Beautiful Distraction, p.4J. C. Reed
His shrug is almost unnoticeable as he regards me in silence. I open my mouth to explain my situation, when he leans against the doorframe, his posture hostile.
“What do you want?”
“Isn’t that obvious? A hurricane’s coming,” I say slowly in case he missed the countless weather and safety alerts. Or the pitch-black sky on an otherwise fine afternoon.
“There are no hurricanes in Montana. Only storms.” He eyes me with a frown, as though he suspects me of making up some bullshit excuse to get inside his home and then burgle him. Yeah, I watch the movies.
“This storm’s the reason we’re in trouble,” I mutter. His gaze travels to my umbrella. I hide it behind my back before he utters a snarky remark and I won’t be able to hold my tongue, after which he’ll most definitely kick me to the curb.
“In trouble?” He sounds unconvinced.
“We got lost and need help.” Maybe even a hot cup of coffee, which I don’t mention because, judging from the deep frown lodged on his stunning face, he doesn’t strike me as the welcoming type.
“The next town’s just a few miles down the road. Just take two right turns. You can’t miss it.”
I look at him incredulously. He can’t possibly have said what I just heard, and yet his stony expression speaks volumes. The muscles in his biceps flex, which is probably a sign that he’s about to slam the door in my face.
He can’t do that; he’s our only chance at surviving the night.
“Wait,” I say before he closes the door.
“What now?” he asks.
I inch forward and plant my foot right next to the doorframe so the door won’t close if he shuts it, and moisten my lips, suddenly aware of the wet strings of hair covering half of my face. I can’t blame him for not wanting to help when I probably look suspicious as hell.
“Look.” I grant him a tentative smile. “I had no idea you lived here.”
His brows furrow and his expression darkens, but he says nothing.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” I add. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have knocked, but we need help. We really do. My friend, Mandy and I—” I make sure to emphasize Mandy’s name in the hope he’ll be more inclined to help once he realizes my traveling companion is female “—we’ve been driving for hours. We don’t know our way around this place, and our phone’s not working. Worst of all, the car’s stuck in the mud, and we have no idea where we are. Is there any way we could use your phone to call for help?”
“Lines are down.”
Socially inept and not a man of many words. What a fine combination.
I cringe inside, but force myself to smile again. I really don’t want to ask for what he should have offered five minutes ago, and yet I have no choice.
A strong wind tears at my hair, whipping wet strands of it against my face. The gust is so strong I tumble forward and almost stumble into him.
“Would you mind if we stayed for a few hours, just until the storm’s over?” I ask.
His stare turns a few degrees colder, if that’s even possible. Holding my breath, I almost expect him to say no and turn on his heels, but to my surprise, he just nods and opens the door a little bit wider, though not enough for me to squeeze through.
“How long are we talking about exactly?”
“Three hours max,” I say.
“All right,” he says after a pause. “But only under one condition: you don’t bring any suitcases. And you take off your shoes. I just had this place cleaned. Three hours. Not more. Are we clear?”
I want to point out that those are more than one condition, but now isn’t the time for petty mindedness. So I nod quickly before he changes his mind.
“Get your friend. I’ll switch on the lights,” he says. “And you better hurry. You’re letting in the cold.”
“What about—” the car, I want to ask, but he’s already disappeared inside, closing the door in my face and leaving me to figure out the rest.
Out of all the places Mandy could have taken me, she’s just managed to find the one place with the one guy I hoped to never see again. Judging from the way he acted, almost kicking me off his property, he was pissed.
Like, really pissed.
Like I-had-no-sex pissed.
I don’t know if he remembers me, but if he does, he’s most certainly someone who doesn’t take rejection well. Either that, or the repair bill for the chip on his car was higher than he expected.
My poor Ford’s still not professionally fixed.
I roll my eyes and hurry back to the car, my pulse quickening with—fear? No! Anticipation? Maybe. Sexual tension at the prospect of seeing him again? What? What! So not true. (Okay, maybe a bit.)
Whatever it is, I know I’ll have to confront him, break the ice, so to speak, and explain why I didn’t take him up on his offer. Maybe then he’ll find his lost hospitality and offer me a steaming cup of coffee—God, I’d kill for one, metaphorically speaking. I’m pretty sure after a mature conversation and getting to know him a little better, this fantasy attraction of mine will dissolve into thin air.
The attraction I’ve been feeling over these past three months, six days, and six hours has been just that—a mere fantasy.
Obviously, that’s not something I’d ever admit to anyone’s face.
Nor the fact that, in my mind, I got to know his body surprisingly well whenever I took out my vibrator.
With the rain cascading down on me, I stop and groan, unsure how to deal with the baffling discovery that we’ve just met again.
In real life, he looks even hotter than in my daydreams. The sexy tattoo snaking down his arm and chest even gives him a dangerous flair. There’s a blurred line between daydreaming about some fantasy guy with a fast car and a dirty mouth, and the nightmare of a guy who thinks he rocks every woman’s world. Until now, I sort of managed to push the latter to the back of my mind. Now no longer.
The dream, I could handle.
