Nia Martins believes a fresh start will help her leave her traumatic past behind. Moving to a different country, she seeks to shake off her demons by doing the one thing that sets her free from her destructive thoughts – teaching dance. But change doesn't come easy, and all Nia really wants is to take the next breath without the perpetual suffocation that follows.
Reeves Mitchell has looked death in the eyes so many times it’s become habitual. That is, until his best friend's life was on the line. When the one thing he feared the most turns into reality, all he can do is pick up the pieces of his loss. As Reeves tries to live with the constant thought of “what if” gnawing at the back of his mind, he persistently and steadily builds a thick wall around himself.
Their solitary lives are all they have—until fate brings them together. Nia and Reeves’ new friendship helps make life, shadowed by the ghosts of their past, more bearable. But as their relationship deepens and new, suppressed feelings emerge between them, are they willing to retrace their steps back to where wounded hearts can be broken once more?
Present Day, Cleveland, Ohio
“I’ll tell you what, wait for half an hour ‘til my shift ends and I’ll take you up to my hotel room,” I say, bored, running a damp cloth over the bar’s dark surface, deliberately taking my time before rewarding the redhead ogling me with a look. Her eyes dart fire at me. Now she has the nerve to start playing innocent? She’s been eye fucking me the entire shift, and doing nothing short of climbing over the bar and jumping my bones for the last fifteen minutes. Besides actually asking me to honor her with what she’d been nearly begging for, she didn’t skip even one of the bimbo commandments.
She’s chemically over-red, too artificially tanned, done tits, a nice rack I must admit, but still unnaturally enhanced. Any other time I’d be all over this. Probably have her take the edge off, gladly. But not tonight. I’m not in the mood. I can’t stop thinking about what happened before my shift. I still can’t believe I allowed that kiss to happen. I could kick myself for it. I should kick myself for it.
“Oh. Em. Gee!” Hugh Hefner’s employee of the month squeaks at me. Even her voice annoys the crap out of me. It’s been gradually getting on my nerves, especially when she tried to make it sound sexy, somewhere between shoving a twenty into my right, front pocket, to fucking grazing her claws over my chest. “You are so full of yourself! You must be dreaming if you think I’d set a foot in your hotel room,” Red huffs, taking a sip of her “classy” cocktail. Her pink banal drink just compliments the "sophisticated" look she's trying so hard to pull off. I send my eyes to the black ceiling. A person’s alcohol preference can reveal so much. I personally prefer women who appreciate high-class liquor.
I raise an eyebrow at her, not missing the way she’s eyeballing the ink on my bicep. “Okay, so no go.” I shrug and turn to the guy next to her. “Yep?”
“Two pina coladas.”
Are you for real? Who drinks those anymore? I turn to mix the joke of a drink, covertly rolling my eyes. I slide his drinks toward him and take the bills. Putting the notes in the narrow tray, I slam it back with a flat hand. Why did I agree to this shift? I should’ve just told Jake no. He sounded desperate when he called for the favor earlier this evening, earlier as in right after Katie kissed me. Fuck! If there was anything in this world I should not have allowed to happen, it was that kiss. How could I? Well, when it comes to Katie, I just lose all my guard, and the little, sweet devil knows that, too well. I close my eyes and scrub my hands over my bristled cheeks, sliding them further up to rest over my dark buzz cut. Exasperated, I heavily exhale my next breath.
“You seem stressed,” my stalker determines, drawing me from my thoughts. I bring my eyes to look at her. Oh, Jesus. Miss you-are-so-full-of-yourself raises a white flag. “I could help you release that stress,” she sucks on the moon shaped orange decorating her lame drink… seductively. And I need to keep myself from snorting. Maybe I should just let her suck me off and that’s it. Maybe it will help release some of the shit causing riots in my head.
“You think you can help me take this stress away, huh?” I change tactics, sending her a hint of a smile.
