Home > Fall (VIP #3)(10)

Fall (VIP #3)(10)
Author: Kristen Callihan

Pressing my hands to my hot cheeks, I laugh a little. “Holy hell. Leave it to me to kiss a rock legend and not even fully appreciate the fact until afterward.”

Steven just meows.

“Maybe,” I amend. “I think... No … He couldn’t have been Jax.”

Chapter Four

Stella

* * *

The sole bonus of a blizzard in spring is that the weather turns warm sooner than later. I hole up in my Penthouse of Awesome with Stevens purring away on my lap for a week. If you’re going to be trapped inside for a week, being in a kickass penthouse is definitely the way to go. I’ve had enough long soaks in the tub that my skin has a pink tinge to it now. And whoever lives in this condo is a music junkie. The sound system is killer, and I’m pretty sure they have every song ever recorded stored on a computer that appears to be just for that use. The movie collection is fantastic as well.

Between that, my e-reader, and my mint chip, I could have happily stayed in for longer. Okay, sure, eating the ice cream hadn’t lived up to its usual bliss. Certain … feelings had gotten in the way. But I ate those feelings right up, numbing everything with my ill-gotten gains.

By the time the world thaws enough to go out, I’m in desperate need of some exercise. Bidding sweet Stevens and bubbly Hawn adieu, I grab my yoga mat and head for the great outdoors. I’m pretty sure I’m the worst yoga practitioner on the planet, my ability to hold a pose being somewhere between ten to thirty seconds before I either fall or something pops. But it beats running. I loathe running. Burning lungs and aching shins is a hell I’m not willing to endure.

That said, I’ve always envied runners. They look so free. Plus, they’ll have the definite advantage during a zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately, I’ll have to resign my fate to being one of the bitten.

One hour later, I’m sweating a river, have a face that would make a tomato proud, and am trudging back home. Why I decided to try hot yoga is a mystery for the ages. Heat and my pale ass do not mix. At all. I think I’d rather run, or be attacked by zombies.

God, I stink. Like sweat and dank yoga mats. I pass a woman who gives me a wide berth, probably to save her nose. My smile is grim as I plod on.

Rounding the corner, I finally reach my building. Back to my beloved bath I will go. I’m dreaming of it as I walk up the front stairs, and right into …

“You have got to be kidding me,” I cry as John halts in his tracks, one foot on the first stair of my building. “I mean, come on, it was just ice cream!”

That seals it; this guy can’t be Jax Blackwood. A rock star would not hunt down a woman just because she took his ice cream.

No, don’t look guilty. Play it cool. Even if you are sweaty and stinky. Shit on a toothpick. Why now?

He’s sweaty too, wearing athletic shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt that clings to his broad chest and flat torso like a hug. It works for him. His body is tight and fit, that perfect ratio of wide, strong shoulders and lean, washboard abs. His skin isn’t blotchy red but smooth honey. Of course, his sweat smells like sunshine and sex. Typical. They should make it into a cologne: Hot Sweaty Guy.

A zing of something purely anticipatory goes through me. Apparently, I’m cheap like that, happy to see a guy even though it appears he’s some sort of creepy stalker. My priorities are embarrassingly out of whack.

Doesn’t help that daylight only improves his good looks, making his eyes dark jade. Lucky fucker. He has two deep lines that bracket his mouth when he grins. I hadn’t noticed that before. But I remember his dry laugh perfectly.

“Oh, that guilt must be eating you up, Button. I bet there was a veritable telltale ice cream heart beating in your freezer all week.”

“Hardly.” There totally had been. His damned, outraged face haunted me with every spoonful. “I ate the whole carton right up. And it was de-fucking-licious.”

He moves up a step, bringing himself eye level with me, at my perch two steps higher. I stiffen, as he leans in close, his voice at my ear, mocking. “Thud, thud. Thud, thud.”

“Shut up.” I won’t crack. Nuh-uh.

But I do. I can feel the guilt twisting my features. Damn it.

He laughs. “I knew it. Revenge is a dish best served cold, isn’t that what they say?”

“You’re thinking way too much about me and my mint, guy.” I plunk a hand on my hip. “Do you have any idea how creepy and desperate it is to track down someone over ice cream?”

He laughs again—a husky sound, as though he hasn’t done it for a while. “As much as I hate to burst your paranoid bubble, Button, I live here.”

“Bull.”

“I shit you not, sweets.”

“It’s Stella, not ‘sweets’ or ‘Button’ or whatever inane name you insist on using.”

“Stella, huh?” He seems closer now. Enough to spot that little scar under his eye again. My knees go a twee bit weak. They nearly buckle when his husky voice rolls over me. “And it’s John. Remember? Not ‘guy’ or ‘mister’ or whatever evil name you’re using in your head.” He peers at me, his grin cheeky. “Don’t bother denying it. I can practically see them popping up when you look at me.”

He’s right. I have many names for him bubbling around in my head. John? Or Jax?

God, I don’t know. And yet it’s killing me.

I don’t want it to be Jax. Bad enough I have to face this guy right now, looking my worst. I won’t be able to bear it if this is the rock star I’ve sung along with while in the shower. “Look, whoever you are …” Don’t be Jax. “Hunting down a woman for ice cream is just sad. I’m pretty sure the stores have restocked by now.”

He snorts. “Trust me, babe, I’m not that hard up for dessert.”

“All evidence to the contrary.”

“You’re right,” he says with a sarcastic smile that I’m beginning to associate with him. “I thought, hey, why don’t I go for a jog and hunt down the little kissing bandit who stole my mint chocolate chip. Why, in a city of ten million, I’m bound to run into her.”

“Har. Really. Har.” I look around the street where sad lumps of blackened snow are melting away. “You’re telling me this is a coincidence?”

That smile grows, curling at the corners like a snake’s. “Apparently so.” A set of keys jangled as he lifts them before my nose. “And I so do live here.”

“Well, fuck me sideways,” I mutter without thinking.

John grins wide, the look in his eyes positively evil. “Sideways, huh? Is that something you’re into?”

“Trust me, that wasn’t a request.” Not really. Well, maybe. Gah, tap it down, Stells.

He scans my body with a sort of lazy perusal that is clearly designed to fluster. “You sure? You look a little flushed and overheated.”

“I just came from hot yoga!”

“Hot yoga? Is that like a class full of hot chicks doing yoga?” He strokes his chin like a creepy professor. “I’m intrigued. Tell me more.”

Wait, did he call me hot? I pause, peering at him, but he simply blinks back with false innocence.

“I’m going inside,” I tell him with a pleasant smile. “Doing downward dog has worn me out.”

Humor flares in his eyes but then his expression turns downright dirty.

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