Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed sharing the next chapters of Ebony and Brian’s story. If you’ve read Chapter One you’ve gotten seen when they meet. You’ve also been introduced to the different side of Brian’s life in Chapter Two which threw Ebony for a loop. Now that she’s seen the ‘other side’, how does she react?
Today I’m featuring Chapter Three which happens to be one of my favorites! Why? Let’s just say there’s something about being ‘caught’ that leaves a lot of room for some fun. 🙂
“Damn it.” I pushed the door shut with my foot, nearly dropping the books balanced in my arms. A quick peek out the living room blinds showed Brian staring at the closed front door with a smug look on his face.
Of all the people in southern California who cut grass, how in the world did he end up at my home? Where did Yasmine find this guy? Did she know Brian? After Saturday night, this smelled of a set up. My roommates gave me a hard time for not accepting his VIP offer. And now this. First, Yasmine calls at the last minute, knowing I’m on the way home and tells me to expect someone to be there cutting grass, and then coincidently forgets the guy’s name. Yeah, right.
Annoyed, I pulled my phone out of my purse. Of course, Yasmine’s phone went to voicemail. Kaitlyn’s did too. It would be a waste of time to leave a message, but when they got home, there would be hell to pay. I appreciated their interest in my love life, but it was exactly that. Mine. After Saturday night’s attempt to set me up, they agreed to stay out of it.
The sound of a lawnmower gliding past the living room window got my attention. One of the guys rolled the mower across the grass. At least the yard would receive the attention it needed. I sighed in resignation and headed for the kitchen.
It was my turn to cook dinner. Tonight’s menu would consist of frozen lasagna and salad. Thank goodness for bagged salad, because I was in no mood to cut up any vegetables. Even though school was not in session, my goal was to stay on top of my game. Dr. Jacobs, my mentor and one of the head veterinarians on staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, allowed me to borrow several books from his personal library. He appreciated my hard work and offered to give me a heads up on classes I’d be taking in the fall. I was anxious to get started.
First, I needed to take a shower and wash off the odors of the animal clinic where I worked as a veterinarian’s assistant. Juggling both jobs was a lot of work, but the rewards were well worth it.
I closed my eyes and groaned. Oh, no, I reeked. No wonder Brian grinned like an idiot when he thought I wasn’t looking. It wasn’t as if he could talk. His shirt clung to his body, saturated with sweat as though he had run through my neighbor’s sprinklers.
I sighed, grabbed my things, and headed upstairs.
Unable to resist, I stacked the books on my desk and pulled out one that caught my attention the most. It dealt with the daily care of orangutans. The topic interested me most because of the zoo’s recent addition. Baby Nala was born a few days ago, but sadly, her mother died. It was now up to the zoo’s staff to provide the care she needed to keep her healthy until she matured enough to join the zoo exhibit. As an intern, I would be one of the select few tasked with this job. It promised to be a very rewarding experience.
After a quick review, I set the book down. The lasagna had another forty-five minutes to cook. I walked over to my window to check on the guys’ progress. They were nearly finished. It wouldn’t be long before Brian would be looking for payment.
Crap. He never answered my question. If he didn’t accept checks, he would have to follow me to the ATM.
I stripped down and reached in the shower to adjust the water temperature. Body wash in hand, I stepped into the steaming water.
The stench of work swirled down the drain, replaced by the scent of melons while the water caressed my body like a summer breeze. I pulled off my ponytail holder, letting the water run down my face while washing my hair. The next time Brian smelled me, I wanted it to be something soft and sweet, not animalistic.
Hold on, why did it matter how I smelled? Irritated by the thought, I scrubbed a little harder.
Brian smelled nice at the club. His rough, callused palm felt nice too. No wonder. He did more than strum a guitar all day. I admired that.
Getting out of the shower, I toweled off. Even though Brian was five times sweatier than when we’d met, it somehow made him more attractive. When I realized it was he standing at the truck, I assumed he would demand to know why I avoided his invitation. Instead, he’d been cordial, thank God, making the surprise easier on both of us. He was definitely about his business.
