Home > Fall (VIP #3)(2)

Fall (VIP #3)(2)
Author: Kristen Callihan

He’s either rich or really good at picking up great secondhand bargains. And he’s still oddly familiar. I can’t pin why, and it’s weird not knowing. I’m usually an expert at reading people. But this guy defies basic categories.

His voice takes on a hard tone. “You got the Oreos, sweetheart. I’m taking the ice cream.”

I hold my precious stash closer to my side. “And they need The Mint to be complete.”

“‘The Mint’?” He laughs shortly. “Are you seriously referring to ice cream as though it were some kind of superpower?”

“It certainly has the power to bliss me out.”

That imperious brow of his lifts high again. “And that’s supposed to persuade me to let it go?” Something darkens in his gaze, something that sends an unwanted flash of heat over my skin. “What if I want some bliss too?” he murmurs, all dark sex and hot chocolate.

Oh, he’s good. He probably cons lots of women out of their ice cream with that melting voice.

“Too bad. This ice cream has my name on it, mister.” I tug, but his grip tightens, and the carton won’t budge.

He leans closer, bringing with him the scent of soap and a whiff lemon-honey. “You’ve stepped on the train to La-La Land if you think you’re getting this ice cream, Button.”

“Button?”

“You heard me.” He grins then—all teeth—and gestures toward the other flavors with a nod of his head. “Give up the ghost and grab the Neapolitan over there. Because this ice cream is mine.”

This is ridiculous. I never bicker with strangers. And certainly not with hot guys. Under my normal MO, I would have made a joke about snowstorm-related ice cream shortages, wished the stranger a nice night, and then been on my way. Conflict solves nothing. Yet here I am, acting like an insane woman. The knowledge doesn’t stop me from growling, “I. Want. The. Mint.”

He’s close enough that I see the small scar just under his left eye, half hidden by his girly lashes. Unfair, those lashes. “Not a chance in hell, Button.”

Again with Button. I have no idea what it means, but I’m not backing down now. My honor is at stake.

Neither of us moves. I glare. He glares. In this way, I read him perfectly. As easy as breathing.

Go on, Button. I dare you to try.

You think I can’t take it from you?

I know you can’t.

The arrogance of his little silent rejoinder sets my teeth on edge. Stella Grey might be an average girl, sporting wild hair and possessing a butt that’s seen too many cookies, but she is no wuss. Ignoring the fact that I’ve begun to think of myself in third person, ignoring my sensible side that is screaming, “No! Don’t do it!” I pick up the proverbial gauntlet.

Rising on my toes, I move in for the kill.

And kiss him.

John

* * *

I’ve been poleaxed. By a kiss. And it wasn’t even a hot-and-heavy one. Just a peck. Quick and stealthy. I’d barely had time to react before it was over and she was gone. But during that one point of contact, I’d been totally engaged. In that one, strange moment, every muscle in my body tightened, and my heart flipped over within its cage. I felt the soft pillow of her lips—the give and resiliency in them—and the warm burst of her breath as she gasped. Just as I had.

I’d gasped. What. The. Shit?

The strangeness of it settles over me, prickling my skin. It is the end of a shit day, preceded by a shit week, shit month, shit year. Mired in shit, I have become comfortably numb. I exist in a world of neither highs nor lows. It works for me. As does engaging in simple activities that normal people do. For small slices of time, I act like a regular bloke. Tonight, I’m buying groceries before the storm hits. I like the normality of it.

All that is shattered now as I stand, gaping in the direction my kissing bandit has fled, vaguely aware that the ice-cold freezer air is starting to numb my ear and cheek and that I should move. But there’s another sensation holding my attention. One I had thought I’d lost. Of my blood pumping hard and hot through my veins, my breath unsteady and fast, as though I’ve shifted from an intense sprint to a sudden full stop.

My dick is hard. From nothing more than a little peck on the lips by a plain girl. Again … What. The. Shit?

Well, she isn’t entirely plain. In my mind, I can still see the dip and sway of her ass, that plump, rounded ass, nicely molded in a tight black skirt as she walked away from me. Black skirt, black leggings, black combat boots, red hair.

God, that hair. No matter how much of a crazy pill the woman clearly is, her hair is gorgeous. I’d noticed her hair when she first entered the store. A redhead. Crazy Girl’s hair is brilliant red-gold, like a brand-new penny. A lush tumble of shiny, loose curls, spiraling like a starburst around her plain little face.

It had been almost a shock when she’d first turned my way and I caught full sight of her. Hair like that makes a man expect sex and sin. Not wide eyes and freckles. Cute as a button. A sexy Goth girl with a Mary Ann face. Girl next door meets Wednesday Adams.

I shake my head slightly, trying to get it together. Doesn’t matter what she looks like, the girl is an angry bunny out for the kill. Why did she kiss me? What were we arguing about again?

I glance at my freezing, empty hand. Right. “The Mint.”

A grin pulls at my cold cheeks. Point to Button.

Letting the freezer door slam, I take off after my ice cream.

She’s already at the checkout line, trying to tuck a wayward strand of brilliant hair behind one ear. The curve of her cheek sports a nice pink flush, one that grows deeper as I approach. White teeth nibble on a plush bottom lip that I remember all too well.

Seeing her now, I also remember that flash of shock in her eyes when she’d kissed me, like she couldn’t believe what she’d done. I have never met a more easily readable person. I can almost see those crazy little wheels and cogs spinning in her mind when I saunter up behind her and set my basket down on the end of the belt with a thud.

She’s totally expecting a fight. And it clearly freaks her out. Interesting, considering she did not back down before. Earlier, I’d started to wonder if she’d been following me, which is a definite turnoff. I don’t need a stalker on my hands. Except she’d sent me a warning glare in the produce section that had made me reevaluate that theory. No, this girl clearly wants nothing to do with me.

Her nose lifts as if smelling something off. Yet she doesn’t acknowledge me. Oh no, Button gives me her shoulder, her pale hand resting on my mint chocolate chip ice cream like she thinks I might snatch it away. Ha.

My grin returns, and I crowd her space, staring down the back of her neck, at the creamy swath of skin just visible above her battered dark-blue leather bomber jacket. Her eyes are dark blue too. I have the sudden desire to see them again, glaring up at me in challenge.

Come on, Button, give me those defiant eyes. I’ve been so fucking bored. So numb.

I move in closer. Close enough that if she breathes wrong, her pert ass will brush against my crotch. The idea sends all sorts of less pure but much better ideas into my head. Odd that this strange girl even affects me. That hair certainly does. I took one look at that hair and imagined it sliding over my hard dick. But she’s way too baby-cute for me. Not to mention the fact that she’d be more likely to bite my dick than suck it.

With that horrific thought in mind, I shift my weight back a little and glance at the items she’s unloading with sharp, snappish movements. Aside from the feminine products, almost everything she’s picked is identical to mine. Down to the eight Honeycrisp apples, two containers of vanilla Icelandic yogurt, organic granola—with the cranberries—buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, Italian bread, and smoked center-cut bacon. Exactly the same shit. She’d gone for Oreos. I wanted Oreos. And let’s not forget “The Mint.”

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