“The genealogists put together a list,” the Prince said. “All unmarried women of the peerage, in a certain age demographic, who do not have children and have not been divorced. As you might imagine, it’s not particularly extensive.”
“Why not include commoners?” Amelia asked faintly.
“By what criteria? There’s a nation of those. If someone is going to be subjected to this life, they may as well go in as prepared as possible.”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to hold a ball?”
Prince Arthur laughed. His whole face brightened, almost like it had at the races. “The treasury’s already girding its loins for the inevitable royal wedding. Best not to run up an even bigger bill in the process of finding a bride.”
“Are you…proposing to me?” She asked hesitantly. And then, more hysterically, “After five minutes? After talking about genealogy?”
“Hardly.” Arthur sounded offended. “This is me asking if you’d agree to meet with me again to discuss the matter of marriage further.”
Amelia stared at him. This couldn’t possibly be happening.
“Your genealogy, though, is hardly irrelevant.” Prince Arthur removed a piece of paper from the folio, spun it around on the table and pushed it at her.
“This is my family tree.”
“Yes. We do our homework here,” Prince Arthur flipped through his folio again. “You’re attractive, well-born, and intelligent. Pursuing a graduate degree in the earth sciences, I believe.”
“I graduate in the spring. I’m applying to PhD programs. I want to study climate change,” Amelia managed to say, as if any of those words could be a defense against what was happening.
“All of which is excellent. You also happen to be the only eligible daughter of one of the oldest families of York. Both the city and the ancient house.”
“How is that a plus?” Amelia was wary. Little good ever came of the rare times London mentioned York.
“Political marriages — at least of this form — are rather out of style these days. But the rift between the north and the rest of the country only grows.”
“That’s the Prime Minister’s fault. And Parliament’s.” It was Amelia’s turn to be offended now. “The most recent jobs bill—”
The Prince sighed. “Yes. I know. I agree with you. Yet as a member of the royal house I can hardly engage in politics. At least not on a parliamentarian’s terms. But symbolism is mine. And what I can do is unite York and London — York and Lancaster — in a way they haven’t been in centuries. I know this proposition is awkward, but we could make history, you and I.”
“Awkward?!” Amelia exclaimed. “This conversation is insane.”
Prince Arthur blinked mildly at her. “I’m merely trying to apply the available resources to a set of problems. Before you judge, I suggest you consider the resources that could be applied to your problems were you to choose to help me with mine.”
“You don’t even know what my problems are!”
“I don’t have to, to know we could help each other.”
Amelia wanted to turn away from the intensity of his stare, but she couldn’t. He was magnetic, and there was a sharpness, even a shrewdness, to him that hadn’t been present at the races. His eyes may have been brown, but he was no prey animal. She couldn’t help but lean in ever so slightly. In her mind she cursed both the table between them and this proposed conspiracy.
“Lady Amelia,” Prince Arthur said, “do you want to be Queen Consort of England, Scotland, and Wales, Her Royal Majesty of Britain?”
“No!” Amelia pressed her feet firmly against the floor as the word came out of her mouth unbidden. The Prince was fascinating, but the question so baldly put was terrifying. Not to mention treasonous for her to answer in anything but the negative. She wondered, fleetingly, if this were a trap.
“Shall I call to have you shown out then?” His words were without rancor, but there was a coldness to them she did not prefer.
She shook her head. “No,” she repeated more softly.
“Nah-ah, boy, you better take that dog on out of here.”Charlie Littleton tightened his hold on Henry’s leash and shot
Patty a look. “You know he doesn’t bark.”The bakery owner placed a hand on her hip and cocked it for ef- fect. Like always, she wore an apron with the AJ&P Bakery yellow- and-blue logo on it, though you could scarcely see it through the flour and spices smeared across the apron.
“Right,” Patty said now. “A dog that don’t bark. Is that sort of like a man who don’t eat? Because as far as I’m concerned that’s a fic- tional being. Like the dog. But if you do find a man who will share his sandwich, you be sure to point him in my direction, okay? But seeing as how that man don’t exist, kind of like that nonbarking dog don’t exist, I don’t expect you to be introducing me to him anytime soon.” She winked at him and clucked her tongue. “Now, you take that cute bottom of yours out of here, leave the dog in your truck, then come back and I’ll make you a roast beef with extra au jus.”
