“Nate … I’m so sorry.”
He bites his lips together for a moment before meeting my gaze again. “I go by Nathaniel. I haven’t been Nate since I was a kid.”
“Sorry, my cousin said Nate. Probably because you were a kid when she was dating Toby.”
“I leave for work by noon Monday through Friday. My sister-in-law, Rachael, will be here until 4:30, so I’ll need help from 4:30 until 8:00, except for Friday. I’m home by 6:00 on Fridays.” He drums his fingers on his desk.
“Every other Saturday from 7:30 until noon. And I have several conferences I’ll be attending in July and August, and I will require some additional help during those weeks. Now …” He stands. “I have two more interviews tonight. I’ll make a decision by the end of the week. Thank you for coming.”
His hand hangs in the air waiting for me to shake it—the huge hand of a gorilla, with callouses and knobby knuckles from jamming fingers. A sizable mitt made to wrap around a hockey stick, not hold a red pen to grade papers. I stand and hook my purse over my arm and slip my hand into his. Part of me expects his touch to be familiar, but it’s not. I don’t think. No light bulb. No electrical tingling. I don’t think so anyway. My hand’s too shaky to really feel anything.
“Thank you, Nate—thaniel.” I bite my lip in a grimace.
“I’ll show you out.” He follows me to the front door.
I slip on my shoes as he opens it. “Do you have a son or a daughter?”
When he smiles, it’s the ghost of the boy that I recognized at Dr. Greyson’s office. For a few seconds, he beams with happiness and pride. “Daughter. Her name is Morgan.”
Once I step out into the warm June air, I turn. “Morgan. That’s a great name.”
“I named her after …” His eyes and mouth turn downward as he stares at his hands, his left ring finger still wearing a platinum reminder of what he lost.
After what? Now I need to know that too. But I can’t cause him any more pain by asking, and I can’t hug him even if he desperately needs a hug. And believe me, no human has ever needed a hug more than Nathaniel Hunt does at this very moment. He has the defeated appearance of an NFL kicker who just lost the winning field goal for the Super Bowl.
“I named her after …” He clears his throat and glances up at me again with a pleading vulnerability—nothing like the stranger shooting questions at me just minutes ago.
“Someone special or something meaningful?” I smile because it’s all I have to give to a man who doesn’t know me. My words are sincere, even if wholly inadequate to comfort him.
“Yes,” he whispers.
I take another step backwards. “I’d love the opportunity to meet Morgan. But if you find a better fit, then it was nice meeting you and good luck.” My teeth scrape along my bottom lip several times as I nod. “You’re going to be just fine, Nathaniel. I’m certain of it.”
The all-black Harley Davidson Breakout parked on my street brings a grin to my face as I pull in behind it. Two months ago I met Griffin Calloway, a Harley Davidson technician and mechanic with tattoos and muscles of a gym rat which my mom assumes come from steroids.
Griffin is clean. The guy owns some high-end blender, a juicer, and he’s always shaking a protein drink in one of those flip-top bottles with the stainless steel blender ball. I’ve gone grocery shopping with him twice, not counting our first encounter. Yep, we met at the grocery store. Over half of everything he buys is produce, and the other half is lean meat, nuts, and protein powder in bulk.
I forgot my wallet the day we met. He handed the cashier a fifty to pay for my bottle of wine, the bag of chipotle lime corn chips, two 55% dark chocolate bars, and a twelve count box of super absorbent tampons.
When I insisted he give me his address so I could send him a check, he wrote his number on the back of my receipt and told me to call him when I was ready to buy him dinner as payback. I was on day three of my five-day cycle. I called him two days later.
“I tried texting you.” Griffin keeps his gaze on the TV. NASCAR.
Eventually, I’ll stop pinching myself at the sight of this man in a sleeveless shirt and jeans as ripped as the body that wears them when I walk into my dinky one-bedroom apartment. He usually has a bandana covering his smooth shaven head, but not today. Griffin Calloway is two-hundred and thirty pounds of raw sex, and he’s mine.
