I’m waiting for Max to get back with information on who sent me the candy and note.
Curiosity eats away at me.
Who the hell would send a guy candy? Not just any candy, but those goofy wax lips that taste like cardboard.
Someone nutty, that’s for sure.
Maybe even a past fling. I’m wracking my brain trying to think if any of the girls I’ve slept with recently were a bit nutty.
There was that one girl who wanted me to…Nah. I smile at the memory. She was the good kind of nutty.
The door to my office bursts open and Max tries to walk in but it looks like something is holding him back.
Max starts laughing and says, “C’mon sweetheart, he won’t bite.”
I stand and step towards the door, my brows furrowed. I decide to sit on the front of my desk.
What did he bring me, a Pitbull?
Max is struggling with whoever is out there and Max is big. And strong. He looks at me like he wants to burst into laughter. Walking back out the office door, he emerges seconds later.
Walking backwards towards me is a woman; Max has his hands on her shoulders and is walking her toward me. Once she hits the middle of the room, he stops walking. He lowers his face to hers and says, “He just wants to talk, hon.” He flicks her hair playfully, turns and walks out. But not before he winks at me.
The woman standing in my office still has her back to me and she’s looking at the floor. I do a quick scan of her from the back. Medium height; maybe 5”5 or 5”6 without the black pumps she’s rockin’. Nice body. Great ass. Long dark hair to her waist. It’s shiny and has a nice natural wave to it.
It’s now been over a minute and this slip of a woman still hasn’t turned to face me.
I’m getting irritated now.
I have to break the ice.
I say, “He’s right, you know. I won’t bite.”
Her shoulders stiffen but she slowly turns to face me. Her face is still lowered so I can’t see what she looks like.
I take a look at her body from the front. Decent boobs. Nice curvy body. She’s dressed nicely, wearing a white linen shirt and a high waisted grey skirt. You know the ones that are tight around the ass and get tighter around the knees?
She’s also wearing a thick black belt that goes just under her boobs. The more I look at her, the sexier she becomes.
This somehow makes me more irritated.
I ask a little too firmly, “Can you look at me, miss? I just wanna ask you a few questions. Nothin’ to be worried about.”
She nods and lifts her head.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes.
Not a past fling, that’s for sure.
She’s cute. And flushed, I mean, really flushed. It kinda makes her cuter. Not just cute, but adorable.
And she’s petrified.
I have no idea why. I mean, I know I’m a big guy but I don’t think I’m that scary.
She has light green eyes that are unusual because they have a black rim, a cute little nose, and her lips…Oh, man.
Her top lip is full and her bottom lip is fuller.
Using my foot, I pull out a chair and motion for her to sit. Thankfully, she does so without hesitating.
Who is this girl?
Uh, that voice.
It’s the type of voice you hear in your own made up fantasies. Deep and sexy.
I look up at Mr Beautiful and Wow. He’s actually even more beautiful up close.
Now that I’m close enough to him, I can see he has the same eye color as Max. He looks a lot like Max, too. I’m guessing they’re brothers or at least related.
Just above his eyebrow is a scar; it goes through his eyebrow at an angle and ends at the outer tip of his eye.
A scowl mars his face and he sighs deeply.
He stands up and walks around the desk, sits behind it and takes his cufflinks out of the button holes of his silk lilac shirt. Not many men could pull off looking manly in lilac. But he’s just that awesome.
He rolls up the sleeves to his elbows. I think he’s done this to make me a little more comfortable around him. I’m surprised that it works. The simple move has made him much less intimidating and I feel myself loosen up.
He sounds bored when he says, “I’m Nik.”
He already thinks you’re a weirdo, don’t you dare freeze up now. It’s just talking.
I reply a little too loudly, “I’m Tina.”
His lips twitch. He asks, “You work at Safira’s Boutique?”
I simply nod.
He points to the note which now sits on his desk and asks, “Can you tell me who gave me this note?”
Immediately I respond, “I did.” Just like ripping off a band aid, the quicker you do it the less painful it is.
His brow furrows in confusion, he taps his pen on the desk and says, “Oh. I guess you could say I’m a little curious about the note. And what’s written on it.”
I flush even warmer and slide deeper into the chair.
I’m so embarrassed!
