By: Kylie Scott


Mal Ericson.

Damn, he was beautiful. My long-dormant hormones broke into a dance of joy. Something was definitely going on in my pants. Something that hadn’t happened in a very long time.

“There go the crazy eyes again,” he whispered.

“Shit.” I shut my eyes tight. Lizzy walking in on me and my boyfriend seven years ago had been pretty damn embarrassing, especially given that she then ran and told mom. Not that mom had been coherent enough to care. This, however, topped it.

“Your cheeks have gone all rosy. Are you thinking rude thoughts about me, Anne?”


“Liar,” he taunted in a soft voice. “You’re totally thinking of me with no pants on.”

I totally was.

“That’s just gross, dude. A massive invasion of my privacy.” He leaned in closer, his breath warming my ear. “Whatever you’re imagining, it’s bigger.”

“I’m not imagining anything.”

“I’m serious. It’s basically a monster. I cannot control it.”


“You’re pretty much going to need a whip and chair to tame it, Anne.”

“Stop it.”

“That okay with you?”

I covered my hot face with my hands. Not giggling. Not even a little, because grown women didn’t do that shit. What was I, sixteen?

Inside the condo, Nate started shouting. The sound was only slightly muted by the sliding glass doors. My eyelids flew open as he hurled abuse at the TV, arms waving madly. Lauren laughed and my brain came back on line, sending all sorts of emergency signals throughout my body. Like I didn’t already realize I needed to get the hell out of there before I humiliated myself further. Good one, frontal lobe. At least I could think if I didn’t look at Mal directly.

This was a brilliant and timely discovery.

And it worked right up until he leaned over, getting in my face, making my lungs feel like they were about to explode.

“You have a little gap between your two front teeth,” he informed me, eyes narrowed in perusal. “You know that?”


He studied me like I was an alien species, a curiosity that had been dumped on his doorstep. His gaze slid down my body. It wasn’t as if he could possibly see anything what with me wearing a coat, jeans, and boots. But that knowledge didn’t help at all. His lazy, appreciative grin made my knees knock. It took about forever for his gaze to return to my face.

Damn, he was good. I’d been professionally sullied without a single item of clothing removed.

“Your eyes are a pleasing shade of… Is that blue?” he asked. “It’s hard to tell in this light.”

I cleared my throat. “Yep, blue. Will you please not do that?”

“What?” he asked, sounding vaguely aggrieved. “What am I doing?”

“You’re staring at me and making me feel all uptight. I don’t like it.”

“You stared at me first. Besides, you were wired long before you came out here. If I had to guess, I’d say you’re uptight in general. But don’t worry, I’m here to help. Go on; tell Uncle Mal all your troubles.”

“Wow, that’s really kind of you. But I’m good.”

He shuffled closer and I shuffled back. Pity there was nowhere for me to go. “What were you talking about on the phone before, Anne?”

“Oh, you know … personal stuff. I don’t really want to discuss it.”

“You were saying your friend ripped you off and you’re going to lose your place, right?”

“Right.” I slumped, my heart hurting. Fucking Skye. I wasn’t a pleaser, but I did look after the people I loved. Stupid me, I thought that’s what you did. When mom got sick, I’d stepped up, done what needed doing. There’d been no other choice. The state of my finances right now, however, would suggest it had become a bit of a bad habit. “Yeah. That about sums it up.”

His eyes widened in sudden alarm. “Shit. Don’t cry. I’m not Davie. I don’t know how to deal with that.”

“Shut up, I’m not going to cry.” I blinked furiously, turning my face away. “I told you I didn’t want to talk about it.”

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