It’s book launch week! In celebration I’m sharing a sneak peek of my new book. If you’ve been following along Lucy lost a bet and agreed to have a one-night stand with the man of her friend Trish’s choosing. We are at the chapter where Lucy finds out who Trish picks. Things start heating up from here! Read on for a look at Chapter 4 of In Search of Mr. Anonymous.
We walk to the end of the block to a place called “The Tin.” I follow Trish inside and she insists on doing a lap before we decide to stay.
“This’ll do,” she says. “Much better crowd.”
After standing around for twenty minutes two seats open up at the bar. It’s a large stainless steel rectangle with stools flanking the perimeter. “See? Good omen,” she tells me. We order a round of drinks and I take inventory of the room. It’s a rowdier group and judging by the loud laughter across the way, I’m guessing many have been here since happy hour. I take a sip of my drink and almost choke when I realize the source of the noise. Or rather, the person next to him. Coffee Guy. He’s as gorgeous as ever and my stomach tightens in nervous knots just looking at him. He’s smiling at his friend’s joke and he looks happy and relaxed. Then he notices me and his smile disappears. He stares at me long and hard, just as Trish says, “I found him.”
“Hmm?” I say, distracted.
“Your one-night stand. The guy over there, across the bar.”
I realize she’s looking right at Coffee Guy. Oh no, no, no.
He watches as we carry on talking about him. I can tell he knows. Or it could be Trish’s not so subtle finger pointing at him.
“He’s coming over,” she says.
Oh my God. I tell myself to breathe.
“Ms. Coffee,” he says as he sidles up next to me.
I laugh. “Coffee Guy.”
“Trish,” says Trish. “You two know one another?”
“Kind of. We used to run into each other at Starbucks,” I explain.
“Until you deserted me,” he says.
“I did no such thing. I moved.”
“That’s too bad. Seeing you was the highlight of my morning.”
I’m so flustered by his comment I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been one for witty comebacks. Trish elbows me. He pretends not to notice.
“So, is there something I should know about? Do I have something on my face? Some horrible stain on my shirt?” he says as he pretends to inspect it. I guess it’s his polite way of asking why we both were staring at him.
“You’re the one,” she says.
I actually do choke on my drink.
“You see,” Trish continues, “we had a bet. The stakes were that if I won I got to choose someone for my friend here to sleep with. I’m glad to say that I came out victorious. And I choose you.”
If he’s surprised by her revelation he doesn’t let on. “I’m always up for a challenge. And does your friend agree to this arrangement?”
They both turn and look at me.
“I―I.” I take a deep breath. “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me. It’s not something that I do.”
“But you did make a bet. So by agreeing to the terms, don’t you agree that it’s something you should do? You know, to hold to your end of the bargain?” He waits for my response, watching me with those dark eyes of his. I think I catch a glimpse of amusement.
“I know for most girls it’s probably not a big deal. But to me it is. I’m just not comfortable sleeping with a virtual stranger. That’s why it was part of the wager. And to be honest I never thought I’d lose.”
“I’ll be right back,” Trish says. “Ladies room,” she whispers in my ear.
As she walks away I can sense Coffee Guy sizing me up. “I’ll tell you what. Spend the night with me. And by that I mean just getting to know one another. If you decide you’re not comfortable after that the deal’s off.”
I meet his gaze and in that moment I want nothing more. But I still hesitate.
“Come on,” he urges. “What do you have to lose?”
“OK,” I whisper.
He smiles a triumphant smile.
“But I have terms,” I tell him.
“Let’s hear them.”
“No names. No personal details. No strings attached. Let’s keep things anonymous.”
“Hot no-strings attached sex with a mysterious woman. Where have you been all my life?”
I laugh and instantly feel more at ease. Especially since we’re not sharing anything about ourselves. Sex often blurs the lines with intimacy, and I’d rather go in knowing this is purely physical. Trish returns and Coffee Guy tells her I accepted the bet and the terms of our bargain.
“I love it! Have fun. And call me,” she says, giving me a meaningful look. “Show my friend a good time.”
“I intend to,” he says as he wraps his arm around my waist, his fingertips resting lightly on my hip.
I instantly feel my body temperature rise. Even though it’s a casual gesture, it feels intimate. I turn to face him and he drops his hand, leaving a trace of warmth in its wake. There’s an awkward pause now that Trish is gone. I wrack my brain for something clever to say, but I’m having a hard time forming a coherent thought. Fortunately Coffee Guy breaks the silence.
