The overpacked moving box teetered precariously in my arms as I stepped sideways, using my hip to close the back door of my car. I held my breath, completely immobile in the parking lot, next to a massive motorcycle, the box rattling dangerously.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five . . .
The box finally stopped moving and shaking when I reached six, and I let go of my breath. What was in the box was way too precious to drop. Something I probably should’ve thought of before I packed a billion things in it.
Too late now.
Sighing, I peered above the cardboard edge so I could see the sidewalk and the entrance to my apartment, then I started forward, determined to not drop the box or break my neck in the process. Thank God and all His—or Her—trumpet blaring angels that my place was ground level.
I really hoped I wouldn’t have to move again for a while. Even though I didn’t have that much stuff I had to pack up, this was still a huge pain in the butt. Thankfully the big stuff—the bed, couch, and other furniture—had been shipped and delivered. I just had no idea I could collect so much crap while living in a dorm.
I’d made it to the sidewalk, near the wide stairway that led up to the upper floors, when the burning in my arm muscles grew in its intensity. The box started to shake again, and I swore under my breath, a blistering curse that would’ve made my father and his father so very proud of me.
Only a few more steps, I kept telling myself, just a few more steps and I— The box slipped out of my grasp. My knees bent as I tried to regain my grip but it was too late. The box full of totally breakable stuff started to fall.
“Son of a bitch-ass, rat bastard, mother fu—”
The box halted suddenly, a foot from the cement, startling me so strongly that my string of curses was cut off. The weight of the heavy box was completely gone, and my obviously weak arm muscles wept with relief. At first I wondered if I’d developed some kind of superpower, but then I saw two very large hands that weren’t mine on either side of the box.
“I admire anyone who can successfully use the words ‘rat bastard’ in a sentence.”
My eyes widened at the sound of the incredibly rich voice. I rarely blushed. Ever. In fact, it was usually me making others blush. But I did then. My face heated like I’d pressed my cheek against the sun. For a moment I got hung up on staring at his hands. The fingers were long and elegant, the nails filed down to blunt ends, giving away to skin a few shades deeper than mine.
Then the box moved up, and as I straightened, I let my gaze wander above the box, over broad shoulders and then to the very source of that voice.
Holy hot guy . . .
Standing before me was the living embodiment of tall, dark, and handsome. I’d seen a lot of sexy, but this guy was simply off the charts. Maybe it had to do with his unique coloring. His dark brown hair, trimmed close to the sides and slightly longer on top, framed high cheekbones and a cut, angular jaw. His skin tone had a deep, olive tint, hinting toward some form of ethnicity. Possibly Hispanic? I wasn’t sure. My great-grandfather had been Cuban, and there were some lingering traits of his that had been passed on to me.
Striking eyes peered out from behind a fringe of thick lashes, and those eyes were truly something else. They were light green around the pupils and almost appeared blue along the rims. I knew that had to be some kind of optical illusion, but they were stunning.
This guy was impressive.
“Especially when those words are coming from a pretty girl,” he added, his lips curling up at one corner.
I snapped out of it before I needed a bib to catch my drool. “Thank you. There was no way I was going to save that box.”
“No problem.” His eyes roamed over my face and then dipped, lingering in some areas more than others. Since I’d been knee deep in unpacking boxes and running around, all I was wearing was gym shorts and a fitted T-shirt despite the chilly weather. And the gym shorts could barely be considered shorts. “You’re welcome to finish that ‘Son of a bitch-ass’ sentence. I’m curious about what other combination you were going to come up with.”
My lips twitched into a smile. “I’m sure it would’ve been epic, but that moment is now long gone.”
“That’s a damn shame.” He stepped to the side, still holding the box. We were side by side, and although I’m a pretty tall girl, he was still a good head taller than me. “Tell me where this goes.”
“That’s okay. I got it from here.” I reached for the box.
He arched a dark brow. “I don’t mind. Unless you plan on cussing again, then I might be swayed.”
I laughed as I lowered my lashes, checking him out. He had a leather jacket on, but I was willing to bet my savings account that there were some nicely defined muscles lurking under the coat. “Okay then. My apartment is right over there.”
“Lead the way, madam.”
Grinning at him, I brushed the long ponytail over my shoulder as I headed to our left. “I almost made it without dropping the box,” I told him as I opened the door. “So close.”
“Yet so far away,” he finished, winking when I shot him a look.
I held the door for him. “So true.”
He followed me in and stopped. Things inside my apartment were kind of a mess. What I had managed to unpack was scattered across the couch and on the hardwood floors. “Anyplace you want this in particular?”
“Right here is fine.” I pointed to the only empty space near the couch.
Walking over, he carefully placed the box on the floor, and like a total horn dog, I couldn’t help a perusal of the assets when he bent over. Nice. As he straightened and faced me, I smiled and clasped my hands together.
“You just moved in?” he asked, glancing around. Boxes were stacked near the galley kitchen and on the small dining table.
I laughed as the lopsided grin reappeared. “I moved in yesterday.”
“Looks like you have quite a bit to go before you’re finished.” Stepping toward me, he dipped his chin as he held out his hand. “By the way, I’m Nick.”
I took his hand. His grasp was warm and firm. “I’m Stephanie, but almost everyone calls me Steph.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” His hand still held mine as his lashes lowered, his gaze dipping again. “It’s very nice to meet you, Stephanie.”
Warmth curled its way into my belly at the sound of how he spoke my name. “Mutual,” I murmured, lifting my gaze to his. “After all, if you hadn’t happened along, I’d probably still be out there cussing.”
Nick chuckled, and I liked the sound of it. A lot. “Probably not the greatest way to meet new people.”
“Seemed to work just fine with you.”
The half grin spread slowly, becoming a full smile, and if I had thought he was handsome before, it was nothing compared to what I thought now. Wow. This guy was as gorgeous as he was helpful. “I’ll let you in on a little secret,” he said, squeezing my hand before slipping his hand free. “It wouldn’t take much for you to make it work for me.”
Oh, my little ears perked right on up. What a flirt. “That’s very . . . good to know.” I stepped closer, tilting my head back. A faint cologne clung to him, a crisp scent. “So, Nick, do you live in this condo?”