Charlie peered around the bakery, the smells of fresh baked bread and toasted hot sandwiches hitting his nose. His stomach grumbled. Of course, the small bakery and sandwich shop was packed today, half the town there to witness Charlie getting put in his place. A part of him wanted to remind Patty that his family’s farm supplied most of her produce and could just as easily refuse to deliver, but he’d learned long ago to retreat slowly and carefully when dealing with the bakery owner.
“Fine, but I’m holding you to that extra au jus.”
Patty flashed him a grin. “It’ll be waiting for you, honey.” Then she waved her hand through the air in a sign that he better get mov- ing, and then she went to greet someone else. Someone without a dog.
Resigned, Charlie pushed out of the glass door and eyed his old Husky. “Sorry, boy. I’ll bring you some leftovers, though.” He un- locked his Silverado, cranked the truck, and rolled down the win- dows. It was a mild sixty out in Crestler’s Key, Kentucky, a perfect early spring day, but Henry meant more to him than most of the peo- ple in the town, and if he was going to be forced to stay in Charlie’s truck, then he’d do it with a nice breeze.
With a long glance down Main Street at the row of shops— Southern Dive, his family’s sports and outdoors shop at the very end—Charlie couldn’t help wondering if he was making the right de- cisions in his life.
He’d moved back to Crestler’s Key after living in the Florida Keys for five years. There, he’d operated a small scuba diving busi- ness, his life as much under water as above it. And he loved every moment of it. Then there were the women, too many to count, al- ways around, always eager to occupy a little bit of his time. He’d been content with that life, never asking for more and never wanting it. He was a typical twenty-something and enjoyed every bit of his young age.
Then he met Jade, and hell if he didn’t fall hook, line, and sinker. Still to this day, years later, he remembered with painful clarity her walking down the dock at the marina and stopping outside his houseboat, long sun-bleached blond hair and even longer legs. She was beautiful in that natural, God-made way—his kryptonite, when
it came to women, so all it took was one look and he was gone.
It took mere days, maybe even hours, for her to rope him into her world. She had innocence behind that beauty that he couldn’t refuse, and weeks passed with them tangled in each other’s arms, a new kind of happiness swirling in Charlie’s chest. She would never fill the spot someone else had once filled, someone he was never allowed to care for, someone he told himself he could—would—forget, but Jade made him feel good. They meshed together perfectly, peanut butter and freaking jelly.
Until that fateful day when he woke to discover she’d taken every- thing he owned. His dog. His wallet, which she used to drain his checking account. His prized possessions. Even the coin collection his grandfather had left him. Every. Single. Thing. Hell, if he hadn’t been on the houseboat, he felt sure she’d have sailed off with it, too.
And while, yeah, the money thing sucked, and the coin collection sucked even more, what really dropped him into the depression bucket was losing his old dog, Rocky.
He’d rescued Rocky as a puppy from the pound, more mutt than anything, and with a broken left leg. Thousands of dollars in vet bills later, and that dog was his only friend down there. And his idiotic self had let some vixen walk in and steal him.
The thought brought on a fresh wave of guilt, and he contem- plated going to talk to Patty again, convince her that they could sit out on the back patio, but then he’d been through this argument with her before. Besides, this was Crestler’s Key, not Florida, and he knew everyone in town. No one would take his dog.
Still, just to be safe, he hit the locks on his truck twice, before heading back into AJ&P, determined to rehash this with Patty before he left if she hoped to continue to get discounted produce from the farm.
“There you are, cute bottom.”
Grimacing, Charlie pivoted to find his best friend, Lucas, already seated at one of the white-washed wooden tables, a giant smirk on his face. “Funny,” Charlie said. “You know, I was excited to see you and then you had to go and open that big mouth.” The men laughed, then hugged, because it’d been too damn long.
They took their seats and Lucas joked, “Thought you were going to cry there when she said you couldn’t bring Henry in here.”
Charlie peeked out the window at his truck before returning his gaze to his friend. “Well, she ought to remember who’s supplying all her produce.”
“So you’re going to hold her produce ransom until she lets you bring in your dog? Dude, you need a chick in your life. Stat.”
Charlie laughed, until he glanced around and noticed several of the women he’d dated off and on eating at the bakery, half of them glaring at him. “Yeah . . . think I’ll pass on that one. Thanks, though.” “What’s the deal with your insane overprotectiveness of Henry
anyway? He’s a giant dog. He can take care of himself.”
