“If you’re interested in murder mysteries, this is who I’d suggest.” Rosie gestured toward the bookshelf and then turned back to her pretty, blonde customer. “Her stories have the perfect amount of mystery, suspense, and usually a little sexy fun too.” She winked at the woman and proceeded to show her some personal favorites.
The bell above the door sounded. She turned to see Conner walk in and head toward the front register. Jesus, he looked phenomenal. His broad shoulders and chest filled out his crisp, black suit perfectly, and his deep-red necktie had her itching to reach over and yank it toward her, whatever it took to get him as close as physically possible. “Would you excuse me for a moment?” she asked, then slowly headed toward the delectable man up front.
“Hello, sir. What brings you— Wait, is that coffee?” Rosie’s mouth watered at the delicious smell coming from a large thermos he’d placed on the counter.
“It is, indeed. I hear someone has a minor caffeine addiction.”
Jesus, his smile was enough to make her lady parts tingle with need.
“That’s putting it mildly. Thank you, that’s really sweet.” She grabbed the thermos and moved behind the register. She wasn’t sure why he’d come, but the sight of him had her tummy doing somersaults. “So, um, what brings you to my lovely place of business?” She grabbed some cups from the shelf behind her, along with some sugar and powdered creamer, and poured them each a cup of coffee. As she handed him his, she was amazed by how sickeningly hot he was. The night before had been intense, to say the least, and she hadn’t been able to truly appreciate him. Today, on the other hand, was another story. He had exquisite, icy blue eyes, a strong jaw, and a head full of blond hair. She wouldn’t hate grabbing that hair while she watched him feast between her thighs.
“Besides seeing your beautiful face?” Conner’s stare touched something deep inside, making her shiver. He smiled and then continued, “Lynette said you weren’t going to stay at the house, and I came to talk some sense into you.” He sipped his coffee and raised an eyebrow. Was he daring her to challenge him? Clearly, he didn’t know who he was up against.
“Look, I appreciate the offer, I truly do. But the entire point of moving is so Aaron won’t know where I am. He’s seen me at your house now, so that idea is shot to shit. There’s no difference between my apartment and your house if he can still bother me. I’ll just stay put until I find another apartment.” Rosie took a drink of her coffee and waited for his surrender.
Conner studied her intently for a moment, seeming to size her up. Just as she was about to celebrate her victory, he opened his mouth and, instead, said something to set every inch of her skin on fire.
“The difference is me.”
HAVE YOU LOST your fucking mind?
The words left his mouth before they had time to register in his brain. Live with a woman who made his dick twitch in his pants every time he thought of her? This was a horrible idea of Biblical proportions. His brain knew this, but his mouth kept talking with no restraint. “I’ll live there with you, at least until Aaron decides to leave you alone. As far as he’s concerned, we’re together, so why not use that to make sure you’re safe until he gets his head on straight?”
Rosie stared at him in surprise. Hell, he’d surprised himself, but there was no way he was going to let her stay at her apartment and risk Aaron losing his shit.
“Why are you so interested in helping me? Yes, I’m your sister’s friend, I get that. But this feels like you’re going above and beyond the call of duty. The fact that you offered the house at all is admirable. I could never ask you to stop your life and live with me. I’m sure your girlfriend wouldn’t appreciate it either. Hell, we don’t even know each other. I could drive you absolutely insane.” She cocked her head to the side as she stared at him. Who was she kidding? She had already driven him insane. Her eyes widened as her attention shot to the closing door. “Ma’am? Oh, shit, I forgot I was helping her. Hopefully she comes back. A sale is a sale.”
Conner turned but didn’t see anyone, so he brought his attention back to Rosie. “Yes, you’re my sister’s friend, but that’s not it. I saw your face when Aaron showed up. You were scared to death. Truthfully, that’s not okay with me. I deal with this shit all the time at work. Sexual harassment, stalking, restraining order violations… No woman deserves to fear going home.”
She cast her gaze down and seemed to consider his words. If he was going to reel her in, it needed to be soon. “Being extra safe isn’t going to hurt anything. You don’t have to pack up all your belongings. Grab a bag or two and stay with me until we get this figured out. I didn’t tell my sister about Aaron, and I don’t plan to. This will stay between us. Stay with me, and we’ll figure the rest out as it comes. Oh, and by the way, I don’t have a girlfriend. She…Sarah cheated on me with her coworker. Some scrawny asshole who rides a crotch rocket, and dropped her as soon as he sealed the deal. She wants to get back together, but it’s never going to happen, so no worries on that front.” He watched and held his breath as she considered his words.
Rosie opened her mouth, but the phone ringing interrupted her. He watched as she looked uncertainly at the phone, then back at him before picking it up. “Mainstream Bookstore, this is Rosie.” She nervously glanced his way before speaking into the phone again. “Hello? Mainstream Bookstore.” After a few more seconds she hung up. “Someone has been calling and hanging up all morning,” she mumbled.
“Aaron?” Conner asked, anger coiling tightly in his stomach. He had no patience for little games meant to intimidate.
“Honestly, I’m not sure. But it just started, so that would make sense.” Finally, she offered him a weak smile and shrugged. “Okay. I get off at four today. I’ll go home and grab some things, then meet you at your house afterward. Does that work?”
Conner nodded and covered her hand with his, feeling her fingers tense against his skin. She was definitely affected by him, and he wondered if her desire matched his. “I’ll see you at the house.” He released her hand and started to leave, then turned back and allowed his gaze to wander up and down her body. “You look beautiful, by the way.” With that, he turned and walked out the door.
* * * *
Rosie pulled into the driveway and turned off the car. She was never nervous, and yet here she sat, pulse beating wildly and her stomach a bundle of nerves. Men didn’t affect her the way Conner did. She enjoyed their company and then sent them on their way. But Conner was different. He made her anxious and needy, and she didn’t appreciate those feelings one bit.
She’d had one serious relationship in her life, long before she’d met Lexie and Lynette. He’d taken everything she had to offer and demanded more, until she was an empty shell. Then he’d decided he wasn’t happy and moved on, leaving her a broken mess. In the end, she was thankful for him because he’d taught her a valuable lesson: the only person she could count on was herself.
Conner opened the door and waved her in. “Leave your bags in the car. I’ll get them in a few minutes. Hurry up before dinner gets cold.” He shot her a smile that damn near set her panties on fire.
Rosie grabbed her purse and headed inside.
She found Conner in the kitchen, wearing faded jeans and a white T-shirt, spooning some gumbo on top of two bowls of rice. “That smells unbelievable.” She could hear the surprise in her voice.
“Hey, just because Lynette can’t cook for shit doesn’t mean I’m
a lost cause.” He gave her his gorgeous smile as he placed the bowls on the table.
“Okay, so it wasn’t Robert or Lexie who taught you to make gumbo?” Rosie smirked as she waited for his answer.
“It was both of them, thank you very much.”
Rosie laughed and grabbed two beers from the refrigerator, then went to join him. She couldn’t help but moan as soon as rich and spicy broth touched her tongue. “Conner, this is amazing.”
They ate in silence for a while, each one assessing the other. Finally Rosie broke the tension. “I really appreciate you helping me out for a while. I don’t think Aaron is a bad guy, in general; I think he just has some stuff going on.”
“I don’t care if he feeds the poor and reads to the blind on the weekends. Any man who does something to make a woman afraid of him clearly has something wrong with him. That shit’s unacceptable.” Conner looked serious as he pushed his bowl to the side and took a drink of his beer. “Hell, Rosie, he followed you here, for crying out loud. That’s stalking. Have you thought about going to the police?”
“Absolutely not. I want to see if this dies down on its own first.” Conner’s look said he clearly didn’t agree with her choice, but last time she checked, she hadn’t asked for his permission. “I’m not saying what he did is okay,” Rosie continued, “but some might say I’m getting what I deserve.”
“Look, I’d been screwing him pretty regularly, okay? I’m not one for relationships, and I don’t like when men stay past their welcome. Ask anyone who knows me; they’ll tell you the same thing. So, yeah, maybe it was only a matter of time before my actions caught up with me.” Rosie stood and grabbed their bowls, then headed into the kitchen. As she filled the sink with water and dish soap, she heard Conner curse under his breath, mutter he was going to grab her bags, and then stomp to the front door.
She searched the cabinets until she found some plastic containers, then proceeded to fill them with the remaining gumbo. She could feel her face heating, and truth be told, she didn’t know why she felt upset. She hadn’t realized she blamed herself for the situation until she’d said it out loud. Conner didn’t know her, and he couldn’t understand. All he saw, all anyone ever
saw, was the character she portrayed on the outside. Fun, no worries, always ready for a party.
“Ahh!” Rosie had been so engrossed in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard Conner make his way back inside the house and come stand by her. She jerked to the side, causing soapy water to slosh out of the pot she was washing and all over his T-shirt and the floor. “Holy shit! Conner…I’m so sorry. Oh my gosh, hold on; let me get you a towel.”
“No, it’s okay. Seriously, it’s no big deal.” Conner reached back and pulled the soaked shirt over his head, then tossed it on the counter.
Rosie’s mouth instantly went dry at the sight of his bare chest and stomach. Good God Almighty
. He was ripped, all
over. Not the bulky kind of muscle like Jonathon and Robert…long, lean, and shredded was more his style. She couldn’t help but glance down and admire the V at the bottom of his abs and hips.
“Rosie?” His deep and husky voice pulled her attention to his face.
CONNER’S DICK SWELLED painfully as Rosie lifted her head. Her eyes were glassy and full of lust, her breathing had accelerated, and her breasts strained against her blouse. Fuck
, he wanted to lean in and taste her sweet skin, feel the softness against his tongue.
He took a step toward her; his body pressed against hers and he had to remind himself to keep breathing. He slid his hands to the sides of her face, and he wrapped his fingers in her silky hair. “Can I kiss you?” he asked breathlessly as he gently rubbed his nose against hers.
Instead of answering, she wrapped her arms around his neck, brought her lips to his, and parted them slightly.