Home > Wallflower (Redemption #5)

Wallflower (Redemption #5)
Author: Jessica Prince


Chapter One






“Come on, come on. We can do this. Nice and easy,” I coaxed. I twisted the key in the ignition, hoping that terrible whining noise I’d been hearing for the past few minutes would actually lead to the engine turning over this time.

It didn’t.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I shouted, giving the steering wheel a couple smacks for good measure before trying the key again. “Come on you stupid piece of crap!”

As if giving me the metaphorical finger, the car let out a frightening wheeze before a plume of smoke coughed up from the tailpipe. Then . . . nothing.

This wasn’t happening. It could not be happening.

The frustration that had been beating behind my ribs all morning finally broke free, and the noise that came from deep within my chest sounded like something a wild, wounded animal might make.

Gripping the steering wheel so tight my knuckles turned white and the worn leather creaked beneath my grasp, I lowered my forehead against it and worked to calm my breathing. My father had always told me that nothing good ever came from losing your cool, and I’d taken those words to heart. No matter how many times I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. And that happened a lot, especially lately.

Once the unforgiving squeeze around my lungs finally loosened so I could breathe again, I lifted my head and grabbed my cellphone from its resting place in the cup holder. It wasn’t all that surprising that neither of my sisters had bothered to answer my calls for help. There had been a shift between us in recent months, and it was feeling more and more like, unless they needed or wanted something, they couldn’t be bothered with me.

With no other choice, I hung up midway through my oldest sister’s voicemail greeting and called for a tow.

Fifteen minutes later, the tow truck with the familiar Banks Body and Auto Repair decal on the side pulled up. My shoulders slumped in short-lived relief when the driver’s side door flung open and the only man who had the ability to scare the hell out of me and make me feel completely alive at the same time climbed out of the cab.

Gavin “Stone” Hendrix.

The very man I had a wildly imaginative crush on since the first moment I laid eyes on him.

He wasn’t the type I usually—more like ever—went for. The few guys I’d dated and been intimate with had all been safe and unassuming. To put it plainly, they were boring and, well, let’s just say extremely average in the looks department. In other words, they were on my level. Men like Stone usually sent me skittering in the other direction, but there was just something about him. An invisible lure that kept pulling and pulling at me, and for the first time in my life, I actually wanted someone to see me. I wanted him to see me. I didn’t want to be a wallflower where he was concerned. I wanted to be a woman on Stone Hendrix’s level.

The way he moved around the hood of the truck reminded me of a jungle cat. Power radiated from his entire body. Standing close to six and a half feet tall, there wasn’t a single inch of his impressively large frame that wasn’t roped with thick muscle. Yet, despite his size, he moved with a commanding grace, almost like he was prowling.

Tattoos spanned his arms from the backs of his hands, all the way up, some of them even peeking out of the collar of his shirt and up the side of his neck, making me wonder how much of the skin beneath his clothing was also inked. His body was a literal work of art that was always wrapped in faded jeans, worn, threadbare tees, and motorcycle boots. And he always looked incredible. I’d fantasized too many times to count about being close enough to him to inspect all that ink, maybe even trace it with my fingers—or, you know, my tongue.

I’d heard it said a million times by women in town that there must have been something magical in Redemption’s water supply, and I had to agree. Even though this was a small town, it wasn’t lacking when it came to attractive men. And in my humble opinion, Stone was the most attractive of them all.

I saw him for the first time when he came into my workplace to see my boss, Jensen Rose, and my crush had formed right then and there. Sadly, if it hadn’t been for the fact he had to go through me to get to Jensen whenever he came to visit, I didn’t think he’d know I even existed, which made my crush borderline pathetic, really. He’d never in a million years give me a second glance. As a matter of fact, every time I spotted him around town, I was pretty certain he’d looked right through me without even realizing we kind-of-sort-of knew each other. Not that it was a surprise. Men like him didn’t go for women like me.

He was big and bold; I was small and timid.

He was sex on thick, athletic legs and I was the very definition of Plain Jane.

He rode a motorcycle and I could barely keep my balance on a bicycle.

I’d seen the types of women he’d been drawn to. In a town like ours, it was impossible to miss them. They were all long-legged, curvy knockouts with big hair. They all dressed in tight clothes that showed a ton of skin, and their heels were sky-high and pencil-thin.

I didn’t have the confidence to be like any of those women, so there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d ever find the courage to make a move on the man heading my way right that second.

If I were being honest, he’d kind of frightened me at first. He was just so . . . big, so intimidating. And it didn’t help matters that he walked around with a scowl on his face most of the time. The man really came by his nickname honestly, because if you didn’t know him, you’d think he was hard as stone in pretty much every way. It was the vibe he put off. He wasn’t mean—at least that was what I surmised, based on what very little I knew of him, most of that intel gathered while I secretly watched him across rooms and streets like a creeper—he just held everything close to the vest.

I’d caught him smiling and laughing a few times now, and each time I did, my heart rate amped up and my skin began to tingle. Those smiles took him from rough and angry looking—in a very hot way—to downright gorgeous.

“You call for a tow?”

“Uh . . .” My brain short-circuited just like it did every time I saw him, and I struggled to form even the most basic sentence. “Y-yeah. Yes. That was me. I don’t know what happened. It let out this sound, kind of like a cat that got its tail caught in a fan, then just . . . wheezed to death.”

The dark slashes of his brows lifted high on his forehead. I thought I caught the corner of his mouth quirk up, but I wasn’t certain. The same was the case with his seductive light brown gaze. It looked an awful lot like humor was dancing in those melted honey eyes I fantasized about regularly, but that couldn’t be right. “That’s a pretty colorful description.”

I shrugged and lowered my head, looking up at him from beneath the fan of my lashes. My cheeks began to heat from the inside, and I knew my pale skin was quickly turning pink. God, I hated that blush, and I hated that I had absolutely no control over it when it came to him.

“All right. Let me get this hooked up and I’ll give you a lift to work on my way back to the garage.”

“Oh, um . . .” That heat in my face turned into a straight-up burn as I bugged my eyes out. “You-you don’t have to do that.”

His forehead pinched in a frown. “So you don’t want me to take your car in?”

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