“I need a point of clarity,” he says. “What’s considered too personal?”
“Let’s just avoid talking about work or anything that would make it easy for you to look me up.”
“Got it. You’re worried I’ll stalk you.”
“But in all seriousness, why don’t you want me to find you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because we’re strangers. I don’t know a thing about you except that you don’t drink coffee. And you don’t know anything about me.” This is somewhat true and I hope he buys my excuse. I don’t add the real reason: that the way he makes me feel scares the hell out of me.
“I know you better than you think.”
He sets my drink on the bar and takes my hand. I feel nervous again, off-balance by his touch. With my free hand I fidget with the straw in my glass, swirling the fizzy, clear liquid. He cups my chin to meet his gaze. “You’re beautiful. Anyone can see that by looking at you. But you think girls resent you for it. Many probably do. Maybe you were teased so they could feel better about themselves. So you built up a protective wall. You come off as cold and aloof, but deep down you’re just shy. You likely don’t have a lot of close friends, not because people don’t care to get to know you, but because you only let in a worthy few. I think you’re compassionate and kind-hearted, but many don’t get to see that. They only see the icy exterior you project. I hope I’m one of the lucky few,” he says as he lets go of my hand.
I stare at him, open-mouthed. It’s as if he’s one of the few people who understands me. But of course I don’t tell him that. “Are you a mentalist or something?”
This makes him smile. He flashes me his perfect, white teeth. I’m thrown off balance once again.
“No. I’m just good at reading people. It’s not that hard. Now you do me.” He arches his brow as he says it.
I ignore his innuendo. “No way. I can’t.”
“OK. It’s obvious you’re a pretty girl. No explanation needed there. The first few times I saw you at Starbucks you turned away if we had any sort of eye contact. It was like you couldn’t stand the sight of me. But I watched you, the way you interacted with other patrons and the baristas. And I realized you weren’t a bitch, just shy. So I was very subtle in my flirtation. At first I thought you didn’t want anything to do with me, but sometimes you’d smile at me or at least acknowledge my existence. I never saw you in there with anyone else. No text message exchanges that made you laugh. You always maintained a professional air. As for compassionate, I saw how you’d order an extra coffee for Joe.”
“How do you know Joe?”
“When you stopped coming I bought his coffee. Got to know him a bit.”
I love that he did that. But instead of telling him all I do is nod.
“So you see, it’s not too hard. Give it a try.”
I look him over, from his perfectly tousled hair, to his V-neck gray cashmere sweater with a bold plaid dress shirt underneath. He manages to keep it casual by rolling the cuffs of his sleeves and pairing the look with designer jeans. Again, I notice how the length is on the longer side.
“You have a casual dress code on Fridays. Probably work in the tech field or something trendy. I’m guessing you’re in a leadership position. You like fashion and either have great taste or someone who buys your clothes for you. You’re confident in your own skin and don’t put up with other people’s crap. I’m guessing you’re single and like to play the field, but aren’t against being in a relationship if you find the right person. You like to observe people and notice things that you use to your advantage. You’re a man of opportunity. And I’m guessing you’ve seized it often and have done well. How’d I do?”
He studies me intently with those dark eyes of his, eyes the same color as the night sky. “Not bad. Now tell me how you drew your conclusions.”
“Clothes, easy. You always look sharp.”
“I do have a personal shopper.”
“I knew it!”
“As for confident, not many guys would come up to two girls and call them out for talking about him. And I could tell by the way you carry yourself. You have this casual ease about you. As for your relationship status, you wouldn’t have agreed to the bet if you had a girlfriend.”
“True. Very observant, Ms. Coffee. But that doesn’t answer why you think I’m not opposed to being in a relationship.”
I don’t know how to answer him. I kind of threw it in there to see how he’d react. I was hoping he wasn’t a total player, but how do you come right out and ask something like that? And I guess I wanted him to confirm or deny it. I’m assuming he knows this and is putting me on the spot. Another observation: he’s a smart one. A blush creeps up my neck under his intense stare.
“Just an assumption. Am I right?” My voice comes out more confident than I feel.
“That remains to be seen.” He sees my confused expression and continues. “I’m not opposed to being in a relationship with the right woman. I just haven’t met her…yet.”
“So let’s see how things go tonight.” He puts his hand on my arm. “I’m really looking forward to it.” He keeps talking but all I can focus on is the feeling of his hand on my arm, anchoring me in place. I flinch and pull away, pretending I need to get something in my bag.