I quickly respond, “I’m so sorry if I offended you in any way. I, ah, I think I should just go.” I move to stand but he reaches over the table and takes my hand in his huge one.
He says, “Sit down, please.” This is not a request.
He places my hand back on the desk and I park my butt back down. He reaches for the note and reads aloud, “Smile sometime, handsome.”
Yep. I’m an Idiot.
This Tina woman closes her eyes and cringes when I read the note aloud; it’s so cute I have to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing.
She straightens up, looks me in the eye and says matter-of-factly, “It’s just that every day you come outside for your cigarette break which, by the way, smoking kills.” She scrunches her nose, and says quietly, “But at least it didn’t stunt your growth.” She looks thoughtful, places her fingers to her chin and tilts her head slightly. Her head straightens suddenly as if she just remembered she wasn’t done and she continues, “And I see you out there every day but you’re never happy. And you never smile. Like ever. And I just wanted to, anonymously, make your day a bit better and make you smile because, frankly, watching you is a bit depressing. And I know it’s none of my business and you have the right to be as broody as you damn well please, but I like when people smile and I like making people smile!” She finishes a little louder than she needs to be. I have to stop myself from running my hands down my face.
Yeah, too cute.
I feel a frown form.
I don’t do cute. She has a great ass that I would definitely like in my bed but I don’t do cute.
Cute girls wanna kiss. I don’t do that shit. Kissing means special things like relationships and girlfriends. And I don’t have relationships or girlfriends. I have fuck buddies. Because I fuck. Often. I most definitely don’t make love. I might not screw hard all the time but even slow screwing is just screwing.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to make the effort to keep a girlfriend.
One day, when I’m not knee deep in nightclub bullshit, I’ll find a nice girl and settle down. I’ll make sure that girl will be worth it. But that time is not now.
Tina is looking at my eyes and asks, “What color are your eyes?”
Uh oh, she’s making goo-goo eyes at me. Crap, cut her loose and let her be on her way.
Nik shifts in his chair almost nervously as he replies, “Uh, I don’t really know. Like a gold-ish brown or somethin’.”
I push the eye color thing. I tell him, “I’ve never seen eyes that color. It’s like warm honey.”
He looks away and swallows hard before he says, “Uh, yeah, I guess.”
Oh my, he is nervous.
As he looks toward the bookcase in the corner and I spy ink travelling up the back of his neck past the back of his ear. It’s black, thick, and looks tribal.
He won’t look me in the eye now and I wonder what I said to get a reaction like the one he’s giving me.
Frowning, I take a look around his office while I try to figure him out. It’s nice. The walls are a pale sandy color. His desk is wooden and looks heavy. This desk was not bought at Ikea. This was the type of desk you bought at an antique store and had re-finished. It’s clearly mahogany (La dee dah!). And I notice the whole room is neat; not a stray paper in sight. I can’t even see my desk in Safira’s store room! It’s covered in papers, stock, and trash.
Mental note; find your desk.
There are two framed photos on the mahogany bookshelf in the corner of the office.
One is of a little girl who is so beautiful, my heart aches. Her smile is pure sunshine and she is missing one of her front teeth. She has Nik’s eyes. The frame is bright pink with purple glittery butterflies around it.
The other frame is exquisite. It is thick silver with pieces of beige mother of pearl swirling through it. The photo is an old one, a family portrait it looks like. A tall, dark haired, middle aged man stands with his arms around a short but beautiful dark haired, dark eyed woman. The woman is very much pregnant. The man looks like Nik but he is pale skinned where Nik is much darker. Most importantly are the man’s eyes. They are Nik’s eyes. I’m going to take a stab and say these are Nik’s parents.
Two small girls flank the couple, hugging them both around the legs. Hugging the two girls are two young men. Looking closer at this picture I can see Max’s cheeky dimpled smile and it confirms my earlier suspicions that Nik and Max are brothers. Both girls have their mother’s eyes; both boys have their father’s eyes. All the children got their mother’s beautiful skin tone. They are all laughing and smiling.
Wow, I love this photo.
Everyone in this picture is so happy. Like, blissfully happy. I think back to Nik and wonder what happened to his happiness.
I take another look around but there is nothing else to note except a filing cabinet in the opposite corner of the room close to the door.