“Sorry. I had my phone silenced, and I forgot to check it before I headed home.” That and an all-too-familiar stranger crashed into my world today, and I haven’t been the same since.
“Another lover?” The corner of his mouth quirks, but his eyes don’t move from the TV.
“Griff, I have many lovers. How do you think I pay for my groceries?” I slip off my shoes and hang my purse on the hook by the door.
He rubs his hand over his mouth, hiding his grin. “Get over here so I can fuck some sense into you.”
“I have to finish a website design by morning.”
“Then you’d better do less talking and more stripping.” Griffin shrugs off his shirt revealing a sea of taut, inked skin. Another pinch-me moment.
I’m an average girl. Average height. Average weight. Average boobs. My hair is just past my shoulders, an average shade of blond. My eyes are blue, not too dark, not too light—average.
Griffin is the opposite of average. I’m still trying to figure out his attraction to me. Maybe I’ll have to discuss my average self-esteem with Dr. Greyson at our next appointment.
“Tell me about your day.” He stands and removes his jeans and boxers in one fluid motion—still watching the race.
I’m not having sex with him while he watches NASCAR. Even this average girl has standards. Crossing my arms over my chest, I wait for him to make eye contact with me. He hasn’t shown me his sable eyes since I walked through the door.
Griffin sits on my black leather sofa. “Swayz, your day. Hop on and tell me about it.” He strokes himself.
Still no eye contact.
It’s not easy to act unaffected by his large hand fisting his thick cock, but who says “hop on?”
“You’re not one of your bikes you work on.” I grab the remote from the arm of the sofa and shut off the TV. “I’m not hopping on.”
Playful brown eyes finally focus on me, accompanied by a cocky grin.
“It looked like you were masturbating to NASCAR.” My teeth trap my grin. I want to be mad at him for this anti-romantic gesture, but he keeps stroking himself, and all I can do is squeeze my legs together.
“I love NASCAR.” White teeth peek out from his full lips. “How was your appointment with the new shrink?”
Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.
I may need to figure out why he’s attracted to me, but I don’t have to figure out why I’m crazy about him. He’s sexy, comfortable in his skin, and so damn goofy it’s ridiculous.
“Stop!” I grab the yellow blanket from the back of the sofa and toss it over him before tackling him.
“Oof!” He chuckles.
I wrap my arms around his neck, burying my nose into his skin while taking a deep inhale. He’s all cedar wood and spice. Warm and delectable. I feel small pressed to the hard planes of his body. And safe. Griffin makes me feel safe.
“I missed you, hot stuff.” He palms my ass and gives it a firm squeeze, adjusting me over his erection covered by the blanket.
“I missed you too.” His scent is crack to my senses. My nose refuses to move from its lodged position in the crook of his neck.
“Tell me about your day?”
Begrudgingly, I lift my head. “For real? Or just because you like background noise when you’re having sex?”
Griffin sits up, setting me aside like a throw pillow. He has a dragon tattooed on his back, and the tail of it runs down his right butt cheek and ends partway down the back of his leg. When he stands, my eyes go straight to it.
“I love that tattoo.”
“I know you do.”
“Nope. I’ve just heard you say it a million times. I love your tattoo too.”
“It’s a birthmark.”
He gets dressed. Such a shame. It should be illegal for Griffin to put on clothes. But I know why he’s doing it, and I kinda love him for it.
“Every detail. You have my undivided attention.” He sits down and pulls me onto his lap so I’m straddling him.
“I don’t deserve you, Grocery Store Guy.” I kiss him.
The day he wrote his number on the back of the receipt, he signed it Grocery Store Guy.
Fisting my hair, he deepens the kiss. It’s sensual, familiar, possessive, and utterly intoxicating. I think I’m falling in love with this man, but I’m still too deep in lust to know for sure.
He pulls back, rubbing his lips together like he’s savoring my taste. “Go.”
I grin. “Coffee with sugar.”
He rolls his eyes. “Sugar with coffee, but go on.”
“Barre class. Shower. A bit of design work. Then Dr. Greyson.”
My eyes double in size. “I know. Right? And his appearance fits his name too.”