Cover Design: Hang Le
I’ve lived them.
I trust no one, only my brothers, and my best friend.
I wasn’t always like that. Everything changed the day my parents died and my nation was attacked.
Since then, family comes first. Work is my mistress.
Nothing else matters.
That is until she walked into my life.
Short dress, long, tanned legs, and honey eyes that make me weak.
She’s sunshine and daffodils.
She’s a fighter.
She’s a dreamer.
She’s everything I hate.
Why is it so hard to walk away from her?
Stretched t-shirt, dry blood, and badass attitude looked good on him. That’s nothing compared to Harrison Everhart wearing a suit. His tall, broad, body wrapped in a dark gray is a site I want to photograph, frame and stare at it forever. He’s the type of man who behaves differently depending on the place and time. For the past five hours, we chatted pleasantly about our families. Nothing too superficial but nothing too intimate, either. If I had time to date, he’d be the kind of man I’d choose. Easy to talk to, funny, and a gentleman.
A refreshing touch from the guys who I hook up with when I have time to go out with my friends. Which lately it’s been never. Maybe I have time, but I don’t want to waste it by doing the same thing over and over again. Meeting a guy who has little social skills, only talks about himself, and by the end of the date is the only one who is satisfied isn’t great. I have my little friendly toys that to do a better job and I don’t have to listen to nonsense.
This would be a great subject for a sociology class; the interactions between humans, and how out of touch they are with one another that dating has become a joke. What happened to love letters? The chase is so much different now than it was back when my parents dated. I should quit the Bureau and go back to school. Finish my psychology degree, go into anthropology or sociology. I would enjoy doing that more than having to jump through hoops to show that I’m capable of more things than my superiors like to acknowledge. If anything, I can write a book with Mom’s letters and notes.
A manual on how it’s done.
“Everything okay?” Harrison asks when the service car stops, and the driver opens my door. “You’ve been quiet since we left the party.”
Define okay? My skin tingles every time you touch me. Your deep voice makes me shiver, and dancing in your arms was a bit torturous because everything inside me wanted you to touch more than my bare shoulders and my waist. But yeah, I’m cool.
“Your brother and Hazel never arrived at the party,” I comment, not disclosing that I’d like to find out how my fake future boyfriend kisses. “Gia wasn’t there either.”
“I’m sorry about that. If you want, I can try to find out her whereabouts. My people can hack her phone and track her daily activities. He smirks and winks. “We can start stalking her.”
“Stalking?” I boom, laughing and covering my mouth when a couple walking close to us turns to glare at me.
“Yeah, that’s the word and you know what they say, ‘couples that stalk together stay together.’” He grins, his blue-crystal eyes shining with the post light.
That grin is addictive. I shouldn’t mind pretending to be with him while I’m working. A little fun on the side, some sexy times. Sex. I haven’t had that in a long time. So long that I can only remember what my toys can do for me. But I care. He’s a distraction. Each time he smirks touches me or talks with the low-bedroom voice I want to jump him. That’s not only unprofessional but also illogical.
“Anything for the sake of the case, right?” My voice comes out a little throaty, needy.
He clears his throat, looking around and poking the elevator. “We should do this again,” he says, leaning closer to me.
“Technically, we have to do it again.”
Have I mentioned this is the best case I’ve ever worked on in my entire life.” He leans forward, kissing my cheek. His lips lingering close to my ear for one too many seconds. His musk-wood scent making my stomach flutter.
“Thank you,” I swallow hard, turning around and stepping into the elevator. “We can discuss our next move tomorrow.”
I poke the elevator, looking at the doors that start closing his gaze locks with mine. His eyes darken, the intensity of that gaze makes me feel vulnerable, bare. I imagine my skin searing with the touch of his big hands. As the doors close, my phone rings. An incoming message. Unknown number reads the screen.
Claudia grew up with a childhood that resembled a caffeine-injected soap opera.
She lives in Colorado working for a small IT company, managing her household filled with three confused dogs, her geek husband, two daughters wrought with fandoms and a son who thinks he’s the boss of the house. To survive she works continually to find purpose for the voices flitting through her head, plus she consumes high quantities of chocolate to keep the last threads of sanity intact.