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       Until Nico, p.1

         Part #4 of Until series by Aurora Rose Reynolds
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Until Nico


  Until Nico

  by Aurora Rose Reynolds

  This book is dedicated to my brother from another mother. We may not share same blood, but I love you both S & W.

  Chapter 1

  Sophie

  I jump when the desk phone starts going off; it never rings, so I’m caught off guard by the shrill sound inside the quiet library. “Middle School Library, Ms. Grates speaking. How can I help you?” I answer on the second ring.

  “I found a phone, and this is the number that comes up on the screen when I turn it on,” a deep male voice answers. His smooth Southern drawl makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. I pull my handbag out from under the desk and dig through it, looking for my phone. “Hello, did you hear me?” the guy on the other end says more impatiently. I forgot he was even on the line during my search.

  “Yes, I’m here. Sorry. It’s my cell,” I tell him, holding the desk phone between my shoulder and ear.

  “Look, I gotta get out of town and won’t be back for a week, so can you meet me somewhere?”

  “Um, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I reply, worrying my bottom lip.

  “Do you want your phone or not?”

  “Yes, of course I want my phone,” I say, becoming annoyed. What kind of stupid question is that?

  “Then you need to meet me so I can give it to you.”

  “I don’t get off work for another hour. Can you meet me after that?” I cross my fingers, hoping he can. I don’t know what I would do without my phone for a week—not that I want to call or text anyone, but I was kicking ass in Candy Crush and wanted to beat my last score.

  “Jesus, where the fuck do you wanna meet?” he grumbles, making me smile. I don’t know why, but it kind of makes me happy I am annoying him.

  “Can you meet me out front of Jack’s Bar-B-Que in an hour and a half?”

  “Sure, fine.” I can tell by his tone that he’s completely irritated, and I smile even bigger.

  “Thanks a lot,” I mummer.

  “What are you wearing?” he asks, making the grin slide off my face.

  “What the hell does that matter?”

  “Look,” he huffs out, “I have your phone, which means you don’t have a phone, right?”

  “Right,” I repeat like an idiot.

  “That means I can’t call to tell you when I get there. Therefore, I need to know what you’re wearing so I can spot you on the street, right?” I can hear the smile in his voice now.

  “I guess that makes sense,” I say, and he chuckles, the deepness of his laughter making my belly flutter.

  “So, let’s try this again. What are you wearing?”

  “Oh.” I look down at myself, feeling stupid about what I’m going to say to him. “Um…a grey skirt, a white silk blouse… Oh! And I have brown hair,” I add at the end, since I don’t know how many women might be wearing the same kind of thing I am.

  “All right, sweetheart. I’ll see you in an hour and a half,” he says, and before I have a chance to say anything else, the line goes dead.

  I hang up the receiver and toss my bag back under the desk before putting all the books that have been checked in throughout the day back on the shelves.

  I started working at the school library a year ago when I moved to Nashville from Seattle. I work here three days a week, and the rest of the time, I work from home as a medical insurance specialist. I like working here; it’s quiet, and the pay is good—and it doesn’t hurt that I spend most of my day alone.

  I finish out my shift by updating the computer system, and after making sure that no one is still browsing the shelves, I lock up. When I leave the building, I notice that most of the staff has left for the day. The parking lot is empty except for my red Audi. I get in my car, turn it on, and flip the button for the convertible top, which takes a second to go back accordion-style and lock into place. The sound of Addicted to Love by Florence and the Machine starts playing as I head downtown.

  When I reach the area I’m supposed to meet the guy with my phone, it takes a few minutes to find parking. This part of town is always crazy around this time of day. By the time I reach Jake’s, I’m about ten minutes later than I planned on being. I look around, wondering what this guy might look like. There are so many people walking around, so I feel like an idiot for not having asked him what he was wearing too. I pick a spot next to the building and cross my arms over my chest. I want to sit down so badly; my feet are killing me. I have a sick love for heels, and the ones I wore today are paying me back for wearing them for more than a few hours.

