SHANIA – ONE MONTH EARLIER
Oh. My. Lord.
This hell hound of pure masculine goodness standing at my counter right now is making me weak at the knees. I swear to all things holy I’ve never seen anything like him. Sure, I have seen close, but this one, he takes the cake ... and the icing, and the plate. He’s all of it and more. Dark eyes stare into mine, unwavering. He’s terrifying in his appearance. Huge, and I mean huge, all muscle and covered in tattoos. Hell, I’m sure outside of his face there isn’t a single piece of skin where there isn’t ink. His dark hair is cropped short, and he looks ... mean.
A bad boy.
Through and through.
“Can I help you?” I ask, keeping my voice calm, and steady.
“Yeah,” he murmurs, voice deep and masculine. Oh, lord. “You helped my friend Ellie out a few days ago. Wonderin’ if you had any footage of the man that was in here?”
“Ellie!” I cry, pressing my hands over to my mouth.
That poor girl. I’ve never seen someone so scared in my life. I mean, sure, we’ve all been in dark places but that poor girl was just...broken. I don’t know her story, but I do know that she was running from a man, and she came into my café for some help. He came in here after her, and I didn’t know at the time. I helped her, but I didn’t hear anything after she left with some of her friends. I hope she’s okay now. Poor thing. “Is she okay?”
“Yeah, she’s fine. Footage?”
“I didn’t catch him, I’ve already looked. Sorry.”
The man growls and exhales. “Anythin’ else that might help me out?”
“An attitude adjustment?”
His eyes swing to mine, and he stares at me long and hard. “What did you just say?”
“Think you heard me.” I smile sweetly. “Can I get you anything else?”
His eyes make a slow path down my body, dipping down over my face and past my shirt and right down as far as he can see before moving back up to my eyes. “I’ll take you.”
Oh, my lord.
“No, thank you.”
His mouth twitches, and he stares down at my name badge. “Shania.”
“Yes. That’s my name. Well done.”
I’m being smart, I know I’m being smart, but he’s too hard not to stir up.
“See you around.”
He turns and walks out, and damned if I don’t want him to waltz right back in here so I can take him up on his offer. I mean, look at him. God damn, he’d make a night I’d never forget, of that I’m sure.
I wonder what his name is?
“I’ll take a Jack and cola,” I say to the bartender, staring down at my phone.
There are never any calls. At least, never any from the person I need them to be from. I exhale and put my phone down. The dull ache in my chest expands, stretching, and I wonder what he’s doing right now.
“Alcohol after work; didn’t pick you as the type.”
I swing my head around and see the mysterious man from the café earlier staring at me, those penetrating brown eyes locked onto mine.
“Are you following me? I’m sure there is a word for that. What is it again ...? Oh, right, stalker ...”
“I come here every day. Work just up the road.”
I narrow my eyes. “Where?”
My eyes widen. “The big fancy garage?”
“Wow, that place is nice.”
Shit, now I’m being too nice.
“Lincoln.” The bartender nods, stopping and passing me my drink. “What can I get you?”
Lincoln. That’s a freaking gorgeous name. And it’s a perfect match for him.
“Same as always, Buck.”
I stare at the bartender, and he winks at me then I look back to Lincoln who is studying me. Well, more to the point, my breasts. Which, to be fair, are probably hanging out a little much, but this work shirt is the only one I have left until the new ones come in. And, well, I ate a bit too much cake so it’s a little tight. Whatever. Don’t judge. A girl is absolutely allowed to eat her feelings.
“You know,” I say, my voice laced with sarcasm. “I have eyes. Right here, on my face. I know, surprising, isn’t it? I wish I had known earlier, also.”
Lincoln’s eyes move to mine and hold them. That expression still intense and still incredibly sexy.
“Don’t wear a shirt like that, and I won’t look.”
“Or,” I point out, “you could be a gentleman and not look anyway.”
“Do I look like a gentleman, sweetheart?”
My panties just got a little less dry.
“Now you mention it, that would be a no ...”
His mouth twitches again. “Back to why you’re here, drinkin’ after work.”
“Isn’t a girl allowed to enjoy an alcoholic beverage every now and then?”
“Never seen you in here before.”
“Well,” I say with a shrug, “today I needed it. Any other questions?”
“Yeah,” he murmurs. “Why?”
“Why do you need it?”
I narrow my eyes and cross my arms. “Why do you need it?”
He takes a sip of whatever the hell he’s drinking on the rocks, and murmurs, “Got a lot of shit goin’ on. Need to unwind.”
“What what?” I say, pursing my lips.
“What shit do you have going on?”
I raise my brows. “And I’d tell you because ....”
“Because I’m askin’.”
I snort. “Okay, well, in that case. What shit have you got going on that you’re drinking for?”
That mouth twitches again. “Well played. You first.”
I make a frustrated sound and sip my drink. “No, thanks. I don’t feel like talking to some random stranger who I don’t know.”
“You do know me. I’m Ellie’s friend.”
I roll my eyes. “Are you always this annoying? Or am I just the lucky one who gets to witness such a wonderful side to you?”
He says nothing, just sips his drink, staring at me. Always staring at me.
“You know it’s rude to stare, right?”
He shrugs and keeps sipping that drink.
Overbearing, overpowering jerk.
Sexy ass jerk.
“If you don’t want to tell me about that, tell me something else,” he murmurs, finishing the drink and ordering another.
I do the same.
Oh, boy, that went down way too fast, but I hold my own, even though my eyes water a little.
“My name is Shania.”
He snorts. “You always such a pain in the ass?”
“You wanted to talk to me.” I shrug.
“Fine, Shania, what else?”
“Well, I like long walks on the beach, and pina coladas ...”
He exhales. “Right then. Well, drink up; the quicker we get to the end of tonight the better.”
“And what’s at the end of tonight?” I ask.
“My cock in your pussy, and you moanin’ my name.”
My mouth drops open.
“Didn’t stutter, sweetheart. Drink up.”
“I’m not sleeping with you!” I protest.
He grins, baring those delicious white teeth at me. “We’ll see about that.”
Oh, my god.
I’m not sleeping with him.