The Other Man

Page 1

CHAPTER ONE

LOURDES

I felt eyes on me all through the grocery store.  I had good instincts, so when I turned and saw no one, I was surprised.

It was a quick run, mainly for fresh produce and meat, so I was in and out quickly, my mind on Dair.

He was hot.  Tall, with a body to die for.  Huge arms, a rock hard chest.  And the rest was just as nice, with messy brown hair and kind eyes that always made me feel like I was with an old friend.

Hot, successful, and almost too easy to talk to.  I found myself spilling my guts to him practically every time we spent any time together.

Still, we seemed destined to stay in the friend zone, and even I couldn’t have said why.

I collected my organic Swiss chard, spinach, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, leeks, just grabbing the usual—no specific meal in mind.  I was a vegetable junky, so I’d find something to do with it all, and force as much of it on my boys as I could when they came over for dinner.  Cooking healthy and feeding it to them was a compulsion for me at this point.

They were great sports about it and rarely complained.  They were such good boys.

My pride and joy.

My divorce had been ugly, but so had my marriage, and over a year later I found myself in a strange place.  I loved my work, my children were grown and thriving, and I was enjoying life more than I could ever remember.  There wasn’t much romance in my life, but there hadn’t been much even when I’d been married, so it still felt like a clear turn for the better.

Perhaps I was one of those women that were just better off alone.

Certainly, I was happier.

I collected some fresh organic chicken and some grass-fed beef, enough for one small woman and two large men.  I still cooked family sized portions, as my boys often showed up for dinner.  I hoped that would never change.

They were so good to me.  They were as busy as I was, but always made time to check in with their mother.  I couldn’t ask for more.

I was in the checkout line and had just finished piling my items onto the belt when I felt eyes so intently on me that I had to check again.

I glanced behind me and found my eyes meeting icy blue ones.

I quickly looked away.  The eye contact had been uncomfortably intense.

I waited a beat, then looked again, assuming the large blond man would have had his fill staring at me by then.

He didn’t, meeting my eyes even more brazenly the second time.

My eyes darted away again, but I’d had enough of a look, with my photographer’s eye, to take inventory.

Tall, blond, tan, big, and muscular.  Gray T-shirt, dark gray jeans.

Hard jaw, harder eyes.

Smoking hot.

He could have been any age from twenty to thirty going by his mean, unlined face.  The scruff on his hard jaw and his aged blue eyes made it impossible to say.

I instantly wanted to photograph him.  If he wasn’t a model, he should be.  There was just so much character in his face.  And so much to read in his hard expression.

Aggressive and a touch of something else.  Something akin to hostile, though I couldn’t imagine it was directed at me.  Just a restless man that hated standing in line for even five minutes, I figured.

I glanced furtively at his single item on the belt, my eyes snapping away, face flushing when I saw that it was a twelve-pack of magnum condoms.

Well, shit.  Why did that turn me on?  It shouldn’t have.  The guy was probably a jerk and off to have sex with what I assumed would be a random woman.  Men that intensely good-looking buying condoms generally were.

Tell that to my libido.

We were waiting forever for an old, white hippie lady to count out exact change, and I didn’t last long before checking him out again.  This time my eyes wandered below his belt, the magnum thing making it impossible not to be curious.

I flushed as I looked away again.  His jeans weren’t tight, but I’d made out enough of a bulge to embarrass myself.

What was wrong with me?  I was not turned on by strangers.  Even the idea was ludicrous.  I needed more than looks to even consider getting physical with a man.

Finally I paid for my things and carried them out toward my car.

I was nearly there when the sound of something hitting with a splat onto the pavement had me whipping around.

I blinked up at the big blond stranger, who had apparently been following close behind me, then glanced down at the single tomato that had managed to fall from one of my bags onto the ground.

I lifted the paper bag, brows drawing together at the very neat hole in the corner.  It looked like it had been cut, but that was impossible.

“Let me carry that for you, before anything else manages to fall out,” a deep, gravelly voice said to me.

I looked at the stranger.

He was offering to do something nice and polite, but his tone wasn’t even remotely friendly.

It was odd.

“No, that’s all right,” I told him with a shake of my head, balancing both of my bags into one arm, and bending down to collect the ruined tomato, then straightening when I saw that was clearly pointless.  It was a goner.

My hair had fallen over an eye when I’d bent down, and without missing a beat, brazen as you please, the stranger reached a hand over and stroked it away from my face, then let it linger there, in my hair, bold as you please.

I just stared at him, a bit shocked.  I couldn’t remember a time in my life running into such an aggressive stranger.

His mouth shaped into the barest shadow of a smile as he gripped a light handful of hair at my nape, his big body shifting closer.

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