No more photos, nothing at all personal, nothing to suggest he has a girlfriend or wife.
Then it clicks.
His reaction to my stupid questions. And I almost burst out laughing but manage to stop it and make a choked sound instead.
He thinks I’m coming onto him!
I mean, I can’t blame him for thinking that because he is beauty defined. And now that I’ve spent some time with him I realize I had nothing to be nervous about. He seems like a nice, well-mannered guy but still a little too broody for my liking.
An idea enters my brain and before I can think about it and verbal diarrhea spews forth.
Tina spends a good few minutes looking around my office. Her eyes land on the family portrait which was taken a few months before Dad died.
I realize she’s looking for photos of a wife or girlfriend.
Here we go. She’s gonna make her move. I should’ve left the damn note thing alone.
Tina makes a choked noise and I look up to find her trying to hold back a smile.
Cut her loose and no one gets hurt. She’s too cute.
She is too cute. Too cute to fuck and leave, she ain’t that type. I can tell. I spend a lot of time with girls like that and they normally have the same interests as me.
Sex without strings.
My body tenses. How do I turn her down without sounding like an asshole?
Girls like Tina hurt easy. That’s why I don’t deal with girls like this.
She’s smiling a small smile and waiting for me to say something. I don’t know what to say to her, she’s nervous as it is and doesn’t need me going all asshole on her.
I start tapping my pen on the desk. I’m thinking so hard I’m sure she can see my brain moving around through my skull!
I haven’t noticed she started to speak.
“So we can be friends, right?”
I stare at her, a frown forming at my mouth.
Did I..? Did I just get Friend-zoned?
I look over again to see Tina nodding vigorously and smiling brightly.
Wow, this has never happened to me before. Girls usually come to the club knowing I got money; they ask me out or ask me to their place for a “drink”, which one hundred percent of the time ends up meaning sex.
Tina takes my silence as her cue to speak again. “I mean we work right across the street from each other. We can do lunch sometimes and, Ooh,” she widens her eyes almost comically, “we can get together for coffee at Winnie’s!”
She looks so excited at the prospect of us being friends, she’s practically bouncing up and down in her seat.
You don’t need another friend. Definitely not a friend that’s a girl; too complicated. Cut her loose, man. You don’t need this shit.
Just do it! Cut her loose. This is a mistake.
I look into her sweet face and the words are out of my mouth before I realize.
“Yeah, sure. We can be friends”
What. The. Fuck?
Where the hell did that come from?
Before I can think about what just happened, Tina looks at me and smiles big. Her lips are a pale pink, not lipstick or gloss, but naturally. Her teeth are white and perfect. I tell myself to stop staring at her damn lips. So I focus on her eyes. Her eyes are slightly crinkled at the corners. Goddamn, even her eyes are smiling.
Great. Just great, you moron.
Tina stands abruptly, pushing the chair out so hard it almost flies backwards onto the floor. She snatches up one of my business cards out of the holder on the desk, smiles brightly at me and says, “Great! So I guess I’ll be seeing you around, friend!” enthusiastically waving my business card back and forth in the air like it’s a Polaroid picture. She finishes with, “I’ll be in touch.”
And then she’s out the door. I sit back in my chair and my brow furrows once more as I scratch my chin.
Seriously. What the fuck just happened?
I walk myself down the stairs and out of Nik’s building, thankfully remembering the way Max showed me. I make my way across the street to Safira, bound through the door grinning from ear to ear and holding Nik’s business card. Mimi looks at me, her face twisted in confusion. She looks around the store then back at me. She narrows her eyes and slowly walks over to me. She takes the business card out of my hand and reads aloud, “Nikolai Leokov. Owner. The White Rabbit.” She breaks out into a huge smile and shakes her head in disbelief.
She claps her hands together and yells, “I can’t believe it! You’re actually going out with him!” Still smiling, she pats my hand. This small action is huge for Mimi. In Mimi Land, that is a hug.
Meems knows all about my past relationship; in fact all my girls know about Jace Weathers. I don’t keep secrets from them. One girl’s night out, after one too many cherry bombs, I unloaded my past onto Mimi and Lola. They listened intently as good friends do and offered me unconditional support.
I love my girls.
They are awesome.