Yeah, well, Rocky had been a big dog, too, and that didn’t save him from that thieving witch of a woman. Charlie had searched for the dog for nearly a year, all to no avail. Jade was probably halfway across the world now, with his money and his coin collection and his dog. Damn woman. No, damn women. They were more trouble than they would ever be worth.
Lucas continued to stare at him with a questioning look, but all Charlie could say was the same excuse he always said. Because no one, not Lucas, not his brothers Zac or Brady, no one knew about Jade or what she’d done to him. The humiliation would be too much.
“Henry had a rough childhood. Gotta protect the boy now.” “Right . . .”
MaryAnn, one of AJ&P’s waitresses, came over then to get their order, and Lucas smiled a little too wide at his former high-school flame before clearing his throat and trying for mock-cool. Charlie suppressed a grin. MaryAnn, with her wavy blond hair and deep brown eyes, still looked exactly as she did in high school. And just like in high school, she was still 100 percent in love with Lucas. “Hey, there,” MaryAnn said, matching his smile. “I didn’t know you were home.”
Lucas shrugged. “Three-day leave before going back.”
“When is your tour over?” she asked, her eyes filling with a bit of hope that she probably wished wasn’t there. She and Lucas had mu- tually ended their relationship when she realized he intended to be a career soldier, and having lost her brother in Iraq, she said she couldn’t live that life. It was a mature decision, they had both said, but now ten years later, they both still looked like they regretted it. And come to think of it, Charlie couldn’t remember a single woman Lucas had dated seriously since ending things with MaryAnn.
With another careful glance at his old girlfriend, Lucas relaxed into his chair, the single thing between them now back front and center. “Three months, then I’ll have a few weeks off, before another one.”
MaryAnn nodded slowly, and then flipped her attention over to Charlie for the first time, like she couldn’t bear to look at Lucas an- other second. “Your regular?”
“Yeah, though Patty promised extra au jus if I left Henry in the truck.”
“What’s up with you and that dog?”
Lucas laughed. “Didn’t you know? He’s married to that dog. Pa- pers and all.”
Both MaryAnn and Lucas laughed, until they made eye contact with each other and both went mum. She took their order and saun- tered off, her shoulders drooped a little, and Charlie couldn’t stand it anymore.
“What?” Lucas asked.
Charlie deadpanned. “What? Are you freaking kidding me? The whole town could feel that tension. Why not try?”
Lucas took a drink of his sweet tea, set it down, then did it again, like he wasn’t ready to speak yet. Or maybe he didn’t know what to say. “She made her intentions clear years ago. Her mind’s not changing.”
“She’s older now. Y’all were teenagers then. Maybe she wants you to make the first move.”
“Says the dude who hasn’t been on a real date since . . .” Lucas cocked his head. “Come to think of it, I don’t think you’ve ever been on a real date.”
“Whatever. I date.”
“Sure you do,” Lucas said, relaxing now that the spotlight wasn’t on him. “You sound just like Lila, always deflecting.”
And just like that, just the mention of her name, and Charlie sat up taller, eager to hear anything that might have to do with Lucas’s little sister. “What’s up with Lila these days? Still in vet school?” He thought of Lucas’s only sister, two years younger and forever tag- ging along with the two boys when they were kids. She’d always been pretty in a sweet, natural way, her smile and laugh infectious. Charlie looked after her when Lucas left for basic, but then Charlie moved to the Keys and Lila moved away to college, and he hadn’t seen her since.
“Actually she finished school. Went to work in Charlotte for a while, but she moved back to town a week ago.” He took another drink of his tea, his look distant now, and Charlie got the distinct im- pression that Lucas was keeping something from him.
“Why’d she move back to town?” Charlie asked. He wondered what Lila looked like now, if she’d kept her black hair cropped short like she had when she was little. But then most women changed their hair all the time, so it could be long now—beautiful. She probably had men waiting in lines to get her attention, that bright smile of hers forever turning the eye of everyone she passed. It had certainly caught his eye.
Lucas shrugged. “Work stuff.”
MaryAnn returned then with their food, saving Lucas from ex- plaining, but something was definitely going on. Still, it wasn’t Char- lie’s business, and he was never one to pry.
“She ever marry?” All right, so maybe he was one to pry. “Nah, not her thing.”
Charlie perked up at the thought, his heart light—happy. Wow, Lila wasn’t married. He’d expected her to be—
But before he could finish the thought, Lucas pointed at him. “Don’t even think about it.”
