“Oh, damn! Sorry!”
I heard those words, but couldn’t reply. I was too busy trying to breathe through the pain radiating from my ass and wrist, which had been the sacrifices that cushioned my fall. My tote was on the ground beside me, packages spilling out of it, and I shook my head as I gingerly moved to slide them back into the bag.
Before I could touch them, they’d already been scooped up, and strong arms were under my elbows, pulling me to my feet.
I brushed my locs out of my face, taking my sunglasses with them. I pushed out a sigh as they tumbled to the ground, then bent to pick them up. Once I was vertical again, I finally looked at my attacker-slash-savior, and my eyes got big at the same time his did.
Heat rushed to my cheeks as I looked away, and took a step further down the street. “So, thanks for helping me up. I’m just gonna—”
“You’re the birthday girl from last night, right?”
Still wasn’t about to look at him. My eyes focused instead on the Stoney’s logo on the front of the building. “I’m almost positive that yesterday was a lot of people’s birthday.”
“I’m surprised to see you on two legs at this time of day. You were pretty messed up. Are you okay though? That was your second tumble in what, like twelve hours?”
“I am fine, thank you,” I said, finally pulling my gaze in his direction. That reminded me that he’d been the one to pick up the tote bag with my packages, and I tugged it from his hands, swinging the strap back up to my shoulder.
“My bad, shorty.”
“Yes, your bad,” I snapped, looking him over. I hadn’t really been paying attention last night, but… he was cute or whatever. Clear skin the same color as gingersnaps. Energetic, heavy-lidded brown eyes, framed by thick eyelashes and thicker brows. Fresh haircut, nice waves. Nicer lips. Even nicer beard.
“You should watch where you’re going.”
That was my way of erecting a wall. Bitchiness rarely failed.
And there was also the little fact he really should watch where he was going.
“Again, my bad,” he said, taking a step closer. Prompting me to step back. “I was trying to catch the mailman before he got around the corner, but I guess that’s not in the plan for me today.”
He pulled a folded yellow document envelope from his back pocket, smacking it across his hands.
Don’t do it, Iris… a little voice warned in the back of my head, and I sighed, knowing I was about to do “it” anyway. “It” was one of the many “quirks” of mine I’d long felt cursed by. I took another step away, hoping I could get away before my benevolent spirit woke up. My damn wrist was hurting because he’d knocked me down, and now my ass hurt worse than before. I didn’t have to be nice. I didn’t even know him. I could just walk away.
There it was.
Guilt pricked my chest as I tried to take another step.
“I could take it for you,” I heard myself say out loud before my brain even seemed to catch up. “Just, if you wanted or whatever. I’m heading to the post office anyway, so…”
“You’re serious? You’d do that?”
“I mean, I get it if you don’t want to. You probably don’t want some random stranger handling your mail, so—”
“No, that would help me out so much,” he insisted, taking another step in my direction. This time, I didn’t back away. “I can’t really leave the bar unattended right now, and this needs to get in the mail today.”
He was actually taking my offer.
I resisted the urge to pout.
“Okay, so… do you want me to take it or not?”
He nodded and closed the bit of distance between us. “Yes, please. Thank you.” He held the envelope toward me, and I raised my hands to take it, then drew them back.
“Wait, this isn’t like… drug money or anything is it?”
He grinned a grin that took his face from “nice looking” to “damn, he’s kinda fine”, and I wished I’d walked away about five minutes ago.
“No, nothing like that.”
I raised an eyebrow at him, then gingerly took the envelope from his hands, sliding it into the bag with my packages. “You’d better be telling the truth. If the Feds come for me, I know where to find you,” I warned, gesturing toward the door of the bar.
His eyes glittered with mischief as he pulled his lip between his teeth. “Please,” he said, looking me over. “Come find me anytime, Pretty.”
“My name isn’t—” I started, but the flash of triumph in his eyes made me pause and shake my head. “Never mind. I’ll make sure to get this in the mail for you.”
I didn’t respond to the “thank you” he tossed at me as I walked away. Eyes straight ahead, clutching my tote bag like I was worried someone would rip it from my shoulder. It was time to get away – far away – from the cute boy.
I didn’t “do” cute boys – meaning, I wanted nothing to do with them. I also didn’t do them – meaning sleeping with them – either. In my extensive experiencing, both “doing” and doing cute boys was most certainly a one-way train ticket to disaster.
Bearded ones were bullet trains.
Who didn’t need those types of problems?