Home > New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(9)

New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(9)
Author: Sylvie Stewart

The store is tiny and quaint with some beachy souvenirs, snacks, and a broad selection of ICEE flavors. I bypass the cold drinks for the colorful confections wrapped in wax paper and take my loot back out to the hot sidewalk. As my steps turn north, a voice calls from behind me.

“Mind if I take those and dump them in the sand?”

Before thinking better of it, I turn, knowing exactly who I’ll find yet not adequately preparing myself for the impact. My stomach tries to drop right down to the concrete. It’s the boy from yesterday. He’s wearing the same uniform of ratty jeans, plain black t-shirt, and white gauze bandages along his right arm. There’s a tear in the shirt hem but it looks like it belongs there on him. A dark mop of hair falls over his forehead, long on top and cropped closely on the sides, highlighting a red gash reaching up past his ear. There’s no gauze hiding it this time, and I make a point not to stare at it, zeroing in on his face instead. His features are even more angular than I remember, with carved cheekbones and a prominent nose. But his mouth is what draws my attention. It reminds me of a wild animal snarling before a predator. Or maybe the other way around.

“Excuse me?” I manage, hoping to God I misheard.

No such luck.

“I just figured, you ruined my lunch, I should ruin yours.”

And to think, I found him beautiful and tragic less than twenty-four hours ago. I don’t even want to let my brain acknowledge the stupid daydreams I had trouble keeping at bay yesterday. God, I am such a cliché!

I firm my tone and lift the bag of taffy for him to see. “It’s candy, not lunch.”

His shoulders lift in a shrug, and I catch the barest wince of pain before he covers it.

But I’m not about to feel sorry for him. “And, besides, not only was it an accident, my sister offered to buy you a new lunch. You could have taken her up on it. You snooze, you lose.” Take that!

“Whatever. You tourists are all the same, walking around here trashing the place with your entitled noses in the air.” He rakes me over with his sharp eyes, and I can’t remember ever feeling this exposed or self-conscious. I want to crawl out of my skin, and I hate him for it. This guy—this jerk—just took what was one of the best moments of my entire life and took a giant stinky-ass shit on it!

My belly is right back where it belongs in the center of my body when I hitch my hip to the side and cross my arms over my chest. “And what is that supposed to mean? You don’t know anything about me.”

He scoffs. “I know you’re a spoiled kid whose only responsibility is working on your tan and spending Mommy and Daddy’s money.”

“Are you serious right now?” A reluctant grin pulls at the corner of my mouth, further easing the over-exposed feeling from his scrutiny moments ago.

“Couldn’t be more serious.” He, on the other hand, stiffens, his uninjured arm bunched tight at his side.

“Because you sound like an idiot. No, you sound like an idiot from some eighties high school movie.”

His shrug is more careful this time. “I can’t help it if you can’t handle the truth.”

I laugh because there’s no stopping it. “Now you sound like Jack Nicholson. So, which is it? Are you a Breakfast Club kinda guy or more of a military/dramatic-suspense guy?” I mimic his tense jaw and rein in my hilarity for the few seconds it takes me to shout, “You’re goddamn right I called a Code Red!”

He startles at my outburst and then shakes his head like I’m the lunatic before turning his back on me. I ignore the pang that tries to work its way in when I see his spine tighten with each stilted step away from me.

And maybe, just maybe, I have lost the plot because I hear myself yelling after him, “Go make me a turkey pot pie!”




Chapter Five




Present Day

This is not happening. Clearly, I’m still asleep in the motel/hooker-ring-headquarters where I’ve been washing myself with bleach for the last three days waiting for my new rental room to be ready. It’s the only explanation, and it makes sense if you think about it. The last time I was in town, Milo Papatonis played a major role in my day-to-day, so it’s only natural that my subconscious would summon the boy up. Only, he’s not a boy in this dream. He’s a man. A bearded, smolder-y man who’s done one hell of a job growing into his clothes—and his nose. Holy shit, I have a talented imagination. Go, me!

My mouth stretches into a dreamy smile, and I step forward until the familiar swirls of silver, green, and blue are visible in his eyes. And then I reach out my hand.

“Ow! Dammit!” His voice is almost a growl, and I feel it right between my legs.

My mouth opens, but nothing comes out. I don’t ordinarily get tongue-tied in my dreams.

“What was that for?” Dream Milo gets those little parentheses between his eyebrows, and I can smell coffee on his breath.

Wait a second.

I find my voice and mirror his expression. “What was what for?”

“You pinched me.” He rubs a spot on his arm, and I realize I did just as he said. I pinched him. Hard.

“This isn’t a dream, is it?” The wariness is audible in my voice, and I want to rewind five minutes and tell my Uber driver to keep on moving.

The corner of Milo’s mouth turns up, and his features immediately relax like a reflex. “Well, it’s nice to know you missed me.”

“Oh for God’s sake!” The girl who introduced herself as Felicity steps between us, hands on her hips, her nose scrunched like she just smelled something foul. “What is going on here?”

I take a step back, unable to process more than one thing at a time. “I didn’t miss you. I hoped I was having a nightmare.”

Milo’s half-grin drops. “Aren’t you supposed to pinch yourself to check if you’re asleep?”

It’s my turn to grin. “What fun would that be?”

“Hey!” Felicity puts a hand on Milo’s chest and tries pushing him back a step. “Somebody please explain how you know each other.”

We respond simultaneously, Milo with, “She’s a spoiled tourist who used to follow me around,” and me with, “He’s a selfish asshole who ruined my life.”

“Kind of,” I tack on weakly while crossing my arms.

“Ruined your life?” Milo snorts. “Aren’t we being a bit dramatic?”

“Says the guy who used his boating accident to score free sandwiches. Oh, poor me. I hurt myself by being an idiot and, by the way, that sandwich looks delicious, hint hint,” I snarl.

Felicity curls her lip at Milo, sounding unimpressed at best. “Seriously? You did that?”

“No. Yes. It’s complicated.” Milo swipes a hand through his messy hair and brings his attention back to me. “Besides, that’s rich coming from your spoiled little ass. Still letting Mommy and Daddy pay for your lobster dinners? Let me guess; you’re staying at a quaint little bed and breakfast right on the beach.”

“I didn’t think it was possible for your assholery to keep reaching new heights. I’m out of here.” I turn to go and feel Felicity’s hand on my arm. I don’t want to offend the girl, but we’re going to have a homicide on our hands if I stay here another second.

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