Charlie threw up his hands. “Think about what?” “Lila. And you. You and Lila.”
A sarcastic laugh broke from his lips, despite the uneasiness in his chest. “You go insane again? This is me. She’s like a little sister to me.”
Lucas settled in his chair again, but his face was still tense. “Right . . . just like the last time. My thoughts on this haven’t changed.” Cringing, Charlie thought of that fateful day in high school when he’d asked Lucas about his sister. It was a simple question—Is Lila around? Three words, nothing more. He and Lucas had always been best friends, but somewhere along the way, Charlie started noticing Lila more and more. Curious where she was, how she was doing. But needless to say, the conversation with his friend didn’t go well.
Lucas went ballistic, shouting all the reasons Charlie wasn’t to touch his sister, and their friendship meant enough to him that he didn’t.
“Relax, man. I’m not going after your sister.”
Besides, Lila was the furthest thing from Charlie’s type now. He wasn’t into doctors or the professional type. Lucas had nothing to worry about. Nothing. But still, he couldn’t deny that he was curious what adult Lila looked like and whether she would remember the time they’d almost . . .
No, surely not.
Even if he would never forget.
Genre: Contemporary Romance , RomCom
Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing
Date of Publication: 25 April 2017
Number of pages: 200 pages
Word Count: 50 k
Cover Artist: Amy from Q Design
Now the whole town knows. And Emma is pissed! She’s going to kill him.
But a heated argument leads to a fiery moment of passion and suddenly the two are fighting an unlikely attraction that neither saw coming. But Oliver has a secret that could tear them apart…
Melissa Kate is a self-confessed book-a-holic who lives in a small town along the coast in sunny South Africa. She writes contemporary romance with quirky characters and witty banter; a true romantic at heart, she loves the moment of falling in love. Her pet Beagle and maniacal lovebird keep her company while writing and often inspire senseless moments in her stories.
When she’s not furiously tapping away on her laptop, Melissa can be found laughing away with her husband (who happens to be her pre-school sweetheart… you just know there’s a story there) or scouring online stores for additions to her ever growing stiletto collection (ehm addiction).
Gabby Cosette smoothed her hand down the simple baby blue sundress she meticulously picked out for this evening and tried not to look too eager. Or throw up. That wouldn’t do either.
From a back booth, she glanced around the only Italian restaurant in Redwood Ridge, comforted by the fact it was still early yet for the dinner rush. The place was a good choice. Right? Not as casual as Shooters—the bar she and her friends frequented—but not as formal as one of the seafood restaurants that dotted their Oregon coastal town. A step above grabbing coffee or a beer, yet it didn’t scream desperation.
Was a booth in the back too obvious? Had she overdone it with her makeup? Maybe she should’ve put her hair up instead of down?
No, no. She went for light and natural on purpose. The patrons of Redwood Ridge had known her all her life. It wasn’t far out of the realm of ordinary for her to wear a dress and light cosmetics. She was being a basket case.
It’s just… Well, she hadn’t had a date in a year. A year!
To calm her nerves, she drew in a deep breath and focused on the red checkered tablecloth. A votive candle flickered on the windowsill to her right, the flame reflecting off the tinted glass. The parking lot stretched beyond, where her date’s car was not in one of the available spots.
It was silly to get this worked up over a first date, especially with Tom.
She’d gone to elementary and high school with him. His parents still lived down the street from hers. Strange how he’d never shown any interest in her romantically, yet out of the blue, he’d asked her out this week.
Then again, most everyone in town viewed her as the sweet Cosette girl, everyone’s friend. Thus the no date in a year. It was hard to get a guy to think about kissing her, never mind imagining her naked, when she had platonic all but tattooed on her forehead.
The waitress strolled over in her apron, holding a notepad in her hand.
“Are you waiting on someone, sweetie pie?”
“Yes.” She smiled and grabbed her cell on the table. Tom was five minutes late. “He should be here any minute.”
“Ooh. Is it a date?” Mavis planted a hand on her plump waist and grinned, the wrinkles around her eyes growing to crevices. Gabby wasn’t sure how old Mavis was, no one really knew, but she never seemed to age past the state from when Gabby was a child.
Gabby opened her mouth to answer, but Tom strode toward her, weaving around tables and plopping in the seat across the booth.
“Couldn’t find ya at the bar. I wasn’t expecting a table.”
