Ebony sighed. If there was one thing her friend loved it was to torment her over her men, or rather lack of. Avril insisted one day "Mr. Right" would come along and sweep Ebony off her feet. While she knew Avril wanted her to find true love, the wish didn't come without an ulterior motive. Her friend had a curse and seemed to only attract egomaniacal, chauvinistic pigs and figured Ebony would have to be the one to marry and have kids. And, since her and Avril were as close as true sisters could be even without the blood bond, Avril would consider Ebony's children her nieces and nephews. Avril told her time and again that she deserved happiness in her life, and while Ebony believed she honestly wanted her to be happy, there was no denying Avril's ambition of wanting to be an aunt.
Avril chatted on and on in her usual don't-let-anyone-else-get-a-word-in way. Only half listening to her rambling on now about some guy she had a date with the night before and how he had ultimately become the epitome of male chauvinistic pig, Ebony decided right then and there she would not tell Avril about her illness. Life was already littered with too much uncertainty and sorrow. She wanted to enjoy what time she had left without sympathy shadowing her every step. She couldn't stomach the thought of seeing her best friend, the one person she loved most in the world, looking at her with those big brown eyes full of hurt or worst of all, pity. No, she wanted her last memories to be happy not of worry over her best friend's pain.
How was she going to get through this? If there was absolutely no other choice but fibbing, so be it. Yeah, right, because I'm so good at lying. She was horrible at lying. She chewed her bottom lip, weighing the odds of actually being able to pull off a fib to a stranger, much less her best friend. Every time in her life she had tried to tell a little fabrication, she had ended up a stuttering mess and had given up even trying altogether. Not that she approved of such deceit, but sometimes in life--such as when a woman asks if her butt looks big in these pants, and it does but you say no--it was just easier and less painful.
Avril's rambling slowed a little. "Oh yeah, girl, how did your doctor's appointment go? I almost forgot to ask." Then for the first time since the phone conversation started, Avril was quiet.
The silence was unnerving, and once again swirling, thick fog enveloped her brain, wrapping its tendrils around every thought trying to fight its way out, making it impossible for her to think of something to tell Avril. She sighed and begrudgingly resigned herself to tell Avril the truth, seeing no other way, but before she could say a word she collided with something solid that knocked the phone from her hand. At first, she thought one of the building's crumbling brick walls must be her obstacle until she reached out to steady herself and caught a handful of soft, supple leather at the same time the exotic smell of spicy sandalwood tickled her nose, tempting her lungs to take a deep pull of the intoxicating scent.
She looked up, way up, until she was staring into the face of what had to be the sexiest man on the planet. He stole her breath, and she sucked in a small gasp as she continued her perusal. Glistening, clear eyes the color of the ocean close to the shore with just the right mixture of turquoise and blue, framed by thick lashes and black eyebrows, stared down at her. She snapped her gaping mouth shut, righted herself and eyed the stranger some more while retaining her hold on his coat. How could anyone be so hard, so solid, so big, so ... sexy?
His black as night hair floated in the breeze and hung in a silky curtain around a masculine face with a straight nose and a square jaw covered in thick stubble. Full lips, kissable lips, lips that looked as if they were made for fulfilling any woman's most secret desires, framed his mouth. Heat flooded deep in her belly, and she had a strange urge to run her fingers through all that glorious hair. This was so not like her to feel this way and discerning when she admitted she liked it. What is wrong with me? Chasing away all sanity she couldn't resist taking a peek at the rest of him.
His huge frame loomed well over six feet, and a form-fitting, black shirt encased broad shoulders and a wide chest that tapered down to a lean waist, showing off his ripped, sculpted body to perfection. Black leather pants were filled out nicely by muscular thighs, and on his feet were black biker boots. The grip she had on his black trench coat pulled it open to allow her this fortunate view of superb male physique. He reminded her somewhat of Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing. Hating to admit it as Hugh was a God, even he paled in comparison. Holy cow! He has got to be the sexiest thing I have ever laid eyes upon.