Oiled up, smelling good, my damp hair in a bun, and wearing a pair of cotton shorts and tank top, I headed back down to the kitchen. The lasagna should be nearing completion and so should Brian.
The buzzing sound of yard equipment drew my attention to the bay window. Somehow, they’d gotten over the locked gate. Oops, I’d forgotten to take the chain off before hopping in the shower. He was resourceful too.
Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it in a controlled arch along the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung loosely from his hips, exposing the top of his underwear from the weight of the sweat-stained shirt stuffed under his belt. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran in heavy rivulets down his shoulder blades, trickling to the already damp shorts.
None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to speak to one of the guys working with him. His long torso, free of body fat, sported a light sprinkling of blond hair between his pecs. His abdomen showed every cut of muscle I’d seen in high school biology textbooks. His abs were tight, his belly button nearly nonexistent.
Brian’s bronzed skin reminded me of a Greek statue, a testament of many hours spent working outside. His backward baseball cap hid the thick blond curls I’d seen at the club. The damp ringlets hung below its rim, accentuating his square facial structure and the shape of his nose. His blue eyes seemed to glow from deep within his skin.
Brian was unbelievably sexy.
One of the younger guys stepped into my line of sight, blocking my continued admiration of his anatomy. I bit my lip in irritation until Brian extended an arm. My eyes widened at the sight of tattoos over well-defined muscle. Intricate dark rings banded both biceps. How did I miss that? Oh yeah, his abs had distracted me. Curious, I stepped closer to the blinds, parting them. Damn, I couldn’t see the entire design. What was it?
At that moment, Brian faced the window. He remained expressionless for a moment before he squinted, then smiled.
My face felt crimson. I took a moment to clear the expression on my face before grabbing three cold bottles of water out of the refrigerator and walking outside.
I surveyed the yard while offering him a bottle. “It looks good.”
“It sure does.”
I glanced at him. He didn’t hide the fact his gaze started at my bare legs and slowly traveled back up. His expression made his thoughts apparent. I started to open my mouth and comment, until our eyes met. His gaze sent a warm tingle along my skin, reminding me of the way I felt when he held my hand.
“Thanks for the water,” he added, before whistling to get the other workers’ attention.
Try as I might, it was impossible to keep my eyes off his body when his back was to me. I took the opportunity to peek at his tattoos again. Standing this close, I could make out a little more of the intricate design. To truly see it, I would have to get close, so close I could…
I looked up to find his lips tilted in a lopsided grin. Damn, busted again.
Not wanting him to think I was impressed, I forced my face to stay blank. “How much is it going to cost?” It was impossible to ignore the laugher hidden in those gorgeous blue orbs.
Brian took long draws of water, apparently in no rush to answer my question. I forced my eyes to stay on his and ignore the fact that sweat should not look so good.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
I frowned. “What do you mean? You’ve been here for nearly an hour.”
He shrugged, pulled a rag from his pocket, wiped his face, and then dragged the thing down his chest. I automatically followed the movement before snapping my eyes back to his. A slow grin spread across his face.
“On how honest you’re going to be with me.”
I clamped my jaw tight while crossing my arms, fighting the irritation building. Brian apparently thought he could do or say anything to get his way. He did it when buying me a drink at the club. He’d done it when assuming I’d meet him in VIP. Now this.
My lack of a sex life and unexplained physical attraction to him made my irritability worse.
“Honest about what?” I ground out.
Brian’s eyes flashed with humor as he finished off the last of his water. “Why didn’t you meet me the other night? I looked for you, waited around thinking maybe you got stuck in the bathroom.” He crossed his arms, taking a wide stance. “Nothing. Not a note, not a message left with security. You just disappeared.”
Realization hit me. “You’re going to charge me more because I didn’t hook up with you?”
“Hey, don’t put words in my mouth. I haven’t decided what to charge. That’s not the same thing.”
“Okay, so what you really mean is if you like my answer, I’ll get a discount. If you don’t, then you’re going to screw me.”
Brian’s mischievous smile caused me to suck my teeth. Bad choice of words.
