Unscathed

Page 1

Chapter One

Jax

It was always the same question: Who do you think you are? Why the hell did people always ask me that? Was it my appearance that immediately put people on the defensive? I was a nice guy deep down. I kept to myself for the most part – until someone pissed me off – but I really tried to stay out of other people’s business. I just didn’t really like people, if I was honest, so when that annoying question got thrown in my face, well, yeah it irritated the shit out of me.

I was used to it from older folks or perhaps a stranger I would accidentally bump into. They’d take one look at me and assume I was some punk trying to be an ass. But most of the time, I was just being me. Sure, I could be an ass – trust me on that one – but on a normal day, no. Couldn’t people just say “excuse me” – or how about nothing at all? Why always that stupid question?

I wasn’t expecting it from her, though. Yeah, I’d seen her around; she and her snobby sorority girlfriends hung out at the Starbucks across from the university campus. I probably should have found another place to unwind, but I just didn’t want to. This particular Starbucks was close to my house and the Wi-Fi was always fast. Most of the people in here didn’t bother me, but today was the first time she’d spoken to me.

“Geez! Who do you think you are? Watch it!” she said as I turned around after grabbing my drink from the barista.

I honestly had not seen her at all. I just wanted to get back to my laptop and the game I was playing. I had two hours before I had to get to work and wanted some downtime.

I grumbled an apology and suppressed an eye roll before scooting around her, trying not to spill more coffee. I think some had gotten on her more-than-likely expensive shirt.

Good.

I heard her huff behind me as she carried her chai tea back to her girlfriends. I could feel their glares on me. Screw them, I wasn’t gonna give them the satisfaction of looking in their direction. I sipped my black coffee and went back to my computer game. It was much more interesting than those little college girls anyway.

I mostly tuned them out, but after about fifteen minutes of obnoxious giggles and snorts, I finally looked up. She and two of her friends were looking right at me. I locked eyes with her for about five seconds until she finally looked away. I found myself staring at the side of her face. The sun from the window behind her gave her blonde hair a glow. I bit back a smile at the small amount of satisfaction I’d received from winning our stare-down contest. Her other two friends, another blonde, and a pretty black girl, were still giggling, and, I’m sure, talking about me. Whatev… I didn’t have the energy for childish girls. I cursed myself for forgetting my iPod so I wouldn’t have to listen to their shit. I shook my head and went back to my game.

My laptop popped up a message that my battery was getting low. I checked my phone and saw I had another hour before I had to be at work. I decided to go back to my house and pack up some food before heading to the mechanic’s shop where I worked. I snapped the laptop closed and picked up my backpack.

I walked past the girls, not giving them the satisfaction of a glance, when I heard, “Bye, Lucky,” followed by giggles.

Lucky? Ah… yeah, that’s not the first time I’d been called that. The huge shamrock tattooed on my left forearm had “Lucky” inked into the center of it.

Lucky I’m leaving, I thought. I went out to my motorcycle, shoved the laptop into my backpack, and fished my keys from my pocket. I slid the helmet on and rumbled down the street.

As I put the key in the lock to my front door, I grew irritated at myself for even thinking about her. Yeah, she was pretty, but she knew it. I didn’t even know her name… and you know what? I didn’t want to know it. It was better that way. Easier. Then I wouldn’t have to think about her when I wasn’t at the coffee shop.

I plugged my laptop in at the kitchen counter and went into my bedroom to find my iPod. Now, where had I seen it last? That’s right, fell asleep listening to it. Sure enough, it was lying on the empty pillow next to mine. A smile found my face as I snatched it up and shoved it into my pocket. The last person to be lying on that pillow where the iPod had just been was a pretty brunette with a few tattoos of her own.

I’d picked her up in a bar last weekend. She had been eyeing me across the room, sipping on a beer as she shot pool. Or attempted to shoot pool, I should say. She totally sucked at it, but I could tell she was having fun bending over the pool table, sticking her ass in the air like a cat in heat.

She put out the bait, and like a dog, I took it.

We’d both had a few beers so I probably shouldn’t have driven my bike but I was okay – really – but she wasn’t. She was easy to get back to my house and her clothes came off even easier.

“Call me,” she’d called out as I dropped her at her apartment the next morning.

Yeah, sure.

Buttoning up my uniform shirt for the Volvo dealership where I worked, I smiled again thinking about that brunette (what was her name?), but then I thought about the pretty blonde at the coffee shop. Now she was trouble. I knew I’d better think of something else – fast.