He’s onto me.
“It seems you have some reservations, Ms. Coffee.” He leaves it at that, waiting for me to respond.
I don’t know what to tell him. Part of me wants nothing more than to bring him home and have mad, passionate sex. But the other half wants to run away and hide far from his reach. Intimacy scares me, but the fact that I’m debating means I’m open to the idea, which also scares me. It’s hard to be at odds with yourself when a handsome stranger hangs in the balance.
“Just say the word and I’ll walk away.” I can tell he means it.
“I don’t want that,” I whisper.
“What do you want?” He leans in, invading my personal space. Being this close to him is dizzying, so I take a deep breath to clear my head. Instead I inhale his scent. It’s pure male. Tempting. He’s watching me closely for a reaction. If only he knew how good I am at hiding my emotions.
“I don’t know what I want.” It’s the truth. “I really don’t know anything about you.”
“My favorite color is blue, like the ocean. I eat mainly lean protein. If I’m going to splurge it would be on a big, juicy burger with grilled onions. My drink of choice is Bells Two-Hearted Ale. I can speak fluent Spanish because I studied abroad in Madrid. I don’t own any pets―I’d love to but I don’t do well taking care of living things. I’ve been called brilliant, arrogant, and ambitious. All of the above are true. I’m also compassionate, and I think you’ll find that I’m very giving. This is the tip of the iceberg. But if you spend the night with me I promise you’ll learn a lot more.”
He backs away, putting more distance between us. I swear the air between us just got cooler. But I feel like I can breathe again. He studies me while absently running his hand over his jaw. Or maybe it’s intentional so I look at his mouth. He does have very nice lips, which are forming into a smirk. Embarrassed, I lift my gaze so our eyes meet. His eyes bore into mine, dark as a starless night. Watching. Evaluating. I feel as if I’m his prey and he can swallow me whole if he chooses. As if he’s reading my mind, he licks his lips, leaving beads of moisture in their wake. My pale blue eyes drift again to his mouth, but I quickly recover and resume eye contact. Light versus dark, we are in stark contrast.
I used to love watching Star Wars with my dad growing up. He bought us lightsabers for Christmas and we’d have these duels. He was always Darth Vader and I was Luke Skywalker. Sometimes I wanted to be on the dark side, though it was something I never admitted. Since then I’ve always been known to do the right thing. I chose the light side. But just this once, I’m tempted to cross the line. Experience the dark side of things. With him.
Coffee Guy is still assessing me. Normally I’d get creeped out by a guy staring at me for this long. It’s probably only been a minute, but it feels like an eternity. For some reason I feel comfortable with him. I can tell he’s an intense person and he seems to be thinking about how to win me over. I’m intense too though it’s more internalized. And I think his staring me down is probably some negotiation tactic. Most people are uncomfortable with silence. So they talk to avoid it, like silence is the enemy. Not me. I think you can communicate a lot without saying a word.
“I’ll tell you what,” he says, interrupting my thoughts. “Let’s hang out and get to know each other better. As I said before, if you like me you go through with the bet. And if you don’t the deal’s off, no hard feelings. You can tell your friend whatever you want. That I gave you the best sex of your life. Which would be true, by the way. And if I ever run into her again I’ll vouch for you. Oh, and one more thing. Like you said, I go after what I want. And what I want right now is you.”
Breathe. Just breathe.
As I ponder this the song “Viva la Vida” fills the air. I realize it’s his ringtone and I take it as a sign. He glances at his phone and ignores the call, seeming embarrassed.
“My brother changed my ringtone as a joke. He knows it’s one of my favorite songs.”
I study him a moment and decide to make the leap.
“Yes.” My voice comes out breathy and unlike my own. “I’ll do it.”
He flashes me a smile that lights up his face. He seems genuinely happy with my decision. I’m sure this is a game to him. And he strikes me as the type who likes to win. He takes my hand and pulls me up. Panic rises in my chest.
“Don’t worry,” he assures me. “We’re just going somewhere we can get to know each other better.”
I nod and let him lead me out of the bar. How did he know? I didn’t say a single word. I think back to earlier when he said he knows me more than I think. Perhaps he’s right. And while I typically shy away from revealing too much about myself, with him I’m open to the idea.
Intrigued? (I hope so!) Reserve your copy now by clicking on the icons below and save! Pre-sale e-book price is $2.99. After the launch the price will go up to $3.99.
Did you miss my last post? Be sure to check out the prior chapters at the links below.