I watched her flee. That was the only way to describe her hasty exit from the warmth of the bookstore into the cold, icy rain. It took everything I had not to run after her, crush her to my body, and kiss the sense right out of her.
Until now, I’d been content to watch her from afar, but not anymore. That brief, wholly unexpected collision — the first time we’d actually touched — had broken the seal, so to speak. The feel of her soft, feminine body pressed against mine, the slight trembling beneath my hands, made me crave more. A lot more.
Normally, I wasn’t such a caveman, but something about that woman called to a primitive part of me. Had, since the first time I’d laid eyes on her. I wouldn’t exactly call it love at first sight, because I’m a firm believer that true, lasting love — like the kind my grandparents have — is something that develops over time. Whatever it was, though, it was powerful. From the moment I saw her, I haven’t been able to even think about another woman.
Only her. Katherine Constance O’Shea. Kat, to me. Bella, to my matchmaking grandfather.
“Whatchu scare her for?” my Nonno Francisco scolded as he joined me at the door.
“I didn’t scare her.”
He snorted derisively. “You no use any charm, either.”
I said nothing, because I thought I had been rather charming during our brief, spontaneous encounter. I’d kept her from falling (a chivalrous move). I’d retrieved her package (a package which I knew contained the book I had written specifically with her in mind). I’d even employed a bit of harmless teasing in an attempt to coax a smile from her pretty face. That might not sound like much, but for a guy like me who was much better at writing romance than executing it, I thought I did okay.
To be honest, I didn’t usually make much, if any, effort to get women to notice me. They seemed to find me attractive enough that I didn’t have to. My Italian heritage gave me the dark hair, swarthy complexion, and black eyes they seemed to like. My time in the Marines gave me the strong, cut physique and the discipline to maintain it once I rejoined civilian life. I was raised to be a gentleman, and tended to speak only when I had something worthwhile to say, which also seemed to be a plus.
But Kat, she wasn’t like other women. Despite what my grandfather said, I don’t think she even noticed me. Week after week I sat in the corner of the bookstore, crafting my next novel. It was easy when Kat was around. I’d sneak peeks at her curling up in one of the alcoves with a cup of my nonna’s cappuccino and a small plate of zeppole and imagine the things I’d like to say to her. The things I’d like to do. The hardest part was getting my fingers to move fast enough to capture it all. Often times I had to just get down the bare bones and flesh it all out later when I had time to sit back and think about it.
Watching her expressions, knowing she held my book in her hands, had to be the best inspiration (and aphrodisiac) of all.
“Why is she limping?” I asked. That caveman urge doubled in strength when I saw her wonky canter through the cold rain.
“I think-a she fell. Her wrist, it look swollen to me.”
I frowned, the thought of Kat hurting extremely displeasing. “Why didn’t you get Nonna Maria to help?”
“Bella no want it.”
I could see in my grandfather’s eyes he wasn’t any happier about the situation than I was, but there was only so much you could do for someone who didn’t want your help. I wanted to change that. Call me Og the Cave Dweller, but I wanted Kat to look to me for help when she needed it. Or hell, just comfort. I didn’t care. I just wanted her to look to me for something.
Yeah, I had it bad.
“Is she coming tomorrow?” I asked, suspecting I already knew the answer.
He shook his head. “She say she will try.”
Translation: No. My frown deepened. I really didn’t want to do this signing. It had been my grandfather’s idea, believing it to be the equivalent of shooting one of Cupid’s arrows straight into Kat’s heart.
I watched as Kat’s soggy figure disappeared into the mass transit bus. I’d kind of been hoping the bus would have taken off before she got there, so I could have offered her a ride myself. Ah, hell, who was I kidding? She wouldn’t have accepted a ride with a stranger, and that’s exactly what I was to her: the weird guy who sat in the corner and made lame attempts at humor after inadvertently body slamming her.
That was twice in as many minutes that the wind was taken out of my sails.
“Well, damn,” I murmured.
Surprisingly enough, my grandfather didn’t seem at all disappointed by the turn of events. In fact, his dark eyes sparkled rather mischievously. I narrowed my eyes at him. “What are you up to, Nonno?”
His sudden feigned look of innocence didn’t fool anyone. “Me? Why you think I’m-a up to anything?”
“Because you usually are.”
His answering grin confirmed it. And despite myself, I felt a spark of hope.
Copyright © 2017 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
All rights reserved.