Chapter Two

Mina

His dark eyes were fixed center and I knew he was struggling not to glance at us. We’d been teasing him ever since he’d knocked into me at the barista. With a mushroom-shaped coffee stain on my shirt, I sat at the table with my friends and glared across the coffee shop at him.

“You should send the jerk the cleaning bill,” Mandy sniffed, passing me a napkin.

I patted the front of my shirt with it, watching the guy take his seat a few tables away from ours. He flipped open his laptop. The light from the screen lit up his strong-looking face. He looked to have at least two days’ worth of stubble shadowing the lower half of his face and a neatly trimmed goatee beard covered his chin.

“I’m surprised someone like him even knows what a Frappuccino is,” Evelyn said, sipping her own through a straw and watching him from beneath her long blonde fringe.

“He looks like he’d be more at home in the freaking ape house,” Mandy chimed in.

Hearing this, Evelyn sprayed laughter, sounding like something close to a donkey. I saw the guy flinch. He knew we were making fun of him. I liked the idea he was feeling uncomfortable. It made me tingle somehow – like a faint current of excitement passing through me. The coffee incident had been no accident. He hadn’t knocked into me, I had knocked into him. I had positioned myself in such a way as I stood at the barista that he would’ve had no choice other than to collide with me as he turned towards his table. But my girlfriends didn’t know that, and neither did he. Why had I done it? Because I could. Because I wanted to. Because I wanted to get a picture of him. He had seen me around and I’d seen him. He had a swagger that brimmed with arrogance, and I liked that. Not because it turned me on – but because I knew it to be a shield – a cloak of armor that was begging to be torn from him. I’d seen him saunter across campus, his finely sculpted arse clad in faded denims, tattooed forearms swinging loosely by his sides. He had enjoyed women looking at him, and he enjoyed it now. But I was interested in him for another reason. Casually, I slipped my iPhone from my pocket and switched it to video.

Evelyn made another comment, which I didn’t quite catch, but whatever it had been, it caused Mandy to spray laughter again. This time, he snapped his head around and met my stare. I stared back across the coffee shop at him, my cool blue eyes burning into his dark brown spheres. His stare was so intense I had to fight the urge to look away, but not just yet. Not until I had discreetly positioned my iPhone so I could get a clear recording of him.

When I was happy that I had him squarely in frame, I looked away, as if unbothered by him. The sun that poured through the window felt warm against the side of my face. I could feel his eyes burning into me for a few seconds more, and I kept the iPhone still in my hand, as I rested it against the table and secretly filmed him.

Mandy and Evelyn were still giggling like a couple of teenagers as the guy pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. I glanced sideways and watched as he snatched up his backpack and headed towards the door. To reach it, he had to pass by our table, and I slowly turned my wrist, training my iPhone on him as he came towards us. I glanced down at the small screen and my stomach tightened. This was the best footage I had of him yet. The other clips of video I had managed to gather had always been filmed from some way off and they had been blurry, at best. But this was wonderful. He was perfectly clear and in shot as he came towards us, then passed by.

“Bye, Lucky,” Evelyn giggled, and for the first time I noticed a huge shamrock tattooed on his left forearm. In it, the word Lucky had been written.

With a mean-looking scowl etched across his brow, he pulled open the glass door and stepped out into the sunlight. I switched off the camera on my iPhone and slipped it into my pocket.

Lucky, I smiled to myself. He had no idea.

Chapter Three

Jax

Work totally sucked. I had an SUV with transmission problems and I had to practically take apart the whole damn engine and put it back together. I put the ‘G’ in “grease monkey” today.

After a five hour shift that turned into eight, I washed my hands, grabbed my backpack, and headed to my house for a much-needed shower. Thankfully I lived fairly close to the dealership and I was home in a matter of minutes.

I opened the front door and noticed all the lights were on. My roommate, Austin, was sitting at the dining room table, studying. He was a computer science major and we were polar opposites. I was messy, tattooed, drove a motorcycle, and had a couple of secret piercings nobody knew about, while Austin was a clean-cut guy who drove a Honda and came from a nice family.

He looked up with green eyes, and I could tell his light auburn hair had just been freshly cut. “Hey, Jax. Long day?”

I nodded, tossing my backpack on the armchair. “Yeah. I had to stay late at work. What’s new, man?”

Austin shook his head. “Nothing. I have a huge test on Monday.”

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