Sneak Peek Excerpt
All that time, he was only pretending to type. Grief could resemble a boa constrictor wrapping itself around the victim and squeezing out all the hope. She certainly didn’t have any sage wisdom to offer. Instead, she picked up his glasses and polished them on the edge of her shirt, before handing them over.
Flipping the page of her notes, she positioned her hands to start typing, but a prickling at the back of her neck distracted her. It reminded her of the time the bald man in a trench coat followed her around town when she was ten. Her mother, busy shopping, handed her some money to go to a nearby ice cream shop only a few blocks away, and she knew how to cross the street safely. It should have been an uneventful trip until she noticed the man’s reflection in a window.
Her first thought was it was a hot day, and he didn’t need a coat. The ice cream shop was within sight when she decided he was following her. Breaking into a run, she dashed into the shop. The man stood outside and stared at her through the glass emblazoned with the store’s name. Terror squeezed her heart for a moment as their eyes met. His cold eyes glittered, confirming she’d slipped through his fingers. She never told her mother about the man, somehow thinking she’d done something wrong to cause him to pursue her. Good chance her mother would have blamed it on too many mystery books, too. She remembered what it felt like, rather similar to the spot on the back of her neck now. Covering the back of her neck with one hand, she pivoted the chair only to meet Lauren’s baleful stare.
What was wrong the girl? Stella’s eyes drifted to the testing center noticing most of the students had left. No problem, there, what could be the girl’s issue? She’d never had any problems with her before, but Lauren’s look declared she’d willingly plunge a knife in her back. Foolish, paranoia, she was getting as bad as her mother was. Think happy thoughts. Currently, she didn’t have a backlog of happy thoughts, but maybe she could do something that would make Cam happy and get his mind off her accessing files. Good Goddess, she couldn’t do anything like that. There had to be another way to show her love.
Cam specifically mentioned his upcoming birthday. A casual comment about how much he enjoyed gazing at the night sky stuck in her mind. It would also be something they could do together. A telescope she’d seen at the nearby pawnshop would be perfect. With her luck, an astronomy buff could wander into the seedy little store, recognize the value of the Orion refractor telescope and snatch it up before she could.
Cam definitely expected something. Instead of finding out his birthday by social media or even looking it up on the database, he’d told her. On their second date, if you could call it a date since it occurred at an off campus Laundromat. Most of their dates were rather un-date-like, but then again most of the college populace either hung out or hooked up. The formal ritual of asking a girl out for a date had fallen by the wayside.
Her eyes shifted to Mitch who stared intently at his monitor. She’d bet he’d be the type to ask a girl out on a real date as opposed to a general invite to a frat party. The man might even iron his clothes, comb the campus newspapers for ideas on what to do, and show up with a single rose. Yeah, that sounded like Mitch. Her lips twitched up thinking about how adorable he’d look standing in the doorway clutching a flower.
The man in question looked up. “What’s with the goofy smile, and why are you staring at me?”
Caught. What could she say? Why was she staring at him and speculating what he’d be like on a date? Rubbing her open hand over a face, she stalled and wiped away her smile. Think.
“I, um, I was thinking of my second date with Cam. We went to the Laundromat.” Her excuse sounded lame. Some might consider confiding her dating life to her male co-work weird. Her roommate Cece had such a snarky side she kept as much as she could from her. Leah knew about Cam, but never acted that thrilled about the man, which annoyed Stella. After all, she never made snide comments when Leah started dating Dylan. The good thing about Mitch is he’d never gossip.
Mitch turned back to the monitor, snorted. “Whoa, why didn’t I think of asking a girl out to view my laundry? I now realize my dating techniques are all wrong. Maybe I could follow up the next date with a trip to the grocery.”
Stella wanted to protest, but at least three of her dates with Cam were the grocery. Mitch’s words made it sound stupid and boring. It wasn’t like that. “Hey, now. The hum of dryers and the overwhelming smell of fabric sheets really set the scene.”
She grimaced realizing at the time she had considered it romantic. The mother with the three screaming toddlers finally left leaving behind a silence broken by the swish of a washer and the dual drone of dryers. Afterward, on a Friday night, the place echoed eerily with its emptiness. It was then he mentioned his birthday, hinting broadly that something special would be appreciated. He probably meant sex, but since they were now already sleeping together, the telescope seemed her best bet.
Mitch slapped the desk, startling her. She turned to stare at him as he held up both hands dramatically.
“That’s it. Why did no one ever tell me? If I rub my body with dryer sheets, I’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex.”
Her eyes rolled upward on their own. “You’re not taking me seriously. I’m trying to explain what I was thinking. You make jokes about dryer sheets. I was trying to think of a great gift for Cam’s birthday. He mentioned his birthday on our second date at the—“
“Laundromat.” Mitch finished her statement. “God, he told you his birthday. So you could go get him something, I bet. Something special, too.” His eyebrows raised and lowered for emphasis.
Did every male use the same gesture to denote something risqué? “It wasn’t like that.” She denied the implications, even if it was like that. Mitch never liked Cam and didn’t try to hide it either. “Besides, what’s so wrong about telling someone when your birthday is? It’s not that out of the ordinary.”
“Yeah, right.” He turned back to the screen and that ended their conversation.
His words resurrected the doubts she’d thought she’d silenced. “What do you mean? I know you mean something?”
Things are starting to heat up in the story. Keep following. Affimation should be out in late May, followed by a box set, then a special bonus story about Esmeralda and Buell that goes back in time to when they first met.