The nightmare…not so much.
Because as sexy as he is in real life, he’s most certainly not all sugar and glitter.
In the distance, the faint lights of my car remind me that obsessing over don’t-even-know-his-name isn’t a priority right now. Mandy and I need to find shelter for the night…and that in three hours before Mr. Hot Guy throws us out.
Mandy must have switched on the lights, or maybe they were on all this time.
I can’t remember with the icy wind piercing through my clothes.
Tightening my grip around my umbrella and shielding my eyes from the dirt flying through the air, I dash for the car. Once or twice, the wind trips me and I almost take a tumble, but I eventually reach it. The moment Mandy spies me, she opens the door and totters out.
“God, Ava. I thought you’d never come back!” she yells against the howling wind as she crosses the distance between us. Her expression instantly changes as she catches my expression. “You didn’t find someone, did you? God, I knew it. We’re going to be trapped in a storm.”
I shake my head. “No, I found someone, all right.”
“You did?” Her expression relaxes, and then she hugs me, letting out a laugh of relief. “I was so worried about you. Where is he? I hope he’s bringing help because the bags are way too heavy for us.”
“I highly doubt that.”
Her arms drop. “Why? Is he old?”
“No, he isn’t old. He’s…” How can I possibly put my feelings into words that Mandy will understand?
Sexy. Arrogant. Hostile. And probably a recluse.
“What?” Mandy prompts.
“Weird?” I suggest and switch off the lights. Before I can stop her, Mandy’s heaving her suitcase out of the trunk. I just shake my head and lock up the car. There’s no point in arguing with her. The darn thing’s heavy as hell, and even more soaked. I can either help her or waste
Mandy plants her feet into the ground, forcing me to face her. “Wait. What do you mean by weird? Like axe-wielding-in-the-hallway weird? Did you see blood splatters? Did you smell decay?”
“Just weird.” I tug at her arm again, but Mandy stands frozen to the spot. There’s no way I’ll get her to move without an answer. I sigh. “He doesn’t seem to like visitors, but he’s agreed to let us stay for three hours, until the storm’s over. Don’t expect him to be hospitable.”
“He must really be a loner, living out here, not liking guests,” Mandy says and finally moves from the spot.
“Hmm.” I’m glad she’s turned away from me and doesn’t catch my grimace. “He probably hasn’t seen anyone in ages.”
If only Mandy knew the truth.
After giving Mandy a short recollection of how I found the place—leaving out the six-foot-two guy with the hot body—she and I head straight for the porch light. My hands are aching from dragging her heavy suitcase behind, and damn—what the heck did she pack in there? A bookshelf?
“You could have left this in the car,” I mumble for the umpteenth time.
“Ava, we’ve gone over that. Remember?” Mandy says slowly.
Yeah, apparently she can’t leave her expensive Louis Vuitton travel bag in my old car ‘out in the open for everyone to see.’
As if someone would steal a heavy bag in the middle of nowhere.
But apparently she can’t wait for the rain to settle. In her words, “There’s important stuff in there I can’t possibly live a few hours without.”
I fight the need to roll my eyes and drag the heavy thing up the stairs as she stomps behind, minding her steps so her new shoes won’t be ruined.
It’s my fault, really.
When she dragged the thing out into the mud, I should have let her do the heavy lifting herself rather than silently offer to help in the hope the physical labor would help me get rid of my racing thoughts.
Actually, one racing thought centered around one particular question: He’s so frigging hot. Why the heck didn’t I go out with him?
It would only have been one drink. One drink that most likely would have ended with me in his bed, eager to find out if he’s as good in bed as he looks.
If given the chance again, would he want to settle things with me privately? Probably not, judging from the fact that he didn’t look particularly happy to see me. In fact, it’s safe to say he’d have preferred to leave me out in the cold if I didn’t beg.
Ignoring the cold feeling of regret, I discard the thought quickly, not quite able to get rid of the ‘what ifs’ at the back of my mind.
The wind blows stronger now, each gust bruising my body. For a moment, the fear that he’s changed his mind grabs a hold of me. But as I ascend the last step, I breathe out in relief.
The door to the house is now open, and a trail of light shimmers from inside. I can even smell the heady scent of wood burning in the fireplace. I imagine myself warming my hands on a hot cup of coffee while gazing dreamily at the glowing logs, the warmth slowly seeping into me after a long, tiring day.
“Should we knock?” Mandy peers at me before pushing the door open.
“Why do you bother asking?” I mutter, following her in.
What awaits me inside is Hot Guy’s scowl as he glimpses Mandy’s suitcase.
My eyes drink him in from head to toe, slowly brushing over his jeans and unbuttoned shirt to his rolled-up sleeves showing beautiful bronze skin and dark hair. In the porch light, he didn’t look bad standing there with half of him bathed in darkness. In the dim light falling in from the kitchen, however, he’s stunningly gorgeous. He’s all so intimately familiar—as though I’ve known him all my life instead of only a few minutes.
I squint and think back to the place where we first met without giving the impression that I’m staring.