She had seen pictures in the magazines of male models with their oiled up bodies, perfectly manicured within an inch of their lives, and knew instantly that all of them had gotten it so wrong. They tried to portray the male body in all its glorious beauty, but none she had seen even came close to the virility emanating off the man standing in front of her now. He was an exemplary blend of exactly the right amounts of everything male.
She was glad she couldn't see his behind because if it was even half as nice as the front, which she had a feeling it was, she might actually start drooling all over his boots.
Mentally scolding herself for gawking at a complete stranger, she began an awkward apology. "Well, um ... I-I'm, uh.... S-sorry for running into you. I wasn't paying attention to where I was, uh ... going." Duh, that was obvious now wasn't it? She felt like smacking her forehead with her open palm for her stupidity.
Avril's voice wavered up faintly from the ground. "Ebony, are you okay! Ebony! Answer me!"
She released his coat with reluctance, her body already craving the lost contact, and bent to retrieve the phone from the ground at the exact moment he did. Her hand came to rest upon big, warm fingers already gripping the cell. Sparks shot through her when she touched him, and electricity ran up her arm. She jerked back as if she had been scalded. If he felt it, he didn't betray it in anyway, keeping his steady, unflinching gaze fixed on her. Both of them stood, and he held the cell out to her. She took it, careful not to touch him again.
Putting the phone to her ear, she said, "Avril, I'm okay. I just dropped the phone. I'll call you later, okay?"
"If you're sure your okay, girlfriend."
She kept her gaze on him. "Yeah, I'm sure." I hope. She flipped the phone shut and shoved it back in her purse.
Was she okay? She didn't know this man, and now that she had finished ogling him, she became aware of the tense way he held his frame in complete control. Not one muscle twitched in betrayal of any emotion. He reminded her of a medieval knight waiting for battle, eerily still and accepting of his possible upcoming slaughter. She sensed an aura of danger about him. She couldn't explain it, just a feeling. He seemed ... different somehow, but for some unknown reason, she also knew he wouldn't hurt her. She'd be willing to bet her life on it.
She moved around him. "I'll just be on my way now."
He never uttered a word. Those turquoise eyes coldly assessed her every move. His face never betrayed one tiny emotion. Couldn't he have at least acknowledged my apology? Yeah, right. Who was she kidding? He probably couldn't even understand her mumbling.
The warmth of embarrassment crept up her neck into her cheeks, and she felt as if she were back in third grade talking to a boy she had a crush on. Standing here gawking at some male, however mysterious, dark and gorgeous he may be, was ridiculous and immature. A warm, giddy feeling raced through her veins, strange, invading, confusing, and she tried to ignore it blaming the recent events of her stressful day.
Taking one last look over her shoulder at him proved too much of a challenge to resist. Wow, there should be a law against men who look that good. She thought it a little strange that she had never seen him until today and stranger yet, that he was hanging out in the alley. Well, no matter, she wasn't the police, and he wasn't actually doing anything wrong anyway. Was he? Pulling her jacket closer around her body, she hurried on after deciding she didn't want to know.
She felt drawn to the dark stranger and couldn't fathom why. Even now, she was bombarded with the urge to turn around and go back with every step she took away from him. She had no business having such feelings for someone she didn't even know. She had dated a couple of nice men, but no male had ever really caught her interest ... until now.
He could be a serial killer for Christ's sake! No, her instincts told her he was good, and all she could think about was going back to run her fingers through that dark mane of hair to see if it was as silky as it looked. He called to something deep and unfamiliar inside her that she didn't quite understand.
Why did she have to run into him at this particular time in her life? Even if he had been interested, which he clearly wasn't, what could come of it? No sane man would want her now that she had a death sentence looming over her. No, now she would just be considered a burden and nothing more. She laughed out loud. Yeah and like I'd know how to handle a man like that anyway. Geez, what an idiot. Yet her brain whispered, "But you wouldn't mind trying would you?'
She rubbed her arm lightly. The lingering tingle from his touch sent another jolt through her body, yet this time it was more of a warm caress, comforting, beckoning. What the heck was that all about? Determined to clear him from her mind, she set a fast pace for home.