“ISN’T Edward dreamy?”
I’m starting to get a migraine from rolling my eyes so much. Maybe I should work on that. I know she’s just yanking my chain. She’s tired of the hype too.
“Or Jacob? Werewolves are so sexy!”
Really? Think so? Know any? ’Cause all the ones I know are assholes. Everybody wants the werewolf. “Ooh, they’re so protective and nurturing.” No—that’s called “possessive” and “controlling.” They’re jealous and territorial, and they think they’re the gods’ gift to shifters. They look down their snouts at the rest of us. Granted, I may be a bit bitter, but the wolves just make me want to shed a skin. No one ever says, “Wereboas are so sexy.” I’m not even poisonous, but they’d still rather cuddle with a wolf, with his big eyes and teeth.
“Come on, Jeff. You’re gay. You should love this.”
I stare at her. Did she really just say that? “Kim, do you have any idea how heteroist that sounds?”
“I’m sorry. I just thought—”
“No, you didn’t think at all. That’s the problem.”
At least she has the good sense to blush and look apologetic. She’s usually not like that. And I’m not just making excuses for her. Really. I know she’s just kidding around—she thinks she’s funny.
“I’m really sorry, Jeff. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I know you didn’t, but the next guy might not. Try to curb that, will you?”
“Yeah, I know. My mouth has a mind of its own sometimes. I’m going to do returns. Besides, eggplant’s here.” She starts off, giving me a wink and sly grin.
“I know. I saw him.”
I watch her walk off with a stack of books. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him again. He’s facing the cookbooks, but his eyes are cut toward me. It looks like his eyebrows are knit together, like he’s confused.
How could she think I didn’t notice him? I’m tall—six-two—but he’s even taller. He’s got to be six-six at least. And he’s everything I’m not. Wavy, black hair, pale-blue eyes, built like a brick wall. I bet he’s got muscles in places I don’t even have places. Dark hair peeks out of the V-neck of his tight, lightweight, navy-blue sweater. Not in a ’70s swinger way, though. On him, it looks rugged and masculine. And, damn. There’s the eggplant he’s got to be smuggling in those jeans. I would love to coil around that.
Guys like that never go for guys like me. Hell, they hardly ever go for guys to begin with, let alone tall, rail-thin, monochromatic freaks like me. I’m copper. Head to toe. Straight, copper hair, copper skin, copper eyes that sit a little too far apart from my flat, copper nose. I look very much like the boa I become when I shift.
I’m sure he’s heard our conversation. He was smirking earlier. I can sense the warmth of his body from here. Yes, it’s a snake thing. I can tell when someone’s hot; they’re just never hot for me.
I watch him as he selects one of the Bobby Flay cookbooks to look at. Hey, if he’s into redheads, maybe I do stand a chance. A customer rips me from my musing.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me where Twilight is?”
Fucking really? You just passed a life-size cutout of Edward brooding and Bella sulking, to ask me where Twilight is?
“Just behind you, to the right,” I reply through my pasted-on smile.
“Thanks! Isn’t Edward dreamy?”
Eggplant laughs out loud at that one.
“Well, he’s certainly a fan favorite.” Some days I really hate working in a bookstore, especially the customer-service counter.
She makes her way back to the huge display she passed to get to me, and eggplant saunters up to my counter. Guess with that basket, he doesn’t really have a choice. It’s like adding a rudder to guide a kayak. And now I’m staring at it. And now he’s noticed me staring at it. Crap.
“Not a vampire fan, I take it?” he comments, those damn powder-blue eyes sparkling. Fucking sparkling. Can you believe that?
“It’s not that at all, sir. How can I help you?”
“So you’re just not into Edward? How about Team Jacob?” Does he look hopeful at that?
“No, I’m an adult, thank you.” That earns me a look that goes straight to my dick.
“Yes. Yes, you are,” he says in a rumble from deep in his chest. Being a snake, I can feel the vibrations through the air, but I would love to feel that directly through my skin. Preferably through my back, with him pressed up against me. Naked. My cock throbs at that thought.
“Is there something I can do for you?” I ask, my voice a little lower than usual. Yeah, I know. It’s cheesy, but the view is damn nice, and I’m inclined to throw a little innuendo out. He’ll either play, or not.
“So, Jeff.” His eyes linger on the nametag pinned to my chest. “I was going to go get some coffee.”
“The coffee counter is upstairs, in the front-left corner of the store.”
“I know where it is. I’m in here a lot.” Don’t I know it? Last week, he was here in an exquisitely tailored suit, looking like a politician. I was restocking the shelves, and he seemed very interested in the Ramona and Beezus books near where I was. The Thursday before that, he looked like a lumberjack. The time I was in computer books, he seemed interested in learning a new language. Oh, yeah. I’ve noticed he’s in here a lot.
“I was planning on having company,” he says.
Wow. Right between the eyes with that one.
“Well, I’ll make sure your date knows where to find you when she arrives.” Smooth, huh. Almost sounds helpful.
He chuckles. “My date wouldn’t be a woman.”
Bonus! My jack-off catalog explodes.
“Well, if anyone asks, I’ll make sure they know where to find you, Mister—?”