His face has been a part of my daydreams for so long that I feel as though I’ve known him forever. Maybe not so much the face as the chest and bulging biceps. Everything about him feels way more familiar than it should be. The fact that in my mind I’ve had sex with him more times than I remember is both hot and embarrassing—and now it comes back to bite me in the ass because I can barely look at him without the telltale heat of a major blush rushing to my face.
“Can I have a word in private?” he asks no one in particular.
I assume he’s talking to me, so I drop Mandy’s suitcase and kick off my shoes, then shrug off the soaked jacket, hanging it up on a hook near the door. I turn to Mandy. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
My heart pounding in my chest, I follow him into the dimly lit kitchen, unsure what to say.
Will he kick us out?
It’s quite possible, isn’t it?
His expression is stony. His arms are crossed over his chest as he leans against the doorframe. Even though half of his face is obscured by the weak light, he’s so gorgeous for a moment I forget what I’m here for as I peer up at the six-foot-two angry statue of the guy.
“I said no suitcase,” he says quietly.
“It’s not mine.”
He glances over my shoulder to Mandy in the hallway. “If it’s not yours, then that’s fine.”
This is so personal.
My jaw drops. It takes every ounce of my willpower to bite back a snarky remark.
He must really hate me, or more likely, he’s trying to punish me. His arrogance is monumental. You can probably see it from outer space. And it irritates the hell out of me.
“Thank you for letting us stay,” I say loud enough for Mandy to hear. “You’re very generous.”
He opens his mouth, then closes it, as though he wants to utter something, but then decides otherwise.
Eventually, he nods. “Follow me.”
He gestures for us to follow him from the hallway into the living room.
I try not to gawk.
Compared to his flashy car, the room is rather simple and looks in dire need of renovation. There’s a worn sofa on the east side, a whole library on the west side. A huge, old-fashioned fireplace adorns most of the north wall.
He disappears for a few seconds and returns with two towels, pressing them into our hands. Mandy peels off her soaked jacket and then joins me on the generously sized rug overlooking the ginormous fireplace. The warmth seeps into my skin, relaxing me.
“I’ll get you some drinks,” Mr. Hot Guy mumbles and takes Mandy’s coat.
“Thanks. That’d be great,” Mandy calls after him in what I’ve learned to recognize as her flirty voice—a mixture of low and sultry intermingled with just a hint of a smile.
I nudge her in the ribs and whisper, “Do you think that’s a good idea? We don’t even know him.”
“What?” She shrugs, faking that she has no idea what I’m talking about.
As soon as he’s gone, she turns to me. “What the hell!” she mouths in case he’s eavesdropping. “Why didn’t you say he was hot?”
I shrug my shoulders. “He’s okayish.”
“Okayish?” Mandy asks, aghast. “He’s hot, hot, hot with a capital H!” She glances over her shoulder to the hallway then back to me. “Please don’t tell me you wouldn’t do him.”
The admonishment is palpable in her voice.
I grimace as heat creeps up my face. If only she knew how often I’ve actually done him in my head, she’d be both appalled and proud of me.
“I’ve seen better guys out there,” I mutter.
“Then I’m calling dibs.”
“You don’t get to call dibs. I saw him first.” My head snaps to her. To my dismay, I realize she’s smiling. Oh, crap. Who says things like that? We’re not sixteen anymore. I’ve just managed to sound completely ridiculous.
I begin to dab at my hair with the towel, as I cons
She eyes me, amused. I can see her brain cells working. “You like him,” she states, smiling like she knows something that I don’t.
“No, I don’t like him.” I force myself to stare her down, even though my skin’s getting hotter by the second. “Trust me, no woman in her right mind could possibly like him. I don’t even know him but from what I’ve seen he’s insufferable. Excruciatingly unbearable. Plain obnoxious.”
“And so your type.” She winks.
“Obnoxious is most certainly not my type,” I protest. “In fact, you can have him. He’s more your type anyway. He’s arrogant, vain, and…and…” My mind struggles to come up with more adjectives to describe him. But he’s in too close proximity, and faced with just how hot the guy is, words elude me.
He’d be perfect—if it weren’t for his shitty character.
“I don’t believe you,” Mandy says.
“You should. I really don’t like him. In fact, I can’t stand him,” I say. “And now drop it. Talking about a guy is getting boring.”
Mandy keeps regarding me with a mixture of puzzlement and amusement. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
“You should have heard him when I arrived,” I utter too low for her to understand.
“If you think he’s so great, you should date him,” I say instead.
“So you wouldn’t mind if I flirted with him?” she asks, cocking her head to the side.
I force a careful shrug. “Why would I?”
“Interesting. In that case, maybe I will,” she whispers back and inches away from me, crossing her long legs in the process.
I shake my head and let out an annoyed sigh.
We barely arrived a minute ago, and she’s already on the prowl, ready to conquer the next male specimen we’ve come across. Maybe she’ll flirt with him to get me to ask him out on a date. Or maybe she’ll do it because she thinks I’m not interested in him. With Mandy, you never know. Unless you specify loud and clear that the guy is yours, everything is a game to her.
Beautiful Distraction by J. C. Reed / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes