What the fuck did I get myself into?
The thought prodded Alexi’s brain with its extra-sharp pitchfork while his best friend, Tianna, turned the wheel of his SUV. She navigated the winding road that led to Little Witch Fields, as residents called the small town outside the city proper, with ease, having taken this route for years since that first summer in college. Her neatly trimmed red nails glimmered in the light. Her long, elegant fingers clutched the steering wheel. His dick jerked, and sexual awareness swirled in his gut. He opened his mouth to ask her something, anything to distract him from just how tight his pants were, but nothing came out. His traitorous brain had decided entertaining ideas of what her soft, smooth hands could do to his body were far more important than getting through the drive in one piece.
Why did I ask her to drive?
Again no answer from his lust-swathed mind. He shifted in his seat. Each moment that passed caused his pants to grow tighter until he was sure the denim was strangling his cock.
“So what do you think? You never told me if you liked my new haircut or not.” Tianna lifted a hand and ran it through her silky, chin-length locks. The highlighted strands slipped forward to caress her chin. He wanted to turn her head toward him, grab a hank of hair, and hold her still while he explored the lushness of her mouth, like he’d done on New Year’s Eve. A bolt of heat speared him through his midsection and filled his groin. His clothing trapped the warmth that needed to escape. Rather than ask for her to turn on the AC, he hit the button for the window. Cool air flooded the cabin, swirled around him, taking some of the edge off.
“You don’t like it, do you?” She tucked a few strands behind the delicate shell of her ear, drawing his attention to the ruby studs he’d given her three Christmases ago. His heart contracted at seeing her wearing one of his gifts. He smiled, and for a moment, the lust stalled.
“I do like it. It suits you,” he managed to get out despite how gravelly his voice sounded. He reached over and traced the curve of the cartilage, savoring the warmth and softness. She shivered under his touch and giggled.
“Stop that. What are you doing?” She tilted her head away.
“Sorry.” Just the velvety softness under his fingertips caused the craving for more to increase. “Anyway, yeah, I really like the cut, short and sexy and perfect for summer.”
“Whew. My regular stylist was on maternity leave, and I had to find someone on short notice. Never been to her before, but she was here, so…” She slowed the car to a stop and wriggled around in her seat. “The woman was white. I didn’t know if she’d ever done black hair before. I was really scared she’d fuck it all up.” She gave a shaky laugh.
He reached over and gave her forearm a squeeze. “She did a great job.”
Tianna nodded. “Yeah, she did.” She glanced at him, a smile on her face. “She was awesome, really funny, put me at ease, and assured me I wasn’t the first black woman in her chair. Although she said it more sarcastically than that. We got along like a house on fire.”
“Good. If Denise isn’t there for a while, will you use her replacement again?” Part of him hoped she’d say no.
“Yeah, probably. I know what you’re doing. You just want me to drive all the way over here to get my hair done and see you more.” She nudged him with her elbow, laughter in her voice.
“Well—” He wasn’t going to deny it. If he could just get up the nerve to explain his feelings to her.
She shook her head. “A few hours at the salon and an overnight visit with you wouldn’t be so bad, but the commute is hell. You’ve been on the highway at rush hour.”
“All the more reason to move back here,” he blurted out. He waited for her to push him off.
“Alexi, this is a new job for me. I can’t just move back here because my best friend misses me. You do know we can text, call each other, and do video chats, right? You’re not dying without me.” She put on the turn signal and pulled into the parking lot of Gus’s Grab and Go. Although there were other small stores where they could get their food and personal needs, they preferred to make their first stop always Gus’s.
“Mama Leslie’s afterward? I’m dying from some of her double-decker cheeseburgers, spicy curly fries, and her bourbon pecan pie, no wait, her French silk pie, wait…the white chocolate macadamia nut pie. Damn it.” Her enthusiasm warmed his soul and sent a ripple of happiness throughout his body but didn’t wash away the disappointment of having her so far away.
“We’ll just get the usual order, and if we need to, we’ll go back.” Alexi knew that even if they’d gotten enough food for an entire week, they’d still go back to Mama L’s every day.