“Cannidy. Brad Cannidy. When do you take your break, Jeff?”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Cannidy. I’ll make sure Kim knows you’re expecting someone when she covers for me.”
He chuckles. “No, Jeff. You misunderstood. I want to know when you go on break, so I know when I can expect you to join me.”
So this is what they mean by gaping. I’ve read about it, but I’ve never experienced it. I’ve furrowed my brow; I’ve cocked an eyebrow; I may have even gazed longingly, but I’ve never gaped at anyone. Surely he can’t be interested in me. Guys that look like that only go out with guys like me as a joke. That must be what this is.
“Is this a dare?” I ask suspiciously. His eyes follow my tongue as I lick my lips, tasting the air. Yes, it’s another snake thing. He smells like desire.
“Excuse me?” He looks confused.
“I’m not interested in helping you win your dogfight.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Something flashes across his face.
“When you and your friends place a bet to see who has the ugliest date. It’s rude and childish.” I take another taste of the air around him. He watches it again. That’s when the scent hits me. He’s a wolf. No wonder he looks like sex on sticks smuggling an eggplant.
“I’m sorry. I have some more books to bring from the store room.” I make a hasty retreat to the stockroom, leaving him standing at the counter. I punch the intercom button. “Kim, please return to the service desk.” And please don’t ask any questions.
I hide out for a half hour, hoping he’ll get the hint.
Nope. Guess he ignored the memo. When I come back out, he’s still at the desk, laughing it up with Kim. There are two coffee cups and a pastry bag on the counter.
“Did you get everything sorted out? I could have done that for you,” Kim says.
Really? You could have hidden for me? “Nah, I knew what I was looking for.”
Brad grins and holds one of the cups out for me. “Kim told me how you take it.”
Traitor! my mind screams at Kim.
Oh, you have no idea, eggplant, my libido Barry Whites.
“Thank you.” See, Momma taught me manners. I even use them sometimes. “That was very kind of you.”
“I got you a cranberry-walnut scone too”
“Well, I think we should take these outside. Kim, do you mind?”
“Of course not!”
Thanks a whole hell of a lot. I pick up the bag and head out to the bistro tables along the side of the store. I know he’s following. I can feel his boot steps through the soles of my shoes. The extra padding helps, but I’m still very sensitive to the vibrations. I take a seat in my favorite spot, stretching my legs out and turning my face up into the central Texas sun.
“Um, wouldn’t you rather sit in the shade?”
“Nope.” He’ll connect the dots later, once he figures out I’m a snake.
“Okay.” He drags a chair closer to the shade of the building. I knew he would. Wolves aren’t fond of direct sun. Guess it’s the pelt. My fingers itch to run through it. I listen as he settles in.
“So what pack are you?” I ask without opening my eyes. He freezes, and an adrenaline spike sharpens his scent.
“What do you mean?”
Nice try. “I know what you are. I know you’re an alpha. I just don’t know which pack you run with.”
“Does it matter?”
He narrows his eyes. “It might.”
The silence hangs in the air. I’m not inclined to make it easy on him. If he’d just be honest with me, I’d give him a break. I’ve been drawn to him since the first time I saw him. I give it a couple of minutes, sipping my coffee, not wanting to end this here after he’s finally made a move. After a couple more minutes, I can’t take it anymore.
“Well, this has been fun. Thanks for the coffee.” I toss the cup into the trash and walk back inside. It’s chilly and dark in here after basking in the sunshine. It’s already leeching the heat out of my skin.
You knew it wasn’t going to happen, Jeff. Get over it, I tell myself, resigned to the next conversation I don’t want to have. That doesn’t stop a twinge of disappointment from hitting. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted him to ask me for a date.
“So, what happened?” Kim is just too excited. She’s looking out the window where Brad is still sitting. I guess he’s still stewing about being found out, or he’s realizing he made a mistake even talking to me in the first place.
“Come on, Jeff. I saw the way you two looked at each other. He wants you.”
I shrug and glance outside where he’s still stuck in his chair.
“Not enough, I guess. Look, I’m going to go take care of the returns.”
“Okay. Sorry, Jeff.”
I give her what I hope passes for a smile and head off with my cart. I can’t stop the sigh when I notice I’m going to be spending more quality time with Edward, Bella, and the gang. I hope they finish with the movies soon. These reissues are killing me.
“DONNELLY,” Brad says to my back as I shelve the last of the books. I don’t turn around, keeping my smile hidden. “I’m with the Donnelly pack. I manage our real estate investments.” He sighs and turns to leave.
“Brad.” I stop him.
“Why did you want to buy me coffee?”
“Because I wanted to ask you out, and starting with coffee seemed safe. But since you know what I am, I guess I’ll leave now.”
“Where did you want to go?”
“You said you wanted to ask me out. Where to?”
“Dinner, maybe? Dancing? I don’t know. Didn’t get a chance to ask.”
“Pick me up here at seven?”
“Yeah. Okay.” He gives me that millionaire smile, complete with dimples. Fucking dimples.
“Am I dressed all right?”
“Yeah, Jeff. You’re fine, just as you are.” His eyes are sparkling again. Damn, I’m a sucker.