“Overcharging my customers is not good for business.” He chuckled. “Besides, offering a discount would be an incentive for you to answer the question and not avoid it the same way you avoided me.” He paused to unhook the weed whacker’s strap from around his neck and set it on the ground. He rolled his neck and shoulders then crossed his arms and resumed his wide-legged stance.
I glanced down and noticed the slight bow in his muscular legs. Damn, he looked good.
“Brian.” I forced myself to stare at the men bagging lawn clippings. “I went home.”
“Obviously. Why didn’t you stick around? You could have left your number if you needed to leave.”
Brian regarded me intently while waiting for my reply. His scrutiny made me nervous.
I took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before blowing it out. “Why do you care? There were plenty of women ready to jump at the opportunity to be with you. Why are you interested in me?”
“Why not? I’ve seen most of those women before.” He laughed at my screwed up facial expression. “That didn’t come out right. What I mean is they are all the same. None of them have caught my attention like you do.”
My mind went back to the buffet of women available at the bar, the brunette who gave me the evil eye, red heads, a few blonds, women of every size and shape.
“So you wanted me because I’m black. Or is it because you saw me wearing a tight dress and figured you’d get me in bed as a trophy. You know, sex with a black woman?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m an educated black woman with a good head on my shoulders, not some ‘ho from the hood. If that’s what you want, then I suggest you go take a ride down−”
Brian’s dimples popped as his lips pulled back in a hearty laugh. He shook his head. “I knew there was something about you I liked.”
I stared at him in confusion. Was he serious?
“You’re feisty and don’t hold back, I like that. And yes, the color of your skin did have something to do with it.”
I pointed a finger at him. “See, that’s what I thought.” I moved to march back inside, steam practically blowing from my ears.
“No, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking the wrong thing. Your skin is beautiful. And by the way, I’ve dated black women before.”
That comment put the brakes on my exit. “You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m not. But the color of your skin is not why I want to take you out.” His head cocked to the side as if remembering something. “Wait a minute, you’re avoiding my question. Why did you stand me up?”
“Stand you up? We weren’t on a date. You assumed I’d come running because you bought me a drink. Was I supposed to be impressed?”
A roguish grin appeared. “Most women would have been. Honestly, I’m glad you didn’t. It makes you more interesting.”
I smirked. “Interesting, yeah right. Would I have been this interesting if we never saw each other again?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not, I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is we’re here now. It’s a second chance to get to know you. I already know your name, where you live…” He wagged his eyebrows in an attempt to make me laugh I suppose.
It didn’t work. My internal alarm began to chime. If he didn’t like my answer, would he start stalking me?
He raised a hand to tick off fingers. “You’re educated, you have a smart mouth, and you’re not supposed to be attracted to me.” He creased his eyebrows in thought. “That’s not enough, I’ve got more questions.”
Vexed beyond belief, I threw my hands up in surrender.
“Okay, fine. If it will save money, I’ll play along. What’s the question?”
He grinned in victory while I massaged the bridge of my nose.
“Do you have a problem going out with me because I’m white?” he asked, straight to the point.
His hands went up in defense. “Hey, you’re the one who made a big deal about it. Me? I see a sexy woman who’s got more to offer than just her looks and a body that’s…well, there’s a lot more going on, I’m curious. So what do you say?”
That was unexpected. It took several tries before I could open my mouth. “No, I don’t have a problem with you being white.”
“Somehow I find that hard to believe,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“Well, it’s true. One of my best friends and roommate is white,” I said in defense.
“Good. Since race is not a problem, go out with me tomorrow night.”
If you haven’t read the Amazon Bestseller, A Heart Not Easily Broken, buy your copy today! It’s $3.99 and available for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and on Smashwords. If Paperback is what you prefer, find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble!
Ebony is a smart, sexy, career-oriented black woman who wants nothing more than a summer fling with a man who challenges her mind and body. What she doesn’t expect is a blond-haired, blue-eyed bass player—who won’t take “no” for an answer—to accept the challenge.
When Ebony’s attempt at a brief fling turns into more, despite negative reactions from friends and family, she finds juggling love, family, and career are nothing compared to the ultimate betrayal she endures. Now her dreams spiral into lies and secrets that threaten her future and her best friend’s trust.
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