Home > Pause (Larsen Bros # 2)(2)

Pause (Larsen Bros # 2)(2)
Author: Kylie Scott

“How did you find me?” he asks with a faint frown.

“Oh. Ah.” I smooth down the front of my pale blue midi-length linen summer dress. My dark hair is slicked back in a low ponytail and my makeup is simple but perfect. It’s nice having some things I can control. “One of the nurses from the ICU told me about you and I wanted to come say thank you. But maybe an apology would be more in order?”

For a moment he pauses, then he asks, “Do you want to come in?”

Good question. The fact is, I don’t know. Nor do I know how to do this. Something made obvious when my mouth opens, but nothing comes out. So much nothing for such a length of time that it’s beyond embarrassing. Dammit. Whatever it is I came here looking for, it wasn’t this. Him. Whatever.

“We’ve never properly met, have we?” He holds out his big hand. “Hi, I’m Leif.”

“Anna.”

While I’m tentative, he shows no such reserve. Strong, warm fingers enfold my own stiff and cold ones. There’s no attempt at a dominating handshake or groping. He gives my hand a squeeze, just the one gentle squeeze, before setting me free.

“I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but that would be weird.” He grins conspiratorially and oh my God. Everything low in my stomach wakes up and takes notice. Shame on my lady parts, but the chemical pull of the man is ridiculous. It takes me a minute to remember that I’m a married woman. Mostly. Well, somewhat anyway. I certainly have no business smiling at him like I am. My life is messed up enough without adding a crush. Perhaps it’s in reaction to me, I don’t know, but the mirth disappears and his gaze becomes serious. A little bleak even. “I still have nightmares about that day, you know?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“I shouldn’t have come.”

“Don’t, Anna. Don’t look like that. I didn’t tell you to hurt you or make you uncomfortable. I was just . . . sharing.” His expression changes again, a more subdued smile taking the place of the brief hint of trauma. Then he suddenly winks at me all flirty like. I don’t know how to react. I can barely keep up. The man is a whirlwind. “Want to come in and have a beer with me?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“I just . . . I don’t want to remind you of things you’d rather—”

“I want you to come inside. I wouldn’t have asked otherwise.”

A drink with a pretty wild man that I have a strange sort of history with or a swift return to safety and boredom? I don’t overthink it. I don’t even hesitate. “Then yes, Leif. I’d love to.”

 

 

The police report states that when I lost control of my car, a man on a motorcycle was forced off the road to avoid impact. This was after I was hit by the other vehicle, but before I hit the tree. While the other driver fled the scene, the man on the motorcycle sustained a compound fracture to his right arm and was transported to the same hospital as me for treatment. The man who sat by my hospital bed every night reading to me. Until he stopped showing up.

None of this explains, however, why he doesn’t own a single piece of furniture in his condo, besides a king-size mattress. Not a single thing hangs on the blank white walls. And the mattress is just lying there, in the center of the open kitchen/dining/living space. There are two small bedrooms, but he’s not bothering to use either one of them. The mattress is covered with rumpled sheets and discarded pillows. My brain is far too happy to imagine all the obscene acts he might have participated in on that bed. It’s disturbing to say the least. Porn thoughts aren’t my usual go-to.

“You’re probably more of a white wine drinker, huh?” He pops the top on a can of Swish Bissell Brothers beer and passes it to me.

“This is fine. Thank you.”

After downing a mouthful of his own IPA, he gives the mostly empty room a glance. “Only got the place a couple of months back. Still working on furniture and stuff.”

I nod in acknowledgment, my grip on my purse strap tightening. It’s kind of my safety blanket. But he’s had months to get organized. Good Lord. Medical bills would have done their damage, but still. The place is all but empty. A hollow shell. Not a home.

“Maybe we should have gone out,” he says.

“It’s fine.”

He lifts himself up onto the kitchen counter and looks down at me, swinging his legs like a child. “You know, you keep saying the word ‘fine.’ But I can basically see the tic in your eye from my lack of a sofa and ottoman.”

I am not amused.

“An armoire and a side table too, maybe. A couple of lamps for some mood lighting.” He shrugs off his leather jacket. The short sleeves of his gray tee reveal even more ink along with the ripple of a whole lot of lean muscles. I don’t let my gaze linger on the gnarled and jagged pink scar on his upper arm. And meanwhile there’s a gleam in Leif’s amber eyes, one that suggests he’s enjoying himself way too much. “Don’t even get me started on the lack of suitable glassware and drinks coasters. Probably for the best that I don’t have any furniture or we’d be leaving water marks everywhere. I don’t even have a linen napkin to my name. I’m really not prepared for guests at all, am I?”

“You’re teasing me.”

“You’re judging me.”

Shit. “I don’t mean to,” I say, subdued. Horrified at being called out.

Coming here was such a bad idea. He’s a veritable stranger and we have nothing in common. Nothing good, at any rate. Then there’s the part where I’ve been standing for too long. I hate the lingering weakness. My therapist says feelings of frustration and anger are to be expected. The accident has changed me. But mostly I’d just like to stop falling on my ass sometime soon.

“Come here,” he says, jumping down with ease.

“What?”

“I’m going to lift you up onto the counter so you can get off your feet.”

I just look at him.

“You need to sit, don’t you? That’s what the panicky face and the shakes mean. Believe me, I know it all too well, having recently spent some time in rehab myself with the arm.”

“Yes,” I reluctantly admit.

He makes a come-hither motion with his hands. “It’s okay, Anna. I’m actually sorry I don’t have a sofa for you to sit on. May I help you?”

My options aren’t great. The floor, the mattress, or this counter. And there’s no way I can get up there on my own. “Thank you. Yes.”

He’s standing so close. The man must be a bit over six feet tall because I barely come up to his nose. Strong hands grip my waist and my breasts brush against his chest on the way up. Accidental, as evidenced by the slight widening of his eyes. As if he’s never been up close to a bosom before. Please. And he smells ridiculously good. Clean, warm male sweat with a hint of spice. It verges on nirvana for a woman who hasn’t had sex in almost a year. Not to mention the recognition that I am in fact a real live breathing person, with feminine wiles. The sensation that he’s actually seeing me when I’ve felt nonexistent for so long is a heady thing. I’ve been a patient, a problem, everything but a strong, capable woman with a beating heart with wants and needs.

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