~~Excerpt~~If You Stay by Courtney Cole

IfyouStay Amazon (2)

 

 

 

Pax

 

“Little Red Riding Hood?” Mila cocks an eyebrow at me, a whisper of a smile flitting across her full lips.  I nod.

“For some reason, that’s how I think of you,” I admit to her.  “You were strolling out on the beach, all alone, and came along just when I needed you.”

My eyes are glued on her face.  I know that there is someone else in the room, but to me, it’s just me and Mila.  She stares at me uncertainly.

“That would make you the Big Bad Wolf,” she points out.

I laugh.  “Now you’re catching on,” I tell her.

Her gaze remains locked with mine, her eyes clear and dark.  My gut wrenches at the sight of her clean and clear expression. There is no drug induced haze in her eyes, a marked difference from my usual companions.  It’s both refreshing and terrifying.  I’m not sure how to interact with her.  But I woke up this morning craving her company.  I knew I had to seek it out.

So here I am.

“Is this for me?” Mila motions toward the shopping bag and I nod.  She delves into it with interest and then her face lights up when she sees all of the sweaters.

“They’re all red,” she laughs.  “Every one of them.”

I feel my lip twitch. “Of course they are.  I have to keep you in character somehow, don’t I?  I didn’t know what style you liked, so I bought you a bunch of them.  I wanted you to be fully stocked the next time you come along and save me.”

She visibly startles and stares at me, her movements frozen, her fingers dangling limply at her sides.  I can’t help but notice her slender hourglass figure.  She’s proportioned absolutely right to drive a man crazy.  Full tits, tiny waist, lush hips.  My groin tightens.

Fuck.  I quickly think of dead puppies, nuns and cold pork.  It seems to do the trick and my dick calms down.  For now.

Mila is still staring at me, an intense, charged gaze.

“Do you need saving?” she asks quietly.

The air between us practically crackles with energy as we stare each other down.  Her eyes are deep and dark, the kind of eyes that a man could fall into and lose himself.  Permanently.  I am flustered for a moment, trying to find the words to answer her when the other person in the room clears her throat.

An escape.

Thank you, God.

I turn gratefully to find another woman there, a pretty blonde woman that I’ve seen before, but I can’t place where.  She seems to be waiting for an introduction, but Mila isn’t giving her one.

I hold my hand out.

“Hi,” I tell her.  “I’m Pax Tate.”

She shakes my hand firmly.  Perhaps a little too firmly.

“Madison Hill,” she answers . “Mila’s sister.”

Oh.  Then her stern handshake makes sense.  Big sister is looking out for little sister, trying to protect Mila from the Big Bad Wolf.  I can’t really blame her.

Madison is staring at me now with blue eyes that are nothing like her sister’s.  In fact, nothing about her resembles Mila, except for maybe the shape of her nose.  She’s tall and blonde, while Mila is petite and dark.  Mila is sexier, although for some reason, I’m guessing that she doesn’t think so.  She’s quiet now, allowing her sister to do the talking.  It is clear that she is used to her sister taking charge.

“So are you feeling better?”

Madison cocks an eyebrow, her question a not-so-subtle way of telling me that she knows that I OD’d the other night.  That she thinks I’m a fuck-up who isn’t good enough for her sister.  I can see that in her icy blue eyes.  The thing that she doesn’t understand though, is that I don’t give a shit what she thinks.  She doesn’t know me and that is my biggest pet peeve- when people judge me without knowing what the fuck they’re talking about.

“I am, thank you,” I tell her.  I smile pleasantly.  I won’t bow to her.  She’s crazy if she thinks that.  “Your sister was a lifesaver.”

Literally.

Madison doesn’t know how to respond. I can see that she wants to say more, but there’s really no way she can without seeming completely rude.  She’s disgruntled as she turns and kisses Mila on the cheek.

“I’ve got to get back to the Hill.  I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” she looks pointedly at her sister, as if to silently warn her away from me.  Then she glances at me.

“It was…nice to meet you.”

And then she walks out, her stylish boots clicking on the tiled floor.  The bells above the door jingle and then she’s gone.

I look at Mila.

“I don’t think your sister likes me much.”

It’s a statement, not a question. And even I can hear the ambivalence in my voice. It’s obvious that I don’t care.

Mila actually smiles.

“Well, I’m glad you’re not all broken up about it.”

I shrug.  “I’m used to it.”

Mila studies me quietly.  “Why are you really here?” she asks.  “I didn’t need for you to bring me a sweater.  Or six.” She chuckles.  “Obviously I’ll be all set in red sweaters for Christmas though.  So thank you.”

She pauses and looks at me and her face is very delicate.  I hadn’t noticed before how delicate she is.

“So?”  She raises an eyebrow and I realize that I haven’t answered her question. I don’t exactly know what to say, so I decide to simply tell the truth.  It’s a novel concept for me.

“I couldn’t remember if I thanked you for what you did,” I tell her.  “And I can’t get you out of my head.”

Her breath freezes on her lips.  I can hear the startled little intake of breath and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.  Did the truth scare her?   Or has she been thinking about me too?

I look at her.

And for a moment, we are suspended in the moment.  She drags her bottom lip into her teeth and her dark eyes are liquid.  She turns her face slightly, the curve of her cheek catching the sunlight from the window.

We are frozen.

And then she breaks the spell.

“You’ve been thinking about me?” she whispers.  “Why?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her honestly. “Maybe I feel like I owe you.”

“You don’t,” she answers quickly, her voice clear and sure.  “You don’t owe me anything.  I’m glad I was there to help, but it was purely coincidence and anyone would have done the same. ”

Her hands flutter around her nervously as she shuffles paper on the counter.  I smile.

“Not everyone would have done that,” I tell her.  “Not at all.”

She’s hesitant now, probably remembering that night and how I had apparently puked all over her.  Finally, she smiles too.

“Okay, fine.  Not everyone would have given you mouth to mouth.  Maybe you do owe me.  What are you going to do about it?”

Her sassy words seem to startle her as much as they startle me.  She looks surprised as soon as they are out of her mouth. But she’s nowhere near as surprised as I am.  Is she flirting?  With me?

My, what big teeth I have. 

I once again feel like the wolf as I smile at her, as I turn on my charm.  I have it, I just seldom care enough to use it.  I’m baffled as to why I’m using it now.  But I am.  Because her sassiness was an invitation.

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