  I look around and see a guy staring at me. He’s about my age, not much taller than my five feet five inches, cute, and wearing a suit and tie. I start to wave to see if he’s the one I’m meeting, but then another guy catches my attention. He’s about six three and huge, and I don’t mean just in height; his body looks like it’s been chiseled from stone. He’s wearing black boots, washed-out blue jeans, and a white t-shirt, and every piece of skin exposed is covered with tattoos. His ears have those gauge thingies in them. His dark blond hair is cut low on the sides, and the top is in a fauxhawk. His jaw is strong, with a few days of stubble, and his eyes are so blue that they almost look like contacts. He is beautiful in a way that is unusual but no less gorgeous.

  His eyes come to me before looking away quickly, and the next second, they come back to me and do a head-to-toe sweep. I gulp at the intense expression on his face. I glance past him to the other guy—or at least try to—but Mr. Tattoo starts towards me, blocking my view. I want to take a step back, but I can’t go anywhere. Then I see my phone in his hand.

  “This yours?” he asks.

  I nod like an idiot. He shakes his head, running his free hand down his face, and then his eyes sweep over me again.

  “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” he says, seeming upset.

  I look down at myself, wondering how I could’ve offended him. I look normal—or my working-outside-the-house normal. When I’m at home working, I wear baggy sweats I cut off to make shorts or pajama pants that hang off of me along with tank tops or T-shirts. The few days a week I get out of the house, I like to dress up or at least wear heels.

  “This cannot be fucking happening,” he growls, and I wonder if he is completely crazy.

  “What?” I ask, finally finding my voice. I have to tilt my head way back; even in my four-inch heels, he still towers over me.

  “You.”

  “Me, what?” I ask, confused.

  “Never mind. Who is this?” He presses the button on my phone, the screen lights up, and a picture of Jamie Dornan wearing nothing but a pair of jeans takes up the screen.

  “Um…that’s Jamie,” I reply, wondering why he is asking but too afraid to ask him; the look on his face isn’t very inviting for conversation.

  “He your man?”

  “I wish,” I mumble under my breath and hear him growl.

  My head flies back as I search his face; his jaw is ticking, and his knuckles of the hand holding my phone are turning white.

  “What does that mean?” he asks.

  “That’s Jamie Dornan. He’s playing Fifty. I don’t know him.” I feel my cheeks heat up and look down at my feet.

  What the hell’s wrong with me? Why am I not afraid right now? I have been scared of virtually everything my whole life, and now, when I should be running for cover, I’m not scared at all. Just a little embarrassed.

  “I don’t have time for this,” he says, and I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I all of a sudden really want my phone out of his hand before he crushes it to smithereens.

  When I look up again, I see that he is walking away. My eyebrows come together, and I wonder what he is doing. Then I realize he still has my cell.

&n
bsp; “Hey! You can’t steal my phone!” I run after him, grabbing his arm.

  He looks down at me then stops short. I’m completely caught off guard when he wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me flush against him. His free hand goes into my hair and pulls my head back, and then he kisses me. No, not kisses—he consumes me. My body starts to buzz like someone just plugged me into an electrical outlet, and I start to feel lightheaded. When he pulls his mouth from mine, I gasp, my fingers going to my lips.

  “What was that?” I whisper, looking into his eyes.

  “What’s your name?” he asks, still holding me close.

  “Sophie,” I tell him, my answer spoken behind my fingers.

  His body is as hard as a rock against mine; I can feel every muscle, every contour, and it takes everything in me to keep breathing. I realize this is the first time in my life I have ever felt small, my curvy figure never having allowed it before.

  “Sophie,” he repeats, standing up to his full height and pulling me with him. I look around and wonder if time has stopped for anyone else. “My name is Nico.”

  “Of course it is,” I say, staring into his amazing eyes, thinking that a guy who looks like him would have a name like that—cool and hot, something that rolls easily off your tongue but is hard to forget.

  “I’ll see you when I get back into town, Sophie,” he says as he lets me go, making sure I’m steady on my feet.

  “What?” I ask, looking around again.

  “Here’s your phone.” He hands me my cell, and I’m still a little lightheaded when he starts to walk off again. I watch in a daze as he leaves, but then he turns around to face me from a few yards away. “Sophie?”

  “Yeah?”

  “Change the picture on your phone,” he demands before he turns and disappears into the crowd.

  I stand there for a few seconds wondering what just happened. Eventually, I pull myself together enough to make it to my car. When I get there, I realize that I didn’t even put the top up or take my bag with me because I had been in such a hurry. I turn quickly to look in my backseat, seeing that my bag is still there. I breathe out a sigh of relief, start my car, and head home.

  I live in a small, two-bedroom house just outside of Nashville. I bought it cash with the money I got from my mom’s life insurance policy after she passed away. It’s not much, but it’s home. I pull into my garage and hop out, dragging my bag with me. I need a beer…or a shot of something. I unlock my door, and as I step inside, I kick my shoes off so they go flying down the hall towards my room.

  After dropping my bag by the door and the infamous phone on the table, I head to my kitchen, open my freezer, and pull out the bottle of vodka I keep there in case of emergencies. I don’t have time to find a shot glass, so I pull a coffee mug down from the cupboard, fill it half full, and shoot it back. Practically coughing up a lung as I try to catch my breath, I fill the glass up again and shakily take another shot. This time, I’m prepared for it, so I hold my breath as the burn fills my chest. I put the bottle away, feeling more relaxed already.

  I head to my room, strip off my clothes, and put on a T-shirt. It’s early, so I head to the living room, grabbing my phone along the way. I plop down on my couch, put my feet up on the coffee table, turn the TV on, start up the DVR, and press play on The Big Bang Theory. I sit there for a few minutes in a daze, not absorbing even a single second of my favorite show. I look at my cell in my hand, and clicking on the screen, I look at the picture of Jamie. I don’t know why, but I can’t help but smile as I think of Nico’s reaction to it. The tattooed stranger is hot, slightly scary, but definitely interesting.

  *~*~*

  Nico

  I am happy to be home. I have been gone for four days chasing a skip, and I thought it would have taken me a little longer to catch up with the guy, but luckily for me, he was half moron. I’m shutting off my car in front of my townhouse when my phone rings. I look at the caller ID hopefully; I know it’s not going to be sweet Sophie, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be. Kenton’s number flashes on the screen. I’m sure he has another case for me, but right now, that’s not happening. I’m going to have a beer and go to bed, and then tomorrow, I’m going over to the local middle school.

  “Yeah,” I answer, pulling my bag out of the backseat.

  “Didn’t take you long to catch Johnson.”

  “That’s because he’s an idiot,” I tell him. “He hid out at his mom’s house. You would think he would’ve learned his lesson after the last two times I’ve gone after him. Most of the time I was gone was spent on the road getting there and then getting home. When are you going to get a private jet so I don’t have to put miles on my car?”

  “Stop bitching. You made fifteen hundred dollars in two days.”

  He isn’t wrong. Between selling my part of the construction business back to my brothers and chasing after skips, I am sitting on a nice stack of cash.

  “So why are you calling?”

  “What? I can’t just call to see how my cousin’s doing?”

  “Do I sound stupid to you?”

  “All right, all right… The thing is, I need you to help me out with something.”

  “What?” I shake my head, making my way up to my door.

  “A friend of mine from Vegas called. He has a girl that needs a place to crash for a little while.”

  “And what does that have to do with me?”

  “Can she stay with you until Cassie gets the rest of her shit out of my house?”

  “Hell no!” I bellow as I shove my keys into the lock.

  The second the door opens, Daisy starts going wild. I scoop her up in one hand as she begins licking my chin and any other piece of me she can get to.

  “You still have that dog?” He laughs, hearing Daisy through the phone.

  “Yes,” I growl. All the fuckers in my life think it’s funny I own a little fur-ball for a dog. I rescued Daisy from a flophouse. She was so small at the time that she could fit in the palm of my hand. I was going to give her to one of my family members, but I couldn’t do it. After a week of having her with me, I grew attached to her.

  “Look, man, I just need your help this one time.”

  “No, you should have put that bitch’s shit out months ago,” I remind him. I hated his ex; she was one of those women who tried to lead you around by your dick.

  “Don’t make it seem like I haven’t wanted to. She swore she was coming this weekend to get all her stuff, but until then, I don’t have room for this chick who’s coming.”

  “Who is she?” I ask curiously.

  “You know my friend Link who works as a bouncer in Vegas?”

  “Yeah. He works at a strip club, right?”

  “Yeah. Well, I guess this stripper saw some shit go down. He called and asked me to keep an eye out for her until it’s safe for her to go home.”

  “Wow, your own personal stripper living with you.”

  “She could live with you first.”

  “I’m seeing someone, so you’re gonna have to find something else to do with this chick or toss your ex’s shit outside. Or burn it behind your house for all I care.”

  “You’re seeing someone?” I can hear the disbelief in his voice. I’m not surprised—I don’t date; I hook up and go home.

  “I just got home. I don’t have time for this right now. Call your ex and tell her she needs to come get her stuff tomorrow or you’re burning it. And honestly, if she doesn’t show up, I say we have a bonfire with that shit.”

  “Look, you and I both know she isn’t gonna come get her crap. She thinks, if it’s here, she has a reason to come back.”

  “So put it in your car, take it to her house, and put it on her lawn.”

  “I would have done that, but I need a truck and haven’t had time.”

  “She’s been out for almost a year. How the hell haven’t you had time?”

  “Okay, I’ve had time. I just haven’t wanted to deal with all the crying that comes
along with seeing her.”

  “Aw, you cry when you see her?”

  “Tears of joy that she’s out of my life, fucker.”

  I laugh along with him as I set Daisy on the ground and grab a beer out of the fridge, popping the top and taking a swig. “If she doesn’t come by this weekend to get her stuff, let me know and I’ll go with you to take it to her. I’m sure we can borrow Cash’s truck.”

  “Sounds good. So who’s this chick you’re seeing? Is it the redhead you were talking to at the bar the other night?”

  “No, and you don’t know her.” Shit, I don’t even know her.

  All I know about her is that she smells like apples and cinnamon and she has the softest brown hair I’ve ever seen or felt, brown eyes that darken to almost black when she’s kissed, and skin the color of milk that turns pink when she’s nervous or embarrassed.

  “Did you hear me?”

  “What?” I growl, annoyed that he interrupted my daydream of beautiful Sophie.

  “I asked if you were up for another job this week?”

  “I’m not sure right now.”

  “All right. Just let me know.”

  “Yeah, sure. Later, cous’.”

  “Later.”

  I clicked off the phone before tossing it onto the counter. I glance down at Daisy, who is sitting at my feet looking up at me. I open up her treat jar, and her eyes follow my every move. I hold the treat a few inches above her head as she stands up on her hind legs to dance around before I drop it to her. I wander from the kitchen into my room, pull off my shirt, and toss it onto the floor, followed by my jeans and boxers.

  After going into the bathroom, I start up the shower and let the glass stall steam up before stepping inside. I let the hot water run over me. My head tilts back as I think about Sophie and her big brown eyes looking up at me with nervousness and hunger but without even a hint of real fear—something I have never seen on a woman’s face before but will forever be etched into my brain. I knew the minute I saw her that she was it. How I knew? I don’t know, but it was like my soul lit up—cheesy as fuck, but also true. I don’t really have time for her right now, and she is not a woman who looks like she would ever be interested in someone like me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.

 
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