Every woman alive is given one man who is guaranteed to turn her life into a monument of suck. My one man is Nick O’Shea. Every time he shows up my life gets shaken upside down and spanked.
“Untie me now, Sparky, or so help me God,” Nick says.
I smile and ignore his god-awful nickname for me. This is the absolute best day of my life. I stand over him and soak in the feeling that all wrongs in the world are about to be righted.
“Why?” I ask.
“Un. Tie. Me.” He strains against the zip ties on his wrists. I’m not going to lie, I get a flash of pleasure deep inside at his struggle.
“Did you want some birthday cake? It’s chocolate, your favorite.” I wave a pink paper plate with a big slab of cake under his nose.
Nick growls at me. Growls.
My body reacts just like it did when I was fifteen and hopped up on hormones. Unconsciously I lean toward him. Enough of that. I pick up the plastic fork and shove a piece of cake in my mouth. The fudgy frosting’s thick, rich and, let’s be honest, delicious. “Mmmm. Good.”
“Sparky…” he says. His voice is low and full of warning.
“No. Nope. Not gonna,” I say.
He looks different than he did in high school. Ten years in the military made him harder. At eighteen, his jaw was softer, his cheeks fuller…his eyes had more warmth. Now, not so much. There’s a half-inch-long scar over his right eyebrow that wasn’t there before. His cheeks are sharper. His hair’s darker and he has stubble on his jaw. I’ve never seen him with a five o’clock shadow. I think about what it would feel like if I ran my fingers over it.
I glance into his eyes. They’re blacker than I remember. He’s looking at me like he wants to throttle me. Oh well. I move my gaze to his shoulders. They’re thick and muscular and he’s wearing a white T-shirt that stretches over him.
Unfortunately, karma didn’t catch up to Nick and make his outside match the cynical jerk within. Nope. If I were to draw what he really looks like there’d be horns, a forked tongue, and a tail.
I take another bite of cake. He watches and his furious eyes linger on my lips then move down my throat. I can feel the heat of his gaze like he’s stroking my neck. Then, his gaze slowly moves over my chest and down my body. I’m in a floral wrap dress with a low neckline. His eyes linger on my breasts, which are smashed up by my push-up bra and prominently displayed.
I have the urge to cover them. Instead, I hold my ground.
“Finished?” I ask.
“Untie me,” he says.
I sigh. “Or, how about…gee, Chloe, happy birthday? It’s been such a long time. So great to see you,” I say.
He scowls. Okay, I admit that was a stretch. I don’t think Nick has ever said that it’s great to see me…except, well, once.
He turns away and looks over the community room. It’s like a birthday fairy exploded and shot out hundreds of pastel balloons, streamers and confetti.
He turns back to me. “Birthdays are a scam,” he says. “Just another day for people to fail at meeting unrealistic expectations so they can continue to disappoint each other. Likewise, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Come on, Sparky.” He strains at the restraints.
I shake my head. “Hate to disappoint,” I say.
“No. Not at all.”
Nick sits in an antique wooden chair. His wrists are zip tied to the armrests and his ankles are tied to the spindle legs. What I can’t figure out is how he got himself into this situation. The chair’s in the middle of a pile of birthday gifts and he has a big red satin bow on his chest. Like he’s a gift.
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