It was still early, and Le Italy didn’t get that crowded even on a Friday night. How hard could it possibly have been to locate her? “Give us a sec,”she told Mavis and waited for her to step away.
Tom had blond hair too short for her preference and a thin mouth. His unremarkable brown eyes darted around the restaurant and back to her. He made no attempt to apologize for being late, and it appeared as if he’d just come from work. His jeans and T-shirt were paint-splattered. The hazard of working for his dad’s commercial painting and roofing company.
“Thanks for meeting me.” He took off his ball cap and scratched his head.
Why did that sound un-date-like? “Um…sure thing. How’s work going?”
Her gaze dipped to his hands, no better off than his clothes. Maybe she should’ve picked Shooters after all.
Something felt very, very off as her belly twisted. Not with nerves this time. Confused, Gabby’s mind scrolled through their conversation from earlier in the week when he’d brought his dog into the vet clinic where she worked. As he was checking out, he’d anxiously spun around to face
her and asked if she could meet him.
“Good. Work’s good.” He put his hat back on and glanced outside.
“Getting to be warmer out, so the jobs are picking up.” Perhaps he was just nervous, too. Her tension drained a degree.
Mavis returned and asked for a drink order.
Tom lifted his hand to wave her off. “Nothing for me, thanks. I can’t stay long. Got a poker game with the guys tonight. I need to shower before they show up.”
The forced smile Gabby had plastered on her face began to wilt like her mom’s petunias in August. What did he mean he couldn’t stay long? And why would he ask her out and schedule a card game on the same night?
Plus, he could shower for his friends, but not her?
Mavis divided her gaze between them, a mix of bewilderment and irritation lifting her brows. She tapped her pen to her pad as the silence hung. “Can I get you something?” She focused on Gabby, her tone indicating she should order something.
“I’ll have a sweet tea. Thank you.” When the waitress walked away, Gabby looked at Tom. He’d thrown his arm over the back of the booth and had stretched his legs out. The aroma of Eau de Paint Thinner wafted across the table. “So…?”
“Right, right.” Tom leaned forward and crossed his arms. “I appreciate you letting me do this in person.”
She stilled. “Do what?” Because she was definitely getting the this-is-not-a-date vibe now.
A warring shift in contradiction took over her body. Everything inside grew rapidly chilly while her skin heated in what she hoped wasn’t a blush. Her pale complexion always gave away her emotions and she hated that more than she’d hated freshman algebra. Math was evil.
He let out a tense laugh, which sounded more like a guffaw, and drew several heads from other diners. “Not exactly a conversation you want to have over the phone or somethin’, ya know?”
No. She didn’t know. “Maybe if you just tell me?”
He played with the parmesan shaker, not meeting her gaze. “Well, the whole town’s buzzing about Rachel and Jeff’s split.”
She frowned, not connecting the dots on his crazy pattern. Her older sister had only dated Jeff for a few weeks which, per Rachel standards, might as well have been marriage. Rachel liked to keep her options—and legs—open.
Guilt immediately consumed her for the crass thought, but it didn’t make it any less true. She and Rachel couldn’t be any more different. Rachel was aloof and sexy. Gabby was the girl next door. Men desired Rachel. The only thing they desired from Gabby was a shoulder to cry on after her sister shot them down.
She twirled a strand of hair around her finger to keep from fidgeting. “I don’t understand what Rachel and Jeff have to do with…” Unable to finish the sentence—because she had no idea anymore what “this” was—she waved her hand between them.
“Well,” he said in an aw-shucks kind of way that made her want to grind her teeth, “now that Rachel’s available, I thought maybe you could put in a good word for me?”
Swinging my suitcase, I speed walk toward the elevator bank.
One of the cars is out of service. The other one is incredibly slow. By the time the doors finally open, I’ve silently sung the whole soundtrack of Rent, all five hundred twenty-five minutes and six hundred seconds of it.
“Hold it, please,” says the guy behind me as the doors begin to close.
I press the open button, but the doors keep closing. I jab it. The metal doors don’t stop.
“Sorry,” I say. “Can’t get it to open.” I throw my hand in the gap between the doors. Nope. Still moving shut. Guess it doesn’t have a safety. I pull my hand back before the doors slam.
He rushes toward me, a duffle bag slung across his shoulder. It’s too late, dude. They close. Well almost close. I gasp as a very large sneaker wedges between the doors.
“Ouch,” he says as the doors part.
“Are you all right?”
