the frame and an available bar. Clicking the lock into place, she stood and sensed Hunter’s warmth over her back.

“What if I told you there was a way to protect yourself without relying on mace?”

Michelle turned to face him and lifted her hands from her sides. “Come on, look at me. How much damage am I going to do to an attacker?”

“You have more fight in you than you know.”

“No I don’t.” She shook her head.

“You do, you just need some help finding it.”

 

…and what do you know, Hunter’s the right man for the job. :) I’m getting close to finishing revisions on this story and I hope to have it ready for submission next month. Woo-hoo!

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