This is the continuation, beginning and end of the free story I posted on my blog last year. To Love A Stranger will be released at Evernight Publishing on August 10th.
A bottle of wine and a phone number later. That was all it took for twenty-five year old Charity Miller to find herself thrust into a relationship she never saw coming. Each and every day spent with her tattoo artist boyfriend Jake, brings her that much closer to falling in love and two steps backward erasing the look of torment from his beautiful dark eyes.
Jake is falling hard for his girlfriend. Charity is unlike any other woman he has ever been with and it scares the heck out of him. With her soft brown eyes and penetrating gaze, Jake knows she is on to him. Yet, her kisses taste like the sweetest heaven and her trust in him leaves him shaken, so why on earth would he risk it all and surrender all pretense of being anything more than a lowdown trailer trash ex convict?
Jake Hansen shifted in his chair. He gave himself a mental bitch-slap. Ordering the wine for the girl had been the first mistake, then believing the pretty boy waiter would keep his mouth shut, the second. His lips peeled back in disdain. No, a bitch-slap wasn’t nearly painful enough for a dumbass like him.
What was he expecting after she got the drink? He didn’t even know what he wanted from her. What hehadn’t wanted was exactly what was about to happen. Jake counted the seconds. Five, four, three, two, one. On cue a pair of dark eyes flew open. She jerked her back so swiftly, he wondered if she hadn’t given herself whiplash. He snorted and looked away. So much for trying to be normal. His gaze tracked toward the doorway. The entrance teased him, rendering it impossible to leave without passing her table.
Fuck it. Pushing in his chair, he stalked right past her. Outside the restaurant, he snatched the black fiberglass helmet off the seat of his motorcycle. He shot another look at the restaurant. He was bowled over by the pungent onslaught of self-disgust. He’d spent the better part of an hour concentrating and drooling over the little bitch inside when he should have known better. He needed to get back to the shop.
Didn’t matter that it was beyond closing time, there had to be something he could do to keep him occupied. Maybe he’d clean the autoclave or go over the accounts. Maybe he’d get started on another tat, the kirituhi star he’d been admiring. Then again, that would mean scouring for a spot on his skin untouched by ink. He shoved into his leather jacket and shook his head. Must have been out of my goddamned mind.
Charity palmed her forehead. Sweet Jesus. She lowered her head, letting it all sink in. He had sent her the drink. But why? As she’d watch him pummel his way past her table, Charity had wanted to feign preoccupation with her drink. She hadn’t, not wishing to further acknowledge the situation and incite an exchange of words. Instead, she had peeked at him through the corner of her eyes. He was tall, much taller than she, and lean with a body she expected was corded with muscles instead of bones. Rising from his collar, a tattooed black flame licked the underside of his jaw. Charity swallowed as she noticed his arms were also completely covered in a barrage of tattoos, ending at his wrists to resemble the bottom of a sleeve. Twin silver rings glistened from a single dark eyebrow. The buzz cut, just as the waiter mentioned, did nothing to soften the sharp angles of his face.
When the door closed, Charity slid back in the seat and let out a whoosh of air. Immediately her mind replayed the image of her “admirer”. She glanced at the door, sat up then right back down. Her stomach twisted itself into a million knots as she contemplated the exit.