And 3…2…1… huge surprise, she flings her hair back and raises her 6K boob job at me in the universal slut code of “you’ll have me in the first stall before the night ends.” I reward her with an encouraging side smile, and push myself back from the counter. Saying nothing, I start toward the back office, aka Jakes’ place, aka hiding space when I’ve had enough.
“Listen, man, I’m done here for tonight.”
Jake nods, stands up, and pats my back in a thank you, bro signal. He gazes at me for a long beat. His brown, straight hair falls to almost hide his piercing brown eyes.
He scratches his five o'clock shadow and says, “Thanks for saving my ass tonight. That’s the problem with the women staff. You never know when they’ll start using cramp excuses.”
“You know you can get your ass sued for saying shit like that.” I chuckle, and his black, worn leather jacket rises and falls with his shrug.
“Reeves, you okay?” his brows sink together as he searches my eyes.
I sigh and twist my lips into a hard line. “Katie.”
Jake shakes his head in overt disapproval. “She is not your responsibility.” His voice comes out curt, even irritated.
“She is. She’ll always be.” I regard him with a look that tells him not to go on any further with this subject.
“I think I should put you on a new job, send you away for a while.” His way of not exactly letting go of the subject.
“Maybe you should,” I say pensively, heading to the door. I tap the doorpost. “And Jake? Next time no bartending, okay?”
“Got it,” he says, and follows me out. I drop the white waist apron to the counter, nod at him, and fling up the little door that sets me free from behind the bar. Jake takes my place, and starts flirting with a couple of cute brunettes while taking their drink orders.
“Welcome back.” The stress therapist’s red lips shine at me as soon as I reach her side. I just send my hand to the small of her back, unspoken, telling her to stand up and follow me. “My name is Neveah.” She giggles. Of course it is. I don’t even bother telling her my name as I know it’ll start a series of questions I’m not in the mood to answer. Anyhow, it’s not like she’ll ever have to use it. “Oh God, yes,” works just fine. As I direct us to the toilets, she turns to look at me questioningly.
“I can’t wait,” I lie, seriously debating calling this thing off. She smiles and inches on her toes to kiss my jaw. I manage to fabricate half a smile.
As soon as I lock the door behind us, she is all over me. She licks my neck while I send myself a harsh look over the mirror. Her straightened hair moves slowly from my neck to my chest, while her hands reach to unbuckle my belt. I observe the scene over the small room’s mirror as if I’m just a spectator. My face is constricted, the muscle above my square jaw line tightly clutched. My eyes are squinted as I rerun the scene with Katie earlier today in my head. Somehow it feels unholy to think about Katie while the stress relief crusader fiddles with my zipper. She slides her hand inside my boxer briefs and not a second later I grab her wrist, preventing her from taking it any further. I collect all possible tolerance I have left in me and help her straighten.
“Babe, I think we’ll have to continue this some other time,” I lie again. She smiles but her eyes turn a shade gloomier, making me feel like a total dick. “Let me take you back to the bar,” I try to make some sort of amends. She composes, blinks at me, and slips her hand to my jean’s back pocket. What the fuck?
When she’s done punching numbers into my phone, she hands it back to me, saying, “Call me.” Not waiting for my reaction, she unlocks the door, and sashays her skirt-clad ass back to the noisy, darkened, vast room.
Even before I push open the exit door to the chilled evening her number is deleted from my phone. What a day. My mood drops a notch lower as I think about not having a real home to go back to. The complex where I bought a duplex will be ready in two days. For the time being, I’m shacked at some hotel within walking distance from Jake’s. I crack my knuckles, having Katie’s confused look play before my eyes again. I must sort this mess out first thing tomorrow morning.
By teen age, Sigal already lived in three different continents where she was lucky enough to experience and visit varied places, meet unique people, which only helped fuel her overly developed imagination. Currently, Sigal calls Estonia home where she lives with her husband and three kids. Not exactly sure where they will end up next…
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