He smiles. “I’ll live.”
He presses the button for the tenth floor. The air in the elevator suddenly becomes heavier. It’s the same guy who held the front door for me, the one with the smoky southern flare in his voice.
“I swear I was trying to hold it open.”
“You were?” He looks straight into my eyes.
For some reason, I don’t shift my head down like I normally do. I’m not sure if this makes it worse or better. He’s a nice looking boy…man. Who the hell am I kidding? He’s hot, like you-might-mistake-me-for-anunderwear- model hot. He’s tall with defined, but not over-the-top, muscles.
His jeans are ripped in all the right places and his faded gray T-shirt reads free shrugs in all caps. He’s got a strong square jaw that’s a day or two past a shave. His eyes are an intense light blue, my favorite color. The T-shirt might as well say my superpower is being beautiful.
The doors close, trapping us in a space that seems to get exponentially smaller now that he’s sharing it with me. He runs his fingers through brownish hair. Umm…not exactly brown. I’d call the color milk chocolate spiced with threads of cinnamon and honey.
Get a grip. So what if he’s good-looking? This is freaking Beach Town, Florida. Next to seashells and citrus, cute boys are the largest produced crop. Wait. He asked me something, didn’t he? Oh yeah, it was about the stupid elevator. “I pushed the open door button.”
“It just closed anyway, huh?” He quirks an eyebrow, an amused expression on his face.
“It did. I swear. It isn’t working,” I say, pointing to the button with the picture of the triangles next to it.
“That’s the button you pushed?”
“You realize it’s the close door button, right?”
I stare at it and the one next to it. The placement seems wrong, but the pictures don’t lie. “I do now.”
The elevator jolts before the car stops completely. I stumble back.
“You all right?” he asks.
“Looks like we’re stuck.”
I press the button for my floor. Nothing happens. So I start pressing the other buttons. Still nothing. No… This can’t be real. Getting stuck in an elevator with a super hot guy? This is the stuff of corny rom-coms.
“There’s no need to panic.”
“Not panicking,” I say as I hit a few more buttons.
“Are you claustrophobic?”
“No.” I sigh and lean back against the railing. I can still feel his gaze on me. “A little.”
“Heard it helps to think about something else.”
“Like what?” I curl my fingers around the steel railing at the back of the elevator.
He tilts his head, studying me. “Have we met?” he asks.
I replay the question in my head wondering if I heard correctly. When I laugh, the sound bounces off the walls and echoes inside the small elevator car. “Seriously?”
He does a face palm. “Crap, that sounds like a pick-up line. I swear it’s not.”
As if I’d think he was trying to pick me up. “I’m sure you’d remember if you knew me.”
“That’s true. How could I forget?”
For a second, I thought he might be making fun of me on some level. But there isn’t anything malicious in his voice. Taking a deep breath, I force myself to relax.
“Kiran Shenoy, right?”
I lift my head, wondering if I did know him. I think back to all the boys I went to high school with, but his face doesn’t register at all. It’s the kind of face that would register in triplicate. “How do we know each other?”
“No idea. I overheard the lady behind the front desk say your name.”
He holds out his hand…his very large hand. “Mason Cutler.”
I’ve been curling my fingers around the railing so tightly that I have to shake out my hand before taking his. His handshake is firm. I’m about to let go when he flips my wrist over. He presses his thumb against the ruby red mark there. Very few people notice it against my brown skin. His thumb slides back and forth in a short caress. The stain disappears against the pressure. It comes back slowly, deepening in color for a moment. My pulse spikes ten notches…maybe twenty. After an eternity, he finally lets go. It’s really only been two seconds, but it feels much longer, or maybe not long enough.
“It’s not a tattoo?”
“It’s a birthmark. They call it a port wine stain.”
“A fire stain.”
“I thought this was inked on since it’s shaped like a heart.”
The car starts up with a jolt. He gestures to the screen that signals we are moving. “See? No reason to panic.”
The doors open, ending the weirdest elevator ride in the history of the world.
“This is me,” I say, my fingers clutching the handle of my suitcase.
He holds one of the doors by leaning against it while I get out. I catch a hint of spicy, manly cologne and delicious boy. “Thank you.”
“We made it unscathed.”
“So we did.” I nod, accepting what happened. He was just being nice and trying to distract me with an introduction.
“Maybe I’ll see you around, Shenoy,” he says.
I turn just in time to see the doors close.