Mental note; make the girls cupcakes.
I feel the rush of warmth in my middle; my face softens a little but I quickly pull on a poker face and straighten my back. I prepare for the wrath of Mimi.
I overdo it a little with the cheer, smile big and say, “Actually, we decided to be friends!”
Mimi does not speak for almost thirty seconds.
I chance a look at her. She is leaning gracefully with her tall, lithe body against the counter, one leg crossed over the other. Her eyes are narrowed (stop that darling, you’ll get wrinkles) and she wears a facial expression that clearly says Are you freaking kidding me? And not in a good way.
She shrieks, “Are you freaking KIDDING me??!”
Thar she blows!
I cringe and bite my lip before returning with, “It’s better for everyone this way.”
She counters with, “Umm, No. It’s better for you.” She shakes her head slightly and looks disappointed.
I don’t want to disappoint Mimi.
She and Lola have been on a mission since I told them about Jace the Moron (which Natalie calls him, or The Moron for short). They both set me up on blind dates hoping I would meet a nice man and fall in love. I went on four dates in the last four months and all the guys were nice. But, firstly, I don’t want to fall in love again and, secondly, I’m happy with my life as it is.
I don’t need a man.
I start, “Meems, I appreciate your interest in my social life…”
“You mean Lack Of social life!” she bites back.
I continue “…and you’re a great friend. But I’m busy with the store and I don’t have the time for a boyfriend right now. To tell you the truth, I don’t want a boyfriend right now. I love my life. I’m back on track and loving it.”
Jumping up, she plants her butt on the counter in front of me. She leans in and whispers, “You’re my best friend.”
My throat closes up and my eyes mist. I whisper, “Honey…”
She goes on, “You gave me a chance when no one else would. I’ll always be in your debt.” She looks uncomfortable and I know telling me this is taxing her. “I know I’m not the most cheerful person and I don’t do emotions well,” she whispers so quietly but I hear the words clearly. “That man damaged you. I just want you to be happy.”
Mimi is not wrong. Jace did damage me. Not physically but mentally. I don’t trust the way I used to. It took me over a year to trust Mimi and Lola enough to tell them about myself. They know most of the dirty details of what Jace put me through. They know that loss hit me hard and, yes, damaged me.
Who isn’t damaged in some way or another these days?
I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl.
My palms start to sweat as I think about what I left behind in Cali.
I miss it. A lot.
It sucks badly but I’m glad that soon I’ll have the best part of Cali right here…Natalie!
Just another week. Almost there.
My bff is a hoot; so much attitude and sarcasm in such a small package. I love her for that; she makes me laugh all the time. Humor is my way of dealing with a plethora of things. I love to laugh. It calms me.
She’s made me laugh a lot over the past year when I really needed it. I can’t wait to see her so I can squeeze her. I haven’t seen her in a year but we talk on the phone every few days and text every day. She knows more about Jace than Mimi and Lola.
Uhh, Jace Weathers.
What can I say about Jace?
I met Jace just before I turned twenty. He was twenty three. We were both in college when he asked me out. I said yes, and we spent two wonderful years together.
He was my first in a lot of things. He was my first boyfriend, my first love and my first…you know.
I had dated every now and again. I fooled around, too, but I kept my virginity for the one.
Jace, I thought, was the one for me. I gave him my virginity after only three months together. After that first time, we did it a lot.
How great is sex?!
Pretty great if you ask me! That’s the only thing I miss about having a man.
Jace was ecstatic that I was so enthusiastic about it. It was me initiating foreplay most of the time and I kept him extremely satisfied.
After two pretty great years together, we both decided that we were too young to get engaged or even move in together. We were happy with our relationship. Most of our time was spent together, laughing and goofing off. We were happy. Well, I know I was happy.
Jace is a good looking guy. About 6 foot tall, lean and muscular. He played basketball through college. Wearing his dark brown hair in a spiked style, with green eyes and an easy smile. He stole my heart.
I want it back, you goddamn thief!
Everything was great until it wasn’t.
I hate Jace now. I actually loathe Jace. He is a coward and a big fat stupid head.
What more can I say about Jace?
He broke my heart; shattered it into a million pieces.
I mean, really, what kind of man doesn’t show up to his own daughter’s funeral?