Tianna pulled into a spot in front of the store and shut off the engine. For a moment they just sat there. Tianna dropped her head back and closed her eyes, a smile played on her lips. “I have to admit being here with you does feel good. Hell, being in LWF is great.”
“LWF, Ti? Too tired or lazy to just say Little Witch Fields?” He couldn’t resist teasing her. It kept him from leaning over the gear shift and tracing the edge of her jaw with his lips before moving lower to her neck. In more private, sexy circumstances, he wouldn’t have hesitated, but his newly discovered romantic love for Tianna made him skittish. Besides that, she wanted a friendly vacation with him.
Tianna yawned. “A bit. The big city has this nonstop energy, but here, you can unwind. Just seeing so many trees and all that greenery relaxes me. We’re going to be among nature, Kurraine!” She opened her eyes and gazed at him, the hazel depths sparkled with happiness.
“You say that now.” He unbuckled his seat belt and leaned over and undid hers. “As soon as you see an insect or a bug, boom, screaming, demanding bug spray and flamethrowers, and telling me how they’re disease-ridden creatures that need to be exterminated. You do realize we need some of those bugs to, like, live and keep the planet healthy?”
She snorted. “So you say.” She shrugged out of the strap and opened the door. “But if a scientist came out and said we don’t really need mosquitoes and black flies, well, death to them. Death!
He followed her lead. Neither one of them bothered locking the car. The police station sat across the street. Anyone who would steal Alexi’s car was just asking for trouble. He could see Deputy Hodgeson coming out of the double doors. Alexi gave him a wave, but the officer didn’t see him. He kept right on going straight into the bike rack. Alexi glanced at what Hodgeson had been staring at only to stop in his tracks too. Tianna was bent over, rounded ass perfectly outlined by her tight jeans, tying her shoe.
Yeah, keep staring. You haven’t got a chance in hell…
The thought came out of nowhere. He couldn’t quash it if he tried. Lately, he’d found that his desire to declare his emotions for her had increased. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that so many of his teammates on the Witch Field Prowlers had found significant others and were in serious relationships, whereas he and Tianna had kept things in the best-friend category—well except for New Year’s, but neither of them had really wanted to talk about it after it had happened, and he didn’t know what to say to her now.
“What? Was my underwear showing?” Tianna straightened up and tugged on her waistband.
“Uh.” Heat flushed his face. “No. Just…um…Hodgeson was staring at your ass.” He decided it would be best to blame the other guy rather than admit to ogling her himself. “Anyway, come on. Let’s get some grub.”
To distract both of them, he wrapped an arm around her waist—his hand settled on her hip—and guided her to the wide-open entrance of the store. They stepped up onto the worn pine veranda. It felt right being this close, holding her like she was his.
Ancient weather-beaten soda and ice machines with faded paint and pictures hummed next to a worn rocking chair where Gus’s golden retriever, Miner, lay. The dog opened one eye and lifted his head and let out a soft whoof
but didn’t rise to greet them.
Tianna drifted out of Alexi’s embrace, grabbed his hand, and guided him over to the dog. She crouched down and began to scratch behind Miner’s ears while Alexi petted him from the base of his spine to the tip of his tail. Miner let out a whine and a small huff as his tail thudded against the floor, bringing up mini dust clouds. Alexi coughed but didn’t move away. Instead, he just turned his head to draw in some clean air.
“Awww, miss us, Miner, huh? I knew we’d be seeing you, so I brought you a treat.” Ti reached into her purse and produced a small turkey sausage patty.
“Hey! That was part of my breakfast,” Alexi protested. He’d wondered why he’d had to go without his usual starter meal in order to get them on the road so early. Now he knew why. She’d been hoarding food for the dog.
“Don’t be selfish! See that, Miner. Alexi can be so narrow-minded. Didn’t even think about you, but I did, didn’t I?” She grinned, unwrapped the meat treat, and set it in front of the dog, who gobbled it up in the time it took to blink. He licked Tianna’s hand and moved on to her face. She didn’t even complain about her makeup getting ruined.
If Alexi’d kissed her with that much enthusiasm in public, she’d nudge him away. Alexi wanted something more substantial.